Visitors to Mexico City can take a new Corruptour with twenty-seven stops, including a government subway line that cost more than $1 billion but had to be shut down for repairs. Such a tour is a great idea for California, which abounds with similar debacles.
The new span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge looks stylish, particularly at night, but appearances are deceiving. A California Corruptour guide could point out that the span was ten years late, $5 billion over budget, and describe it as the Bridge to No Accountability. But theres more to it.
California opted to use cheap Chinese steel, and the bridge remains riddled with cracked welds, broken rods and corrosion. UC Berkeley structural engineering professor Abolhassan Astaneh-Asi declines to use the bridge.
The tour could note that, when apprised of the safety issues, Californias recurring governor Jerry Brown famously responded, I mean, look, shit happens. The California Corruptour might check with the governor after the next earthquake, but theres more to see in the Bay Area.
The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), the states stem-cell agency, promised life-saving cures for Alzheimers, Parkinsons and other diseases. After twelve years and $3 billion, the number of life-saving cures and therapies is zero. That is also the ballpark figure for the royalties the cures were supposed to generate.
The California Corruptour could also point out that CIRM dished out more than 90 percent of its grants to organizations represented on its governing board. Thats kind of like insider trading, but the tour guide could explain that nobody did anything about it.
Next stop could be the San Francisco headquarters of the California Coastal Commission. As the guide could explain, this unelected body overrides scores of duly elected governments in the coastal region.
The unelected commissioners look askance at property rights and get to make the call on key land-use issues. The tour guide could note that Commissioner Mark Nathanson did a stretch in prison for bribery, a great example of high-level corruption.
The tour could then swing over to California High-Speed Rail Authority headquarters in the state capital of Sacramento. This outfit promotes a bullet train that, even if built according to promise, would be slower and more expensive than air travel.
The tour guide could point out that High Speed Rail is a job program for convicted embezzlers. High Speed Rail is also a sinecure for washed-up politicians such as Lynn Schenk, a former congresswoman and chief of staff for former governor Gray Davis.
Meanwhile, Patricia de Obeso, organizer of the Mexican Corruptour, told reporters we want people to get informed about this issue in a fun way and spark ideas to overcome corruption. So its not all for show. Likewise, the California Corrupt tour might generate ideas to overcome corruption.
For example, the Coastal Commission is redundant and should be abolished. The bullet train is a bust so dissolve the High-Speed Rail Authority. And with zero results for $3 billion, shutting down CIRM is a no-brainer, but good luck with that.
CIRM bosses now want another $5 billion. The Coastal Commission is expanding its power as never before. The bullet train goes nowhere but the High-Speed Rail Authority has added three regional offices.
Despite whistle-blower pleas for a criminal investigation, not a single person has ever been held accountable for the 10-year delay, $5 billion cost overrun, and lingering safety issues with the new Bay Bridge.
Californias bi-partisan ruling class doesnt want ideas about overcoming corruption, and the corruption is inherent in the system. That could be the promotional line for the California Corrupt tour, certain to run for the foreseeable future.
|K. Lloyd Billingsley is a Policy Fellow at the Independent Institute and author of the Independent Briefing, Cross-Currents in California Water: A Case Study of Bureaucracy Versus Tradable, Private Water Rights.|