Bouquets and Brickbats: No excuse for hiding plane trips

Shhhhh! We wouldn’t want this to get out to the wrong people, but we’re air mailing a top-secret brickbat to California lawmakers who insist on keeping records of their past plane trips secret — even though taxpayers picked up the tab.

Legislators were paid nearly $1.5 million for air travel over the past two and a half years, according to an Associated Press report.

For the record, our local lawmakers didn’t rack up many air miles at the taxpayers’ expense. Sen. Abel Maldonado didn’t receive any reimbursement for the period covered in the report. Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee claimed less than $2,000 for air travel. By contrast, Sen. Denise Ducheny of San Diego collected more than $35,000.

This was supposed to have been travel taken in the course of official state business — and it’s only fair that taxpayers foot the bill. But how is the public to verify that if the records are kept under wraps?

State officials said divulging the travel records could put lawmakers at risk, because that might reveal a “pattern” of activities.

We wouldn’t want to compromise anyone’s safety, but if someone really wants to figure out a lawmaker’s itinerary, there already are plenty of ways to do that. Lawmakers’ own Web sites are often chock full of archived news releases announcing their attendance at this or that conference or town hall meeting.

With public confidence in state lawmakers so low, it would behoove the Legislature to be as transparent as possible when it comes to perks and release the travel records.

Zoo’s accreditation earns a nod

We toss the Charles Paddock Zoo a tiger lily bouquet for earning accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. That’s a big milestone; the zoo had to pass an exhaustive inspection to earn the accreditation, which is good through 2014.

The Atascadero zoo already has made several upgrades, including new roofs, public fencing and repaving. Numerous other improvements are planned, including a new ticket booth, larger gift shop and restrooms, plus revamped exhibit areas for some the animals. Looking ahead, the zoo also has a plan for five new habitat areas that would bring additional animals to the zoo.

We look forward to it.

Mid-State Fair nabs another hot act

Last year Miley, this year Justin?

We’re beginning to think that Tiger Beat and Bop are required reading for Mid-State Fair staffers, because they are spot-on at tapping into the lucrative tween market by bringing the hottest up-and-coming stars to Paso Robles. And right now, nobody’s hotter than 16-year-old Justin Bieber.

An OMG bouquet to the fair, along with good sportsmanship bouquets to the moms and dads who will be chaperoning on show night.

Fish and Game deserved Hill’s scolding

Kudos to county Supervisor Adam Hill, who criticized state Fish and Game officials for again failing to schedule a local hearing on whether to allow bear hunting in SLO County. The state made the same omission last year. That was bad enough, but to repeat it is, as Hill says, “inexcusable.”

A SLO-grown bouquet for Hill. Along with a brickbat, we’ll ship the Fish and Game Commissioners a GPS in the off chance they might try to find us someday.