from the American Spectator:
California’s Infrastructure Is Crumbling (When It’s Not Burning)
Wen I first moved to California from Ohio in the 1990s, I spotted a postcard in a gift shop that noted the state’s four seasons: wildfires, mudslides, earthquakes and riots. The postcard wasn’t entirely wrong. Outside of drought years, the state does suffer through a regular cycle of fires, slides and earthquakes, although the riots aren’t actually a seasonal thing. Californians are accustomed to the state’s weather disasters the same way a Kansan is accustomed to tornado drills.
Currently, Southern California is ablaze. Not long ago, out-of-control wildfires consumed a large portion of the Napa Valley, tragically destroying about 5 percent of the region’s housing stock and killing dozens of people. I once had to flee a raging wildfire – and the experience is far from pleasant. During last year’s floods, we were packed and ready to go while hoping the aging levee system held near my little ranch downstream from the state’s last wild river.
It did, but tens of thousands of people living below Oroville dam were evacuated. It was scary watching news reports of a collapsing spillway at the nation’s largest earthen dam. Had the dam failed, the entire Gold Rush city and several others would have been flushed down the river, with little left in its wake, including a historic home I own there. It’s a disturbing feeling to have one’s life and investments dependent on the condition of the state’s crumbling infrastructure.
Droughts and torrential rains cannot be helped, but the way public-policy makers deal with them certainly can be changed. Unfortunately, the state’s entire array of public services is pretty much in the condition one would expect from government-run enterprises, where the main priorityremains boosting the pay and benefit packages of the people who work for those agencies. When things go awry, officials grab more money — but nothing ever improves.
In my Spectator column last week, I detailed the condition of California’s public schools where, according to a new lawsuit filed against state education officials, there are classes “where around half the students don’t have basic reading skills, examples of fifth graders taught using kindergarten materials, and teachers who ‘are forced to rely on audio and video content to provide students access to other subjects.’” Never mind that the 43 percent of the state’s general-fund budget is earmarked for K-14 education – and spending keeps going up.