It’s been a while since I’ve criticized the Civic Center/City Hall/White Elephant/Taj Mahal/Albatross-around-our-necks/Espresso Stand in the Park. So long that I don’t remember where I left off … almost.
With all the summer excitement (only in my head) over the Re-Districting, the crazy Nanny State ordinances, my new puppy, and the Lifeguards’ Super Pensions, I feel as though I’ve been neglecting the $125-$150 million boondoggle.
But fortunately, truly important and desperately expensive topics always come flying back in one’s face, and Orange County’s newest example of Government Excess is no exception.
You see, Newport Beach has barely 10% of the total Civic Center Project cost saved up, but who needs to pay cash, right? Let’s use Credit. So last summer the Magnificent Seven opened up a $150 Million Dollar American Express Black Card to build it. But it’s a credit card with extremely good rates on it, so that makes it OK.
So for my six readers’ sake, let’s start from the beginning…
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Newport Beach decided to hire, hire, and then hire all the Government employees they could find, creating the largest Government Employee per Resident ratio AND the highest Pension Debt for Capita of any City in the County, with a total of $300 million bucks in unfunded Pension liability (Yeah! We are No. 1! … But I’ll get deeper into that honor another time.)
In the early to mid-2000s, without space to put all these new Government employees, the Geniuses in the City decide to put portable offices on the lawns of City Hall, thus creating a super-embarrassing eyesore – but lowering the landscaping costs.
At the same time, discussions start about moving City Hall vs. keeping City Hall where it is.
In 2008, with a price tag of $50 million dollars at the time, the City Hall in the Park plan was passed, to move City Hall to a new, larger location. Beautiful drawings are created and a building is designed to accommodate “future employee growth” as then-City Manager Homer Bludau said.
Right after Measure B is passes somehow the price doubles to $100 million dollars, and for that reason, the Newport Beach City Council decides to authorize $150 million dollars of municipal debt, just in case the Espresso Stand needs extra gold, I suppose.
The excesses of Government become a campaign issue for the 2010 City Council Elections with the longtime involved guy/self-proclaimed Eighth Councilman/Architect Rush Hill squaring up against the brash/new to Newport Beach politics/Allergan lobbyist Ed Reno. Reno says that the City’s Civic Center project is way too expensive and that we shouldn’t be mortgaging the City’s future to build more Government. Rush says that he’s been in the process the entire time, he’s been involved with the City for more than 30 years, that the City desperately needs the shining new beacon of Government Magnificence.
Hill even promises, during a recorded campaign speech that was recorded and posted on Youtube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPEe3jx4P_E), at the 4:25 mark, that it’ll be his “task” to make sure the Civic Center costs don’t exceed $90 million dollars.
Rush Hill wins the City Council election, and the Civic Center’s price settles in between $125-$150 million dollars.
So where is the Civic Center project today?
Before I answer that, have you ever seen the movie “The Money Pit”? Tom Hanks and Shelley Long are building their dream home, but there are constant delays, constant costs overruns, and every time they ask the Contractor how much longer it will take, the Contractor ALWAYS responds, “Two more weeks.”
Two More Weeks…
So, true to most construction projects, the Newport Beach Civic Center project has been delayed and the Contingency Funds, which were set up just in case delays happen, are already being burned through.
Yawn … That’s no surprise to anyone right?
Fortunately the representative of the City’s contractor, CW Driver, explained it perfectly by calling this boondoggle “very complicated.”
Good … had he not said that, I would have thought building a Taj Mahal was easy.
Two more weeks, right?
Still, newly-minted Councilmember Rush Hill commented, “I feel as if they’re watching the money as if it was theirs.”
Mr. Hill, no they are not, otherwise, however complicated this project may be, they would not ALREADY be behind and ALREADY burning through CONTINGENCY funds.
And what happened to your campaign speech? You said that it would be your TASK to keep the costs at $90 million dollars. Where is that Campaign Promise in your list of priorities once you got elected?
Empty questions for empty Campaign Promises.
Hi Jack –
Most of us here on Balboa Island voted for “City Hall in the Park” and we thought was Bill Ficker’s design – unfortunately the City Council wanted to punish him for the idea in the first place. Who is getting punished now!!!
Carolyn L Carr