Pretty Please (with a wooden bridge on top)?

I recently received two rather pleasant replies to my letter to the Anchorage Assembly regarding the ongoing obfuscation by MOA Parks and Rec Superintendent Spoth-Torres concerning trail bridges in Anchorage. The link to the local story is well worth the read if you get a kick out f people treading on their tongues.  Of course, Jennifer Johnston is not “my” Assembly person. I am represented by an ex-cop frightened of marijuana who thinks the solution to the Anchorage homeless problem is to push the homeless out of his neighborhood, and an ex-State-legislator that doesn’t care about issues unless they specifically negatively impact him personally. I have regularly asked the Assembly Chair to request that IT check the status of MOA mail because it appears that these two fine fellows can’t manage to respond to e-mails, though Assembly members from the other side of town can,  but that is a rant for another day.

Jennifer is a very pleasant woman (click here for a recent pre-election recap regarding the folks discussed here) from Hillside (don’t confuse Hillside with the East side)  who has been a voting member of the “cripple Anchorage by supporting the Mayor’s attempts to collapse the Anchorage budget” caucus.  In other words, if there is any basis for the contention that the bridge collapse is directly attributable to the shoddy attempts of some of our right wing budget hawk “conservatives” to take credit for the Anchorage “lifestyle” while not paying for much of anything, she is neck deep in that cesspit.  Of course, as the note suggests,  she will of course come out smelling like a rose but she didn;t ask anyone to skimp on construction or maintenance now, did she?  But to be fair, she DID ask John Rodda to provide the necessary information to me, although that is very unlikely to ever happen — we shall see.

The other note I received was from Amy Demboski, another Republican, this time from Chugiak (where people in Anchorage live who hate Anchorage) whose debut issue as a candidate for Mayor was to opt Anchorage out of BoldAmythe State wide marijuana initiative which required that Alaska regulate marijuana like alcohol.  Her campaign resulted in  the appearance of some rather tacky graphics (an example appears to the left) and quite a bit of outrage (except from the supposedly “liberal” East side ex-cop, who is of course not liberal at all, except perhaps in Anchorage, where axe-murderers might be described as local celebrities.)  The measure failed 9-2 and demonstrated that Amy has the pulse of the people (the State-wide measure passed in Anchorage by a very impressive margin) and knows when she has support so as not to waste the time of the public or the Assembly.

But enough ad hominem — Amy thanked my for bringing “this topic” to light, which is all very good until I started parsing “this topic”.  Amy certainly is SO clueless that she means the collapse of MOA bridges because there was no maintenance.  Well, to be totally honest (a trait we really don’t see much down at City Hall of late), there wasn’t even a maintenance schedule, thanks of course to Spoth-Torres who has been the Parks Superintendent for, well, frankly too long, thanks in part to her feckless supervisor, John Rodda, the guy who turned a bunch of teens loose to whack our nicest urban forest because some people called John – John could amazingly remember no names, no numbers, no nothing – and told him the scawey twees fwightened them, and yes, the same guy Jennifer suggested should be pleased as punch to provide me the records that demonstrate he has been totally irresponsible in performing his duties. Roger that.

Whoops,  back to Amy. What then could she have meant by “this topic”.  Would it be the fact that the bridges examined by the MOA contractor were only the bridges on the Coastal Trail, only one of the major trails in Anchorages trail system and home to only a portion of the bridges in Anchorage, most of which are low clearance bridges crossing the many creeks draining the Chugach Mountains and running through Anchorage to the Inlet we foul because we don;t fully process our sewage.  Crap, another tangent.  Amy!  Or did she mean just the fact that the current Mayor seems to have installed a bridge that his staff have identified as inappropriate for the community?  Beats me what she meant; for all I know she will introduce a measure seeking to opt Anchorage out of bridges!

In any event,  here is my note (typos corrected) and Jennifer’s response.


John, could you provide Mr. Grober with background information? Thank you, Jennifer Johnston
________________________________________
From: Marc Grober [marc@interak.com] Sent: Thursday, December 18, 2014 3:38 PM
To: WWMAS Assembly Members
Subject: Bridges

Dear Assembly,

Remarks by Ms. Spoth-Torres quoted in the local paper of record,

Spoth-Torres said the parks department has tried to research how the bridges were originally designed. It’s still not clear why those decisions were made, she said.

“But what we do know is, we would never do that now. Or even 10 years ago, 15 years ago,” she said.

Wooden bridges have an aesthetic edge in Anchorage, Spoth-Torres said. People love how they look.

But she acknowledged that in a coastal winter environment, materials like steel are far more durable.

suggest that the Department, a) claims that wooden bridges were built at some point because the public likes how they look, and b) in a coastal winter environment, steel is more durable.

This raises a number of questions for residents on the East side, and I ask the Assembly’s assistance in obtaining answers (in that the Department is rarely forthcoming in providing responses.)

Specifically, on the East side we have a number of wooden as well as steel bridges, Most anyone I have asked has indicated that the steel bridges are well designed, elegant and preferable over the rather clunky wooden bridges that the MOA has placed, so the first question would be to determine if the Department in fact ever obtained data as to what type of bridge the public prefers, or whether Spoth-Torres was making things up as she went (again.)

Additionally, it appears that the MOA has very possibly placed wooden versus steel bridges simply because the administration at the time didn’t want to have to bear the expense of appropriate construction (in other words, cynically figuring that the bridge would collapse on another’s watch.) Of course, we would not be able to determine if that were accurate unless we had data (preferably in a spreadsheet) of when the bridge was built, designed, funded (not to mention specifics of the bridge design as far as load, recommended maintenance schedule, etc.)

Lastly, having had numerous years in which to plan and implement a bridge replacement in RJSP (one of the wettest locations for a bridge in Anchorage) the Department installed a wooden bridge in a locale known to be constantly wet. Is Ms. Spoth-Torres telling us that a wooden bridge was selected though she knew better because people on the East side are too stupid to know the difference, because there is something different about this wood design than that used elsewhere, or that Stantec included the new RJSP bridge in its analysis? Certainly, it would have made a great deal of sense to determine if the bridge that the Sullivan Administration just installed a few months ago suffered the same defects as the MOA’s contractor says produced the disaster downtown.

In as much as my requests for similar data have resulted in months of having to threaten the Department of Law with litigation, and in as much as this is really a city wide concern rendered so much more distressing by the State of the MOA presentations the Administration has produced, I would appreciate it if the Assembly would act in concert to get to the bottom of this issue, and at least as far as those of us crossing a new wooden bridge are concerned, satisfy our curiosity as to why the MOA would install such a bridge if Spoth-Torres knew that it was inappropriate.

Thank you,

Marc Grober

p.s. In as much as people on the East side seem to have a devil of a time communicating to east side Assembly persons via e-mail, I would certainly appreciate an undertaking (or not) that you are willing to pursue such an investigation.

One comment on “Pretty Please (with a wooden bridge on top)?

  1. Marc Grober says:

    Bridges Over Troubled Waters: Yet Another Open Letter to the MOA Assembly

    December 24, 2014 at 3:50pm

    Dear Assembly members,

    As you can see from the response I received to Ms. Johnston’s request below, Mr. Rodda is not interested much in providing any information. What minimal information he had Spoth-Torres provide indicates that a) the bridge installed at RJSP last year is as “defective” as all the other bridges that Stantek identified, and b) there is no basis whatsoever to support the contention that wooden bridges were installed because of public demand for a wooden bridge aesthetic. There is clearly no intent to provide any data that could be employed to identify how and why non-durable bridges were installed, not to mention why there is no maintenance schedule for bridges. Of course, I had been told previously by Spoth-Torres that P&R does not keep any maintenance schedules for its assets, but at the time I preferred to believe Ms. Spoth-Torres was just blowing smoke twixt my skis, rather than believe that the MOA does not have a maintenance schedule for all of its assets, lol. Who knew?

    Now, I have to assume that your curiosity is whetted about “the rest of the story” and that you agree with me that the depths of this fiasco must be fully plumbed before the next bridge failure results in death and/or injury. I think a citizen’s committee chaired by an Assembly person might be just the ticket to get to the bottom of this situation, and ask you to consider the idea.

    Remember, the bridges that were examined by Stantek are just a FRACTION of the bridges installed in the MOA, the trail system according to the Administration is the crown of the MOA, and such maintenance of fixtures as has taken place has been largely set aside as being fundable only by State grant. The community has been led into an oubliette of dramatic proportion, and waiting for someone else to pay for remediating a problem that the current administration IS STILL CREATING is simply unacceptable.

    Marc Grober

    ——– Forwarded Message ——–
    Subject: RE: Bridges
    Date: Wed, 24 Dec 2014 15:26:33 -0900
    From: Spoth-Torres, Holly J.
    To: ‘marc@interak.com’ CC: Rodda, John H. , Johnston, Jennifer

    Marc,

    I provided answers to your questions below in RED. [Ed.: SPoth_torres minimal responses are encloses like *** this *** as there is no RED nor BOLD for these comments]

    Holly Spoth-Torres

    ________________________________________

    From: Marc Grober [marc@interak.com]
    Sent: Thursday, December 18, 2014 3:38 PM
    To: !MAS Assembly Members
    Subject: Bridges

    Dear Assembly,

    Remarks by Ms. Spoth-Torres quoted in the local paper of record, to wit:

    Spoth-Torres said the parks department has tried to research how the bridges were originally designed. It’s still not clear why those decisions were made, she said.

    “But what we do know is, we would never do that now. Or even 10 years ago, 15 years ago,” she said.

    Wooden bridges have an aesthetic edge in Anchorage, Spoth-Torres said. People love how they look.

    But she acknowledged that in a coastal winter environment, materials like steel are far more durable.

    Suggest that the Department a) claims that wooden bridges were built at some point because the public likes how they look, and b) in a coastal winter environment, steel is more durable.

    This raises a number of questions for residents on the East side and ask the Assembly’s assistance in obtaining answers in that the Department is rarely forthcoming in providing responses.

    Specifically, on the east side we have a number of wooden as well as steel bridges, Most anyone I have asked has indicated that the steel bridges are well designed, elegant and preferable over the rather clunky wooden bridges that the MOA has placed, so the first question would be to determine if the Department in fact ever obtained data as to what type of bridge the public prefers, or whether Spoth-Torres was making things up as she went (again.)

    *** No, we have not done a public opinion survey on bridge aesthetics. ***

    Additionally, it appears that the MOA has very possible placed wooden versus steel bridges simply because the administration at the time didn’t want to have to bear the expense of appropriate construction (in other words, cynically figuring that the bridge wold collapse on some one other’s watch.) Of course, we would not be able to determine if that were accurate unless we had data (preferably in a spreadsheet) of when the bridge was built, designed, funded (not to mention specifics of the bridge design as far as load, recommended maintenance schedule, etc.)

    Lastly, having had numerous years in which to plan and implement a bridge replacement in RJSP (one of the wettest locations for a bridge in Anchorage) the Department installed a wooden bridge in a locale known to be constantly wet. Is Ms. Spoth-Torres telling us that a wooden bridge was selected though she knew better because people on the east side are too stupid to know the difference, because there is something different about this wood design than that used elsewhere, or that Stantec included the new RJSP bridge in its analysis.

    *** This replacement structure was built because the existing structure failed, funding in hand only allowed replacement in-kind, and the replacement structure supports both the levels of pedestrian use and the weights of maintenance vehicles that are required to drive over this structure along a soft surface trail. ***

    Certainly, it would have made a great deal of sense to determine if the bridge that the Sullivan Administration just installed a few months ago suffered the same defects as the MOA’s contractor says produced the disaster downtown.

    In as much as my requests for similar data have resulted in months of having to threaten the Department of Law with litigation, and in as much as this is really a city wide concern rendered so much more distressing by the State of the MOA presentations the Administration has produced, I would appreciate it if the Assembly would act in consort to get to the bottom of this issue, and at least as far as those of us crossing a new wooden bridge are concerned, satisfy our curiosity as to why the MOA would install such a bridge if Spoth-Torres knew that it was inappropriate.

    Thank you,

    Marc Grober

    p.s. In as much as people on the east side seem to have a devil of a time communicating to east side Assembly persons via e-mail, I would certainly appreciate an undertaking (or not) that you are willing to pursue such an investigation.

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