Pothole angling is a favorite summer pastime for the youth of Bend.
The City of Bend does many things badly, and road maintenance is one of the things it hardly does at all.
We're barely into the winter here in Bend, and the local streets and roads are in the worst shape I've ever seen them. Every heavily traveled arterial resembles a shell-pocked World War I battlefield. If you drive over one at any speed in excess of 10 miles per hour, you're probably going to have to make an appointment with your dentist for a couple of new crowns.
Things weren't always this bad. More than 25 years ago, when we first moved here, the streets were kept in pretty good repair. The city even plowed the snow off them -- at least the major ones.
So what went wrong? There's a one-word answer: GROWTH.
Back when Bend was a small town, the city's finances were pretty stable. It took in enough money in property taxes to perform basic municipal services. The potholes were patched, the snow was plowed, the schools stayed open, the water flowed through the water mains and the poop flowed through the sewers.
Then Bend took off in a frenzy of balls-out, hell-for-leather growth, expanding in all directions. Suddenly there were many more miles of streets and water mains and thousands more kids in the classrooms.
SDCs -- Systems Development Charges -- levied on developers are supposed to pay for the new infrastructure that growth requires. But they're set so low that they cover only a fraction of the costs. And they don't pay anything toward the maintenance of the roads, water mains and sewer lines once they're in place -- nor do they contribute anything toward the public school system.
The city got away with it for a few years by running what was essentially a Ponzi scheme, counting on new growth to generate the revenue needed to pay for present growth. But all Ponzi schemes collapse sooner or later, and when the real estate bubble popped, Bend's did.
Add to that the special problems created by Bend's embrace of sprawl -- development spread out over a wide area requires more miles of roads, sewers and water mains than more compact development -- and one can see why the city is now utterly and totally fucked. Municipal services of all kinds are worse in Bend now that it's an "affluent" city of 86,000 than they were in 1985, when it was a poor town of about 26,000.
If you're fortunate enough to live in a place that is NOT Bend and some local politician tries to sell you a line of bullshit about how growth will mean prosperity for your town, bring him to Bend, throw him into one of our potholes and shovel asphalt over him. You'll be doing both yourself and us a favor.