Time to privatize CA parks

Cagle cartoon state parks scandal, Aug. 1, 2012Feb. 15, 2013

By John Seiler

Last year Californians discovered their state parks were mismanaged. While shutting parks supposedly because of a lack of money, it turned out they had a $54 million surplus squirreled away.

Given the billions of dollars voters have approved for state bonds for parks and last year’s massive park fee increase, the parks should be overflowing with money. What happened? A new audit by state Auditor Elaine Howle has the details:

“For years the department has continually reported different fund balance amounts to the Department of Finance (Finance) than it reported to the State Controller’s Office (State Controller) for both the parks fund and the off-highway vehicle fund.”

If any private company did that, its officers would go to prison under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

“Correspondence we reviewed in the department’s accounting and budget files show that Finance informed the department that differences existed between the amounts reported in the governor’s budget and those provided in the State Controller’s budgetary report as early as April 1999, yet neither current staff nor documentation we reviewed in the accounting and budget files at the department supplied an explanation regarding what originally caused the differences or why the issue was not resolved until the fall of 2012.”

So the parks’ fiscal malfeasance has lasted at least 14 years, through four governorships, before it was revealed.

“Over the years, various individuals at the department became aware of the differences in the amounts being reported. According to the current accounting administrator, approximately one year after she became aware of reporting differences in 2002, she was directed by the accounting administrator at the time to begin preparing fund condition statements—which show revenues, expenditures, prior-year adjustments, transfers, and fund balances—and providing them to the department’s budget office. However, she stated that the department’s budget office continued to report its own amounts and that over the next six years three different budget officers, including the current one, came to her with concerns about the differences in reporting. “

They just don’t care about the money!

The auditor made numerous suggestions, which the parks people and the state Department of Finance accepted.

But the real solution is privatization. Turn all the state parks over to private companies, such as Disneyland, Knotts Berry Farm and Magic Mountain. Let the companies make some money and the costs will go down and the service up.

Instead of park bonds paid for with massive tax increases, the private companies would raise private capital to fund improvements. Best of all, state taxpayers would not be on the hook for park employees’ pensions. The private companies would offer private pension programs, such as 401(k)s.

Let Disneyland — the “Happiest Place on Earth” — turn California’s badly run parks into the happiest parks on earth.




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  1. SeeSaw
    SeeSaw 15 February, 2013, 08:56

    You are just resentful and jealous of the public pensions. I believe it now takes $120/person to go to Disneyland for a day. Privatize our state parks? No way, Jose! The state parks are CA’s sparkling jewels and should be affordable and accessible to all CA citizens.

    Reply this comment
  2. Bob Smith
    Bob Smith 15 February, 2013, 09:02

    I know a I guy Arizona who’d be interested…

    Reply this comment
  3. Tax Target
    Tax Target 15 February, 2013, 09:32

    Sure SeeSaw they will be affordable and accessible when the State shutters them when bankruptcy hits. Been drinking the koolaid of the fiscal crisis is over? Guess again Chief… The State through Moonbeam speaketh with forked tongue. Financial ruin is out there waiting for Moonbeam and his crew.

    I’d rather have the parks open and maintained through privatizing than withering and dying at the hands of the Kalifornsky State Government.

    Reply this comment
  4. SeeSaw
    SeeSaw 15 February, 2013, 10:21

    You obviously have not visited many of our state parks,TT. Tell you what–take a trip up the mid-east portion of CA and stop at MacArthur-Burney Falls State Park. Most people never heard of it. Go take a look–then state that you think if should be off-limits to the normal working folks of CA. Another one: Go to Jedidiah Smith State Park and walk into that redwood forest next to the river. If our parks were to be privatized, just wait till you have another Disneyland. The fees will go sky high, the CEO’s will pocket millions and the employees will earn mininmum wage. That is not our CA. Those are our jewels, and you cannot have them as your private property!!! If you want to see a state run like that, move to one that is.

    Reply this comment
  5. SeeSaw
    SeeSaw 15 February, 2013, 10:24

    TT, if you don’t like paying taxes you should get ready to scoot. The state is prevented by law from claiming bankruptcy. It can raises the taxes it needs to become sustainable, if it ever gets to that point–I am doing my part, to see that it doesn’t.

    Reply this comment
  6. DavidfromLosGatos
    DavidfromLosGatos 15 February, 2013, 14:38

    “if you don’t like paying taxes you should get ready to scoot.”

    Absolutely true.

    And, I am going to hike as much and often as I can in the local state parks (Big Basin, Butano, Portolla, Castle Rock, Henry Coe, Henry Cowell, Nisene Marks – so many great ones), plus the local county parks, and open space areas, up until I leave. there are also nice hiking trails where we are going, but too cold to use them i the winter. Of course, with the money we save on CA taxes, we can winter-time vacations out here and hike in the CA parks as tourists!

    Reply this comment
  7. SkippingDog
    SkippingDog 15 February, 2013, 23:19

    Great plan, John. Let’s just sell the state parks to some company like WalMart. That’ll fix everything.

    Reply this comment
  8. SeeSaw
    SeeSaw 16 February, 2013, 11:35

    That’s right David. You are only here once. So, if it lights up your life to endure the suffering of living in a tax-free state for a few months, per year, dreaming about your upcoming vacation in CA, go for it.

    Reply this comment

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