Demo Sale

The party's leaders are putting their lack of ethics on display once again

"Ron Cowan is actually a well-qualified person to discuss ferries and how they work in the Bay Area," she said. "We've always said with the Vallejo ferry, the Alameda ferry, we don't want to cut back on ay service. We want all riders to know the ferry they catch is still going to be there."

Bit players abound in the California Democrats' performance of Rome Before the Fall. Many are caught up in the morass of details around one of the biggest pieces of political patronage in America: the Central Subway rail transit boondoggle in San Francisco connecting the Giants ballpark to Chinatown.

This $1.25 billion pork-barrel spending project is closely associated with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has pulled strings to obtain hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding to keep it rolling toward fruition. Most transit analysts say it's a massive waste of money that could be used to far greater benefit elsewhere. But it's seen as deeply important to Chinatown merchants, who control enough votes to swing elections for city and state officials. The subway project continues despite mounting evidence that its financial projections are based on smoke and mirrors.

According to Gerald Cauthen, an Oakland transportation consultant who specializes in Bay Area rail projects, the subway project's backers have reached a new level of dishonesty by claiming that, once completed, it will save the transit system money. According to a new environmental impact report conducted by the city's transport agency, the Central Subway would help cut costs because the new rail line would be cheap to maintain, and because it would divert current bus and rail passengers to a new, efficient, underground rail line. Cauthen dismissed these claims as hogwash.

The subway project's environmental impact report appears to be the latest in a united effort by local and national Democratic officials to rig data to hide the fact that it violates federal guidelines and universal sensibilities regarding effective government spending. According to Cauthen, the report contains misleading estimates of the completed project's costs to the city's public transport system once it's up and running.

As I've noted before, Pelosi helped lead the Democrats' retaking of Congress by saying she'd help end pork-barrel spending. By Cauthen's reckoning, the Central Subway's backers try to stick to this promise by fudging the numbers. "I uncovered an astounding array of cost and operational defects, most all of which are presented in a manner designed to obfuscate," he said. "Virtually none of the key impacts of the project are presented in a fair and credible way. I frankly could hardly believe what I was reading."

MTA spokesman Alan Siegel said city officials will study Cauthen's criticisms, which were submitted in writing earlier this month. Siegel said the study's fiscal estimates follow state and federal guidelines for transit projects.

In left-wing San Francisco, where "mainstream Democrat" means the same as "conservative," readers are likely to follow the state party's transgressions with a smirk. Local left-wing progressives, it's widely believed, map the clearest route to public integrity. Until, that is, you note our local lefties' blood-marriage to medical marijuana vendors, some of whom exist by dint of preposterous medical claims, business dealings with drug-trafficking criminals, and money-laundering schemes.

Just as laughable from a public integrity perspective is the local progressive faction's latest cause celèbre: the defense of compromised political hack Susan Leal. Mayor Gavin Newsom appointed her to run the multibillion-dollar Public Utilities Commission, a position for which she had no experience, after she dropped out of the mayor's race and endorsed him. Newsom recently moved to dismiss Leal. Progressives cried foul, and five left-leaning supervisors introduced an amendment to the city's charter that would tie the mayor's hands in appointing public utilities commissioners, presumably to punish Newsom for attempting to fire Leal.

Leal, as it happens, is the last person you would imagine to be a paragon of effective public service. She's a former director of SFO Enterprises, a secretive private corporation used between 1997 and 2005 by a group of city bureaucrats to siphon some $2 million into a scheme to privatize the airports of Honduras. When I asked Leal some years ago for her files on the corporation — which she was obliged by state and local sunshine laws to show me — she refused. When I asked her about her involvement in the SFO Enterprises scheme at a public event several years ago, she misrepresented the company's activities. And now, irony of ironies, Leal is being heralded by progressives as a symbol for competence and integrity.

If things keep moving in this direction, Democrats, including members of their San Francisco left-wing progressive peanut gallery, may be forced to observe yet another political axiom, otherwise known as Proverbs 16:19: "Better it is to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud."

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