While Mayor Ed Lee promotes himself as the “infrastructure mayor,” he reduced funding for street repairs to a six-year low in the city budget despite deteriorating road conditions and then asked voters to approve a quarter-billion-dollar bond this November to repave roads and fill potholes.
The City has long faced criticism for not including enough funding in its annual budget to fund street repaving. Former Mayor Gavin Newsom made it one of his priorities to increase funding for streets and under his watch. The City’s budget for streets and pothole repairs increased from $11 million in fiscal year 2003-04 to a high of $50.6 million last fiscal year.
But Lee’s city budget for the current fiscal year slashed funding for street resurfacing by more than half to $23.8 million.
Mayoral spokeswoman Christine Falvey said that the amount was chosen in anticipation of Proposition B, the $248 million street bond measure, passing.
“There was a $306 million deficit to plug,” Falvey said, “It was a very challenging year.”
If Prop. B passes, which will require a two-thirds vote, spending on streets would increase to $65 million in the current fiscal year.
“It would be at a record high,” Falvey said. The overall pavement condition index will move from 64 to 66 out of 100.
But critics of the bond, like the Coaliton for San Francisco Neighborhoods and San Francisco Tomorrow, have called it a “double tax” or a reward to “city government for doing such a bad job.”
“Part of the game of chess was hoping the bond would be approved this November and that we would get away with it,” said Supervisor Mark Farrell, who was one of two supervisors who opposed the bond. “It’s the wrong move.” He said The City should be funding these basic maintenance needs through its existing revenues.
Falvey said Lee views the bond as a short-term solution, during the next two years. He is committed to finding a long-term sustainable financing plan to pay for street repairs, she said.
Lee’s infrastructure record has become an issue in the mayor’s race. Lee was head of the Department of Public Works, which is in charge of street resurfacing, from 2000 to 2005, and then became the city administrator. City Attorney and mayoral candidate Dennis Herrera has criticized Lee for lacking leadership to ensure adequate investment in The City’s capital needs.
“For the last decade, Ed Lee did an abysmal job as the person in charge of San Francisco’s infrastructure,” Herrera said in an Oct. 18 statement.
Tony Winnicker, Lee’s campaign spokesman, dismissed Herrera’s criticism and said Lee “has been one of City Hall’s loudest voices for fixing our streets.”
Winnicker noted that in 2002, when Lee was director of Public Works, Lee went to the Board of Supervisors and wore a hard hat to draw attention to the need to start investing more in streets.
A look at The City’s spending on street resurfacing and pothole repairs: