Thursday, August 27, 2009

Privatizing California

by Ann Garrison

On Sunday, August 23rd, 2009, the KPFA Weekend News produced a report on California State Senate Bill 792. It included the voice of San Francisco's 3rd District State Senator Mark Leno, the bill's author and advocate, and my own, as a San Francisco writer and activist opposed to privatizing any California state parkland.

I could not be more opposed to the sale of Candlestick Point State Recreation Area, to Lennar or any other corporation, or to the precedent it would set. Nor could I be more opposed to the privatization of state prisons, health and human services, or coastal waters at Tranquillon Ridge, off the Coast of Santa Barbara, so coveted by oil and gas drillers.

I oppose all these ridiculous proposals to privatize the whole State of California, in response to the State budget crisis. Eager corporate buyers, and many politicians, including most of all, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, are using the state budget crisis to push “structural readjustment,” like that which the IMF and World Bank impose on debt strangled Africa, with relentless pressure to privatize every acre of land, and every other natural resource, including even fresh water, because, as the IMF and World Bank argue, Africa---(now, like California)---just can't afford to own any of its own parks, wildlife preserves, or natural resources anymore.

In their fight against the push to privatize their state park, Bayview Hunters Point activists are fighting the privatization of California as hard as anyone I know, for all of us, so I hope that other Californians who don't want to see the whole State on the auction block will contact their Assembly reps and ask them to vote against S.B 792. Anyone can obtain contact info for their California Assembly Representative by typing their zip code in on the CA State website, Know Your Legislature.

I protested to KPFA Weekend News Producer Anthony Fest as soon as I heard Sunday's broadcast because, by saying that he is "working with the Sierra Club and ARC Ecology" on amending his legislation, Senator Leno had---intentionally or not---given listeners the false impression that the Sierra Club and ARC Ecology support privatization, though both organizations were on the long list of coalition members opposing it, and I had submitted that list to KPFA News. That list also includes: the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, the Audubon Society, People Organized to Win Employment Rights (P.O.W.E.R.), the California Native Plant Society, the Chinese Progressive Association, the Labor/Community Strategy Center in Los Angeles, Caravan for Justice, the Idriss Stelley Foundation, the San Francisco Green Party, Stop Lennar Action Movement (SLAM), and many others.

ARC Ecology Director Saul Bloom told me, the next day, on August 24, 2009, that:

1) He had, as of August 24, 2009, not yet seen an amended version of the bill,

2) He still opposes it,

3) ARC and the Sierra Club both oppose any privatization of state parkland,

4) They would, at most, take a neutral stance, on an amended S.B. 792, with boundaries to preserve as much parkland, tideland, and native habitat as possible.

Since the KPFA Weekend News broadcast, San Francisco's 12th District Assembly Member Fiona Ma has emerged as S.B. 792's advocate, opposing San Francisco's 13th District Assembly Member Tom Ammiano, who voted no, and spoke adamantly against the bill before it passed out of the Assembly Appropriations Committee, on a 9 to 2 vote. San Francisco's other State Senator, 8th District State Senator Leland Yee, also voted and argued against the bill before it passed out of the State Senate on June 2nd. San Francisco Supervisors John Avalos and Chris Daly have proposed a resolution, in the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, that would instruct the City's Sacramento lobbyist, Lynn Suter, to argue against the bill.

Here's an audio clip of the KPFA news segment downloaded from the KPFA website and posted to the Youtube.

And, here is ARC Ecology Director Saul Bloom, in his own words, on the day following the broadcast:

"We have not seen any amended version of the bill yet and until we do, we oppose the bill. And, it should be clear, in no uncertain terms, that the Sierra Club and ARC Ecology will at most be neutral on this bill. We do not support the sale of any state parkland, especially not Candlestick. Public parks are for future generations."

And, a note from Sierra Club trustee John Rizzo, which he sent to me on August 16, 2009, before heading off, on vacation, to Lassen State Park, and, which he confirmed, as still true, upon his return, on August 24th:

"The Sierra Club has not backed the compromise. I can tell you categorically that the Sierra Club will not Support SB 792. At most, it would drop opposition. But it will not support a bill that sells of state park land for development.

The Sierra Club at one time was the only opponent of SB 792 in Sacramento. For a time, we were the only official opponent listed, and were the only group walking the halls. Fortunately, that has changed.

Leno asked Michael Cohen to negotiate with us. What Lennar has most recently put on table is scaling back the land grab of the state park from 42 acres to 22 acres. I personally am not supporting this.

At most, the Sierra Club would drop its opposition. But it will not support a bill that sells off state parkland for development. Personally, I don't believe the current Lennar proposal warrants dropping opposition."

On Thursday, August 27, 2009, KPFA broadcast this clarification:

So, what happens if the State closes a state park?

State Senator Mark Leno argues that we have to privatize the Candlestick Point State Recreation Area because we can't afford to keep it open or keep it up, but ARC Ecology's Saul Bloom points out that closing a state park is not like closing a school. Closing a state park means closing the parking lot and the restrooms. It doesn't mean that the park no longer exists, or that people can't go hike, picnic, or even volunteer to take care of the park themselves anymore.

And, what happens if the State privatizes a state park?

If the State privatizes our Candlestick Point park, then, as budget crises worsen, at every level, what's next? What's to stop the privatization of every park in California? The federal government has, since the Reagan era, championed the privatization of everything from prisons to HUD foreclosure counseling, so, if California joins the rush to privatize, how long will it be before we're told we have to put up with a coal-fired power plant generating electricity for a uranium mining operation in Death Valley National Monument, just like those in Saharan Niger, because, otherwise, we just can't afford the park anymore???

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