Bouquets and Brickbats

Shutdown’s over, but it cost billions

letters@thetribunenews.comOctober 18, 2013 

Sorry, but we’re having a hard time working up any enthusiasm for the reopening of Yosemite or the return of the Washington Zoo’s panda cam broadcasts. Not when we read about the havoc wreaked by the 16-day shutdown.

Standard & Poor’s estimates this fiasco cost the U.S. economy $24 billion. According to Time Magazine, losses include $76 million per day because of the closure of national parks such as Yosemite and the Grand Canyon; $152 million per day in lost travel spending; and $217 million per day in lost federal and contractor wages just in metropolitan Washington, D.C.

Federal workers who were furloughed will receive back pay. That’s fair — they should not be punished for the intransigence of certain members of Congress — but if there were any justice, lawmakers who got us into this mess would lose pay.

We’ll have to settle for sending them a brickbat the size of Half Dome — and hope that voters send them packing in the next election.

Another computer upgrade fiasco

What’s up with the state of California and computers?

Over the past couple of years, three expensive computer systems — one for courts, one for state payroll and one for the DMV — have either been abandoned completely or scaled back, costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

In the latest act in this comedy of errors, we learned this week that an upgrade to the system that handles unemployment benefits is not performing as expected. To quote one employee of the Employment Development Department, the system, which is part of a $188 million upgrade, “does not work.” As a result, benefits to nearly 150,000 unemployed Californians were delayed.

We fully expect that a new computer system will have some bugs, but we’re talking catastrophic failures here. We’d program some brickbats into the EDD system, but it sounds like the state’s IT folks already have their hands full.

Pirate Plaza fills a variety of roles

We toss runway-ready bouquets to the staff and students at Morro Bay High who teamed up to open Pirate Plaza, a store where students in need can select gently worn clothing and shoes, plus toiletries such as shampoo, lotion and razors — all free of charge. A dozen special education students are among the volunteers who staff the shop, located at the former Sunnyside Elementary School in Los Osos. It’s open by appointment only, though organizers hope to eventually have regularly scheduled hours.

This is a great way to help families in need save on clothing, while at the same time providing on-the-job training to special education students. Another bonus: The shop provides a “green” opportunity to recycle clothes that students may have outgrown or no longer need.

If you would like to offer donations or get more information on Pirate Plaza, call Assistant Principal Kathy Buehler at 771-1845, ext. 2936.

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