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Letter: City’s overuse of salt leaves roads, public feeling wear

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Note: The statements, views, and opinions contained in this letter to the editor are those of the author and are not endorsed by, nor do they necessarily reflect, the opinions of The Republic.

From: Noel Taylor


Received: Dec. 27

Have you noticed all the brine spray on our streets this month? I’ve not only noticed the brine but noticed that it’s being applied when the weather forecast is for a week of clear skies, such as occurred this past week. Except for flooded roads, there’s been no need for salt, so I contacted Mayor Kristen Brown’s office and asked who makes those decisions. That led to a pleasant conversation with both the mayor and Brian Burton, wherein we shared our perspectives.

Apparently we didn’t share enough because I was unpleasantly surprised this week by fresh brine applications at the beginning of another long stretch of clear weather. I quickly learned that Brown herself has instructed Burton to “err on the side of public safety” as he makes his decisions. Being the good city manager that she is, she took full credit and blame, and in so doing supported her employees. Nice touch and not all bad. Unfortunately, it got worse.

You see, in my last communication with Burton and Brown I commented that the logical extension of their “public safety” claim would be to spray the roads not only every Friday but also after every rain during all the months wherein the temperatures could possibly go below freezing. Apparently not to be outdone, that’s exactly what the city road crews did on Dec. 27. With a forecast of rain possibly turning to snow two nights later, the crews applied a fresh coating of brine, which would be washed off by the rains that preceded that snow. Apparently Tuesday’s coating wasn’t enough.

In my view the issue here is not public safety, but proper stewardship of resources — salt being only a minor issue, since it’s application shortens the life of our streets and bridges, not to mention our vehicles. Brown believes that she has a public mandate to do what she’s doing. I disagree, recognizing that there are reasonable alternatives that address the real public safety needs.

While I do not doubt that there are citizens who will sue the city every time they choose to drive irresponsibly and are injured, and courts that will side with them, I see these facts as a symptom of the greater illness that grips our country, not as a valid excuse for catering to those who yell the loudest. Further, I view such litigation-happy people as being an extreme minority whom we only encourage via our catering. It’s time to say, “Enough,” and perhaps redevelop the ability to say, “No.”

One thing I know for sure about Brown: She listens. That’s a good thing. Readers, I hope she hears from you on this issue.

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