The Brief: Why It Takes So Long for City Streets to Get Fixed

Plus, dark money moves into the state budget battle.

Screenshot 2015-07-21 06.56.12

1. Why does it take so impossibly long for street repairs to get made in Philadelphia? It’s complicated. Really complicated.

The gist: PlanPhilly last week took a long look at a complicated question. Who owns the streets in Philadelphia? The short answer is there are nine government agencies, and a couple dozen “private entities,” and that’s before matters like utility rights-of-way get factored in. Questions over ownership and maintenance responsibility over streetstcape elements — signs, stoplights, manholes, trees and the like — are that much more complex. As PlanPhilly’s Jim Saksa writes:

But it’s a complexity not without cause: dividing responsibilities allows for specialization, which can make for more effective oversight of Philadelphia’s 2,235 miles of public pavement.

But the system only works if all the different actors can get on the same page, something that gets more difficult as the cast grows. Like other areas of government, effectively managing the complicated streets system requires a strong director, something Philadelphia hasn’t always had.

Why it matters: These byzantine arrangements, which are pretty much the norm in big cities, go a long way toward explaining why it can take so long, for instance, for that trench dug by the city water department on a state-owned road to get permanently paved over.

2. Harrisburg Republicans are getting testy over dark-money budget attack ads.

The gist: Pennsylvania is now three weeks past its budget deadline, and state lawmakers are getting kind of pissed off. The latest irritant? At least $750,000 in attack ads paid for by a political group “affiliated with the Democratic Governors Association,” the Inquirer reports. The group isn’t directly tied to Gov. Wolf, but he’s clearly the beneficiary of the ads, which target individual GOP legislators. The lawmakers held a press conference Monday to air their complaints, while Wolf’s spokesman shot back that they were “being called to task” for passing a “sham budget.”

Why it matters: The influx of outside cash into the state’s budget debate could cut two ways. Either it will ratchet up the pressure on Republicans and help convince more vulnerable and moderate members of the GOP to urge leadership to find some compromise with Wolf, or it’ll just enrage Republicans and encourage them to dig in further.