Thu. Feb 22nd, 2024

Opinion Piece By Donna Westfal – January 14, 2022

In October 2021, I attended my first Citizen’s Oversight Committee meeting for the $25 million school bond. I was pretty disgusted. I didn’t expect that the members appointed to that board (with the exception of Angelina Countess-Bieber) merely rubber stamped everything seemingly without an ounce of concern for the taxpayer.

Then when I heard the Del Norte County School Board was looking at another BOND ISSUE and this time for $47 million, I was about ready to explode.

In a nutshell, the majority of our students are performing unacceptably academically. Why should we spend more money on anything connected to the public schools if they are not able to educate our children? Turning out little Marxists is NOT what my tax dollars signed up to do. Stop with the indoctrination already. Teach them how to read and write and spell and compute mathematics and science. Teach them how to think, not what to think.

One of the reasons I’m so adamant about repealing the local sales taxes and the Fire District Tax is because we’ve been lied to. Even worse, Jon Coupal’s article from December 2021 points out the lies voters were told about the High-Speed Rail project. Try not to gag.

By Jon Coupal – President of Howard Jarvis Taxpayer’s Association

If ever voters needed a reason to vote NO on every single bond measure that appears on the ballot, here it is: The Court of Appeal for Third Appellate District just ruled that, despite all the lies voters were told about California’s infamous High-Speed Rail project, taxpayers have no remedy, even though the project as it exists today bears no relation to what voters were told when they approved the $9.9 billion bond in 2008.

Californians were promised a super-fast train that would travel between Los Angeles and San Francisco in about two and a half hours; the ticket price would be about $50; the total cost of the high-speed rail would be about $40 billion; and there would be significant private-sector support –money from investors — to build the project.

Even before the 2008 vote, transportation experts were warning that the project would become a massive black hole into which California taxpayers would be committed to pouring hundreds of billions of dollars. In fact, a 2008 study sponsored by the Reason Foundation and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Foundation predicted that the promised total cost of $45 billion would quickly turn into $100 billion or more, stating that “There are no genuine financial projections that indicate there will be sufficient funds.” The only error in the study now appears that the dollar amount was too low.

The HSR project has been the target of multiple lawsuits, including a few that challenged the legality of the entire enterprise. But it now appears that the last legal roadblock to this continued wasting of taxpayer dollars has been removed. In Tos v. State of California, the court ruled that even though nothing the voters were promised in 2008 could possibly become true, the bonds could now be sold to finance the project.

There is a disturbing message here for all California voters and taxpayers. When it comes to bond measures, nothing that is promised in the law authorizing the bond is worth the paper it is written on. If a bond act states that voter approval will authorize the construction of a high school, don’t be surprised if the revenue is later used for a prison. While that may be an extreme example, it is not beyond the realm of possibility.

Even more disappointing is the fact that whenever a state or local government spends bond funds for a project that deviates in substantive ways from what was described in the ballot material presented to the voters, there will be no legal remedy. The voters’ only option to prevent this bait-and-switch is to adopt a policy of blanket rejection of all bond measures.

The court’s ruling creates an even greater incentive for public entities to misrepresent what bond measures will accomplish. If they can secure initial voter approval, no judge in California is going to interfere once the project has started construction. This is the cynical playbook used by the HSR Authority, which followed Willie Brown’s advice. The former Assembly Speaker, in a moment of candor, once told the San Francisco Chronicle, “In the world of civic projects, the first budget is really just a down payment. If people knew the real cost from the start, nothing would ever be approved. The idea is to get going. Start digging a hole and make it so big, there’s no alternative to coming up with the money to fill it in.”

Unless state lawmakers have the courage to acknowledge, as did the State Auditor in 2018, that the project is unlikely ever to be completed as promised, the high-speed rail hole will only grow bigger. Since there’s no sign of that courage and no help from the courts, California is now stuck with what surely will be judged in the future as the largest waste of money in state history.

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