I'm about as liberal as they come, but in this case it's pretty easy to see why people become disillusioned with government spending.
Have you ever thought about the other explanation: They they do it cheaply and badly because everyone tries to save a few pennies on this job? I'm pretty sure had you hired a contractor, it would've been more than $800, but it would've been done properly.
That's not the other explanation, it's more or less what I'm complaining about. The city should be in the business of finding the best value, not the dirt cheapest solution. *Anyone* can do that. I naively assumed that the default option of letting the city handle it would be optimal. I mean, is it really that unreasonable to expect that the city should know how to find someone to install proper sidewalks at a reasonable price better than I do?
Everyone always expects the government to work great, but with an absolute minimum of budget. Well, newsflash, private corporations don't manage to do that, either. Many of them just have the advantage of getting infrastructure, etc. for free from the government.
Who's everyone? We are talking about city sidewalks...
Example: The rail company in Germany was made a private company about 10 years ago. The first few years, everything looks great, just like the consultants had promised. Then things started to go downhill, and still do. Because the first thing they started to save money on was such irritable costs as maintainance. With minimal maintainance, the tracks and stations work just fine... for a few years...
Government is sometimes wasteful, but often they are just more expensive because they don't cut corners as much as private companies do and because they take risks and explore frontiers that corporations rather not.
I'm not sure what any of this really has to do with shoddy sidewalks installed by the city... Anyway, had the city done a better job (even with a bit of extra work to make sure things were done right) I would have been grudgingly happy (despite wondering why my tax dollars are going toward building new sports stadiums when the old ones are fine instead of replacing our crumbling infrastructure). The problem here is that the government provided options was as, if not more, shoddy than private solutions.
NASA is crazy expensive, but they got a man to the moon in 8 years. And even with all the groundwork long done, private companies are still working out the details of reaching earth orbit after 11 years.
Sidewalks! It's literally not rocket science. I'm not talking about putting down advanced concrete formulations, subsurface heating, or crazy glow in the dark walking stripes. I just want them to level the dirt, throw down some aggregate, and use rebar so I'm not being forced to pay for this again in 10 years.