City Councilmember Georgette Gomez — called out by Michael Turko for not participating in his stories on the need to repair Rolando’s “catwalk” walkways — didn’t want to appear to take credit for other people’s efforts, a staff member told the area’s planning group on Wednesday (January 10th).
Turko Files segment, January 4, 2017
“The segment Turko did made things start to happen faster,” Keryna Johnson told the Southeastern Planning Group. “We have been working on this for a long time.”
Repairs on the worst of the eight walkways (called “catwalks” by residents) are scheduled to begin next week (January 15–19), according to city spokesman Anthony Santacroce. “The most urgent and critical for safety repair is removing the wooden steps and rebuilding the walkway,” he said, estimating the work will take about two weeks.
Neighbors near the eight walkways/stairways that connect pedestrians to streets they’d otherwise have to walk far to reach have been asking for repairs for years, resident Alex Soto told Turko. The walkways were built into the hilly neighborhood as part of the village plan in the 1920s.
Soto is more widely known as Extremo, a mixed martial arts fighter from the Ultimate Fighting Championship. He looks pretty effective at fighting for his neighborhood in the Turko segments.
One of the walkways, connecting Lorca Drive with Bonillo Drive, is in particularly bad condition with rotting wooden stairs built over the broken-down remnants of a concrete staircase that is, in turn, built atop a storm drain. That walkway was deemed a safety risk in need of immediate work, Santacroce said. The other seven walkways, which need fixes such as concrete patching and leveling and sturdier handrails, will end up on the city’s long list of neighborhood projects, Santacroce said. Those repairs haven’t been scheduled.
The city’s Get It Done app has one report, on October 17, 2017, calling for a repair of a dangerous condition on the catwalk between Lorca and Cartagena drives. “Someone WILL get hurt someday,” the report says.
There are almost 1800 reports of problems with the sidewalks in 2017 and 2018. There are two other catwalk reports, one of a person sleeping and one of an abandoned shopping cart on the catwalks.
While reporting his story, Turko contacted the council offices, writing in an email, “I have what I like to call an ‘opportunity’ for the council member.” Roberto Torres, Gomez’s communications director, and the office declined any appearances on the Turko segment, though they did send written comment, Torres said.
Gomez staffers started working on getting city resources behind the repairs in February 2017, two months after she took office, Torres said. He credited city employees for scheduling inspections and planning the work, and noted that the mayor’s staff was involved as well.
So, presented with the opportunity to either look like she was grandstanding or sparring with Turko, Gomez turned down the appearance. Torres did provide written information that they had started working on it last year; and, he said, they heard about it in early 2017 from other residents. Soto contacted Gomez’s office after the first Turko segment.
Turko went after the councilmember in the second segment, saying Gomez “has repeatedly refused to appear on the Turko Files.”
Then Turko says that Gomez is “best known for her support of LGBT issues and her aggressive stance on climate change and global warming” and showed a series of unflattering photos of Gomez that date from before she ran for public office. He suggests that Gomez should appear on his show to outline her plans to work in the neighborhoods she represents.
Santacroce credits Turko’s focus for getting the project moving, calling his reporting “the catalyst” behind the repairs being scheduled so quickly. The department had assessed the repairs before Christmas, he said.