Land Use

What "Cut Taxes And Cut Spending" Means For You

By Dave Johnson

You hear it over and over again from California conservatives, "Cut taxes and cut spending," and "government spending is too high."

So what does this mean to YOU? How does this affect your life?

Simple answer, cutting spending means that your schools, roads, police and fire protection, lines at the DMV, parks, environment, food safety inspections, services to help small businesses and courts all deteriorate. It means that it costs more - much more - for you to send your kids to college. That is what "cut government spending" means.

Water Bond Proposal Enables Water Privatization

By Robert Cruickshank

Two and a half years ago, the city of Stockton voted to abandon privatization of city water after four years of poor service, contamination, and soaring rates. It's a textbook case of why public services should never be privatized - investors merely want to generate profits and don't care about the quality of service, so they'll cut corners and jack up rates.

One might have thought that this experience would have led the state legislature to stay as far away from water privatization as possible. And you'd be wrong, as the San Francisco Chronicle reported:

Sen. Feinstein Introduces Legislation to Protect Vast Swaths of California Desert

By Annette Kondo
The Wilderness Society

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced legislation on Monday to preserve the spectacular heritage of the California desert by creating two new National Monuments and expanding Joshua Tree and Death Valley National Parks and the Mojave National Preserve.

The bill would establish new wilderness areas in Death Valley National Park and on lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the US Forest Service. Finally, the legislation would also establish a permitting process for all renewable energy projects on BLM land.

The legislation, the California Desert Protection Act of 2010, will preserve nearly 1.5 million acres of federal public lands that are essential for recreation, wildlife habitat and water resources. The Act will also safeguard historic trails and Native American cultural areas. 

NASA Report Highlights Need to Retire Drainage Impaired Land

by Dan Bacher

Alarming new space observations revealing increased rates of groundwater depletion in California highlight the urgent need to retire drainage impaired, selenium-filled farmland on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.

The findings, based on data from the NASA/German Aerospace Center Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (Grace), demonstrate that the aquifers for California's Central Valley and the Sierra Nevada have lost nearly enough water combined to fill the Colorado River's Lake Mead, America's largest reservoir, since October 2003. The observations "reflect California's extended drought and increased rates of groundwater being pumped for human uses, such as irrigation," according to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

Sierra Club California's 2009 Report Card Reveals Backsliding by Governor and Legislature

By Bill Magavern
Sierra Club California

Sierra Club California has published its 2009 Legislative Report Card, exposing a significant deterioration in the performance of Governor Schwarzenegger and the Legislature.

Billionaire developers and fossil-fuel polluters cynically manipulated California’s economic distress to weaken protections for our air, water, and wild places, and our elected officials too often went along.

The report card grades legislators on their votes on 15 bills, chosen for their importance to Sierra Club California. Only five legislators – Senators Corbett, Hancock and Wiggins and Assemblymembers Monning and Skinner -- voted the pro-environment position on all 15, way down from the 42 legislators who scored perfect records last year. 13 of those 15 bills reached Schwarzenegger’s desk, and he sided with the pro-environment position on only two of those.

CEQA Helps Los Angeles Community Protect Elephant Hill

By Traci Sheehan
Planning and Conservation League

In a significant victory for local residents earlier this month, the Los Angeles City Council voted to protect Elephant Hill, the largest open space northeast of downtown Los Angeles, ending a 25-year-old battle.

The City Council agreed to purchase the land as part of a $9 million settlement with Monterey Hills Investors, a developer which had hoped to build new luxury homes on the site. Now, the 20-acre property will provide a nature preserve in a community with one of the lowest parkland-to-people ratios in the city.

Twenty-five years ago, local residents prevented a proposed develop on the site because of concerns that the project would cause landslides and flooding in the community of El Sereno. In 2003, Monterey Hills bought the land, and a year later they were given approval for a 24-lot development project. 

Will CTA Put A Split-Roll Initiative on the 2010 Ballot?

By Robert Cruickshank

For several years now the California Teachers Association, one of the state's largest and most powerful labor unions, has been considering the idea of putting an initiative on the ballot to close the loophole in Prop 13 that gave commercial property owners the same protections as residential property owners. Now they are closer than ever to bringing it before voters.

Earlier this month, CTA filed two initiatives to close that loophole. They are both pending at the AG's office for title and summary. Here's how they'd work:

• Tax commercial property at fair market value, and frequently reassess property taxes at fair market value (instead of locking in a value and rate, as Prop 13 currently does). The main difference between the two initiatives is how that reassessment is accomplished.

• Provide a small business exclusion of up to $1 million
• Double homeowners' exemption from $7,000 to $14,000 (as a sweetener to voters)

The Water Package – New Solutions, Not “Back to the Future.”

By Barry Nelson
Natural Resources Defense Council

Much of the press coverage of Governor Schwarzenegger’s bill signing press conferences have described the water package passed by the legislature last week as an “infrastructure” package, leading to the mis-impression that the purpose of this package is primarily to finish the job Governor Pat Brown started when the State Water Project was approved in 1960 -- by building more dams and a peripheral canal. That's not what this package does. We see it very differently.

California's water needs today are far different from those in 1960. In 1960, Earth Day, seen by many as the birth of the modern environmental movement, was still a decade away. 

The great water deal of 2009: Historic?


By Peter Schrag
California Progress Report

On the rare occasions when the biggest players in Sacramento blow kisses to one another for a historic achievement, the object of the celebration deserves a hard second look. It happened again last week when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, legislative leaders and a gaggle of other politicians and lobbyists reached the great water deal of 2009.  He wanted to congratulate all concerned, said the governor “for this historic accomplishment.” 

Like many other big deals in Sacramento in recent years, this one, too, was composed in large part of black boxes, deferrals, fudges and borrowing -- $11.1 billion in general obligation bonds in this case--  for large water projects, some as yet unspecified, plus a fair amount of pork having little to do with water. How many billions have we put on the credit card since 2004, when the governor declared that we’d tear it up?

Cal/OSHA Inspectors’ Protests Lead to Promises of Appeals Board Reform

Michael_Smith.jpgBy Michael Smith

The Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board (Board) convened an advisory committee meeting in Oakland Thursday in the face of numerous complaints that it is undermining worker health and safety in California.

Frustrated by the Board’s inaction after months of airing their complaints, 47 Cal/OSHA inspectors signed a June letter protesting arbitrary and unreasonable decisions and practices of the Board that have resulted in cases being unfairly dismissed, witnesses disappearing because of unnecessary continuances of cases, and the waste of Cal/OSHA time and money.

The Board’s recent practices include scheduling multiple hearings before the same judge and with the same Cal/OSHA prosecutor at the same time. As the 47 inspectors explain about the overscheduling in their letter of June 13: