Quick—can you name the official state animal of California? If the answer doesn’t pop into your head, that’s okay. That was something of a trick question. There are at least eight animals that have been designated worthy of recognition by California State officials.
But apparently, that’s not quite enough. While the people of California face a $16 billion state budget deficit, two million lost jobs, and tens of thousands of lost homes, a Silicon Valley lawmaker Paul Fong (D-Cupertino) has made his legislative priorities clear through his efforts to designate the Pacific Leatherback Turtle as California’s official state marine reptile.
Maybe it’s time to come to terms with the simple-truth that we don’t need to keep spending $18,000 (the average cost of moving each bill through the legislative process) every time a lawmaker finds himself whimsy-stricken to “officially recognize” something that’s already obvious, or pointless, to the rest of us. This is money that can put a few dozen students through community college, help keep the local library open a few more hours or help feed a few needy families.
This legislature’s time, effort and our local tax money could be better spent. After all, California already has an official state animal (Grizzly Bear), bird (California Quail), fish (Golden Trout), reptile (Desert Tortoise), and insect (California Dog-Face Butterfly).
Bureaucrats being ones who are never content to leave anything enough alone, have also recognized subdivisions and special categories of animals, including the marine mammal (Gray Whale), and the marine fish (Garibaldi). While we’re at it, couldn’t we also have a category for cutest ocean mammal? I should think we’d be able to work our adorable sea otters into the mix somewhere.
But why stop at wildlife? California also sports two official trees: the Coastal Redwood (Sequoia Sempervirens), and to spare its feelings, the Sierra Redwood (Sequoia Gigantea). We also have two official ghost towns: Bodie (the Gold Rush Ghost Town) and Calico (our Silver Rush Ghost Town). Being The Golden State (our official nickname) they may have taken the “Gold” stuff a bit too far by also declaring our official mineral to be Gold, but that still left room for our official rock (Serpentine) and our official gem (Benitoite), all of which, presumably, can be dug out of our official soil, the San Joaquin Soil Series.
Can you dig all that? Well, while you’re digging, keep an eye peeled for our official state fossil (Saber-Tooth Cat), and our official prehistoric artifact (Chipped Stone Bear). If you find one, you can shout out our state motto (Eureka!) and break out into our state song (I Love You California) and dance (West Coast Swing Dance), or folk dance (Square Dance) if you prefer. If you want to celebrate in style, deck yourself out in our official state tartan (California District Tartan), that’s presumably been woven in our official state colors (Blue and Gold) while on the deck of our official tall ship (Revenue Cutter California). After all, we wouldn’t want all these designations to be thought of as meaningless or wasteful, would we?
It’s true that in terms of a state government that spends nearly a quarter trillion dollars every year, $18,000 may not seem like much. But to a student facing a year of college expenses or that needy family, $18,000 is a make-it or break-it figure.
Would this be a bad time to point out to Assemblyman Fong that the Pacific Leatherback turtle isn’t even a native California species? Or that said turtle rarely, if ever paddles, or flippers or whatever it does to get around, to California’s golden shores?
Not that there’s anything wrong with turtles. Who doesn’t love a turtle? Little ones are cute and big ones are majestic.
But there is something wrong with our local lawmakers who continue to treat the state government as some kind of vanity publishing service, knocking out meaningless, albeit feel-good acts and bills while our state remains mired in an economic crisis, much of which can be traced back to the official policies of our very same legislature.
Maybe, instead of finding more ways to pat themselves on the back, the Democratic majority that runs our legislature could focus for a while on regulatory reforms to spur job creation, and pension and education reform, so that state government could get its own fiscal house in order. Such actions might even merit a long-overdue celebration led by our official Fife and Drum Corps (California Consolidated Drum Band).