Jon Fleischman

And The Idiot Of The Week Award Goes To…

Welcome to our fifth installment of our popular “Idiot Of The Week” feature.  .

The FlashReport Idiot Of The Week Award is bestowed upon that pubic official (or high profile person engaged in politics or public policy) who does something completely idiotic.  With a state as large as Californian, which seems to have a higher-than-average amount of folks who either don’t think about what they do — or even worse, they think about what they do and still act like idiots — we suffer from no shortage of potential award winners.  As in previous columns, we start first with the runners-up in no particular order, and then onto the big prize.  Oh yes, don’t be shy or timid in sending along suggestions to us for next week’s award recipient.

Without further adieu…

Runner-Up #3 — Board of Directors of the Santa Clara County Water District – Ace veteran San Jose Mercury News columnist Scott Herhold lit up this group of idiots in a poignant piece last week.  It seems that in a top secret settlement deal, two epicly long-serving board embers were granted $90,000 each in ratepayer dollars.  Apparently there was some issue about whether back in the 1990′s the district agreed to pay lifetime medical benefits to their part-time board members.  Seriously.  Well, I guess the matter ended up in court.  So apparently the board members (presumably the ones who were not suing the district) agreed to this secret settlement.  Herhold correctly points out that this maneuver flunks the smell test.  He says, “As an elected official, you owe your ultimate allegiance to the public. You roll with the punches. Instead, the two men acted like entitled employees, lawyering up….” and goes on to say, “The second big problem was the hush-hush nature of the pact. The board’s minutes from the closed session in November contain no mention of the payouts, which district officials have explained by saying the deal wasn’t final.” – Total idiots.

Runner-Up #2 – Stuart Leavenworth, Editorial Page Editor of the Sacramento Bee — Despite the fact that Stuart and I agree on virtually nothing, I like the guy for his moxie.  That having been said, his column in yesterday’s Sacramento Bee allowed him to slip in just under the deadline for an Idiot Of The Week honorable mention.  Right now the legislature is looking at reforms to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).  CEQA reform is needed because its burdensome regulations make it harder, more expensive, and more time consuming for virtually any development to take place in California.  Leavenworth has come up with a not-so-brilliant idea.  He wants to limit the scope of CEQA reforms that relieve is only given to politically correct causes… specifically, “…housing, transit and certain mixed-use projects within cities – and only cities.”   CEQA needs an overhaul, period.  This should not be another showcase for politicians in Sacramento to pick winners and losers.

Runner-Up #1 — Governor Jerry Brown and the Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) — After massive cost overruns, embarrassing moments, and past-due, the newly revamped Bay Area Bridge is scheduled to open for public use in early September.  This bridge is owned by the State of California, but is operated and financed by the local MTC acting as the Bay Area Toll Authority (say that ten times fast!).  Apparently Governor Brown, and the notables on the MTC have decided that it is appropriate use of government funds to blow $5.6 million on a “party on the bridge” the day before it opens.  Yes, hundreds of thousands of people would be expected to turn out and “walk the bridge” and — I guess celebrate the wonder of it all.  It seems to me that if there is an extra five and a half mil laying around, you could perhaps lower the tolls?  I haven’t even looked to see what the unfunded pension liability is for all of the employees who operate the bridges.  We’re in a recession, and times are tough for everyone.  One presumes since the bridge is state property, that the party has a nod from the Governor.  The idea of a massive, taxpayers/toll-payer funded “party on the bridge” taking place is just idiotic.  (H/T to ace Contra Costa Times reporter Lisa Vorderbrueggen)

And this weeks big winner — the FLASHREPORT IDIOT OF THE WEEK AWARD GOES TO…

The Board of Directors of the California High Speed Rail Authority — This august group of people (appointed by the Governor, and legislative leaders) wins the top Idiot Of The Week honors for lame decision to award millions of dollars in taxpayer funds to firms who lose in their bid to construct the first length of the boondoggle high speed rail line.  To be more specific five companies have bid for the $1.8 billion contract (ugh) but only one will win.  But the other four with walk away with a cool $2 million each — a bejeweled consolation prize to be sure.  Apparently, according the staff at the Rail Authority, they found instances in five other states where this sort of thing has been done.  Seriously.  For our part, this just ads insult to injury as this project proceeds full speed ahead to blow vast sums of taxpayer funds, but yet no longer enjoys popular support amongst Californians.  (H/T to Union Tribune of San Diego reporter Chris Cadelago).