Cardoza and the UC Merced Campus Porkway

Well, folks, here they are again. The Big Shots that want you to raise your sales taxes to fund the roads to their development projects have brought out Dennis Cardoza to make their arguments. Cardoza explained today in the local McClatchy Chain outlet how, if you vote to raise your sales taxes, he might be able to use it for leverage when petitioning the Federal Highway Administration, The Mother of Pork.

Unfortunately, his arguments aren't any more convincing than those in the primary election brochures that featured the farmer looking across his field to his barn, somewhere in Minnesota. Predictably, he chose two projects to emphasize -- the UC Merced Campus Parkway interchange and an interchange for highways 99 and 165, north of Hilmar.

The Campus Parkway, he says, "will be a critical element in the success of the development of the new UC Merced campus and the surrounding community."

It makes you wonder how Stanford University and UC Berkeley ever survived, surrounded by highly congested urban streets and boulevards. How on earth can UCSF compete in medical research, stuck way out there in the middle of San Francisco and its legendary traffic?

The UC Campus Parkway is for urban residential and commercial development. It is a boulevard with two anchors: the proposed Wal-Mart distribution center at the 99 end; UC Merced at the other end. We think it is going to take more than the proposed parkway to draw an adequate number of students to UC Merced and to fix the environmental problems created when Cardoza and others railroaded the UC Merced project through. In the middle, there is the proposed UC Community, a new town UC says it needs to house faculty and staff.

However, given the present state of the Merced housing market, it is being argued that UC Merced has no need to provide additional housing for faculty and staff: there are enough homes for sale at shrinking prices right here in town.

The 99/165 interchange will pave the way for development in Stevinson. The idea is that Cardoza may be able to get federal highway funds to build the interchange, which provides the transportation link to a huge proposed development by the two largest landowners in the Stevinson area. The transportation link would meet the sewer link, built by Greg Hostetler, from Livingston toward Stevinson through another parcel owned by one of the Stevinson developers. Hostetler built the 42-inch sewer trunk line entirely on unincorporated land under the jurisdiction of Merced County without any county permits at all.

But, we forget. Cardoza's Merced district office is located on the third floor of the Merced County Administration Building, right down the hall from the County Counsel's office, the Board of Supervisors' offices and the Board Chambers.

"It is a constant challenge to keep pace with our region's explosive population growth and development," intones Congressman Cardoza, Hypocrite-Merced. No politician worked harder to create this explosive population growth and development than Dennis Cardoza, opposing, dodging, and vilifying every law and regulation established to control such speculative housing bubbles all the way from the state Capitol to Washington DC. He did it for real estate profit, not for the Merced community. When it was still seeking millions to build the campus, then state Sen. Pro Tem John Burton, D-SF, accurately described UC Merced as the "biggest boondoggle" he'd ever seen, and Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters accurately described it as "nothing but a land deal."

The developers must be getting pretty desperate to trot out Cardoza at this time in the election season for another stab at passing this measure to raise your taxes to underwrite profits for rich landowners, investors, developers and banks. Just because he is essentially unopposed for his next term does not mean he is not accumulating baggage. Due to his close relationship with Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Whale Slayer-Tracy, the corruption being exposed in Pombo's campaign is drifting south like dust from North Pombozastan, where UC wants to build a biowarfare plant full of the most toxic substances on earth.

The pathetic thing about all this is that there is no guarantee these projects will receive federal funding, This additional sales tax revenue is just "leverage," "matching funds" to sweeten the pot.

In order to secure more federal -- and often state -- funds, a sizeable local match is critical.

The reality is, given the expense of major transportation and infrastructure projects, Congress is often hesitant to approve funding in the absence of demonstrated support from the state and local level. The concern from the federal perspective is that the federal portion will be wasted if there is not sufficient local funding to help complete the project.

The passage of Measure G would greatly increase Merced County's leverage when asking Congress for increased investment in local highways. More importantly, Measure G would qualify Merced County for the so-called "matching funds" that come with a commitment of financing from local communities. The bottom line - Measure G would reap dividends far beyond the cost of the half-cent sales tax.

It's just a theory, but Cardoza and his little crew of special interests may be inviting the citizens of Merced County to waste their money. If you want to see the way federal highway pork is delivered in the House of Representatives today, you need look no farther than how House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-IL, did it on a little downstate real estate deal (see "Dennis Hastert's Real Estate Investments" below). We wonder if Cardoza, even with his Blue Dog connections, has that kind of juice.

Now, if Cardoza would rename it the Prairie Parkway II, maybe he'd get somewhere . On the other hand, in the interests of honest labeling, it should be called the UC Merced Campus Porkway.

Bill Hatch


Measure G must pass to secure federal dollars...Dennis Cardoza
In June, Measure A -- a half-cent sales tax increase to fund country transportation -- fell just short of the two-thirds support...This November Merced County voters will once again be asked to decide the fate of this important initiative (now Measure G). Obviously, none of us is eager to vote for increasing our own taxes. We pay enough as it is. I to offer some insight into the role these local funds play in securing federal dollars for important transportation projects. We are all very much aware of the need for significant improvements to Merced County's roadways...constant challenge to keep pace with our region's explosive population growth and development...increasing strain on our transportation infrastructure and growing congestion...a pressing need for major improvements to our roads and highways. As your representative in Congress, one of my highest priorities is to secure federal investment for important projects in Merced County and the Central Valley. For example: $2.4 million in funding for the Campus Parkway in Merced County, critical element in the success of the development of the new UC Merced campus and the surrounding community...$1.4 million for a study to build a Highway 99 interchange between Highway 165 and Bradbury Road near the Merced-Stanislaus County border...members of Congress from the Central Valley are continuing the push to make Highway 99 an interstate... Congress is often hesitant to approve funding in the absence of demonstrated support from the state and local level...passage of Measure G would greatly increase Merced County's leverage. I understand...this is a tough decision. Voters already feel the burden of balancing your tax bill with numerous other expenses. I hope that you will consider the issues I have addressed and the benefits that Measure G could provide to the long term success of our wonderful Valley community.

Dennis Hastert's Real Estate Investments
by Bill Allison
Under the Influence -- June 14, 2006
Read more: Earmarks (see all terms)
House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert☼ has used an Illinois trust to invest in real estate near the proposed route of the Prairie Parkway, a highway project for which he's secured $207 million in earmarked appropriations. The trust has already transferred 138 acres of land to a real estate development firm that has plans to build a 1,600-home community, located less than six miles from the north-south connector Hastert has championed in the House.
Hastert's 2005 financial disclosure form, released today, makes no mention of the trust. Hastert lists several real estate transactions in the disclosure, all of which were in fact done by the trust. Kendall County public records show no record of Hastert making the real estate sales he made public today; rather, they were all executed by the trust ...