I am in favor of undergrounding the utilities. I am also in favor of the 1 percent increase in the sales tax.
In the past, I voted in my neighborhood to remove utility poles. I paid for the removal of the poles in my neighborhood, and I am willing to pay for the removal of poles in other neighborhoods in the city. I accept the “unfairness” in the proposal to remove some, but not all, of the utility poles in the city.
However, the proposition currently presented to the voters is flawed. As proposed, this project could be a 25-year undertaking. I am not willing to endure 25 years of the ensuing means to accomplish that goal, which includes but is not limited to jack hammering, asphalt removal, tractors, dump trucks, steel plates, lane closures, utility trucks, etc. This 25-year projection is plausible because the city has indicated no completion date at all for the construction project.
There is precedent for my concern. When undertaken in my neighborhood in the past, undergrounding the utilities lasted years and years before it was finally completed. Even worse, at that time, the city had projected an estimate for completion of the project, yet it proved meaningless. Months went by with no progress. When the city engineer overseeing the project was contacted, he explained that the city had a contract with SCE that had no deadline for completing the project. For its part, SCE explained that they were waiting for Cox Cable to remove its wires, and also said they were waiting for Verizon to remove its wires, and also that they were waiting for property owners to install underground service from the street to their home. Everybody who was contracted to accomplish the project had excuses, nobody was forced to perform, and nobody was accountable. Underlying this multi-pronged failure was the fact that apparently there were no penalties for failure to perform. Nonetheless, it appears that everybody got paid, regardless of how or when they performed.
I personally witnessed the city’s previous mismanagement of undergrounding utilities in my neighborhood, and consequently, I do not support repeating that experience on a much larger scale. The current proposition submitted to voters could have required the city to complete construction of all undergrounding within five years. However, it does not even provide a project completion date. It is entirely feasible that this project could take 25 years to complete, and that is unacceptable.
Stan Steinberg, Laguna Beach