A disaster such as the Camp Fire, which wiped out the community of Paradise and killed 85 people outright, is not over the day after the fire is put out. Disasters such as that spread over time just as it spread over the countryside and through the city.
Everyone who has any knowledge of the conflagration knows that the recovery will be going on for a very long time.
That notion doesn’t seem to have occurred to the budget cutters in the California Governor’s Office.
Infrastructure is key to the comeback of the city, yet Gov. Gavin Newsom proposes pulling dollars meant to keep the Paradise Irrigation District – operators of the city’s water system – up and running. They’re proposing taking back $7.3 million dollars for operating costs of the PID. Why? Because the district didn’t spend the money fast enough.
The state agreed last year to provide $14.7 million to the PID – and the plan was to spend that total over two years to keep the water running as the city builds its way back into existence.
An Appeal-Democrat reporter received a response to queries about the move from Deputy Director of the Department of Finance H.D. Palmer, who said the money was redirected because half of the original allotment had not been spent – they’re using that meter with funding of all projects across the state: if money was allocated and was left unspent, they’re taking it back in order to better deal with a budget that will be wiped out by the pandemic.
That makes sense, we guess, except in the case of Paradise, where the money was supposed to be half-spent last year; there was supposed to be money left for this coming year.
“It is a broken promise and cripples the water district at the most critical time,” said local Assemblyman James Gallagher.
PID district Manager Kevin Phillips said he was shocked. He had been in contact with the Dept. of Finance just a few weeks ago, and was told cuts to PID’s funds were not anticipated.
Palmer pointed out that the proposal still requires a vote by the Legislature. Hopefully, there will be a majority of Californians in the House and Senate who have some empathy for a small, rural city decimated by wildfire and realize the Dept. of Finance strategy is pure travesty.