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Published on Feb 7, 2013
Ever walk down a Los Angeles city sidewalk? It may feel like climbing the Himalayas.
Tree roots have uplifted many city sidewalks across L.A., turning a quick walk around the neighborhood into a treacherous experience. According to The Los Angeles Times, the city receives about 2,500 claims a year from people who hurt themselves on these cracks.
"People get hurt and people can die from falling down on and hitting their head on the sidewalk," says Los Angeles resident Peter Griswold.
What's the city's solution to this problem? A three-year, $10 million survey of all of the city's sidewalks.
Residents like Griswold say that price tag is too high. He has come up with a plan of his own that involves photographs, GPS devices, and - most importantly - volunteers. Griswold is confident that his ragtag crew of sidewalk cartographers can find and report trouble spots more quickly - and cheaply - than city workers.
"What Peter Griswold is trying to do with volunteers, the advantage that has is that it's decentralized," says Adrian Moore, vice president of research at Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes Reason TV.
Moore grants it may be hard to implement on a large scale but you have to stack that up against the usual way city governments fix local problems. Namely, writing a fat check to a contractor so they don't have to deal with it anymore. Hence, the $10 million.
Moore points out that these uplifted sidewalk cracks are indicative of something bigger: bureaucracy run amok.
"One of the problems bureaucracies have, and LA in particular has, is nobody who manages these departments actually invests the management effort in saying lets be ruthless about prioritizing what's most important," says Moore.