Cannibalism in public funding

"All economic systems are subsystems within the big biophysical system of ecological interdependence. The ecosystem provides a set of physical constraints to which all economic systems must conform. The facility with which an economic system can adapt to these constraints is a major, if neglected, criterion for comparing economic systems." Herman Daly Economics is nice but getting to the core of things, give me a lawsuit between two public agencies over money. It’s well-known to reporters who cover government, that the real hatred of government is in government -- the hatred of one arm of it for another arm. When they get to fighting among themselves over money, it’s livelier than a King City dog fight. One lawyer warned that if this suit isn’t heard by the state Supreme Court, "unintended consequences" could occur. What she meant was that the case is providing broad scope for legal arguments about which different judges have differed and if wisdom doesn’t prevail, total anarchy in public finance is a distinct possibility. Give me a lawsuit for getting to the bones of an issue, even if on occasion the bones get crushed in the process. They may start off slow and tentative but as they mature from court to court they pick up steam. Californians just love to argue about land, the environment, water, public safety and such. When the whole argument is publicly funded, anything can happen between different governments, except possibly communication. Marina et al v. CSU Monterey Bay is a beautiful lawsuit for its participants because every dime of it comes from various public troughs. It’s shaping up to be an epic contest between public agencies to avoid paying the costs of mitigating the environmental damage their interlocking projects are going to cause. Who knows how many SUVs will be purchased from proceeds derived from Marina et al? There could be a Pebble Beach villa in it for someone. We pick up the suit in its mature form, from an excellent summary of its points made in a petition to the California Supreme Court by the plaintiffs, Monterey County and five cities near the former Fort Ord Army Base, home to defendant, CSU Monterey Bay, since a few years after it was closed. The trial court in Monterey County decided in favor of the county and cities that CSU had to mitigate for the cumulative impacts of its development on the old base. The county and these cities comprise a joint-powers group to oversee redevelopment of the base called Fort Ord Reuse Authority. CSU is the anchor tenant of the redevelopment effort. The trial court held that a state statute establishing the FORA and the California Environmental Quality Act worked together to show legislative intent that CSU had to pay its fair share for mitigation of cumulative impacts its campus master plan will cause. CSU argued that its responsibilities ended with preparing an environmental impact report that described the cumulative impacts and that it had no financial obligations to mitigate impacts off its own property on the base. It graciously did not contest that it had to help pay for utilities infrastructure it would use -- electrical, sewer and water. It argued it didn’t have any obligation to pay for traffic congestion, stop lights, new intersections, road building or fire protection its development would require on the rest of the former base.CSU appealed the trial court decision to the state Court of Appeal, Sixth District, in San Jose. In a 2-1 decision, Judge Bamattre-Manoukian dissenting, the appellate court reversed the trial court. “In essence, the Trustees claim that the business of the University is education and on-campus facilities. Under the budgeting laws of the State ... the University’s funding from the State is to pursue its function, and not financing of other public facilities.” (Majority opinion, pp. 15-16.) The appellate court -- wittingly or not -- by settling the case basically on the principle that one property-tax exempt public agency can’t tax the property of another public property-tax exempt agency and ignoring CEQA, opened up the Pandora’s Box of Argument. Lawyers flocked to it like sophists to Athens. If this decision stands, it will have implications for every public-agency development project in California, particularly universities, because it potentially leaves local government -- recently raped again by the deficit-rich state government -- financially responsible for mitigating the cumulative impacts universities and other public agencies cause beyond their boundaries, including the residential and business growth they induce wherever they choose to locate. Needless to say, there is no public agency calling for slowing or stopping growth in California. University professors write and speak on the problems of over-population but there is a glass wall between thought and administration in our public universities and our legislature, a political annex for the real estate industry. Public universities have a legislative mandate going back to the years when California had a population under 5 million to provide new campuses for our swelling population, ergo, new campuses. End Part One.