So, what are Californians getting for their money, which costs them $227 million a year in interest payments? For starters, the bureaucrats that serve as the council’s staff engineered a quarter-million-dollar grant to a Portland, Oregon outfit called Ecotrust to develop a pilot program for a seafood market at San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf that would be filled with “regionally sourced” seafood. Talk about inept. Any visitor to Fisherman’s Wharf can tell you free market enterprise has already filled the place with fishmongers hawking regionally sourced seafood. That doesn’t keep Sacramento’s eco-bureaucrats from subsidizing an Oregon group’s seafood stand on the Wharf, even if it has nothing to do with the clean water voters thought they were voting for when they passed Prop. 50.
If the Prop. 50 economic adventure was just a single boondoggle, one could laugh the whole thing off, despite the high price tag. The problem is that this vignette — voters being sold a bill of goods, only to see legislators, bureaucrats, unions, environmentalists, and carpetbaggers waste the money — is repeated over and over again at both the state and county level. For example, in the normal world, a prison doctor too incompetent even to provide the basic care accorded prisoners is fired. In California, the Department of Corrections pays him $400,000 annually to work in the prison mail room.
Then there’s the California Courts’ new integrated case management system. Originally budgeted for $260 million, the current cost estimate is now $1.9 billion, with another billion needed after completion so that the system can actually be deployed (seven years late). That’s going to be some integrated case management system, right? Noooo, not so. After two of the largest counties that participated in a system trial serious contemplated pulling out entirely:
An audit by the California State Auditor recommended that the whole CCMS endeavor be stopped and reconsidered because it is so far behind schedule, so far over budget and so at risk of quality problems when it finally is implemented.
In the private sector, heads would roll. In California, this is government business as usual.
Mere inefficiency isn’t the only problem. There’s also significant corruption. One notable example of this corruption endangered the lives of thousands of Bay Area commuters. In 1989, the Loma Prieta earthquake destroyed a section of the Oakland Bay Bridge. Almost twenty-three years later, the California Department of Transportation is still working on rebuilding the bridge. (To be fair to the men who do the very difficult and sometimes dangerous labor, it took almost twenty years before they even started construction. Caltrans was too busy dealing with regulations, environmentalists, and unions to start the work any sooner.)