Chuck, I am grieving for your loss and hardship. Listening to the story of the storm, I was very sad. I like trees too, and in fact have been known to indulge in guerrilla tree planting raids in my neighborhood. I think of the trees around my house as old friends, too, especially those that I planted or asked the city to plant. And one, a honey locust that died after the winter of 2014 (planted about 25 years ago),, was cut down this morning. I will look to replace it with an oak sapling.
This is not directly related to this conversation, but this brief blog/podcast about a construction project in Chicago touches on just about every theme that has been addressed on the StrongTowns site.
About a mile south of where I live, motorists on Western Avenue find an overpass that takes traffic over the Belmont/Western intersection. It was built about 50 years ago to deal with congestion at this busy intersection, near where RIverview Amusement Park once stood. The structure is falling apart, and the city plans to demolish it this year.
In this brief podcast conversation the commentators address how the city now must cope with an ill-conceived decision made by people long dead. The reinforced concrete structure is shot, but demolishing the bridge will create a huge mess in the area and snarl north/south traffic for two years on a major arterial, and in a city where traveling north or south (all the train lines converge on the Loop) has long been a problem. But it would cost far more to replace it, and next to impossible with current highway standards for lane width and approach ramps. The viaduct has left in its literal shadow a dead commercial district.
One of the commentators observed "Every attempt to correct congestion just makes it worse."
And then they talk of a solution, building a new elevated train line north south that would reduce the need to drive that route, a fine idea in my view, but one of the commentators said that everyone who lives in the area should "put $300 in a pot to pay for that rail project. $300? Try $3,000, or maybe a lot more, for every taxpaying household in the city, and that at a time when the city's finances are the worst they have been since the viaduct was built 50 years ago.
I appreciate Mr. Scheeler's candor in the interview, and was struck by his discussion of the budget for the city of Brainerd.
You are right to lose sleep over the situation. Half of your town's budget comes from the state? Is that typical for Minnesota? What happens in the next hard recession, or if the state government decides that it can no longer afford to subsidize municipalities in this way? Mr. Scheeler notes that the city would go bankrupt without some $6 million in outside funds. How can the residents of the town accept the idea that they can only cover the costs of half of the government that they want? And on that topic, how much debt does Brainerd carry, and how much of a liability does the town carry for the infrastructure it is responsible for maintaining and, ultimately, replacing?