Commissioner Sydnor: Better roads for Ward Two

MD-Commissioner Sydnor Better roads for Ward Two_2x

Dorchester Banner/Gloria Rojas
Commissioner Donald Sydnor points out needed road repairs in Ward Two.

CAMBRIDGE — At the past Cambridge City Council meeting, the question of approval to bid for road repair was brought to council by Oden Wheeler for the Department of Public Works. A “No” vote by Commissioner Sydnor of Ward Two is consistent with his voting pattern on other city improvements that do not include his ward, Cambridge Ward Two. Commissioner Sydnor had the scheduled road maintenance list examined ward by ward, which ward was getting what, making the point that Ward Three was getting most of the money and Ward Two was not getting any repairs or funds allocated to it. When asked if there was reason for his ward to be considered a higher priority, Commissioner Sydnor agreed to tour Ward Two with this reporter and Mr. Wheeler.

The Tour of Ward 3 and 5 was high drama. Most of the streets are in very good condition as a result of the city’s rotating 20-year schedule, which is budgeted at $250,000. The streets selected for blacktop in this fiscal year did indeed sport blemished surfaces. Some were unsightly with patchwork from previous sewer repairs, others had potholes with growth potential. Others, cracked into elaborate patterns, needed repaving. All the damage could get worse and cost more to fix if ignored or postponed. Timely rotating maintenance prevents problems before they present dangers to cars, pedestrians, and budgets.

The tour opened up my eyes to the contrasts there are in Ward Two. Some lovely streets of well-maintained houses, some substandard housing, and sometimes the two are cheek by jowl. We saw that most of the street surfaces were in good condition….except for some glaring examples. But Mr. Wheeler explained that those particular streets in Ward Two were scheduled for major construction in the fall. Money would be foolishly spent if after resurfacing, heavy construction vehicles and dump trucks tore it up.

“Good point,” acknowledged Mr. Sydnor and the reporter as well. But then right there in Ward Two we came upon Jimson Road. It isn’t scheduled for construction, but Jimson Road has patches, cracks, and a variety of holes that yawn like a bored audience. One of the worst. Here was Mr. Sydnor’s ah-hah moment, a justification. Mr. Wheeler agreed. The street needed attention. He explained that since a pumping station was built near the corner, he had expected a water company to take care of it.

But beyond the broken pavements is a break in trust, according to Mr. Sydnor. “Many voters in my ward have communicated to me a lack of trust in city government. The rejection of the City Manager petitions lacking only 81 votes was decided by only four people, and my residents felt disenfranchised. They had no voice. There were more valid names on those petitions than the number of votes that elected the mayor.”

So will the city heed Commissioner Sydnor’s complaint and add Ward Two’s Jimson Road to the list? Mr. Wheeler says he is going to try to find economies elsewhere and apply that to Jimson Road. It’s difficult because savings may disappear if the department’s budget is exploded by snowstorms, rising gas prices, or other unforeseen events. But Mr. Wheeler ends by saying, “We’re definitely going to try to get it done.” Commissioner Sydnor says, “I have confidence in Mr. Wheeler. He’ll find a way to get it done.”

“Besides,” he jokes, “I have a witness.” He means me.

He adds that some people also feel distanced from the activities in the city, though they participate in some like the Seafood Fest-I-Val. Others say they have no voice. Mr. Sydnor explains his motivation in Council meetings: “I will continue to speak up for them,” he says. “I’m not ‘ornery’. I am going to look out for my constituents. I care about the city, but I am the voice of Ward Two.”

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