Dude. These are as true as any words ever written:
It’s often said that California is the only state that doesn’t regulate groundwater, but that’s not exactly true. In California, one rule always applies. Though unwritten, it exists in the form of dogma more powerful than words graven in stone: Any official, at any level, whenever speaking of groundwater, must assert emphatically that local control is the best of all possible alternatives.
Does one have to be a tenured professor, primarily in another field, to call this out? It is so true, despite the abundant evidence that local control has well and truly fucked up groundwater management in many places. In other places, local control has done a nice job. But local control of itself is no guarantee of a good outcome. Now, I am a bureaucrat deep in the state and effectively haven’t been out in the field in a decade or so. It is possible that with the perspective of distance, I would understand that state-level control is hamhanded and that in fact, we do create nonsensical regulations like “every groundwater basin must pump no more than 57.683AF/year” regardless of the unique regional character of each precious
snowflake basin. Maybe. Maybe state regulation is the worst of all possible worlds, such that a fervent commitment to local control in every utterance is the only possible way to ward it off.
But from here, local control often appears to be strongly preoccupied with short-term self-interest, with local politicians too closely embedded with their neighbors to create structures that will be beneficial in the longer term but painful at first. Local control seems too oriented to maximum growth. It may have deep local knowledge, but not the staff capacity to create complex governance structures. Local control has some inherent drawbacks, especially for common good problems. I hear local control supported at the time, but it never comes with a precise explanation WHY it is the best possible alternative, just like I never hear WHY regional differences mean that the state can’t possibly issue relevant regulations.