L.A. Infrastructure Showing Signs of Corruption

Showing city government and city planning at its finest, L.A. infrastructure is cracking up. Bloomberg.com reports:

Los Angeles is showing its age, and city officials don’t have plans for financing the facelift.

From buckling sidewalks to potholed thoroughfares to storm drains that can’t handle a little rain, the infrastructure that holds the second-largest U.S. city together is suffering from years of deferred maintenance. Bringing pipes that deliver water to 3.9 million people up to snuff could cost $4 billion — more than half the city’s annual operating budget. The bill for repaving streets will be almost that much, according to estimates from a city consultant, and patching or replacing cracked sidewalks will require $640 million.

City Council members recently gave up on a proposal to ask voters for a sales-tax increase to finance street and sidewalk repairs, and Mayor Eric Garcetti has ruled out raising water rates anytime soon to upgrade pipelines.

“We’re in trouble,” said Jack Humphreville, the budget advocate for L.A.’s advisory neighborhood councils. His estimate, based on figures provided by the city, is that getting public works into good shape will take $10 billion to $15 billion. “This is no different from debt.”

A 30-foot geyser that spewed some 20 million gallons of water from a ruptured trunk line under Sunset Boulevard on July 29 brought renewed attention to the decay. The council called on the Department of Water and Power to scrutinize pipelines and other parts of the system, but didn’t discuss ways of finding money to fix what might be broken.

“We can’t tax our way out of this,” said Councilman Mitchell Englander. Voters won’t approve adding to the local sales tax — which at 9 percent is among the nation’s highest — and would revolt if the price of water went up, he said. As it is, the rate is the seventh-highest in the U.S., according to a survey by the conservation nonprofit Circle of Blue.

The riveted-steel line that burst under Sunset is 90 years old. To replace every line by the time it hits 100 — as many engineers recommend — would require a 4 percent boost in water rates every year, according to City Councilman Paul Koretz.

No, the time to “tax our way out of this” was before we got into this mess. The government should have used the revenues it has collected in the last two decades to finance repairs. But that doesn’t win votes for politicians. They win votes by offering special favors to constituencies. This requires new visible spending.

[See also, “I’m Tired of Paying for People Who Live below Sea Level.”]

Promising to “be ready” to fix something that isn’t broken yet simply doesn’t get voter loyalty. You win voters by offering new concrete “benefits.” Since no politician is in office for life, or identifies his family’s future fortunes with the upkeep of the city plumbing, no one really cares about it when it might do some good to care. Then, later, when the infrastructure is falling apart, the new politicians can blame the former politicians. Plus, all the decisions are diffused through many people so that no one person ever gets blamed.

[See also, “Hurricane Katrina and the Question of God’s Judgment.”]

Democracy is a pyramid scam.