CERRITOS, Calif. — Dan Walters, syndicated columnist and political reporter for The Sacramento Bee, painted a picture of California’s political scene for members of the La Mirada, Calif.-based Fresh Produce & Floral Council April 28, and it wasn’t a pretty one.

California is undergoing a “crisis of government,” he told the group at a luncheon at the Sheraton Cerritos Hotel.

“Things are out of whack,” he said.

He cited as an example an issue close to the hearts of audience members — water allocation.

“Water is one of the most enduring, unresolved issues facing California,” he said.

The state is involved in much the same water fight between urban and agricultural interests today as it was in 1975, when Walters arrived in the capital, he said.

Lawmakers passed a water use plan late last year, but it really didn’t accomplish much.

“It was a plan to make a plan,” he said.

A water bond proposition to help resolve the dilemma is slated for the November election, he said, but it faces so much opposition that it may never make the ballot.

And if it does, it would not solve the problem, he said.

“It would just create a mechanism for solving it down the line.”

Walters recounted some of the changes in the state over the past 35 years.

“Agriculture was still king in 1975,” he said.

Legislators with an agriculture background “were all over the place.” Today, lawmakers from agriculture are few and far between.

California has become a kind of paradox — the state is the nation’s largest agricultural producer, but it also is the most urbanized, Walters said.

Land use and air quality are other issues that have pitted agriculture and urbanites against each other, and legislators also face challenges in education, highways and other areas.

One reason lawmakers fail to solve problems is the state’s wide range of diversity, which makes achieving consensus difficult, Walters said.

With the current rate of change and growth — California adds about 5 million people every decade — the state can’t afford to ignore issues any longer.

“Standing still is going backwards,” he said.

The state needs a reformation, Walters said, which could be sparked by a constitutional convention or possibly even a parliamentary form of government, similar to Canada’s.

Members of the agriculture industry can’t pick up and move, he said, so they must get involved and understand the crisis of government in California and do something about it.”

California faces ‘crisis of government’

Tom Burfield

Dan Walters (left), syndicated columnist and political reporter for The Sacramento Bee, chats with Mark Carroll, senior director of produce and floral for Gelson’s/Mayfair Markets, City of Commerce, Calif., after Fresh Produce & Floral Council luncheon April 28.