You know because this isn’t important at all. Â They can’t find the $80 million to fund a program that could save billions and thousands of lives.
The delay here is, in one sense, testimony to human nature. It has been 19 years since the last significant quake rolled through California â€” the magnitude 6.7 earthquake in Northridge in a corner of the San Fernando Valley in 1994 â€” and memories of its damage and psychological trauma (some people moved away) have softened with the passage of time.
â€œWe are in a long period of what I call seismic peace in California,â€ said Thomas H. Heaton, the director of the Earthquake Engineering Research Laboratory at Caltech. â€œBut you can go for a long period when things are calm, and then instantly things are transformed into chaos. When you are in peacetime, itâ€™s hard to get peopleâ€™s attention and remind them what a big problem it is.â€
Alex Padilla, a Democratic state senator who studied mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is sponsoring the earthquake alert bill, said the central hurdle was finding a source for the money that university scientists and their partners at the United States Geological Survey say is needed to finish the project. California has been struggling with a financial retrenchment, the federal government is cutting back spending, and private industry is wary of putting so much money into what many people argue is a public responsibility.
â€œI havenâ€™t come across anybody who thinks we shouldnâ€™t do it,â€ Mr. Padilla said. â€œThe only question I get is â€˜Where is the money going to come from?â€™â€
â€œI donâ€™t think itâ€™s a huge amount of money, particularly when compared to the billions of dollars in damage that we associate with every major earthquake,â€ Mr. Padilla said, adding, â€œI really donâ€™t think any state official wants to answer the question â€˜Why didnâ€™t we?â€™ after the Big One hits and we havenâ€™t deployed the system.â€