Earthquake (and drought)
The SFPUC (San Francisco Public Utilities, covering water, sewage and some electric power) says there is a 64% chance of a major earthquake occurring within the next thirty years. That's a couple of percent per year, not huge, but significant. Reasonable people address that kind of a risk. And SF did. In 2002 SFPUC published a proposed ten year program of capital improvement that would have made the sewer and water systems prepared for earthquake (and drought, and properly maintainable). Then the sewer part was set aside; a plan is still not worked out, but the price-tag has risen from $1 billion to about $5 billion. In Nov 2002 the voters authorized any amount of money to be spent (if BOS nods). Since then the water side price-tag has risen from $3.4 to $4.5 billion. Today there is about $3.4 billion left to spend; it is claimed that a little over a quarter of the work is done. Two of five giant projects, which make up more than half of the work, are started in construction. Now most of the construction work remains to be done in the last five years of the thirteen year program, and SFPUC will, supposedly, be doing $600 million of work a year; up from about $30 million per year seven or eight years ago.
How do we get city departments to actually do what they commit to do--what they promise voters they will do? Hopefully for something close to the advertised price? The mayor lacks interest, as do the Supes, certainly. It is only an issue when the next Big One happens and water runs dry. Katrina was similar; those dikes and levees were political pawns for years, then--big surprise--the disaster happens. Is there a way to avoid disasters? Or, is reacting to disaster the best way, the only way not be hijacked by special interests (in SFPUC's case, unions, enviros, and politicians grandstanding as green), and socked with huge cost overruns?