When I first moved to California, I was amazed at how perfect everything seemed to be. The streets were uniformly straight and wide; the tops of palm trees dotted the sky as conscientiously as sugar flowers on the top of a cake. For a person coming from Miami, where city planning has been random at best and negligent at worst, California looked like a movie set — organized, beautiful and carefully constructed to please.
Imagine my surprise when I went up to the props, touched them, and found that everything was real.
Or was it?
With its longstanding budget crisis, California has proven that make-believe isn't just for the silver screen. As it turns out, all that beauty was built on a handful of IOUs and more than a few broken promises. A factory for churning out actors, the state easily tops all of its protégés in what it means to make a living off a lie: Things are flawless on the outside, but a train wreck underneath.
Now, as many down-and-out actors have done before, California seems to be more than willing to sell its soul to fix its financial problems. Case in point: In the state that has tooted its own horn more than once for being a forerunner of the environmental movement, there is now serious consideration around a new initiative to resume offshore drilling in Santa Barbara
It's a case of career amnesia — but one a little more dangerous than Eddie Murphy's decision to do a second Dr. Dolittle
movie. In 1969, an oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara
shocked the California community by killing over 3000 birds and countless marine wildlife — a disaster that was primarily caused by a lack of federal standards for oil drilling platforms. In an outraged reaction, a loud and determined grassroots movement called Get Oil Out
was founded in an attempt to ban further offshore drilling. The government passed some palliative legislation in response, and the Santa Barbara coastline was left alone for 40 years.
But that respite seems to have been only a temporary one. Plains Exploration & Production Co.
, an independent oil and gas company based out of Texas, is lobbying hard to become the first company to break that hard-earned hiatus. In truth, it's only a matter of time before the company finds California's price — which, after a deficit of $26.3 billion, shouldn't be too difficult a task. Right now, the offer on the table is an initial payoff of $100 million, followed by yearly royalties of up to $2.3 billion a year for 13 years. Say sorry to the birds and the seals for me, will you?
Then again, I don't know why all of this surprised me. As a former big-budget actor himself, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger clearly knows what it's like to take roles just for the money. But is this role worth the cost? Once California sells out to Big Oil, it's hard to imagine what else won't come out of that Pandora's box. It's a scenario straight out of a Kubrick film — and the sad part is, I think I've seen this movie before.