San Diego pothole repairs failing at record rate, but...

...slurry seal chief gets free Forty-Niners road trip

Union-Tribune:"The faulty work includes at least eight paving jobs."
  • Union-Tribune:"The faulty work includes at least eight paving jobs."
  • Photo from American Asphalt website

Richard Eugene Matter, Jr., Assistant Director of San Diego's transportation and stormwater department has been meted out a $500 fine for failing to disclose a $488 gift of travel, lodging, and admission to a San Francisco 49ers football game he received December 20, 2014, from American Asphalt, a major San Diego street contractor.

After failing to include American Asphalt's gift on his March 31, 2015 disclosure filing for 2014, Matter amended the report last June 6, finally revealing the gift. "When doing so, however, Respondent erroneously reported the $175 football game ticket as having a value of only $117," per a stipulated agreement Matter reached with the city's ethics commission.

"On March 12, 2019, Respondent filed another amendment to his 2014 annual SEI to disclose the correct value of the football game ticket received from American Asphalt."

Matter's penalty was so low in part because he "fully cooperated" with ethics investigators and "immediately filed the requisite amendment to his 2014 annual [Statement of Economic Interests] after being notified that the value of the football game ticket had been reported incorrectly."

In addition to the gratis game admission, the stipulation says Matter's freebies included a one-night stay at the Santa Clara Biltmore hotel, valued at $129, along with a roundtrip Southwest Airlines ticket to Oakland, worth $184. There was no explanation in the stipulation of how the ethics commission came to find out about the gifts to Matters.

City documents show that American Asphalt South of Fontana received a total of $5.6 million in slurry seal contracts in October and December of last year alone, and millions more in past years. The asphalt business has boomed as mayor Kevin Faulconer's self-proclaimed war on potholes has rolled out.

But the big money repair rush has seen more than its botched share of slurry seal jobs, according to an account by the Union-Tribune, which laid the problems at the door of slurry seal subcontractor G. Scott Asphalt Repair of Chula Vista.

“What’s going on that you fill a pothole and a month later it’s open again,” city councilwoman Jen Campbell was quoted as saying. “It’s so inefficient and not cost-effective to have to do things twice.”

"The faulty work includes at least eight paving jobs: two in downtown and one each in Point Loma, Linda Vista, Bay Park, Kearny Mesa, Carmel Valley, and Southeastern San Diego," the paper reported, adding that even more problems might crop up.

“That particular contractor and their slurry mix didn’t have the right proportion of materials,” Kirsty Reeser, deputy director of the city’s Streets Division, told a council hearing on the matter. “They had too much rubber, which was causing the slurry seal on the particular streets they did to not adhere to the street properly.”

“We have set high standards for street repair and won’t settle for anything less," Faulconer said in an email.

American Asphalt hosts parties for its customers, including BioMed Realty in Newark, California. "This was our way of saying Thank You for their continued patronage," according to the firm's website. "We kept the asphalt and slurry off the menu; instead we offered delicious BBQ ribs, chicken and all the fixings."

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Maybe we should instead call them sleazy seal companies.

This is just one of many examples of how the "slobberin' city" used to conduct business, and probably still does. As far as earlier reports go, these sealcoat jobs that didn't stick have been redone at the contractor's expense. But those were reports in the Light News, and who knows about their credibility. So "Empty Suit" Faulconer states that they will settle for nothing less than high standards. Yeah, right, Kev boy! If the city was doing its job, it would catch those bad jobs before they were finished, and make sure they were redone correctly on the spot. But with bureaucrats like Richard Eugene Matter, Jr. in charge, anything goes. He is now on record, finally, of having accepted favors and emoluments from the paving contractor. Why is he still employed by the city? Any connection between his enjoyment of favors fro tha contractor and the miserably shoddy work? Well of course not; he's a good (or as good as they get) city managerial employee, isn't he? Isn't He? ISN'T HE?

Hold American sphalt and sub-contractor G. Scott Asphalt accountable for their shoddy work. They should replace all deffective asphalt and should pay a penality for each botched job. The bidding process should be investigated as well. It would not suprise me to find that the winning bidders are real cozy to the corrupt politicians.

It would be a surprise if the incompetent contractor WASN'T cozy with either the corrupt pols or the city management staffers. But who would investigate? The same city bureaucracy that let it happen in the first place? The city attorney? Maybe, but we still don't know if she's going to go after corruption. The DA? LOL No, Mr. "Empty Suit" Mayor Faulconer has his pet project of the year, street repairs, get tarnished by this foul-up. And what will he do about it? Fire somebody? I strongly doubt that.

The problem also is that American Asphalt bid the job and built in enough profit that they could hire a subcontractor to do the work. The subcontractor has to cut corners to make a profit. The easiest ways to do that is pay low wages and no/low benefits and cut the materials used. If the bidding was not corrupt a company would not be able to afford to farm out the work. You get what you pay for unless you are a taxpayer.

Jim Miller over in the OB Rag wrote today that we Americans are statistically an increasingly unhappy people. I wonder why that might be. (Apparently only Scandinavians are happy -- minus the Swedes for some reason -- and the only Swede I know is a very happy guy, probably because he's not a U.S. citizen under Trump.)

But I just told an environmentalist friend today that I couldn't be counted on to lobby my representatives about disappearing CEQUA protections or enforcing faltering Coastal Act provisions or demand they maintain 30-foot building height limits in the coastal zone because that stuff just doesn't carry the old frisson it used to. With every passing day I feel less and less hopeful about our civic prospects. What do they say on "Game of Thrones?" "Winter is coming."

Ditto for stories like this one. I'm no pollyanna, but this Readerwriter is unrelentingly dark and he's making us all feel lousy. Where's the story telling us what footloose Rep. Susan Davis learned from her J Street junket to Israel as well as what she ate and where she stayed? I'm just saying...and no, I don't want to shoot the messnger and I'm not related to this pathetic city employee Richard Eugene Matter who takes graft and can't even tell the truth when he's caught.

Matt has been reporting on this sort of subject matter for a long, long time. If more San Diegans had paid attention to the reports he made over those years, it would likely have much less corruption, pay to play, and outright waste. Yeah, you should feel lousy, and even worse, knowing that it has been the norm for decades, and that it explains the crumbling infrastructure in the city. Those specific topics you mention are just a few of the features of life in "America's Finest City" that are endangered. There are many more, and the all add up to the "Los Angelezation" of San Diego that folks were fretting about forty or fifty years ago. It hasn't stopped at all, but has worsened, in case you haven't noticed.

That's an old lament-- the "Los Angelization" of San Diego -- and it doesn't have the resonance it used to have when local mayoral candidate Peter Navarro warned against it before becoming a Trump hack. Personally, I love LA and am always happy when I go there.

Even with its problems, LA is a vibrant and interesting place. Its public schools are no worse than San Diego's -- there are just more of them. LA has a better Board of Education and Superintendent than we do. But LA's new sheriff is way worse than ours; ditto its chief of police. Yet no one could be weaker and more ineffective than our own Mayor Sunny. Faulconer is worse than San Diego's predecessor GOP Mayor Jerry Sanders and his ineptitude even makes vain LA Mayor Eric Garcetti look pretty good.

The difference may be that LA has a large committed group of civic leaders drawn from industry, higher education and the arts who love their town and are willing to invest in its continuing improvement. LA also has a burgeoning multi-ethnic citizenry with a stake in the future; and a strong daily newspaper.

We deeply appreciate the Reader's Matt Potter, but here In "America's Finest City" his own investigative work is lifted without attribution by an establishment-backed rival online journal and no one says a word.

Public ennui and ignorance, sharp development deals and governmental neglect have destroyed what's best about San Diego -- the wondrous environmental mix of back country, mountains, beaches and desert -- and we are dying on the vine. Even the local Sierra Club is a shell of its former self and publicly supported SDSU's takeover of Qualcomm. "Los Angelization" is not our problem: we are. I value knowing the bad news; I just want it leavened with a smidge of positivity.

Another story re paving in SD is they seem to be slurry sealing streets which don't really need repair in order to get the "miles repaired" up faster. In my neighborhood in Point Loma they sealed several stretches which were not at all bad, then did nothing about adjacent cross streets which are crumbling.

Slurry sealing is a maintenance process and not a repair process. Sealing of asphalt extends the life of the street but does nothing useful if the street is not in good repair. Its like painting a house with rotted wood. It looks good for a while.

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