I might lose a lot of people on this post; but, I am going to try real hard to make this understandable. By the way I have never posted in this
section before. A little background. I have degrees in Political Science, History and a doctorate in law (and no I am not going to spell check). For
over 20 years I have worked on all aspects of streets, construction, maintenance and management. I have been asked to write books on Government
Accounting and Public Right of Ways. You don't need to believe me because I am going to provide links to what I discuss.
The streets are not owned by the cities and counties. You probably thought they were. Most streets are public easements. A developer builds a housing
track and in order to get his permits he is required to build the streets to a certain quality and give the city an easement. An easement is the right
to pass over a property, not ownership. The ownership stays with the property owner. If you live in a gated community, the easement is owned by the
homeowners association usually.
Local control of these public right of ways is what allowed cities to cause roadways to be created without taxing everyone, instead the home buyer
that a wanted a road paid for it. Same is true for utilities. Along with the "ownership" of the easement, the cities are required to keep them safe,
to make repairs for safety and to assure the public can travel the easement. Cities can return easements to the property owners, we call this vacating
I probably lost half of the readers; but, keep reading that was just background. The Federal government passed a "National Broadband Plan". The
purpose of the plan is to give universal broadband everywhere. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is the leader on this. The FCC decided that
broadband was not going quick enough. When broadband companies wish to install their equipment on light poles or other poles in the right of way, they
have to pay a fee. Cities determine the fee. The FCC wants to regulate the rules and fees set by the cities.
Here is the deal. Legally the power to control something means you are responsible for it's maintenance. The Texas Municipal League (and I don't live
or work in Texas) sent a letter to Vice President Biden because they were concerned about the loss of revenue. They headline in the letter said,
"Contemplated FCC Action to take Local Public Property at Less than Fair Value Could Devastate Texas City Budgets". They didn't say the fed couldn't
do it, they said they needed to be paid more.
The fed just said that they want to end local control over the local streets. I hope you understand the enormity of that. No more local control of the
streets. The timing is perfect as taking away the control means taking responsibility for the maintenance. The reason Texas didn't just wanted more
money is because it releases the cities from maintenance responsibility, if you limit what they can charge in fees that are used to maintain the
streets you have to make the responsibility federal. Lots of goodies in this for struggling cities. They save millions that they would otherwise have
to spend and fed will repair their roads.
If this goes through then the fed would have to pay your city for it's streets. You want to know how much money that means, look at your cities
"Consolidated Annual Financial Report" (CAFR), all cities and counties have to have one. Most are on-line at your cities website. About ten years ago
the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) issued a rule for local governments that required them to value their streets as an asset in the
CAFR. That means your city already told the fed how much they have to be paid. They didn't know it when they did it.
If your city is in economic trouble, there is probably enough money to be paid that it will no longer be. In addition, by taking away the maintenance
costs your city saves a lot, enough to fix pensions. Public Works is usually a city's third best funded organization (Police and Fire being first). If
the fed takes over the streets it would give them the opportunity to cut costs by have nation wide (take too long to explain how; but, trust me it
would be easy to do). They would also have to create a new organization to manage the streets. That means that millions of unemployed construction
workers could go back to work. It might also mean the sidewalks got fixed too (most cities make the property owner do it).
This is going to be acted on in April and I thought people should know what is going on. You could be for it or against; but, you need to know about
it and understand it. Most people involved in right of ways don't even know about this and the few that do don't understand the implications. It is a
trade off, you give up local control of the roads in exchange for not going into bankruptcy and reducing your costs; but, you do give up local
edit on 20-3-2011 by AQuestion because: (no reason given)