Saturday, September 04, 2010

California's collapsing government

Two news items on ridiculously expensive spending projects in a state that is so strapped for cash that it occasionally has to pay its workers with IOUs:
  1. America's most expensive school has just been built in Los Angeles. Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Allysia Finley describes it:
    At $578 million—or about $140,000 per student—the 24-acre Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools complex in mid-Wilshire is the most expensive school ever constructed in U.S. history. ....

    Set to open Sept. 13, the school boasts an auditorium whose starry ceiling and garish entrance are modeled after the old Cocoanut Grove nightclub and a library whose round, vaulted ceilings and cavernous center resemble the ballroom where Kennedy made his last speech. It also includes the original Cocoanut Grove canopy around which the rest of the school was built. "It wasn't cheap, but it was saved," says Thomas Rubin, a consultant for the district's bond oversight committee, which oversees the $20 billion of bonds that taxpayers approved for school construction in recent years.

    I asked Mr. Rubin whether some of the school's grandiose features—like florid murals of Robert F. Kennedy—were worth the cost. "Did we have to do that? Hell no. But there's no accounting for taste," he responded.

    Talking benches—$54,000—play a three-hour audio of the site's history. Murals and other public art cost $1.3 million. A minipark facing a bustling Wilshire Boulevard? $4.9 million.

  2. The state has approved a new high speed rail project with an officially projected cost of a whopping $42 billion. The San Jose Mercury News reports:
    A Bay Area News Group analysis of high-speed systems around the globe suggests that the project could cost less than the current estimate, as little as $38 billion. But it is most likely to cost more -- up to $73 billion, even if built on time. ....

    Trying to contain the cost of a project so large is hard enough. The rail authority has a double challenge: It doesn't have close to enough money to pay for the system even as priced today.

    The authority has $9 billion in state bond money and a $2.25 billion federal stimulus grant committed.

PREVIOUSLY on California politics:
In Oakland, CA, civilization is collapsing
California's upcoming ballot proposition: a quick look
California steps closer to bankruptcy
What a long strange trip its been!: Tea Party protests establishment hippies
California tilts Republican
A Tea Party greets Obama in San Francisco and the left is not happy about it
3 in 10 Californians identify with tea party protests

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