WILL THE REAL JOB-KILLERS PLEASE STEP FORWARD?
Political stereotypes were turned on their heads this week when Sen. Sheila Kuehl, one of the Legislature's leading liberal voices, went to bat for the state's military bases and her conservative, pro-business critics were put in the awkward position of resisting her attempt to accommodate the Pentagon's needs.
Kuehl has taken the lead in trying to accomplish in California what the National Governors Association identifies as the No. 1 thing states can do to keep their job-producing military bases from being put on the Pentagon's hit list for next year's round of base closures: protect them from urban encroachment.
It's a sensitive issue because unobstucted flight paths over open spaces are vital to the military's flight-training and weapons-research missions in California -- and the building and real estate industries figure the last thing California needs is another justification that growth-controllers can use to try to block development on some of those open spaces. Kuehl's original proposal would have created a "Southern California Military Greenway Commission" to look out for the interests of preserving the military's special use air space. Critics said the commission would have done for inland areas what the Coastal Commission has done for its coastal areas that is, create a new regulatory hurdle to development.
In the face of heavy opposition, Kuehl backed off from that plan and now offers a far more modest idea: a requirement that all local agencies must notify and then, upon request, meet with military officials to discuss the effects of proposed developments on military operations and training. Even at that idea, the land-development industry squirms.
It did create a priceless moment at Wednesday's hearing of the Senate Local Government Committee after a lobbyist for the California Chamber of Commerce expressed concerns over Kuehl's proposal. In years past, the chamber has labeled dozens of Kuehl's bills "job-killers" and lobbied feverishly to defeat them. Following the chamber lobbyist's testimony, Kuehl closed her argument in support of the bill by saying, "We want the military to be able to continue not only because it's necessary to national defense, but also because we want to keep our military bases in California... I think this is important to California jobs."