Sacramento (SAPP) - When Democrat Jerry Brown took office in 2011 following the end of Arnold Schwarzenegger's term as governor, the warning bells were beginning to sound. "I thought that Brown was going to be a terror on fiscal issues, and I was right," says Democrat Jean Quan, mayor of Oakland. "Everyone thought that since he was a Democrat, he was going to pussy foot all of these state budget shortfalls, but I could tell that he was going to cut spending like a hawk. He is always looking for a way to save money for the state."
Even Republicans in California have praised Brown's tactics. "I was shocked by the way Brown has attacked spending. Some of these proposed cuts are really going to save California millions and even billions of dollars over his term in office. I sort of wish we could say that about some other people who shall remain nameless " says Bob Huff, state senator from Diamond Bar. "This latest idea sounds to me like a gimmick, but we shall see."
Mr. Huff is referring to rumors that Governor Brown has made a deal with President Barrack Obama, U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, and U.S. Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi that if Obama wins the November 2012 election, Catalina Island will be offered up for sale to a foreign government. The proceeds of the sale will go almost entirely to California in order to pay off the state's mounting debts.
"Greece is currently in a similar situation. The blogosphere and the rumor mill have been expecting an eventual breakup of Greece. With so many islands of little economic or military significance to the flagging state of Greece, many observers feel that she should sell or lease some of her thousands of tiny islands to pay debtors. This 'nuclear option' for sovereign nations may in fact be forced upon Greece if a World Bank bankruptcy court decides that territory should be sold," opines Joseph Stiglitz, formerly the Chief Economist of the World Bank and Nobel Laureate. "So to hear that the Obama Administration and California's Jerry Brown are seriously considering selling off assets, I think it shows how grave the debt crisis is."
Residents of the island have only just begun to hear about the plan. Needless to say, they aren't too happy. "It's hard enough to live on an island where we feel ignored by Sacramento and Washington. Now we will have to deal with a foreign nation? What are we going to do next, sell off Malibu?" asks Bob Kennedy, mayor of Avalon, the only town on the island. "We are Americans, all of us. I don't care what the looming deficit amounts to, it's my backyard on the chopping block. I feel like we are the Thirteen Colonies and Jerry Brown is King George."
The deficits are expected to rise unless drastic measures are taken. With the state legislature filibustering everything Brown tries, there is no way to balance the budget. John Hinckley is a resident of Catalina. "This is absurd. Who is going to buy Catalina Island? It's covered almost completely with private conservation lands. I guess the governor feels that since he can't tax the Catalina Island Conservancy, he might as well get rid of it all. I want to shoot the governor of California right about now. If this is about taxes, then raise more taxes. Don't sell our land."
According to sources close to Barbara Boxer, the strategy is to offer Catalina to China, South Korea, Taiwan, and New Zealand. All of these countries are looking for a way to increase trade in the U.S., and a harbor located a few miles from both Long Beach and Los Angeles would catapult their capabilities in the region. A 99-year lease is also an option, especially given the sensitivity of Americans to issues like sovereignty and pride.
"We Americans aren't just full of gay pride, not that there's anything wrong with that. But we have pride in Catalina Island. It's part of our heritage. I would hate to see it sold to the highest bidder," says Avalon resident Sally Hu, an illegal immigrant from the Philippines. Ms. Hu works at one of the famous casinos on the island. "I like it the way it is. I am afraid that if China buys this place, that I will be out of a job. I don't think they gamble in China."
The price of the Island for a sovereign nation to take complete control is reportedly in the 100s of billions of dollars. A lease would be worth at least $50 billion. That's not chump change. A source close to Mr. Brown let us in on the secret plan. "It is tempting. We need money so bad that we are willing to sell off one of our prized possessions. But to offset the loss, we are planning to start building islands, manmade islands off the coast near Malibu and San Diego. We generate so much trash in the cities here that we need to do something with the garbage anyway. So with the money we get for Catalina, we are going to make resort islands out of landfill waste. And the loss of Catalina will be forgotten as we get revenue from the sale of these manmade beaches."
But the deal has to pass the U.S. Congress. The initial response from Republican senators is mixed. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a senior aide to a Utah senator said, "I don't know until I talk with some others. But it sounds to me that California is trying to pull one over on the rest of us. I like balancing budgets and all, but this isn't like a garage sale. It's sovereign territory. Do we really want China 22 miles from Los Angeles?"