Broken Sidewalk Photos

Broken Sidewalk Photo 1 -Chesterfield Hills Neighborhood

Broken Sidewalk Photo 2 -Chesterfield Hills Neighborhood

Broken Sidewalk Photo 3 -Chesterfield Hills Neighborhood

I have actually been somewhat reluctant over the years about putting photos on the web showing the sorry state of East Lansing sidewalks and other infrastructure (other than what is piggybacked onto big projects, mostly for downtown development). No one wants to make East Lansing look bad, but sometimes it is necessary when we are dealing with a government that denies reality and has chosen to neglect the needs of its residents in pursuit of a magic kingdom.

A few years ago there was a plan in place for replacing the sidewalks in my part of Chesterfield Hills, which also has never had the sewers and storm sewers separated (the sewers sometimes smell), but that fell by the wayside with cutting "low hanging fruit."

Given the condition of the sidewalks, it is almost impossible to edge the grass to keep it back, because banging the sidewalks causes further chipping and the edging leads to more dirt and mud on the sidewalks. The low spots become deep puddles after rains, and during winter melting snow accumulates in these low spots, leading to ice, sometimes for weeks on end, and even for the conscientious, shoveling and ice removal under these conditions is difficult -- when pushing light snow (and with helping neighbors, I do 3 lots, most of the time), the shovel gets stuck frequently, making for much more work and lifting, which gets harder and harder with deterioration (including deterioration of my abilities with age). Strategic salting, which means using as little salt (preferably "environmentally friendly" variants) as possible, leaving most of de-icing to mother nature, is complicated by cracks and low spots, which require more salting, which results in more cracking, and so on. Low spots also accumulate dirt, which often becomes slippery and dangerous in wet conditions and requires frequent sweeping, which many people fail to do, perhaps leaving themselves open to liability.

The city is in clear violation of Americans with Disabilities Act, and I suspect elder law. The city is also liable for injuries caused by dangerous sidewalks, because the city owns the sidewalks. According to our Drain Commissioner, who has to deal with similar issues, the city can try to deny liability by claiming it doesn't know. So, I think it is now incumbent on citizens to go out with cameras and make sure the city does know, although I would prefer to see city officials, including the city manager and members of Council, get out into the neighborhoods and see for themselves what is going on in their city.

I do not have first hand knowledge of more than a fraction of the city, but because I prefer to walk to destinations whenever possible, I can say, neighborhood infrastructure is deteriorating or in dire conditions everywhere I go. I'm not sure what causes some problems, but last winter on one occasion when I walked through East Glencairn to Hannah, there was terrible ice build-up at the edge of streets where I had to cross, and it made me think there must have been storm sewers backed-up, with the water then freezing. It was very dangerous, and I know people who have fallen and been hurt in that neighborhood. The city knows it has a pervasive icy sidewalks problem and has failed to take meaningful action (a slight revision to the ordinance is not meaningful action), so it is only a matter of time someone get really hurt and sues for gross negligence.

The third photograph, which may not look as bad, is at a spot on Michigan Ave., where hundreds of people walk every day, maybe thousands during some sporting events, that is one of several low lying spots on Michigan Ave. that form deep puddles and, during winter, ice over. Unlike neighborhood streets where you can shrug off temporary puddles by walking on the street, you can't do that on the main streets. At this particular spot, people will walk on the right of way or the neighboring lawn to avoid puddles or ice, causing very dangerous mud when done by hundreds of pedestrians and cycles -- I just walk through the snow further on the right of way or cross over the median to Brody, dodging traffic. I've seen that spot stay icy for weeks, because the ice gets so deep, with many just choosing to walk over it. A couple of years ago when they were doing that big, bond-financed, reconstruction of Harrison (at some point, I'll find out if the new water revenue from Brody, Kellogg, etc, is paying for costs or if we are paying for the debt on our water and sewer bills), I asked them to piggyback fixing that one especially dangerous spot on Michigan while they had the equipment and concrete mixer replacing sidewalk for their agenda a couple of buildings down, but of course nothing happened. This time, with the current Michigan Ave. work that has replaced some sidewalks at corners (I think related to electric), I didn't bother to ask, so we now have a nice new piece of sidewalk, easy for a wheelchair, at the corner, while the real danger spot a few doors away continues to fester.

We all know the financial realities for the city -- government made bad choices and has also experienced lost revenue that is not of its own fault (but our politicians can no longer get away with trying to blame others until they accept responsibility for bad choices). We are going to have to find ways to finance fixing neighborhood infrastructure, and it will take time, but time means 5-10 years not 20.

The reason for photos is to force government to acknowledge the reality (and help those who do not live in the worst of the deterioration, because their infrastructure is newer, see for themselves), and change spending priorities from the imagined great and wonderful future to the sad present. That means fixing neighborhood infrastructure must be front and center in the new strategic plan. It means the savings from maturing bonds after October 2016 must go to top priorities for the city as a whole, whatever funds it may now be earmarked for. And, it means any new development must pay at least a substantial portion of tax increment as taxes (some states mandate no more than 50% may go for "tax capture"), and if it takes time to wean developers from their addiction to handouts, development will just have to wait (the true blight left from City Center II can be dealt with by taking a stick to the property owners, instead of always the carrot).

I would personally support a debt millage for neighborhood infrastructure of about 1 mil now, with the idea of increasing it to 2 mils when the current Hannah, etc. debt millage is complete in 2019 (about the same time as the school technology bond). I think most citizens can handle the extra burden, as long as we know our government finally gets it and will waste no more money on fantasies and special interests, and a debt millage will not go to the DDA or brownfield projects. Most East Lansing citizens know we need to pay for what we want from government. What we want to know is we have a government that will spend our money on us.