Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
dwalters@sacbee.com
Published: Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014 – 11:15 pm
Last Modified: Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014 – 11:55 pm

The Sacramento Suburban Water District, which supplies water to some older neighborhoods outside the city, is engaged in a decades-long project to replace its aged, undersized water mains and install meters as required by a new state law.

It’s what government agencies charged with maintaining public services are supposed to do.

It’s not sexy, it doesn’t lend itself to flashy videos or political hyperbole; it’s just good government at its most basic level and something that distinguishes advanced civilizations.

But because maintaining infrastructure isn’t sexy, political overseers – especially those in multipurpose city, county or state governments – are often tempted to shortchange it and divert the public’s money into other political imperatives.

Over time, of course, that neglect accumulates, and we experience systemic breakdowns.

Clearly that’s what happened when a 90-year-old water main that should have been replaced years ago ruptured in Los Angeles. The resulting flood caused many millions of dollars in damage. Afterward, Mayor Eric Garcetti warned, “This will not be the last one.”

By happenstance, as that mess was being cleaned up last month, the Los Angeles city controller, Ron Galperin, issued a report on long-standing neglect in maintaining the city’s streets.

It said that bringing Los Angeles’ streets up to standard would cost $4 billion, and added that much of the money that should have been spent in years past on streets was wasted due to mismanagement.

However, such neglect is not confined to Los Angeles.

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