As has been our custom for the past decade, Carrie and I have been doing a vacation stint up in the U.S. San Juan/Canadian Gulf Islands.
Those who’ve been up to the Seattle Puget Sound area know what I’m talking about. There are dozens, hundreds of islands to cruise… many with wonderful anchorages and even docking and resort facilities. It’s a boater’s paradise for the three or four short months of the year when the weather is warm and dry enough to make boating possible.
As for the other eight months? Rain and cold, with a nice dash of snow every now and again. Yes, they have this thing called, “rain” up here. Lots of it. One would think with enough willpower, a state as rich as California could cut a deal to pipe the stuff down from somewhere. But no. Instead, we require folks to kill their beloved gardens, creating a burnt wasteland. And rather than actually fixing our water problem, we instead spend billions and billions on NOT fixing homelessness.
Back here in our boating paradise, we’ve got plenty of water and just about zero homeless. We’re on our boat we bought just about 20 years to the date, having been one of those odd couples who keep a boat long enough to actually pay it off. It’s not bad looking for a 20-year-old boat. I hope folks would say that about my 66-year-old self. Unfortunately, my defects can’t easily be repaired with a touch of fiberglass and a new coat of wax… If only wrinkles could be smoothed so easily.
We bought her brand new in 2003 and it was a bit of a stretch for us back then. But we worked hard, made our payments, kept the silly thing in ship-shape, and now, 20 years later our “Sparkling Diamond” is ours, free and clear. Well, there’s always taxes and upkeep and repairs. Kind of like regular doctor’s check-ups and regular exercise. Just like good health, it turns out that few things in life are actually “free.” But at least, after so much work, she’s mostly free. Let’s call her, “affordable.” But it did take hard work to get here.
Have you noticed that the really good stuff you’ve accomplished in life usually took a whole lot of effort? And once achieved, those things often pay benefits in life for decades? Motivational speaker Zig Ziglar used to say, “Regular exercise and good diet isn’t a sacrifice to suffer. Rather, good health is a wonderful gift to enjoy lifelong.” Enjoying the good stuff life can offer usually requires the upfront effort for the lifelong payoff.
Our “Sparkling Diamond” is a bit of a metaphor: long-term benefits require substantial commitment and effort. Let’s call this effort, “guts.”
Well, we need that kind of attitude and vision in our political leadership when it comes to water management, and for elimination of homelessness, and even for gun management in our state and country. But leadership guts, it seems, is as scarce as water in L.A.
My God… back home last week there was a guy gathering signatures for a new tax initiative to “raise money to fix homelessness.” I asked him if he’d heard of our existing two measures costing us 0.25% tax on every buck we spend to fix homelessness. Billions have been raised and we’ve built all of about 1,100 housing units costing nearly $600,000 each over the course of nearly five years. Nice, pricey digs if you can be homeless enough or connected enough to get them. Billions spent and we have 1,100 apartments and even more homeless. Most of us, I think, could come up with better and more efficient ideas to assist the 70,000 tent and shopping cart dwellers scattered and amassed among us, hurting not only themselves but you and me and all of us, as well. This is not rocket science. Like water availability, it’s about willpower, determination, and upfront guts to get things done.
And, by the way, if you don’t think homelessness is a Santa Clarita Valley problem, you’re not getting around much. There’s full-on encampments now under certain bridges along our bike and pedestrian paths. Encampments that trash our public infrastructure and bother and scare people. We need to get on this issue seriously quick… right here, right now. (So to speak…)
I’ve grown tired of nearly all politicians of all stripes who babble on and whip folks up into flurries. Promises and slogans come cheap. Manipulation via culture wars is an easy ticket to “rally the base.” Voters may not understand complex issues requiring complex solutions – so culture war hot buttons get pushed far more frequently than solutions requiring… guts.
Ask me, and I’d say this election season is really about three things, in order of urgency: Ending homelessness for real. Rebuilding our water distribution system. And getting a handle on weapons and crime. Fix these and California is golden again. Three tough problems, each requiring guts to push through the required fixes. But we’ve already made the upfront effort. We’ve paid our taxes – lots of taxes, and the state is sitting on unprecedented mountains of cash.
Each of these “opportunities for quality-of-life improvement” requires the same vision and commitment that anything good in life requires. All will take guts to break down walls to achieve. Successful, healthy folks make these efforts in their personal lives. We need leaders to do so in their political lives.
This election season, don’t vote for ear-tickling culture war hot buttons. Vote for those who’ve demonstrated the ability in their personal and public lives to evoke change and get things done.
And personally? I don’t give a rat’s ass about party affiliation. Instead, let’s simply insist on leaders who’ll move mountains to eliminate homelessness, build water delivery systems, and keep a lid on weapon proliferation.
Like nice possessions, like good health, you and I have paid our dues and certainly paid our taxes.
Now, let’s demand the good results you and I have put in the work for.
Gary Horton’s “Full Speed to Port!” has appeared in The Signal since 2006. The opinions expressed in his column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Signal or its editorial board.