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San Diego, or so I’ve been told

Posted by Realist on October 28, 2007 – 3:21 am

This is composed from a coupla different sources and I hope I’ve credited everyone. I know it’s long, but it’s important dammit!

This from someone who lives there:
Already truly disgusted by the talking-heads revisionist history of how the “Republicans Won the San Diego Fire Wars”, I have to send friends the two articles below that explain the truth of Republican contol community.
There was no Federal presence until 3-4 days into the fire and then very little. Had there been Federal fire-fighting equipment available on the weekend when the fire started it would not have spread to the populated areas. You won’t hear how the fire always begins in the unincorporated communities that don’t want to collect taxes and therefore don’t have a fire department, that it was identified after the 2003 fire that the area needed 500 new fire trucks and only 19 were purchased since then, we won’t get a replay of all the Republican speeches calling for lower taxes resulting in short-changed fire departments. Below are two articles explaining the reality of the “success” of a Republican run community.

Katrina comparisons are a different class of wrong

So much is different, and so many people want to overlook the differences.
Steve Lopez, LA Times
October 26 2007

You knew it had to happen.

The moment firefighters began to get an edge on the fires, pundits, bloggers and other gasbags couldn’t wait to proclaim San Diego’s superiority over New Orleans in government response to disaster.
A writer on the conservative Red State website said the difference, of course, was firm Republican leadership in San Diego.

“New Orleans, on the other hand,” said the writer, “was a city on the federal dole dominated by Democrats, racial politics, and the legacy of Huey Long’s populist-socialist dreams.”

Everybody got that?

Republicans are better at evacuations than Democrats. This seems to be particularly true when the Republicans in question can flee down the highway in Yukons while Democrats wait for buses trapped under water.

“We’ve evacuated more people than were evacuated in Katrina,” San Diego County Sheriff Bill Kolender said Wednesday.

Not only was that ridiculously untrue, but one might argue the evacuations in the San Diego area were made necessary by a lack of firefighting personnel and equipment in a region that shuns taxes and happily sticks outside agencies with the tab when the bill comes due.

Talk about being on the dole.

And I hate to break up the back-slapping party President Bush, Gov. Schwarzenegger and various local officials staged Thursday, but the equipment shortage in the state’s wildfires was indisputable.

In 2004, a Schwarzenegger panel recommended that the state buy 150 new fire trucks, and only 19 have been ordered.

How many houses were destroyed by fire this week in Southern California? Was it nearly 1,800?

Don’t get me wrong. In habitually corrupt Louisiana , bumbling pols made a horrible situation worse during Katrina. But as for the suggestions that San Diegans set the standard for responsibility and leadership, let’s not forget that the city was on the brink of bankruptcy not long ago because of colossal fiscal mismanagement, or that San Diego County Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham was corrupt enough to make Louisiana pols stand up and salute.

At conservative, columnist Rich Lowry said comparing any natural disaster with Hurricane Katrina is unfair, which couldn’t be more true. But that didn’t stop him.

“San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium filled up with 20,000 evacuees and volunteers,” wrote Lowry. “If the Superdome in New Orleans after Katrina was like a ring in Dante’s hell, Qualcomm has been like a street fair — with bountiful food, and even massages, acupuncture and yoga on offer.”

Very interesting.

I’m wondering, though, if the absence of a street fair atmosphere in New Orleans had something to do with a death toll in the hundreds, with bodies floating in streets that had turned to rivers after a wall of water destroyed nearly the entire city and separated thousands of families.

Lowry is right, though. I was in New Orleans after Katrina, and I don’t recall anyone offering massage and yoga. Nor did I hear the words, “Acupuncture, anyone?”

USC professor Jeff McCombs sent me an e-mail suggesting that if San Diego County had been run by New Orleans Democrats, half the firefighters and police would have deserted their posts, residents would have refused to evacuate for fear of looting, and the mayor would have told evacuees the federal government was letting it all happen “because they are white and Republican.”

McCombs closed by suggesting “many in New Orleans think that Katrina was a national, white, Republican, race-based conspiracy.”

Clearly, professor, you don’t have to be from Louisiana to see the world in such black and white terms.

On CNN on Wednesday morning, a Navy petty officer who volunteered in Katrina and in San Diego got right to the heart of the matter.

“Here you have complete organization. You have a community coming together, getting things down and helping out. It’s just amazing the way everybody is interacting and the cooperation between civilians, military, everybody. Like I have mentioned before, traditionally in our society, we have different classes of people.”

Yes, we sure do.

We also have a president who was half asleep when Katrina hit, but, luckily for San Diego, seems to have learned a lesson from that failure.

But don’t take my word for it.

“It’s phenomenally better,” Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff said of the difference in federal response, “because we have been planning and preparing and training together for the last 2 1/2 years.”

There you go.

You’d think San Diego’s staunch defenders would be thanking New Orleans for making these improvements possible, rather than all but calling the recovering bayou city a jungle filled with savages who got what they deserved.

But we have different classes of people.

San Diego Fires


Have you stopped to wonder why San Diego County’s fires are worse than those of Los Angeles County? The landscape is not really different. The average rainfall is comparable. So why does San Diego County burn so much more?

Here are two reasons that stand out: Developers allow homes to be built in dangerous, fire-prone areas, due to less housing regulation than Los Angeles County. Residents of San Diego County refuse to pay taxes for fire departments. These two factors, combined with an arid climate and hilly scrubland, are like the proverbial triangle of factors that lead to a conflagration.

To set the stage, one must first recall the conservative, pro-business environment of San Diego County. This leads to a greater rate of development of the San Diego County hill land, and less regulation regarding zoning…including fire safety. UC San Diego Professor Steve Erie: “developers own most of the city councils. In Poway, in Escondido, what they do is put homeowners in harm’s way. They’re able to control zoning processes, and they’re frequently behind initiatives that say no new taxes, no new fire services. It’s insanity.” – Steve Lopes, LA Times, 10/24/07

What is the result of this deregulated home zoning in San Diego County (and beyond)?

“Of the 90,000 San Diego County homes built in the 1990s, 72,000 of them – three out of four – were in wildlands, said Volker Radeloff, a University of Wisconsin ecology professor who studies development in fire-prone regions.” – Carrie Peyton Dahlberg and Chris Bowman, Sacramento Bee, 10/23/07

Now, this phenomenon is happening in Los Angeles County and elsewhere. While San Diego County is less regulated than LA County, people are moving to the hills–literally–in both counties. Perhaps more care is taken in LA County, and less city councils are influenced by pro-develpment forces. Regardless of regulation, anytime you build in chaparral, you run a certain fire risk.

However, San Diego County increases that risk dramatically by not voting to increase taxes for fire department funding. The chaparral may be dry as tinder in both counties, but a smaller fire department in San Diego County (and no actual county fire department!) completes the triangle of factors.

The terribly frustrating thing is, San Diego County residents should know better. As you may recall, this is not the first time that SD CO has burned. In 2003, the Cedar Fire devastated hundreds of thousands of acres. At that time, the same warnings were raised regarding lack of staffing and funding for fire protection and prevention. In the aftermath, the fire chief at the time, Jeff Bowman, went to the San Diego City Council to appeal for more funds.

“Bowman had told San Diego city officials it would cost at least $100 million to add needed new stations and equipment and $40 million a year more to increase staff. That investment, he said, is what it would take to bring San Diego into compliance with national standards. Those guidelines call for a city of San Diego’s size to have at least 22 more stations than the current 46, and 1,300 firefighters, up from the 980 now on staff.

But his appeal had no effect. Four months after the Cedar fire, a ballot proposal to boost hotel-motel taxes to pay for better fire protection failed to win voter approval. The City Council, mindful of the anti-tax mood of residents, has opted not to try again.” – Sharon Bernstein, Robert J. Lopez and Megan Garvey, Los Angeles Times, October 23, 2007

Despite this fire and other fires in the past, it bears repeating: unbelievably, there is no San Diego County Fire Department. Now, one could argue that the city of San Diego wouldn’t want to pay taxes to benefit the residents of other cities within the county, since the Cedar Fire was not a significant threat to that city. Fine, but the city’s disregard for investment in fire protection includes its own protection. “The City of San Diego has “but one firefighting helicopter and just 975 firefighters for 330 square miles and 1.3 million residents. Compare that…with San Francisco, which has 1,600 firefighters for 60 square miles and 850,000 people.” – Steve Lopez, Los Angeles Times, 10/24/07

Thus, we have the current situation in San Diego County: enormous, uncontainable fires. One might think my post is an indictment of the residents of San Diego County. It is not. My heart goes out to them. I see the journal entries of friends who have homes in Fallbrook, Escondido, and elsewhere, who are threatened by the fires, and worry about their friends, family, homes, and pets. My father-in-law has in all likelihood lost his house in the current Witch Fire when it swept through Ramona.

San Diego County is a tragic example of Republican conservative values–reduced taxes and reduced or compromised infrastructure regulation–reaping what it sows. This autumn harvest of burned homes and businesses, lost lives, pets, photographs and treasured memories, for hundreds of thousands of affected evacuees, is bitter indeed.

When the air finally clears, I sincerely hope that the residents of San Diego County will finally see how voting conservative can cause their dreams to literally go up in smoke.

This post is under “Uncategorized” and has 8 respond so far.
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8 Responds so far- Add one»

  1. 1. SeattleTammy Said:

    ps: I have huge email of photos from Firefighters. Email me and I’ll send it to you.

  2. 2. Dave von Ebers Said:

    Tammy, this is one of the single most important issues today. Thanks for highlighting it, and for providing quotes and sources. Excellent work.


  3. 3. Saborlas Said:

    TOTALLY off topic, but I thought would be fun to share.

    Hope you’re not epileptic or anything. But the mystery behind Laura Bush’s creepy smile is finally revealed.

  4. 4. Saborlas Said:

    Dammit, that’s twice I’m damn well sure I closed a link tag, only to have this idjit comment software forget about it!

    Ever heard that an infinite amount of monkeys with an infinite amount of typewriters would eventually type out the complete works of Shakespeare? Certain applicastions and other “finished” code were a 15-minute, 2-monkey job! Examples: Windows ME, any Mac OS before they based it on BSD, THIS COMMENT SYSTEM!


  5. 5. Anntichrist S. Coulter Said:

    Oh calm down.

    And if you make me look at anything like that again, I’m gonna kneecap ya.

    Glad that my grandniece didn’t see it.

    I’ve seen better, btw.

  6. 6. Jaye Ramsey Sutter Said:

    I knew those fires were related to the old Prop. 13 that cut taxes for things like firetrucks and firemen.

    Fuck California. I am furious about these lies.

  7. 7. SeattleTammy Said:

    Teh googles won’t let democommie post here so here’s his comment:


    But, but; where’s the good news about how 4 companies of firefighters made sure that the over $250,000/annum folks did not lose their homes to the fires. Did Ralph’s or one of the other chains run a special on ribs and ground chuck so’s that the fire wouldn’t be a complete disaster.

    I blame the democrats (who else?) for forcing Bushco to waste all that fucking money on NOLA and not just BUYING San Diego County 500 fire trucks.

    Oh, wait, was that sound I didn’t hear. Oh, yeah it was the CA National Guard sending in people and equipment (like a few combat engineering batallions to use their dozers and graders to help make firebreaks and such.

    Ahnold, he is loosing sleep, ja? Arbeit macht frei, Arnie, arbeit macht frei.”

  8. 8. RenB Said:

    We got that info on the teevee here, only I only heard it per hearsay, didn’t see it. I did pass it on to Annti, though…. I just couldn’t find a direct link.

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