March 15, 2012

California must be the most geographically diverse state in the Union. From Mount Shasta to Death Valley, from Big Sur to Yosemite, we have everything. If you”€™re homesick for Kansas, we can even offer the Central Valley.

But all of this treasure obscures a sad reality: We have perhaps the country’s worst leadership and screwiest citizenry. This was brought into the fore with the recent uproar over a hunting trip taken by Fish and Game Commission Chairman Dan Richards. While on a hunting trip to Idaho, Richards was asked to bag a mountain lion, and he did so with gusto. The problem is that while such hunting is legal in Idaho, California outlawed it in 1972. Richards has refused to resign, despite the insistence that he do so by the moral paragon known as Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom and 40 Democratic Assemblymen”€”a bid later unceremoniously dropped.

“€œWe have perhaps the country’s worst leadership and screwiest citizenry.”€

I find their moral outrage disturbing”€”especially since California’s environment faces a direct threat that is within their purview: the impending closure of 70 state parks. This is outrageous on several levels. One is purely practical”€”the parks department is one of the very few branches of state government that turns a profit, one that the Assembly regularly loots. Why aren”€™t Newsom and the gang waxing indignant over this?

There is so much in California’s bureaucracy that could be trimmed without the damage to California’s revenues and heritage these closures would cause. The California Commission on the Status of Women comes to mind (even our undead governor sees the need to cut it), as well as the California Office of Problem Gambling.

But two-thirds of California’s revenues apparently pay state workers’ salaries, benefits, and pensions. That seems exorbitant. Until the issue can be scrutinized without public-service unions dominating the proceedings, little can be done, although ever louder voices are murmuring.


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