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1970 - Lagasse family helps save Mentryville buildings as Newhall and Malibu brush fires erupt & join into worst fire in SoCal history. Twelve fires over 10 days burn 525,000 acres, kill 13 people and destroy approx. 1,500 structures. [story]

Commentary by George Runner
| Wednesday, Aug 12, 2015
George Runner

George Runner

If a recent study to determine the safety of 29 state-owned buildings tells us anything, it’s that the state is a terrible landlord. In fact, it may be time for government to get out of the building-owning business.

It shouldn’t take an act of the Legislature to get the state agency in charge of building maintenance to do its job. Without last year’s successful legislative push by former Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, it’s highly unlikely the Department of General Services would have commissioned the study by Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum.

A key reason for Dickinson’s legislation was the troubled state Board of Equalization’s headquarters at 450 N St., located a few blocks away from the site of the new Sacramento Kings arena.

For years, the 24-story BOE tower has been plagued with water leaks, sewage leaks and mold. Since 2012, scaffolding has ominously surrounded the building to protect pedestrians and employees from falling glass. The repairs will cost an additional $40 million on top of the $60 million already expended.

The study identified 11 state-owned buildings in worse condition than the BOE building. The worst is the 51-year-old State Resources Building in downtown Sacramento, which holds more than 2,300 state workers. The building is in such poor shape that the report calls for $148 million in spending this year to address deferred maintenance and safety concerns.

Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters observes that, unlike state facilities, most privately owned office buildings in Sacramento – even older ones like the Citizen Hotel – are well-maintained in order to attract tenants.

BOE tower

BOE tower

In the short term, the study may spur some catch-up maintenance, but in the long run the same problems are likely to reappear because the study fails to diagnose why the state takes such poor care of its buildings.

Walters offers one possible explanation: “With captive tenants, no competition, no bottom line and uninterested political overseers, bureaucrats apparently felt no pressure to do their jobs correctly.”

Additionally, buildings are exempt from local building codes, inspections and enforcement mechanisms that cities use to crack down on deadbeat private property owners. Penalties range from fines to jail time. But not for government; the state gets to play by a different set of rules.

Finally, there just isn’t much incentive for politicians to spend money on buildings. Building maintenance isn’t a sexy issue, and it’s going to lose nearly every time when competing with popular programs for limited funds. Most lawmakers prefer to spend public dollars in ways that communicate they’re tackling major issues for the voters who elected them.

Case in point: Despite receiving billions in surplus revenue, the governor and Legislature chose not to tackle the state’s facility problems in the record $115 billion state budget approved in June.

The neglect of government-owned facilities isn’t a new or partisan issue. Democrat and Republican lawmakers are equally responsible for the poor condition of many state-owned buildings.

The federal government has problems managing its buildings, too. In 2012, the U.S. Government Accountability Office estimated that 77,000 empty or underutilized buildings may cost taxpayers $1.7 billion a year. Although some steps were taken to address the problem, the GAO warned again this year that “the underlying challenges remain.”

Given its poor track record, the state ought to reconsider whether it should own buildings. Rather than build new buildings or try to repair existing ones, the state should lease the space it needs from private-sector firms who know how to take care of their property.

A government that does few things well should probably stick to doing a few things. And clearly taking care of buildings isn’t one of them.



George Runner represents more than nine million Californians as a taxpayer advocate and elected member of the State Board of Equalization where he serves as Vice Chair. For more information, visit boe.ca.gov/Runner.

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  1. I love this: “A government that does few things well should probably stick to doing a few things.” Though not probably, absolutely!!

  2. Bradley says:

    Runner’s attack on government efficiency is laughable; he is also part of the problem in government. I question whether Runner read the independent report. Or, as seems obvious to one who had read the report, whether Runner ‘piggy-backed’ a SacBee report critical of the same institution he is part of. Scam artist STATE senator Runner (not even a real Senator) focuses on the negative, proposing a solution that force taxpayers to lease office space from private corporations with regard to state occupied space. The state would also lose its real estate assets. The long-term cost is pricey when compared to improving the existing system. Improving the existing system is a sensible solution a smart leader, not void of creative ideas, would propose. But I would expect no less from a coward who exploits a victim’s name to further his political self-interests. Runner’s Jessica’s Law is a failure. And much like the claim in this article, this clown continues to juggle his circus act. Runner relies on your ignorance.

  3. Cathy says:

    Bravo Bradley, I agree with you.

    • Bradley says:

      Thanks, Cathy. Notwithstanding the strange vibe from scam-artist politicians George and Sharon Runner, each person could put more thought into whom one votes into office. With no experience relating to the BOE’s ‘mission’ — and degrees from third-tier colleges — George Runner is not qualified (as explained above: it shows). The BOE’s mission “[I]s to serve the public through fair, effective, and efficient tax administration.” Yet Runner is using the BOE’s website in matter unrelated to its mission. How does Jessica’s Law relate to the BOE? Not only does George Runner overtly exploit taxpayer-funded resources for self-interests; but he also has the nerve to use the BOE’s website to propagate his wife’s interests (Sharon Runner has nothing to do with the BOE). Imagine how the Runners use/exploit OUR resources behind closed doors!! Two links: (1) http://www.boe.ca.gov/runner/newsreleases/RunnersOpposeCourtDecision03022015.htm (2) http://www.boe.ca.gov/runner/newsreleases/Runner_RespondsCDCR032615.htm

  4. Cynthia says:

    Ok Brad. I feel that you might have some good points. But how do you stop Sharon and George Runner when they are so good at creating hysteria so that they can get re-elected? People buy their balony like a fat kid in an Italian deli. If you haven’t noticed, this area is filled with crazy conservatives that hide behind the Bible and don’t even live by its teachings. They act clean, but have skeletons in their closets/thoughts and deny them. I get the same creeper vibe from the Runners… like they are projecting their psycho problems with their sex laws they like to scare people with. This same right-wing bloc has given us crazy nuts like Tim Donnelly. If you look Tim up, Tim Donnelly has a criminal record himself… from Michigan (he lies about his larceny conviction) to California. He even violated his probation for firing a gun. Yet the Santa Cruz DA was too weak to prosecute him. How do politicians get away with lies, fear-mongering, and double-standards yet gain votes? What can we do to fire the Runners?

  5. cool hand luke says:

    HA HA failed former politician Tim Donnelly! Actually Tim Donnelly was protected by San Bernardino County D.A. Michael Ramos. Mr. Ramos said, the Tim Donnelly probation violation “… matter is closed, and no further comment will be made. I will not allow our office to be used for political purposes.” D.A. Michael Ramos is a weak man for protecting fellow buffoon Donnelly. Had Donnelly not been someone with connections in his meth head district, he would be sent to the slammer where Tiny Tim belongs. Let’s see Donnelly’s criminal record: Tim Donnelly convicted of larceny (he hides this). Tim Donnelly convicted of trying to take a loaded gun into an airplane (he makes excuses for this, just like he blames Mexicans for his failed business). Tim Donnelly violates probation. Did any of you mention that Tim Donnelly also violated campaign finance laws? Look it up yourself. I think Donnelly’s political career is dead, which is why he is now relegated to a dying radio show that airs to prejudicial idiots!

  6. Bradley says:

    Actually, Donnelly is now fighting the mandatory childhood vaccination bill. Tim Donnelly is too stupid (or politically selfish) to realize he is putting other unimmunized children at risk. Tim Donnelly’s policies also risk the reintegration of debilitating diseases such as polio. What science has done to destroy what was once feared and widespread: the idiot Tim Donnelly wants to bring back — all because the cause fits into his hysteria-themed political career. BTW, Donnelly is now enlisting the help of B-list celebrities too! No joke.

  7. Brittany M. says:

    Tim Donnelly has B-list actor Rob Schneider’s support on all matters. Rob Schneider, the failed actor, aligns with Tim Donnelly, the failed politician. “Birds of the same feather flock together.” Tim Donnelly tried to get Jim Carrey’s support but Donnelly failed. Jim Carrey does not oppose use of vaccines. Tim Donnelly is not a smart man. Tim Donnelly is a dummy who preys on ignorant bigotry. I hope the hysteria he has created will be denounced by our children. I hope our children will look back and wonder how the hell people supported Tim Donnelly. Tim Donnelly has been wrong on every issue, creating more harm than good help. In sum, Tim Donnelly is a loser.

  8. SHULTZ says:

    Googled Tim Donnelly and saw his “Hispanic Insurgency” speech in which the fear-monger compares Latinos to terrorists. I also saw articles of him demonizing college kids for non-violent, first-time crimes. Does this Loser (capital “L”) Tim Donnelly use the weak to build mob mentality? What’s striking is he tried to court the Latin vote for his failed bid to become Governor. Burned that bridge forever! Another thing: Tim Donnelly claims to protect people from government (i.e. his vaccine petition) but yet he oppresses the rights of Hispanic immigrants -and- young first-time/non-violent offender college kids caught up in the criminal justice system! Yet Tim Donnelly has an extensive criminal record himself [1. larceny; 2. loaded gun into airport security; 3. probation violation (counts when he was protected by DA Ramos); 4. campaign finance violation]? I feel sorry for the guy’s many kids, as Donnelly supports them as an intolerant hypocrite. Now what are George & Sharon Runner hiding? Just my thoughts . . .

  9. kay m. says:

    Brittany, Tim Donnelly is a loser who ran from his troubles in Michigan. He acts tough; but Donnelly cannot take responsibility for his past crimes and convictions (instead he has made excuses). Tim Donnelly left the University of Michigan after less than one year because he couldn’t ‘hack it.’ I have a coworker who went to school with Donnelly (Donnelly transferred to UC Irvine, which is much lower-ranked than Michigan — especially then). At UCI, my colleague — who also majored in Political Science — described Donnelly as not very bright, as according to him Donnelly barely passed tests in the classes they took together. My coworker, who is a very nice man (and ironically a Republican), could not stand Donnelly even then; he described him as “arrogant” and “obnoxious.” About 30 years later, it’s only gotten worse. As for the Runners, they might not be as inflammatory as Donnelly. But like Donnelly, the Runners exploit fear and ignorance to gain votes. The shame is that the average person buys it.

  10. Bradley says:

    Kay, George “Coward” Runner proudly proclaims the following on his Twitter: “Author of Amber Alert and Blue Alert & co-author of Jessica’s Law.” George and Sharon Runner exploit these laws to their advantage. Of course, the child-protection theme fits well into the narrative of their business. Has anyone mentioned the Runners own a private school for children? Perhaps these laws buy credibility so that enrollment at the Runner’s private school increase. Consequently, the Runners can increase tuition to reflect demand. I wonder if the Runners include Statistics as part of the curriculum. Because if they did, statistics would prove Jessica’s Law more harmful to society. As you said, people tend to buy whatever political B.S. is said. And the Runners are very good at B.S. We can do good by not re-electing the Runners; they are scam artists playing us for fools!

  11. Sam says:

    I went to Desert Christian School in the 1990s for 4th and 5th grade. George Runner and Sharon Runner were only concerned of collecting tuition. I went to a good public school before Desert Christian School and scored in the 90+ percentile on the SAT 9. Desert Christian School was exempt from standardized tests. While at Desert Christian School, I was given near perfect grades. When I left Desert Christian School, I no longer scored high on the SAT 9. I felt I lost years of learning. Not until 7th grade did I start scoring well again. Desert Christian School pushes a sick god over science. Evolution and sex are sins in the Runner’s school. Teachers were not subject qualified. They even had the janitor teaching math! Check out the Yelp reviews (especially the hidden ones). The negative reviews for Desert Christian Schools are spot on! The Runners are shaming kids into becoming emotionally troubled adults.. perhaps one day perversely being subject to Jessica’s Law. If there is a God, the Runners will get KARMA.

  12. lynn says:

    maybe this couple got so much riding on the laws they wrote? if they admit the laws they wrote are failed then they admit that they are failures and who would vote for failed politicians except family & friends of theirs? they (sharon & george) have too much riding on their bad laws. their bad laws define their careers so their vested interest is to paint them as good. what annoys me is that george runner writes in spanish on twitter to appeal to mexicans & hispanics. yet he is not looking out for hispanics. no republican does. republicans just pander to hispanics without real concern. they just want the vote! that’s why i think george and sharon will one day no longer be politicians: they are fakers who pretend to like hispanics by writing spanish on twitter when they barely speak any! runners = fakers

  13. Bradley says:

    After reading Sam’s comment, I researched/read Yelp.com reviews of Desert Christian School (including the many ‘hidden’ reviews). I am appalled to the negative reviews. One Yelp reviewer said Desert Christian Schools should be sued for “malpractice.” Another review echoed Sam’s claim that a janitor taught math. I am guessing George Runner and Sharon Runner’s school figured they can save money by delegating education to the janitor? Another Yelp review said that he/she was sent into collections for unpaid tuition! Seems like George Runner and Sharon Runner care more of tuition income than families and children (though they campaign otherwise). These politicians are first-degree hypocrites and scam artists. They are self-serving, selfish people who are not honest. George Runner and Sharon Runner mislead, as we’ve seen from this article and its comments. Only as ONE can we replace these clowns who write laws heavy on emotion, void of evidence supporting efficacy. The more we dig, the more we don’t like.

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