The Price We Pay
Last week, many of us paid estimated taxes. In California, this is particularly painful since our state has the highest tax rates in the nation. California also has the strictest environmental regulations. Both factors are often cited as reasons by businesses choosing to locate elsewhere.
Recent avoidable disasters in West Virginia and Texas should remind us, however, of the value high taxes and strict regulations provide to the larger society. Unlike West Virginia, California does not permit unlined above-ground chemical tanks to be located up-gradient to major municipal water supplies or to go uninspected for decades. Nor do we have fertilizer manufacturers located next to senior housing as we witnessed in Texas.
California has gone a long way to significantly improving environmental protection when it comes to toxic material handling and disposal or citing of hazardous businesses. And, though there may be too many levels of bureaucracy, our laws are enforced, leading to greater compliance and avoidance of catastrophe.
California has its issues. In most places, public transportation is non-existent, resulting in a car-centric society with congestion and air pollution. We also lack a comprehensive water management plan that balances agricultural production against the growing demands of urban areas. And, as the housing boom starts again, local jurisdictions will inevitably allow building in locations prone to fire and flooding.
These problems are not simple to solve; however, pervasive and persistent “silo” attitudes and bureaucratic thinking do not bode well for our future. Governor Brown needs to appoint non-partisan blue ribbon commissions to develop blueprints for our future, and rather than shelved, the recommendations of such committees need to be implemented regardless of politics. Otherwise, future generations will bear the health and environmental consequences of today’s short-sighted planning; and though those consequences may not appear as spectacular as what we saw in Texas and West Virginia, they can be equally deadly if ignored.
-- Posted January 20, 2014