California Should Preserve Our Own Heritage

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.

4 thoughts on “California Should Preserve Our Own Heritage”

  1. Per the Huffington Post yesterday, “Private-public partnerships present some interim solutions, but in the long-term, charging down this road is fraught with perils. If we want a park system that truly serves the public good, we can’t let private interests dictate which parks receive money and which do not.”  We should not be counting on nationals of any sort to bail out our heritage.  It’s our job–and privilege– as “owners” of California.

  2. First, I think much of the state park could be wiped off the table…with a little help from the voters in November.  Not sure it’s the greatest thing from the budgetary perspective, but it is what it is.

    Fort Ross is really cool, it would be a shame for it to be totally closed to the public.  Californians need to understand that we are robbing our own cultural heritage to save a few bucks.  Sad, really.

  3. We are using HP money – through Resources Legacy Fund to create marine protected areas, no fishing zones, off the California Coast.

    So if we can use HP money, why not Russian money?  Do we stop advertising on the sides of buses or no more LA County marketing agreements for their beaches?

  4. “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,” Brian said.

    Schwarzenegger is a corporate privatizer – and his turning to a Russian billionaire for help in keeping Fort Ross open is just as dangerous as him privatizing the MLPA process. I agree totally with Brian’s commentary.

    In fact, the MLPA process has been a complete disaster to date because of the fact that it is a privatized process, overseen by corrupt oil industry, marina development, real estate and other corporate interests.

    The MLPA started out as a good law, but it has been corrupted under the Schwarzenegger regime. In fact, the MLPA was never intended to create duplicate fishing regulations like is doing now. It was intended to address pollution, habitat destruction, oil drllling and other human uses of the ocean besides fishing, but under Schwarzenegger, the worst Governor in California history, it has become a bizarre parody of protection.

    It’s very bad policy to have private corporations like the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation – or Russian billionaires – funding resource management and parks in California. Every time you introduce corporate money to a public process, corruption inevitably follows.


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