President Obama visits drought-parched California. Will his visit help shed spotlight on California's growing problem or simply be another politically-calculated event in his legacy?
All politics is about the spin, so to join the fray I’d have to say that President Obama’s visit to drought-parched California did shine a national spotlight upon the state’s epic drought conditions. This is a good thing.
How long that light shines, what happens while it illuminates the issues here, and the decisions made as a result are separate issues.
While the President lectured California about climate change, one of the more ridiculous statements made by Obama during his brief stop in western Merced County had to do with the call for cross-party action to get things done when it comes to water here in California.
“This cannot be a partisan endeavor,” the President said in his speech while only Democrat members of his administration and Democrat members of Congress stood nearby. Rep. Jim Costa of Hanford and both U.S. Senators from California traveled with the President on Air Force One.
If this is all about bipartisan support and working together, where were Representatives Devin Nunes, Kevin McCarthy and David Valadao, whose districts cover the south half of the San Joaquin Valley, and who already offered ideas in the form of House Bills and amendments to the Farm Bill?
The answer to that question rests in the biting comments made by California Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. during his five-minute visit to the World Ag Expo in Tulare. Brown became defensive when asked by the media about water issues and the drought. He seemed like he didn’t want to talk about the drought.
Without naming names, he implied that legislation carried by Valadao to address immediate water needs, and a failed attempt by Nunes and others to get emergency language in the Farm Bill to reduce regulatory red-tape in order to help move water around California, was “divisive” and “unhelpful.”
The latest political theater arguably started with a thousand-strong march on Sacramento earlier this year by the Latino Water Coalition. That was followed up a few weeks later by the Valadao, Nunes, McCarthy press event that featured House Speaker John Boehner in a water-starved field near Bakersfield.
So now, legislation has apparently been proposed by Sen. Diane Feinstein of California to address the situation because, well, the GOP plan is divisive and unhelpful, even though it arguably had language to address immediate water needs and passed rather quickly in the House of Representatives.
One large problem with California water law, according to retired Federal Judge Oliver Wanger is the Endangered Species Act and how it places wildlife on equal footing with human beings when it comes to case law and federal precedent. Wanger said as much at the recent water forum during the World Ag Expo in Tulare.
While politicians clamor for their moment in the spotlight and trade insults like fifth-grade school boys rather than debate the issues like the adults they’re supposed to be, California residents face a very real and looming catastrophe because their elected leaders are more concerned about political points than the right thing for the citizens they serve. I’ll address that and other comments by the President in future blogs. For instance, stay tuned to what Wanger and others said at the water forum in Tulare, and the question by an audience member that nearly brought a water district manager out of his seat in response.
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