Iowa’s road woes

EDITORIALS

BY ART CULLEN

Storm Lake’s street troubles illustrate why the Iowa Legislature at some point must revisit road funding as revenues decline from increased fuel efficiency and electric vehicles. Just a quarter of The City Beautiful’s streets are rated in “good” shape. New construction comes just a few blocks at a time. Cities cope by trying to get by with resurfacing. The result is Irving Street. Or Grand Avenue. Or gravel Memorial Drive.

City officials hope that an improved Census count will help direct more infrastructure funding here. So do we. Everyone should be counted. Whether they are is doubtful under the current reign of terror on immigrants in Washington.

We need more than a better Census effort. Cities have complained as long as we can remember that they get short shrift under road-use apportionment. The commercial highway system has first dibs, county roads second and cities third, so long as Farm Bureau has its say. There isn’t enough to go around in the first place. Gov. Terry Branstad admitted as much when he pushed for a fuel-tax increase in 2014. Gasoline use continues to decline, and that is bound to accelerate as the vehicle fleet converts to hybrid electric.

Branstad had considered tolls and other revenue means to fill the pot. No alternatives looked good. They still don’t. You hear rumblings about a wheel tax on electric cars to pay their share. Counties — especially Buena Vista and Sac — are chirping about honey wagons and livestock semis destroying gravel roads without paying sufficient taxes. Meanwhile, people along Hwy. 30 want two more lanes so you can get past Carroll faster.

Folks, we need to have a sit-down and figure out long-term road funding.

To get by until that uncertain date, Storm Lake’s best option is to increase taxable retail sales whose revenues can be directed to streets. Tough as it sounds, that means increasing funding for marketing through Storm Lake United. If you buy your TV at locally-owned Zone Home or Melanders and not in Sioux City or on Amazon, you are helping Grand Avenue. We need to step up our marketing to Storm Lake.

Cities have been strapped by the legislature every which way, the most recent being property tax breaks for apartment complexes owned primarily by investors. The root of most city problems lies where cities are created and governed, in the Iowa Capitol. Until we have a legislature that cares about the needs of cities, rural and urban, we will watch our streets deteriorate.

Listen to a Texas Republican

It was interesting to hear Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, say what we have been saying for many years: Both political parties like the stalemate and continuing war over immigration because it helps keep their bases fully engaged, and it helps raise money. Hurd, a former CIA agent who is retiring from Congress, said this about his bill to provide a pathway to Dreamers and improve border security, at the Texas Summit on Immigration in Houston:

“This blockage is people want to use this topic as a political bludgeon against their political foes,” Hurd said. “That’s preventing people from showing a little political courage and preventing people from doing something that in their heart and their minds they agree on. What’s hard for me to understand is consistent polling shows that this is an issue that over two-thirds of Americans and over two-thirds of Republicans support.

“It has to be done in a bipartisan way, and the leaderships don’t want to see this happen, and that’s why I think we’re going to have to jam them.”

We appreciate the sentiment and wish Hurd well. But Congress and Trump will not allow a reasonable solution. The way to jam Congress is at the ballot box. We need more congressman like Hurd and fewer like Steve King. We need a President more like Beto O’Rourke, who claims Hurd as a friend from their work together in Congress addressing immigration, and nothing like Donald Trump. We need senators who recognize that Storm Lake thrives from immigration, and that we could do even better if people were allowed to emerge from the shadows. The war on immigrants will end when the people demand it.

Articles Section: