Kamala Harris and the Bridge to No Accountability
As the world knows, former vice president Joe Biden has selected California Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate for 2020. To gain insight on her possible contributions as vice president, dial back to 2010 when the former San Francisco district attorney ran for state attorney general. The Sacramento Bee endorsed Republican Steve Cooley over Harris. She won by less than one percentage point, but as the Bee saw it, “she could be more aggressive on public corruption cases, though her handlers might worry that would cause friction with fellow Democratic politicians.”
One of California’s biggest public corruption cases involved the new span of the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge, ten years late, $5 billion over budget, and riddled with safety issues. In early 2014, the massive project became the subject of hearings under then-state Senator Mark DeSaulnier, a Concord Democrat.
Witnesses testified that Caltrans compromised public safety by ignoring problems with welds, bolts and rods. Caltrans also outsourced work to China, where workers produced cracked welds. Caltrans bridge engineer Douglas Coe noted that every one of the 750 panels had to be repaired. The most serious charge, according to chairman DeSaulnier, was “a deliberate and willful attempt to obfuscate what is happening to the public,” and as the senator lamented, “there’s never been anyone in the management of the bridge who has been held accountable,”
Caltrans geologist Michael Moore testified that safety problems were kept secret, ignored and covered up. Moore called for a “criminal investigation,” but none took place. DeSaulnier sent a report on the bridge to Attorney General Kamala Harris, who launched no criminal investigation. So the Bee had a point when it said that Harris “could be more aggressive on public corruption.”
As this column regularly notes, public corruption in Washington, D.C., is truly fathomless, and seldom is anyone held accountable. Should the Biden-Harris ticket win, the vice president will face her biggest challenge.