Hotter Heads Prevail in Maintenance Debate

Supervisors Peter Adam and Salud Carbajal Trade Jabs Over 'The Elephant in the Room'

Peter Adam
Paul Wellman

In a surprise to no one, this week’s discussion by the Board of Supervisors on the maintenance needs of county-owned buildings and parks became a jab-filled debate about the controversial Measure M. After a presentation from staff that showed the county’s deferred maintenance backlog for buildings and parks hovers just under $84 million ​— ​lower than the $94 million previously projected ​— 1st District Supervisor Salud Carbajal uttered the phrase he’s used for months to describe Measure M: “the elephant in the room.”

Salud Carbajal
Paul Wellman

The initiative, championed by 4th District Supervisor Peter Adam and to be decided by voters on June 3, would force the board to annually allocate $18 million-$44 million for the upkeep of county-owned buildings, parks, and roads so as not to add the costs to the ever-growing backlog. (The backlog for roads clocks in at $257 million.) Opponents of the measure ​— ​which include Carbajal and supervisors Janet Wolf, Doreen Farr, and Steve Lavagnino ​— ​contend it would mean painful cuts to public safety and social services.

Adam maintained on Tuesday that the supervisors don’t have an alternative to Measure M and addressed the voters directly. “Unless you vote yes on this thing, it’s not going to happen,” he said. “We’re going to kick that can down the road here forever and ever, amen.” But Carbajal ​— ​who suggested that Adam’s goal with the ordinance was to “bankrupt the county government” ​— ​resented Adam’s notion that the board was feigning a last-minute concern over maintenance needs, citing the board’s decision to provide an extra $2 million to roads funding last year and pointing out the toll the recession took on the budget. “It’s not like we pooh-poohed this issue and then this measure came about,” Carbajal said, then speculating about Adam’s thought process. “There was a sense of, ‘Okay, I raised the urgency of this. Okay, you’re starting the conversation. You’re giving it serious consideration, but just in case, I’m going to ram this down your throat with this measure.’”

Carbajal suggested a maintenance funding plan similar to that for the North County Jail, in which money is set aside incrementally; possible funding scenarios will be presented to the board during June’s budget talks. In August, the board will hear from staff about how to prioritize the 1,618 deferred maintenance projects.


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