Willie Sutton was supposed to have explained that he robbed banks “because that’s where the money is.” As this blog has pointed out on numerous occasions, while the regents and the governor worry about finding efficiencies and about saving some money via online education, big bucks capital projects – such as UCLA’s Grand Hotel – get little scrutiny. And even when questions are asked – as occurred with the Grand Hotel – the requests are ultimately approved. The San Francisco Chronicle has an article about a nonprofit entity that works on tallying and “visualizing” publicly available data. You can find the article at http://blog.sfgate.com/techchron/2013/07/29/nonprofit-group-cleans-up-unruly-government-data-for-everyone-else/.
To help visualize UC capital budget, the group provided the chart below which we have embedded. Use the tabs to move around and don’t neglect the parenthetical statement on the chart that you should add 000 to all the dollar figures. Source: http://www.cacs.org/ca/visualization/1627.
Yes, I know. Much of the money for capital projects comes from non-state sources and revenues from UC enterprises such as the hospitals. That fact does not mean that every dollar is wisely spent or could not have been used for some other purpose. We have noted that relying on regents – even those who happen to have some experience with real estate or construction – to scrutinize the projects inevitably results in a kind of pro forma overview. The regents would need to have an outside independent support organization to do the job properly. Of course, back in the day when California and its state budget were outpacing the nation, maybe the system was good enough. Unfortunately, the “day” in back in the day had its sunset sometime around 1990 when the Cold War ended and the federal infusion of military spending that had pushed the state’s economy faltered.