The price for California’s plague of wildfires could be political or could be monetary, but political history dictates that someone pays a price for disaster.
Anger and frustration is palpable around the state over endless fires threatening lives and property. The people of California know that something has gone wrong and want answers. The trouble is there are so many villains, depending who you ask.
For some, utilities are corrupt and more concerned about profits than keeping up maintenance on the electric grid. For others politicians are to blame for demanding so much from the utilities that they have lost focus on important upgrades. Still others point to the weakness of humans against the power of nature but add that we are suffering nature’s revenge for damaging the climate.
How does this get sorted out to satisfy the body politic?
Governor Gavin Newsom says he owns the problem putting a target on himself to do something about a complex problem. If he manages to establish a vision for confronting the crisis, even if it means no next-day solution, he could avoid the people’s wrath.
PG&E, with its battered reputation, has little chance of escaping blame. Suggestions to redirect the utilities efforts away from alternative energy spending and putting that money into grid fixes has its own critics.
Meanwhile, the tragedy grows as people are forced from their homes and property is destroyed.
And the property loss is not exclusively homes. Businesses like the Gold Rush era Soda Rock Winery building in Northern California and cultural institutions like the Ronald Regan Presidential Library in Simi Valley have been either destroyed or were put in grave danger.
I was privileged to be at the official opening of the Reagan Library in Simi Valley in 1991. (Way in the back, standing room section, but able to see the five presidents attending the event.) I spent much time there researching a chapter for my book on California’s tax revolt. So I watched with more than general interest the fight to save the library from the Easy Fire.
At the Library I got to handle hand written radio scripts composed by Reagan himself. (Access to the yellow legal pads had to be cleared by Mrs. Reagan, I was told.) I thought about those historical documents susceptible to lose if the fire invaded the library. It only brought home, however, all the valuable documents, precious photos, personal and professional items and all things meaningful lost by so many Californians to the ravages of these fires.
Political nature says someone must pay for these on-going catastrophes.
(Photo credits: Wall Street Journal top; Reagan Foundation)