Lee Cataluna: When is a pothole just a pothole? Never
Voters hate potholes.
They not only hate the damage a pothole can do to their vehicle; they hate all the things a pothole can symbolize, like inattentive local government, inept engineering and an overall lack of leadership.
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Voters hate potholes.
They not only hate the damage a pothole can do to their vehicle; they hate all the things a pothole can symbolize, like inattentive local government, inept engineering and an overall lack of leadership. Fair or unfair, potholes evoke a kind of anger that searches around for someone to blame.
Here on Oahu, on top of all that ire and added meaning are two other factors: one, a mayor with lousy poll numbers who wants to turn that around so he can be governor; and two, the current rainy season, which has potholes on Oahu roads springing up like … well, like potholes on Oahu roads.
So Monday afternoon, Ross Sasamura, director of the city’s Department of Facility Maintenance, was sent out to do a news conference on Honolulu’s pothole situation.
He said, “There are potholes that form, especially during wet weather, so it’s important to really be careful and be prepared in the event that there is a pothole in the deep puddle that you drive through.”
Prepared? How does one prepare for a pothole? Veering is not always an option. Flotation devices? Hydraulics? Canoe paddle? Or just good abs and mental toughness?
He said, “Now, it is difficult for us to patch potholes while it is raining or while the streets are puddled or ponding …”
Yup. Yup. Makes sense.
“… so we do need some good weather to work with us so that we can complete those repairs.”
Got it. We’ll pray for you, Sasamura.
But then he made the point more than once that the mayor is all-in on potholes, like citing the 13,000 potholes the city patched just last year.
“We’ll provide more detailed numbers for you of the number of potholes we’ve patched over the last seven years of Mayor Caldwell’s administration,” Sasamura said, indicating that it was a large number (because of responsiveness) but not too large of a number (because of smart road maintenance).
To emphasize the point: “One of the things that we’ve been doing during the last seven years, again, since Mayor Caldwell took office, is to engage in a ‘pavement preservation program’ where we do crack-seal and we do slurry-seal or seal coat, and that’s really similar to painting your house or repainting your house — it keeps good roads good —and the intent there is to make sure that the investment we’ve made with the taxpayers’ money, that it remains viable and serviceable, not only over the course of a normal life, but an extended service period.”
Then came the kicker about how pothole repairs are prioritized:
“The only priority is when we receive the call. So a lot of times people will drive by the potholes and complain about it, tell their neighbors, tell their spouses, tell their friends or relatives, but really, the first call should be to the Pothole Hotline so that we can get that area identified quickly and get our crews dispatched, because our work orders or our dispatches come directly from that Pothole Hotline, so it’s important that we get the call as soon as possible, because even waiting a day will mean that other people have gotten their calls in sooner.”
Dang it! Now it’s a competition!
Perhaps the real conflict is not between who calls first, or between modern engineering and current road conditions, but between poll numbers and political ambitions.
Reach Lee Cataluna at 529-4315 or email@example.com.