The Bear Flag, which first appeared as the symbol of the short-lived Bear Flag Republic in 1846, was made the official flag of California in 1911. The flag displays a California grizzly bear which, in a bit of irony, is extinct in California with the last sighting taking place in 1922.

Without any disrespect to what was a magnificent animal, perhaps it is time for a new emblem that more accurately reflects the current state of the state. Let’s consider the Oroville Dam as a more appropriate symbol. It’s large, not functioning well, parts are crumbling and it is putting the lives and property of thousands of Californians in jeopardy. To top it off, for over a dozen years, officials have been ignoring warnings that the now eroding emergency spillway was vulnerable to heavy rains.

Since the dam came on line in the late 1960s, and especially beginning with the first terms of Gov. Jerry Brown, California has shifted from a state that prioritized infrastructure improvement to one that focuses on entitlement programs, public employee compensation and environmental policies that stifle economic growth.

Now that the bill is coming due for their failure to address infrastructure needs, the political class — like Nero — is fiddling while Rome burns. The governor and many lawmakers and local officials would prefer to put their energies into fighting the Trump administration on immigration policy. When it comes to infrastructure, the governor’s one contribution seems to be a slavish devotion to spending as much as hundred billion dollars on a bullet train that will serve few. This is serious money that would go a long way to improving California’s highways, bridges, dams, airports and public buildings.

The only solution to the infrastructure crisis that Sacramento seems to be able to come up with is to raise taxes on a population that is already bearing one of the heaviest tax burdens in the nation. Prioritizing spending is not in their vocabulary.

Meanwhile, the politicians are thumbing their noses at President Trump, who is on record as wanting to invest billions of federal dollars into new and improved infrastructure. This is akin to telling one’s brain surgeon that their spouse is ugly 10 minutes before surgery.

The political class likes to tout that if it were a country, California would be the seventh largest economy in the world. But it isn’t a country — it is a state within a country, subject to the guiding document written by our founders more than 200 years ago.

Some who are suffering the most extreme cases of TDS (Trump Derangement Syndrome) are going so far as to suggest that the state should go it alone and, in effect, secede from the union. Given that this issue was settled by the costliest war in American history fought in the 1860s, this question of California independence is wholly academic.

While America may appear to be hopelessly divided right now with both sides looking for opportunities to inflict harm on their political enemies, Californians have a right to demand that their leaders rise above this nonsense and focus on the pressing, immediate needs of all Californians.

Let’s not let the long-neglected Oroville Dam become our symbol. It’s time to roll up our sleeves, meet with the Trump administration and start the work of rational governance. Everything else is a waste of time and energy.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

Originally published at OC Register.