Where Have You Gone, Gil Ferguson. The Assembly Turns Its Lonely Eyes To You. Whoo-Whoo-Whoo

The only California politician spinning faster in their grave than Hiram Johnson has to be Gil Ferguson. 

Johnson was the state’s progressive governor at the turn of the 20th Century. He created California’s workers compensation system and the initiative process, among other things. Johnson’s politics – and agenda – were comparable to those of his contemporary, President Teddy Roosevelt. 

Johnson pushed through the initiative process, allowing voters to take issues directly to the ballot. He did so to end run special interests – primarily the railroads – who controlled the Legislature.  

Johnson has to be doing something way more than just turning over in his grave to see his creation become the playground of the very interest groups he sought to thwart. 

Gil Ferguson, who died last spring, was an Orange County Assemblyman from 1984 to 1994. A U.S. Marine for 26 years, well-decorated, he fought in three wars. 

He came ashore in the first wave at Tarawa, one of the bloodiest battles in World War II, Pacific theater or otherwise. In Korea, Ferguson was in the first wave at Inchon. He commanded artillery in Vietnam. 

Ferguson had a graceful sense of humor, which he was more than capable of directing at himself. But what always raised his ire was what he called “government nannyism” legislation. 

These sorts of measures, often well intended and almost always introduced by Democrats, impose government restrictions on how the citizenry is to comport themselves. Routinely, such bills substitute a government edict for an individual’s common sense. 

Government, ever so much smarter than you, is here to save you from yourself. 

The crusade to force motorcycle riders to wear helmets, was a recipient of Ferguson’s “GN” stamp of disapproval. 

A memorable measure he heaped his scorn upon made it a crime if parents did not put a lifejacket on a child four years of age or younger.  Presumably while on a boat. 

The bill’s author, now Rep. Jackie Speier (Congrats, my dear!), insisted the bill’s sole aim was to save young lives. 

Ferguson was too courtly to ever express his opposition this bluntly – unless maybe you got him started on the subject of Tom Hayden – but the gist of it is this: 

If the parents are so staggeringly empty-headed to not put a lifejacket on the fruit of their loins, it’s probably best if they and the kid are removed from the gene pool. Swiftly. 

While well intentioned, measures making it a crime to leave a gun unlocked also were a form of nannyism. But more fundamentally, if a child killed or maimed himself playing with an unsecured handgun, the state’s response would be to pile onto the parents’ agony by filing charges? Way to make things better. 

On the plus side, former Sen. Tim Leslie’s bills restricting the hours and passengers of 16-year-old drivers has resulted in a significant reduction in teen fatalities. 

Of course, having seven kids pull up in seven cars for a study group isn’t exactly the solution to that pesky global warming thing. 

Ferguson railed against numerous bills of this sort and, like Hiram Johnson, must be doing far more than simply turning over in his grave given this year’s remarkable bumper crop. 

Starting in July 2012, the Plastic and Marine Debris Reduction, Recycling and Composting Act would prohibit take-out restaurants from using disposable one-time-only packaging unless it can be recycled or composted. 

What could be more sensitive and nurturing? Dolphins and whales frolic in blissful harmony. Committee members weep openly over the saintly intentions of the bill’s author. 

California’s take out joints would also be required to provide composting and recycling receptacles. If the restaurant breaks the law the fine is $100 a day up to $10,000. 

Ferguson would find several rather significant deficiencies with this measure. 

One observation might be that take out restaurants tend to use one-time-only containers as a sop to customers who might become a bit squeamish knowing that the little paper box containing their burger was recently handled by someone with the personal hygiene of Ted Kaczynski. 

Ferguson might also cite some of the information contained in the Assembly Floor Analysis of the measure. 

If one reads past the fat paragraphs quoting studies which point out that there is a lot of plastic littler laying around and that plastic litter is bad for the ocean, some startling statistics are found. 

Compiled by the state in 2006, the waste of the bill’s principal targets, fast food restaurants, is 50 percent paper, 39 percent food and slightly less than 8 percent plastic.  Of those amounts, 80 percent of the paper is diverted from landfills, as is 13.5 percent of the food and .5 percent of the plastic. 

The penultimate paragraph of the analysis, which contains this information, concludes by saying ‘this bill attempts to address this inconsistency.” 

Not sure what the inconsistency is but, leaving that issue for a moment, consider the remarkable first sentence of the final paragraph: 

“The potential for litter would not be reduced by requiring packaging to be made from recyclable or compostable materials.” 


This is the – all rise –“ Plastic and Marine Debris Reduction, Recycling and Composting Act” and, the analysis prepared to assess what it does, says it isn’t going to reduce any litter? 

What it is going to do is impose costly mandates on a bunch of business owners — some small, some not  – because some touchy feely politician thinks its warmer and fuzzier if more people to recycle and compost. Bravo. Let’s start by composting this bill. 

Not to gild the lily but these would also be business owners who already are keeping 80 percent of their paper trash out of landfills and whose trash is comprised of only 8 percent plastic, the type of litter the analysis – and title of the bill itself  — insists is most harmful to the ocean and its be-finned denizens. 

Forty-two Democratic Assembly members sent this bill to the Senate on January 29th. 

How about this: Plastic bags, like you get in grocery stores, already are required by legislative fiat to say “Please return to a participating store for recycling.”

A bill this year wants to add an “environmental awareness statement” to the bags describing the really bad stuff that happens when you don’t recycle the bags and why reusable bags are more bitchin’. 

In 25 words or less, presumptively. 

After July 1, 2009 stores are then supposed to charge customers 25-cents a plastic carryout bag. The store gets to keep 3 percent of the revenue, three-quarters of a penny.  The rest goes into a state fund and gets spent by “the board,” although the bill never says which “the board” that is. 

Again, Ferguson might attack this bill on several fronts. 

First, it is implicit in a message asking consumers to recycle the bags that not doing so causes environmental harm. Indeed, if the message were “Don’t Bother to Recycle These Bags,” the clear inference a consumer would draw is that it’s OK to toss them out. 

Second, the gratuitous “environmental awareness statement,” whose language is unspecified by the bill, adds to the costs of doing business and, finally, if the state is going to force the stores to do all this stuff why is it cutting them in on less than a penny of the action and sending the remainder to some nameless – literally – state board to spend as it sees fit. 

Once more in to the breach, comes a six-paragraph bill to ban peanut packing, starting January 1, 2012. 

That would be polystyrene loose fill packaging to the chrome domes out there. The analysis is significantly windier. 

In it, the reader is informed that the author believes polystyrene is a “non-essential packing material, which can likely be replaced with more efficient, environmentally friendly means.” 

So we’re going to wipe out an industry because some politician thinks  the product they manufacture and other people buy is non-essential? The right word is nonsensical. It can likely be replaced with something better. Such as? 

Further, the analysis states – by the author’s own admission – that 30 percent to 50 percent of these peanuts are already being recycled. But it’s not easy to recycle them, the author then asserts. 

Well, it can’t be that hard, can it? Fifty percent of the stuff is being recycled. And by the way, the analysis points out, some of the peanuts the bill would ban in California are made of 100 percent recycled materials, thus creating a market for recycled peanuts. 

At that kind of absurdity, Ferguson would be reduced to merely rolling his eyes and throwing up his hands in despair. 

Where are you, Gil, when we need you the most? 






Filed under: Venting


  1. Gil Ferguson? Short of material?

    How about a piece on Dick Longshore?

    Comment by Gus Turdlock — 4.28.2008 @ 10:16 am

  2. Very interesting article on Gil Ferguson. Its great. Do you have any more resources or links you could post?

    Comment by Workers Comp — 6.06.2009 @ 1:55 pm

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