Rant on the 2011 Closure of California State Parks

I have an entire blog about the upcoming, er, proposed, closure of selected California State Parks, but it is out of context without a rant about the cynicism, demagoguery, and manipulation of the members of the California State Legislature.

We have, after all, been at this point before. In 2009, our then-governor vowed to close all the state parks: summer beaches, beloved camping grounds, famous wildlife observation areas, all. I took it seriously enough to make sure I used up by cache of visitor passes (given with an annual membership in the California State Parks Association.) But more seasoned nature lovers pointed out that the plan was astoundingly stupid. You can’t keep Californians off of their beaches, so now you suddenly want to stop collecting the $7 parking fee you get from each visitor every day? And they’d shut down Big Basin, which is has solidly booked camping spots, in favor of frosty Jebediah Smith, which sees only hardy souls once in a while. Riiiiight. They didn’t close the parks, because it was stupid to do so; they did push an $18-per-car license registration tax, which failed because we’re already freakin’ taxed too much.

I do not question the fact that my state is dead broke, with no hope of ever collecting all the revenue it needs to fund its many services, like public schools (including the public universities), Cal-Trans, Medi-Cal, state parks, the California Highway Patrol (CHiPs), the DMV, the EDD, and many little offshoots from them and other agencies that fund, feed, and dictate what the residents here may or may not do. But invariably, when the time comes when the brutal and necessary funding cuts must be made, the very first victim is the middle class taxpayer. God forbid our assemblypersons take a pay cut, or that the Bureau of Transgendered Activist Benefits should disappear. The public schools are a huge portion of the budget pie, and politicians love hearing the shriek of already tax-burdened parents as the pink slips are handed out to teachers, and the districts stuff ever more children into each class. Our park system (which includes most of the beaches) is also well loved, so the greedy demogogues find it easy to threaten their closure, counting on the fact that we’ll squeal with agony and hand over even more gobs of money.

Well, I am sick and tired of the show. If the politicians were honest, which as a rule we know they are not, their appeals would feature Gladys the DMV clerk.

“For only $12 a day*, you can save the job of this beloved public servant! And your next visit to the DMV may be as much as 5 minutes shorter! (*Average; actual cost may vary according to reported income; members of select constituencies may be exempted.)”

Well, I’m sick and tired of this annual show. Go ahead and close the state parks. Go ahead, do it already! We all know it’s just a game of chicken. Were the parks to actually close, the end savings will be nill, or even less than it. Either the state will have to continue maintaining the land without the offset of visitor entrance costs, or squatters and chaos will take over, making a mess that will cost more to clean up than it ever would have to prevent. Would the state dare sell off the land, or let a concessionaire run it? Those are options a private owner would already have brought up, but which is barely murmured, the assumption being we’ll blink first and acquiesce to another round of pocket picking.

Just as I absolved the state from educating my children by educating them myself, I can figure out how to have a great time outside without state parks. Close down the beaches, and we’ll spend the summer at Raging Waters or poolside. Close down the campgrounds, and I’ll go sleep under the stars at a friend’s ranch in Stanislaus County. Close down the hiking trails and I’ll just explore the county parks instead.

As it is, with 10% sales tax, a property tax bill which is doubled with all the parcel tax riders that have been voted on to it, and the highest state income tax rate in the United States, California residents are already better than anyone else at having their income redistributed for them to the less well off. No mas. So if the parks are really going to close down, I’d rather they actually did so rather than have some political bozo jabber on about it while having his hand out in eager anticipation of more money with which to “save” him from that unpleasant task, which hurts him none.

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