Tuesday, August 24, 2021 | Sacramento, CA
California lawmakers indefinitely postponed a planned oversight hearing last week that was intended to examine Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration’s track record on wildfire prevention, as the state continues to burn.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers called for the hearing after an investigation from CapRadio and NPR’s California Newsroom revealed the Newsom administration had nixed a planned $500 million increase in wildfire prevention funding and overstated — by 690% — the number of acres treated through his “priority” wildfire prevention projects. …
The decision to put off the oversight hearing comes as internal emails obtained through a public records request show Newsom’s handpicked Cal Fire director Thom Porter ordered the removal of a key document from the department’s website on the same day that CapRadio and NPR’s California Newsroom published its investigation. The document — a “fact sheet” describing Newsom’s priority projects — stated the fire prevention effort would complete work on 90,000 acres of forestland. In reality, Cal Fire completed less than 12,000 acres…
Transparency advocate Aaron Mackey, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said he was troubled by the document’s removal and said the action underscored the need for the state Legislature to exercise its oversight function.
“Delaying this hearing [shows] that transparency and accountability to the general public is sometimes seen as an afterthought,” he said. Those values, he added, should be viewed as “core to the agency's mission,” along with wildfire prevention and suppression…
Republican lawmakers decried the hearing’s cancellation and said the rapid spread of wildfires across California made it more necessary than ever.
“Why would the Newsom Administration or the Governor himself not want to participate in an open and public discussion on the current status of wildfire prevention operations?” Assemblyman Vince Fong, the Vice Chairman of the Budget Committee, said in a press release. ”The public demands answers to countless questions.”
In a subsequent text sent to CapRadio and NPR’s California Newsroom, Fong called Cal Fire’s removal of the fact sheet “extremely troubling” and lamented that the Legislature’s oversight function has “completely stalled.”…
Lawmakers have not set a new date for the oversight hearing.
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Assemblyman Vince Fong represents the 34thAssembly District, encompassing most of Kern County including the communities of Bakersfield, Bear Valley Springs, China Lake, Frazier Park, Golden Hills, Inyokern, Lebec, Oildale, Ridgecrest, T