Worthy causes abound.  The development of a high-speed rail system will bring California into the 21st century.  Veterans need help buying homes, farms, or even a spot in a trailer park.  The development of alternate fuel vehicles, and innovations in renewable energy, are both necessary.  Certainly we want children to have hospitals, right?  The question, though, is how best to pay for these things.

Bond measures place the burden of these costs onto our children and, sometimes, our grandchildren.  According to the Official Voter Information Guide, California currently has $58 billion in outstanding bond debt, some from as far back as the 70’s, and an additional $68 billion in bonds waiting to be sold.  These figures do not include the bond measures on the upcoming ballot.

Although some of these bonds pay for significant statewide infrastructure improvements, most do not.  Another thing to realize is that these bonds are not exactly cheap.  For each dollar we borrow, we typically pay an additional dollar in interest.

Californians seem to be willing to spend more than they have and hope that, sometime down the road, someone will be able to pay it back.  This sounds like a credit crisis in the making.  Now, with the economy in the toilet and credit drying up, the State government is finding it difficult to borrow enough to pay the regular bills.  If we are unable to keep up our payments on this existing bond debt, California will be forced into fiscal insolvency.

It may seem like a good idea to support these important initiatives but if we want something, we should be willing to pay for it.  For example, when San Francisco was devastated by an earthquake in 1989, we raised the sales tax by .5% and paid for the repairs.  The sales tax was in place until the repairs were complete, and then it went away.  We should be willing to shoulder the burden for ourselves, and not foist it onto the backs of our children.  They’ll have enough to contend with.

On the local level, Mayor Foster’s Measure I may seem like a good deal.  Parcel taxes will be collected to pay for infrastructure improvements, right?  Wrong!  Measure I is a bond measure, and will borrow all of the money, and use the parcel taxes as a repayment guarantee.  Like most bond measures, the total amount paid back will be exactly double the amount borrowed.

Also, Measure I does not offer a mea culpa for the sustained and intentional neglect our city has suffered for the last 15-20 years.  We’ve been so focused on rampant expansion of our downtown that the rest of the City has fallen into disrepair.  You can actually trace the start of the infrastructure maintenance failure to the start of the City’s redevelopment process.  It is no surprise that Beverly O’Neill is a supporter.  Even in the City’s Salad Days when, under her leadership, the budget was filled to overflowing with Utility Taxes, these needs were there, and remained unaddressed.  After the repeal of the Utility Tax when, as a result, the City fell into a budget shortfall, the City still managed to scrape together more than 8 million dollars to pay for improvements to the Skylinks golf course.  Good call!

There’s no doubt that the City’s crumbling infrastructure is in dire need of repair.  Instead of borrowing such a huge amount, with extremely high repayment costs, we should make hard choices, prioritize, and fix those things that are most urgent.  If our elementary school students can spend years in bungalows, our Police Academy recruits can as well.  The East Division Substation, currently in a rented space, can stay conveniently located next to Krispy Kreme for just a bit longer.

I hate to feel cynical or jaded, but I just don’t think that we have any reason to believe that our municipal government has demonstrated the ability to manage these resources when they had them.  I don’t see why we should think they’ll do a better job now.  I really believe that, even though there may be cost increases as a result of delays, we should pay as we go and not, once again, mortgage our children’s future to our own fiscal irresponsibility.

The lbpost.com does not make political endorsements.  However, as elections for officials and measures draw nearer, our writers/posters are free to endorse or support political candidates if they wish.  In the coming weeks, you will notice endorsements from our writers concerning all levels of government. These are their opinions and words.  Individual endorsements do not express the opinion of the other writers and/or the founders and staff of the lbpost.com.