Tag Archives: parks

Why should you take a moment to support CMED?

by Kevin Singer, Communications Coordinator, Californians for Responsible Economic Development

In 2011 alone, California produced a grand total of approximately 200 million barrels of oil and 230 billion cubic feet of natural gas, making our state the fourth largest producer of oil and the tenth largest producer of natural gas in the country. Yet, despite this, California does not get a dime for the resources that are extracted from our state and sold on the global market. This is because, unlike every other major oil and natural gas producing state in the nation, California has not enacted an extraction fee on the energy that is taken right from under our feet.

Let’s think about this for a moment. California, the ninth largest economy in the world, is ranked 43rd in the country in terms of K-12 spending per pupil. The University of California, the flagship public university system of the nation, has seen a 14% decrease in funding since 2010. And at a time when a quality college education has never been more important, tuition is skyrocketing, making a diploma unaffordable for an increasing number of young Californians. Meanwhile, at 9.8% unemployment, even those who have graduated from college find themselves without work or working at jobs they are tremendously over-qualified for. The appalling disrepair of our municipal infrastructure only discourages employers from bringing more jobs to our state. But our state government has its hands tied behind its back. The $250 billion dollar state debt all but assures that there will be no additional funding for education and infrastructure in the near future.

And we are giving away our oil and natural gas. We have the wealth to fund the investments that California needs and deserves and we are giving it away. This is to say nothing of that fact that by not charging an extraction fee on oil and natural gas, our state, which prides itself as a leader of reducing CO2 emissions, is not putting a price on the CO2 that eventually makes its way into the atmosphere. To say this is ridiculous would be an understatement. It is an outrage.

The California Modernization and Economic Development Act (or CMED) would put an end to it. By implementing a modest 9.5% extraction fee on oil and natural gas (Alaska, hardly an enemy of big oil, has implemented a fee of 24% on oil and natural gas that’s extracted from the state), CMED would raise between 2 and 2.5 billion dollars in revenue for California. A little more than half, 1.2 billion dollars, would be allocated in four equal parts for K-12, California Community Colleges, Cal State Universities, and the University of California for the purposes of increasing quality and restoring tuition to 2010 levels. 400 million dollars will be used to support small businesses by aiding their transition to cheaper, carbon-free and carbon-reduced forms of energy, which would in turn empower them to expand, hire additional workers, and reinvest. An additional 300 million dollars would be apportioned to the general funds of California County Governments for the purpose of upgrading and better maintaining municipal infrastructure, funding the conservation of regional park land and providing a multitude of other public services.

These are more than investments, they constitute a complete vision for responsible economic development in California. Making that vision a reality is as easy as ending the giveaway of our oil and natural gas, but it’ll take a popular movement if we truly want to realign the policies in Sacramento with the wishes and desires of Californians. Simply by taking a few moments, right now, and visiting www.cmedact.org, liking our Facebook, following us on Twitter, telling your friends or donating anything you can, even $5, you can provide the crucial grassroots support we need. It’s that easy. You could be the difference between failing to qualify and qualifying CMED on the 2014 ballot, so that Californians can have a chance to pass it democratically.

We can do this California, but not without your support. If you think it’s ridiculous that we are giving away our oil and natural gas at a time when California is more cash-strapped than ever, join our cause. It won’t be easy, but together we will qualify and pass the California Modernization and Economic Development Act and put our state back on the right track.

How did your representatives vote on the environment?

California’s clean air and water, pristine coastline, wild open spaces and public health protections don’t happen by accident. They happen because champions for the environment run for office, and once they’re elected, they work to pass laws that protect our natural resources and improve our quality of life.

Today the California League of Conservation Voters released our annual California Environmental Scorecard. The Scorecard is the behind-the-scenes look at the battle to protect the Golden State’s natural legacy and public health, and reveals how the governor and members of the state legislature voted on critical environmental proposals in the 2010 legislative session. Take action and let your legislators know what you think about their 2010 scores: Visit http://www.ecovote.org/

The story of the 2010 Scorecard is as much about how the environmental community stopped multiple attacks on the environment as it is about how we passed strong laws that protect our quality of life. But the story doesn’t end there, because we expect more attacks in 2011 that falsely claim we need to sacrifice the environment in order to improve the economy.

Emboldened by the tough economic climate, anti-environmental legislators introduced dozens of so-called “regulatory reform” bills in 2010 in an attempt to weaken environmental protections. The good news is that, with the help of environmental champions in the state Senate and Assembly, CLCV and our allies successfully defeated the bills that posed the most serious threats to the environment and public health. At the same time, environmental advocates were able to deliver several important proposed laws to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s desk, including bills dealing with energy storage, recycling, water conservation, pesticides, clean energy jobs, and oil spill prevention.

Schwarzenegger’s 2010 score of 56% factored into an average lifetime score of 53 percent over his seven years as governor. The governor received national recognition for leadership on environmental issues. However, he leaves office with a mixed legacy, having championed some issues-notably, bold solutions to climate change-and having proven less reliable on others, including protecting public health and state parks.

How did your legislator perform on the environmental community’s priority legislation to protect the environment and public health? Learn your legislators’ scores and then let them know what you think! (More after the jump).

2010 California Environmental Scorecard Highlights:

Governor Schwarzenegger 56% (leaves office with 53% average score)

Senate average: 59%

Senate Democrats: 91%

Senate Republicans: 6%

Senators with 100% score: 12

Highest Scoring Senate Republican: Blakeslee, 21%

Lowest Scoring Senate Democrat: Correa, 30%

Assembly average: 64%

Assembly Democrats: 94%

Assembly Republicans: 7%

Assemblymembers with 100% score: 30

Highest Scoring Assembly Republican: Fletcher, 19%

Lowest Scoring Assembly Democrat: Huber, 43%

Perfect 100%:

Senators: Alquist, Cedillo, Corbett, DeSaulnier, Hancock, Kehoe, Leno, Liu, A. Lowenthal, Pavley, Steinberg, Yee.

Assemblymembers: Ammiano, Bass, Beall, Blumenfield, Bradford, Brownley, Carter, Chesbro, Coto, de Leon, Eng, Evans, Feuer, Gatto, Hayashi, Hill, Huffman, Jones, Lieu, B. Lowenthal, Monning, Nava, J. Pérez, Ruskin, Salas, Saldaña, Skinner, Swanson, Torlakson, Yamada.

The California Environmental Scorecard is an important tool for environmental voters, who for nearly 40 years have helped CLCV deliver on our mission to hold elected officials accountable to their campaign promises to protect California’s families and natural heritage.

With the introduction this year of a new interactive, online Environmental Scorecard, CLCV is making it even easier for voters to communicate with their elected officials about their environmental performance.

Please know the score and take action today! Visit http://www.ecovote.org/

Governor’s Budget Proposal: Environmental Programs Share in the Sacrifice

Programs that fund state parks, maintain wild open spaces, protect wild lands from forest fires, fund public transportation and more are all on the table in Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed budget.  

Make no mistake, there is a lot for environmental advocates (and everyone else) to hate about this proposed budget. But with a two-thirds majority in the state legislature required to pass new taxes and now (thanks to Prop 26) new fees, and with legislative Republicans refusing thus far to consider any new sources of revenue, Governor Brown must work with the hand he was dealt.

During his campaign for governor, Brown promised voters that he would put a halt to the gimmicks that served as short-term Band-Aids on budget shortfalls in the past. He promised a tough but fair budget that – in closing an estimated $25 billion budget shortfall – would spare few of the state’s programs and services. And he has mostly made good on that promise, with the most profound cuts in the areas where the state spends the most – health & social services and higher education. The total proposed spending cuts: a staggering $12.5 billion.

For now, Governor Brown’s budget spares the state’s K-12 public education system, preferring to allow voters to decide in a special election to agree to a five-year extension of $12 billion in taxes that will otherwise expire this year (including vehicle licensing fees, state sales taxes and state income taxes) or allow even deeper cuts to California’s programs and services, including to the K-12 system.

Here’s a summary of how environmental programs fared in the governor’s first budget proposal:

Natural Resources

As expected, the agency will share in the sacrifice being asked of all levels of state government. On the one hand, we’re relieved that the cuts proposed to the agency were fairly minimal (at least as a percentage of the overall budget cuts). On the other, the worst of the cuts are to the already-struggling state parks budget (which totaled $406 million last year). The $11 million proposed cuts this year and $22 million more in ongoing cuts will result in some parks closing and/or more restricted park hours for the public. As the California State Parks Foundation points out, budget reductions over the past few years have already left the parks system operating with 150 partial closures and service reductions.

We’re waiting for a more specific list of proposed closures and service reductions before making a complete assessment-according to a state finance department spokesman, Brown asked State Parks Director Ruth Coleman to submit by February a list of the parks that will have reduced hours or will be closed completely. Cuts this deep will magnify the budget reductions already sustained by the state parks in recent years and they are sobering, to say the least.

California Natural Resources Secretary John Laird said it was necessary for his agency to share in the short-term sacrifice:

“This Governor is determined to upright California’s budget… Fixing the long-term problem requires sacrifice from each Californian–and certainly the Natural Resources Agency–in the short-term. If California is to achieve a long-term vision for natural resources management that plays a role in restoring the state’s economy, the governor’s plan is the right path.”

Delta Restoration

The Bay Delta Ecosystem Restoration Account was zeroed out in the budget. Questions remain about how to implement BDCP in light of this.

Open Space

The proposal also zeroes out all $10 million in state funding for The California Land Conservation Act-commonly referred to as the Williamson Act. For decades, the Act has helped keep large parcels of land in California as open space by enabling local governments to enter into contracts with private landowners for the purpose of restricting specific parcels of land to agricultural or related open space use. The incentive: lower-than-normal property tax assessments (based on farming and open space uses versus full market value).

The revenue for some rural counties under the Act has been significant. Eliminating funding may force some landowners to allow their lands to be developed for housing or retail, contributing to sprawl and allowing more of California’s precious open space to disappear.


Surprisingly, transportation fared pretty well in this budget, with funding levels left unchanged from last year. According to the San Jose Mercury News:

Transportation officials say Brown’s plan would provide a stable source of funding for transit and highway planning across the state, and that could speed up work on some projects.”


Brown’s budget proposes changing the way the state battles wildfires, reducing the number of firefighters to pre-2003 staffing levels and shifting a significant amount of fire-fighting responsibility to cities and counties. (This is just one of many areas where Brown proposes a wholesale restructuring of the relationship between state and local governments.) Some experts on wildfires have already reacted warily to the proposal (read more in the Mercury News: http://www.mercurynews.com/bre…

Environmental Protection

The $71 million reduction ($12 million from the general fund) is one of the biggest cuts to the environment in the proposed budget. As with much of the above, we await details on these cuts.

Click here for the full budget summary: http://www.ebudget.ca.gov/

It’s Official: John Laird appointed California Secretary for Natural Resources

(We noted this pick last week; it is great to see it all official-like. – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

As one of his first actions, Governor-elect Jerry Brown has appointed the Honorable John Laird as California Secretary for Natural Resources. This is a superb decision. A longtime environmental champion, John Laird served with distinction for six years as an Assemblyman representing the central coast counties of Santa Cruz and Monterey. During this period, John received a 100% score from both the California League of Conservation Voters (CLCV) and Sierra Club California for his votes on environmental issues.

CLCV enthusiastically endorsed John when he ran for state office. We’re equally thrilled that he will continue to protect California’s natural, historical and cultural resources in this new role.

Laird has an impressive record of environmental leadership during his twenty-three years in elected office. While serving in the California Assembly, John distinguished himself as a leader both in the environmental community and with his colleagues on budget and environmental issues. Laird demonstrated both political sophistication and compassion in his efforts to protect and invest in California’s precious natural resources.

As noted in CLCV’s 2008 Environmental Scorecard, Laird was “the highest-ranking voice for the environment in the inner circle of leadership, the trusted and respected chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, and a dedicated friend and mentor to environmental advocates.” The 2008 Scorecard is available online: http://www.ecovote.org/scoreca…

As Budget Chair, Laird worked hard to reverse the persistent trend of the state’s under-funding of natural resources and environmental protection. One of his most significant achievements included allocating $250 million to the state budget to begin funding the $1 billion backlog in state parks deferred maintenance, providing for $19 million to protect and manage California’s ocean resources and augmenting the Department of Fish and Game’s funding by over $70 million.

California’s enormous budget deficit will create severe challenges for the managers of our natural resources. The Secretary will be required to make tough choices that balance the need to protect the environment with fewer dollars. We look forward to working with John Laird to face these challenges.

Are You Kidding Me? Arnold Honored for “Protecting” the State Parks

I can’t wait for my award from the Chamber of Commerce for all of my hard work, or perhaps from the Yes on Prop 8 Krew.  Because, clearly today is bizarro day if this report from the Capitol Weekly is true (and I have no doubt that it is):

The National Park Trust said it planned to honor Schwarzenegger on Oct. 29 with its 2009 Bruce F. Vento Public Service Award “for his leadership and innovation in the protection of public lands in California and for his life-long commitment to children’s health and to connecting them with the outdoors.”

*** *** ***

“When Schwarzenegger pulled the plug, instead of parks being completely closed, there were a lot of partial closures,” said Elizabeth Goldstein of the State Parks Foundation. “Half the restrooms in the state closed, and camps and trails. There were very severe cutbacks in services. We think this is going to affect the public a lot. Obviously, they won’t find completely closed gates 365 days a year, but the parks are far less maintained, and health and safety issues are getting taken care of less quickly.” (CapWeekly 10/20/09)

This is insane.  As Elizabeth Goldstein points out, he protected parks only insofar as he had to. If the governor would have really protected the parks, he wouldn’t have slashed additional funding with his blue pencil, and he wouldn’t have left the closure list hanging over the heads of the system for three months.

I have a lot of respect for the National Park Trust, but it’s like they just sent out invitations for awards to whatever megastar celebrity governor that they could get, and ended up with Arnold.  

With “protectors” like this, who needs enemies?

State Park Cuts – Logic = Stoopit

Last week, the State Park system announced that they would need more time to decide which parks would be closing.  The list had previously been expected around Labor Day, but the delays keep mounting.  The reason for the delays? The closures are flat out stupid.

And this stupidity is borne out by a leaked report from within the administration and the parks system showing that the closures would end up saving $14 million by, wait for it, spending $24 million. Yes, you read that right, the closures could end up being a net expenditure.

It is likely that state parks would be liable for breach of contract” with the 188 agreements the state has signed with private companies that provide concession services, from restaurants to boat rentals to gift shops in parks, the memo concluded. Those concessions generated $89 million in gross sales last year.

Further, if people enter closed parks and are injured or start fires, the state “can be held responsible for dangerous conditions,” the attorneys added, even if the parkgoers were trespassing. (SJ Merc 9/17/09)

The memo is available on the website of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.  You can grab a press release and the full memo here, the website is a bit tough to navigate. Esssentially the memo, which was originally intended for state parks director Ruth Coleman and other department managers, argues that the costs and risks of closing the parks outweighs any potential benefits.

To the public, the State Parks Commission has been blaming the delay of the closure list on the fact that the parks are broken up by districts, and there was some intense calculations to figure that out.  Now, I don’t blame the folks of the parks system for these problems, they are just trying to do the best they can given the hand they were dealt. However, these closures are both impractical, and in a tightening economy, a poor economic decision.

Rumors abound of a potential ballot measure for fall 2010.  Such a measure would need to be submitted very, very soon in order to get the full allottment of time to gather signatures, but there is a pretty good guide for the measure, as it has already been in bill form a couple of times before gubernatorial vetoes.   Essentially, the measure would request a $10 increase in the vehicle license fee in exchange for free access to state parks.  Former Assemblyman (and all-around good guy) John Laird was (and is) a staunch supporter of this plan, originally proposing it last year.

Seems like a great deal to me. The closures simply do not make sense.

State Park Fees to Rise as Closure List Looms

Did you want to go to the state park this weekend? It does sound splendid and relaxing doesn’t it? And, vacations are good for your health. Well, expect higher fees at most state parks.  Some fees will almost double.  The Times has a representative sample of some of those fee hikes. Just another little tax brought to you by the Republican Party.

But while the fee hikes are annoying, they aren’t anything when compared to the specter of the mass closure of our parks.  Park closures are, post budget slash and burn, inevitable. The closure list isn’t supposed to come out until Labor Day or so, but there’s already panic amongst park-goers.  Take the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historical Park in El Dorado County:

Scott Nakaji, superintendent of the Park Department’s Gold Fields District, said the park surrounding the site of Sutter’s Mill on the south fork of the American River likely will close for at least two years unless other funding sources are found.

Operating Marshall park at a minimal level would cost about $760,000 a year. With annual average revenue of $197,000, Nakaji said, approximately $565,000 would have to be raised each year to offset eliminated state general fund money. (SacBee 8/21/09)

The park is actually in the district of Supervisor Ron Briggs, who is fighting the closure.  That name sound familiar? Yup, he’s the son of John Briggs, the proponent of 1978’s Proposition 6 that appeared in the movie Milk. That being said, if you are interested in keeping that park open, you can meet him at 6 p.m. in the park picnic area behind the museum.  

Cut me please

Cut my services please.  

I make a good living in California.  I pay tons of taxes.  Like my liberal friends (I am a moderate and think both parties have no credibility), my kids are not even permitted to step foot on a public school.  I get next to nothing from the state except crowded freeways, state parks that charge for parking, horrid emergency rooms, and the highway patrol.  the only useful thing for me is the UC system as i went there and hope my kids can go.  

So here is my offer.  Cut all of my services.  Close all the state parks immediately, i will suffer.  Pull the plug on the UCs, and if my kids want to go to college, they will work a job and borrow.  

But in return, i want some pain inflicted on welfare moms, on teachers, on the community colleges, on the schools, on the hospitals, etc.  

what is so unfair about all this.  

Hiding our Natural Resources

Robert alluded to the closing of state parks, but today we got the bloody details of what Arnold plans to do to our state parks:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s latest proposal to tackle the state’s $24.3 billion shortfall includes the elimination of all general fund contributions to California’s 279 parks within two years.

It is a nightmare scenario that would mean the public could be barred from visiting 223 parks – that’s 80 percent of the state-owned parks, according to park officials. (SF Gate 5/28/09)

Besides the absolute tragedy of allowing some of our state’s natural treasures being locked up behind a gate, this plan is completely unpractical.  How exactly are we going to stop people from using the beach? Is a lock really going to stop people from going to the state parks? The only thing we are doing is creating what is known in tort law as an “attractive nuisance.” We will create hazardous conditions in state parks that people have been going to for years, and will not stop because of a padlock or a warning sign here or there.

Like so many other of these small-minded cuts, this one is simply not practical and a bad idea for our economy. Take Hearst Castle in San Simeon for example. It is a huge tourist draw for the region. While it doesn’t quite get enough money in park fees to cover the expenses, the net result of the increased tax base in the region is a net benefit to the state.  Without the Castle being open, the region and the state will net a loss of money.  Same thing for parks all across the state.  People come to California to visit our natural resources, and they expect to be able to go to our amazing state parks.  

We are simply cutting off our nose to spite our face at this point. The California State Parks Foundation fought cuts in the past, and they have suggested action items for you now.

The slideshow is a small snippet of some of the parks that would be closed under this proposal. You can view the slideshow larger below the flip.

John Laird’s VLF for Parks Plan

John Laird has always believed that Arnold Schwarzenegger’s reckless cut of $6 billion from the state budget by cutting the VLF was a bad idea. And representing the 27th Assembly district, with some of the most beautiful parkland in our state (really – ever been to Point Lobos?) he has long sought ways to improve parks funding and access.

Now Laird is proposing to address both concerns with a plan to raise vehicle registration fees by $10 to pay for parks – and to help offset the cost of eliminating day use fees.

The additional funds would be a huge boost to a parks system that has accumulated $1 billion in deferred maintenance and has struggled in recent years with ranger staffing and park security, Laird said.

“This will allow us to begin to return to the level of parks we used to know,” Laird said. “It’s in a process of dying over time. Unless we find a strong, stable source (of funding), we’re just going to fall farther behind in our maintenance and have trouble acquiring more land.”…

Because cars would be able to enter parks for free, the state would lose about $40 million in entry fees it collects every year. The net funding increase would actually be $242 million.

Also, the state parks system’s entire $150 million annual budget would be available to the state’s general fund in the first year of the registration fees. Every year after that, the state’s general fund will be allowed access to $50 million less from the state parks budget until the entire amount is designated for the parks.

At that point, state parks would have a $392 million annual budget, not including any variations in the total number of registered vehicles in California….

“We can negotiate things like that if people think it’s going to be an issue,” Laird said….

A recent poll of Californians showed 74 percent favor the registration increase, Laird said.

While I’m not sure I like the idea of leaving the parks budget available to the general fund – it’s time we stopped raiding other funds because the state isn’t willing to tackle the structural revenue shortfall – and though I’d prefer a full restoration of the pre-1998 VLF, the overall concept seems sound. California’s beaches and parks should be free for day visitors, and as they are part of the state’s natural heritage, everyone should pitch in to help keep them afloat.

Besides, at many parks, folks have already found workarounds to avoid paying the day use fee – including here in Monterey County, where folks can simply park along Highway 1 and walk into most parks and beaches rather than pay the fee. This provides a more sustainable parks budget, helps address the backlog, and all with new revenues. It’s a progressive solution.