Do you smell that? Do you smell something that smells like fertilizer? You should. It’s the smell that bonds put out and the city of Chula Vista, Sweetwater Union High School District (“SUHSD”) and Southwestern College (“SWC”) are all testing the water to see if the time is right to issue new bonds:
Cities and school districts have been waiting for years to propose new bonds. They couldn’t propose them while we were in a recession but as the economy improves so do the chances for bonds to be approved by voters.
Bonds are basically huge loans which are advertised as needed to repair crucial infrastructure or build new construction but are, unfortunately, often misspent. Some misspending comes from gold-plated projects, and/or contractors who are able to change the costs easily after they get the contract. Regrettably, there is no accountability for the misspending after the money has already been spent and the elected officials have already moved on.
Scare tactics, guilt-trips and worse-case scenarios are usually used to manipulate voters into approving the new bonds. You do care about children, don’t you? If you did, how could you allow our future generations to study in such decrepit conditions? Often, the very same people who will get the contracts are the ones who pay for the marketing of the new bonds.
Once a bond has been approved, there isn’t much that residents can do to assure that the money will be spent wisely. Bond oversight committees are usually put in place but are fraught with deficiencies and usually lack any real power to control the process. It’s common for good oversight committees to be ignored. Transparency is also usually an afterthought and contractors will do what contractors do best: pad their invoices and perpetually issue cost overruns that are rubber-stamped because administrators don’t know how to say no.
This series will explore some of the issues and pitfalls that come with issuing bonds:
Part 2: We Still Owe $1.4 Billion in Bond Debt
Part 3: Fool Me Once, Fool Me Twice (coming)
Part 4: Used Car Sales Tactics (coming)
Part 5: Options (coming)