To: The President of the United States
From: A concerned citizen
Date: March 21, 2017
Please excuse the personal tone of this memo, but it
seems appropriate because we have so much in common. Well, maybe not that
much, but at least one thing: We both want to build a wall.
And I'm here to tell you that, like health care, it's a lot
more complicated than you might think.
While your wall will span 1900 miles along our southern
border and stand approximately 30 feet high, my wall will span 35 feet
near my driveway and stand 7 feet high. Your wall will keep out illegal
immigrants who can't afford to buy a shovel or a 32 foot extension ladder
at Home Depot, and my wall will keep out mud.
My wall is a retaining wall to hold back a hillside, but a
wall is a wall. And I've been trying to get permission from the
appropriate government agencies in Marin County for almost a year to build
my wall, and I'm still waiting. I don't want to scare you (well, maybe a
little) but I want you to know my story so you'll be prepared.
First of all, you need to think about cost. You're estimating
about $15 billion for 1300 miles of wall (600 miles of fencing already
exist along the 1900 mile border). My wall is going to cost $25,000. If
you multiply my 35 feet by 196,300 to give you 1300 miles and then
multiply my 7 feet of height by 4 to give you close to a 30 foot height,
you get $19,630,000,000. So your estimate is close.
But I also got a bid for $70,000 for the same project, so I'm
here to tell you to watch out. Some American capitalist businesses will
take you to the cleaners when they see an opportunity, and a 1300 mile
wall is screaming opportunity. Get lots of bids, and maybe someone will
take pity on the American taxpayers who will be paying for it. Or not.
Then there's the permits. You've set a timeline of
approximately two years to complete the construction of the wall. That's
reasonable, which will mean the wall could be complete by 2025, because if
my experience is an example, it will take you about 6 years to get permits
and begin construction.
I hired a civil engineer and submitted my plans for our
simple little wall to the Marin County Planning Department in May of 2016.
I paid the permit fee and expected to start and finish construction before
the rains came. In August, I got a notice that a Design Review was
required and I needed to pay an additional $1560 in fees.
A DESIGN REVIEW FOR A WALL! Sorry if I sound like I'm
shouting, but I want you to know what you're getting into. Apparently, my
wall was over 4 feet tall, and that triggers Design Review. Our hearing is
coming up soon, and my civil engineer has dressed up our wall as best he
can. We can only hope it stands up to the scrutiny.
I'm not sure how many counties your wall goes through, but
you've got your work cut out for you. And while there was no opposition
from my neighbors for my wall, you've got a majority of Americans strongly
opposed to your wall, including me, let alone all the landowners who will
be forced to sell their property. I can only imagine the Design Review
meeting for your wall.
Maybe you can pull some strings and get it done faster than
me. I know you've built a few things in your life, some of which are still
operating, so you probably have a good idea of how to work the system.
Maybe you can get it done by 2024.
As for me, the rains came and went this winter and my
hillside didn't come sliding down into my house. The crumbling little 3
1/2 foot wall (did I mention I'm only REPLACING an existing wall?) held
the mud back for yet another year.
I'm trying to see the bright side of the delays in getting
permits to build my new wall. And this is something else we have in
common. It gives me time to convince my neighbors to pay for my wall. It
sure sounds good, but just like you and Mexico, it hasn't gone well.
Anyway, I just wanted you to know what you're getting
into. It's never too late to surrender. Please.