The cuckoos are coming! Environmentalist activists are mobilizing with an aim to wrest billions of dollars away from their intended use – the California roads and infrastructure that voters approved in November 2006.

Why the cuckoo analogy? The cuckoo bird is known as nature's premier con man. The bird lays its egg among several others in the nest of another variety of bird. The cuckoo hatches first, and with its first breath mimics the call of those that built the nest. Then it destroys the other eggs, growing up with parents who never figure out why their recently hatched young one is often six times bigger than they are.

Much like the cuckoos, officials at some of California's more notorious environmentalist organizations are trying to use bait-and-switch tactics to get their hands on the new $42 billion nest egg.

Michael Pattinson Leaders at the Sierra Club, the Planning and Conservation League, and other so-called environmental groups did not support most of the recent transportation initiatives voted by California's electorate. They opted to wait until the bond measures passed and then "make sure as much money as possible goes to transit and congestion relief rather than new road construction," said Capitol Weekly, a magazine of California government and politics, summing up the attitude of Sierra Club legislative director Bill Allayaud.

What that could mean is that the bond allocations may never reach where they are needed most: New roads and better water systems. Rather, if these groups succeed, more money will flow toward projects such as bike paths, bus stops, and wetlands. Those interests want the public at large to believe this environmental pork barrel is really "infrastructure" or something they call "smart growth." It is nothing of the kind, merely a classic cuckoo maneuver.

We've seen this game before all over California. Major road and water infrastructure projects have been delayed, and subsequently, they became far more expensive because of a bogus raft of extras that environmentalists added to those spending measures.

The same phenomenon occurred with the recent sales tax increases for better infrastructure in San Diego and a number of other counties throughout the state. Environmentalists have become adept at siphoning off billions of dollars intended for better roads and diverting those funds into less essential frills such as bike trails.

Voters know our roads are overcrowded and underfunded to an almost pathetic degree. We see it every day in our travels to and from work. We hardly need to read the studies that confirm California has the worst traffic congestion in the country. They also see our water and sewer infrastructure crumbling on local news shows that feature video with the most recent sewage spill or sinkhole collapse.

Today, more and more people know the reason for our languishing infrastructure: It's the cuckoos.

That is why California voters supported the recent infrastructure initiatives by such a strong majority–initiatives that said nothing about wetlands and bike trails and bus stops.

The cuckoos could have proposed their own initiative. If their agenda is so important, why do they avoid simply asking the voters of California to back their initiatives with the money required?

But they did not because cuckoos are users, not builders. They aren't dumb either. They know no one would believe that stopping new roads will really improve traffic. This is what their argument would be.

Nor would they call attention to the fact that delaying and diverting money to protect levees will make California waterways more secure. Nor will they admit that buses will never remove even a fraction of traffic from our highways. Because they won't.

Instead, the cuckoo's tactic is to wait until no one is watching. They infiltrate our nest, lay their egg, and imitate the call of people pleading for better road systems and improved water systems. All the while, they plan to replace what California needs with what they want to see happen.

Beware the cuckoo!

–Michael Pattinson is president and CEO of Barrat American Homes in Carlsbad, Calif.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Los Angeles, CA.