California Senate OKs Jackson Appointment
The California State Senate on Monday (July 1) confirmed retired Marine Maj. Gen. Anthony Jackson of Fallbrook as state parks chief, easily overriding complaints from some Republicans that he sidestepped controversies involving a proposed toll road and protections for the popular Trestles surfing spot near San Onofre State Beach.
“This gentleman came in to lead the department during some of its roughest and most publicly difficult times,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg, a Sacramento Democrat who championed his appointment.
Not all Republicans were convinced, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
Sen. Mimi Walters, R-Lake Forest, accused Jackson of neglecting his duty by not intervening to prevent a special historic preservation designation for Trestles despite objections from the Marines. Officials at Camp Pendleton said such a move would compromise military readiness by interfering with training.
In turn, that threatens the renewal of the San Onofre State Beach lease with the Marines when it expires in 2021, Walters warned.
“Now more than ever we need the leadership in the parks department — something that Gen. Jackson has failed to provide,” she said.
Sen. Mark Wyland, R-Solana Beach, said Jackson should have stepped in for another reason: the historic designation will be used as a tool to block the construction of the proposed State Route 241 toll road toward I-5 and San Onofre.
Advocates say a toll road is needed to relieve congestion and assure motorists of an alternative escape route in the case of an emergency, such as an earthquake.
“By taking that action, this nominee has effectively made it almost impossible for this to occur,” Wyland said. “It is utterly irresponsible. It ignores the need for a vast community.”
Jackson had his defenders, even among Republicans.
In a statement after the vote, Sen. Joel Anderson, R-La Mesa, called Jackson “well-qualified,” citing his 36 years of military service, much of which was in command roles.
During the floor debate, Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, said Jackson has proved himself. “He has turned things around. Morale is up … He has a love of parks. He has made great things happen.”
The vote was 28-4.
Gov. Jerry Brown tapped Jackson in November to run a Department of Parks and Recreation besieged by scandal. Department officials had hidden money at a time when budget cuts were threatening to shutter parks. There were also reports of paycheck padding and other financial mismanagement.
Jackson has drawn widespread praise for connecting with divergent park users, especially members of the Off-Highway Vehicle community. They spoke in his favor at an earlier committee hearing.
Jackson did not issue any formal reaction to Monday’s vote. But in an earlier interview and testimony, he explained his positions on San Onofre.
Jackson testified that he could not take action because he was advised by the state’s attorney that he should recuse himself. As former commander of Camp Pendleton he had previously been involved in decisions regarding the toll road and historic designation for Trestles. Today, he is in a different role, and represents the governor.
Jackson also said he did not feel it was the role of the parks director to intervene since the historical preservation commission was appointed by the governor and is supposed to act independently.
“You don’t want a director telling a commission what should be on their agenda,” he said.
Jackson signaled he would now oppose any toll road that threatened the park and its accompanying San Mateo campground.
“My job is to preserve and protect California State Parks for future generations,” Jackson said.
Jackson oversees about 280 parks in the system, spanning 1.4 million acres of coast, forests and mountains. He oversees a budget of $574 million.
Jackson’s salary is $150,112 a year.