Politics & Government

Video shows effects of spending cuts on roads

TOPEKA — It's one thing to hear about potholes and state budgets. It's another to see how the two are connected.

That's part of the thinking behind a new video presentation on YouTube this week from the Kansas Department of Transportation.

Using still photographs, charts and video, the agency produced a video (www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJV09-Pbba0) that explains the effect of state spending reductions on road maintenance.

"The results for drivers are rougher roads and more potholes," says narrator Patrick Quinn, a department social media specialist.

Secretary Deb Miller said Wednesday that the video aims to illustrate the impact of $257 million in highway spending cuts during the past year.

"It seemed like an opportunity to show people when... we don't have adequate dollars to do preservation, these are the kinds of roads that aren't getting treatment," Miller said. "What better way to make the case than to show the picture?"

The four-minute video is the agency's latest venture into social media. The department has already made extensive use of Web pages, Twitter and Facebook. Quinn said the video was viewed 350 times in the first 24 hours, with some newspapers embedding the link on their Web sites.

"We've had a terrific response," he said. "It's not wonkish. These are holes in the road."

Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson made many of the transportation funding cuts to keep the 2010 state budget in check, but he's also proposed a tax increase to replenish those reductions. He endorses the agency's efforts to spread the word.

"If we allow our roads to crumble, not only would we undo decades worth of work, we could derail economic growth decades into the future," Parkinson said after watching the video.

Legislators will consider an $8 billion transportation plan when they return April 28, which includes funding to restore maintenance to 1990s levels.

A key House Republican, however, sees the video as "lobbying against the governor's own budget."

Miller is "essentially spending taxpayer time to cut ads to criticize the governor's budget, that it takes too much from highways," said House Appropriations Chairman Kevin Yoder of Overland Park.

According to the video, road conditions have improved since 1985, when 49 percent of the roads were considered in good condition, to now, when 85 percent are considered good. Those conditions were a factor in Reader's Digest's decision this month to rank Kansas roads the nation's best.

Miller said the message is if those conditions are allowed to deteriorate, it could be a decade before the roads are restored.

The governor's office has added the video to Parkinson's official Web site. Parkinson also has a blog and a Facebook page.

"As Kansans are receiving information from a variety of sources, we must make an effort to communicate through those same sources, especially social media," said Seth Bundy, Parkinson's press secretary. "Because ultimately, a good government is a responsive government."