One of the biggest challenges that Gov. Gavin Newsom will face when he travels to Scotland next week for the United Nations Climate Change Conference: Proving to the rest of the world that California is improving its environmental climate without damaging its business climate.
The tensions and synergies between the two were evident Tuesday, when Dee Dee Myers, Newsom’s senior advisor and director of the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, spoke with me and other reporters about the state’s efforts to spur economic recovery from the pandemic.
Myers connected many of those efforts to California’s ambitious environmental goals, noting that Newsom recently approved $600 million for a regional economic development program that will “create sustainable jobs in emerging and green and just transition kinds of sectors.” She also cited the state’s $3.9 billion package for zero-emissions vehicles, which she said would create jobs building charging stations and producing, selling and repairing cars.
The elephant in the room, of course, was Tesla — the electric car company whose market cap hit $1 trillion on Monday and whose founder and CEO, Elon Musk, recently announced he’s moving its headquarters from Silicon Valley to Texas.
“From the perspective of California, they’re not going anywhere,” Myers asserted, noting that Musk still plans to expand operations at the Tesla factory in Fremont and other facilities throughout the state. “I don’t think anybody knows exactly what it means that he’s moving his headquarters,” she added. “They sell 50% of their cars they make here, in California. They can’t even sell directly to people in Texas.”
- Myers: “California created the environment and the incentives … we invested almost a billion and a half dollars in Tesla’s success, which you don’t hear Elon Musk talk much about.”
Still, she acknowledged “we don’t always make it easy” for businesses to survive in California.
- Myers: “We are transitioning to a zero-carbon grid, right? And we are phasing out oil and gas and we’re phasing in clean energy. … So, you know, some of the costs associated with doing business in California are higher. They just are. And so we have to make sure that the tradeoff is … more advantageous for the vast majority of businesses to stay here than to leave. And for some the calculus is not going to pencil out at the end of the day.”
Some other interesting climate and business tidbits:
- California’s latest attempts to clear the backlogged Los Angeles and Long Beach ports, which are also increasing air pollution in nearby communities: fines for shipping companies who don’t move their containers fast enough — and temporarily waiving a law that banned them from stacking more than two containers on top of each other and blocking the view.
- Experts say climate change and whipsawing weather could devastate California’s tourism industry. Daniel Scott, the University of Waterloo’s research chair in climate and society, told the New York Times: “Tourism in California is going to need some serious innovation. Good thing you’ve got Silicon Valley.”
The coronavirus bottom line: As of Monday, California had 4,631,162 confirmed cases (+0.5% from previous day) and 71,182 deaths (+0.4% from previous day), according to state data. CalMatters is also tracking coronavirus hospitalizations by county.
Other stories you should know
1. California unions at a crossroads
Can California unions take on Big Tech, an industry that comprises some of the state’s largest and most powerful employers? A newly launched effort to organize swaths of Amazon warehouse workers may hold the answer: “It’s going to be extremely difficult,” Ron Herrera, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 396 in Southern California, told my colleagues Grace Gedye and Jesse Bedayn. But labor leaders are in for the long haul. They recently secured a partial win when a superior court judge ruled that Prop. 22 — the 2020 ballot measure that exempted rideshare giants Uber and Lyft from a state law requiring them to classify their drivers as employees — was unconstitutional. But as California’s union membership continues to decline, some experts have questioned whether organized labor is falling on its own sword by prioritizing its political goals over recruiting new members.
- Art Pulaski, executive secretary-treasurer of the state labor federation: “We like to tell our folks that (at) the bargaining table, you inevitably will find an employer on the other side who fears you more if you’ve got political power.”
Amid reports that Pulaski may retire at the end of the year, some labor leaders are calling on Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, a San Diego Democrat and author of the law from which Uber and Lyft sought to exempt themselves, to take over as the next leader of the California State Federation. “She has distinguished herself by taking on powerful employers, notably those in the tech industry, on behalf of workers long exploited and denied basic employee rights,” Brigette Browning, secretary-treasurer of the San Diego & Imperial Counties Labor Council, wrote in a letter to the union’s executive board.
2. State releases first draft maps for 2022 elections
From CalMatters’ resident redistricting expert Sameea Kamal: California’s independent redistricting commission released its first draft maps Tuesday for what new congressional, state Senate and state Assembly districts might look like after the latest Census. The commission picks back up today to hear public comment on these visualizations, after last week’s sessions hearing from community groups and individuals advocating for their boundaries.
Though they’re far from final, the congressional visualizations display some potential flashpoints. They show early wins for Republicans who want to see the Democratic stronghold of Tracy grouped with the Bay Area instead of the Central Valley. They also show, as expected, fewer districts in Los Angeles County, which could lead to the loss of a district likely to elect a Black representative. The congressional redistricting is complicated by the fact that California is losing one of its 53 U.S. House seats for the first time in history.
The commission plans to approve preliminary maps in mid-November and the final maps by Dec. 27 so they can be used for the June 2022 primaries. Tune into the meetings here, and follow along with Sameea’s reporting to see what kind of redistricting is going on the local level.
3. Utility shutoff ban extended for some
The board governing California’s largest public utility, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, voted Tuesday to extend its pandemic ban on water and electricity shutoffs until March 31, 2022 — which it says is the longest increase in the nation. Indeed, the state’s ban on water shutoffs ends on Dec. 31 — the result of the governor quietly signing legislation to postpone the original Sept. 30 deadline. And although the state’s moratorium on power shutoffs technically ended on Sept. 30, private utility customers with debt more than 60 days old were automatically enrolled in 24-month payment plans to help them retain access to electricity and natural gas service while California rolls out $2 billion in relief funds. Public utilities, like the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, are now launching their own debt relief and payment plans.
As CalMatters’ Jackie Botts told me, water systems have applied for approximately $333 million in water debt relief on behalf of their customers, despite the State Water Resources Control Board estimating that Californians had over $1 billion in water debt earlier this year. The gap is partly due to customers paying off their bills, said a Water Board spokesperson, and partly due to some water systems transferring debt over to private or county collectors or choosing not to participate. Meanwhile, Californians’ energy bill debt exceeds $1 billion, according to initial estimates from the Department of Community Services and Development.
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CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Newsom continues to paint a very misleading picture of California’s economic recovery.
Turning food waste into renewable fuel: Beginning in just a few weeks, all California municipalities will be required to ensure most food and yard waste is kept out of landfills — drastically reducing methane emissions and helping produce natural gas, writes Andrew Benedek, founder and CEO of Anaergia.
Other things worth your time
Contra Costa County shuts down an In-N-Out for violating vaccine mandate. // San Francisco Chronicle
S.F.’s In-N-Out is again under health department investigation after an indoor dining complaint. // San Francisco Chronicle
Many unvaccinated L.A. school athletes could be kicked off teams. // Los Angeles Times
Company hired by California county to push COVID-19 vaccines also has campaign against shot mandates. // Southern California News Group
Did changes to California high-speed rail spending break the law? // Sacramento Bee
Federal officials say BART extension to San Jose could cost $9 billion — twice the original estimate. // Mercury News
California, New York fight over low-income housing aid in federal bill. // Los Angeles Times
Housing for mentally ill homeless women draws heated Anaheim response. // Orange County Register
For the first Latino senator from California, citizenship for undocumented immigrants is personal. // Washington Post
California’s Latinos used 911 more than ever before amid the pandemic. // Capital & Main
Former San Diego County tribal police chief admits stealing $300K, issuing badges for gun privileges. // San Diego Union-Tribune
Former Councilman Huizar denies he rewarded developers accused of bribing him. // Los Angeles Times
San Diego hospitals delay price transparency compliance. // inewsource
Judge grants teen’s restraining order against Richmond police chief and husband who say she’s being sex trafficked. // San Francisco Chronicle
Berkeley mandated ethnic studies 30 years before California. Now it’s going a step further. // Berkeleyside
California lures two TV shows with extra tax credit funding. // Variety
Epic snowfall prompts Palisades Tahoe ski resorts to open a month sooner than expected. // San Francisco Chronicle
I’m not a pilot, but I just flew a helicopter over California. // New York Times
See you tomorrow.
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