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RG18.4 potholes as broken windows

April 29th, 2008 by dk

Logic can be a dangerous thing. For decades, cities fought blight using logic. Once a building became abandoned, it left the building alone. Workers calculated that every broken window in an abandoned building was one less broken window in a building still worth saving. As if vandals set out at the beginning of a raucous evening to break x number of windows and then call it a night. Likewise, with graffiti. What sense does it make to paint over graffiti when it’s one little mark. Better to wait for the wall or fence to become completely defaced, and then paint over it all at once, right? Well, no. Turns out that small and immediate care “sends a message” that the authorities are on task. This heartens the taxpayers and disheartens the vandals. When it comes to potholes, you have only half the equation at work, since heat and cold and salt and stress are the vandals and they don’t much care about the authorities. But heartening taxpayers still counts for something. Road repair experts claim that our money is better spent to rebuild a few roads than to fill the aggravating holes in many many streets. I understand the physics. Do they understand the politics? Especially if there’s talk of raising more money with a referendum, they must understand that voters will only give money where they have trust. Every pot hole becomes a gap not only in pavement, but also in trust.

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