Durable Growth, Government, Transportation

Perusing the Grand Jury report

County courthouse in Tennessee

County courthouse in Tennessee

The local newspaper recently included the final 2015-16 report from the Sonoma County Civil Grand Jury.  I’m not an expert on grand jury reports, with my interest normally limited to a hope that my name isn’t somewhere in the report.  However, this report seemed nicely structured and written.  Concise, to the point, and not wandering too far afield in a muckraking scavenger hunt.

The Grand Jury noted seven local concerns.  It’s insightful to consider those concerns from an urbanist perspective.

Maintenance funds for County roads are lacking – The inability of government to cover the costs of infrastructure maintenance and other government functions is at the top of most “Why urbanism?” lists, up there with climate change.

Affordable housing is in a continual crisis – Although not often noted, the cost of transportation can approach the cost of housing for low income families.  And yet affordable housing is frequently built on sites where cars are essential, many times ensuring that the families in affordable housing will continue to lose financial ground.

One solution is to put affordable housing in places where walkability, bikeability, and transit are reasonable options, such as near downtowns.

But the better solution to make more of the community into places where walkability, bikeability, and transit are reasonable options, including current affordable housing developments.   This solution is the central goal of walkable urbanism.

The Law Library is in financial trouble – The proposed solution requires additional funds from the County, the same County that is already struggling to find resources to maintain infrastructure and other services because of the cost of suburbia.

Retirement benefits for the County Public Library are underfunded – Yet another financial concern for a County government that already has too many because of the costs of suburbia.

The County should be doing a better job of overseeing Special Districts – See above.

Citizen complaint procedures are working well – This is the only subject without a credible connection to the failure of suburbia and the need for urbanism.  It’s also the only subject on which the Grand Jury has no suggestions to make.

Better accommodation for women prisoners should be made at the County Detention Facilities – Yet another demand on the County’s finances that are already over-stressed by suburbia.

In the final tally, of the seven issues raised by the Civil Grand Jury, two are directly related to the land-use pattern of suburbia and four require funds from a County budget stressed by suburbia.  The only issue without a tie to suburbia is the only issue on which the Grand Jury is completed satisfied.  The pattern is hard to miss.

My next post will be the weekly update of public advocacy opportunities for urbanists.

As always, your questions or comments will be appreciated.  Please comment below or email me.  And thanks for reading. – Dave Alden (davealden53@comcast.net)

Written by Dave Alden

Dave Alden

Dave Alden is a Registered Civil Engineer. A University of California graduate, he has worked on energy and land-use projects in California, Oregon, and Washington. He was also the president of a minor league baseball team for two seasons. He lives on the west side of Petaluma with his wife and two dogs. The blog that he writes can be found at http://northbaydesignkit.blogspot.com.

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