Many proposals are on the table to resolve the continuing budget crisis in California. Notices have been sent to Med-Cal recipients that their benefits will be cut off in 30 days. The elderly and disabled are worried about whether they will losing their housing. 220 of our state parks may be closed, including Point Lobos, Pheiffer State Park, JP Burns, the Lighthouse, and many more. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. We all want services, schools, parks, prisons, etc. But no one wants to pay for them.
For Big Sur, this could spell disaster, increasing the fiscal losses suffered as a result of the Basin and Chalk fires, the mudslides, and closures, to a level from which some will not be able to recover. We are mobilizing, and many are going to Sacramento tomorrow to testify about the impacts the closures would have on this community.
“A parks spokesman calls the plan “a worst-case scenario,” and says officials will try to keep as many parks open as possible. If adopted, the plan would mean layoffs for at least 2,000 park rangers, lifeguards and other workers.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s budget calls for cutting $70 million in parks spending through June 2010. About $143.4 million more would be saved in following fiscal year by keeping the parks closed.”
The parks closures is simply one proposal. There are many other cuts being proposed also. But what about our prison population? It is the largest fiscal drain California faces.
We have 177,000 inmates we are all supporting, at a minimum of $25K a year — each. That’s $4,445,000,000 a year. Every year. And every year the numbers increase, both the number of inmates, and the cost of supporting them. Our “lock-em-up-and-throw-away-the-key” policy is costing us dearly. One of my colleagues proposed a great retirement plan, for those with no other. Of course, it was tongue-in-cheek, but the prison system is fast becoming the one place where housing, food, clothing, medical and dental can be obtained for no cost to the recipient.
“Three-strikes and you are out” was ill-conceived. Voters jumped on the band-wagon without regard to the consequences of their actions. We have done that over and over. This is only one example, the one with which I have the most familiarity. We have to learn to look beyond the immediate and see the future of the actions we so cavalierly take. WE, as voters, must start thinking, rather than reacting. We need innovative ideas, if we are to survive this melt-down.
Along those lines, what if the Big Sur community were to mobilize our vast creative resources and come up with solutions, such as managing our own state parks? Run them ourselves. Perhaps lease them from the state and set up a mechanism whereby they become self-sustaining? Let’s start thinking of ways WE can implement a plan to keep them open, without dependency on a completely dysfunctional governmental agency like the state.