TOO LITTLE TOO LATE-Gray Davis never saw it coming. He didn’t realize until it was too late that the public would blame him for his ineffective action against deregulated electricity pirates like Enron that hijacked the state. That’s why Davis never took the advice of consumer advocates to use his power of eminent domain and seize sabotaged power plants during the phony electricity crisis to turn the power back on.   

Does Jerry Brown see that the stink from the growing natural gas leak in Aliso Canyon and other utility scandals could also be the cloud that tarnishes his legacy after four terms of having voters’ favor?  

It’s a volatile situation for Brown when you look at the evidence of his Administration’s environmental failure in the three of the state’s most populous regions: LA’s Leak, San Diego’s ratepayer scandal over the closing of the San Onofre Nuclear power plant, and the 2010 San Bruno gas explosion. 

Exhibit A: Porter Ranch and Aliso Canyon 

The Leak roiling the LA area is now California's single largest source of planet-warming pollution and it was no isolated accident. 

It was the result of too little regulatory oversight of Southern California Gas and other oil and gas excavators. That falls squarely on Brown, whose administration is responsible for well safety. 

Brown’s antipathy to regulation of all kinds, including health and safety, is well known. The public first started paying attention in February of 2015 when it learned that Brown’s oil and gas regulator turned a blind eye to frackers’ injecting toxic wastewater into federally protected drinking water aquifers in Kern Country.   

The contamination, like The Leak, was a direct result of a Brown Administration culture of penalizing regulators who crack down on health safety in the oil and gas industry. 

In 2011, Brown fired two top regulators who raised grave concerns about the oil and gas industry's underground injection activities, and the state has known for years that aging natural gas infrastructure was a disaster waiting to happen. But the governor's administration failed even to require safety plans and other measures that would have helped prevent this disaster. 

As the Associated Press reported: “California's top oil and gas regulators repeatedly warned Gov. Jerry Brown's senior aides in 2011 that the governor's orders to override key safeguards in granting oil industry permits would violate state and federal laws protecting the state's groundwater from contamination, one of the former officials has testified. 

“Brown fired the regulators on Nov. 3, 2011, one day after what the fired official says was a final order from the governor to bypass safety provisions of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act in granting permits to oil companies for oilfield injection wells. Brown later boasted publicly that the dismissals led to a speed-up of oilfield permitting.” 

In 2012, Brown bragged to a Sacramento crowd: 

“The oil rigs are moving in Kern County. We want to use our resources … our sun and all the other sources of power. It’s not going to be easy. There’s going to be screw-ups. There’s going to be bankruptcies. There’ll be indictments, and there’ll be deaths. But we’re going to keep going.” 

Brown has repeatedly shown this arrogant antipathy toward regulation, what he would call “red tape.” But the right red tape can avoid the yellow hazard tape in places like Porter Ranch, where the resulting failure to inspect and upgrade pipes is a continuation of the same lax Brown Administration policies at the same agency -- the Department of Conservation's Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR). 

The regulators fired in 2011, Derek Chernow, Acting Director at the Department of Conservation, and DOGGR supervisor Elena Miller, simply dared to repeatedly warn Brown that oil drilling would harm the state’s groundwater, echoing a warning already issued by the EPA. The East Bay Express has the sordid details 

More recently, Brown fired DOGGR supervisor Steve Bohlen on Dec. 8, 2015 when Brown was in Paris for global warming talks. The dismissal was probably not about “Mapgate,” the recent scandal where Brown had DOGGR map his family ranch for oil and gas, as most presumed, but more about Porter Ranch. At least that’s what was told to Capitol Watchdog.  Brown was apparently embarrassed that Southern California Gas’s shoddy maintenance at the facility is to blame for the leak, and the fact that the amount of the potent greenhouse gas, methane, leaking into the atmosphere was equivalent to one quarter of the state’s methane emissions from all sources.  

Despite So Cal Gas's recent prediction the leak would likely be closed by the end of February, the largest methane leak in California history has the potential to go on a lot longer, if the well-head blows out, and containment becomes infeasible, which is possible according to a recent LA Times report.  Such a development would clarify that The Leak is the most visible result of shoddy maintenance and lack of state oil industry oversight that has plagued Brown’s administration. 

Lots of questions need to be raised about DOGGR oversight of the collapsed pipe. If it was out of use for a prolonged period, should the leaking well have been stuffed with cement and capped off?  If it was still active, why wasn’t it maintained? (The latest theory is that the well was structurally flawed and over-utilized for unorthodox gas injections that pushed its safety limits right before The Leak.) In either case, the questions will be raised, if not by regulators who now have nowhere to hide, and then by trial lawyers circling Aliso Canyon to make it into the next Erin Brockovich movie. 

While DOGGR is responsible for well safety, the PUC is responsible for oversight of the utility in charge, Southern California Gas. Brown’s stamp on this PUC has been so indelible that some allege he runs it out of the Governor’s office. 

The PUC and Brown will soon face new questions about an expansion of natural gas storage capacity in Aliso Canyon that the PUC and Brown Administration have shepherded. The plan approved last summer, which includes a supersized compressor set to begin operation in the second half of 2016, was supposed to increase natural gas storage in Aliso by 50 percent by increasing the amount of pressure used to inject it.  It would feed new Southern California Edison natural gas fired generating plants authorized by the PUC. 

The PUC, under the guidance of Brown’s hand-picked chief, Michael Picker, has approved this conscious strategy of rushing to increase the amount of natural gas stored in Aliso Canyon.  

The idea is to replace the loss of electricity from San Onofre after its closure with generating capacity in the LA basin through a combination of natural gas-fired electricity generation, battery storage, energy efficiency, and renewables to meet demand through 2021. Ironically, this will increase, not decrease, greenhouse gas emissions. (You can read here a recently completed PUC proceeding granting approval for natural gas expansion in Aliso for Southern California Gas to add storage and for Southern California Edison to add generating capacity.) 

The problem with the project is that by increasing pressure in the natural gas reservoir that feeds many unclosed, unmaintained pipes, the higher pressure could break down more wells. Adding pressure to the reserve is unsafe unless every pipe is retrofitted first. Otherwise the pressure in the reserve could pop another pipe. 

Now that The Leak has put the dangers of the compressed natural gas reserve on the map, residents will probably chain themselves to the gates of the new project rather than let it go forward. The PUC, knowing its historical indifference to communities opposing its plans, is likely to go forward even if it means calling out the state’s National Guard to maintain order. The standoff could have all the makings of a Brown Legacy buster.    

The natural gas expansion will turn the spotlight onto the Governor. That could reveal an unflattering history of his fealty to the state’s public utilities, including Southern Gas and its parent SEMPRA, where Brown’s sister Kathleen sits on the board and is chair of the board’s health and safety committee. Some say Kathleen was given the job because of her brother’s loyalty to the utility.   

Did brother and sister ever communicate about The Leak? Given all the litigation, the question is bound to be asked and answered in discovery and a deposition where the Governor’s usual executive privilege probably won’t protect him. 

The cronyism in energy policy under Brown that contributed to The Leak is part of a bigger problem with a statewide shadow falling across Brown’s reputation.


(Jamie Court is an award-winning and nationally recognized consumer advocate. He is president of Consumer Watchdog, which has offices in Washington, DC and Los Angeles.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.




Vol 14 Issue 7

Pub: Jan 22, 2016 
















A TRANSPORTATION WIN-WIN-Control of Ontario Airport is set to return to local hands this summer – finally! This is significant and it is good. It’s good for the regional economy of the Inland Empire. It’s good for the City of Los Angeles, operationally and fiscally. 

Offloading ONT allows LAWA to focus on LAX singularly (well, also Van Nuys). With solid assurances in place protecting the 215 existing workers at the Ontario Airport, the transfer is good for airport workers specifically, and generally, for all workers. Ironically, both historically and politically, the deal fulfills the 2006 Hahn “Regionalization” accord assuring the people of Westchester that LA would spread all that airport pain around. 

The people of Ontario and the communities of the entire Inland Region that runs from East Los Angeles County into San Bernardino and Riverside Counties, have long supported and encouraged the development and expansion of the Ontario Airport -- pretty much ever since its earliest days as Latimer Field in 1923. 

At CA Fwd’s recent conference in Ontario, “A Roadmap to Shared Prosperity,” speakers including Assemblymember Cheryl Brown (AD 47, San Bernardino) celebrated the positive impact that local control of the Ontario Airport will have on the local economy. “Think about all the jobs,” said Brown. 

Support for Ontario’s fight for local control is deep and long-standing. “More than 130 governments, elected officials, business and civic organizations, and newspaper editorial boards in four counties have endorsed local control for ONT,” the City of Ontario wrote, announcing the filing of its 2013 lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles. Citing a 42% decline in air traffic between 2007 and 2013 as evidence of LAWA’s mismanagement and inattention to the medium-hub facility, the filing asserted that the City of Los Angeles cannot control ONT “for all of eternity.” 

In the end, responsible, persistent and passionate local government officials -- champions like Ontario Mayor pro Tem and President of the OIAA, Alan D. Wapner -- acknowledged the ability of the Riverside/San Bernardino labor community to find common ground with sane local business organizations. With actual support from the people of the Inland Empire and not just the flying public, they all came together and won, resolving years and years of acrimony and conflict, much to the benefit of all. 

“It’s the return of a regional asset to regional control,” noted Cindy Roth, Chief Executive Officer of the Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce. “The real issue is the economic impact this has had on the … region... It’s something we all support." 

The terms of the deal are good for the City of Los Angeles and for the new Ontario International Airport Authority (OIAA), created by a joint-powers agreement between the City of Ontario and San Bernardino County to run the airport. 

“In August, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti coyly gave two figures with regard to the actual amount of money Ontario would fork over to finalize the transfer, saying that Ontario newspapers could call it a $150 million deal and that Los Angeles newspapers could refer to it as a $260 million transaction,” reported the San Bernardino Sentinel. 

Specifically, Ontario pays $30 million from reserves, assumes $60 million in debt, and makes payments of $50 million over five years plus $70 million in the final five years.

LAWA transfers $40 million from Ontario’s unrestricted cash accounts and – voila! – 1967 and 1985 agreements that gave Los Angeles control over the Ontario Airport are finis! 

Note that in 2011 the City of Los Angeles turned down a confidential offer to purchase the airport for $50 million with an assumption of $71 million in bond debt and another $125 million for passenger facilities charges -- at a time when the City could have really used the money. 

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti now calls the agreement “a step forward for Ontario, the entire Inland Empire, for Los Angeles, and for the region of Southern California as Los Angeles has reached a tentative agreement to transfer Ontario Airport back to the people of this city.” 

“When we come together we can do big things, and this is at least as big as what we did up in Owens Valley,” said Mayor Garcetti. 

Councilmember Joe Buscaino (CD 15), who represents the City of Los Angeles at SCAG  (Southern California Association of Governments) and the League of California Cities, said, “Returning Ontario International back to the Inland Empire will allow the newly formed Ontario International Airport Authority to develop strategies that expand service in one of the fastest growing regions of the state.” 

“It will also “allow Los Angeles World Airports to be laser-focused on modernizing LAX and creating a better passenger experience for its 70 million annual passengers,” Buscaino added. 

In 2007, ONT flew 7.2 million passengers; in 2014 that number was 4.1 million. Just imagine what that statistic means for the life and family of an airport custodian earning $37,000 -- a good job, all things considered – who was faced with a transfer to LAX, living in Rancho Cucamonga. Those were the dark years of city service. 

But the Inland Empire is an expansive, hopeful place, a region that welcomes growth, goods, and all that comes with it. Brett Snyder, aviation expert and former airline executive, urges Inland Empire travelers to use ONT: 

“Airlines don’t care what people say, they care what people do,” he said. “Fly from your airport, it’s the best thing to do as it gains independence.” (Brett Snyder runs the website The Cranky Flier.   

Kelly J. Fredericks, P.E., A.A.E., named on January 20, 2016 as the Ontario International Airport Authority’s first CEO, arriving with 33 years of aviation experience, looks forward with the ebullience of the region: 

"I am impressed by everything happening in the Inland Empire. The transformation of Ontario International Airport is the most intriguing and exciting development project I can imagine. I have never seen such commitment and support demonstrated by a community towards a key transportation hub, and such a spirit of collaboration to optimize its economic benefit."


(Julie Butcher is a retired union leader, enjoying Riverside and her first grandchild.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.





Vol 14 Issue 7

Pub: Jan 22, 2016

WHO CALLS THE SHOTS-The California State Legislature has filed a petition for rehearing in Howard Jarvis Taxpayers v. Padilla, asking the Court to restore Proposition 49, the Overturn Citizens United Act, to the ballot. 

Back in July 2014, the state legislature had enacted Senate Bill 1272, which would place an advisory question on the November ballot to solicit views of California voters on whether to amend the U.S. Constitution to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC 

Shortly after, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association (HJTA) began a fight to remove the proposition from the 2014 ballot, arguing that the legislature had exceeded its authority. In August of that year, the California Supreme Court ordered the Secretary of State to remove the measure from the ballot, pending full briefing and argument. Justice Goodwin Liu wrote a concurring opinion that advisory measures like Proposition 49 are incompatible with the system of representative democracy. 

On January 4 of this year, the CA Supreme Court ruled 6 to 1 in HJTA v. Padilla that the proposition is valid under the California Constitution, reversing the California Supreme Court’s August 2014 decision with the suggestion that the legislature pass a new bill. 

According to a September 2015 Bloomberg poll, approximately 80 percent of Americans polled expressed disagreement with the Citizens United ruling. The disapproval was bipartisan with a slightly higher percentage of Democrats than Republicans. Why, then, would the HFTA take steps to remove the proposition from the ballot? 

Opposition seems to rest in the advisory nature of the proposition. Advisory propositions are rare. In fact, only three advisory propositions have ever appeared on California ballots. What Prop 49 aimed to do was to allow California voters to instruct Congress and the Legislature to pass and ratify a constitutional amendment to limit campaign spending and establish that only human beings (and not corporations) enjoy constitutional rights. 

Should the proposition pass, neither the Congress nor the CA Legislature would be legally bound to follow the lead of California voters, a point that did not rest well with the conservative-leaning HJTA. 

Proponents of the proposition, however, are pleased with the latest decision. “The Court didn’t finish the job with its ruling on HJTA v. Padilla,” comments Michele Sutter, Money Out Voters In (MOVI) co-founder, the lead supporter of the Overturn Citizens United Act. “This rehearing will allow them the opportunity to do justice for the 18 million California voters the Court has now disenfranchised twice. Californians have earned the right to vote to overturn Citizens United. If the Court hadn’t intervened to remove the legislature’s perfectly legal ballot measure, something the Court has never done before, we’d have voted on Prop 49 in 2014.” 

To date, sixteen states and more than 650 cities and towns across the country have called on their representatives to support such an amendment. In 2012, voters in Montana and Colorado passed similar ballot initiatives by 75 percent. Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.,) who suspended his campaign in December, have called for an amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision. 

 “As presidential candidates race to raise money for their campaign coffers, the need to limit the influence of extremely wealthy and corporate donors in our elections is clearer than ever,” says Emily Rusch, Executive Director of CALPIRG. “At the urging of their constituents, the legislature put Prop 49 on the ballot back in 2014, and we are counting on the legislature to do whatever it takes to hold a vote on the 2016 ballot.” 

While Prop 49 (or a similar proposition) is not a legal mandate, the expressed support of voters at the ballot is a strong signal that American citizens are disgruntled with politics as usual and support meaningful campaign finance reform. 

“Justice is delayed but it will not be denied. The Legislature can count on an upswell of We the People who will demand that a voter instruction be placed on the 2016 ballot that tells Congress to pass a Constitutional Amendment to overturn Citizens United,” says Kathay Feng, Common Cause CA. 

Background on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission 

In a 2010 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court passed the Citizens United decision 5-4, which ruled that unlimited campaign contributions by corporations were protected under the First Amendment Freedom of Speech clause, thereby rejecting campaign spending limits. Citizens United, a nonprofit corporation, had produced a film about a candidate seeking a party’s nomination in the next Presidential election. Corporations and unions were prohibited by law from funding speech expressly advocating “electioneering communication,” public, cable, or satellite broadcasts made within thirty days of the primary election that clearly identified a candidate for federal office. Citizens United brought the case before the Court to ask for a declaratory judgement so the group would not be subject to civil or criminal penalties for broadcasting their film.


(Beth Cone Kramer is a Los Angeles-based writer and CityWatch contributor.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.




Vol 14 Issue 7

Pub: Jan 22, 2016

FRIDAY MORNING MEMO--As you know from last week’s post, a handful of disaffected residents of NELA set up a semi-secret online petition asking Jos&ecaute; Huizar to rip out the bike lanes on York Boulevard, listing a number of alleged effects they have had on the community—none of which they actually brought about. In case you missed that post, you can read it here. It includes rebuttals of the points the petitioners listed as bike-lane-generated malevolence.   

What’s particularly interesting, and what exposes the profound ignorance in which our opponents operate, is that they asked for the bike lanes to be removed, but not the road diet. So removing the bike lanes would not add any traffic lanes back onto York.

Of course, adding traffic lanes would only cause more traffic, as the experience of the last eighty years has shown. Even CalTrans—CalTrans!—now acknowledges that sad if counterintuitive fact.   And the billions wasted on the Sepulveda Pass widening, which only made traffic worse, simply undergird the futility of equating more lanes with faster traffic. 

So, an enterprising and enlightened member of the community put up a counter-petition asking Huizar to keep the bike lanes. As of this writing, it has been graced by 709 signatures, well over twice as many as the leadfoot lunatics’ sneering demand.

If you haven’t yet signed on to support the bike lanes on York (which have reduced collisions while enrichening local businesses), you still have a chance to do so here. Please note in the comments section whether you live, work, or spend money in Highland Park, and, if you will, what particular benefit you gain from the bike lanes on York.  

And be civil: leave the snarling to the Neanderthals. They may be scary, but their time has passed.

(Richard Risemberg is a writer. His current professional activities are centered on sustainable development and lifestyle. This column was posted first at Flying Pigeon.)  Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams. 






Vol 14 Issue 7

Pub: Jan 22, 2016



EXXON NOT NEW TO SERIOUS SCANDAL--California's attorney general has joined New York state in investigating Exxon Mobil's decades-long climate change cover-up, probing what it knew about global warming, as well as what—and when—the oil giant disclosed to its shareholders and the public, according to the LA Times on Wednesday.  

According to "a person close to the investigation," the office of Attorney General Kamala Harris is looking into "whether Exxon Mobil Corp. repeatedly lied to the public and its shareholders about the risk to its business from climate change—and whether such actions could amount to securities fraud and violations of environmental laws," the Times writes. 

Reporting in the fall of 2015 revealed that Exxon scientists and management knew since the late 1970s that the company's product was helping drive catastrophic global warming, and responded by spending millions to disseminate disinformation and fund climate denial campaigns. Environmentalist and 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben has described it as "the most consequential lie in human history."

Climate justice groups, along with several current and former U.S. lawmakers and presidential candidates, have called for a Department of Justice investigation into "what Exxon knew."

And in November, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman catapulted 'Exxon Knew' into "the category of truly serious scandals," as McKibben put it, by issuing the corporation an 18-page subpoena seeking four decades of documents, research findings, and communications related to climate change.

"New York has taken the first step, now other Attorneys General should follow suit to protect the rights of the American people against big polluters from lying to them about climate change and its impacts on our communities," Greenpeace USA executive director Annie Leonard said at the time.

It seems Harris has heeded that call. While the Times reports that it "is unclear what approach Harris intends to take in California's investigation," it adds that her office is "casting a wide net and looking at a variety of issues, according to the person familiar with the matter."

Union of Concerned Scientists president Ken Kimmel, meanwhile, praised the development as "the latest in a growing movement to uncover the truth, supported by members of Congress, presidential candidates, a former Department of Justice attorney, and more than 60 leaders of major environmental, social justice and Indigenous people’s organizations."

The news comes on the heels of a unanimous vote last week by the Los Angeles County Democratic Party—California’s largest Democratic organization—to pass a resolution urging Harris "to investigate Exxon Mobil and fellow fossil fuel companies for potential breaches of California law based on their 1970s-era research into the science of climate change, then pouring millions into manufacturing doubt and denial of climate science."

U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), who has led the charge for Exxon probes, told the Times he hopes the decision by Harris, representing a state with the eighth-largest economy in the world, will prompt other states and the Justice Department to investigate.

"I think this action will be taken very seriously by Exxon Mobil," Lieu said.

McKibben echoed Lieu's hope in a statement on Wednesday. "California’s action means that the world's eighth largest economy is now probing the world's richest fossil fuel company for lying about the greatest problem the planet ever faced," he said. "I'd say this means this scandal isn't going away."

"With the climate changing at the pace it is," he added, "we can't afford for the Department of Justice and Loretta Lynch to dawdle."

Meanwhile, earlier this week, a group of ExxonMobil shareholders urged the corporation to detail the resilience of its business model to climate change.

"The unprecedented Paris agreement to rein in global warming may significantly affect Exxon’s operations," New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, who is Trustee of the New York State Common Retirement Fund, said in a statement.

"As shareholders, we want to know that Exxon is doing what is needed to prepare for a future with lower carbon emissions," DeNapoli continued. "The future success of the company, and its investors, requires Exxon to assess how it will perform as the world changes."

(Deirdre Fulton writes for Common Dreams … where this report was first posted.)






Vol 14 Issue 7

Pub: Jan 22, 2016

GELFAND’S WORLD--A tiff between competing corporations threatens the multigenerational cherished memories of families. At least for my family it does. We remember going to Camp Curry and having breakfast at the Ahwahnee Hotel. We remember spending New Year's Eve at the Wawona Lodge as 1999 turned into 2000. We remember seeing a bear cub looking through our window. The traditional names are in danger now that the Delaware North Corporation will be replaced by Aramark as the concessionaire. There is a remarkably ironic twist to this story, but it doesn't make it any nicer. 

Yosemite had its origins as a protected area starting in the administration of Abraham Lincoln. It officially became a national park in 1890. Those of you who went to the campfire talks at Camp Curry (later renamed Curry Village) probably heard this story. Those of us of a certain age remember the fire fall, which consisted of hot embers being pushed over the edge of Glacier Point, half a mile above our heads, creating the red hot image of a waterfall. The Park Service eventually abandoned this ritual as being incompatible with the idea of nature preservation, but lots of people retain the memory. 

For most of its history, Yosemite National Park had its food and lodging services run by a company that originated in 1899. It was called the Yosemite Park & Curry Co. The idea of an organization that wrangled horses while running campgrounds and a cafeteria, and had done so for the better part of a century, was impressive. 

And then we watched that other ritual of the 1980s and '90s. The homegrown Curry company sold its assets to MCA. And then the new owner got bought by a Japanese corporation, Matsushita. This provoked a new round of American fretting over the ongoing sale of our assets to foreign buyers. The Secretary of the Interior decided that our landmark national park should be run by an American company. 

Thus the advent of the Delaware North corporation on the National Park scene. They came as the result of an attempt to preserve something. At one level, it was just national pride. On another level, it might be argued, it was the notion of preserving the national honor, character, and integrity. 

Surely this attempt at preservation included the saving of traditional words and names. I mean, you wouldn't expect the towns of Lexington and Concord to be forced to call themselves differently due to a dispute between two corporations. 

But now, the Delaware North Corporation, which won the concessions contract after Curry/MCA/Matsushita was forced out in the early 1990s, is itself being forced out by the newly awarded concessionaire, Aramark corporation. 

And that's the crux of the matter. Delaware North claims that in its sale of all Yosemite assets to Aramark (something required of each successive owner since Matsushita), it has valuable additional holdings, those being the names of some of its properties. Thus for the Ahwahnee, the name itself is being treated as a multimillion dollar asset. Somehow, the term Yosemite National Park seems to have been trademarked with hardly anyone noticing. 

The names of the Wawona, the Yosemite Lodge, and the Badger Pass ski complex are being treated as intellectual property, and Delaware North claims its right to compensation on the order of $50 million, give or take. Apparently it didn't make enough money over the past couple of decades and now requires more. 

The Park Service considered the conflict and has now decided that the issue will be made moot. Each of the hotel locations, Curry Village, and the ski area will now be named something different. 

The best description of the situation comes from Kevin Drum of the Mother Jones website, who has written two pieces. The first article is, as Drum concedes, a bit extreme, but it does manage to point out that the Ahwahnee will now be called the Majestic Yosemite Hotel, and Curry Village will be called Half Dome Village. The Wawona is scheduled to become Big Trees Lodge. 

Drum has a little fun with the travesty: "Coming soon: Yellowstone National Park will be renamed Majestic Geysers Park. Redwood National Park will become Incredible Trees Park. And Everglades National Park will become Big Swampy Park." 

Drum followed up with a second article which walked the first one back a bit. To summarize, the whole conflict is in reality a contract dispute between two corporations. Delaware North thinks it is entitled to more compensation than the Park Service and the new concessionaire are willing to allow. 

Although I appreciate Kevin's careful reporting, I would like to suggest one element of the controversy that is being downplayed. It's the attitude of the Park Service. The United States government should have shown a little more spine, and told the litigants that the names in question are a heritage of the American people and are not to be messed with. 

I'd also like to think that earlier generations of Park Service leadership wouldn't have been such wimps. I can remember talking with the Park Service's Yosemite Superintendant about 25 years ago. I argued that Yosemite is a special place, and his reply was, "It is a special place." It was clear that he, his colleagues, and numerous organizations dedicated to preservation would be working to protect it. And that preservation should include names that are remembered fondly by hundreds of thousands of people. 

There is the additional effect, not inconsequential, that these proposed name changes would make us look stupid and craven in foreign nations. Shall the Eiffel Tower be renamed, and under what circumstances? The question is ludicrous. 

I would hope that the Park Service was just being a little thoughtless and shortsighted, will rethink its position, and will push for a quick resolution. And then win. 

In discussing this story with some friends, it was pointed out to me that thousands of couples have chosen to be married in Yosemite Valley. The federal judges who have presided over the little courthouse at the base of Yosemite Falls have also managed to marry a lot of people on trails and along the Merced River and up on towering crags these many years. Think of what those couples must be thinking now that the name of Yosemite National Park, the location written on their marriage certificates, is claimed to be the trademarked property of an eastern corporation. As one such person said to me, with just a bit of tongue in cheek, "WE'RE NOT MARRIED!" What must it be like for those couples? We have to preserve the sanctity of those marriages. This should be the one thing that conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats can agree on. 


January 17, the date of this writing, is the 22nd anniversary of the Northridge earthquake and the 19th anniversary of the death of a friend by gunfire. Both events are worthy of serious thought.


(Bob Gelfand writes on culture and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at amrep535@sbcglobal.net




Vol 14 Issue 6

Pub: Jan 19, 2016

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