The Bridge to Nowhere

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For the $125-150 million Taj Mahal/Civic Center construction project, the City of Newport Beach has a $5.4 million dollar contingency budget, of which $600,000 has so far been spent for unforeseen/overrun/weather related expenses.

OK, fine.  Unforeseen circumstances have forced the City to spend some extra money.  That’s why there is a contingency budget, right?

Well, apparently the Contingency Budget is also for Santa’s (or the Newport Beach City Council’s) wish list. And on top of the wish list for them?  As soon-to-be-former Mayor Mike Henn called it, “the bridge to nowhere.”

A $2 million “bridge to nowhere” mind you … paid for out of the Contingency Budget.

A $2 million “bridge to nowhere” that had been put off in February to save costs.

But, basking in the glow of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, apparently, the desire to save costs has been usurped by the desire to max out that $150 million dollar Credit Card the City of Newport Beach took out to fund the Civic Center project.

So as many shoppers are having a Credit Card Christmas, let me ask what kind of Credit Card user you are and what kind of Credit Card user the City of Newport Beach is.

If you have a $10,000 limit on your credit card, do you max it out as soon as you can, then worry about paying for it in the future, hoping that the economy will improve and your income/revenues will increase?

Or are you one who has a $10,000 limit, but chooses to buy only what you need, and not put yourself in as much debt as possible?

But before you answer, let’s add a couple of wrinkles in there.  You also owe thousands and thousands of dollars in unfunded pension liabilities, you have thousands and thousands of deficit in your yearly budget and, oh yeah, trees that you knew were diseased and damaged fell and tragically ended a young lady’s life and you’re about to get your butt sued off.

So … do you then max out your $10,000 credit card?

Now, in the City’s case, it’s $300 million dollars in unfunded pension liability, TENS of millions of dollars in budget deficit, and a looming wrongful death lawsuit over the diseased trees.

But FOUR of the City Council members believe that Public Works Director Steve Badum is the second coming of the Amazing Kreskin in his ability to see into the future, with Badum saying, “The whole team is feeling very confident” that the future construction costs have been vetted and the contingency fund will not be tapped out.

So, as the NFL season is winding down, I would also like to speak with Badum about who will win the Super Bowl … since if the City Council is willing to bet a cool $2 million bucks on Badum’s fortune-telling skills, I think I could bet a couple hundred bucks on whichever football team Badum likes.

All this reminds me of the Gov. Schwarzenegger era, when he famously declared that we in the State of California “…don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem.”  So he then borrowed and borrowed, creating a “wall of debt” that California will be suffering with for decades.

Working with a shrinking budget and a $300 million unfunded pension liability should be making the Newport Beach Councilmembers do their best NOT to max out their credit card. Instead they’re relying on a Fortune Teller to dig into their Contingency Budget to build a $2 million dollar “bridge to nowhere.”

Go figure.

Related story: Ed Selich on Why He Backs ‘Bridge to the Future’


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  1. Jack,

    As usual you’re right on. I guess our city employees’ time is too valuable to wait at a crosswalk like the taxpayers that pay their salaries. Wouldn’t it make sense to save the $2M for the rainy days that are certainly rapidly approaching given California’s growing “revenue” problems. Does the City Council really think the State won’t send the fiscal problem downhill.

    OBTW, how about looking into the Refuse Disposal outsourcing that is currently being considered. One thing that the residents on Newport Beach agree on is that our Trash Collection is terrific and doesn’t need fixing. It’s not broken…leave it alone!