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How Do Bonds Get Turned Into Public Funds?

Wally Gobetz
Flickr / Creative Commons
San Francisco City Hall


Public infrastructure – parks, libraries, roads, and sidewalks – surrounds us. But have you ever wondered how any of it actually came into being? A lot needs to happen to create a park – from coming up with the idea in the first place, to environmental reviews, construction, and of course, getting the money to pay for it. In San Francisco, funding for these projects needs to be approved by voters, as was the case with 2012’s Proposition B, which gave the city permission to borrow $195 million to renovate parks, including Golden Gate Park


But when voters approve these big spending projects, the money doesn’t just show up the next day. The mayor doesn’t walk down to the nearest bank and ask for a loan. Instead, we make the banks come to us, by holding an online auction. Hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake in these auctions, which can go down to the wire.

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This story first aired in July 2015.