Guys. And girls. Do we have to talk to our electeds and Board representatives like children? Does this really have to be our job? Because it seems that our generally well-paid elected politicians have never heard of the concept of “the camel’s nose in the tent.” I grew up with this wise parable (which I now discover is not an Aesop’s fable, but some Victorian Englishman’s conceit … but nonetheless wise, commonly known, and applicable in spades in Orange County…)
One cold night, as an Arab sat in his tent, a camel gently thrust his nose under the flap and looked in. “Master,” he said, “let me put my nose in your tent. It’s cold and stormy out here.” “By all means,” said the Arab, “and welcome” as he turned over and went to sleep.
A little later the Arab awoke to find that the camel had not only put his nose in the tent but his head and neck also. The camel, who had been turning his head from side to side, said, “I will take but little more room if I place my forelegs within the tent. It is difficult standing out here.” “Yes, you may put your forelegs within,” said the Arab, moving a little to make room, for the tent was small.
Finally, the camel said, “May I not stand wholly inside? I keep the tent open by standing as I do.” “Yes, yes,” said the Arab. “Come wholly inside. Perhaps it will be better for both of us.” So the camel crowded in. The Arab with difficulty in the crowded quarters again went to sleep. When he woke up the next time, he was outside in the cold and the camel had the tent to himself.
Twice in this past month our Boards, the supposed guardians of our public interest, have very much let the camel’s nose in the tent, making it all the more likely that you and I will eventually be stuck with giant smelly camels crowding us out and breathing up all our precious AIR:
- In early July, when the vast majority of the OCTA Board, despite several of them expressing “grave misgivings” about the cost and fairness of the project, and its use of eminent domain, went ahead anyway and shoveled another $9 million toward studying the Disney streetcar some more;
- And in late July, when the OC Water District, again in spite of “serious scruples” on the part of some members, unanimously approved going ahead with a “confidentiality agreement” that’ll allow Poseidon to explain to them, without OUR irritating input, how their proposed HB desal plant won’t be anywhere as overpriced, unnecessary, and environmentally destructive as the rest of us say it is.
Where are the leaders with the guts to just say NO to these camels’ noses from the outset? On the OCTA there was only Jeff Lalloway, John Moorlach, and (oddly) Matt Harper. (I say “oddly” because Harper is just about the most wild-eyed advocate Poseidon has, but kudos for being right on the streetcar at least.) On the Water District there was nobody.
Fullerton’s Bruce Whitaker, who you would have thought was a conservative skeptical of taxpayer boondoggles and corporate welfare, went through the motions of fretting over 100 grand to assist with the confidentiality process or study or whatever, but then went along with everyone and approved it.
It was reminiscent of a few months ago in Seal Beach, when Mayor and friend of the blog Gary Miller, along with other thoughtful council members, expressed a dozen good reservations about the Poseidon plant, but after being re-assured that they could always “back out later,” agreed to sign a “letter of intent,” thereby moving the insidious plant one step closer to final approval – by a couple of camel whiskers.
Back at the OCTA streetcar hearing, Shawn Nelson – who I used to think of as a pretty honest conservative, until recently – railed against the excessive cost of the project, nearly twice as expensive per mile as Santa Ana’s proposed streetcar … before voting with the others to move ahead with it.
Nice-guy “public member” Michael Hennessey expressed concern bordering on outrage that Disney, the main beneficiary of the streetcar and main cause of it being so ridiculously expensive, was covering ZERO of the cost. Then he voted to move it forward while insisting that Disney must pony SOMETHING up. Yeah, right, you AND WHAT ARMY will make Disney pay a cent more than they want, which is nothing? You ARE the army, Board members!
Then, when informed by Cynthia Ward that Disney’s streetcar plan would entail serious eminent domain takings from several local businesses and thousands of jobs – EMINENT DOMAIN, a conservative third rail, I’d thought! – several of them bitched and stammered that there better NOT be any eminent domain involved or they’d have to seriously re-think the whole thing… but then STILL VOTED 16-3 to shove this camel $9 million more and bring its head further into the tent.
The most crazy-making argument that morning, heard from representatives from all over the County, was that since this streetcar is what “Anaheim” wants, “Anaheim” should get it – and what they meant by “Anaheim” was nothing but the permanent three-member Pringle-installed council majority. Der Pringle watched contentedly from the back, rubbing his hands, while the inseparable pair Councilwoman Kris Murray and Disney lobbyist Carrie Nocella beamed from the audience.
And shortly after, the ill-spoken Gail Eastman, up on the dais, lied through her teeth claiming that the streetcar had passed last year on a 4-1 vote, when in truth both Mayor Tait and Lorri Galloway had opposed it for a 3-2 – the combo of honest right and honest left we see SO RARELY since Gus Ayer’s death.
And next you know, the “Sunk Cost Fallacy” will kick in…
…just wait for it. You know what that is, right? It’s the faulty or devious way of thinking that keeps us in pointless wars, losing lives and treasure, just so all the lives and treasure that have already been lost will not have been in vain. The way of thinking that keeps you throwing money at a problem so that the money you have already wasted on it somehow won’t have been a waste. This will translate down the road to final approval of these two horrendous boondoggles, just because … well, we have already put so much time and study and effort and money into both of them, it would just be a shame if nothing came of it, you know?
As I remember, OCTA’s Todd Spitzer even expressed that concern, saying “I don’t want us to come back later and say, we’ve already spent so much, let’s just finish it off.” But hey, then he went and voted with the majority to keep moving this forward, why should we expect him to vote any different later?
All of these politicians I’m expressing disappointment in are self-described conservative Republicans, who are not being good conservatives. That’s because (I’m pretty sure) there are no Democrats on these Orange County boards, except for Miguel Pulido who’s a gravy-train politician with the worst of them.
WOULD Democrats or liberals be any better at stopping the endless bleeding of our public treasure to private corporations than these faux-conservatives are? Gus Ayer sure was, but he’s dead. It’s too bad Joe Shaw, Connie Boardman, Diana Carey or Jill Hardy, who follow in Gus’ footsteps, or even honest against-the-grain Republican Sandy Genis or Tom Tait, aren’t on any Boards.
But as we observed recently with great disappointment, our entire OC delegation to Sacramento – including our three Democrats, Correa, Daly, and Quirk-Silva, signed a unanimous letter in support of the Poseidon boondoggle. We expect so little of Correa and Daly that most of us only expressed disappointment in Sharon.
I’ll be communicating with her on the issue today or tomorrow, and trying to urge her to rescind her support, but Diamond’s probably right – even when Democrats are relatively honest they have the added disadvantage of listening to the short-sighted (and corrupt? – VN) building trades unions, who back projects like these for the short-term job fix, with no regard to the interests of taxpayers or the environment.
And so the camel gets a shoulder in … and another one…