Big Daddy

Big Daddy

Hey Big Daddy,

So, I was listening to the governor’s speech this week, and he seems really angry about this Waste Management Board. What is the Waste Management Board, and why is he so upset about it?

Ignorant in Inverness

Hey Ignorant,

In its own words, the Integrated Waste Management Board “provides grants and loans to help California cities, counties, businesses, and organizations meet the State’s waste reduction, reuse, and recycling goals.” That’s the political-speak version. In the real world, it’s something closer to The Artist Formerly Known As Prince. Follow me on this one, it’ll make sense. I promise. Maybe. Remember back in the go-go 90s when Prince changed his name to that symbol thing-a-ma-bob? Well, that’s essentially what the waste board is to Gov. Schwarzenegger – a symbol that, in the real world, doesn’t really mean a damn thing.

The waste board has become a resting place for former legislators of all political stripes – usually ones who were willing to buck party leaders to give the governor a key vote on a bill, budget or some other such thing.

The governor knows this. Even when he appointed Carole Migden, Sheila Kuehl and John Laird to the board, he knew it. But now, like one of those Terminator movies (T2, maybe?) Arnold is now railing against the machine he helped create.

See, eliminating the waste board would be a small gesture – a sacrificial lambchop to the people of California as they have their safety net ripped apart at the seams this summer. Sure, you may not be able to get food stamps or health care for your children, but hey, at least John Laird will be unemployed. Doesn’t that make you feel better already?

The governor’s logic is not wrong here. These types of ritual sacrifices are necessary in the world of politics and political symbols. That’s why the recent Assembly staff pay raises got such a visceral reaction from the press corps – we want our politicians to at least pretend to practice what they preach.

But in the real world, much like that little ankh-like thingy, it doesn’t mean much. Anyone who’s heard any of the public comment, or spent any time listening to folks lobbying the Capitol this week knows that. I don’t usually like to get on my high horse in this column, but hey, it’s Belmont Weekend, and the thoroughbred is here in the stable, so I’m going to endulge myself.

We are on the brink of cutting social services to the people that need them most in a deep and profound way. We’re talking about cuts to people who rely on the state not just for their livelihoods, but for their actual lives.

Children are going to go without medical care, thousands will be dumped from other forms of public assistance. Colleges will become more expensive, less accessible and offer less.

So, sure, I get it. Talking about the waste management board is important, to a degree. But let’s not take our eye off of what really matters.

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