Clarity Blog

Clarity Blog

Posts Tagged ‘California’

Water Weekly 3: Pesky, Pesky, Pesky Water News

What were the three biggest California water stories of the past seven days?  Well, the news-heads and policy wonks here at Laer Pearce & Associates have compiled them for you here.  You’ll find the Big Three here every week, or you can follow LPAWater on Twitter for up-to-the-minute news and analysis. You can also sign up to receive the Weekly 3 via email here.  This week:

Pesky Smelt Insist on Procreating

The smelt-counters in the Delta are finding about twice as many of the little fishies this year, compared to last. Some attribute it to “smelt protections” – even though the State Water Project is pumping five times more water than in early 2010. More likely it’s high water levels and the turbidity that comes with more, faster-flowing water. That’s great news because if the feds accept the smelt’s love of muddy water, using the location of turbid water as an indicator should allow higher pumping volumes.

Here’s the story from the Sacramento Press (more…)

Brown Takes on Greens over (Some) Anti-Growth Litigation

Governor Brown almost sounded like a frustrated land developer earlier today when he talked about the impact litigation by environmental activists has on projects that are essential to meeting California’s demographic growth and protecting its frail economy.  Unfortunately, he wasn’t talking about the ecos’ endless legal challenges to new housing developments.

From the Sacramento Bee:

“In Oakland, I learned that some kind of opposition you have to crush,” Brown, the city’s former mayor, said at a renewable energy conference in Los Angeles.  “Talk a little bit, but at the end of the day you have to move forward, and California needs to move forward with our renewable energy.”

Brown said his office will “act to overcome the opposition,” helping projects overcome permitting and environmental challenges. The Democratic governor announced Friday that he had filed a legal brief urging a federal judge to deny litigation seeking to block a solar energy project in the Mojave Desert.

Yes, the governor is willing to “crush” the very environmentalists who were his strong supporters in the 2010 election – but only as long as it’s over government-subsidized alternative energy schemes. Providing housing for Californians? Rebooting the failed economy? Putting thousands back to work? That’s apparently not worth fighting for.

We’re not sure what we feel about government “crushing” environmental litigators. Having seen them slow so many very well-planned new home communities, driving up costs for consumers and driving down profits for businesses in the process, we confess we’re a bit tickled by the idea.

But two things bother us:  First, we can’t deny we’re sticklers for due process and are more than a little concerned when government gets heavy-handed and agenda-driven.  And second, we’d like to see an acknowledgment that useless litigation is just as bad when it’s used as a tool against home builders and, ultimately, home buyers.

Fact-Checking Democrats’ Water Statement

Last week’s Congressional water hearing in Fresno, if nothing else, produced thousands of acre-feet of hyperbole – if politically expedient but morally challenged statements can be measured that way.  The Natural Resource Defense Council’s particularly reprehensible propaganda is discussed in the post below; this post focuses on an article covering the position of Congressional Democrats regarding the hearing, “California Lawmakers Seek Statewide Approach to Water Supply.”

The article quotes Grace Napolitano as the lead spokesperson for the Dems.  We like Napolitano on water issues.  Her district runs from East Los Angeles to Pomona, so she understands that her constituents are largely dependent on water delivered to Southern California from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the Colorado River.  As the former chair and current ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Water and Power, she has done a lot to support a Delta solution and to bring federal dollars to groundwater clean-up, recycling and desalination efforts.

Fortunately for our positive view of Napolitano (just on water issues, mind you), the statement that we’re fact-checking here was not attributed to the Congresswoman, so we must credit it to the editors and writers at Environmental Protection, where the article appeared.  Here it is:

Last year, the state reported that the closure of salmon fishing cost the economy at least $250 million. Recent studies have estimated that nearly 2,000 salmon fishermen have been unable to work over the last three years, job loss figures comparable to the number of farm workers who could not work due to pumping restrictions during the drought. (emphasis added)

On its face, this statement is true.  Job losses among salmon fishers are comparable to job losses among farm workers who couldn’t find work because drought and environmental restrictions shut of the spigot to many Central Valley farms.  The comparison is this:  Salmon industry job losses are probably one percent or so of agricultural job losses.

In the town of Mendota alone, which I visited when its unemployment rate hit 38 percent at the peak of the weather-and-regulatory drought, if we assume half of the town’s population of 10,000 is made up of workers, then 1,900 people were unemployed in that town alone. There are towns like Mendota every few miles throughout the  Central Valley, so the editors of Environmental Protection are guilty of minimizing human suffering for political gain, a not uncommon but always unwise tactic.

Besides, there is no consensus whatsoever that the decline in California salmon populations can be tied to pumping water south from the Delta.  In fact, the consensus seems to be shifting to blaming any number of other causes, including ammonia from sewage treatment plants, predation by non-native striped bass, oceanic conditions’ impact on salmon food supply, overpopulation of protected predatory sea mammals, and others.

Everything I’ve learned in a career in public affairs and strategic communications tells me the complex debate over California water supply and the challenging (and likely impossible) effort to find a course of action that pleases all constituents is not furthered by this sort of destructive and divisive language.

Watered-Down Truth

It’s interesting that the Natural Resource Defense Council’s blog is called “Switchboard,” since switchboards use electricity, and electricity is, you know, destroying the planet.  Be that as it may, the blog is often a source for remarkably thoughtful dissertations from an environmental perspective, so I read it regularly.

Today, however, Switchboard switched me back to the Cold War, when the Soviet propaganda machine was churning out half-truths nonstop.  How can one forget the Pravda headline about a baseball game that said “Soviets come in second, US next to last,” without mentioning only two teams were playing?

NRDC staffer Doug Obegi is at the same game with his post today,Important Facts for Today’s Congressional Hearing on California Water Supply.” His use of the word “facts” might as well have a big red star on it, for it’s a very loose interpretation of the whole concept of truth.  (For a more balanced report on the hearing, read this Fresno Bee article.)

Here’s his first “fact:”  “ESA protections have had no impact on water allocations this year.”  That’s like saying it rained a little after Noah built his ark.  The 2010-2011 rain year was one of the wettest in history, with nearly 80 feet of snow falling in the Sierras, so more than enough water is flowing through the Sacrament0-San Joaquin Delta to allow the pumps to run, despite Endangered Species Act protections on Delta smelt and salmon.  It wasn’t that way last year and it’s not likely to be that way next year.

Besides, it’s only April of “this year.” Who knows where we’ll be in August or December?

Obegi also points to the “fact” that “Recently, lack of demand completely shut down the Delta pumps.”  Are we to believe that everyone in every Southern California metropolis suddenly packed up and moved to Pago Pago, Tahiti? That every farmer in the Central Valley decided that fallowing fields was the new way to sudden wealth?  Of course not – it’s the Noah’s ark thing again, showing the author is not afraid to make a dishonest point twice.

Then there’s Obegi’s argument that protecting the endangered species of the Delta protects jobs. That’s true – but just barely.  If one focuses only on the Delta, and only on the fisheries jobs in the Delta – a $250 million industry in the best of years – we can nod our heads and give Obegi a kudo.  But, pardon the pun, the Delta fisheries industry is small fry by California standards.  Pumping curtailments in 2009 and early 2010 caused billions of dollars in losses to Central Valley agriculture alone, and forced water users throughout much of the state to pay billions more for water due to rate increases.

There are many more similar corruptions of the public dialog in the piece, but I can’t end without bringing up Obegi’s characterization of the 2009 legislative water package.  Laer Pearce & Associates used our public affairs contacts and skills to shore up support for the package among the Orange County delegation, so we can take some credit in its passage – which is why Obegi’s characterization is so offensive.  Here it is:

California Law Requires Reducing Reliance on the Delta and Strengthening Environmental Protections

In 2009, California adopted a landmark package of water legislation, and established a state policy of reducing reliance on water exports from the Delta and investing in regional tools like water efficiency, wastewater recycling, groundwater cleanup, and stormwater capture. Instead of waiving environmental laws, this legislation strengthened environmental protections in the Bay-Delta. These policies are the cornerstone of a 21st Century water policy for California, and are the most cost-effective way for California to prepare for the next drought.

What the legislation actually required was recognition of the “co-equal goals” of, first, protecting and enhancing the Delta’s ecosystem and, first (since that what co-equal means), ensuring a reliable water supply.   He’s right that the legislation heightened protections on the Delta (so why is he so freaked out?), but he’s wrong in saying the environmental protections are the cornerstone of 21st Century water policy for the state. The cornerstone is the co-equal goals, and trying to pretend it’s otherwise is just like pretending the Soviet team came in ahead of the U.S. one in that baseball game Pravda covered.

Obegi should apologize to his readers for assuming they’re a bunch of rubes instead of well-informed citizens. And maybe the NRDC should commit to telling the truth instead of propagating propaganda.

Water Weekly 3: Zillions and zillions and zillions

What were the three biggest California water stories of the past seven days?  Well, the news-heads and policy wonks here at Laer Pearce & Associates have compiled them for you here.  You’ll find the Big Three here every Thursday, or you can follow LPAWater on Twitter for up-to-the-minute news and analysis. You can also sign up to receive the Weekly 3 via email here.  This week:

Not Going with the Flow

All across the state sweet, tasty water is surging out of dams as massive releases are being made to drop reservoir water levels out of fear of flooding that would come if capacity isn’t available to receive yet more snowmelt from the mountains.  As zillions of gallons flowed to the Pacific only to quickly become undrinkable, a chorus of voices asked, “Why doesn’t California have more reservoirs?” Farmers and city-dwellers argued for ‘em, environmentalists argued against ‘em – just another week in California water, eh?

For example, here’s the story from Oakland, Sacramento and Modesto

Here’s the perspective from Western Growers, George Skelton and Dan Walters

The Environmental Defense Fund questions the feasibility of more storage here

(more…)

Jerry’s Jack Benny Moment

Jerry Brown after his solo flight

They should drop Bob Hope’s name from Burbank’s airport terminal and put up Jack Benny’s.  Benny, as younger readers may not recall, made a career out of humor based on his obsessive frugality – well, cheapness, to be more exact.  I was reminded of him this week when Gov. Jerry Brown emerged from the terminal solo on Thursday morning, after flying without entourage or security on Southwest flight 896, even refusing to pay the $18 seat upgrade.

A sputnik moment it wasn’t – but a Plymouth moment it most certainly was.

Brown is a master of political symbolism and nothing could have rekindled the image of the beat-up Plymouth he drove the last time he was governor than his choice of transportation last Thursday.  Never mind that members of the State Senate and Assembly fly solo to and from Sacramento just about every week – after Schwarzenegger’s over-sized Hollywood presence, the gesture was a perfect one for communicating the governor’s stated commitment to a new era of frugality in Sacramento.

Brown’s symbolism isn’t remotely like President Obama’s. There are no cool logos or spiffed up soundbites.  Heck, he even calls what he’s seeking “a path to fiscal rectitude.” No pollsters or political messaging consultants got their hands on that phrase.  Still, there’s a lot of finesse behind Brown’s symbolism. Check out the photo.  How did all those reporters and photographers know to be outside the airport terminal if they weren’t given a heads-up by Brown’s hard-working communications staff?

Certainly, there are security risks if he keeps up this form of transportation, but t here are also political ones. What happens the first time he travels with staff and security? Will the press call it the end of his path to fiscal rectitude?  What if his seat-mate is hostile, instead of a complacent state employee, as happened this time? And more importantly, how will he cope with the inevitable realization that California’s problems are too big to be solved by mere symbolism, no matter how spot on it may be?

Thirty years in public affairs has taught me there are no magic words and no magic symbols.  Fixing things takes hard work and is most often done incrementally, with several “Plan B’s” employed along the way. But given the choice between flying solo or talking austerity from a limo, Brown gets an “A” for symbolism, even if it ultimately accomplishes little.

California’s Universities are the Best

Finally, a survey has shown that through diligence, hard work and unending commitment, California’s universities – Berkeley in particular – are the best in the whole wide world.  Unfortunately, it’s for all the wrong reasons.  Here’s why:

The University of California, Berkeley, has been crowned top … of the world’s most environmentally friendly higher education institutions.

The “UI Green Metric Ranking of World Universities” is based on several factors, including green space, electricity consumption, waste and water management and eco-sustainability policies.

Based on research and surveys conducted by the Green Metric team at the University of Indonesia on thousands of other universities around the world, University of California, Berkeley, United States scored best with a points total of 8,213 and is the greenest campus in terms of its environment policy.

Berkeley got the title, but the award really goes to the entire UC system, the UC Board of Regents and the UC faculty as a whole, because the green policies established at Berkeley are not unlike those at all the UC campuses.  So it’s fair to say that California has the greenest public institutions of higher education in the world.

Now don’t get us wrong.  We’re all about green space, conservation and eco-sustainable policies.  Whether there’s a looming eco-catastrophe or not (we think it’s “not”), it makes sense to be good stewards of our shared resources.  No, the problem we have with Berkeley’s new glory is that it’s really just the outgrowth of the deeper commitment to environmentalist brainwashing education that goes on at UC campuses.  If it weren’t for Regents who have bought into environmental doctrine, a faculty that’s bought into environmental extremism, and a curriculum that ensures wave after wave of freshly minted environmentalist soldiers will be graduating every spring and going into battle for Gaea, Berkeley would not be at the top of the green university rankings.

It’s what I – Laer – refer to as California’s PEER Axis, standing for progressives, environmentalists, educators and reporters.  I wrote about it a few months ago in a well-read op/ed that ran just after the mid-term election on the national news website The Daily Caller:

While the established political parties and their consultants will ignore California and pore over campaigns in other states for clues on how to capitalize on — or crush — the Tea Party’s influence, the Left will be studying what happened in California, so they can replicate it the next time around. What they will find is not so much a magic formula but a vast progressive infrastructure they will then work to replicate elsewhere.

I call this infrastructure the PEER Axis, for the progressives, environmentalists, educators and reporters who collectively run California and influence the underpinnings of America. The PEER Axis remains powerful because politicians and political movements may come and go, but government bureaucrats and regulators, environmentalists and social justice activists, and their supporters in education and the media are pretty much forever. The structure of California ensures that appropriately indoctrinated college graduates will continue to fill the personnel pipelines that run from Berkeley, UCLA and other liberal universities straight into the progressive movement.

Many end up in government offices in Sacramento, where they write policies that are parroted in other states around the nation, as evidenced by the fact that the federal government is following California’s lead in setting the next round of vehicle fuel economy standards. Others will go to work at California’s giant environmentalist organizations, social justice NGOs and activist law firms, or the powerful public employee unions. Some will stay on the campuses, turning out future generations of progressives and writing studies to reinforce and justify progressive government policies, and those who graduate into the media will publicize these efforts and belittle any contrarian thinking. Many will find jobs in California’s foremost culture-bending venture, Hollywood, where they will pummel all the world with green messages (The China Syndrome, Avatar), anti-corporate tirades (Metropolis, Wall Street), anti-war propaganda (Apocalypse Now, In the Valley of Elah) and movies challenging conventional values (Milk, Juno).

Wherever they end up, they will be greeted by like-minded alumnae ready to show them the ropes so they, too, can form and implement policy, bring lawsuits, and mold the next generation.

In my 30 years as an Orange County and California public affairs specialist (maybe even a guru, now that my hair is gray), I’ve watched the PEER Axis in action.  It has transformed California from a state that spawned great private enterprises and embraced needed public infrastructure into a state that could easily win the same award Berkeley just one, if such an award were given.

Defeating the PEER Axis isn’t an option I see playing out in my lifetime, so I’ve made it my work, and my agency’s work, to win skirmishes, shine a spotlight on their activities and in so doing, dull the edge of their blade. Care to join us in the good fight?

Inside the Brown Horseshoe

In case you missed it last week, Gov. Brown has released his “insider” appointments – the policy, press and legal folks that work “inside the horseshoe,” making the decisions and statements that will define the Brown Administration.

Our water and development clients should read Nancy McFadden’s bio very carefully, as the former PG&E policy Senior VP will probably be their primary senior interface with the governor’s office.  Public affairs and policy wonks are required to memorize the entire list.  Quiz Friday.  Here’s the full list, arranged alphabetically:

Elizabeth Ashford, 35, of Sacramento, has been appointed Deputy Press Secretary in the Office of the Governor. She worked at the Brunswick Group in London, England from 2009 to 2010. Prior to that, Ashford worked in the Office of the Chairman of the Conservative Party in the United Kingdom. From 2006 to 2008, she served as Chief Deputy Communications Director and then Chief Deputy Cabinet Secretary in Governor Schwarzenegger’s Administration. This position does not require Senate confirmation, and the compensation is $130,000. Ashford is a Democrat.

Anne Gust Brown, 52, of Oakland (Brown’s wife), has been appointed Special Counsel in the Office of the Governor. This position does not require Senate confirmation and Gust Brown will serve with no compensation. Gust Brown is a Democrat.

Gil Duran, 34, of Tulare, has been appointed Press Secretary in the Office of the Governor. Duran served as Communications Director for U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein from 2008 to 2010. Previously, he served as Press Secretary to Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa from 2007 to 2008. Duran also served as an aide and Press Secretary to Governor Brown as Mayor of Oakland from 2004 to 2007. This position does not require Senate confirmation, and the compensation is $147,900. Duran is a Democrat.

Joshua Groban, 37, of Los Angeles, has been appointed Senior Advisor for Policy and Appointments in the Office of the Governor. Groban served as Legal Counsel for Governor Brown’s 2010 campaign and previously practiced law at Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP in Los Angeles. This position does not require Senate confirmation, and the compensation is $147,900. Groban is a Democrat.

Julie Henderson, 48, of San Francisco, has been appointed Senior Advisor for Policy in the Office of the Governor. Henderson was a Special Assistant Attorney General while Brown was Attorney General and previously was a Vice President and Associate General Counsel at Gap Inc. This position does not require Senate confirmation, and the compensation is $147,900. Henderson is a Democrat.

Jim Humes, 51, of San Francisco, has been appointed Executive Secretary for Administration, Legal Affairs, and Policy in the Office of the Governor. Humes was Brown’s Chief Deputy while Brown was Attorney General, and before that Humes was the Chief of the Civil Division under then-Attorney General Bill Lockyer. This position does not require Senate confirmation, and the compensation is $175,000. Humes is a Democrat.

Nancy McFadden, 51, of Sacramento, has been appointed Executive Secretary for Legislation, Appointments, and Policy in the Office of the Governor. She was senior vice president at PG&E from 2005 to 2010. Previously, McFadden served as senior advisor to Governor Gray Davis from 2001 to 2003, deputy chief of staff for the Office of the Vice President from 2000 to 2001, and general counsel for the U.S. Department of Transportation from 1996 to 2000. This position does not require Senate confirmation, and the compensation is $175,000. McFadden is a Democrat.

Jonathan Renner, 40, of Sacramento, has been appointed Legal Affairs Secretary in the Office of the Governor. Renner was Senior Assistant Attorney General for Government Law while Brown was Attorney General. Prior to that, Renner practiced law at Kronick, Moskovitz, Tiedemann & Girard, in Sacramento. This position does not require Senate confirmation, and the compensation is $147,900. Renner is a Democrat.

Nick Velasquez, 30, of Los Angeles, has been appointed Director of External Affairs in the Office of the Governor. Velasquez served as Deputy Campaign Manager for Governor Brown’s 2010 campaign. Previously, he headed the California Accountability Project at the Democratic Governor’s Association. From 2006 to 2009 he served as a senior communications and policy aide to Los Angeles City Attorneys Rockard Delgadillo and Carmen Trutanich. This position does not require Senate confirmation, and the compensation is $80,000. Velasquez is a Democrat.

Evan Westrup, 28, of Sacramento, has been appointed Deputy Press Secretary in the Office of the Governor. He was Deputy Press Secretary on Governor Brown’s 2010 campaign after serving as Deputy Press Secretary in the Office of Attorney General Brown between 2009 and 2010. Prior to that, Westrup was Deputy Youth Vote Director on President Obama’s Campaign in New Mexico in 2008. He was Associate Communications Director in Governor Schwarzenegger’s Administration from 2007 to 2008. This position does not require Senate confirmation, and the compensation is $71,000. Westrup is a Democrat.

Laer’s Op/Ed on CalWatchdog

Laer is becoming quite the prolific op/ed writer.  His latest appeared today on the Pacific Research Institute’s CalWatchdog blog.  Here’s an enticing bit of it:

If Gov. Jerry Brown has any chance of draining California’s budget swamp of red ink, he’s going to need more than aggressive spending cuts and votes for more taxes, as he proposes. He’s also going to need a resurgence in California’s business environment, but at one of the state’s few commerce success stories, the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, there are more signs of classic California non-competitiveness than there are of a return to health for the state’s business sector.

Yes, activity is up by single digits over last year at the ports, which are America’s busiest, as companies slowly bring in more goods from Asia to rebuild inventories they had let drop through the Great Recession. But even as more than 12 million containers will be unloaded at Southern California docks this year, there are grave threats to the future of Southern California’s logistics behemoths, and they’re posed by exactly the same elements that threaten the rest of the state’s economy – powerful unions and California’s incessant compulsion to be a world leader in the environmental movement without thought to the cost.

Please read the rest of the op/ed by clicking through to CalWatchdog.

Happy New Year, You’re the Bane of the World’s Existence

The Center for Biological Depravity…er, Diversity, announced its top 11 priorities for bringing the U.S. economy to a halt in 2011.  It was going to go with 12, but making sure Jerry Brown appointed an ultra-enviro to head California’s Resources Agency has already been crossed off the list.

As you’d imagine, this year’s agenda is filled with plans to protect a whole slew of species from various man-made dangers.  If you’re a wolf or a bluefin tuna, this just might be your year.  Humans…not so much.  After taking baby steps last year, the Center hid in the middle of its list a rather Maoist priority to “Challenge the Overpopulation Paradigm.”  That’s right Joe Citizen, you and your 2.3 adorable kids (and their future kids) now have big fat target on your back.  As if an economic meltdown and global terrorism weren’t enough.

We’ll continue to encourage other groups to tackle overpopulation this year. We’ll distribute hundreds of thousands of condoms and ramp up the overpopulation dialogue through high-profile projects, including a study on the connection between overpopulation and diminishing water supplies in the Lower Colorado River Basin, the Center’s unique newsletter, Pop X, and targeted actions to Congress.

We’ll be interested to see their study on the Colorado River, which is facing challenges.  But that’s more so from several years of drought than too many newborns from too many “What Happens in Vegas…” nights.

Maybe the Center is grabbing for headlines to boost its coffers.  Maybe it’s tired of fighting on the environmental front lines and has chosen to try the back door.  Maybe it just doesn’t care for chubby babies with good short games.  Maybe all of the above.

Either way, it’s time to come to grips with the fact that you and your family are the bane of the world’s existence.  Happy New Year!

Read the rest of the Center’s 2011 priorities here.