California spends billions rebuilding burned towns. The case for calling it quits now is overwhelming.
To understand why California’s political leaders have been unable to stop the wildfires ravaging the state, look to the past.
The state’s political leaders could have saved millions of dollars in wildfire costs by acting a year ago, according to a new analysis by two California researchers, both of whom have published landmark studies debunking a central argument in the state’s legal fight over evacuation orders. Instead, they made the same mistake the entire state could have avoided by acting last fall, when Gov. Jerry Brown (D) issued a state of emergency that allowed the California National Guard to intervene when he declared a state of emergency in some communities. (That declaration went into effect on Oct. 18, which meant that the Guard wouldn’t have been fully active until a week later, on Nov. 8.)
The analysis, by John Dunn and Michael Green, a pair of California political scientists, was published Aug. 28 in the American Journal of Political Science. The study focuses on the state of emergency declaration issued by Brown — a declaration that was criticized by other experts as legally dubious and unwise. It’s a case study in a central argument in the state’s legal fight over how to respond to the wildfires — that the governor’s declaration didn’t do enough to “protect” constituents’ health and safety.
To understand why California leaders failed to stop the wildfires from sweeping across the state, it’s worth first reviewing the politics.
The politics of evacuations
While the state is no stranger to public health and safety controversies, this particular battle over evacuations has emerged at a time when California has become notorious for its poor public health.
By the end of 2016, there were more than 1,500 fires burning in California, a third of which were burning in areas with no evacuation orders. Those fires cost the state $1.2