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Wednesday, May 25, 2005 | Preview of City Hall economics

Another lesson comes this week from Orange County, which is beginning to redeem bonds it issued a decade ago to work its way out of America’s largest municipal bankruptcy. After losing 1.6 billion in bad investments, Orange County sought to recoup by selling $1 billion in bonds. About $763 million is still outstanding. Orange County plans to refinance the remaining bonds with shorter-maturity bonds to reduce interest costs.

In another bond offering, the city of San Diego and Corky McMillin propose a $16 million issue of private-placement bonds for Liberty Station development at the old NTC site. Poor city credit prohibits normal bond issuance.

Void Filling

If you have not yet adopted a polyethylene air pillow as playmate, be warned that it becomes impossible to dispose of these things. Barring a pin prick, they are inflatable toys. You are not likely to toss them into your trash; they are too bulky. Yet the act of stabbing them with anything sharp seems not only deflating, but disheartening.

As home offices and computer commerce proliferate, so does the air pillow trade. The bizarre metal erection that begins to appear in offices now supports three rolls of transparent air pillows looking far too much like rolls of toilet paper. At the top is the dispenser, which inflates, seals and spits out air pillows on call. Fortunately, this device is not yet considered a necessity for home offices.

As it does to all questions involving all information, Google simply yawns and sends us along to merchants like MrBoxOnline.com for insider information on the emergence of the pillow packing industry.

But I came to wish I hadn’t inquired. The industry refers to its product as ideal for “void-filling.”

The phrase itself flicks a dreary light on the commerce that surrounds our lives. I wonder how much the instinct of void-filling leads us to switch on television or play golf, to seek out an Indian casino or go to church. I suppose it is reasonable for us to spend time filling voids, but others seem to organize a more positive and creative approach to their hours on earth. For me, the phrase suggests a dividing line and a daily challenge.

– NEIL MORGAN, Voice Senior Editor

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