Dan Richards, the Southern California real estate agent who killed a mountain lion in Idaho and then repeatedly bragged about it, may be the most tone-deaf public official in the state — and that's saying something. Not only did the president of California Fish & Game Commission have a photo taken of himself grinning next to the big cat that he shot to death, but he sent the image to a pro-hunting news website and declared: "I'm glad it's legal" to kill cougars in Idaho. Richards' gloating revealed a callous disregard for California's prohibition on killing cougars. It also represented another example of his anti-environmental agenda, which is deeply at odds with the important position he holds.
During his time on the Fish & Game commission board, Richards, an appointee of former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, has staunchly opposed creating marine life-protected areas along California's coastline. He has opposed outlawing lead-based ammunition that poses a serious health threat to bald eagles, golden eagles, and condors, which sometimes feed on wildlife that has been shot by hunters. And he has often fought against adding critters to the endangered species list, even when Fish & Game staff said they should be. "He's the latest in a series of good ol' boys to run that organization," said Jeff Miller of the Center for Biological Diversity and the Alameda Creek Alliance. "He's a staunch anti-environmentalist. He views himself as representing hunters."
But it's safe to say that plenty of responsible hunters in California are probably not happy with Richards' cougar-killing bravado. In case you missed it, Richards went on a January hunting trip in Idaho in which dogs chased a mountain lion into a tree so he could shoot it more easily. Killing cougars is legal in Idaho, but Richards knows full well that it's illegal to kill them in California because Fish & Game is in charge of enforcing that law.
Then, after some Democratic legislators and Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom called on him to resign, Richards returned fire with an angry letter, saying his hunting trip was none of their business, and that he had no intention of resigning his post. Richards also claimed that he feasted on the mountain lion and that it was not a trophy kill. He told a right-wing radio show that the big cat tasted like "pork loin."
But Miller and other environmentalists doubt his claims. "He shot that cat for his ego," Miller said. "He shot that cat because it made him feel good. He did not shoot that cat to put food on the table."
There's also reason to doubt other aspects of Richards' story. At first, he made it seem as if he had gone to Idaho solely to bag a mountain lion. But then after a media firestorm erupted over what he had done, the operator of Flying B Ranch told reporters that Richards was actually there to hunt pheasants, and shot the cougar as a "favor" to him. As a result, he never charged Richards the normal $6,800 fee. Soon after, an official public ethics complaint was filed against Richards, alleging that he had illegally accepted a $6,800 gift from the Idaho ranch — because he hunted the mountain lion and killed it without paying.
Because Richards won't resign, it's up to the legislature to fire him. And now that Democrats have strong majorities in both houses, they should do so right away. They also should refuse to confirm such good ol' boys to the commission in the future.
Lockyer Needs Help
Watching the train wreck that is Nadia Lockyer's life has been difficult. The Alameda County supervisor is now in drug-and-alcohol rehab after a bizarre incident in which she says she was assaulted by her ex-boyfriend at a Newark motel. She had been looking frail for months. And it's come out that she took her eight-year-old son to the late-night rendezvous with her ex. Then the San Francisco Chronicle reported last week, citing anonymous sources, that Lockyer's ex has a sex video of her. Nadia Lockyer's personal life, in short, has spiraled out of control.
Things have gotten so bad that Bay Area News Group, owners of the Oakland Tribune and the Contra Costa Times, called on Lockyer last week to resign from office. But as troubling as her actions have been so far, based on what has been reported to date, calling on her to resign is premature.
There is still a tendency in society to view drug and alcohol addiction, and the poor choices people make when they're addicted, as some sort of moral or ethical failing that deserves condemnation. But research shows that addiction is a disease, and people who are consumed by drugs and alcohol need medical treatment. Lockyer and her husband, state Treasurer Bill Lockyer, seem to understand that, and that's why she's back in rehab.
Also, it should be noted that as bad as things have gotten for her, Lockyer does not appear to have severely compromised her position as a public official. There is no information to date that she traded official favors or engaged in corrupt practices due to her addiction. The most egregious thing she seems to have done so far was put her eight-year-old in harm's way.
That's serious, but based on what we know, it appears that Nadia Lockyer deserves another chance to get well. Many people have been able to overcome drug and alcohol addiction after getting treatment and are now leading productive lives. There's reason to hope that Nadia Lockyer can do the same. After all, she led a pretty productive life before her disease took control of her.
Restoring Hetch Hetchy
An environmental group, Restore Hetch Hetchy, is attempting to finally end San Francisco's hypocritical stance toward water. The ostensibly progressive city has no water-recycling program and no system for capturing rainwater, and yet continues to insist that a massive reservoir that destroyed the beautiful Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park must remain in place. Restore Hetch Hetchy plans to put a measure on the November ballot that would require San Francisco to finally develop a comprehensive water conservation plan and determine whether it makes sense to drain Hetch Hetchy reservoir.
Quan Recall Takes Hit
Leaders of one of the groups trying to recall Oakland Mayor Jean Quan have suspended their signature gathering campaign, saying they were not going to be able to obtain the required 20,000 signatures by May 14. "The reality is that the law sets a rather high bar in terms of the hours that you have to put in to gather the signatures you need," said one of the leaders of the group, former city council candidate Charlie Pine, who added that his group has not been able to raise the money needed for paid signature gatherers.