Don't Rush Me
Get ready, it's getting 'grim' on the roads
So sayeth the experts
February 10, 2010 - There's a road that leads to happiness, I know we can find it. Although it's full of hills an' spills, darling, we won't mind it. I've got you, You've got me who cares how rough the road might be, We'll go bumpty-bumpty bumpty-bump on the bumpy road to love.
-- Judy Garland
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There was a time, really not that long ago, each family had a car -- one car -- and Dad usually drove it. (When "Jr." got older, he could borrow it.) There was a time, really not that long ago, when most roads were dirt. A time when farmers received property tax breaks for supplying gravel from their property to help make county roads. There was a time, really not that long ago, when gas was under a buck a gallon, cars got about eight miles to the gallon, America rocked (disco and hip-hop hadn't been created), everybody who wanted a job had one and life was good.
Then, faster than Judy Garland went from the sweet and good pigtailed Dorothy of Kansas to the glassy-eyed, burnt-out and hacked-hair lounge singer from LA, times changed.
Then I got a press release from Craig Bryson, the paid mouthpiece for the Oakland County road commission. (I refuse to recognize their name, Road Commission for Oakland County because of the four extra characters of the latter. To me, it just underscores the inherent waste government brings to whatever it touches -- even in naming itself. An excess of four characters adds up over time. That means four extra touches on the key board every time you type, ink for four extra characters every time you print it . . . but I digress.)
Craig used to be a good guy, back in the 1980s when he was editor for the Rochester Clarion newspaper. But, since he got this gig with the county road commission, he's been a real bummer. Now that he's working for The Man, all he does is put in print what The Man wants him to put in print (funny how that works). For the better part of 20 years Craig has been the harbinger of bad news, really in only two ways.
1. Road construction will start on this date (fill in the blank) on this (fill in the blank) stretch of road. Road construction equals inconvenience, longer trip times, more stress and aggravation.
2. The (blank -- I still refuse to use its self-proclaimed name) needs more money.
Back to the press release.
I knew it was gonna' be a sucky read when I read the headline "(Blank) issues three-year financial plan for 2011-2013: The future looks grim."
And, yes, the news sucked. Just like every other government entity in Michigan, Oakland's road commission is cash-strapped and things aren't going to get better unless some more taxes are imposed. From the release . . .
"The plan notes state road funding, derived primarily from state-collected gas and diesel taxes and vehicle registration fees . . . declined by a cumulative 4.6 percent from 2000-2010 . . . that decline, coupled with dramatic increases in nearly all the costs associated with maintaining roads have already hobbled (blank), causing 14 percent reductions in staff just since 2007 and reduction in the level of services provided in nearly all areas."
Ain't that just peachy? It's kind of ironic, too. The Man -- for years -- has been telling us to drive less, walk more, buy more fuel efficient autos. We do, and because we do, we can't pay for road maintenance.
The old danged-if-you-do, danged-if-you-don't scenario, if ever there was one.
The easy thing to do will be to raise taxes to pay for not using as much fuel. Unfortunately, this will increase the number of families leaving Michigan from one every 12 minutes to one every 10 or 11 minutes. Which, will mean fewer vehicle registration fees, and even less fuel used. This, in turn, will mean we'll need to raise taxes again.
Does anyone else see a icky pattern here?
I know it is nothing new to anybody who drives in Michigan, but don't expect things to improve soon. As a matter of fact, expect things to get real worse.
Hey, if it makes you feel any better, keep singing that "bumpty" road to love and happiness song.
Don is Assistant Publisher for Sherman Publications, Inc. He has worked for the company since 1985. He has won numerous awards for column, editorial and feature writing as well as for photography. He has two, sons Shamus and Sean and resides in the area. To read archived copies of his columns, click on his name, just under his picture up top . . . He can be e-mailed at: firstname.lastname@example.org