Will California keep up its climate momentum?
California has climate action on the mind.
This week state lawmakers, senior officials in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration and prominent environmental leaders are representing California at the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity in Montreal, Canada — an appearance that could make a splash on the world stage as Newsom continues to tout his climate credentials.
That’s because California is the first and only U.S. state to be an official observer at the convention and it could help fill a leadership void at the federal level, Mary Creasman, CEO of the California Environmental Voters’ Education Fund, told me Sunday. Creasman said the group, which is leading the California delegation, raised money from the Resources Legacy Fund to cover lawmakers’ trip to the convention.
- Creasman: “All these governments came together with an agreement on goals and a U.N. framework for biodiversity protection … The U.S. Senate has not ratified that agreement … The U.S. isn’t leading, but California, as the fourth-largest economy in the world, is. And so it’s really important for us to be part of these conversations, to show what is happening in the U.S., in California, what we’re working on, how we’re pushing as states — even if the federal government isn’t there.”
- Also in attendance: Wade Crowfoot, secretary of California’s Natural Resources Agency. He said in a statement: “This is a pivotal moment for countries from around the globe to take collective action to protect and restore biodiversity and stem a crisis of extinction across the planet. I’m proud that California leaders will be there to engage with the global community and share our message of hope and possibility.”
- Among the items on Crowfoot’s agenda: highlighting the state’s plans to build the world’s largest wildlife crossing and calling for more public and private investments in such bridges; reinforcing California and Quebec’s existing collaboration on biodiversity issues; and announcing that the state is joining “an intergovernmental group of more than 100 countries that champions conservation of 30% of the world’s lands and waters by 2030.” (The state in April unveiled its own so-called 30×30 blueprint.)
- Crowfoot is one of four Natural Resources Agency officials attending the conference, and their travel costs are being paid for by the state, said spokesperson Lisa Lien-Mager.
The state lawmakers on the trip — who Creasman said have “been showing a lot of leadership” on climate — are Democratic Assemblymembers Laura Friedman, Phil Ting and Ash Kalra, and Democratic state Senators Ben Allen, Henry Stern, Lena Gonzalez and Scott Wiener.
- Some of them took international climate trips last month: Stern went to Egypt for the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference, while Gonzalez and Friedman traveled to Japan for a climate study tour sponsored by the California Foundation for the Environment and the Economy. Allen, meanwhile, went to Maine and Canada this summer on another climate research tour funded by the foundation.
Creasman said California’s commitment to climate action has ramped up significantly since last year’s U.N. climate change conference in Scotland, when Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon told me, “I don’t at all feel that we are leading the world anymore.”
- Creasman: “Last year, that was true … Our last time we had done anything really significant legislatively on climate was 2018. Now in 2022, we had our biggest year of climate action ever … There’s just a huge amount of both policy, funding investment and administrative action that’s happened across the board.”
- Asked if she fears that some climate funding may be imperiled by California’s estimated $25 billion budget deficit — and Assembly Democrats acknowledging that some allocations may have to be delayed or re-evaluated — Creasman said: “We can’t just have a big year of action and do nothing again for a few years … We have to continue to make budget investments in climate, we have to make sure that money goes out the door equitably and quickly … I think what’s important is for the state to look at the cost of inaction down the road.”
One last climate thing: Even after the massive winter storm that swept across much of California this weekend — dumping rain and snow, closing highways, triggering flash flood warnings and cutting power to thousands of people — the state is still mired in drought. Hence state regulators moving last week to extend through January 2024 a ban on wasteful water practices, such as watering lawns when it rains, using hoses to wash off sidewalks and driveways and running decorative water fountains.
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1 California election updates
Let’s dive into the latest California election news:
- Karen Bass was sworn in as mayor of Los Angeles by Vice President Kamala Harris at a star-studded Sunday ceremony whose attendees included Gov. Newsom, First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom, Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis and state Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins. Bass, who is set today to declare homelessness a state of emergency, inherits a problem-plagued city with festering political wounds: In front of crying children at a Friday holiday party, City Councilmember Kevin de Léon — who has resisted calls to resign after his participation in a recorded racist conversation — and activist Jason Reedy got in a physical altercation that resulted in both filing police reports against the other. Protesters also disrupted the Saturday swearing-in ceremony of incoming Councilmember Traci Park. And outgoing Councilmember Paul Koretz’ last words at a Friday city council meeting, directed at “disruptors and protesters,” were “F— you.” Outgoing Mayor Eric Garcetti, meanwhile, leaves behind a mixed legacy even as his ambassadorship to India remains up in the air.
- County elections offices on Friday submitted their final vote tallies from the Nov. 8 election to the secretary of state, who is set to certify the results this week. But things may not be quite over in California’s two closest legislative races: Democratic incumbent Melissa Hurtado of Bakersfield was sworn into the state Senate Saturday after coming out 20 votes ahead of her Republican opponent, David Shepard, who said in a statement his “team is closely assessing whether a recount will be the next step.” The swearing-in was opposed by top Senate Republicans Scott Wilk and Brian Jones, who warned in a Friday statement, “It would be unfair and yet another slight to the residents of the Central Valley for the Senate to rush the seating of either Hurtado or Shepard until there is uniform confidence that every vote has been counted in this razor thin race.” Meanwhile, Republican Greg Wallis declared victory by an 87-vote margin for a state Assembly seat straddling Riverside and San Bernardino counties, while his Democratic opponent Christy Holstege tweeted that her team “will be closely analyzing the results to assess whether a recount is worth pursuing.” (Holstege conceded this morning in a statement.)
- The number of Republicans in the state Legislature has fallen to its lowest level in more than a century, according to CBS News — yet they “simply cannot stop repaving their road to irrelevance” in California, as the San Francisco Chronicle’s Joe Garofoli put it in his latest column. The example he cited: Six members of the state’s GOP U.S. House delegation, including presumptive Speaker Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, voted last week against federal legislation to codify protections for same-sex and interracial marriage.
- Oil industry groups have until Thursday to submit signatures to the secretary of state for a 2024 referendum to overturn a state law banning new oil and gas wells near homes, schools and hospitals. It’s just the latest example of business interests turning to the ballot box to try to nix laws coming out of Sacramento — though sometimes the results of the referendum matter less than the reprieve it grants the affected industry. As CalMatters’ Ben Christopher and Jeanne Kuang explain, as soon as a referendum qualifies for the ballot, the law it targets is put on hold for as long as two years — buying companies valuable time. This massive return on investment has prompted some groups to call for changing California’s referendum rules.
Latest coverage of the 2022 general election in California
2 LA, Long Beach ports dethroned as country’s busiest
“We’ve got to get that cargo back.”
That was the response from Gene Seroka, the Port of Los Angeles’ executive director, to the Port of New York and New Jersey claiming the title of North America’s busiest container port each month from August to October, the Los Angeles Daily News reports. The Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach have for more than two decades been the two busiest in the country — but their share of U.S. container cargo fell during the first 10 months of the year to a combined 25%, the lowest level in nearly two decades, according to the Wall Street Journal. Companies are now shipping more of their goods to ports on the East Coast and in the South, including Charleston, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia. The Port of New York and New Jersey told the Los Angeles Daily News that an estimated 85% of its imports this year were supposed to go to the West Coast.
The reasons for the shift away from the West Coast are complex — ranging from ongoing port labor talks that have sparked fears of a possible dockworker strike to last year’s record backlog of cargo ships to changing sea routes amid an intensifying trade war with China — but they could have sizable economic implications if they continue. The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach employ more than 1.4 million workers, and Seroka told CNN that “if cargo is down 25% year on year, the jobs could be down right now 20% or 22%. It may not be exactly one for one, but you’ve got a downstream (effect).”
3 Paid family leave helps women keep jobs
California’s paid family leave program — which will soon become more accessible and affordable for lower-income workers — doesn’t just offer new parents time off to care for and bond with their infants. It also allows workers to take time off to care for seriously ill family members, and this little-known benefit has helped prevent women from permanently leaving their jobs, according to a study released today from Wellesley College and Stanford University researchers. One key takeaway: Access to paid family leave more than halved the 10% rate at which women permanently left their jobs to care for spouses with health issues, CalMatters’ Grace Gedye reports.
- Maya Rossin-Slater, a Stanford health economist and one of the paper’s authors: “We were surprised at how big this effect was.”
- The effect was negligible for male workers, however: Regardless of whether they had access to paid family leave, less than half of 1% of men in the study reported leaving their job to care for an ill spouse or family member, Rossin-Slater said.
CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Could the Pacific Ocean be California’s savior?
Can Karen Bass make good on her promise to combat homelessness? The ability of Bass — the first woman elected mayor of the nation’s second-largest city — to make visible progress on homelessness has massive implications for California Democrats and for government itself, argues veteran Los Angeles journalist Jim Newton.
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Newsom talked tough with mayors and supervisors on homelessness. Did it work? // Los Angeles Times
Oakland tries to measure true cost of addressing homelessness. // San Francisco Chronicle
There is now only one safe parking lot in San Diego that accepts homeless living in RVs. // San Diego Union-Tribune
S.F. nonprofit was set to open city’s first supervised drug use site. Then officials pulled the plug. // San Francisco Chronicle
He was days from death. His quest to kick fentanyl is a harrowing lesson for S.F. // San Francisco Chronicle
S.F.’s 911 dispatch struggling amid staff shortage: ‘We are bleeding.’ // San Francisco Chronicle
Column: Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf’s devastating political fall from grace. // Mercury News
For future OC redistricting plans, new Assemblymember wants an independent commission. // Orange County Register
UC and striking academic workers agree to mediation amid standoff over wages; strike partly ended. // Los Angeles Times
Oakland school closures may not happen under new school board. // Oaklandside
Impugned East Contra Costa cops allegedly schemed to fake college degrees. // Mercury News
Could DA’s decision not to file charges in SDSU gang-rape case have a chilling effect on sex crime reporting? // San Diego Union-Tribune
As home prices decline, some California homeowners who bought at peak are nervous. // Los Angeles Times
A new rule for $1 million mortgages could help Bay Area homebuyers in 2023. // San Francisco Chronicle
Why legal weed is failing in this California county. // Los Angeles Times
Cloverdale Ranch, one of the Bay Area’s largest private coastal properties, will become a park. // San Francisco Chronicle