Mayoral candidate Cam Winton crowns city's worst pothole
On Monday afternoon, Minneapolis mayoral candidate Cam Winton held a press conference to deplore Minneapolis's commitment to its roads. Location of the conference? Inside a pothole.
Winton launched a contest to find the "Worst Pothole in Minneapolis" last week. After dozens of submissions, he crowned a winner: the figure-eight crater at the intersection of 38th Street and Zenith Avenue South, southwest of Lake Calhoun. There, in the middle of the street, Winton set up a microphone and campaign banner, and stepped into the pothole.
Winton's a different candidate than the six others vying for R.T. Rybak's office. He doesn't have any political experience. He's not gunning for DFL endorsement. In fact, though the Minneapolis mayor's seat is a nonpartisan post, Winton identifies as a Republican. Which means he's less interested in bike lanes and more interested in essential services: particularly, he says, police, fire, and, yes, roads.
"What the city's own data will show you is that when Rybak became mayor our roads were about an 80 on the Pavement Condition Index, and now they're barely above a 70," Winton says. "Everybody uses the roads in some form, and I've talked to bus drivers who say they can't keep on schedule because they have to weave around potholes."
A chart from the city's May 2012 Public Works report shows the declining Pavement Condition Index of city streets.
Minneapolis Public Works
Between 2008 and 2013, the city upped its roadway improvement spending. But now that that funding's through, "What you'll see," Winton says, "is that we're going to keep plateauing where we are."
Of course, it's easy to find potholes around the city this time of year: The winter freeze and thaw cracks the tar. "Pothole season absolutely is a phenomenon," Winton offers. "But the poor quality of our city's roads can't be explained away by pothole season. What we have is a lack of a sustained commitment."
In 2013, the city spent $22.7 million on road paving. But in 2014, that figure will drop to $13.3 million. Winton vows to stabilize spending at a level of $20-25 million annually.
His method: re-prioritizing the city's budget. "Re-allocation is a big piece of it," he explains. "And another is to streamline service delivery. That's not Republican code for 'laying people off.' But we can take advantage of the wave of retirements that's coming as baby boomers retire, and not fill those positions."
The city employs about 4,500 people, Winton reasons. "If we can find 100 positions that don't have to be filled," he says, "that's $10 million to put into road paving."
Winton would like to see more joint services agreements with Hennepin County (e.g., human resources could be merged), and also cites new bike trails, art in public places, and energy conservation as places where the city can step back and encourage the private sector to pick up the slack. In return, he says, drivers, bus riders, and bikers might get fewer potholes to contend with.
UPDATE: Nick Halter of the Southwest Journal reports that, between yesterday afternoon and this morning, the city filled Winton's "Worst Pothole":
-- Nick Halter (@NHalterJournals) May 7, 2013
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