A recent Time Union article highlights the opening of a bike path connector between the Corning and Helderberg Hudson paths. I rode the connector a few times before it officially opened, and it’s a big improvement for people going from one path to the other (or, in my case, from Rensselaer over the Dunn Memorial Bridge to Delmar, a trip I often take). I am sure at least some of the anticipated economic improvement for the South End will result from this project, and I hope that residents of the area as well as others support it and, most important, use it.
Today I had a chance to walk the paved portion of the new Albany County bike path between Delmar and the Port of Albany. The path is great — newly paved, and therefore smooth, and not too crowded, at least on a weekday afternoon. I look forward to riding on it with my bike, and to trying out the new sections heading toward Voorheeseville as they are added.
Unfortunately, the paved section is only about three miles long at present, but it’s a lot better than nothing. What would really help would be a nice marked bike route connecting this trail with the Corning Preserve bike path, and maybe some better parking at the Delmar end (there’s a nice lot off South Pearl on the Albany end).
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.
A cyclist breaks a wheel on a potholed street in a major city near the State’s capital.
A lawyer goes to the State Library to conduct legal research, only to find that several of the treatises he consulted had not been updated for several years, rendering them virtually useless. The other public access law library in Albany is open only three days a week.
A person living in a city, two miles from the Capitol,wants to go to downtown Albany by public transit. She will have to walk a half mile to the nearest bus stop, and even during rush hour, she may wait up to half an hour for a bus. It may be quicker to walk, except in the winter, when the walkways on the bridges over the railroad tracks are not cleared and become icy.
Compared to what I saw in Sweden this summer, our public sphere is definitely third world. I think we have a right to demand — and government has an obligation to provide — basic services of decent quality. If it can’t, we need to find out why and correct the problem, and it may not be as simple as throwing more money at it.
Even the relatively affluent cannot escape bad roads, traffic delays and, in some cases, poor public schools. While some of the Republicans’ ideas have some validity, I absolutely disagree with their disagreement with the Obama and Warren observations that no one’s success is due to solely to his or her own efforts. We all benefit from public services. Why such an affluent country puts up with such poor services is beyond me.