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Grand Rapids gets it together to fix potholes

June 30, 2014 by Steven M. Gursten

Voters send clear message by approving “streets tax” in special election: Safe roads are worth the money

Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell
Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell

Fed up with pothole-pocked roadways, Grand Rapids citizens demanded that something be done. So has the rest of Michigan.

But Grand Rapids did something different – they put their money where their mouths were. And in a special election, voters decided to approve a “streets tax” which will generate upwards of $10 million annually through 2030 for “vital streets,” according to MLive.

What a shame Michigan state lawmakers didn’t learn from Grand Rapids’ experience.

Instead of breaking for summer vacation without having accomplished anything to fix the state’s dismal and dangerous roadways, state politicians should’ve found a way to get the funding to make the road repairs that are so desperately needed. Or at a minimum, politicians should’ve followed Grand Rapids’ lead and put it to the voters to come up with a solution.

This delay has real consequences for the rest of us. As an attorney, I’ve seen a huge jump in serious car accidents caused by people who were veering to avoid a pothole, only to end up in the oncoming lane of travel and causing a bad automobile accident. The cost to people in flat tires, car damage and time missed from work must be astounding.

Which brings me back to Grand Rapids. On May 6, Grand Rapids voters – by a 12,068 to 6,123 vote – approved the new streets tax, which will fund city road improvements, but impose no additional, financial burden on taxpayers.

The streets tax  is an extension of a city income-tax that was scheduled to expire in 2015. In 2010, the city passed a 15.4% increase in its income-tax for city residents and people who work in the city.

“Grand Rapids will be Michigan’s first city with an income tax earmarked specifically for streets,” reported MLive.

As for how the money raised by the new streets tax will be used, Mayor George Heartwell told WOOD Radio (in a May 6, 2014, story by John C. Smith):

“The money will go into a separate fund, that fund will be posted so people will be able to watch and see how each and every expenditure is made.”

WOOD Radio also reported that there will be “a Vital Streets Oversight Committee to watch over the account and make choices on direction for repairs.”

Related information:

28th Street construction in Grand Rapids

Should Michigan use toll roads to pay for potholes?

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