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Maria Gutzeit: Leaders must guide to future

SCV Voices

Posted: July 30, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: July 30, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Proactive vs. reactive. Yes or no vs. wait and see.

Scanning the news these days, one wonders what happened to the rare skills of planning ahead and making a decision.

Recent headlines reported activists opposing expansion of coal operations in Utah, which ultimately provides 25 percent of Los Angeles’ electricity.

I wonder if these are the same folks who oppose solar and wind farms in the desert. Maybe they are part of the groups hoping to get rid of San Onofre, or those wanting to eliminate hydroelectric dams up north.

Are they one and the same as the advocates for the state greenhouse gas cap and trade program that is tightening the hangman’s noose on natural gas combustion? Can someone please just tell us what would be OK, and stick with that?

As we hear reports of species decline in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, and droughts south of there, water improvements proposed in the area are litigated and relitigated.

Even our own local chloride debacle goes forward and back in a hurky-jerky motion. First it was sped up by the Regional Water Quality Control Board, skipping technical steps recommended in their own publications, now we are starting on an environmental impact report process that is publicized with a reminder that there are no forgone conclusions and, in fact, making no project must be an option considered per the law.

Drive on a freeway or over a bridge. Walk through a nice museum. Visit a well-funded and maintained park or playground. Gaze on an aqueduct bringing water to farmers, a lake enjoyed by fisherman, or a bike trail with happy kids and dog walkers.

The people who were integral to getting these things done for the public seem to be few and far between these days. Even building a small office building or doing minor construction seems rife with opposition and “nos” at every corner.

Am I a fan of the Phonehenge guy who built the big, unpermitted and illegal structure in Acton? No. His pleas for less government intrusion rang a little hollow when such basics as fire and building codes are skipped over. However, I admire those who somehow, some way, manage to get through the gauntlet of “nos” and get to yes.

Recently a documentary on the late Gov. Edmund Brown aired on TV. A few things stuck out. He looked at the big picture, not just popular whims, and he struggled and prevailed. The show credited him with advocating for anti-discrimination laws in housing, which made him wildly unpopular with property owners.

Today, it is accepted that skin color isn’t a criteria for denying housing to people.

Back then, he got it passed with great angst, only to see it reversed when the legislature caved to the loudest opposition. He also, reportedly, was instrumental in getting the State Water Project built, having it pass the legislature by one vote. The funding was approved by the people of the state of California with just a 1 percent margin.

It is not an overstatement to say that Santa Clarita, and much of Central and Southern California, simply would not exist were it not for the State Water Project. Conservation or not, we would not have the agriculture we do, the jobs we do, and the communities we do without the perseverance of individuals who decided, the best they could, what was right, and then convinced others to go along.

Is it the deciding that is difficult? Perhaps in our consumer society, we think surely there’s another snazzier or cheaper option coming out “just before Christmas.” Government budgets are passed provisionally, waiting to see what the state or feds do, or how the property tax returns look. No numbers are ever final.

Seemingly, we can never make a plan and stick to it. Nor, seemingly, can we gather evidence and weigh options. Is there global warming or not? Is it man made or not? Will it really be that bad? Oh lets just wait and see. Which is worse: coal, solar, wind farms, hydrogen, hydroelectric, nuclear, natural gas? Opposition or indecision seems to be the default for everything.

Truly, we have the technology, the smarts and the science to decide which of any given options costs less, has the least environmental impact, and provides the most benefits to society. What we have lost is the leadership that both insists on thorough, credible, and public analysis and has the willpower to make a rational decision.

Maria Gutzeit is a Santa Clarita business owner and elected official.


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