Yes We Can Stop what the LA Times Calls "a Dubious Deal on Offshore Oil Drilling"

At a hearing last week of the California State Lands Commission, which I chair, we passed a resolution critical of an effort to bypass our independent jurisdiction in approving new oil drilling proposals.

An editorial in last weekend's Los Angeles Times buttresses my position and explains what's at stake:

"[In late January,] the Lands Commission rightly rejected the plan on a 2-1 vote, and that should have been the end of it. [...]

Admittedly, the state could use the money. But that's not a good enough reason to subvert the authority of the Lands Commission, sell California's coastline in exchange for empty promises, ignore the wishes of Santa Barbara residents and dismiss the outcome of a long process of analysis and public hearings. The Lands Commission, in fact, was created in 1938 to bring more transparency to the awarding of oil leases after a scandal involving the Department of Finance."

National and state implications over the flip...

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I Need Your Help to Protect California's Coastline

The California Department of Finance wants to "drill baby drill" off the Golden State's coastline, and they're willing to undermine 70+ years of checks and balances to do it. Will we let them get away with it?

In late January, I joined California Controller John Chiang in a two-to-one vote of the California State Lands Commission (SLC) to reject what would have been the first new oil lease in California waters in more than 40 years. As chair of the SLC, I take my responsibility as a steward of the environment very seriously, and I did not think the proposal was in the best interests of the state. Beyond the inherent environmental risks posed by all new drilling projects, I did not think assurances included in the proposal to decommission oil platforms decades down the road were enforceable.

Unfortunately, the Department of Finance is unable to take "No" for an answer. California needs your help over the flip...

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Organizing for Change and Putting Change in Your Pocket

Today I'll be joining Vice President Joe Biden in San Diego to promote job growth in California. At a time when California's unemployment rate is at 11.2 percent, the highest rate on record, it's certainly premature to declare that happy days are here again. But in this time of economic uncertainty, it's nice to know that our leadership in Washington is in tune with the needs of everyday Californians.

President Barack Obama's stimulus package wisely addresses both short term needs and long term goals in a way that prepares our country for an internationally competitive, green by necessity economy. The stimulus package passed in February includes $144 billion for state and local fiscal relief, $53 billion for priority education spending, $111 billion for infrastructure and science projects, $43 billion for energy needs, $81 billion in funds to help protect the vulnerable, and $288 billion in targeted tax cuts. The package also calls for doubling our renewable energy production in three years.  

In California alone, it will create or save 396,000 jobs. Job-creating projects include $1.5 million for alternative energy efficiency grants for business and workforce housing in Livermore, $500,000 for affordable housing in Palm Desert, $200 million for flood levy improvements in Natomas, and $250,000 for storm water capture in Pasadena.

You are over the flip...

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Regional Rapid Bus Transit Requires HOT Thinking

California's San Francisco Bay Area, a beacon for the world's most ambitious and entrepreneurial, is in some ways a victim of its own success. Decades of regional growth have created a highway and public transportation infrastructure incapable of meeting the demands of commuters.

As a Contra Costa Times editorial recently explained:

"The worsening traffic congestion in the Bay Area is having an increasingly negative impact on the quality of life in the region. The millions of people who commute to work daily lose valuable time, waste gasoline and add to air pollution. Businesses suffer and new enterprises are discouraged from locating in the area, harming the Bay Area economy."

The average Bay Area driver spends 39 hours each year stuck in traffic on a regional freeway. Average time spent idling in traffic will rise to 72 hours per year by 2035 if present trends continue. For a host of reasons - including the needless pollution, wasted fuel, and loss of time at work or with family - minimizing congestion should be a priority for regional leaders. And when possible, enticing commuters into a carpooling arrangement or public transportation should be encouraged.

Fortunately, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the regional transportation authority, with input from Bay Area leaders and activists, has crafted an ambitious regional transit plan: Transportation 2035.

There's more over the flip...

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Garamendi Runs for Congress - But in the Wrong District

With his fourth run for Governor failing to get traction, Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi yesterday announced his plan to run for Congress in the East Bay's 10th District - in a special election to replace Ellen Tauscher.  On name recognition alone, Garamendi will be the front-runner in a crowded field - although State Senator Mark DeSaulnier has key endorsements that will make it competitive.  But while running for Congress is a smart move for Garamendi, it would be far better for Democrats - and progressive politics - for him to run in District 3 against Republican incumbent Dan Lungren.  Tauscher's seat is safe for Democrats regardless of who runs in the special election, while Garamendi is probably one of the few candidates who can win District 3.  He has deep roots in the 3rd District - which includes a large swath of the Sacramento suburbs, along with Garamendi's native Calaveras County.  It is traditionally a "red" district, but Barack Obama carried it last November - and Lungren came unexpectedly close to losing to an under-funded Democratic challenger.  At a time when Democratic activists are pushing the Party to take back"Red California," Garamendi's choice of districts could not be more disheartening and misguided.  Expect this to become an issue at this weekend's State Democratic Convention.

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