Sitting through my second extended water main break-induced dry spell of the week, I am reminded of my post a few years back bemoaning the poor quality of basic physical infrastructure and government services in this area. Although millions have been spent locally on replacing curbs, sidewalk and street lighting in downtown Rensselaer, not to mention on the construction of our rail station, we can’t get through a winter or cold spring season without being deprived of water, a basic need. It’s easy to complain, as do all public officials, about a lack of resources (and some, but not all, of the complaints have validity), but the job of our public officials is to prioritize the spending of the available resources to provide the greatest good for all.
Many forces conspire against good prioritization decisions. Politicians know, for example, that they will be remembered for grand, visible public works far more than they will be remembered for insuring that services are provided without interruption and that existing infrastructure is maintained. No one named a filled pot hole after a mayor. Similarly, more federal and state funds are available for new construction than for maintenance.
In places like Rensselaer, where I live, the availability of sufficient resources also is a problem. The tax base is low, as is the political clout to extract money from county, state and federal governments.
What’s the answer? Unfortunately, there is no easy one. Until things get so bad (which, judging by what people here have been putting up with for years, will have to be pretty bad) and start demanding better basic services by voting for candidates who promise them, or unless the economy improves enough to provide more resources, I don’t see things getting much better in the short run. If enough people feel that way and start voting with their feet, the downward spiral could get worse before it gets better.