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Oh, wow. Snap to it Scott! Sorry, taking the morning cue from POTUS, I've been on a Twitter storm contextualizing the 2020 Democratic presidential primary in Erasure songs. #Make1992GreatAgain I'm not endorsing, but Mayor Pete Butt Edge Edge is saying "Take a Chance on Me" and is deserving of "A Little Respect." Meanwhile, Tim Ryan, congressmember from somewhere who bought somebody's list and has been emailing me incessantly has jumped aboard the "Ship of Fools."
If I have to have Erasure in my head for the rest of the day, so do you. For the Nooner kiddos, try it out, you'll like it. "Alexa, play Erasure!"
Seriously, though, Erasure has a political connection. In 1993, Paul Mitchell and I co-chaired a statewide group "Students Against Vouchers in Education" against Proposition 174 that we organized through community colleges. We obtained statewide funding for stipends for a bunch of students and somehow omitted ourselves. Anyway, a cassette of Erasure was always in Ely's Volvo as we drove around to make the case against the measure because of its impact on Prop. 98 and, thus, community colleges. I have a S.A.V.E. button and business card around here somewhere amidst plentiful unorganized political memorabilia.
Of course, Prop. 174 failed 30.4% to 69.5% in the November 2, 1993 special election, and was the last major effort for school vouchers.
Anyway, you're almost there! It's Thursday! Thanks for tolerating my fun. As you can probably tell, I've broken my insomnia and have finally been sleeping for the last week.
WATER: Yesterday, I enjoyed the Public Policy Institute of California's briefing and panel discussion on the water issues in the San Joaquin Valley, which was quite sobering. Here are the slides and full briefing report. The video will be posted here soon and the panel moderated by Sarge Green was particularly good.
There is a huge problem of groundwater overdraft, meaning that more water is taken out of the water table than is added back ("recharged"), even in several wet years (slides p. 5). Ideally, there would be a balance of extraction in the growing season and recharge in the wet seasons, if not annually, at least within a five-year span.
With more dry than wet years in the last thirty, the groundwater is simply not being recharged. Between 2003 and 2017, there was an average annual net overdraft of groundwater of 2.4 million acre feet. The reduction in the water table concentrates nitrates from fertilizer and manure runoff particularly on the east side of the valley, while on the west side, it increases the salinity. Oh, and in some areas, the land is sinking.
This has left water not potable and, even in this amply wet year, some communities are reportedly still having water trucked in. Yes, we have our own Puerto Rico-type woes in the fifth largest economy in the world with a state GDP of over $2.8 trillion. I believe the number of people currently affected by the serious water quality problem in the San Joaquin Valley is around one million.
In water, you start with areas of agreement. There's general agreement that the groundwater overdraft is not sustainable. This is particularly true in the southern San Joaquin Valley, the Tulare Basin. The northern portion has the San Joaquin River flowing through it and thus more surface water rights.
Beyond that, the debates begin. The only solutions are on the supply side by finding more surface water or on the demand side by reducing usage by crop replacement or leaving land unused ("fallow").
No combination of solutions is easy and PPIC along with dozens of experts have studied it and there are a lot of discussions occurring. Each have costs that will be borne by someone and each will limit agriculture production. Add to the complexity that we can't just leave land truly fallow ("idled") without increasing the air quality problems in the Central Valley through increased dust. Of the land likely to be fallowed, only 32% has been planned for other uses such as solar and intermittent wetlands.
On the water quality issue, Governor Newsom is pushing a monthly water fee of 95 cents per household and up to $10 for the largest commercial agriculture users ($110 million) and a fees on fertilizer, dairies, and some feed ($30 million). This is for the operational costs of the water clean-up systems, for which the capital infrastructure has been provided in voter-approved bonds. Similar to other utility tax/fees, it would be exemptible for households up to 200% of the federal poverty level.
The 95-cent fee has been called a "water tax" and is opposed by many water agencies. I'll leave it to you whether it's a fee or tax. From a legislative perspective, it's all the same requiring a two-thirds vote of both houses. Republicans are jumping on it as an opportunity to point at tax-increasing Democrats, particularly with a healthy state General Fund.
This includes former San Diego city councilmember-turned-radio host Carl DeMaio who, after the failure of his gas tax repeal effort, is trying to keep his political operation "Reform California" alive. In his recent push-poll, respondents were asked:
Q4. Governor Newsom’s first budget proposal included a tax on drinking water. Do you support or oppose California enacting a tax on drinking water?
That's like asking do you support or opposing grandmothers without telling you that they had turned in to zombies on The Walking Dead. Anyway, it's good for raising money to keep campaign staff on the payroll, which is what he's doing.
While I write about the San Joaquin Valley because that was the subject of yesterday's discussion, the problems are found in many rural areas in California--the Imperial Valley, the Capay Valley, the Central Coast, etc.
I wrote the above last night and George Skelton is on the same topic this morning. Writing about DeMaio's efforts to drum up opposition to vulnerable Democrats needed for a two-thirds vote to pass the water fee proposal, Skelton writes "It's ... about preying sharks and weak spines."
Hold on, Skelton's article starts out with "The ghost of Josh Newman haunts the state Capitol, sending shivers through certain politicians' spines at the mere mention of the scary word "tax."
No, this is what shivers our spine:
What the hell is that bear doing to our dear Golden State?
It is not up to me to decide. All I know is that $140 million per year is needed to ensure clean drinking water for people who live across California, many of whom work in the same fields or on the same dairy farms and ranches that have contributed to this water quality problem. It's a major public health and social justice issue.
The cost can't be borne by only the largely small communities. The only question is whether it should be paid for across the state (that benefits from the agriculture economy) and weighted toward the heaviest agricultural users or by the state's General Fund overly reliant on wealthy taxpayers, which will likely face a financial crunch in a few years.
With exemptions for the poor from the $0.95/month fee and considering I pay $12.48/month in fees/taxes for my cable/internet and $1.52 for my cell phone, I'm personally okay with the governor's proposal.
WATCH OUT: By the way, to look at my cell phone bill to find the taxes on a new device, I had to answer a challenge question and I couldn't get it right. So, I reset my password. One of the possible challenge questions was "What was your first live concert?"
That makes this seemingly innocent tweet from NPR Music quite dangerous:
I'm no worry wart, but that's just creepy.
PG&E and #CAKEDAY after the jump!
PG&E: Pacific Gas & Electric has announced that its new CEO is outgoing Tennessee Valley Authority chief Bill Johnson, reports J.D. Morris in the Chron. Morris writes "At the same time, PG&E said it is appointing 10 new directors, replacing all but three of the board’s current members."
"[T]he focus of [police reform activists'] hopes — a bill facing its first public hearing next week — may come up short. Experts on both sides of the debate say the proposal won’t be what community groups want or what law enforcement fears.
'I don't think it's going to end proactive policing, and I don’t think it’s going to cause more officers to be locked up,' said John Burris, a civil rights attorney who specializes in police shootings. 'I think it’s more of a scare tactic than not.'
. . .
Law enforcement advocates argue that, if enacted, the bill could prompt police to hesitate, putting 'blue lives' and the public in danger in critical moments, and would criminalize officers as they react to risky and fast-moving situations.
But there is quiet consensus from some police, lawyers and academics — even those who support or oppose the measure on other grounds — that it will do little if any of that.
'There are many reasons why police kill so many people … and there are many reasons why they are not held accountable, and this bill only really addresses [some] of those,' said Lizzie Buchen, legislative advocate of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, one of the main backers of the measure. “This is just one step, and we will need to see a lot of other changes to make a real impact.'"
On another note, I saw the first pro-AB 392 ad, paid for by the Courage Campaign on the teevee this morning.
VAXX: Last night, Samantha Bee took on the anti-VAXXers indeed in her full-frontal manner.
PROVISIONAL BALLOTS: For the Press-Enterprise, Jeff Horseman reports that nine in ten provisional ballots cast were validated and tallied in November 2018. Horseman's article covers data released Tuesday by the Secretary of State's office, which found:
TRAVEL BAN: Joel Fox asks whether the UCLA women's rowing team will have to pull out of the Clemson Invitational tournament April 19-20 following Tuesday's announcement by Attorney General Xavier Becerra applying the state's travel ban (see yesterday's Nooner) to the Palmetto State. In the state's budget language is a provision that could be used by faith-based adoption agencies to refuse to place children with LGBTQ adoptive parents. Or, will they be treated differently?
"Why do California sports arenas and stadiums time and again get exemptions from CEQA environmental laws that other businesses must deal with?
Laws shouldn't play favorites. Either get rid of the law or treat all equally."
Let's look at the current list of travel ban states maintained by the Attorney General's office:
I don't have time to look at all sports, but in football, Cal plays at Ole' Miss in September. The question is whether the contract to play in "The Hospitality State" was executed prior to January 1, 2017 and is one of the possible exemptions from the ban.
Obviously it's non-conference and I don't think a forfeiture would have a material impact on Cal's football rankings next year.
#CAKEDAY: Happy birthday to Bryan DeBlonk, Rob Stutzman, Congressmember Norma Torres, and Phil Willon!
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