“When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully,” Samuel Johnson observed. So it is with city and town governments across the country and probably across the globe as they confront the fiscal damage we have wrought to protect ourselves from a novel virus and a pandemic.
Durango was no exception when City Council met online Tuesday and, looking at its actual and anticipated losses of sales tax revenue, voted to cut its budgets for capital projects. Among the victims was a proposed, $4.1 million pedestrian crossing by 32nd Street.
The bridge appears to have been delayed for at least a year, but we are confident it is dead. It is not so much a COVID-19 fatality, however, as it was slain by public opinion. It was on life support once renderings of the project were made public. The looming fiscal crunch unplugged it.
In the face of widespread opposition – because it was overkill and an eyesore – its proponents bravely maintained the bridge had to continue because it had been planned.
That was always a weak argument, especially when the proponents had no idea it would look so bad through all the planning and then said it did not matter that it was unpopular. And that still would have been fine, perhaps, depending on your view of government, if it did not represent a large chunk of the people’s money.
We cannot imagine there will be much constituency for reviving that bridge a year from now, but you never know. If and when the corona crisis recedes, there are some Durangoans who may still want City Council to ban single-use plastic bags in Durango in favor of reusable cloth grocery bags – despite it probably seeming, at the least, like a dangerous idea in our new age of infectious disease.
For now, it is enough to remember that the meshuggeneh bridge was killed, not by COVID-19 but by transparency.