Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
dwalters@sacbee.com
October 25, 2015

  • California has many pending issues
  • Comprehensive approaches difficult
  • Politicians settle for patchwork

Were the El Niño phenomenon to actually generate copious rainstorms in California, it could create a dilemma for homeowners with elderly roofs – patch the leaks or spend big bucks for a new roof.

California politics present similar choices.

The state’s extraordinarily complex socioeconomic matrix makes gathering support for any major policy decision extraordinarily difficult. Our politicians’ tendency, therefore, is to temporarily patch problems as they arise and then move on.

We’ve seen lots of patchwork politics in recent years.

Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democrat Gov. Jerry Brown have taken swipes at such issues as unbalanced state budgets, infrastructure deterioration, public pension deficits, transportation congestion, water supply and K-12 education, settling for what an unfocused, pettifogging Legislature would accept rather than going all out to truly fix the problems.

Are such “solutions” really better than doing nothing at all? Yes, sometimes. But they also carry downside risks that have become increasingly evident.

One is that they often just don’t work and merely postpone the day of reckoning.

Severe drought struck the state four decades ago. Since then, California has spent untold billions of dollars on supposedly addressing its severe imbalance between water supply and demand. But we never really did anything concrete, leaving us extremely vulnerable when severe drought struck again.

Another downside is that procrastinating fixes provides politicians with excuses. They can – and often do – check it off their to-do lists, telling the voting and taxpaying public that they’ve done their duty diligently, but knowing very well that they’ve merely, in a phrase often used by Schwarzenegger, kicked the can down the road to their successors.

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