If you don’t build it …

Politicians and bureaucrats thrive on making grandiose promises of what they can achieve with other people’s money. Actually delivering results, though, is often a challenge for the public sector.

The Associated Press reported this week that a decade after California voters approved a $400 million ballot measure to build parks and recreational centers in some of the state’s poorest neighborhoods, many residents are still waiting for their basketball courts, ball fields, playgrounds and picnic areas.

While the state has completed 59 projects in the past 10 years, another 67 remain unfinished. “The unbuilt parks account for about $230 million,” the AP discovered, “or more than half of the money given out from the 2006 initiative.”

In some cases, it took as long as six years for local agencies to receive the funding to begin such projects.

Supporters of the plan blame a host of factors for the slow progress, but California’s stifling red-tape machine and its boundless environmental regulatory regime are the primary culprits. It’s the same reason major portions of the Golden State suffer housing shortages that seem to befuddle state policymakers.

Incredibly, one California lawmaker seeks to reward such bungling by throwing more money at the parks plan. Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia, a Democrat from Coachella, has proposed spending another $1 billion on the program, the wire service reported.

Mr. Garcia inadvertently offers an explanation for government ineptitude: There are few real consequences for failure. Instead, vote-hungry pols craving to look good by pretending to do good step in to ensure the financial pipeline keeps the greenbacks flowing to public-sector bureaucracies regardless of their performance.

In the real world, such mismanagement would have financial ramifications — and some supervisors might find themselves unemployed. In the government arena, however, it’s just another day at the office.

Legislative Republicans are insisting on a more comprehensive completion schedule before they’ll support an expansion of the parks scheme. “It’s important to design a planning process that delivers a park on time,” said GOP state Sen. Patricia Bates of Laguna Niguel.

Indeed, is it really beyond the pale to expect a four-acre park to be built in fewer than five years?

At any rate, perhaps this stark example of red tape and bureaucratic inertia offers a cautionary tale about what Americans can expect if progressives succeed in imposing upon the country a single-payer health-care system run by federal functionaries.

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