Tag Archives: open space

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/


Sometimes, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. A couple of days ago, I opened up OC Metro to discover a feature article about all the major coastal resorts banding together to “brand the waterfront” as the ultimate luxury destination. And of course while looking for the article, I had to see a full-page ad urging me to “wake up to the waves” and “rest to the setting of the sun” at “Brightwater in Huntington Beach“, the new luxury housing development that sits just west of the other luxury housing development that sits atop what’s supposed to be protected wetlands. But of course, all this OC coastal luxuriousness mustn’t end there. I soon find a big ad telling me of all the decadently luxurious scenery awaiting me at the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach. No matter where I turn the page in OC Metro, I find all this fabulous luxury. Who would have known that I was living in the lap of luxury here in oh-so-fabulous Orange County?

But wait, does everyone really enjoy the “luxurious lifestyle” in The Land of the OC? Can we afford those new houses sitting dangerously close to protected wetlands? Can we even reach the beach amidst all this development? Can we afford to continue ignoring the dire need for affordable housing in the region? Oh yes, and what about the poor kids who want to go to the beach, but can’t thanks to OCTA’s refusal to meet the demands of bus drivers who themselves can hardly afford the high cost of living in Orange County?

Follow me after the flip to explore just how luxurious (or not) life really is…

So how good do we have it here? Well, it depends how much of this “good life” one can afford.

Yesterday, the Coastal Commission decided to not decide yet on the proposed Parkside development. Now Shea Homes has been illegally filling in wetlands in order to plop a bunch of multimillion dollar McMansions there. They claim that they need to build these McMansions in order to alleviate the dire need for housing in Orange County. But is this the type of housing that we really need?

Why must all the new housing be these super expensive developments that encroach upon our open space? Why not work on housing near the areas where we all work? Oh yes, and why not work on housing that most of us can actually afford? People aren’t really clamoring any more for McMansions that they can’t afford. They need something that they CAN afford. Even the Orange County Business Council realizes that if they want to attract new skilled workers to OC, they’ll need to show these workers where they can find a house within their budget. We may very well risk a terrible “brain drain” if we don’t do something to ensure that our workforce can actually afford to live here.

Disney doesn’t want any affordable housing encroaching upon its resort district in Anaheim. They’ll do anything, even throw an initiative to “save the resort district” on the ballot, in order to save their plans for some lovely new luxurious timeshare units. But wait, aren’t there already plans for future hotels in the area? And don’t all these people who work so hard to keep the magic going at Disneyland deserve a decent place to live that isn’t so far away from where they work? Must a place for these workers to call home be an unattainable luxury that’s always out of reach?

Oh yes, and speaking of out of reach… Why is it allowable that in addition to affordable housing must always be out of reach to us working people, we must also be unable to reach what’s supposed to be our open spaces? Just think about all the recent developments that have eaten up our beaches, our hills, and our wetlands. Much of the Dana Point Headlands will soon be filled with overpriced McMansions. Just across the street from Crystal Cove, the old backcountry is now filled with overpriced McMansions. And of course, the Bolsa Chica Wetlands may have some unwanted new neighbors getting a little too close to the wildlife.

But really, why must we be robbed of our housing and our open space? Why must all the housing be built on our open space, and why can’t we be able to live within our means? While there will always be mid-level managers who may have received enough of a salary increase to buy one of these McMansions along the coast, nothing’s being done to ensure that all the folks who will be policing the new McMansion neighborhoods and providing fire protection for these McMansions and educating the children residing in the McMansions and caring for the seniors residing in the McMansions will have a place to live. Oh yes, and have we even talked about the poor folks who will have to clean the McMansions and the people cooking for the people living in the McMansions? Where the heck do they go?

And what incentive do all these regular folks serving the needs of the people living in the big McMansions to live in such expensive places like Orange County? Why can’t we get to the beach? Oh yes, all the McMansions are getting in the way. Oh, and the people living in the McMansions would rather not see bus service in the area.

So is this all just a luxury that we really can’t afford? And is the luxurious lifestyle of a few shutting out the desires and necessities of the many residing here? I wonder sometimes.

What’s the Real Purpose of This Tax Hike in Santa Ana?

It’s very rare when I actually agree with The OC Register’s editorial page, but today happens to be one of those rare occasions. Read this and weep:

As the Register reported, the city [of Santa Ana] hired a Sacramento-based polling firm in March in the hopes that residents would tell pollsters that they want higher taxes to pay to fix Santa Ana’s poorly maintained, pothole-filled roads. To the officials’ dismay, residents overwhelmingly opposed the idea of paying higher taxes for roadwork. But officials saw an opportunity in another question, in which residents said they would give “high priority” to higher taxes to deal with gang prevention.

So they commissioned another poll. And lo and behold, they got what they wanted! People were willing to pay more taxes to “pay for more police officers to fight crime”. So now, we’re getting the “gang-fighting tax” in Santa Ana. But is this really what city officials are telling us that it is?

Follow me after the flip for more…

Here’s some more of today’s Register editorial:

Had the city really believed that there is a desperate need for more police, then it would have commissioned a poll that focused on police needs. Instead, it commissioned the poll based on its presumption that roadwork was the prime need. Apparently, city officials will raise taxes for any and all purposes, which is easier than doing what 84 percent of respondents told the city-hired pollsters: that “spending tax money efficiently” is a high priority.

Now to be honest, I disagree with what The Register says later on about taxes being evil, blah, blah, blah. I just don’t buy Howard Jarvis talking points. That’s not the issue for me.

What concerns me here is that the city would mislead residents about the “need” for this tax. First, they said that it’s about fixing our streets. And now, they’re telling us that it’s really to fight gang violence. So which one is it? Or is it really neither?

Is it really meant to pay for subsidies that we can’t afford and that don’t work for us? Is it really to pay for these bloated salaries for these ineffective city administrators? How are we supposed to accept paying more taxes to the city if we can’t even trust the city to be honest with us?

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to see any more gang violence. I don’t want to see any more decrepit streets. I don’t want to see any more dearth of open space in this town. I don’t want to see any more libraries closed.

But if this tax were really about these things, then why can’t the city just tell us that? And if this really weren’t just a reward to a bunch of incompetent jerks who have failed us on all these issues, then why can’t the city just tell us that? How are we supposed to entrust these people with more of our tax money when they can’t even be honest about why they want more of it?

It’s Not About “How Latino” Santa Ana Mayor Pulido Is

Dana, what irks us with Mayor Pulido is his lack of accessibility and what seems to be a lack of willingness to lead. The LA Times did an article about three years ago which discussed his nickname “The Invisible Mayor.” Gustavo “The Mexican” Arellano has nicknamed him the “Howard Hughes of Orange County.” All this goes back to his lack of accessibility. Until this last election cycle, virtually the only times we ever saw Mayor Pulido was every first and third Monday of the month. He was often a no show at dozens of community events, it is almost like he is bored of his duties as Mayor. When Santa Ana was being taken over by unruly protests in March of 2006, he was nowhere to be found. His job that day was to be a leader and once again he was MIA. None of it involved marching or protesting. The topic of the protests was immigration, but when the city is on the verge of a riot, it is not a federal issue, it is a local one. Exactly how is that “behind the the scenes” leadership?

That’s Claudio Gallegos in today’s Orange Juice, responding to Dana Parson’s recent profile of Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido in The LA Times. I guess he’s taking issue with Dana Parsons’ assertion that those of us who decry Pulido’s lack of leadership are doing so just because Pulido isn’t “Latino enough”. No, it’s much more than that. It’s the crappy state of our roads, closing libraries, lack of parks, and much, much more.

Follow me after the flip as we examine why people in Santa Ana really are irritated with the Mayor

So why are we angry with Miguel Pulido? It isn’t because he doesn’t give awesome speeches at immigrants’ rights rallies. It isn’t because he doesn’t declare allegiance to Aztlan. Basically, it isn’t because he isn’t some firebrand for radical causes. It’s because he just doesn’t seem to care about the people in the City of Santa Ana.

I like how Claudio says it

During his “invisible years”, our streets began to crumble, many playgrounds and park equipment fell into disrepair, after years of a lowered crime rate, crime and grafitti have returned with a vengeance, and a nationally recognized organization labeled Santa Ana one of the hardest places to raise a family financially. Fixing these problems did not require marching or carrying signs. People want leadership.

Or as I said it earlier this week…

Here are some more reasons why Pulido is so controversial here. He hasn’t done anything about the recent spat of gang violence in Santa Ana. He hasn’t done anything about opening more parks in a city that’s in such dire need of open space. He hasn’t done a good job of keeping our roads in good working condition, as some parts of town look like third-world countries due to the crappy state of their streets. He hasn’t improved our libraries… Oh wait, that’s right, HE’S CLOSED THEM! In his twenty years on the City Council and twelve years as Mayor, I’m struggling just to find good things that Pulido has done in this city.

So have we made that clear now? It’s not about “how Latino” Miguel Pulido is. It’s not about how much “Chicano Pride” he displays. It’s not about the color of Miguel Pulido’s skin.

It’s about how the Mayor is doing his job. It’s about our decrepit roads. It’s about the dearth of green in this town. It’s about the gangs that roam the decrepit roads at night. It’s about where the kids have to go when there’s such a dearth of nice, green open spaces. It’s about the dire state of the lives of way too many working people in this city.

And does this Mayor care? Does he care about the people in this city? I think Dana Parsons missed that point when he spoke with Miguel Pulido. Pulido’s not controversial here because he’s not “Latino enough”. He’s controversial because he doesn’t care enough about this city.