In An Emergency, Don’t Call the State

Pasadena Wind
David McNew

Where I live in Southern California's San Gabriel Valley, you can still see along the sides of the roads trees that were toppled in Nov. 30 windstorms but haven't yet been removed.

The hurricane-force winds took down thousands of trees and utility poles, destroyed cars, damaged homes, and left thousands without power for a week.

One would think that the state government would step forward with emergency assistance.

One would think wrong.

The Pasadena Star-News reports that the certified amount of damage is, at least of this moment, less than the $50 million necessary to be considered a federal disaster. And the state fund that is supposed to be tapped in such circumstances is "$164 million in the red from previous declared disasters."

Could the state appropriate extra money? Surely you jest. 

The budget picture is just too bleak. So local governments that are themselves short of money will end up covering the costs.

This is a tough circumstance, but governments will make do.

The more profound question it raises, though, is: can Californians depend on their state government in a major emergency, given the state's persistent difficulties?

The answer to that question is: we can't be sure. This uncertainty is one of the costs of California's failure to manage its budget, and govern itself.

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