Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

"That least sexy of issues"

New York Times columnist Bob Herbert has dedicated his last two columns to imploring Americans to pay more attention to our nation's infrastructure (that's the unsexy issue). Actually, to some extent he's dedicated them to letting Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell implore Americans to pay more attention to infrastructure. Many of the words in the two columns are spent quoting the gov, and on discussing Pennsylvania's infrastructure issues. Though Herbert makes clear he's only using Pa. as an example, we make a disturbing example indeed:

"That least sexy of issues"

Gov. Rendell beneath an I-95 bridge that was closed for three days,
Gov. Rendell beneath an I-95 bridge that was closed for three days, CLEM MURRAY / Inquirer Staff Photographer

New York Times columnist Bob Herbert has dedicated his last two columns to imploring Americans to pay more attention to our nation's infrastructure (that's the unsexy issue). Actually, to some extent he's dedicated them to letting Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell implore Americans to pay more attention to infrastructure. Many of the words in the two columns are spent quoting the gov, and on discussing Pennsylvania's infrastructure issues. Though Herbert makes clear he's only using Pa. as an example, we make a disturbing example indeed:

Gov. Ed Rendell likes to tell a story that goes back to his days as mayor of Philadelphia.

As he recalled, the city had a long cold snap with about a month and a half of below-freezing temperatures. Then, abruptly, the mercury rose into the 60s, he said, “and 58 of our water mains broke, causing all sorts of havoc.”

The pipes were old. Some were ancient. “My water people told me that some had been laid in the 19th century,” said Mr. Rendell, “and they were laid shallow, without much protection. So with any radical changes in temperature, they were susceptible to breaking."

The latter column also mentions a report by one Rina Cutler, Philly's deputy mayor for transportation and utilities, titled "Just Because You Ignore It Doesn't Make It Go Away," which highlights the fact that big stretches of I-95 are in dire need of expensive repair.

There's something sad about the fact that we have a governor who's described in the Times as being "all but obsessed with infrastructure" (and has put a lot of money into repairing bridges), the fact that he's been the governor for seven years, and that we still get held up as an example of a state with ... crumbling infrastructure. Maybe it's a testament to the scope of the problem.

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Every year, city government spends slightly more than $4 billion. Where does all that money come from? More importantly, where does it go? Are we getting the most bang for our tax buck? “It's Our Money” is a joint project between Philadelphia Daily News and WHYY, funded by the William Penn Foundation, designed to answer these questions.

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