Cleaning Navy toxic mess isn't pork

The California congressional delegation deserves at least a little credit for ranking 49th out of 50 states in per capita pork-barrel spending last fiscal year. Even though House Speaker Nancy Pelosi plus powerful Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer are all from the Bay Area, this state only grabbed at $18.23 for each Californian. That is a mere fraction of the earmarking by per capita pork leaders Alaska ($555.54) and Hawaii ($220.63).

True, California’s total earmark dollars for fiscal 2008 did top the nation with $666.4 million, easily beating the $559 million taken by runner-up Texas. And The Examiner does wholeheartedly want all earmarks abolished, because they are just about the worst possible way to distribute our federal taxes. Earmarks are defined as a line item in an omnibus appropriations bill that designates tax dollars for an overly specialized local or special-interest purpose without any open hearings. There were 12 such appropriations bills last year and they approved 11,610 projects costing $17.2 billion.

Still, California is the most populous state in the nation and consistently sends much more taxes to Washington than it gets back. Earmarks are a particularly ugly way to try recouping some of these losses. But at least if California cannot afford to totally sit out today’s earmark game, the projects our lawmakers pursue ought to have some practical value as well as some reason why the expenditure is a legitimate federal responsibility.

The annual “Pig Book” report from Citizens Against Government Waste delivers an invaluable service for American taxpayers. However, this watchdog group did get it wrong when attacking the $9.3 million Pelosi recommended for cleanup of the Superfund site at 500-acre Hunters Point Naval Shipyard.

CAGW President Tom Schatz accused San Francisco of pressing for environmental detoxification merely to offer the 49ers owners a new football stadium, which is blatantly untrue. The Washington-based pork-barrel monitoring organization cannot be expected to recognize the Borgia-like nuances of San Francisco political history. But cleaning up the severe toxic soil pollution left at the 1940s-era Navy ship repair facility has been a priority of The City for some two decades.

Long before Dr. and Mrs. York began making moves to escape rundown Candlestick Park and set up shop in Santa Clara, San Francisco was looking for funding to reclaim the long-unused naval shipyard and bring much-needed housing, parks, jobs and shopping conveniences to the relatively neglected southeastern quadrant of The City and its largely African-American population.

The Navy and its industrial contractors left behind the toxic mess. It is up to them to pay for picking up their own poisons, not San Francisco. However, The Examiner does not condone pork indulgences such as the $49,000 earmarked for construction of a mule museum in the Central Valley.

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