In general, it's unwise to trust anyone who practices "blind faith," unless, of course, they are loaning you money. Then it's OK.
But otherwise blind faith is a dicey concept, even outside the realm of the whole God thing, suggesting a willingness to toss aside common sense and turn over your credit card to that friendly stranger at the gas station. Blind faith seems like the type of thing people should avoid, in the same way it's best to avoid stepping off cliffs based on the belief that an athletic chimp will reach out and grab you on the way down.
Yet, a certain amount of blind faith is always present in our day-to-day lives, from the gut feeling that Paris Hilton will some day end up working in a Dairy Queen to religious leaders assuring us that God has a spy-cam in our bathroom. Sometimes you just have to believe.
Politicians are big in the blind-faith business, especially when it comes to spending money. Trust us, they say. Have faith, they say.
When President Bush asked for an $87 billion blank check to rebuild Iraq, Congress demonstrated faith that some of the money wouldn't end up being used to buy Play Stations for Kurd opium dealers. The Democrats, in turn, have faith that voters across the country in places like Florida and Texas will recognize that the President has made several "miscalculations."
Right here in the Des Moines of the West, the grand masterminds of our traffic world are asking folks to demonstrate a little faith. They've been doing such a swell job on this whole roads thang, they want voters to extend them another $14 billion or so for the next 40 years, i.e., until most voters are dead and no longer concerned about trying to head east on Highway 76 at rush hour.
The request, which will appear as Prop. A on the Nov. 2 ballot, is a proposal to extend a half-cent sales tax to fund the San Diego Association of Government's (SANDAG) master plan for transportation. By some wacky burst of drunken good luck, when the so-called TransNet funding was approved by a majority of voters in 1987 it included a provision requiring a renewal of the tax in 2008.
Thanks to the fine print, voters will get a chance this November to evaluate whether this money has been well spent over the last 17 years.
This is where blind faith comes in, since someone would have to be blind not to notice that the traffic situation in San Diego is a hellish nightmare.
In fact, Prop. A is turning into a fundamental showdown between the blind-faith folks, who believe the current system is working just okie-dokie, and the pissed-off Sam's Club shoppers who think the transportation planners are smoking crack.
The measure has already generated fierce debate, but the opposition forces appear to have the upper hand.
"Look around," the Sierra Club's Carolyn Chase, one of the leaders of the opposition, told the San Diego Union-Tribune. "If you can honestly say that traffic has kept up with growth the last 20 years, then renew (the tax)."
Damn, it's hard to argue with that whole reality concept, which is why all sorts of people are united against the idea of writing SANDAG, which handles regional traffic planning, another check for 40 years. On this issue, conservative old-liners are siding with the Sierra Club, which is one more sign that it will soon start raining frogs.
SANDAG is fighting back, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising to remind constituents they're not wasting money. They've also succumbed to pressure from North County's old-guard politicians and grudgingly agreed not to spend too much money on mass transit, showing that the same poet-philosophers who designed the current transportation system are still in charge.
SANDAG officials are asking for a little faith, which is either very sad or very pathetic. Transportation planners rank just slightly above IRS auditors on popularity charts these days, at least among San Diegans who actually need to go somewhere.
This is, of course, grossly unfair to the transportation planners; it's not their fault.
In fact the whole debate over Prop. A has little to do with transportation planning. They could spend $50 billion and not make a dent in the situation. It doesn't really matter whether they spend the money on roads or personal hovercrafts for county residents.
Either way, the money will do squat, at least until there is a fundamental change in thinking among San Diego's bold leaders. It's fairly simple, really: If they continue to build more houses, the roads will continue to get more congested. If you build the houses before the roads, you are in a state known as "perpetually screwed."
That state is also known as California. The state could tax chewing gum and raise billions more dollars for roads and it wouldn't make any difference, as long as the politicians continue to jam stucco duplexes into every ravine in the county.
If they are denied their buckets of TransNet funds, the politicians will at least have to seriously consider how to handle traffic before they rubber stamp another adult contemporary living complex for their buddies down at the Building Industry Association.
Shooting down Prop. A will send a clear message to the weasel politicians that the days of blind faith are over. B
Write to MsBeak1@aol.com and editor@SD citybeat.com.