We applaud the Dana Adobe Nipomo Amigos for winning a state grant of nearly $3 million to build a visitors center, nature education facility, trails, exhibits and other amenities at the historic Dana Adobe.
Yet we can’t shake the feeling that the timing is lousy. When the state is cutting funds for basic services such as education, health care and transportation — and on top of that, can’t afford the upkeep on its own parks — it seems counterintuitive to allocate money to new park facilities.
Granted, this money is not coming directly out of the general fund.
The Dana Adobe improvements are being financed through Proposition 84, the $5 billion safe drinking water bond that California voters approved in 2006.
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The measure included an allocation for nature education facilities, and DANA, a nonprofit organization that has been an excellent steward of the adobe, applied for a share of the $93 million in available funds.
And why not?
As long as the state is distributing money, it makes sense for a local organization to take advantage of it.
Still, this isn’t exactly free money. The debt service on Proposition 84 bonds is averaging $170 million per year — and that will double to around $350 million once all $5 billion in bonds are issued.
Keep in mind, that’s just a small portion of California’s total bond debt; the debt service on all general obligation bonds is projected at nearly $5 billion this year.
And it will go even higher. California still has $37 billion in authorized, but as yet unissued, bonds.
In better fiscal times, there would be enough revenue coming in to cover the debt service, in addition to salaries, benefits and other operating expenses of state government.
But when California can’t afford to keep teachers in classrooms, is this the right time to allocate state funds to museums, trails and aquariums?
We don’t believe so.
It may be too late to pull the plug on commitments already made. But until California is in full economic recovery mode, we strongly urge voters to exercise extreme caution before committing the state to additional debt.
The Dana Adobe in Nipomo was one of 44 nature education projects around the state to receive grants through Proposition 84. Others include:
$7 million for a 60-acre expansion at the Oakland Zoo.
$7 million for an earth and space sciences center in Sacramento.
$7 million for a new wing at the Discovery Science Center in Santa Ana.
$7 million for learning gardens and a nature lab at the L.A. County Natural History Museum.
Nearly $7 million to the San Diego Natural History Museum, for renovations and new exhibits tracing the San Diego River.
Nearly $6 million to renovate existing exhibits and create new ones at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
$5.5 million for a children’s nature museum in Visalia.
Nearly $3 million to create an outdoor learn-ing center, amphitheater, boardwalk and other educational facilities at Carpinteria State Beach.