THE CALIFORNIA DELUGE : New Term, New Disaster for Wilson : Politics: Governor tours flooded Southland. Emergency declaration is his 30th since 1991.
Pete Wilson, the Second Term, was supposed to be different. No more fires. No more drought. No more riots. No more earthquakes.
But Wilson had to wonder Wednesday as he took the first trip of his second term: Not this again. Once more, the governor found himself boarding another National Guard helicopter for another aerial tour of another disaster scene.
“My reaction is, ‘Come on, give us a break. How much are we expected to endure?’ ” Wilson said after he examined areas in Malibu and Ventura County that were hardest hit by the state’s worst flooding in years.
For the 30th time since he took office in 1991, Wilson designated disaster areas in California--a total of 34 counties this time. And for the 12th time, the White House followed Wilson’s lead and made the same areas eligible for federal relief.
Clad in blue jeans and a green plaid shirt for the messy tour, Wilson said Wednesday he had “a sense of deep regret and a sense that this really isn’t fair to the people of California. They have had to go through quite a bit in a very short period of time.”
Just four days ago, when Wilson was sworn into office for his second term as California’s 36th governor, he commended the state’s residents as “resilient and sturdy people” who have weathered a riot, earthquakes, fires, floods and drought.
He went on to propose an optimistic and ambitious plan to reshape California government and announced that an improving economy would make it possible to pass a sweeping income tax cut.
Wednesday, Wilson could not be blamed for feeling like he was playing Bill Murray’s role in the Hollywood comedy, “Groundhog Day.” Four days after his inaugural address, he was on board a C-130 National Guard aircraft leaving McClellan Air Force Base in Sacramento to begin a familiar aerial tour of a disaster area.
The governor spent the noisy one-hour flight to Burbank wearing ear plugs and reading newspaper stories about two of the day’s biggest stories--his budget proposal and the flooding disaster. He was joined on the trip by state Insurance Commissioner Charles Quackenbush, Office of Emergency Services Director Dick Andrews, Assemblyman Brooks Firestone (R-Los Olivos) and state Sen. Jack O’Connell (D-Carpinteria).
At Burbank, the team boarded two helicopters for a tour over soggy yards in the San Fernando Valley, swampy horse pastures in Thousand Oaks and rugged canyons in the Santa Monica Mountains, where the storm’s runoff was cascading in dozens of waterfalls.
The governor had planned to fly over the coastal areas north of Los Angeles that were hardest hit--particularly Malibu and Santa Barbara. But the plan was scuttled by low clouds that made flying hazardous.
Instead, Wilson landed at a Los Angeles County sheriff’s substation and traveled to Malibu by motorcade for a look at the Pacific Coast Highway bridge over Cross Creek that was damaged and closed to traffic.
There, Wilson said he will call for the same expedited repair schedule for roads damaged by the floods that he called for after the Northridge earthquake.
As he boarded the C-130 to return to Sacramento about five hours after he arrived in Southern California, Wilson said he did not know how much the disaster will cost the state. And he cautioned that the bad weather might return.
“The question really is whether it’s over,” he said.