15 August 2007; American & Clear Creek Infrastructure

America’s infrastructure is national security issue

With the collapse of the interstate highway bridge in Minnesota, infrastructure is showing up on Americans’ radar—for now. It will be hard put to remain there against hot ticket items such as the Occupation of Iraq, health care, and climate change until, of course, the next major disaster.

In a recent political cartoon by Mike Luckovich of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Osama Been Forgotten says to a cohort, “We better attack America’s infrastructure before it collapses.” Senator Hillary Clinton recently observed that our collapsing infrastructure is a national security issue as well. She is right.

If we would consider the physical interconnectedness of our country, from roads and bridges to water and wastewater treatment plants, as we do the infrastructure of our homes, we would understand that regular maintenance and periodic replacement is necessary. Turning a blind eye to decay, wear and tear, and defective items is like the owner of a vehicle who, hearing a grinding noise from underneath, turns up the radio rather than off. An expensive trip via the tow truck is the likely outcome.

This fall the county commissioners are considering putting forth a referendum that would raise property taxes by 6.2 mils over the next 8 years. For particulars, you can go to the county’s website http://www.co.clear-creek.co.us/.

In response to my question, though, as to how we arrived at a critical juncture both in terms of timing and dollars, Commissioner Kevin O’Malley said, “Our revenues for Road and Bridge have not kept up with construction inflation over the past decade. In real dollars, the budget for road maintenance has gone down. This was exacerbated by lower property taxes paid by the Henderson Mine when the price of molybdenum was low.”

O’Malley added the list of projects has been determined by current road surface conditions, traffic counts, safety concerns, and costs, and that the annual estimated tax increase for a house valued at $250,000 would be $123 for eight years.

The individual towns would benefit as well as they would be allowed to keep 100 percent of the funds from their locales instead of the usual 50 percent. According to Town Manager Chuck Stearns, Georgetown, for example, would realize an approximate $46,379 additionally each year for the 8 year period—not small spuds for a little town.

With the rise of the Me Generation and its avatar Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, Americans became self-centered and unappreciative. We were encouraged to take for granted what our forefathers built and not to fret over the massive debt, weakened republic, and collapsing infrastructure we are bequeathing to our posterity. We became deluded by the propaganda launched by the rightwing in its assault on government and its proper role, its advocacy for tax cuts for the uber-wealthy, and its desire for a “corporatocracy.”

Americans are beginning to understand, however, that the gold standard foisted on them with the rise of Reaganism is pyrite. We are re-learning, for example, that roads, bridges, ports, tunnels, schools, treatment plants, and national parks belong to all of us as a community, in the exact same way as the weapons of the military, for otherwise, I’d like to have my personal F-16 waiting for me at my personal site on the tarmac of DIA.

All that glitters is not gold, but crumbling asphalt is crumbling asphalt. We may disagree on some of the specifics, such as using macadam to replace the asphalt, but at 33 cents a day for those of us fortunate enough to own and live in a home that the vast majority of the world would consider a palace, it is a tiny price to uphold our responsibility not only to our community but also to our posterity.

On that note: Why not turn Alvarado Road into a HOT byway, for non-Clear Creek residents during peak travel time? If we can be deprived of our right to use what our tax dollars helped build on I-25 and potentially US 36 (the Boulder Turnpike), why can’t we charge passers-through to use our locally financed road, the “old US 6,” during peak travel times?

Program notes: Go to the KYGT website www.kygt.org to access the discussion Randy Wheelock had on his show with O’Malley, Harry Dale, and a couple of citizens on August 4. In addition, O’Malley along with others will join me on KYGT on September 8 @ 3:00 for further discussion.

On a different note: Thanks to Grace Todd for contributing the beautifully insightful quote last week from Chief Seattle. It took him only 41 words to say what took me 729. And he was an English-Second-Language guy.

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