California's Bond Background

Share |
(Davis, CA)
Tuesday, February 28, 2006
It’s late afternoon at UC Davis, and students in this quarter’s plant biology lab are busily inspecting and identifying the attributes of algae.
 “We are looking at the green algae – it’s volvox and it was really cool cause you could actually see them spinning around.  It’s like microscopic balls spinning around!”
That’s second-year student Christie Marsden. Her major actually has nothing to do with xylem and phloem – but she didn’t want to miss this class -- it’s in the Sciences Lab building – a new 140-thousand square foot center just for undergrads - complete with automated greenhouse, herbarium and café dubbed – appropriately – biobrew. “This building is really nice – it’s so nice and clean and there’s all the equipment and the microscopes and the hookups in the top and clean..”
And she can thank all of us for the 52 million dollar building because it was funded largely by voter-approved state bonds.  But UC Davis students aren’t the only ones benefiting from such money.  So are you, if you drive the state’s highways – use water from the tap – or hike in the state’s parks, to name a few.  The state has often used bonds as one way to finance major projects – As early as 1909 a bond to fund state highways was passed.  But the bulk of such investments happened during what’s sometimes called California’s second Gold Rush – the tidal wave of returning World War Two veterans and the baby boom.
 “The state really went through an economic and demographic transformation in the post-war era,” says David Dowall, Director of the Center for Urban and Regional Development at UC Berkeley. “I would say that they really built the crown jewels of the state infrastructure – namely the state water system, the freeway system that we have and the system of higher education, the master plan for higher ed.”
Governors Earl Warren and Pat Brown were behind much of the public works push.  Executive Director of the Pat Brown Institute Hyme Regalato says Brown was hellbent on being the state’s water Governor when he took office in 1959 – and really set a precedent by getting voters to approve bonds for the massive California water project….many of the canals, aqueducts and reservoirs we still use today.
“It was not considered part of something CA has done – or had done much of – especially having voters vote up or down on a measure that would raise state funds for a capital expenditure for government,” he says. “There were really not examples for voters to think about, about how that might play out for the future.” 
Regalato says it’s no surprise we’re hearing the current Governor invoke Brown’s name as he describes his new plans…because there are significant parallels.
“The population growth was dynamic then – it’s more dynamic now, but the word dynamic is used in both places – infrastructure not matching the needs of a growing population then, and much less looking into the future,” he says.
Leaders of today’s more crowded California face other challenges, because the state’s needs have changed with new technologies, and higher standards.
UC Davis’s sciences lab building – complete with state-of-the-art seawater-fed aquariums for marine animal study – is a perfect example of both.  And if there’s anything to be learned from digging into the state’s bond project past– it’s that the state’s need for such projects will continue in the future.