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Officially, Let's Call It a Day

June 23, 2002

Like most states, California has an official state flower (golden poppy), official state bird (valley quail), official state tree (redwood), official state song ("I Love You California"), official state motto ("Eureka") and official state animal (grizzly bear). But that is just the start of the list. In all, there are 23 official state things, each of them created by legislation signed by the governor.

Some seem downright silly. Why does California need an official state tartan or fife and drum band? And some seem duplicative. California has an official state rock (serpentine), mineral (native gold) and gemstone (benitoite). There is an official state fossil (saber-toothed cat) and a state prehistoric artifact (chipped stone bear); an official state dance (West Coast swing) and folk dance (square dance).

The official state marine fish is the garibaldi, described as a sort of ocean goldfish, rather than a salmon or golden trout.

Now, Assemblyman Tim Leslie (R-Tahoe City) wants California to have an official ghost town. AB 1757 would add Section 429.7 to the Government Code, saying, "Bodie is the official state ghost town."

Bodie, to be sure, is one of the splendid ghost towns of not just California but the entire West. Bodie long has been a popular state park off U.S. 395 north of Mono Lake and Yosemite National Park. The idea came from students of Lee Vining Junior High School who thought the designation would boost tourist travel to the area. A noble sentiment, surely, but not a persuasive reason for perpetuating the silliness of ever more official state things.

For one thing, Bodie's claim is being challenged by another candidate for official ghost town, Calico, near Barstow in San Bernardino County. A proposed amendment would have designated each town "an official ghost town," but neither would be the official ghost town. Leslie argued that the selection of Bodie would "demonstrate the state's rich Gold Rush history." But wait. That means California should have an official Gold Rush history site. And that would have to be Coloma, where John Marshall started it all by finding gold in the American River in 1848.

But Leslie and Bodie have prevailed. AB 1757 is expected to breeze through the Senate this week and soon will be on its way to Gov. Gray Davis for his signature. Davis could put a stop to this frivolity by vetoing the bill. But it's an election year, and, every voter being important--including the parents of those Lee Vining youngsters--that's not likely.

But now, come to think of it, California doesn't have an official state fungus yet. Or an official state mountain, an official state roadside rest stop or....

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