Political Potpourri: Parks, Pistols, Puppies & Pot
Puppy vs. pistol: The famous January 1973 cover of National Lampoon magazine featured a disembodied hand holding a revolver to the head of a nervous looking black-and-white mutt with the headline: “If You Don’t Buy This Magazine, We’ll Kill This Dog.”
The bad-taste-costs-no-more image came to mind in reflecting on Gov. Schwarzmuscle’s blackmail proposal to tie $140 million worth of funding for the California State Parks system to passage of his pet project authorizing a lease for drilling in state waters off the coast of Santa Barbara.
The $140 million is the General Fund portion of the state parks budget, about one-third of the $431 million total, with the rest financed by sources like state parks fees and highway vehicle funds, according to the Department of Finance. Not surprisingly, Arnold’s take-it-or-eat it plan, his third bid to gain approval for the twice-defeated Tranquillon Ridge project on behalf of the Houston-based PXP oil company, was sharply dissed by many environmental groups among the 100 that oppose the offshore deal, which include everyone from the American Cetacean Society to Yosemite Area Audubon.
“Pegging the fiscal future of the state park system to offshore oil drilling sets up an unacceptable tradeoff between coastal protection and park preservation,” said a to-the-point statement from the California State Parks Foundation. Sez Elizabeth Goldstein, president of the group:
Tying the funding needs of our state parks to proceeds from the Tranquillon Ridge deal is once again playing politics with our state park system. The threat of park closures over the last two years has shown that long-term, stable funding is needed for our state park system, not these desperate yearly budget attempts to give political cover, instead of true solutions. Californians are frustrated with their state park system being held hostage in the budget process…
In last week’s report on Conan’s new bid to win an official blessing for T-Ridge, Calbuzz said it wouldn’t be “changing many minds.” Now that it’s been out there a couple days, it feels more like his shoot-the-dog play will actually prove counter-productive, by making his push for a special deal for PXP more transparent than ever.
PS: Since the Sinclair Paint decision is Calbuzz bread and butter, we’d be remiss in failing to note that the Legislature could just accept Schwarzmuscle’s$140 million cut and raise park fees by the same amount — by majority vote. Take THAT Cal Forward!
Pot of Gold: With a new initiative to legalize marijuana heading for the ballot, count gimlet-eyed economist Bill Watkins among those who feel it would be a big boon to the state – both in revenue and big-time cuts in costs.
“Prohibition never works,” Watkins, executive director of the Center for Economic Research and Forecasting in Thousand Oaks, said in an email.
Led by Oakland’s Oaksterdam University, initiative backers have already gathered about 700,000 signatures, at a cost of a reported $1 million, and say they expect to have a professionally-run, $10 million campaign for a measure on the November ballot. The initiative measure, according to an all-you-need-to-know piece by the indefatigable Timm Herdt,
…is not a pot-lover’s pipe dream, but rather a political document designed to win votes: It sets the legal age at 21, enhances criminal penalties for sales to minors, prohibits the use of marijuana in public places and in the presence of children, gives every city the right to decide whether to allow marijuana sales, and emphasizes the ability of local and state governments to regulate and tax all sales.
Watkins and his posse at Cal Lutheran University, in their most recent forecast, offered a few thoughts on the subject from an economic theory perspective, in a little essay headlined “Marijuana, a Little Tongue-in-Cheek”:
The costs of prohibition are well known. They include law enforcement, corruption, increased crime, more prisons, lost taxes and the like…
What we need to do is completely legalize and regulate the production and sale of marijuana. Based on newspaper reports of drug raids, the stuff grows like a weed in California. Legalizing it and regulating exactly the way we regulate tobacco and alcohol production and sale would reduce its availability to kids, decrease crime, reduce prison and law-enforcement costs, increase agricultural production and profits, and generate large revenues for the state.
Imagine fields of cannabis in our Central Valley. It’s easy if you try.
Calbuzz sez Amen. That’s change we can believe in.
Sacrificing California’s world famous state parks system at the feet of new offshore oil drilling, an idea only a backroom wheeler dealer like Susan Kennedy could dream up, and only a desperado like Arnie would publicly embrace….. Good luck swimming w/ that anvil around your neck Govinator.
Before someone tries to point to the very few environmental groups who think PXP is a good idea, don’t forget there are over 100 others who see the PXP confidential deal for what it is-the first new offshore oil drilling in California Sanctuary Act waters in over 40 years. Embracing PXP has opened the door to other offshore oil drilling schemes, a-la Republican Chuck DeVore from Orange County who has a legislative measure to open the entire CA coast to black gold. Chuck wants to see drilling from on shore and offshore. His idea would have melted like a popsicle on a hot summer day in Fresno if not for the PXP deal.
Using PXP’s T-Ridge project (beginning the first new offshore oil drilling in California’s territorial waters in 40 years) to fund our treasured State Parks the Governor de-funded in the same plan is short-sighted political gimmickry and budgetary extortion in his Oil-for-Parks proposal in his budget plan. Our “Green Governor” is attempting to sacrifice both our coastal resources and our state parklands in one cosmetized formula to reduce budget deficits. Offshore oil spills would destroy our world-class tourism and fishing industries and result in major new budget deficits for clean up and restoration. 105 groups across California have joined to defeat this proposal. For five years running Schwarzenegger has deeply cut funding for state parks leaving most of our 278 units on life support with many closing. These are public assets belonging in sovereign trust to the people of California and should be prized with permanent funding that stabilizes and saves all of them for future generations. Our Governor jetted all the way to Copenhagen to frame himself as “Governor Global Warming Solutions” man-of-the-hour and comes home to propose exttracting more fossil fuels from our sea beds to blow into our threatened atmosphere, raising global temperatures and further acidifying world oceans directly imperiling the marine food web chain. Carbon Age energy solutions are not the answer for California, our nation or the world. Business-as-usual (personal and collective) will spell doom for planet Earth and we must get off all fossil fuels and use leadership and ingenuity within California to be a world leader in renewable energy.
Schwarzenegger has again shown his true colors and offered up a lose-lose deal- lose the coast or lose our parks. Since he came to office when he first proposed selling off our parklands he has been gunning to allow developers to get their hands on our parks. Since he came to office he has said one thing (he supports protecting the environment) and done another (supporting weakening our environmental protection) -from LNG, to the Toll Road, to his various appointments to commissions and boards, to CEQA exemptions, you name it. Now it is clear, he believes our coast is for sale to the highest bidder.
What kind of world does our fair Guvernator want to live in? Oil-soaked beaches, panoramic views of oil derrick-sunsets, Hummers zipping up and down the crumbling freeways, and the climate going haywire. Governor Schwarzenegger’s cynical move to hold state parks funding hostage to an overthrow (or shifted balance of) the power of the State Lands Commission to open Tranquillon Ridge (and later the entire CA coast) to offshore drilling is wrong-headed on many fronts. Balancing the budget is a revenue-based solution, not to be done at the expense of our coasts and parks.
First, we need to levy fair share fees on ongoing oil extraction in our state — Assemblyman Pedro Nava’s Oil Severance Tax, that would fund the systems that keep the trains running on time, kids having books to read, keeping college students away from loan-sharks, and protecting our neighborhoods from crime and disaster. Texas, Florida, and Alaska levy this fee in exchange for dealing with the significant external costs of public resource extraction and their oil industry seems to operate just fine. Without government, without governmental revenue, our society will become a Third World disaster.
Second, we need to protect our coasts from destructive Carbon Age overtures, feeding our addiction to oil, polluting the skies, and fouling our climate. Schwarzenegger’s plan would bring sunbathers, surfers, luxury hotels, sunset diners, fragile wetland and tidal habitats, and already-stressed fisheries within three miles of oil spills, blowouts, toxic drilling muds, pipelines, erosion, and rig air pollution. Ask residents of the Kimberley Coast of West Australia what they think about their three-month-long high-technology-blowout last year. Political and financial capital must be invested in renewable alternatives now to protect our climate and sustainability, as well as achieving that theoretical “energy independence.”
Say no to Mr. Schwarzenegger’s throwing our parks and coasts into the hands of Big Oil!
Wild Heritage Planners