I’ve been lucky enough to know and work with John Laird ever since he was a Santa Cruz city councilman and we first joined forces with then Congressman Leon Panetta and US Senator Pete Wilson to protect California’s coastal environment and economy from offshore oil drilling proposals. Today we all have very good reasons to applaud our new Governor Jerry Brown’s appointment of former Assemblyman Laird as Secretary of Natural Resources. Simply put, John Laird bring unparalleled expertise and experience to the job of protecting the public trust of the state’s waters, public lands, and wildlife and helping chart a course to a clean energy economy here in California.
Times are tough for the Natural Resources Agency. Past staff and budget cuts have jeopardized the Agency’s ability to confront growing pressures on water, land, and wildlife from a growing population and economy. As one example, revenues from the state’s commercial fisheries have declined by more than half since 1990, the number of fishing vessels by more than 70%, and the number of fish processors by a third, costing thousands of jobs and millions of dollars to local economies.
It’s hard not to look at the state of the budget and these challenges and not conclude that California needs to find a new way forward. Laird is unusually well prepared for this challenge because he combines a deep knowledge of the issues with an expert understanding of how state budgets work (or not). In the Assembly, and as a City Councilman in Santa Cruz, Laird regularly showed his knowledge and concern for ocean and coastal protection and the environment, battling against offshore oil drilling, co-authoring AB 32—the state’s landmark clean energy law—and advancing implementation of the Marine Life Protection Act and the statewide network of marine protected areas that can help rebuild California’s fisheries. Laird also authored legislation calling upon the Ocean Protection Council to support better fisheries management through strategic grants.
Better than most anyone with his kind of environmental credentials, Laird knows the nuts and bolts of the state budget. While in the State Assembly in 2002-2008, Laird served as Chair of the Budget Committee and Special Session Committee on Budget Process. Governor Brown and Californians will benefit greatly from have Laird’s experience and expertise to call upon. And in tough budget times, the state’s natural resources will benefit from having someone representing them who knows the budget as deeply as Laird does.
Finally, John Laird is a pragmatist and problem-solver who has committed his life to public service, whether serving as a Board Member of the Santa Cruz Area Chamber of Commerce or as a member of the Cabrillo College Board of Trustees. And he knows how to laugh – a quality that is especially important in tough times.
Congratulations to John Laird for his selection, and to Governor Brown for his adding John Laird to his team.