Prop. 23 Is Debated – and the Millennial Generation Is Tuned In

This is the first installment of what we hope will become a regular father-daughter, intra-generational effort to share concerns and fears, as well as ideas and hopes about the future of California’s environment. – Tom

Tom Steyer:  

I was in Sacramento last week to debate Assembly Member and Prop. 23 author, Dan Logue. As part of my role as the No on Prop. 23 Co-Chair, I’m going to be publicly arguing the ‘no’ side of this measure as often as they’ll let me. I’ve been a passionate and practicing environmentalist for a long time now – and I put my money, and my time, where my mouth is.

And so I found myself in Sacramento.  

I had spent several days prepping and practicing, making sure I was on top of the information as well as Mr. Logue’s attitudes and beliefs. I’m pretty passionate about this stuff to start with – and after spending a few days really drilling down on just who’s behind Prop. 23 (billion-dollar Texas oil giants, Valero and Tesoro), what their motives are (make even more money) and what it would mean to our environment (don’t get me started), I was ready to do battle.

Turns out, Dan Logue’s a very nice gentleman from the Truckee area, a small businessman mostly concerned with the climate for small business. He clearly cared generally about the issue. But he repeatedly quoted a series of discredited analytical efforts including one from Sacramento State and another from Berkeley, the authors of which have expressly asked him to please stop misquoting their work. It seemed to me that those Texas oil companies are manipulating him as badly as the rest of us.

One of the interesting things about debating this issue in public was that I got an immediate sense of what resonates and what does not. It’s obvious that the fact this initiative is funded by Texas oil companies resonates with everyone. It’s obvious that polluters should not be able to write their own environmental laws, get them on the ballot, and get them passed. The other point that’s obvious is this is a confusing issue for most people. Even the numbers, AB 32 and Prop 23, are confusing. It was necessary to repeat frequently that the pro-environment vote is a NO on 23 vote.

I found it an emotional experience, much like playing a soccer or basketball game. But even more so because it’s so obviously not a game. I left the debate feeling pretty drained – but also even more focused. Valero and Tesoro are going to spend whatever’s necessary to undermine California’s environmental laws. And I’m going to do my damndest to stop them.

Evi Steyer:

The trip from San Francisco to Sacramento, across the bay, over the golden-brown hills, and through the fields of the Valley, put me in a very California frame of mind.  After mistakenly making my way to a local neighborhood (wine) press club and bar of the same name, I finally found my way to the Sacramento Press Club, where the debate was being hosted.  The street was lined with Yes on Prop 23 advocates and a man dressed as a chicken, a reference to Assemblyman Logue’s feint at backing out of the debate. Late due to my scenic tour of Sacramento, I hustled up the stairs and found a seat at the back of the high-ceilinged room. Two men who resembled Logue himself and seemed to be closely affiliated with him, a couple wearing matching Tea Party t-shirts, and several people wearing Yes on 23 stickers and holding signs, were seated next to me.

As an 18-year old who grew up in a house where conversations about sustainable energy were as common as the morning carpool, I’m proud of California’s environmental laws and think Prop. 23 is deceptive and really, really dangerous.

The facts prove global warming is real, so it was hard for me to react to Mr. Logue’s assertion that the matter remains inconclusive without a certain amount of skepticism. What struck me, more than the arguments presented and the studies cited, was the overall tone of the discussion. Both Mr. Logue and my Dad clearly care about California and its citizens. But Dan Logue most definitely stakes his position on what he believes to be in the best interest of California. The only problem with Mr. Logue’s position though, no matter how passionate he is and how deeply held his beliefs – he’s wrong on the facts.

I was proud of my Dad, not for his debating tactics but for the positive and hopeful stance he presented. The words “innovation” and “creativity” arose frequently in his arguments for AB 32 and against Prop 23. Listening to the debate, I felt fully engaged and excited about the green revolution and the role California will play. I felt hopeful.

Tom Steyer is a successful asset manager, entrepreneur and environmentalist. He founded and is Co-Managing Partner of the San Francisco-based firm, Farallon Capital Management and is a partner at the private equity firm Hellman & Friedman. With his wife Kat Taylor, he created and funded OneCalifornia Bank, which provides loans and banking services to underserved small businesses, communities, and individuals in California. In 2008, Steyer and Taylor made a $40 million gift to Stanford University to create a new research center as part of the Precourt Institute for Energy, the TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy.

Steyer is also co-Chair, with former Secretary of State George Shultz, of the campaign to oppose Proposition 23 in California, an initiative that would undercut California’s commitment to clean energy.

Evi Steyer is one of Tom and Kat’s four children. She graduated from San Francisco’s University High School in 2010 and is taking a year off to volunteer on the Prop 23 campaign and travel, before starting Yale in the fall of 2011.