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Our Opinion
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Staring at a $14 billion budget gap, the state is in huge financial trouble. It's always refreshing when a lawmaker comes up with common sense solutions. Our own state Senator Jeff Denham has come up with ideas, such as selling off surplus properties.

Another idea of Denham's was to close San Quentin, which he calls a "money pit." His idea was to shut down the aging facility and sell the bay front land and use the proceeds of the sale to expand an existing prison or build a new one

"San Quentin has outlived its usefulness and has become a money pit," Denham said. "Former Governor Reagan suggested closing the prison and selling the bay front property during the 1970s. It was built by convicted stagecoach robbers in the 1850s and is now the most expensive to operate and least efficient prison in the state."

San Quentin State Prison was also identified in the governor's California Performance Review as a potential property to sell.

But alas when Denham offered a measure in Senate Bill 228 to do just that, Senate Democrats in conjunction with behind the scenes opposition from the Schwarzenegger Administration shut the bill down.

Denham's bill called for San Quentin to be sold byJune 30, 2010 and closed no later than Dec. 31, 2012 and that all non-death row criminals would be moved out by June 30, 2012. It called for a decision no later than March 31, 2009 regarding which prison would house future death row prisoners and the site for executions. Denham also wanted construction on death row to begin immediately after announcement of the winning bid and be completed no late than June 30, 2011.

His measure was supported by state Senator Dave Cogdill (R-Modesto) while Senators Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles) and Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles) voted no. Don Perata (D-Oakland) and Bob Margett (R-Arcadia) abstained or were absent.

The Senate Democrats and the Schwarzenegger Administration talk a real big game about prison reform and reducing the budget deficit, but when a creative opportunity like this is actually put into legislation, their inaction and failure to support it speaks volumes.