Gary Horton | Mike Garcia: The Right Guy, at the Right Time?

Gary Horton
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Sometimes things work out well-timed, all on their own. Just serendipity. We may be experiencing that, within important limitations, with Rep. Mike Garcia.  

And sometimes, things happen around us – close or far – that may be far more important, far more impactful than we think, due to our disengagement or distance from the thing that is happening. And, heaven knows, there’s a lot of things happening around these days.  

The Santa Clarita Valley has one explosively serious dump problem. 

The Chiquita Canyon Landfill is owned by Waste Connections. Otherwise simply known as “the dump,” this landfill has long been an annoyance to the unfortunately dump-abused folks in Val Verde. Now, the wind is blowing in a different direction, so to speak … 

An “ancient” original area of the dump has incurred a massive chemical reaction deep beneath the surface. This chemical “burn” is a high-temperature chemical reaction turning the old “whatever was dumped back then” into a toxic fluid known as leachate. This reaction also causes pressure, releasing unbelievably horrific smelling gases and even the leachate fluid itself. Agencies from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to just about everyone with a title in L.A. County are on the case and are attempting to move the extremely slow arms of our government to inspect, discover, direct and correct the problem.  

Once just a simmering annoyance at Val Verde, this new “reaction” impacts nearly all the West SCV and, with a little bad luck, might impact half our valley or more. This event causes respiratory distress, nausea, repulsion, depression, and drastic decrease in quality of life for those affected. And the areas affected are expanding and are expected to “get worse before it gets better.” 

It pays to have a congressman in the loop during such a critical event. It so happens that Congressman Garcia’s field office gets its share of the smelly mess. To his credit, Mike Garcia got in front of this issue as soon as the national EPA was involved, and aspects of this crisis fell within his jurisdiction. It was also an election season, and that might be cynical to mention. In any case, Mike Garcia was the first government official to bluntly speak to the landfill crisis without weasel words. He’s said the hard things, that the dump should be closed until all issues are resolved, that impacted residents should be compensated and relocated.  

Yeah, there are huge economic impacts with such direct action. Huge legal admissions that might later cause problems for both the county and Waste Connections in court. But action now is what is required, not more agencies reporting slivers of data and planning more studies. Folks are suffering and Congressman Garcia, to his credit, came out and spoke truth to power. Mike’s message was a breath of fresh air to residents at our Landfill Oversight Committee meetings. I serve on the L.A. County Chiquita Canyon Landfill Oversight Committee, and I witnessed the immensely enthusiastic public response to Mike Garcia’s comments. 

Out-of-control dumps are one thing, and out-of-control wars are another. We all know there’s been a full-on land war in Ukraine since Russia invaded that sovereign country two years ago. Ukraine, more Western than not, has heroically and nearly miraculously repelled and held off the giant Russian war machine. Ukraine has become the bulwark of peace and freedom for the entire rest of the Western world. 

Sitting in our bucolic SCV, we can’t feel the sacrifice of Ukraine as they hold off a war-footed Russia from marching through Ukraine and into NATO lands. We don’t feel the buildings pulverized to dust, the screams, cries, deaths, maiming, and utter devastation that has happened.  

Here too it’s fortuitous, given the wreck Congress is, that Mike Garcia is our representative. Ukraine is at war; all of Europe is in a proxy war, and so are we. At a time like this, a guy who was educated and worked in the art of war is helpful. Garcia has led some of Congress’ efforts to work through the logjam of aid Ukraine so desperately needs. Garcia is seeking fast action on sending modern, capable, war-trajectory-changing weapons to Ukraine. He’s written two briefing papers circulated to the president and is working behind the scenes with the beleaguered Mike Johnson to figure out a way to get this Ukraine defense bill through his party’s ridiculously dysfunctional politics.  

One thing is certain: Mike Garcia knows war, and he’s a good voice to advocate for effective policy – IF he can get things done quickly. He’s put forth the plan. Now, he must get it done. Because not getting it done will leave the 2024 Republican Congress covered head to toe in unnecessarily spilled Ukrainian blood – caused by their inaction. Mike Garcia can’t let that happen. Mike Garcia knows war. He knows the real cost of Republican congressional inaction – and the real life-saving, country-saving benefit of impactful action now. 

Mike Garcia got off to a horrible start backing the insurrection crowd on Jan. 6 three years ago. That said, as we have important issues literally burning around us – from fires underground in local dumps to hot wars burning next to allied countries, we appear to have the right advocate pushing for the right resolutions in Washington right now, when a direct no-nonsense advocate is needed.  

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.

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