Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Untethered From Reality

Water Woes
I belong to a homeowner’s association which has two swimming pools, two spas, a huge system of ponds and waterfalls and thirty five acres of landscaping, none of which is low water use plantings. For five years now I have been pleading with the association’s directors to reduce our water use by replanting and reconfiguring our irrigation, or to at least reschedule our use of the irrigation system so that less water runs off into the storm drain.

To say that we water excessively would be a considerable understatement. Our sprinklers run so often and at such length that large crops of mushroom often are growing in my front lawn, major crops of moss are growing in the shaded lawns across the street, and about half of the curbs and gutters are green with algae that is growing as a result of water running off of the lawns and shrub areas. It is not unusual to see our sprinklers running during or immediately following a heavy rainstorm. (Well, except insofar as heavy rainfalls are a bit on the unusual side.)

San Diego is, of course, in a desert and imports all of its water so, in addition to trying to reduce our monthly water cost of $3600 for 145 homes, I am trying to instill some sense of social responsibility in getting us to waste less of what is, after all, a precious and scarce natural resource. For my efforts I have been ostracized, cursed at, accused of trying to undermine the Board of Directors, and accused of having some sort of personal vendetta against the landscape workers whom we employ. Our water usage has not decreased.

Now it seems the City Council is about to reward us for that profligacy.

Starting this coming summer, barring some sort of miracle, San Diego is going to be subjected to water rationing. The City Council has decided that surveying properties and determining allocations is not needed, and that water allocations will be determined by simply using a percentage reduction from earlier usage. So people who were socially conscious early and reduced usage voluntarily will be penalized, and those like my group who selfishly continued to waste water will be rewarded with higher allocations when rationing begins.

The great American way: rewarding bad behavior.

The Lindbergh Field Controversy
For as long as anyone can remember our airport, conveniently located really close to downtown, has been a bone of contention. It is perennially on the brink of being too small to handle the traffic requirements but never quite reaches that overload, and it keeps getting multi-million dollar upgrades that are always botched and that nobody is ever pleased with. We’ve spent way more money on studies of where it could be relocated than would be spent actually doing the relocation, and all of the studies have concluded that there is nowhere else to put it. Everybody says it simply cannot stay where it is, but it keeps serving quite nicely exactly where it is.

And so we get editorials like the one in today’s San Diego Union-Tribune, “Flight of fancy,” subtitled, “Grandiose Lindbergh Field redo would be multi-billion dollar folly.” The U-T’s editorial page has come through again for a few chuckles with the same refrain about our too-small airport and all the same blather. The part where it becomes really fun is this,
Here are the facts: Lindbergh Field's single, shorter-than-normal runway will reach flight capacity within the next decade or so. When that day arrives, as it inevitably will, San Diego's economy will begin a slow strangulation caused by air transportation gridlock.

First, they only cite a single “fact,” which causes the plural to make them seem just a bit illiterate. But the “fact” which they cite is not a fact at all, it is a projection, and not a particularly sound one at that. When fuel prices rose the number of flights at Lindbergh decreased significantly. Fuel costs have dropped now, of course, but I believe the number of flights is still below the peak and fuel costs are not going to stay low. I think it’s safe to say that the only thing we can say with confidence about the future is that it is uncertain.

In any case that “fact” (projection) has been being made for at least twenty years and, guess what Chicken Little, the sky hasn’t Lindbergh is not at capacity yet.

What to do
The City Council and the Union-Tribune editorial board should just go to Washington, D.C. and be Republicans.

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