Land Use

Countdown to Earth Day 2011

By Alan Kandel

Earth Day is just 10 days away and I’m fumin’ mad over California’s dirty air – and with good reason! California is one of this country’s worst offenders for both smog and greenhouse gas emissions.

What’s more, to know that “Fresno County is California's asthma capital: Nearly one in three children -- or about 75,000 -- have it, according to one statewide health survey”, this is both sad and sobering at the same time. Elaborating on this further, Fresno Bee environmental reporter Mark Grossi wrote: “Ozone is a corrosive gas harmful to lungs and can trigger asthma attacks. It forms when ‘heat bakes gases and fumes coming from vehicle exhaust, gasoline, dairies and other sources.’”

Balanced Transportation Needed to Bring Californians’ Mobility Up to Speed

By Alan Kandel

Transportation in California is dominated by the automobile. Based on California Air Resources Board (CARB) data, the inference is that the automobile has been the dominant mode in state since at least 1970. “[California‘s] population reached 20 million people. Total registered vehicles exceeded 12 million and [vehicle miles traveled] was 110 billion,” according to CARB. Twelve million vehicles for 20 million people works out to 1 vehicle for every 1.67 people.

Northern California Rejects Long-Term Water Transfer Agreement

By Traci Sheehan  
Planning and Conservation League

Just days away from a program scoping process comment deadline, northern California water irrigation districts stand firm behind their February 2nd letter, which states they will not agree to sell their water to Central Valley water contractors.

The proposed U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s 10-year “Long-Term North to South Water Transfers” program, would ship up to thousands of acre-feet of water from northern California to the San Luis&Delta-Mendota Water Authority; which represents agricultural water districts in the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California. The realization of this program is contingent on the willingness of northern California sellers and that willingness has yet to be seen.

Rants and Raves for the Week of February 21, 2011

By California Labor Federation

  • As Republican governors continue wage war on public workers, you may be wondering who will be left to do the work after all the budget cuts, layoffs, and takeaways. Don't worry, they've got an answer for that: prison inmates. All across the country, states are increasingly relying on prison labor to do the jobs once done by public employees, including cleaning courthouses, maintaining highways, and even doing upkeep on public water tanks. That means the jobs that once paid a decent wage so workers could provide for their families are now being done by prisoners for no pay.

Time to End the Enterprise Zone Boondoggle

By Art Pulaski
California Labor Federation

When it comes to dealing with our state budget crisis, California voters are clear on one thing: Let’s eliminate wasteful spending. So you’d think the elimination of a failed program and billion-dollar boondoggle would be a no-brainer. Think again.

An annual billion-dollar giveaway to big, profitable corporations is bad enough. But when the program also fails in its goal of creating jobs, it’s time to say goodbye.

Yet, as soon as Gov. Jerry Brown announced his proposal to end the Enterprise Zone tax credit program, corporate lobbyists and consultants started clamoring to save their golden goose.  In theory, there’s nothing wrong with tax credits for businesses to help create jobs. With unemployment hovering at 12.5%, we need all the help we can get. But, in practice, the Enterprise Zone program has failed miserably.

Expanding California's Clean Economy

By Darrell Steinberg
State Senate President pro Tempore

We all know there is one, and only one immediate challenge confronting California – and that is the state budget.

As the Governor outlined in his State of the State message, the budget is and remains our top priority. We cannot recover the economic health of our state until we put our fiscal house in order as quickly as possible.

But we also must continue taking leadership in our ongoing effort to strengthen California’s economy by supporting emerging industries and creating jobs for Californians.  Our budget condition demands we do so in a manner both fiscally responsible and smart. The Democrats Clean Energy Jobs Initiative does exactly that.

Redevelopment Defenders Ignore Budget Realities

By Randy Shaw
Beyond Chron

I received an action alert last week from Housing California, the premier statewide affordable housing advocacy group. Its theme was “reform redevelopment, don't eliminate!” But none of their reforms offsets the $1.7 billion proposed budget savings from abolishing Redevelopment Agencies. Instead, Housing California argues that redevelopment helps the “most vulnerable Californians” (not to mention billionaire Eli Broad, who just got a $52 million parking structure for his high-end art gallery funded by the Los Angeles RDA), while ignoring how the “most vulnerable” would be hurt if the Governor is forced to find $1.7 billion in savings elsewhere.

A Salmon People’s Message: Saving Salmon Means Far More Than Jobs

By Marc Dadigan

The salmon hatchery was nestled among the foothills of New Zealand’s Southern Alps, its open-air cages discreetly occupying the banks of a purling creek. When the Winnemem Wintu arrived, they each received a bucket in which dozens of salmon fry swirled and eddied.

The Winnemem spread across the creek and began releasing the juvenile fish into the water.  One of the Winnemem teens, Nick, tipped his bucket about 10-inches above the water and smiled as the fry escaped down a gentle cascade. Many others took the fry in their hands and placed them carefully in the water. For nearly an hour, they stayed by the water, transfixed, watching the fry dart downstream.

Together, they began to sing in the Winnemem language, the language the salmon once knew when they spawned in the McCloud River.

How Redevelopment Agencies Subvert Democracy

By Randy Shaw

As mayors, developers and Agency staff try to fend off Governor Brown’s proposed transfer of redevelopment funds to local governments – earning far more media coverage than cuts to programs serving more vulnerable Californians – little has been said about the fundamentally undemocratic nature of redevelopment agencies (RDA’s). RDA’s operate as private fiefdoms outside the control of elected officials.

Once elected officials approve a redevelopment area, unelected and politically unaccountable officials typically gain control of hundreds of millions of dollars for the next thirty years. These millions are excluded from annual city budget processes. While nonprofit groups with city contracts, city workers and defenders of vital city programs struggle over a declining funding pie, RDA’s allow corporate and development interests to circumvent this process to secure public funds.

New Report Targets Unreasonable Water Use in California

By Dan Bacher

Delta Watermaster Craig Wilson will present a highly anticipated report to the State Water Resources Control Board on January 19 suggesting that a particularly contentious area of California water law, the California Constitution’s “Reasonable and Beneficial Use Doctrine," be applied more broadly.

In his report, Wilson recommends that the State Board employ this doctrine to promote agricultural water use efficiency. The doctrine states a water right does not include the right to waste water and mandates that “the water resources of the state be put to beneficial use," according to the Planning and Conservation League Insider.

A small percentage of increased agricultural water use efficiency adds up to significant water savings in California, according to Wilson. The report recommends that the State Board convene a "Reasonable Use Summit" to develop specific actions to improve efficiency and create a “Reasonable Use Unit” within the Division of Water Rights.