Not unlike citizens in Tacoma who took to painting their own crosswalks when the city wouldn’t respond to their complaints, a Jackson, Miss. couple is filling potholes they think the city is neglecting.
“Our biggest issue is that the issue has been somewhat lackadaisically handled or ignored for way too long, and our infrastructure is weak because of that,” says Don Chane, who says the idea for the rogue pothole filling came about over breakfast with his girlfriend.
“The joking went a little bit more serious and [we] thought, ‘let’s just put up or shut up, let’s just do this,'” Chane tells KIRO Radio’s Luke Burbank Show.
They’d previously noticed a large pile of asphalt that looked like it wasn’t being used and decided to use that to fill the holes.
“We thought ‘you know what, this may belong to the city, it may belong to the state, it may belong to Jesus, but at any rate, it’s not being used right now and there is grass growing out of it, so let’s just stick this back in the holes.'”
Chane says they assumed the asphalt belonged to the city, but figured as residents, they were entitled to use it.
“We have a lot of potholes. People want them fixed. I’ve got four businesses in that town and pay a lot of personal property tax and income tax that contributes to a system that is not fixing our potholes,” says Chane. “So I was pretty sure that just myself alone, without my girlfriend, but especially including her, our taxes would have paid for any asphalt that we took to fill those potholes.”
Their first night out, the couple fixed 33 potholes with the asphalt. But they decided more than just fixing the holes, they had to bring the city’s attention to the problem. Their solution was to circle the holes in spray paint and write “citizen fixed.” They also left a flower in the ring of the repaired pothole.
“We felt like the artistry of that was, ‘OK Jackson, you haven’t noticed them before and if you have, you’ve looked the other way or changed the subject, so we’re going to help you notice these a little bit better.'”
They spent several nights filling holes around the city, getting the system down to 15 to 20 seconds a hole.
“We pull past it. I jump out, dump the asphalt in it. She packs it down, and then I grab the spray paint to make the hole and the arrow,” says Chane. “As I’m spray painting it, my girlfriend would drop a flower in it.”
As media attention started to ramp up, they decided they’d better not push their luck and capped their pothole fixes after 101.
They soon learned who the asphalt actually belonged to. Fortunately the rightful owners, the Mississippi Department of Transportation, indicated it didn’t want to press charges.
“They were very much on the understanding side of the situation,” says Chane. At this point, they’re hopeful the city won’t press charges either. “Given the media coverage, it would probably just not look great to blow it up any bigger by them retaliating for us doing their job.”
Host Luke Burbank agrees potholes can be a frustration for everyone.
“We all hate driving over potholes. It’s a major frustration. It always feels like the pothole that’s in your neighborhood is the last one that gets fixed. Here we have these Pothole Rangers supposedly, but it just seems like they never get out to the ones that are affecting your life.”
Seattle’s Pothole Rangers receive daily lists of reported potholes and respond to potholes grouped by area. To report a pothole in Seattle north of Denny Way, call (206) 684-7508. For potholes south of Denny Way, call (206) 386-1218.