Lame Duck Arnold’s newest taxpayer swindle: “Sleasing” public buildings.


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Though we appreciate lame duck Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s spoken and written words in defense of AB 32 and High Speed Rail, his final actions in office are all about ensuring the enduring gratitude of wealthy and powerful men after he retires.  Most notorious to us OCers is his insistence on selling off our Fairgrounds for pennies on the dollar – and to nobody else but his cronies at Facilities Management West – an obsession he pursues with the stubbornness of a priapic water buffalo.  And now there’s this:

Over the objection of the state’s top two fiscal officials, the Schwarzenegger administration on Monday pushed through a controversial plan to sell state properties to raise money for cash-strapped California.

The sale of 24 buildings at 11 locations, including the Ronald Reagan State Building in downtown Los Angeles, is expected to generate $1.2 billion to help shrink the budget deficit.  The state is obligated to lease back the properties for at least 20 years. A recent report from the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office said the costs involved in the transaction over the long run will be roughly equivalent to borrowing at 10% interest for 35 years — far more than the state pays on its bonds.

LA's Ronald Reagan State Building, on the block.

You’ll notice both of these great rip-offs are presented to us as helping to ease the state’s budget deficit, when to the contrary they represent losses to the state – especially this selling/leasing of buildings.  Cruickshank compares it to “a junkie looking for a quick buck and deciding to sell their car rather than get a job and generate new income.”  And our great re-elected Treasurer Bill Lockyer, who, along with re-elected Controller John Chiang, opposed the idea but was outvoted by three Schwarzenegger appointees, explained,

“Taxpayers will be burdened with decades of lease payments that far exceed not only the cost of today’s debt service on the buildings, but also the highest interest payments the state would incur if it borrowed a similar amount of money.”

And to make this even more insulting, the properties will be sold to, and leased from, a consortium from TEXAS. (And Irvine.)  So for twenty years, if Arnold has his way, billions of our taxpayer dollars will be going to TEXAS! (And Irvine.)

This utterly stupid (though profitable for a very few) idea of selling off public property and then leasing it back for decades at a great public loss is something Assemblyman Jim Silva first described to me, with horror, during our discussion of the Fairgrounds Swindle.  I told him there must be a name or nickname for that practice if it was getting to be so common, but he couldn’t think of one, beyond “corruption” or “cronyism” (or Gus Ayers’ “piratization”) which are far too general.  Hence, I humbly submit a neologism:

San Francisco's State Building, likewise.

Sleasing, or to slease:  v.t.  from combination of “selling,” “leasing,”  “sleaze,” and “fleecing” – the practice of unscrupulous government officials selling off public property to well-connected individuals, while committing the government to lease it back from them at a loss – which of course will be something the public is stuck with long after these officials are out of office.

So, is anything being done to stop this SLEASING?

I’m not sure there’s much you and I can do, but it is being fought on TWO FRONTS, in a valiant effort at delay until we finally have a decent responsible governor, name of JERRY BROWN.  Sound familiar?  That’s the same thing we’re doing down here trying to prevent the Fairgrounds sale.

One of those fronts is a LAWSUIT, being brought by two previous Schwarzenegger appointees who were fired for opposing this scam, and replaced with loyal sock puppets.  (Sound familiar?  Remind you of the recent firing of Dave Padilla from the OC Fair Board for opposing the Fairgrounds Swindle?  And more famously, the firing of Clint Eastwood and Maria Shriver’s very brother for opposing the highway through Trestles?  God forbid any Schwarzenegger appointees show any independence and try to do what’s right for California!)

The grounds of their suit is that 1) Two of the buildings are court buildings which Arnold’s DGS has no authority to dispose of, and 2) more importantly, the sale amounts to an unconstitutional gift of public funds.

Treasurer Lockyer is also resisting the sale somehow through the use of bonds, which I don’t quite understand, but again you can read about it here.

We wish Lockyer and the fired appointees luck, as we continue our struggle against the Fairgrounds Swindle down here, and as Arnold’s crew continue their spree of plundering state assets in their final month, like a gang of miscreants stripping down a stranded car.

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About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.