OpinionLa Vida SoCal: Forget the Benjamins

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Posted October 7, 2015 by The Argonaut in Columns

With the cost overruns at LAX’s Tom Bradley International Terminal, it’s all about the zeros

By Tony Peyser

Headlines drive the newspaper business. In an attempt to grab your attention, we have to say something that demands you stop whatever else you’re doing.

Regarding screw-ups by local agencies, it’s a numbers game: How much financial damage was done?

LAX RECONSTRUCTION PROJECT GOES $4 OVERBUDGET

That’s a typo, not a headline. Nothing even approaching interesting, aside from the fact that good proofreaders are increasingly hard to find. It’s the price of a venti Starbucks latte. Sheesh.

LAX RECONSTRUCTION PROJECT GOES $40 OVERBUDGET

That’s an average ATM withdrawal, not anything vaguely newsworthy.

LAX RECONSTRUCTION PROJECT GOES $400 OVERBUDGET

You can buy a pair of ruby mirrored Oakley Madman Sunglasses for 400 smackers. They are lovely, but not deserving of a newspaper headline.

LAX RECONSTRUCTION PROJECT GOES $4,000 OVERBUDGET

That amount of money can put a gold Apple Watch around your wrist, but not a headline at the top of any news column.

LAX RECONSTRUCTION PROJECT GOES $40,000 OVERBUDGET

The price of a handsome Hyundai Genesis. Nothing to see here. Move along.

LAX RECONSTRUCTION PROJECT GOES $400,000 OVERBUDGET

In our extravagant age, a six-figure amount is insufficient to get much attention. Four-hundred grand will get you three bedrooms and two bathrooms in Lakeview Terrace. Film at 11? Nope.

LAX RECONSTRUCTION PROJECT GOES $4,000,000 OVERBUDGET

This is definitely serious money, but to put things in perspective, $4 million is what Kaley Cuoco makes in a month to play Penny on “The Big Bang Theory.”

LAX RECONSTRUCTION PROJECT GOES $40,000,000 OVERBUDGET

Now we’re getting somewhere. That amount should trigger an independent investigation. (For those of you keeping score, $40 million is the amount of money Beyoncé spent in 2012 for a special birthday gift for Jay Z: a private jet. Yeah, the rich really are different from you and me.)

LAX RECONSTRUCTION PROJECT GOES $400,000,000 OVERBUDGET

John Paulson —the hedge fund SOB who made billions in 2007 when he bet against the subprime mortgage lending market — recently gave $400 million to Harvard.

LAX RECONSTRUCTION PROJECT GOES $415,000,000 OVERBUDGET

 
That’s the actual number, which is actually kind of numbing.

In an audit released last month, L.A. City Controller Ron Galperin wrote that recent renovations of the Tom Bradley International Terminal were expected to cost $621 million but expenditures ended up exceeding $1 billion.

Just for appearances sake, you’d think they would’ve tried to the keep the project’s cost in the $900 millions instead of letting it reach the billion mark, but they didn’t even do that. Like the nasty Honey Badger that became an Internet meme, they don’t care.

Galperin’s audit blames these enormous cost overages on the leadership of Los Angeles World Airports (the agency that runs LAX) pushing for completion on an accelerated schedule. I can understand being in a hurry if you’re working on The Manhattan Project, but if the fate of the world isn’t in the balance, such reckless rushing doesn’t seem necessary.

Galperin’s audit credits other city agencies with avoiding the kinds of costly changeovers that dogged the LAX project, but $415 million over budget isn’t something for taxpayers to cheer about. Los Angeles World Airports — which I see as some sort of West Coast version of New York’s huge, secretive and controversial Port Authority — hasn’t had much to say about it. To me, that silence speaks volumes.


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