Friday, June 10, 2011

Working For the Virginia Highway Department

The column, "My Summer Road of Perdition", by James Bovard, in today's WSJ, is an interesting read. Bovard is also author of 'Attention Deficit Democracy'. Bovard writes about his experience working for the Virginia Highway Department in 1973. He writes, "What did I learn as a young man laboring for the Virginia Highway Department? How to work slowly to slipshod standards".

By the end of his summer, he realized the private sector could build the road they were working on, much faster and at a lower cost. (Probably not so true in Peoria as the unionized private construction locally can't work any faster (and may not want to so no one is 'showed' up) than the public employees they try to work with in tandem. (Example, look haw fast Walsh Bros. out of Chicago finished Rt. 74 and on time).

Bovard closes his column; "The government has always been radically incompetent at imparting job skills or good work habits. Unfortunately, as long as politicians can profit from handing out jobs and paychecks, the waste and character damage will continue."

He is right, again, unfortunately. I have been observing the work habits and organization of highway workers for years. I have written several times on the subject. When I heard the astounding number of bridges that were in bad need of repair, I new that few of them would be repaired in my lifetime.

I sometimes drive by groups of union workers standing or leaning while one person works. There was a situation at University near Willow Knolls junction where so many people were standing around that I walked over and asked if they needed any help. They laughed. And I wrote about the situation at the corner of Hamilton and Jefferson where one union employee told me he stood all day and did nothing. Another sat in an endloader. I asked what he did. His reply, "I take the heavy lid off the hole in the morning and replace it at night". He didn't feel bad about his job at all. The other worker, who stood and watched all day, at least knew it was wrong. He said he knew it and was going to ask to be reassigned the next day.

Locally, when Dave Barber was hired to replace VanWinkle, I visited Barber and we talked about the situation. He said he was going to be more hands on than VanWinkle. He has been here quite a while. I have seen no improvement.

After all the stimulus money spent in the public sector, I note the worsening of the roads I travel. Now Obama and LaHood, who knows about as much about transportation as I do, tried to force Florida to take hi-speed rail money, $3.2 billion, about enough to pay for the preliminary work and then stick Florida with the $4 billion building costs, money Florida needs for infrastructure repair.

And worse yet, the financially broke California politicians are taking the $3.2 billion to build hi-speed between some points that will have few riders with the idea of hooking in the big cities later. Basackward, just like this financially disastrous administration.

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