Monday, July 29, 2013
To most folks, one road construction project looks like the other. The first thought is generally, “It’s going to be a hassle going around this construction to get where I’m going.”
But rarely do people think about what’s being done and why.
The city of Walla Walla is doing a little something extra that will give taxpayers a reminder of what their tax dollars are being spent on and, at the same time, let drivers know where construction is taking place so they can plan for it.
The city has put up a number of very large signs near road construction sites that proclaim: Hello Progress ... Goodbye Potholes.” The signs also tout a website (GOWallaWalla.us).
It’s worth a visit. The site lists the projects taking place. Each link gives a detailed look at what is being done, including the dates work will be taking place.
In 2012 voters agreed to raise taxes to fund a program to aggressively fix Walla Walla’s lousy streets. As a result, an additional 0.2 percent sales tax was imposed, which raises close to $1 million a year specifically for street improvement.
The spotlight the city is shining on these projects serves to hold city officials and the City Council accountable for spending every penny of the road tax properly.
More than 20 years ago City Council increased the sales tax with an intent to put more money toward streets. And, yes, streets were a priority for a few years. However, when the city budget was pinched because of a significant loss of state funding, the street funds were used to fill in budget holes rather than potholes.
The 2012 tax increase came with safeguards as well as promises. A Transportation Benefit District was established as a way to keep funds separate. It is about as close to a guarantee money will be spent as promised as any government can make.
Having citizens keep their collective eyes on the work that’s being done adds another layer of accountability.
And having our streets in good condition is a community asset that’s well worth the investment.