Dan Walters

Dan Walters

Dan Walters: San Francisco's environmental hypocrisy exposed

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 3A
Last Modified: Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013 - 8:16 pm

San Francisco, it could be said, is the nation's capital of trendy environmentalism – as long as it affects someone else.

This became very evident a few years ago when it was suggested – in a series of Bee articles, among other places – that San Francisco should give up its exclusive water supply from the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park, allowing it to be restored to its natural state.

The good burghers of San Francisco, led by U.S. Sen. (and former Mayor) Dianne Feinstein, arose in righteous anger to denounce draining the Hetch Hetchy reservoir as far-fetched and intrusive.

They parroted the position taken by American jingoists when it was proposed that the nation cede the Panama Canal to the Panamanians a few decades ago – something to the effect that they stole Hetch Hetchy fair and square in 1913 (thanks to a special act of Congress) and should keep it.

Last month, San Francisco voters rejected a local ballot measure that would have required a feasibility study for restoring Hetch Hetchy. Virtually every local political leader opposed the measure, including Mayor Ed Lee, who called it "really stupid."

However, San Francisco's do-as-we-say-not-as-we-do attitude toward environmentalism isn't confined to Hetch Hetchy.

While its politicians were complaining about outsiders meddling in the city's water supply, they were busily pushing legislation aimed at forcing the folks in suburban Solano County to continue receiving San Francisco's garbage.

Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, carried this year's bill to overturn a Solano County ballot measure limiting expansion of a landfill disposal site, calling it, believe it or not, "garbage equity."

The ballot measure was passed in 1984, but never enforced by county officials. But then a judge decreed that it was valid and should be followed, which prompted San Francisco to flex its considerable muscle in the Capitol.

Ma's bill whipped through the Assembly, where she was a leadership acolyte, but stalled in the Senate's Environmental Quality Committee. Then she – apparently with the acquiescence of the Senate's Democratic leadership – amended its provisions into another pending bill, a process known as "gut-and-amend," to bypass the committee, and it quickly moved to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk for a signature.

That may not be the end of the Solano County garbage story, however.

Several environmental groups and local residents have taken the fight to court in multiple lawsuits and, recently, a local judge handed them a partial victory in one of the suits.

Whatever happens, San Francisco's hypocrisy on environmental issues has been exposed. It's for preserving and enhancing the natural landscape of California as long as its residents are not discomfited.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Dan Walters

Dan Walters, political columnist

Dan Walters

Dan Walters has been a journalist for more than a half-century, spending all but a few of those years working for California newspapers. At one point in his career, at age 22, he was the nation's youngest daily newspaper editor.

He joined The Sacramento Union's Capitol bureau in 1975, just as Jerry Brown began his first governorship, and later became the Union's Capitol bureau chief. In 1981, Walters began writing the state's only daily newspaper column devoted to California political, economic and social events and, in 1984, he and the column moved to The Sacramento Bee. He has written more than 7,500 columns about California and its politics and his column now appears in dozens of California newspapers.

Email: dwalters@sacbee.com
Phone: 916-321-1195
Twitter: @WaltersBee

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