The Right Note is a weekly opinion column published on Thursdays. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.
If you drive around Arlington much these days, the pothole slalom is happening multiple times per trip. I even saw one pothole today that someone had put an orange traffic cone in, presumably to alert drivers of just how bad it was.
Unfortunately, there is only so much swerving you can do and still remain in your lane of travel to avoid them. Sooner or later, your tire will drop in. You will hear a loud thud. And, you will hold your breath hoping you didn’t leave a piece of your car behind.
Cars are getting flat tires, bent rims, and damaged suspensions. Potholes are a problem only a car service station owner doesn’t mind so much.
With colder than usual temperatures and higher than normal amounts of snow, we cannot blame the Arlington County Board for the existence of potholes. However, we should be watching to see how quickly the problem is remedied.
The changing temperatures this winter have also brought on a series of water main breaks – two within a block and a half on my street alone. My counterpart at Peter’s Take covered this issue at length last week.
Replacing aging infrastructure and other ongoing maintenance issues often seem to get the short end of stick in the budget. Instead, we tend to focus on debates over the cost of swimming palaces, trolleys and arts centers. This is what you could call the “shiny new toy” syndrome. Elected officials often like to point at grand building projects and say “look what I did.”
What the shiny toy debates teach us is that the problems with addressing basic infrastructure needs is not a money problem — it is a priority problem.
Like it or not, if you are a local office holder you are responsible to the voters for street lights, trash pickup, potholes, and many other unglamourous issues that impact people’s everyday lives. The level of constituent service you provide when it comes to seemingly mundane problems is the true test of the type of public servant you really are.
Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.