California Democrat Dianne Feinstein has a troubled history with environmental and sustainability groups since taking office as a Senator in the 90’s. Having voted for her several times, I suddenly find myself looking back and wondering why. Feinstein’s latest legislation, a drought bill, just might be the last straw.
The Chronicle has reported recently that farmers in California’s central valley have been wasteful of water. Without state oversight or management, these incautious stewards of what is becoming more and more a precious California liquid, are recklessly depleting our groundwater. While they try and invoke an image of bygone-day American breadbasket heroes, they put our state at risk while shipping crops across the Pacific for massive profit. So it’s unclear why we should consider special provisions to supply more water at a cost to other industries like fisheries when policies already in place already put farmers at a dangerous advantage.
AlterNet’s Yasha Levine states it even more bluntly…
Water is a sacred issue in California that one day will surely lead to a North-South showdown that could get ugly. Any major change in the state’s water policy is so fraught with danger and consequences, that it makes negotiations over how to divide it a long and difficult process. In our imperfect democratic system, this is how we resolve the most difficult problems we face, when different communities have so much at stake. Feinstein apparently decided that democracy wasn’t in her interests–or the interests of the rich corporate farmers she serves–so she is trying to circumvent the whole process by sneaking through legislation before anyone can figure it out. For Californians, it was an act of treason, putting the interests of Big Agro above the needs of millions of people who think she represents them. Feinstein was born and raised in San Francisco, where she rose to political prominence; now, she’s screwing her hometown region most of all.
I don’t take this issue lightly, so please pardon this stretched analogy – this whole situation shares plot points with the film Chinatown. In the film, water is diverted to farmlands due to a drought. Instead of water, cities are given promises that other solutions will come. Beneficiaries are those who are wealthy, politically connected, and own land. In the film, there is a clear moral line drawn that audiences had no trouble understanding. Here in California, we’re expected to view this as some kind of bipartisanship.