Scotchy-scramble …

There was never enough to go around at mealtimes in our house but we got used to it because family disciplines required that we accept what we were given. Besides, our folks saw to it that no one got the short end. We wished for larger portions but not at the expense of others. But it was different at the playground. The scarcity was there, of course, but the method of allocation was anything but disciplined. When someone had an extra goody, it was tossed into the air with the shout, “Scotchy-scramble!” It was every man for himself then, and “the divvil take the hindmost”.

Governor Schwarzenegger just tossed a $ 222 billion goody into the air at his state of the State address and touched off a monumental “Scotchy-scramble”. His sketchy plan to refurbish California’s crumbling infrastructure has set in motion a genuine free-for-all, and because $ 222 billion just isn’t enough to shore up the highways, schools, hospitals, waterways and prisons that are in need, lawmakers and lobbyists of every description are jostling to grab whatever they can reach.

• “It’s going to be your standard legislative slugfest. Everyone is going to want their pet project put in”, said a labor lobbyist looking for better wages and benefits for port truckers.

• Hospitals say they need at least $ 30 billion for repairs before the next earthquake. The governor’s program, however, contains no provisions for repairing any of California’s 470 acute-care hospitals.

• $ 107 billion is to be spent on transportation, including new lanes for the congested 710 Freeway from the Port of Long Beach northward, and a tunnel under the Angeles National Forest. Julie Snyder, policy director for Housing California, said “We don’t think it makes much sense to look at 10 years worth of transportation projects, and ignore where people are going to live. The roads make no difference if there is no home at the end of it.”

• Although $ 2 billion is included in the governor’s plan to control pollution generated by California’s ports, it’s not enough, say environmentalists. “Mindless building without planning is just a recipe for more traffic and more pollution”, said Bill Magavern, a lobbyist for the Sierra Club.

• Neighborhood activists call the governor’s funding proposal a giveaway of public tax money. “You do not force the public to subsidize private freeways for trucks. They should be paying for that,” said Jesse Marquez of Wilmington. Jesse’s right, of course. Trucking companies should pay for road repairs. After all, it’s the trucks that caused the wear and tear. But what about the ports, Jesse — the underlying causes of California’s traffic congestion and air pollution? Are any of their annual profits being sent to the state? Don’t hold your breath.
[If our company retrofitted the terminals in California ports, however, our efficient operations would guarantee more than $ 10 billion annually to the state … and we’ve got the numbers to prove it.]