Tuesday, May 22, 2007

State Water, Transportation Bond Funds Diverted

An article in Monday's L.A. Times by Evan Halper and a column by George Skelton, both written out of Sacramento, tell the shocking story of how billions of dollars worth of bonds approved by the electorate to build state water and transportation projects are being diverted into other uses, or the general fund in order to keep the budget balanced.

Not only is this a faithless act directed against the wishes of the electorate, but it is mighty expensive too, since bonds carry heavy interest charges that increase the cost of everything, and up tax bills. For every $1 million spent on bonds projects, nearly $1 million in interest will be paid in the next 20 years. With this kind of arithmetic, it is easy to see that bond financing ought to be kept to a minimum and as many projects as possible built on a pay-as-you-go basis. (The biggest projects, of course, cannot be paid out of the general fund).

Still, this is proof again, if any were needed, that California's government, its governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and its Legislatur,e are not functioning properly.

Yes, as Halper points out, fine print in the bond issues allowed the Legislature to divert some of a $5.3 billion water bond issue to other uses, at the will of the Legislature. But how many voters even read this fine print, or realized what it meant? And how many voters would have voted no rather than yes, had they realized that they were, in fact, voting for a pig in a poke.

How many voters would have voted no, for instance, had they realized that part of the bonds directed ostensibly at making much needed improvements in the state's aqueduct system was going to be used instead for an aquarium in Fresno, a museum in Los Angeles or "water-accessible" accommodations iat Lake Tahoe?

What this is, in a word, is pork barreling.And the legislators responsible for it are no better than the inept Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, which frequently directs its attentions away from vital issues, to peripheral or even frivolous ones.

The Skelton column reports that Schwarzenegger, whose lack of regard for scrupulous and honest government can clearly be seen in his appointment of the special interest-loving Susan Kennedy as his executive secretary, is to raid $1.3 billion in bonds directed at building rapid transit to other uses.

Not only is California in desperate need of such transit, but the state has already decided to string out expenditure of the $19 billion authorized in the bond issue. This is against the public interest, since inflation eats into the value of the money as the years go by. If everything is built at once, it will be cheaper than building five or 10 years down the pike.

Of the $19 billion, the first authorized expenditures on highways, for instance, are only $4.5 billion, and even this is being strung out over a few years. Plus it is really disappointing to see that with all this money, the state isn't really building any new freeways or rail lines, but instead is devoting the money to car pool lanes and, in some instances, freeway widening. This, despite the fact, that the state's original freeway master plan was nowhere near followed, and many freeways were never built.

Now, already, after the generosity of the electorate, the talk in Sacramento is all about it being inadequate and how we have to build a network of toll roads to supplement the freeways.

These are small minded politicians, make no mistake, and the governor is among the worst of them.

Skelton notes that the $1.3 billion he wants to divert would go into the general fund for parks, prisons, schools and health care.

For shame! We recalled Gray Davis for less.


Tina Susman, one of the L.A. Times' brave Iraq correspondents, was the author of a deeply shocking story Monday about the case of 17-year-old Diaa Khalil Aswad, the Yazidi girl who was stoned to death because she fell in love with a Sunni Arab boy. The gruesome killing, one of only 40 such recent acts, was videotaped and put on the Net. Among the murderers were the girl's uncle and cousins.

Then, in reprisal, Sunnis seized 20 Yazidis off a bus and executed them. Yazidis are part of a small non-Muslim religious sect in northern Iraq.

Is this the country that the U.S. has been trying to turn into a democracy and spending hundreds of billions of dollars on? Not to mention 3,500 lives of our soldiers.

It points out, at the very least, that we should be in Iraq for our interests alone, and act accordingly. The country needs foreign rule, so that such acts can be prevented. Over 4,000 years, from the days of Nebuchnezzar, it has proved unable to govern itself.

Susman's article was important, but she is too restrained in her use of language, saying the episode points up the "ethnic and religious discord that colors virtually every issue here."

In fact, savagery and barbarism would be more appropriate words to describe what happens in the cases of these "honor killings," as they are outrageously called in the Middle East.



Anonymous McRib said...

The politician's word is no good. This is why I almost always vote no on all bond issues.

5/23/2007 2:19 PM  

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