The adage is that “it is an ill wind that blows no good.” San Diego’s winds, the Mistral-like Santa Ana that stoked the brush fires and urged them towards million-dollar homes, was well-qualified as an ill-wind. At this writing it has begun to subside, although it could get a “second wind” and add to its score of 300 or so houses, 15 deaths and hundreds of thousands of scorched acres before it finishes teaching us about the follies of shake-shingle roofs, inappropriate foliage, and other lessons.
As the haze clears and the stench fades some things might appear with more clarity. Our Gov (not the one who counts Kurt Waldheim as his buddy) came to town today, surveying the damage and announcing the considerable efforts he has made to get more help for the seriously undermanned firefighters of San Diego. The wonder is that he showed up at all to the County that spawned his recall and voted a huge plurality for his replacement. He once again showed himself to be a ‘class act’ (the other in the manner in which he has comported himself in assisting his replacement), not playing in his press conference a single political card,but showing competence, concern and compassion.
Which brings me to the theme of this log. Government, the public sector, is the perceived enemy of the political cohort that orchestrated the unseating of Davis. They are the ones who resentful for every tax dollar they have to expend for the public services services. But when catastrophe threatens they don;t mind at all calling 911 or bitching when there aren’t (and there weren’t) enough firemen and equipment to meet the need. They are the ones who bemoan every zoning and building regulation intended to prevent or minimize the ravages of fires, floods and earthquakes as intrusions into the sanctity of their right to do just what , and where, they damn well please. With littler or no regard for the commonweal they are the ones who think we are still living in some version of the wild west where you can unleash your off-road vehicle on the environment, vandalizing the landscape with impunity. But when that environment turns the tables they expect their “public” services to be there to bail them out.
So government wasn’t the enemy these past few days; its was the last line of defense against one of Nature’s weapons of mass destruction. It wasn’t ‘privatiztion,’ it wasn’t the sanctified ‘marketplace’, or any so-called “faith-based’ blather either, that answered the call. It was the Gov who got other cities to sent their personnel and equipment, it was city administrators who directed police, fire, public health and other services. It was the often maligned government bureaus that conducted and coordinated the evacuations, and government workers who took the risks and faced the dangers. It was public sector professionals.
It’s an ill-wind that doesn’t blow in some truth. But the smoke will not long have cleared before the hot air of self interest and the government bashers will be back fanning the flames of their inane rhetoric.
©2003, James A. Clapp (UrbisMedia Ltd. Pub. 10.27.2003)