Dear Big Daddy,
The Golden State seems to be tarnished. We don’t do big things anymore. What can we do to restore its luster?
–Addled in Anaheim
I ride trains and drink tap water, so I can speak with authority.
First, build the Peripheral Canal. Build it under, through or around the Delta, but build it.
Second, build a high-speed rail network that ties the north state with the south state through the Central Valley. Don’t dawdle or prevaricate. Build it.
And whatever you do, build ‘em big. Size matters.
Avoid the whiners, screechers, carpers, nay-sayers, pundits, pessimists, poobahs, local politicos and special interests that raise money by demonizing the opposition. These are the same groups that said I couldn’t turn the speakership into a powerful position and that the Council of Institutional Investors was an irrelevancy. They were wrong then, they’re still wrong, they’ll be wrong tomorrow.
In the Delta, avoid the fishermen.
They’re never happy, they’ll never change and they never sign on to anything. They can’t cut a deal and in politics you have to know how to cut a deal. But they’re loud and every Delta politico listens to them, although God knows why.
In high-speed rail, avoid local officials.
I know polls show that people trust local officials more than state government, but I say this: Don’t you believe it. Local officials get in the way, slow things down, appoint advisory committees and suck the spark and passion out of big projects until, in the end, you’re left with thousands of pages of sterile documentation and no project at all. And the locals build political support by blaming the state for their problems. The whole local landscape reminds me of Cal-Fed.
And of course, every local official up and down the state will want to change the rail route, which will snarl things even further. Ignore them.
I’m not a big fan of either the canal or high-speed rail, but I love big projects and these two are no-brainers.
I like their grandeur and scope, I like the act of changing the world. That’s why I got into politics – well, partly – and I feel even stronger about it now that I’m dead.
The canal and high-speed rail projects will live long after their creators and builders are history — they will be their monuments. Just like we think of the State Water Project and our freeway system. Nobody remembers what bills Randy Collier carried, but everybody remembers that the Silver Fox of the Siskiyous forged our freeway system.
Nobody remembers me, except my nickname and the fact that I locked up the Legislature.
So go forth and build ‘em and to hell with everybody.