Saving California's "front porch"

The DeMaio Report
June 2, 2021

Carl DeMaio: Coming up, the Sacramento Politicians want to build a big Taj Mahal for billions of dollars to have nicer office space. At the same time that we still have homeless people in this state, first traffic...

DeMaio: Alright so up in Sacramento, the politicians voted themselves a massive, multi-billion-dollar Taj Mahal. They want new office space for themselves and their staff. And a lot of folks are angry about it, as am I. Dick Cowan opposes the plans for a new Capitol complex, he joins us on The DeMaio Report. So, Dick what organization are you representing to oppose this new Capitol building complex that they want to build in Sacramento?  

Dick Cowan: So, I’m actually representing two organizations today, Public Accountability for Our Capitol—which is a group of volunteers of mostly environmental and preservation and good government folks and organizations—and also Save Our Capitol!, which I call a sister organization; which is a group of chambers of commerce, of taxpayer organizations and 200 small business that have come together. It’s funny, you usually don’t see these two families of groups on the same side of an issue, but they are on this one! 

DeMaio: So, the proposal is, right now, that they’re building an Annex space about a block away from the Capitol—a ten story, new building for Senators and Assemblymembers and all their staff; and that’s going to cost hundreds of millions of dollars. And then what they’re going to do is tear down a building that was built in the 1950s, that buts up to the Capitol Building and currently houses staff, and then build a brand-new building there too! And then they’ll move out of the swing space and move down to a new Capitol Building. That’s, in essence, what the politicians are proposed to do, correct?

Cowan: It’s that and it’s worse than that too. In addition to tearing down the historical Capitol Annex, which is a nationally registered building on the Secretary of the Interior’s register of historic buildings, they also want to put a parking garage underground in the arboretum—that’s Capitol Park, if you’ve visited it there in Sacramento—and they also want to put in an underground visitor’s center on the West Plaza, and West steps of the Capitol—the area that Huell Howser called “California’s front porch”—where we all meet to celebrate or demonstrate. It’s a terrible project for all three causes.  

DeMaio: Now I’ve got a proposal on how to fix this, and I’m going to get to yours in a moment, my proposal is: cut the staff of the legislators, cut them to a part-time legislature; force them to get real jobs and have them work in their districts, where they’re closer to the people, and you don’t really have need for more space. Everything could be done pretty nicely that way. That’s my proposal, I know that won’t go over well with anyone in Sacramento. Tell us your proposal, what are you all suggesting as an alternative?

Cowan: It’s a little less dramatic than yours. Our idea is that we ought to take a few steps back, and truly plan the Capitol Annex Project in a transparent way. Get some public input, do a serious study, how many of our goals could be achieved if we save the historic Annex Building—which is a great example of mid-century-modern. What if we kept using the parking spaces that are over in that brand-new swing space you talk about, and how about in what used to be the garage underneath, we put that visitor’s center and don’t have to mess up the West Plaza? We think we can do that project for about a third of the cost of what they’re currently planning to spend.

DeMaio: I still like my idea better. Plus, I’d raffle off a chance for a taxpayer to blow up the old building. Now I know you don’t like that, because that old building is actually historic—

Cowan (Overlapping): No, I like the old building!

DeMaio: Exactly, you like the old building there. I’ve been up to the building a lot, and look, with a few renovations it’s perfectly fine; provided that you basically shrink the staff that those people have. When you give them big staff, you give them all the time up there in Sacramento, they end up doing really bad things. The only time we’re really protected in this state is when the legislature is out of session, and not able to pass more unnecessary laws. If people want to join your fight against this project, with your solution as a concept, where can they go? What’s your website? 

Cowan: Okay, so I’m going to give you two, they’re very, very similar. For our group, Public Accountability, we’ve chosen Our sister organization has a little more sophisticated website, They have a button where you can immediately find your legislator and send an email off to the Governor, to your legislators, or the leaders. We have a similar thing on our website, but theirs is a little easier to use.

DeMaio: Alright, there’s Dick Cowan, he’s with two groups opposing the massive new state Capitol project that politicians have proposed with your tax dollars. Thank you for stopping by, Dick.