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Lots of Money to Waste – No Money to Pay Just Compensation

There they go again. Here is another story of gross ineptitude and waste of scarce government financial resources. Today’s Los Angeles Times brings us a dispatch of gross waste by the Los Angeles Community College District in its construction program. Michael Finnegan and Gale Holland, Waste Throws Wrench Into Los Angeles Community Colleges’ Massive Project, L.A. Times, Feb. 26, 2011. For the full article go to http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-build1-20110227,0,4097709,print.story

This is how the District is spending some $5,700,000,000  (that’s $5.7 billion, in case you have lost count of the zeros) authorized by a 2001 bond issue. All that money was supposed to overhaul the decrepit physical facilities of the local community college system. Instead, what’s happening is captured in this quote from that L.A. Times article:

“At East Los Angeles College, construction of a grand entry plaza with a clock tower degenerated into a comedy of errors. Heating and cooling units were installed upside down, inspectors found. Concrete steps were uneven. Cracked and wet lumber had to be torn out. A ramp for the disabled was too steep for wheelchairs, and the landmark clock tower listed to one side.

“Fixing the problems helped drive construction costs from $28 million to $43 million.”

“A new health and science center at Valley College was marred by defective plumbing, cracked floors, leaky windows and loosely attached ceiling panels that threatened to crash down in an earthquake.

“The district paid a contractor $48 million to build the complex, but had to hire others to correct the problems and finish the project — for an additional $3.5 million.

“At least those buildings were finished, eventually. At West Los Angeles College, officials spent $39 million to design and begin construction of four major buildings, only to discover that they didn’t have the money to complete them.

“Just as crews were starting work last summer, the projects, including a $92-million athletics center, were abandoned.”

And that’s the way it goes in the once Golden State. There is plenty of money to blow on this sort of stuff, but — Heavens to Betsy! – we just plumb can’t afford to pay full compensation for demonstrable economic losses inflicted on folks whose property is taken by eminent domain. If we were to do that, said the California Supreme Court, an “embargo” would have to be declared on new public projects. Yessirree Bob! An “embargo.”

And so it goes. Your tax money at work.

For a follow up story go to http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-build2-20110301,0,1960046.story

Follow up. For the next chapter of this saga of waste and ineptitude, see today’s Los Angeles Times. Gale Holland and Michael Finnegan, Sports Facility Tripped Up By One Misstep After the Other, March 4, 2011, p. A1.

“It was the spring of 2009, and construction crews at Los Angeles City College appeared to have accomplished the neat trick of building a track and athletic field on the roof of a new parking structure. Field boundaries had been marked in white on the artificial turf. Bleachers had been installed, and workers were laying the track.

“It was easy to imagine that students would soon be playing soccer or running sprints against a backdrop of pencil-thin palms, chocolate-colored hills and the Hollywood sign.

“It was not to be. In June of that year, work again came to a stop, with the project in a sorry state: The artificial turf was covered with ridges, and the track had cracked and curled away from its base.

“Nearly two years later, the facilities are still unfinished. College officials say they hope to complete repairs by the fall. The cost of the garage and rooftop sports deck, meanwhile, has climbed from $42 million to more than $51 million, records show.

“The project is a sharp illustration of the costly missteps in the Los Angeles Community College District’s $5.7-billion rebuilding program, financed by bonds that taxpayers will be repaying, with interest, for the next 40 years.”

For the L.A. Times article, go to: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-build4-20110304,0,3467379.story

For the latest installment of this saga of ineptitute and waste of scarce public resources, see Michael Finnegan and Gale Holland, Grand Dream Loses Sheen in Glare of Daylight, L.A. Times, March 6, 2011, describing government misadventures in trying to build “green” by putting up a bunch of solar panels that didn’t work for a variety of reasons. Our favorite: The wind turbine that after costly installation failed to produce enough electricity to light one bulb. And so it goes. Go to http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-build6-20110306,0,4909175.story


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