Sunday, May 12, 2013

Water legislation according to the dodo principle: 'Every legislator has won, and all must have prizes'

Even as California voters and taxpayers are staring down the barrel of a controversial $11 billion water bond scheduled to appear on the 2014 ballot, legislators gathered May 10 to discuss the possibility of pushing for yet another water bond.

State Senator Fran Pavley led a Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee hearing on the campus of Pepperdine University to discuss what the Malibu Times called "a number of regional water solutions and a possible statewide water bond."

We have to ask what the senator and other legislators are thinking in trying to get the public to support even more borrowing while they've kept slapping away the hand of the public on the $11 billion bond. (The legislature has postponed putting the bond before the people a number of times since 2009.)

What does the public get for its money with these bonds? That perhaps is the wrong question. The better question is what legislators get for their votes in support of them. 

In 2009, the Los Angeles Times' Patrick McGreevy reported that of the $11 billion in borrowing for that bond, "more than $1 billion of the money is earmarked for projects that have little or nothing to do with quenching the state's thirst.

"The bond proposal includes funding for bike paths, museums, visitor centers, tree planting, economic development and the purchase of property from land speculators and oil companies -- all in the districts of lawmakers whose key votes helped it pass the Legislature."

One legislator who voted against the bond said that "so many pet projects were put in that it has just created a Christmas tree out of this bond, and most of them don't produce one drop of water."

What those pet projects sometimes do is threaten or destroy the very resources the public is told will be protected through these bonds.

It's water bond money that the RMC and the Discovery Center Authority have been gulping down in their effort to build their nature-destroying "Discovery Center" in the Whittier Narrows Natural Area.

It was water bond money that State Parks used to demolish Malibu Lagoon and completely remake it--nature as man intended.

In the end it seems that the point isn't good governance, it's chalking up a legislative win.  And to do that it takes the wisdom of the dodo in Alice in Wonderland. Legislators must be convinced that "everybody has won, and all must have prizes."

That our state, its resources and its people might all come out losers seems to be beside the point.

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