It’s becoming depressingly familiar in California: As the foundations of civil society continue to crack and fragment in the Golden State, average citizens are paying the price for official ineptitude.
Whether it’s the millions of people endangered everyday by the consequences of the state’s homeless crisis, the third of the state’s residents at risk of drinking contaminated tap water, or the more than half buckling under the state’s out-of-control living costs, we are all paying the price for our officials’ catastrophic incompetence. We’ve seen dams collapse, foringe the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people. We’re told that some 30,000 bridges and overpasses in the state are not up to seismic regulations. And we’re experiencing outbreaks of infectious diseases that were eradicated more than a century ago.
The most progressive state in the country is regressing rapidly toward nineteenth century living conditions.
Scratch that: On our current trajectory the nineteenth century would be an improvement. We’re going positively medieval.
This week brought news of rolling blackouts that will deprive millions Californians in the northern third of the state of the foundational element of modern civilization, electricity. PG&E is cutting service to as many as 800,000 to a million customers, as high winds and dry conditions raise fire dangers.
In an astonishing display of temerity a company spokesperson said the shutdowns are necessary “to keep our communities safe and reduce the risk of wildfire.” After a decade of wildfires that burned millions of acres, cost hundreds of lives, and resulted in tens of billions of dollars in damage PG&E is telling the state they’ve found religion when it comes to public safety. And their solution is to shut us down. This is the same PG&E, mind you, that has lobbied relentlessly against any efforts by legislators to force the company to act like a decent corporate citizen.
PG&E is calling the outages “Public Safety Power Shutoffs,” or PSPS’s. Yet here’s a little gem hidden in the PG&E blog: “customers not impacted by the PSPS may experience power outages due to PG&E equipment damaged during this major wind event.”
Translation: “Because our equipment is unreliable, because we’ve neglected essential brush clearance for more than a decade, and because we’ve spent decades ignoring even basic public safety in our relentless greed, we’re going to inconvenience and endanger a million of you. Oh, and there’s still a risk that wind will damage our unreliable equipment and start fires anyway. Good luck everyone!”
Adding insult to injury, the company’s website temporarily crashed yesterday, leaving people with no way to access outage information to plan in case their community was on the hit list.
Adding even more insult, the company’s website and social media are full of advice for those who will be affected. The company is urging people to stock up on ice, food, water, and other supplies. No word how low income people or those on fixed incomes are supposed to pay for these sudden and unexpected necessities. No word how thousands of businesses will be expected to absorb the financial fallout of shutting their doors for days. No advice for elderly people who depend on electric medical equipment. Maybe they expect Gramps to dash over to Home Depot and purchase a generator.
Recall that this is the the same company that bilked ratepayers out of millions during the Enron scandal. The company whose senior executives received gold parachutes worth millions. The company whose senior management enjoyed a revolving door with the administration of former Governor Jerry Brown.
It’s all part of the slow decline and fall of a once great state. Unless and until citizens make their voices heard, we can expect more of the same.