Today, the President called Governor Jerry Brown to receive an update on the situation in California and express his concern for the citizens impacted by the historic drought conditions facing the state – conditions that are likely to have significant impacts on the state’s communities, economy and environment in the coming months.
The President reinforced his commitment to providing the necessary federal support to the state and local efforts. The agencies are working together to target resources to help California and other impacted states prepare for and lessen the impacts of the drought. USDA is also working with farmers and ranchers to increase their irrigation water efficiency, protect vulnerable soils from erosion, and improve the health of pasture and range lands. And the Bureau of Reclamation is working closely with federal and California state authorities to facilitate water transfers and provide operational flexibility to convey and store available water, and facilitate additional actions that can conserve and move water to critical areas.
The National Drought Resilience Partnership (NDRP) will help coordinate the federal response, working closely with state, local government, agriculture and other partners. The NDRP is already helping to enhance existing efforts that federal agencies are working on with communities, businesses, farmers and ranchers to build resilience where drought is currently an issue across the country.
The President made clear that we will continue to work with our federal partners, including FEMA, to support the state and local response, and expressed his support during this challenging time.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari launched a “Crazy Train” online petition and video today taking aim at Gov. Jerry Brown’s unwavering support of the high-speed rail project to connect the Bay Area with Los Angeles.
With California ranking among states with the highest unemployment and poverty rates, the rail project is evidence of Brown’s misplaced priorities, Kashkari contends – one of the clearest differences so far between him and the Democratic incumbent.
I’m guessing they couldn’t buy the rights for this:
With Gov. Jerry Brown set to deliver his State of the State address at 9 a.m. Wednesday, one notable Bay Area Republican has made a first strike.
In an opinion piece published on Forbes’ website, former California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro of Lafayette said the Golden State is reeling under Brown’s leadership, with crises in public safety, education, transportation, water, pension liabilities and unemployment, to name but a few.
“The foregoing, mind you, are just facts,” Del Beccaro wrote. “While the state’s economy is doing better than in 2009, despite government policies, Jerry Brown will not let the above facts get in the way of his good story. For too many Californians, however, they represent the true, divided and troubled state of the state.”
“I applaud Governor Brown’s decision to issue a drought declaration. The declaration provides the state with greater flexibility to address drought conditions and lays the foundation for federal disaster assistance through a presidential declaration.
“This week Congressman Costa, Senator Boxer and I called on President Obama to approve a federal disaster declaration as soon as possible and to appoint a drought task force to work with the state to mitigate the drought’s effects on the state. Now that the governor has issued the state declaration, I hope the president will act quickly to approve the federal declaration.”
“This bone-dry winter reminds us again that California’s water infrastructure is insufficient. Our lakes and rivers look bleak, including those that feed the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta, upon which we are overly reliant as the sole solution to California’s water future.
“I look forward to working with my legislative colleagues and the Governor on immediate actions that should also guide long-term water policy in California.”
“I absolutely commend the Governor for taking action on this very serious situation. It is a great first step to setting the wheels in motion to aid California during one of the driest years in history. I look forward to rolling up my sleeves and working with him and my colleagues on this issue.
“California’s reservoirs are at an all-time low. This is a crisis of epic proportions and underscores just how important it is for us to pass a water bond this year to address our infrastructure needs. Additional water storage is key. The Latino Water Coalition rally yesterday, his visits to Fresno, Bakersfield and Riverside on Monday and Tuesday and a weather forecast that includes not a drop of rain make a pretty solid case not only for this drought declaration, but for passing a comprehensive water bond that includes money for additional above ground water storage.”
“With 2013 being the driest year on record, and the Sierra Nevada snowpack at 17% of its normal levels, it is clear California is in the middle of a severe drought. This will result in an increase in devastating wildfires, such as the fire currently burning in Glendora and the many others we’ve seen in recent months. It jeopardizes the farmers in the Central Valley and beyond, putting the local economies and families that depend on that industry at risk. This drought is already negatively impacting the quality life of every Californian, and it is going to get worse before it gets better.
“While we pursue conservation efforts on the state level, it is important that all of us work to lower the amount of water we use. I thank Governor Brown for issuing this declaration, and join him in calling for a 20-30% voluntary reduction in water consumption. There are many simple ways to conserve water, from fixing leaky fixtures and appliances, to installing water saving showerheads and taking shorter showers, to only using your dishwasher or washing machine when you have a full load. As our economy gets back on its feet, this drought has the potential to force us back into a recession. We can help to lessen the suffering of the worst affected if we all do our part.”
Nine state lawmakers, including a few from the Bay Area, have signed a letter urging Gov. Jerry Brown to impose a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing to obtain oil and gas, the process commonly called “fracking.”
“The risks are simply too great to allow fracking to continue,” Assemblyman Marc Levine, who authored the letter, told reporters on a conference call this morning.
The technique demonstrably hurts air and water quality, might influence seismic activity, and furthers a dependence on fossil fuel that contributes to climate change, said Levine, D-San Rafael, and so it must be suspended “until we have all the data to address the immediate and long-term dangers.”
Levine, who announced the letter in November, teamed up with CREDO, an activist group which had thousands of members sign petitions and make phone calls urging their lawmakers to sign the letter. Levine and CREDO delivered the letter and held their news conference during this final week of a public comment period on Brown’s proposed fracking regulations, which they say would allow a massive expansion of fracking in California.
CREDO campaign manager Zack Malitz called fracking “one of the greatest environmental struggles to face Califonians in a generation,” and said Brown has proposed “dangerously weak regulations that would only encourage more fracking” despite “massive public opposition.”
“His legacy as an environmental leader is on the line,” Malitz said. “Californians will hold him responsible for putting oil-industry profits ahead of our health and the climate.”
Several bills proposing a moratorium on fracking failed to get enough votes to advance in the Legislature last year. The Legislature did pass SB 4 by state Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Calabassas, which Brown signed into law in September; that bill requires oil companies to go through a permit process, disclose chemical uses, do groundwater tests and send notices to neighboring landowners about their intent to drill.
Brown generally has pursued energy policy that supports increased oil production while expanding California’s goal of producing at least a third of its electricity from renewable sources (such as wind or solar energy) by 2020.
UPDATE @ 12:32 P.M.: This just in from Evan Westrup, Brown’s spokesman: “After extensive debate, the Legislature – including the authors of this letter – voted to enact SB 4, which became effective just days ago. Pursuant to this bill, the regulatory process has begun and we encourage these legislators and other interested citizens to actively participate.”
Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly on Monday released what he calls his “Willie Horton” ad against Gov. Jerry Brown, blaming the incumbent for prison realignment that set free a convict who then raped and murdered his own grandmother.
The “ad” is actually a two-and-a-half minute online video, not a paid broadcast ad. And, upon viewing, it almost seems like more of an ad for Jennifer Kerns – whom Donnelly has just promoted from communications director to campaign manager.
In the video and in his news release, Donnelly – an Assemblyman from Twin Peaks – makes hay of the fact that he’s hired one of the first Republican female campaign managers to run a gubernatorial race in a large state, and then says talk of a GOP “war on women” was “conjured up by ‘consultants’ inside the Beltway.”
“If there IS such a thing as a War on Women, Donnelly says it’s being waged by Governor Jerry Brown as he releases violent criminals onto the street to prey upon women in California, at the same time he has stripped women of their 2nd Amendment rights by signing the strictest gun control laws in the nation,” the news release says. “The video shows footage of the criminal that some say will be Governor Brown’s ‘Willie Horton’ in this race – a convicted criminal who was released from prison, only to rape and murder his own grandmother. The inmate was released after the passage of California Assembly Bill (AB) 109, Governor Brown’s so-called realignment program aimed to save money and reduce overcrowding in prisons.”
The convict at issue, Jerome DeAvila, is accused of slaying his grandmother in Stockton a few days after he was released early from San Joaquin County Jail, where he’d been serving 30 days for failing to register as a sex offender.
Willie Horton was serving a life sentence for murder in Massachusetts when he was allowed out of prison as part of a weekend furlough program, fled, and eventually committed assault, armed robbery and rape. He was featured in attack ads against 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis, who had been governor of Massachusetts when Horton got out; Dukakis hadn’t started the furlough program, but had supported it.
UPDATE @ 2:07 P.M.: I asked Gov. Brown’s office to comment on this, and staffers there passed me along to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation – which quickly disputed the ad’s core claim.
“There has never been one inmate released early from prison due to realignment – not one,” said CDCR Assistant Secretary Deborah Hoffman.
The 25,000-inmate reduction in the state’s prison population since realignment was put into effect is due to attrition, not early releases, CDCR contends. Parole violators now go to county jails instead of to prisons, and those jails institute their own policies to deal with their populations.
In DeAvila’s case, he was in and out of San Joaquin County’s custody about a dozen times in the year preceding his alleged murder of his grandmother, for parole violations including failing to meet with his parole officer, failure to register, use of marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine, and public drunkenness.
“We take absconding from parole very seriously,” Hoffman said. “Realignment provides counties with the funding and tools needed to manage offenders at the local level. Parole violators can be held in county jail for up to 180 days and we know sheriffs take their responsibility seriously and are making difficult decisions every day.”
San Joaquin County got $7.6 million in 2012 and $15.2 million in 2013 to implement realignment, but has struggled with jail overcrowding since long before realignment ever came along.
UPDATE @ 2:40 P.M.:Dan Newman, a political spokesman for Brown, just responded that he’s “rarely at a loss for words, or willing to pass on an opportunity to criticize an opponent, but… um… wow. It rivals Demon Sheep and Herman Cain’s smoking mustache guy in the genre of classic weird political videos, but left me a bit confused about who the candidate is and what state she’s running in.”
Chalk up a victory for Gov. Jerry Brown: It looks as if his appeal to President Obama for more federal aid to parts of Tuolumne County that were devastated by the Rim Fire has borne fruit.
The president today declared a major disaster exists in California and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the area that was affected by the epic blaze from Aug. 17 through Oct. 24. This federal funding will be available to aid state and local governments and certain private nonprofits on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and repair or replacement of damaged facilities.
Brown first sought such a declaration on Oct. 8, but the Federal Emergency Management Agency denied his request on Nov. 4, so the governor appealed on Dec. 3 with new damage estimates and details. It’s now estimated that the fire caused more than $54 million in damages.
“This is welcome news for those impacted by this devastating wildfire, and I’m thankful for FEMA’s careful reconsideration of the Governor’s request,” Mark Ghilarducci, director of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, said in a news release. “Even though the fire is out, the impacts to the local economy, environment and region haven’t gone away. We look forward to FEMA’s assistance in the important recovery work that has been underway since October.”
Gov. Jerry Brown has sent a letter to President Barack Obama appealing the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s denial of a major-disaster declaration for the Rim Fire that devastated a swath of the Sierra Nevada this year.
“The Rim Fire ultimately burned 402 square miles over a period of 69 days, encompassing more than 257,314 acres; causing significant impacts to the State and to the affected local jurisdictions of such severity and magnitude that recovery efforts remain beyond our capabilities,” Brown wrote in the letter.
“In the aftermath of the fire, the State and its communities face infrastructure damage, significant negative economic impact, as well as complex and multifaceted environmental damages,” he wrote. “The burned area created an enormous potential for catastrophic flooding and debris runoff from winter storms.”
Brown sought a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration – which would trigger the release of federal funds to help communities recover – on Oct. 8, after declaring states of emergency in Tuolumne, Mariposa and San Francisco counties, but FEMA denied his request Nov. 4. Current estimates of the damage caused by the fire, which began in August and continued burning throughout October, now top $54 million.
Its proposed measure having failed to get enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, a student-led group calling for California to implement an oil-extraction tax will try its fortunes with the Legislature again.
Californians for Responsible Economic Development will change its name to Students’ Voice Now, and will soon announce a partnership with two state senators to get a bill or legislatively referred initiative passed in the Legislature next year, spokesman Kevin Singer said.
“The framework of the bill is expected to include an endowment for education, but also may include subsidies for families and businesses to switch to cleaner forms of energy, a rollback of the gas tax, and/or immediate revenue for the specific purpose of decreasing college tuition across California,” Singer wrote in an email.
Singer said that starting in January, as part of pushing for the bill, they’ll keep networking across California’s college campuses and “continue to build relationships with other interest groups, PACs, and legislators who believe that whether oil is drilled or fracked from our soil, Big Oil needs to pay its fair share.”
California is the only oil-producing state that doesn’t have a specific oil-extraction tax, and the proponents estimated the tax contemplated by their now-dead proposed ballot measure would’ve raised $1.5 billion to $2 billion per year.
But any such legislation probably faces a tough road ahead in the Legislature. State Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, this year carried SB 241 to establish an oil-extraction tax, but the bill never made it out of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Gov. Jerry Brown has pledged not to raise or create any taxes without voter approval, and so might push hard against any efforts to create this tax by legislation alone. And he probably won’t want a legislatively directed tax hike on the same ballot in which he’s (presumably) running for re-election in 2014.
The poll found 55 percent of registered voters approve of the job Brown is doing as governor; that’s up from 49 percent in September 2012 and 50 percent in June of this year. This latest poll shows 33 percent disapprove.
The poll of 1,503 registered voters was conducted from Oct. 30 to Nov. 5 by Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and Republican polling firm American Viewpoint; the full sample has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.
Unsurprisingly, Democrats like Brown best – 78 percent approval to 11 percent disapproval – but independents like him solidly as well, 68 percent to 22 percent. Republicans disapprove heavily: 68 percent, while only 22 percent approve.
Brown has tremendous support among minority voters – 67 percent to 9 percent among black voters, 65 percent to 17 percent among Asian-American voters, and 61 percent to 20 percent among Latino voters – while the white vote is somewhat more split, 51 percent approval to 41 percent disapproval.
Even so, 49 percent of all voters surveyed said California is pretty seriously on the wrong track, while 37 percent said things in the state are going in the right direction. Unhappiness with the state’s direction is highest among Republicans (79 percent), while 59 percent of nonpartisan voters say it’s on the wrong track and only 27 percent of Democrats feel that way.
“It’s impressive that Brown’s approval has increased at a time when perception of politicians are generally at historic lows,” said Drew Lieberman, vice president of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner. “The government shutdown tends to reflect on all politicians at all levels, but I think Governor Brown has built some insulation from that. This data shows Brown with a strong foundation and a solid core, but also with some work left to do.”
Indeed, the poll shows that even though Brown’s favorability continues to rise, it’s too early for voters to pronounce his re-election chances a slam dunk. Only 32 percent said they would pick him again for the job, while 37 percent said they would elect someone else.