Letters to the Editor - October 12 2005

Sign of hope

Wow! That’s great that only about 100 people turned out to support something they take very seriously (News & Views, “Fascist fest,” Oct. 6).

It’s only American that any people should be able to congregate and drink and preach their message. To think, you could’ve increased their movement by 500 percent. Good thing they didn’t ask you your last name, Alyssa! Forgive me if my assumption is wrong, that Abkowitz is of Jewish origin, which they would surely assume.

It’s kind of funny and sad that some people have to blame the problems of the world on everyone but themselves. It’s some sign of hope that in their ranks there’s at least one guy that’s not quite so sure ... the guy with no tats “because they are permanent.” He might even come out of the closet in a couple of weeks and then he’d be all like, “I’m so glad I didn’t get those awful tattoos! I mean, I would feel soooo silly right now!”

-- Josh McCaffrey, Buford

When’s a pothole a pothole?

Things that go bump in the road aren’t always potholes (News & Views, “Pockmarked politics,” Sept. 29).

The repair of the city’s streets has been a key focus for Mayor Shirley Franklin since she declared war on potholes during her first campaign. The “Pothole Posse” is a Public Works team dedicated to just filling potholes throughout the city.

This year alone, the Pothole Posse filled 3,881 potholes, and it fills nearly 5,000 annually. That’s a stark contrast from [CL writer] Coley Ward’s description of the administration’s commitment to repairing potholes. Ward referenced a list that he believes are potholes, instead of what Public Works defines as a “pothole.” The official description of a pothole is “a section of a road that has become recessed due to water and or weather damage, or aged asphalt that has begun to crumble.”

While it is a common mistake, many road problems thought to be potholes are not actually potholes at all. Potholes are not: utility cuts (used for cable, telephone, water and electric projects); dips due to subsurface settling; metal plates that have shifted apart, leaving gaps; or low-lying manhole covers.

Mr. Ward offered several addresses in his story, including in front of the Creative Loafing offices, but Public Works representatives were unable to find a record of anyone reporting that problem, which is also not a pothole. The other nine sites mentioned in the story were also not potholes. A brief review of the list reveals that none of the sites were potholes.

• A crevice on Seaboard Avenue, near the Inman Park MARTA Station; a second one on Seaboard — not a pothole (utility issue)

• A cavity covered by metal plates on Memorial Avenue near the A&P Lofts — not a pothole (metal plate gap)

• A giant hollow on McDonough Boulevard near Lakewood Avenue — not a pothole (subsurface issue)

• A 6-foot-long rut on Ridge Avenue in southwest Atlanta — not a pothole (subsurface)

• A doughnut-shaped dip on Fulton Street near Formwalt Street, south of downtown — not a pothole (utility issue)

• A gap on Thornton Street in southwest Atlanta — not a pothole (utility issue)

• A wide, 2-inch-deep gash across from Grady Memorial Hospital on Coca-Cola Place — not a pothole (utility cut)

• A pair of craters on Willoughby Way, about 50 feet from CL’s office — not a pothole (subsurface)

The city encourages residents to continue to contact our pothole hotline, 404-POTHOLE and visit our website (www.atlantaga.gov) for Public Works updates and other community information.

The city of Atlanta is committed to repairing potholes in a timely and efficient manner as well as resolving other road issues.

-- David E. Scott, commissioner,

city of Atlanta Department of Public Works

Editor Ken Edelstein responds: Commissioner Scott demonstrates that his definition of a pothole is quite narrow when he argues that none of the 10, umm, road blemishes reported to the city by Coley Ward qualify as potholes.

Most dictionaries define “pothole” more broadly than Scott does. They don’t limit the definition to certain causes. Webster’s defines the word to mean: “a pot-shaped hole in a road surface.” We couldn’t find evidence of Mayor Franklin adopting Scott’s narrower definition in her 2001 campaign pledge, either.

Nor could we figure out in what sense Scott’s narrower definition is the city’s “official description.” When Ward followed up on the commissioner’s letter, a department spokeswoman couldn’t say when or where the “official description” was adopted.

It’s fair for Public Works to expect other agencies and private utilities to fix potholes that aren’t the department’s responsibility. But then the issue becomes how efficiently the “Pothole Posse” gets others to respond to calls from the public.

Commissioner Scott makes that point by acknowledging there was no record of at least one of the 10 calls Ward made to the city. But the commissioner doesn’t address why the three-day clock should start running on pothole complaints only after the city has gotten around to responding. The mayor promised they’d be fixed within 72 hours of the call.

Nobody’s arguing that the city streets are in worse shape now than they were four years ago — just that the road’s still a bit more bumpy than city officials say it is.