Government Spending

Budget-Slashing Measures Lead to Replay of My Idyllic Childhood

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So what happens when bankrupt cities finally start cutting back on services? The L.A. Times went to San Diego to do a semi-scare story on the subject, and discovered…unsupervised skating.

For the skateboarders at Robb Field Skate Park in Ocean Beach, the financial crisis gripping the state's second-largest city has meant freedom.

Freedom not to pay $5 to zoom up and down the concrete swells. Freedom not to wear helmets at the risk of cracking their heads. Freedom to smoke while they skate, drink beer, bring dogs, ride minibikes amid the skateboards and scrawl graffiti […]

"Helmets are bummers," said helmet-less Elliot Hathaway, 22, an employee of a metal-fabricating business.

When he heard that the skate park not only was free but minus supervision, John Wright, 25, a waiter at a Gaslamp District restaurant, rode his bike five miles from his apartment in Pacific Beach.

"I know these rules are for our own good, but rules are just against the whole spirit of skateboarding," he said. "Plus, the whole idea of paying to skateboard is wrong."

NEXT: When Does Deficit Spending Start To Matter?

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  1. i can not believe you encourage this anarchy.

  2. the obamameter has been announced everyplace but here. why the coverup?

  3. Here’s a scare story from Atlanta: The city will turn off streetlights along interstates unless the federal government starts paying for them. Atlanta drivers are already beyond terrible; this will make my commute a nightmare…

  4. Jesus! Nobody u no never sleeps! No wonder he is retarded! You gotta get some sleep man!

  5. naga sadow, you are the otherly mentally capable not me.

  6. When civil liability gets in line with this new freedom then we might be getting someplace.

    If a skater cracks his head open at one of these ‘unguarded’ public parks there is probably some government protecting government ‘safety’ in place. For private property I doubt it.

  7. The city will turn off streetlights along interstates

    Interstates with street lights?!?

  8. Wow dude, that is like WAY cool!

    http://www.anonweb.pro.tc

  9. Other Matt: yes, interstates with street lights. In New York City and in Nassau County to the east, all interstates (as well as the alternative cars-only parkway system) have street lights.

  10. Sigh – as long these idiots can afford the medical care that might be necessary after an un-helmeted crash, and not rely on the state, then more power to them.

  11. I have a story related to Atlanta interstate streetlights: a college friend of mine was doing a project related to them and didnt have a car, so I drove him to a spot on I-75 (just north of the split from the connector) so that he could run out into the different lanes and measure the luminosity of the interstate street lights.

    Yeah, frogger on I-75, pretty amusing.

  12. Jozef,

    My city started turning off street lights to save my a few years ago. Then a kid got hit by a car, because the driver couldn’t see him. The city was forced by public outcry to turn all the street lights back on. Of course the city council refused to take any responsiblity for placing the public in danger to save money.

  13. This is baffling; the usual tactic is to close down a “popular” revenue-producing service (like DMV branches, or health clinics), and to impose the most discomfort and confusion on the civilian population possible, in order to impress upon the suckers taxpayers the need for unlimited funding to forestall The End of the World.

    Helmetless, smoking skateboarders!

    Oh, the humanity!

  14. robc–your friend sounds like a batshit crazy engineer. GA Tech, I assume? (I went there too.)

    The lights on the intown freeways in Atlanta are so bright that I once drove from my apartment on the NE side all the way to Riverdale on the SW (~20 miles) with my headlights off one night and didn’t even notice until I arrived at my destination.

  15. This good news has of course already spread fast among the skate forums. Sort of a silver lining deal like all the foreclosed houses with pools. Now if only I lived some place where it was at least up to freezing today.

  16. batshit crazy engineer

    Is there any other kind?

    THWG

  17. I hope the Cal. LP has descended on the park to sign up new Libertarian voters.

  18. Here’s a scare story from Atlanta: The city will turn off streetlights along interstates unless the federal government starts paying for them. Atlanta drivers are already beyond terrible; this will make my commute a nightmare…

    What I remember is that by the mid-90s most of these lights were out…because Atlanta expected the federal government to pay for them. Then with the 1996 Olympics approaching Atlanta decided to turn them on/change the lightbulbs, only to discover that most of the copper wires had been scavanged.

    new story:
    The City Council’s finance/executive committee Wednesday voted down a proposal to ask the state or federal government to share or pay outright the light bill for I-20, I-75 and I-85 in the city, along with Langford Parkway — and to shut off the lights if they refused.

    Councilman Jim Maddox proposed the idea to save the city money as it anticipates a $50 million revenue shortfall for the budget year ending June 30. Atlanta spends $1.2 million a year to illuminate and maintain 6,500 lights on its expressways.

    Several council members balked at Maddox’s proposal, saying they worried about more vehicle collisions and crime on darkened roads.

    On Wednesday, they also learned that Atlanta had signed an agreement with the state in 1994 to pay the light bill for 50 years. State transportation officials are reluctant to change the contract, which spells out at least $10 million in penalties if the city abrogates it.

    Maddox said he was unaware of the pact before he drafted his legislation last week.

  19. “I know these rules are for our own good, but rules are just against the whole spirit of skateboarding,” he said. “Plus, the whole idea of paying to skateboard is wrong.”

    While visiting a state park in my days as an irresponsible young sailor, a friend noting a “Do Not Climb on Rocks” sign made a very wise and libertarian comment –

    That really pisses me off. I can’t hurt anybody else if I climb on the fucking rocks.

  20. Wait a minute…I thought we were rambling, gambling engineers?

  21. I of course, always drink my whiskey clear.

  22. Though, about helmets being a bummer: so is brain damage.

    Not supporting a mandatory helmets law, just pointing out that the wearing of helmets is a good idea.

  23. Wow, Other Matt. Just how rural are you, exactly (I don’t mean that as an insult)? I mean, I grew up in a small town that, on the part of the interstate that traversed the city, had street lights.

  24. My city started turning off street lights to save my a few years ago. Then a kid got hit by a car, because the driver couldn’t see him. The city was forced by public outcry to turn all the street lights back on. Of course the city council refused to take any responsiblity for placing the public in danger to save money. [italics added]

    Lessee, either the city was recklessly driving the car that hit him or the city raised the child and neglected to teach the urchin how to safely cross a street.

    Which was it?

  25. Cars in Atlanta don’t have headlights?

  26. I’m reminded of all those years in the latter 60s through early 70s playing hockey, football and riding motorcycles with no gear protection except shin pads and gloves for hockey. But that’s when us kids could roam through the neighbors wooded back yards ‘hunting’ squirrels and birds with our bee bee/pellet guns.

  27. All you need to know about the government’s efficiency is in this story. Charging $5 a head they still can’t manage to break even, even with 1 employee collecting cash and making sure boneheads where a helmet.

  28. “Plus, the whole idea of paying to skateboard is wrong.”

    Given that skateboards can only work on artificial surfaces, it seems a bit of a self-serving blind spot to think that such surfaces are built and maintained at no cost.

    I see this attitude a lot in people who grew up in urban areas. They seem to have an unconscious belief that anything made of concrete is in fact a natural feature of the landscape.

  29. I of course, always drink my whiskey clear.

    Exactly how sweet would 3000 lbs of rum make a barrel of sugar?

    And exactly how big is that bell, are we talking Liberty Bell here?

    I’d drink to all good fellows who come from far and near.

  30. I think I read somewhere that at least for bicycles, helmets DO NOT make them safer.

    YES-they reduce head injuries.

    But they totally make up for it by making people feel over confident and leading to an increase in just as dangerous/debilitating NECK injuries.

    Not sure if the would apply to skateboarding as well.

  31. engineer,

    I thought we were rambling, gambling engineers?

    Okay, “gambling engineers” is a phrase I hope I never hear again. It brings to mind a conversation that starts with something like, “A twenty says the bridge stays up.”

  32. Except for Michelle Kendleton, who was there last week supervising her helmet-wearing son Kyle, 9. “This is madness,” she said as she watched skateboarders two and three times her son’s age zoom by without regard for the newly posted rules.

    Madness?

    THIS … IS … SAN DIEGO!!!

    [kicks Kendleton down the half-pipe]

  33. Okay, “gambling engineers” is a phrase I hope I never hear again. It brings to mind a conversation that starts with something like, “A twenty says the bridge stays up.”

    Considering the Ga Tech motto* is Designing Tomorrow the Night Before**, many a conversation started that way.

    *late 80s, early 90s, no idea if they have changed it or not.
    **for the humor impaired, that wasnt really it

  34. It brings to mind a conversation that starts with something like, “A twenty says the bridge stays up.”

    This reminds me of something a friend of mine used to say:

    “Any idiot can build a house which will stand up. It takes an engineer to build a house which will just barely stand up.”

  35. Considering the Ga Tech motto* is Designing Tomorrow the Night Before**, many a conversation started that way.

    When I was there in the late 80s, it was “Designing Tomorrow Today, With Yesterday’s Technology.”

  36. In November, Mayor Jerry Sanders tried shock therapy. Warning of a $43-million operating deficit, he proposed closing seven branch libraries and nine recreation centers, trimming the fire-rescue crews at 12 stations and reducing the fire and police academy classes, which would mean even fewer officers and firefighters as retirements thin the ranks.

    That’s the spirit.

  37. Matthew,

    The long version I chose not to use was a combination of the two:

    Designing Tomorrow the Night Before, Using Yesterday’s Technology.

    BTW, for those wondering Designing Tomorrow Today was the real one. Not bad, at least in comparison to so many universities, with the slogans like Share the Learning, or whatever crap they use.

  38. Gee commenters, in my area four lane and two lane roads do not have lighting except at somemajor intersections. That’s what I had always thought that car headlights were for. And yes, when I worked in NY on a temporary assignment I noticed the lighting of major roads and just accepted it as normal for those with money to burn. And yes we have had children and adults killed walking on these unlit roads, but every incident I can remember the driver was drunk or the walking adult was. Here’s my suggestion, outlaw cars and over 40,000 lives would be saved and it would help with ending global warming. But seriously, you can’t protect everyone from every possible risk nor should we unless we want to lose what remains of our freedom from government interference.

  39. I’m trying to figure out how natural selection allows libertarians to survive.

  40. If a city wants to save money by turning off streetlights, perhaps as a compromise they could just turn off every other light so there’s something.

    Personally I don’t see the need for them generally, since highways are already fairly isolated from other things entering them and from opposing traffic. If there’s a specific elevation of crime in an area that’s one thing but that would not be everywhere.

    I’ll bet there are a lot of other examples of needless civic spending where the city goes overboard to protect one group or another (or to provide extra income to some service provider who is a friend of the council)

  41. Having moved back to San Diego recently, I can tell you, Ocean Beach is still a special place.

    It’s like a city for the members of Black Flag. …and their kids.

    I think it was the first municipality in the civilized world, the West Coast that is, to have a Dog Beach.

    http://gocalifornia.about.com/od/casdmenu/p/beach_ocean.htm

    …while LA County and Orange County continue to work to restrict as much behavior as possible at their beaches, Ocean Beach seems to want to enshrine the values of Matt’s “idyllic childhood”.

    If only they had a Fender’s Ballroom, Matt. Then it would be perfect.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ooQ7en_w_A4

  42. I guess they dont let kids have BB gun fights anymore either huh?

    “You’re gonna shoot your eye out”

    aaahhhh those were the days hehehe

    I still have a scar where one embedded in my upper arm.

  43. “Right Wing Realist | January 15, 2009, 10:40am | #
    I’m trying to figure out how natural selection allows libertarians to survive.”

    An important principle: just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

  44. “My city started turning off street lights to save my a few years ago. Then a kid got hit by a car, because the driver couldn’t see him.”

    Uh, why was the kid in the road in front of a car?

    How was that the city’s responsibility to admit?

  45. If they could enforce the smoking ban there I would support it. We need more cops.

  46. I kind of belabored the point in another thread, but just to reiterate, for the record, Wall Street wasn’t to blame for the bailout.

    Our politicians and the people who tolerate them, they were responsible for the bailout.

    Again, imagine our politicians decided that winter was to blame for all sorts of things, global warming, traffic deaths, etc. So Congress and the president decided to spend $850 billion doing things like trying to stop the birds from flying South for the winter.

    If our politicians decided to squander our paychecks on something like that, and their constituents tolerated it, I wouldn’t point the finger at winter. In that case, winter wouldn’t be the cause of the problem. …our politicians and the gullibility of their constituents, rather, now they would be the cause of the problem.

    Lax credit standards, bad loans, collapses at financial institutions, all of these things are typical on the downsides of the tops of the business cycle. And how much are the changing seasons like the business cycle?

    The seasons change regularly, it’s never much of a mystery what season we’re in and which season is next. The business cycle is a lot more tricky that way, it’s never entirely clear where we are much less where we’re going.

    …but the inevitability? That’s the same. Sure as summer will come, so there will be winters. And as sure as the economic cycle winds one way, so it will wind in the other.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Business_cycle#Preventing_business_cycles

    So let’s not blame Wall Street for winter. Blame them for wanting free money? Maybe. But I can’t promise you I’d turn it down if Congress and the president were all in favor of giving me some either.

  47. I kind of belabored the point in another thread, but just to reiterate, for the record, Wall Street wasn’t to blame for the bailout.

    FAIL!

    Yes they were.

  48. I grew up three blocks from this park in Ocean Beach. The whole idea of wearing a helmet to skate in OB is hilarious and I am glad to see the kids there now have escaped their nannies just a bit.

  49. “My city started turning off street lights to save my a few years ago. Then a kid got hit by a car, because the driver couldn’t see him.”

    Concerning Atlanta: Pedestrians and bicyclists aren’t allowed on interstates anyway, so the fear of cars hitting them is a red herring. The only vehicles allowed on interstates already have headlights and rear lights, so if you need to cut streetlights to save money, cutting them on the interstate makes perfect sense.

  50. I kind of belabored the point in another thread, but just to reiterate, for the record, Wall Street wasn’t to blame for the bailout.

    You still don’t seem to understand the idea that more than one party can be blamed for the same thing. Yes, the politicians are responsible; but the Wall St firms that begged for a bailout are responsible too.

  51. Our BB gun wars ended as a result of modern playground technology. All was fine and good with our single shot benjamins and crossmans. Then one day, in the back pages of a magazine was a BB machinegun that fired 2000 BB’s a minute.

    It was inaccurate, cumbersome and used the 1 lb Freon canisters for servicing your auto air conditioner. BUT. . . 2000 BB’s a minute.

    Our wars were never the same, and soon ended in an uneasy truce between sides of the street.

  52. I can’t believe I’m the first to do this. Possessed to Skate.

  53. Then one day, in the back pages of a magazine was a BB machinegun that fired 2000 BB’s a minute.

    RC WANT!

  54. “Yes, the politicians are responsible; but the Wall St firms that begged for a bailout are responsible too.”
    – – – – –

    I think we all agree that investing piles of money in securities which have no security is stupid.

    Can we also agree that protecting those stupid investors from the ensuing loss by handing over to them the money that I was going to use to fix my car, or to buy my kids some more books, or to buy some gas so I can drive to work, is even more stupid?

    Here are the lessons this stupidity teaches:

    – go ahead and do stupid things with lots of other people’s money. Government will feel an affinity for you, and will want to protect you from loss.

    – In your personal life, start operating outside of the books, because everything you have on the books is going to be viewed, by government, as an asset freely available to it to help out those for whom it feels an affinity, which won’t be you, by definition, because you have an asset.

  55. One of the only upsides of this recession is that it means people can’t waste as much manpower on hassling skateboarders.

    SKATE AND CREATE!

    =darwin

  56. When my fourth son first came from Romania as a teenage, we took him to the town pool. He read the large posted list of rules and shook his head. “We don’t have this is Romania. If you get hurt, is your problem.”

    He is, incidentally, simply sputtering over the EU rules for saltshakers.

  57. “My city started turning off street lights to save my a few years ago. Then a kid got hit by a car, because the driver couldn’t see him.”

    “Uh, why was the kid in the road in front of a car?”

    I guess the kid was stupid, like a lot of them are.

    “How was that the city’s responsibility to admit?”

    The choice to turn off the streeghtlights wasn’t without controversy. The city council through its on wasteful spending had created a budget shortfall & they claimed that turning off the streetlights was the only solution. A lot of citizens correctly complained that the city council was creating a unsafe enviroment. There were a number of busy intersections & neighborhoods were it became difficult to see at night. After the kid got ran over directly under a unlit streetlight. The city council claimed that no one could have forseen this happening & turned all the streetlights back on.

  58. First crossing guards, then skate-park supervisors! What will they cut next? The security guards at playgrounds? The metal detection in school entrances?

    Will nobody think of the CHILDREN??!!!

  59. Welch’s post should have been put on Reason TV with video of the skate park and Sean Penn reading it, a la Dogtown and Z Boys.

  60. Travis illustrates nicely why it probably isn’t a good idea to turn off streetlights in residential and commercial neighborhoods.

    Which, of course, doesn’t really tell us much about why they are needed on a freeway. I suspect you don’t really need streetlights on a freeway for much the same reason you don’t need stop signs and a 35 mph speed limit.

  61. RC,

    Not sure, but I seem to recall (from my friend’s illumination class) that there is an inverse correlation between interstate lighting and accident rate. He said his results showed I-75 (at that time) to be below the “standard”. I think it hit that level in certain lanes directly under the lights, but not in between.

    I do know from personal experience that driving on an unlighted interstate without lane reflectors in the rain at night is very difficult. Thank you Tennessee (I-24 specifically) for this example.

  62. “But they [helmets] totally make up for it by making people feel over confident”

    I’m sorry – but WTF? Once you get in the habit of wearing a bicycle helmet, to the point where it becomes automatic to put it on, you’re no longer really aware you’re wearing one when you’re riding. Besides the helmet only protects one part of you body. The rest is still vulnerable – and you will be plenty aware of this when riding in traffic.

  63. CSI,

    People don’t make distinctions like that. They do something that makes them feel safer, they think they’re safer overall. People tend to focus on one thing, and extend the benefits or penalties of that thing to everything else.

    Blanket claims that bicycle helmets make riding a bicycle safer play a big role in this. We tend to believe blanket statements, without qualification. To present a fantastical example, let’s say some expert on home security were to say, “Blue Jay Basilisks make wonderful guards because of their assertive behavior.” Said expert not being aware that Blue Jay Basilisks are also known for their strong and persistent systemic neural paralyzing stare, and the difficulty in training them because of their assertive nature. (I did say it was fantastical)

    So people go out and buy Blue Jay Basilisks expecting a wonder weapon against burglaries, only to find just how hard the bastards are to keep. It just doesn’t occur to people to investigate further. It’s the same whether the matter is entirely imaginary, or entirely real.

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