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Potholes could haunt Republicans

Published: Sun, March 30, 2014 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

When one of the most important budget analysts in a $121.1 billion entity (reflecting a two-year spending plan) sends an email to journalists, you know it’s important. And, when the analyst’s obvious goal is to influence the scribblers, you know the entity is worried.

Against that backdrop, perhaps it would have been best had Randy Cole, the president of the State Controlling Board and policy adviser to the Office of Management and Budget, not sent an email to Vindicator Politics Writer David Skolnick and this writer (Vindicator editorial page editor/columnist) raising the specter of the ”pothole issue.”

“Last year, when we talked, I mentioned the amount of state support for local infrastructure,” Cole wrote. “Apparently, with pothole season, it’s become an issue again.”

So, why would one of the top officials in state government take time off from his busy day to reach out to journalists in Youngstown?

Remember Chicago?

It could be because the Republican administration of Gov. John Kasich knows that the pothole issue could well become a replay of the Chicago blizzard of 1979.

Readers of a certain age will remember that mayoral election in Chicago, when maverick candidate Jane Byrne won the Democratic nomination over incumbent Mayor Michael Bilandic.

Here’s how the Chicago Tribune reported the outcome of the election in February 1979:

“Paralyzing blizzards set up Mayor Michael Bilandic for defeat, but it was bright sunshine on Feb. 27 that did him in. The fair weather on the day of the mayoral primary election brought out the voters, and the memory of the city’s inept handling of record January storms drove them to overturn the Democratic machine. Maverick candidate Jane Byrne won the Democratic nomination.”

Thus, you can see why Ohio’s Republicans are worried — about the thousands of miles of pocked-marked roads.

Gov. Kasich is seeking re-election this year, and while polls show him leading his presumed Democratic challenger, Ed FitzGerald, Cuyahoga County executive, the time between now and the November general election is fraught with political danger.

Angry taxpayers become surly voters.

Every time a driver hits a pothole, he or she will recall the bemoaning from local government officials — both Democrats and Republicans: Major cuts by the Republican governor and the Republican-controlled General Assembly to the Local Government Fund has put counties, cities and townships between a rock and a hard place.

And every time a driver hits a pothole with such force that the muffler is torn off or a new rim job is required, Republican Kasich and the GOP majority in the Legislature will be blamed.

After all, they cut the Local Government Fund by almost 50 percent from when a Democrat, Ted Strickland, was the governor. Strickland lost his re-election bid to Kasich in 2010.

That’s why the president of the Controlling Board, Cole, who was appointed by Kasich, took time off from his busy schedule to email Skolnick and this writer.

“The attached spreadsheet shows what was distributed in shared gas and license revenue by the state to communities in Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana Counties last year.

“Approximately the same amount will be distributed again this year. It gets deposited directly into the local govs checking account — on the 1st and 15th of the month — like a paycheck.

“No grants, no strings attached, well, except the constitutional requirement that it gets used for roads and bridges.

“Public works grants, state share of federal highway projects, etc., are not included in this spreadsheet.

“$20 million fills a lot of potholes, according to ODOT (Ohio Department of Transportation) approximately 318,000. Or, it would pave about 115 miles of roads.”

No comparison

There’s just one problem. Last year’s winter was a veritable heat wave compared with this winter and the havoc it caused in the Mahoning Valley.

To hear local officials in the tri-county area tell it, the money coming from the state for local infrastructure will not take care of all the roads and bridges that need to be fixed.


1rickking123(331 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Every time a driver hits a pothole an angel gets his wings.

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2questionreality(734 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Potholes are caused by the insufficient thickness of the pavement and poor drainage. The worst roads are the county roads. Years of hoodwinking the taxpayers with scant layers of asphalt. Has been going on long before Kasich took over.

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3dmacker(534 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Why blame Kasich when we all know it's Bush's fault......

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4Photoman(1248 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

When I first returned to this area some 20 years ago, before Kasich, a pothole on what I call Pothole Lane (Logan Avenue) destroyed a tire, a rim and a shock absorber. Nothing seems to have changed during these 20 years. We continue to allow substandard paving and routinely accept the fact that kickbacks remain a part of the political processes of our valley.

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5NoBS(2814 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

"A new rim job" Bertram??? Did you really say that??

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6dontbeafool(2092 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Yeah, roads here have always been bad, but seem to be getting worse. I go up to Buffalo on occasion, where winters are 5 times worse than ours, and their roads are 5 times better than ours. They also have these things up there called salt/snow plow trucks. I had to ask the locals what they were since I can drive a 30 mile stretch on route 11 in a snow storm and never see one. So what is different? Do they have more money to spend from taxes? Better local/state government? Less corruption? Idk.

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7Letstryagain(218 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

dontbeafool -

Driving 30 miles in a blizzard on route 11 would take somewhere between 30 and 15 minutes. You are complaining about not seeing a snow play in that time frame?

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876Ytown(1364 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

"To hear local officials in the tri-county area tell it, the money coming from the state for local infrastructure will not take care of all the roads and bridges that need to be fixed."

So that translates to blame the Republicans? SERIOUSLY?

The pothole problem is everyone's problem. The fact that this winter created more potholes than usual, the fact that budgets are strained, the fact that common sense solutions aren't being implemented.

Bottom line. Our tax dollars pay to fix the problem but our tax dollars can only go so far. What's the Democrat solution? Raise taxes? Throw more money at the problem? A solution that would get the job done - quicker, utilizing manpower (inmates) at no additional cost to taxpayers was met with push-back from the unions.

Go figure.

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9redeye1(5656 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

As everyone on here hasn't stated , just look at the last paving job on I 680.It was just a few years ago and its worse now then it was before the new paving job. It has more patches then grandma's quilt. I was out on it last night and there is even more potholes popping up. Obammy allow his union buddies to use inferior paving materials during his last BIG expenditure program. Maybe if the people of this valley would vote the people out who are in office now. Maybe we do need a new set of voices in there now.

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10oh13voter(1208 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

This area is controlled by Democrats and has been for over 40 years. As memory serves, potholes have been a problem during that 40 year span.
It is the Democrat office holders that allocate the money. Apparently they don't care about potholes. If the Democrat office holders truly cared about the pothole problem they have the pwer to get it done.
Yet Democrats are re-elected in this area over and over, and blame all the problems in the area on Republicans. Shameful.
I would say nice try, but it wasn't even a good effort to pin this on Kasich, just a cheap shot.

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11repeaters(314 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

“The attached spreadsheet shows what was distributed in shared gas and license revenue by the state to communities in Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana Counties last year."

I sure would like to see that spreadsheet.

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12walter_sobchak(2713 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

For the most part, the pothole dilemma is a local problem that has political undertones. Most of the roads with bad potholes are on county roads for which the commissioners and the engineer are responsible. Township roads can be even worse but less heavily traveled local roads. Many of the county loads were narrow lane roads for many years that served rural communities. Then, as the population shifted to the rural developments, these roads were then widened to accommodate the increase in traffic. Unfortunately, these additional widths of lanes were not installed with enough base material nor were sufficient shoulders constructed to support the edge of the road. Now, road ditches get filled with sediment and debris and are cleaned. When the county cleans the ditch, they keep moving it a little closer to the edge of pavement.

What we are left with are roads that have edges with insufficient strength to support the imposed traffic loads. That is why you see the roadway depressed at the edges and the shoulders bulging up at the sides. Western Reserve Road east of Market St. is a great example of poor construction while the new area west of Market St. is an example of proper construction. The best example of bad shoulders is county-controlled New Rd. where the Austintown school bus had a pavement edge grab the bus tires and pull it into a ditch that was EVEN with the edge of pavement. However, with the state and federal highways, the road construction specifications are tighter and followed more closely. These roads are properly constructed with good base materials and proper shoulders. Now, the political aspect is that the commissioners decide which roads will be improved. They are under pressure to fix as many lane-miles of road possible or they may not get re-elected. So, forget about improving the shoulders and ditches as nobody drives on them. So, unless there is a dedicated widening project with additional state funds, this doesn't get done.

Unfortunately, with the bad winter, funds were used for plowing and de-icing roads while the tax revenue from gas and road taxes remains about the same. John Kasich would be well-advised to use some of the rainy-day funds to disperse to the counties to repair more roads. That is what that fund is there for, supposedly. However, that does not relieve the responsibility of local politicians for the past misuse of road taxes.

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13billdog1(5912 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Bert, did that email just come to the Vindicator or did it go to a number of similar rags? I don't believe that Mr. Cole singled out this little town rag for advise on pot holes. You believe that if you want, spin it any way you like and look into the bubble that surrounds you, because you obviously are having issues understanding what is outside said bubble.

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14DwightK(1537 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

The Republican legislature blew it in the budget negotiations when they lowered the natural gas severance tax. That money could have been used to fix real problems like filling pot holes and knocking down blighted structures. These are projects that would have created jobs. The state only has so many ways to generate revenue and the legislature really screwed up.

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15DSquared(1788 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

It's not all Kasich's fault, it all really started with Lincoln!!!

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16DontBanThisDrone(1046 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

No money to fix roads, because it all goes to payroll. This isn't exactly a secret.


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17Notorious_Pig(117 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Really? Linking politics and potholes, Bert? This is Ohio. Potholes would be here if there were a Dem or a Republican at the helm. If Strickland was still in office, would this article say "Potholes could haunt Democrats?" This is the Mahoning Valley....Democratic office holders could burn the flag and they would still get your votes.

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