It has not been an easy few years for the California state park system. Facing a budget crunch, the Department of Parks and Recreation nearly closed 70 parks last year before it was revealed that top officials had hidden more than $20 million in a secret fund.
The embarrassing revelations continued: Another $33 million had been forgotten in an obscure off-road fund, and the department had deferred maintenance at state parks in excess of $1 billion.
Those troubles prompted the launch of a new volunteer commission to analyze and overhaul the park system. Parks Forward, as the initiative is called, aims to make the department more "sustainable" over the next century.
The commission, which is chaired by former state Sen. Christine Kehoe and venture capitalist Lance Conn, meets today from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Capitol Plaza Ballrooms on Ninth Street. The meeting will cover current financials and staffing at state parks, as well as activities underway to improve their management and possible models for the system's long-term viability.
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SNOW-POLITANO: President Barack Obama has decided not to attend the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, in February, so he's sending a delegation of athletes and diplomats in his place. Leading the group, the White House announced yesterday, is Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California system, who also led a delegation to the closing ceremonies of the Vancouver Olympics in 2010. She will be joined by former tennis champion Billie Jean King and figure skating gold medalist Brian Boitano, among others.
"I look forward to being in Sochi to support our Olympic athletes and celebrate their accomplishments," Napolitano said in a statement. "It is an honor to represent our country in the company of individuals who have excelled in life and sport."
ACTIVE ALUM: Former state lawmaker Gil Cedillo was a big advocate for immigrant rights during his time in the California Legislature. (He famously introduced legislation that would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver's licenses nine times.) Now a Los Angeles councilman, Cedillo is speaking out on the Obama administration's deportation policy. He will be leading an event on the front steps of Los Angeles City Hall at 9 a.m. to coincide with the United Nations International Day of Migrants.