[Spoiler Alert: Do not let children under the age of, say, 21, read this.]
There are some lines that should never be crossed: California Senator Dave Cogdill, Republican from Modesto, has stepped over one of them.
Senator Cogdill, the author of a comprehensive water bond package passed by the California Legislature in November 2009, watched in unhappiness on Monday night as that same legislature pulled the bond from the November 2010 election. Growing opposition to the bond due to its size and some of its provisions imperiled its prospects and rather than see it go down to defeat, lawmakers chose to delay it for two years. As I have discussed elsewhere, California's water problems have not gone away, but they need to be addressed in more realistic and urgent ways, with a stronger focus on reducing waste, improving efficiency, restoring rivers, better managing groundwater, and ensuring that our farms and cities can continue to meet their needs with less impact on our water systems.
Senator Cogdill, painfully aware of the difficulty getting the complex bond passed in the first place, said he did not believe that a better, perfect alternative existed. While that is certainly debatable -- and indeed should be debated quickly by the California legislature -- it is what the Senator said next that is entirely unacceptable. The Senator said,
[Children stop reading here, please.]
"Much like Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny, I'm afraid this utopian plan does not exist."
Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal, atheist or religious believer, I think we can all agree that for our elected officials to declare, in public, that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny do not exist is a step too far, a statement of unprovable opinion that can only cause more harm than good.
I urge the Senator to continue to work to repair California's water system as quickly as possible. But I also urge him to keep his personal beliefs to himself and to work immediately to repair his image with the future voters of America.
Follow Peter H. Gleick on Twitter: www.twitter.com/PeterGleick