A Consistent Government Mindset

The Antiplanner observes, in the context of the Washington metro crash, that governments are happy to appropriate funds for expensive new facilities, but almost never want to appropriate funds for capital replacement and refurbishment of such facilities 20-30 years later.  Such refurbishment is nearly always necessary.  Private businesses plan for it -- for example, oil companies plan and budget on the assumption that all of their gas stations will need to be torn down and rebuilt every 20-25 years.

I work with public recreation a lot and can say that the exact same problem exists -- politicians love funding a new park or visitor center or museum expansion, particularly if they can get their name on it, but consistently refuse to fund capital replacements decades later when these are needed.  I guess they are unsexy.


  1. Michael:

    Cincinnati School District decided to sell 9 schools and build new ones rather than repair the old buildings. They auctioned 9 buildings on 22 aces. Here are the results:

    Buildings definitely to be sold by Cincinnati school board:

    Former Fairview German Language School, 2232 Stratford Ave., Clifton Heights. High bid: Five Korners LLC, $430,000.

    Bramble Academy, 4324 Homer Ave., Madisonville. High bid: Frank "Chip" Doyle, $200,000.

    Roosevelt School, 1550 Tremont Ave., South Fairmount. High bid: Roger and Debra Conners, $30,000.

    Board will decide whether to accept offers on these buildings:

    Lafayette Bloom School, 1941 Baymiller St., West End. High bid: Katrina Mincy (God's Love Christian Ministries Inc.), $125,000.

    Heberle School, 2015 Freeman Ave., West End. High bid: Carolyn Scheve, $35,000.

    Linwood Fundamental Academy, 4900 Eastern Ave., Linwood. High bid: Donald Wang, $290,000.

    McKinley School, 3905 Eastern Ave., East End. High bid: John Smith, $100,000.

    Swifton School, 5771 Rhode Island Ave., Bond Hill. High bid: RCCG Dominion Center, $80,000.

    Windsor School, 937 Windsor Ave, Walnut Hills. High bid: John J. Schiff III Foundation, $200,000.

  2. L Nettles:

    So by lottery some passengers pay in blood

  3. ElamBend:

    Public Transportation systems are particularly notorious for this practice, raiding the capital account for years and then coming up with an emergency because the infrastructure is crumbling.

  4. Bob Smith:

    The Miami monorail is falling apart and there's no money to pay for it. The morons in charge have suggested floating 40 year bonds, when the expected longevity of the improvements is only 30 years. The monorail is a boondoggle anyway, they should shut it down.

  5. Jon:

    Living in DC and riding the metro every day, I can attest to the fact that some of those train cars need to be replaced... but the whole country shouldn't be paying for it. I heard today that Steny Hoyer is looking to give the DC metro system 3 billion to replace old cars, which is ridiculous. This system hemorrhages money and I hate that they are going to throw more money at it. They already tried and failed to divert gas tax money to support more of the metro system and we all know why that doesn't make sense.

  6. rxc:

    The reason they don't want to spend money on maintenance is that they don't want to see their name on something like the "Phineas Fogbottom Axle Greasing and Wheel Alignment Project". It is much nicer to see your name on a brand new school rather than on a purchase contract for brooms and mops.

  7. Donald P. Wang:

    I am the high bidder on the Linwood Elementary School being sold by the Cincinnati Public Schools. I bid $290K plus $19K buyers' 10% premium for a total of $319K. If anyone wants it more than I do please feel free to get in touch with me. It is in decent condition and has been vacant only 5 years. It is zoned CC-P and can be used as a religious facility, commercial business, residential, and many other uses.