I’m not a nationalist or a jingoist, so it’s not on those terms that I object to a Russian billionaire helping keep Fort Ross State Park open. It makes sense from the Russian perspective, as Fort Ross represents their furthest penetration down the North American coast in the early 19th century.
But it is further evidence of totally misplaced priorities in California, where we turn to a billionaire to keep a historic site open to the public, something we can and should be able to do for ourselves:
Viktor Vekselberg, the billionaire president of the Renova Group of companies, a major Russian firm, signed an agreement Tuesday night in San Francisco with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to provide “substantial financial support” to keep Fort Ross open and to provide “a long-standing solution” to Fort Ross’ budgetary difficulties.
The agreement is supported at the highest levels of the Russian government. Vekselberg accompanied Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to the Bay Area on Tuesday to foster ties between U.S. and Russian high-tech businesses.
What’s next – is Monterey going to have to turn to Carlos Slim to keep open our historic adobes and other sites that date to the Mexican era? What about our beautiful state parks – are we going to start auctioning them off to the highest bidder?
This whole situation is just further evidence of the need to pass the state parks initiative on the November ballot. Originally conceived by John Laird, it will provide a small increase in the vehicle license fee to fully fund our parks, reduce the enormous maintenance backlog, and allow any Californian with a registered vehicle to access our parks for free.
Californians can and should be able to maintain our state parks and historic sites in perpetuity. The fact that Arnold Schwarzenegger turned to a Russian billionaire is a major embarrassment for the state of California and should cause us all to hang our heads in shame – at least until the state parks initiative passes in November.