Oct 242012
 

Hurry up, please, gentlemen, ladies: it’s time.

Here…let me get the good stuff from under the bar and pour you a shot. This is serious work, this democracy.

Every couple of years, as the elections approach, a number of my friends ask my opinions about candidates and ballot measures. Now I have an online megaphone, so those suggestions go here, for what they’re worth.

There are gaps here. I haven’t paid as much attention to Sonoma County municipal races this cycle, for instance, and will not endorse where I don’t feel I know what I’m talking about.

Federal Offices

For President of the United States: BARACK OBAMA. This is such a no-brainer I don’t feel I need to say more. If you have questions about this endorsement…well, wake the hell up, for one thing. But you could also look around this site for other posts on the race.

For U.S. Senator: NO ENDORSEMENT. Dianne Feinstein is going to mop the floor with the Republican nominee, and given that, I can’t bring myself to put my name behind hers. She’s just been wrong so very often. Though I feel confident she would never have followed the California GOP down the Tea Party rabbit hole, I have always believed that if Feinstein had emerged from any other California political context than the San Francisco Bay Area, she would have been a Republican.

For U.S. House of Representatives, 2nd District: JARED HUFFMAN Jared is the real deal. He has progressive values, a sterling voting record in the State Legislature (particularly on environmental issues), and a demonstrated ability to shepherd good ideas into law. Jared is not a symbolic-gesture guy; he’s a make-it-happen guy with a strong, liberal set of core principles. We will be lucky to have him representing us in Congress. (Disclosure: I did some work for Jared’s campaign this spring)

For U.S. House of Representatives, 5th District: MIKE THOMPSON. Thompson is one of the House of Representatives’ last surviving Blue Dogs, an effective campaigner, and in a safe seat: he’s not going anywhere. On most issues, he’s been a reliably good Democratic vote. However, I will say that I have consistently been disappointed by his reflexive water-carrying for the wine industry, which has led him to position himself against policies that would be best for our watersheds, wildlife, and groundwater. At the end of the day, he is a vote for Nancy Pelosi for Speaker, and that is enough for this cycle.

State Offices

For California State Senate, District 3:  LOIS WOLK. A solid Democrat in every sense of the term, with a great record on environmental and social issues.

For California State Assembly, District 2:  WES CHESBRO. Chesbro is an experienced Sacramento hand, an effective legislator and a rock-solid vote on environmental issues, particularly in relation to solid waste and recycling. Hailing from Arcata, he served at both the municipal and county levels and has a good grasp of the challenges facing local governments.

For California State Assembly, District 10:  MICHAEL ALLEN.
I’ve known Michael for quite awhile, and he’s a solid advocate for working people and the disenfranchised. His voting record in the Assembly has been great. He made a couple of boneheaded misjudgments in the past year, frankly, but particularly when looking at the rogues’ gallery that is funding his opponent, Mark Levine, it’s pretty clear who the good guy is here. An easy call.

(State ballot propositions below)

Sonoma County Offices

For Sonoma County Supervisor, District 1: SUSAN GORIN.

I’ve known and worked with Susan since before she went onto the Santa Rosa City Council. She is a thoughtful, open-minded, public-spirited person who cares about the interests and quality of life of ordinary people and Sonoma County residents. I do not believe the same can be said of her opponent, John Sawyer, who during his tenure on the Council has been prickly, inaccessible to citizens who don’t have insider juice, dismissive of environmental and neighborhood concerns, and a guaranteed vote for whatever the development community happens to be pushing this week.

This endorsement is not a close call. Sawyer has received nearly $50,000 in donations from a realtors’ PAC in Los Angeles, and is backed by the usual self-interested gang of grind-Paradise-into-money kingmakers who fancy themselves the owners of Sonoma County. Having him on the Board of Supervisors would be a huge step backwards in the effort to safeguard Sonoma County’s future. He’s the wrong man for the job. Vote for Susan Gorin.

Municipal Elections

Cotati

City Council: JOHN DELL’OSSO. A park ranger and longtime terrific vote on the City Council. An asset to the City.

Measure U (Bans Roundabouts): NO. Reeeeeeaaally dumb idea. Roundabouts are cheaper than traffic lights and actually facilitate traffic flow-through faster than traditional metered intersections. This measure is entirely a fear-of-the-new thing. Dump it.

Healdsburg

City Council: TOM CHAMBERS. I may not agree with Mr. Chambers about everything, but I think his heart is in the right place and he brings a collegial tone to city deliberations. He deserves another term. I also encourage you not to vote for Gary Plass, who has been a terrible vote on the Council and seems to see his job as facilitating as much building as possible.

Measure W (Reauthorizes Urban Growth Boundary for another 20 years): YES. One of the proudest accomplishments of my career was Conservation Action’s involvement in passing UGB measures throughout the county in the 1990s. They’ve worked: they’ve reined in urban sprawl, and they’ve forced cities to make better planning decisions. Santa Rosa and Petaluma have already extended their UGBs for another 20 years; Healdsburg should join them.

Petaluma

City Council: NO ENDORSEMENTS, but don’t vote for Mike Healy or Gabe Kearney. Both have been simply terrible.

Measure X (Park & Recreation Projects): YES

Santa Rosa

City Council: CAROLINE BANUELOS, JULIE COMBS and GARY WYSOCKY. Yes, there are four seats open. I encourage you only to cast three votes. These are three candidates who will genuinely represent the people of Santa Rosa, rather than its entrenched interests and their own ambitions. Particularly, I encourage that you don’t vote for Ernesto Olivares, who has been a terrible vote and dismissively divisive on the Council, or for Erin Carlstrom, who claims to be running as a progressive but cut a mutual-endorsement deal with Olivares, helping him to green up his image while advancing her own prospects and signalling to Santa Rosa’s Powers That Be that she is willing to play ball with them. I tend to vote values over ambition, so: Banuelos, Combs, Wysocky.

Measure Q (District Elections): YES! Read this for my analysis

Sebastopol

City Council: JOHN EDER. Eder served on the Cotati City Council with a great voting record, and I’m confident in supporting him in his new—but quite similar in size—municipal home. I don’t know any of the others well enough to make a call, with two exceptions, who I recommend you do not support: Kathy Austin, who was a terrible vote on the City Council previously, or Colleen Fernald, who…well, put it this way, seems to live on a very different planet than I do.

Measure Y (temporary sales tax increase): YES. Sebastopol has cut as much as it possibly can from municipal spending. It needs more revenue simply in order to deliver basic services. It’s a tiny town, with a tiny tax base, and needs this temporary boost.

I know that’s only 5 out of the county’s 9 cities, but I don’t feel I know enough about what’s happening in Cloverdale and Sonoma, and Rohnert Park and Windsor don’t have City Council elections this year, because only as many candidates declared as there are seats available.

State Ballot Propositions

Proposition 30: YES. This is the real increase-state-revenue-for-education&c-by-slightly-increasing-taxes-on-the-wealthy measure. Prop. 38 is the fake one.

Proposition 31: NO. A two-year budget cycle is a good idea, but the zero-sum requirement for all expenditures of $25 million or more, additional gubernatorial powers make it clear that this is yet another attempt right-wing attempt to tie the hands of the state government to gather revenue and deliver services. I was initially fooled by this thing, and a reader brought it to my attention. Vote no.

Proposition 32: NO NO NO NO NO. This is a power grab by corporations and the Republican Party to try to take away the last deep-pocket source of campaign funding for Democrats (from unions)…leaving the field to corporate spending under Citizens United. It is a terrible idea and needs to get spanked at the polls.

Proposition 33: NO. California’s regime of watchdogging the auto insurance industry is one 0f the best in the nation, and this proposition is a push by auto insurers to pull its fangs. It will result in higher rates, more uninsured drivers, and less public accountability for insurers.

Proposition 34: YES. Whatever you think about its morality, the death penalty doesn’t work. It doesn’t deter crime, it costs taxpayers a fortune, and it is inevitably applied disproportionately to the poor and minorities who don’t have access to top-drawer legal protections. States kill innocent people when they have the death penalty. Let’s stop, save ourselves some cash, and be better able to look ourselves in the mirror.

Proposition 35: NO. This measure isn’t really about human trafficking. The effect of the measure would be to turn law enforcement against prostitution into another drug war, complete with asset seizure, which creates incentive for police corruption. It so broadly expands the definition of pimping that those even remotely connected with a person arrested for prostitution—landlords, roommates, children, parents—could and would be ensnared…and then it brands those people as sex offenders forever, including controlling and monitoring their use of the internet. Headline-chasing prosecutors and police departments who want to seize houses, cars, and other assets are drooling over the prospect of this passing. Yes: forced sex work is a problem. This is not a solution.

Proposition 36: YES. The “Three Strikes” law, like nearly all rage- and fear-driven public policy, is a serious mistake. It destroys lives over small offenses, and because those it affects are nearly all poor, no one speaks for them. This measure corrects many of the wrongheaded ideas in the original measure.

Proposition 37: YES.  How, exactly, is it harmful to let people know the content of their food? Enough said.

Proposition 38: NO.  This is the wealthy pushback against Prop. 30, choosing to raise additional revenue by instead drawing nearly all increased state tax from middle class taxpayers instead of the undertaxed rich. It contains a provision that says we can’t amend it—even with another proposition—until 2024. It’s a scam. Vote no.

Proposition 39: YES. This measure raises an additional $1 billion annually by ending a backroom, sweetheart deal for out-of-state corporations that was a part of the 2009 budget deal. Also funds some energy efficiency programs. We need the money, and the deal was a bad one. You can tell by the hysterical tone of the arguments against this in the voters’ pamphlet that they are blowing smoke.

Proposition 40: YES. There is no longer organized opposition to this measure. It ratifies the new State Senate districts, and keeps in place our new nonpartisan redistricting system, which seems, so far, to be working.

Aug 042012
 
Image of John Muir

Be advised: this great man is dead.

It’s time to talk about THIS.

As a lifelong and career environmentalist, let me say this: greenies, you’re getting played. This is a bad, bad idea.

How do I count the ways? Let’s see…

First: do you see a lot of extra water laying around the American West? No, you don’t. So abandoning a working water supply infrastructure currently serving millions of people is maybe not so bright, straight out of the gate.

Second: add projected uncertainties due to climate change. So… abandoning a working water supply infrastructure currently serving millions of people is, again, maybe not so bright.

Third: what, exactly, do you hope to get out of this high-cost, high-risk venture? One valleymaybe restored to biodiversity, maybe not. No one has ever tried to reclaim an entire valley like this after a century of accumulated drowning under water and silt. Pretty big bet for a small payoff in the broad scheme of things.

It’s a valley that used to be very pretty, but it’s still just one valley. There are a lot of better investments for restoration dollars that don’t involve having to build another water system and trying something you don’t know is going to work. If you’re going to tell me that part of the payoff is a warm glowy feeling about “doing what is right” or “bringing peace to John Muir’s ghost,” please don’t: the man is dead, and making major decisions like this based on romantic feelings is not sensible in the least.

Fourth: speaking of silt… if the idea is to reestablish Hetch Hetchy much as it was, exactly how are you going to remove all that silt? And how do you propose to do it without severely threatening water quality downstream?

Fifth, take a look at who keeps proposing this. The initial proponent was Don Hodel–Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of the Interior after James Watt was driven out for expressing a bit too much of Teh Fundamentalist Crazy. He was one of the worst Secretaries we have ever had. He’s a right-wing evangelical Christian without a green bone in his body. He’s a former President of the Christian Coalition, and backed Pat Robertson for President. He believes the Book of Revelations, and accordingly, has zero reason to care about what happens to Planet Earth. The GW Bush administration tried to study draining Hetch Hetchy, too…and we all know what great green heroes THEY were.

The current point person of the anti-environmental right wing to propose draining Hetch Hetchy is Dan Lungren, a similarly hardcore conservative who had a ZERO PERCENT California League of Conservation Voters voting record while in the California State Legislature, and has maintained that sterling record in Congress.

These are the people to look to for bright ideas on the environmental front? C’mon: this isn’t hard to read.

Sixth, and most pertinently: what is this really about?

I’ll tell you. It’s about two things, both of them are pretty simple, and neither of them is even remotely good for the environment:

  • It’s about screwing with Democrats and liberals. This is a laugher for Republicans. They get to watch Democrat square off against Democrat in the most liberal metropolitan area in the country. Every greenie who gets disgusted and votes or donates third-party as a result of Democratic leaders’ opposing this stupid idea is another chip in their pile.
  • More than anything, it’s about bending the liberal Bay Area over a barrel for Southern and Central California water interests. So long as the greater Bay Area has a water supply system independent of the California Water Project, it has the latitude to put up a fuss about ideas like the never dead Peripheral Canal (or Tunnel, or Aqueduct, or Skyway, or whatever it’s going to be called next). But make it a part of that broader system (which would be the natural result of taking away that storage), and now it’s in a scrum with much larger and more powerful opponents, and it is sure as hell not going to let a smelt get in the way of having water to drink.

One of the biggest Achilles’ heels for the environmental movement is that element that is driven by romantic ideas rather than by science and reason. It’s the kind of thinking that leads people to pour funding in response to mail campaigns featuring charismatic critters with Big Brown Eyes, when it is the fabric of life–microbes, insects, plants and all–that really are the environment and sustain life on Planet Earth, brown-eyed or not.

Hetch Hetchy was lost. It was wrong, but it’s over. In today’s context, it is absolutely a baited trap for environmentalists to indulge themselves in a fantasy about undoing what has been done.

At publication, the Dragon was: BLUNT