By Robert Cruickshank
The tone for California high speed rail in 2015 is going to be set very quickly. This is the year that HSR goes from a concept to reality as construction, not just clearance, gets under way near Fresno. And that signals a broader shift in HSR’s fortunes. With most of the major political and legal battles behind it, the story of HSR in California will now shift toward the details of funding and building the project – and many of those details remain to be resolved.
Here’s what I said would dominate HSR news in 2014 a year ago.
By Peter Lehner
Natural Resources Defense Council
The movement for a clean, sustainable food supply built up quite a head of steam in 2014. Many of this year’s happenings had me and my colleagues at NRDC cheering; some had us shaking our heads—and rolling up our sleeves. Here’s our look back at the year in food.
1. Nation’s Largest School Districts to Serve Antibiotic-Free Chicken
By Dan Bacher
Leaked documents provided to Northwest Public Radio, Business Week and other media outlets have exposed a campaign by the Western States Petroleum Association to fund and coordinate a network of "Astroturf" groups to oppose environmental laws and local campaigns against fracking in California, Washington and Oregon.
By Terrance Heath
Santa Cruz came to town this week, when Sen. Ted Cruz (R, Texas) inadvertently gave Senate Democrats an early holiday gift. Democrats taunted Cruz and Republicans cursed him for pulling a parliamentary shenanigan that let Democrats push through two dozen nominations that Senate Republicans would have blocked next year.
By Brian Leubitz
With the new term limits structure amendments of a few years ago, Sacramento is seeing a lot of change. Lots and lots and lots of change. In the Legislature convening today, 72 of the 120 legislators have less than two years of experience at the state level. That's a staggeringly high number, and rather frightening for the institutional memory of both chambers. If you look at the new leadership team in the Assembly, you'll find freshmen legislators David Chiu, Evan Low, Jim Cooper and Miguel Santiago all in prominent positions.
By Robert Cruickshank
California High Speed Rail Blog
Since at least 2008, one of the most common criticisms of California high speed rail has been the claim that HSR is simply unnecessary because of Southwest Airlines. Southwest offers frequent flights at dirt cheap fares, so why would anyone spend more money to take a slower train?
This argument has always been rooted in ignorance. In order to believe this, one has to ignore the fact that door to door HSR is actually competitive with flights between the Bay Area and Southern California (since the planned HSR stations are more centrally located than are the airports). One also has to pretend that present conditions will last forever, ignoring the fact that gas prices will be rising in the future, making cheap air travel a thing of the past.
By Karen S. Emmerman, PhD
Food Empowerment Project
California's Silicon Valley was once the largest fruit production and packing region in the world. Now, it serves as a case study for understanding unequal access to healthy foods in the state.
A report released by Food Empowerment Project (F.E.P.) focused on Santa Clara County highlights the staggering disparity in access to healthy foods between high-income communities and communities of color and low-income communities. The report reveals the following inequalities.
By Public Policy Institute of California
Most Californians say the state is not providing enough funding for public colleges and universities. However, most residents are unwilling to pay higher taxes to maintain current funding for these institutions. And—amid debate over a tuition increase at the University of California—a record-high majority oppose raising student fees to do so.
These are among the key findings in a statewide survey released today by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC).
By Dave Johnson
Walmart runs commercials about how great they are for American workers, in part because they sell TVs manufactured by Element Electronics that are supposedly "Assembled in the USA." (Wait...isn't the "Walmart model" of selling cheap goods from China the reason everyone is so desperate for American-made goods?)
By Kevin Stein and Sharon Kinlaw
California Reinvestment Coalition and Fair Housing Council of San Fernando Valley
This morning, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, & Urban Affairs will hold a hearing: "Improving Financial Institution Supervision: Examining and Addressing Regulatory Capture" to focus on recent, embarrassing revelations (stories here , here, here and here) about the New York Federal Reserve. Senators are concerned that this important bank regulator is not actually fulfilling its supervisory role, and instead has become deferential to the mega-banks it supervises, including Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, and others.