California spends billions rebuilding burned towns. The case for calling it quits is straightforward: There isn’t enough money available to rebuild, so we’re better off with a plan to replace them.
The money is the easy part: the state is spending $800 million a year on a state program called Caltrans, the agency that manages highways, bridges and other infrastructure.
But that’s for the future, not for the present. And if you think you can buy a bridge with a billion-dollar federal highway bill, then try to buy an unrepaired bridge and you’ll be asking for a lot of dough, too.
But the other part of the question is whether we have the will or the ability to rebuild California roads and bridges.
We all know where the money goes. It goes to highways, bridges, water and natural gas infrastructure, and it also goes to the salaries of state employees.
And let’s just say that it’s not the money that we’re short on, but the people willing and able to put in the time and effort to get the infrastructure project back up and running. So how do you know who to hire to put the finishing touches on the project?
We can ask two questions about who gets paid and who gets fired. You can’t get a sense of who will or will not be there. You can’t know the quality of staff until you see the quality of their work and how it’s being judged.
Last year, Caltrans hired a new director, John Haley, who is expected to be the first new director of the agency in almost 60 years. He is not just a new hire: He has taken over as acting director after current director Gary Kelly retired in April.
The state’s bond rating, by Moody’s Economy.com, was just recently upgraded to Aa3, two notches above an investment grade; yet Caltrans still has about 13 percent unemployed, or roughly one