Saturday, October 17, 2009

Structural Reforms Needed in Resource Management and Planning

I propose structural reforms in regards to resource planning and management in regions throughout California. What once were administrative responsibilities such as planning have long since evolved into political decisions with influences outside of the existing institutions. If the issue is land-use or water planning, the decision-making bodies need to include stakeholders, the science and the environment.

Municipalities are geo-political bodies and as such apportion representation based on the location of one's residence or business. Political parties currently define particular agendas for candidates and from there the decisions that are made upon election. What is lacking is the fact that Republican farmers and Republican CEOs in the same district really have nothing in common with each other when it comes to land use or water planning. Likewise, Democratic residents of a high rise have nothing in common with Democratic professors as to priorities in their lives in regards to water allocations.

Structural reform is the minimum needed to engage users of water and planning. High tech corporations have more political influence in local municipal decisions because their "buy-in" is based on their buying of local officials. It is not based on any reasonable apportionment based on their impact on aquifers or surface flows and the future consequences of such actions on the regional sustainability. Economic development establishes itself as a disproportional priority for geo-political representatives. The political influence of high tech corporations are not reflective of the array of people in the region prior to their locating in a region. Once built, corporate employers are disproportional in their influence because they become "too large to fail" to local officials.

Currently, expensive diversions drain energy and water in California. They increase environmental damage and cost ratepayers and taxpayers billions of dollars. The decisions remain focused in Sacramento and not in the regions impacted. The issue is not to cut-off the water and electricity from Los Angeles or San Francisco. The issue is to establish decision-making processes that can connect accountability for those decisions directly to those making them. Water and electricity are basic services and are too important to be left to others playing politics. People need to grasp the real costs of decisions and need to have the ability to construct the solutions that are based on their priorities, needs and concerns. There are no "free-rides" left for anyone in this state.

Californians have endured the Enron energy heist and the Owens Valley water theft. There is no change in sight, as indicated through the recent plan for diversion of water to the Central Valley. Some localities are using new methods for treating waste water to increase water supplies. Others are developing new sources for electricity. Much more needs to be done. But, absent governmental entities that represent distinct interests in the decisions, outside money will continue to dominate.

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