By Ed Seaman
The extent of the damage that the state government has done and continues to do to our children, our small business economy, our poor and middle class in the name of pandemic safety is massive, so add pandemic mismanagement to the list of big things California mismanages. This list includes water, forestry (wildfires), electricity (rolling blackouts), public education, housing, homelessness, immigration and food security.
Gov. Gavin Newsom is not the source of California’s mismanagement problems, and neither are the Democrats. I say this even though the Democratic Party has been mostly in charge and for about 20 years, with a supermajority since 2018. The truth is, if we swapped Democrats with Republicans, we would still have big problems. There are two related reasons for this: One is the length of time that the governing party has been in power. The other is human nature.
The very humanesque pursuit of power, money, and prestige is the driving purpose of both political parties. Twenty years is a long time for our (essentially) unopposed governing political party to plan for and fix a lot of big problems, but it hasn’t happened. Long-term solutions are hard, politically risky, and don’t usually serve the driving purpose, so policies and resource distributions have recently been neither strategic nor innovative. The governing party makes every decision based on how it affects the party’s power, money, and prestige, not based on what is best for the people, economy, or environment.
For example, the bullet train is being funded on a huge scale, while such funding to plan for and expand water resources and manage carbon across the state is not. How many trees could we plant and care for, and how many vermicast soil inoculations could we apply with bullet train levels of money?
One thousand healthy live oaks 36 inches in diameter will sequester around 100,000 pounds of carbon and infiltrate around 2.5 million gallons of rainwater into their aquifers annually. According to the National Resources Defense Council, every 1% increase in soil organic matter per acre results in around 25,000 additional gallons of water storage.
Another example is Assembly Bill 5, the so-called gig workers law that was only partially overturned by a ballot referendum. As a farmer working hard to build local food security, I’d like to point out that AB5, if enforced, would destroy the small farm sector and any hope we might have for food security overnight.
AB5 that makes almost all businesses that hire independent contractors reclassify them as employees. The intent of the law was to increase union membership among Uber and Lyft types of businesses, but the damage to small farms is unrecoverable. If you like your farmers markets, innovative climate-smart agriculture, and the possibility of local food security, pray this law is never enforced.
Santa Barbara is part of an agriculture-rich Central Coast region of more than 5,000 small farms and perhaps 15,000 workers, so you would think our local state representatives would have voted against AB5. They didn’t.
State. Sen. Monique Limon and Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham are victims of a lack of balance. They have no leverage and no political cover because there are not enough non-Democrat lawmakers in the legislature, and our governor doesn’t provide reasoned checks and balances.
The governing party appears to have a bias against rural, agriculture-rich counties like Santa Barbara and the small businesses that are the heart and soul of our local communities. Our voice is being railroaded in the capital by vote-rich counties like Los Angeles and San Francisco.
I no longer feel represented as an environmentalist or as a member of the small farm sector. This won’t happen without returning to a divided government with functional checks and balances. The quickest way to do this is through the executive branch.
I will vote to recall Gavin Newsom.
• Ed Seaman and his wife own and operate Santa Barbara Blueberries, a U-pick berry farm in the Santa Ynez Valley. He is also executive director of the Wild Farmlands Foundation, a nonprofit advocate for California’s diminishing small farm sector, and a member of the Santa Barbara County Land Stewardship & Carbon Farming Coalition.