Don’t Forget Water, Jerry

Life imitates art at the L.A. Regional Water Board

Dear Governor Brown:

I understand you are facing California’s budget crisis head on and I agree with your priority setting for the state: digging us out of the budget crisis is priority one through 100. However, on behalf of all of those that care about clean water in the Los Angeles region, we need your help. Making appointments to boards that don’t necessarily share your views on environmental protection is a high priority. Each month that goes by without your appointments could lead to a series of bad decisions.

For example, the Los Angeles Regional Water Board met on Thursday and one of its first orders of business was the approval of a new board chair. Typically, this is a pro-forma decision. The vice chair gets appointed to the chair leadership. Unfortunately, a Coastal Commission hearing broke out at the Simi Valley meeting with politics getting in the way of traditional policy. Every year for the last 10 years, the vice chair has become the chair. Until Thursday.

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State of Shame

Legislators missed some obvious revenue opportunities in botched budget negotiations.

Legislators missed some obvious revenue opportunities in botched budget negotiations.

The California Legislature and the Governor recently passed the most devastating budget ever enacted during my lifetime.  The budget will leave state residents less protected from illness, students less educated, and will widen the growing gap between rich and poor in California.  The picture of the Big 5 smiling when they agreed in principle to the budget will forever be etched upon my mind.  This is truly a budget that asks those least able to sacrifice — children, elderly and the poor — to sacrifice the most.  Even though Californians will be sicker and dumber, at least there are no new taxes, right?

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Grading the Media

press_sf_carolann_500x375Last week marked an interesting time for me.  I missed my first Beach Report Card press conference in 19 years to complete a leadership fellowship with the Aspen Institute. As the 20th approached, I felt a combination of anxiety and anticipation. I wanted to be at the press conference in Santa Monica, but I couldn’t be in two places at once.  I also wanted to see how well Heal the Bay staff would do without me serving as the lead spokesperson on California’s beach water quality issues.

The end result?

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Sacramento Blows It

Image: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

Image: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

As I opened up what’s left of the L.A. Times this morning, I couldn’t help but feel sick to my stomach. I almost lost my Captain Crunch after seeing photos of smiling legislators celebrating  a budget that offers meaningless “reform” concessions to state Sen. Abel Maldonado and  result in so much pain for so many Californians.

While Rome was burning, state employees got furloughed, thousands of people received pink slips, and hundreds of environmental, research and construction projects were stopped, leading to significant layoffs. Hip, hip, hooray!

Every civic crisis provides opportunity for leadership and reform. Elected officials blew it on both.

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California Scrooge

image_1What did you get for the holidays?

Due to California’s unprecedented financial crisis, the environmental, scientific, education, transportation and construction community got one big lump of coal.  Were we naughty this year?  Not hardly.  The naughty were the state legislature and the Governor, which both failed to agree on a budget plan that met the laugh test in the financial community.

As a result, California (always described as something like “the eighth largest economy in the world” ) can’t sell a bond.  How the mighty have fallen.

The media have done a strong job covering the budget wars and the potential impacts to state employees (10% mandatory layoffs, forced two-days-a-month furloughs, and no more cash by the end of February), but they haven’t delved into the impacts of the state’s inability to sell a bond.

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Swim at Your Own Risk

Our End of Summer Beach Report Card came out today. This year marked another great summer at the beach, with excellent water quality at nearly every beach in the state. Some 92% of the beaches got A’s and B’s with every county other than L.A. County above the 95% level for A’s and B’s.

Sounds like a great reason to celebrate, no? Unfortunately, to the shock of the State Department of Public Health and the State Water Board, Governor Schwarzenegger unilaterally eliminated all state funding for beach monitoring.

That’s right. The Bush Administration now gives California more money for beach monitoring (about $500K annually) than the state. Without beach monitoring, the governor may as well put “Swim at Your Own Risk” signs up along California’s coast.

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