4

Newsom teams with tech to seek water solutions

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is teaming up with Silicon Valley’s Singularity University to challenge entrepreneurs around the world to come up with solutions to California’s water-supply woes, he announced Thursday.

Three winning teams will be selected as Entrepreneurs in Residence at SU Startup Labs so they can interact with Singularity University’s startup community, corporate partners and other humanitarian partnerships to develop solutions for global impact and sustainability. Three runners-up will have a chance to pitch their solutions at SU Startup Lab, giving them access to a valuable network of technological expertise and potential funders.

This challenge is open to teams from around the world and will be judged on the use of exponential technology, technical feasibility and rigor, innovation, market viability, salability, and design and utility functionality. Preference will be given to applicants that demonstrate their proof of concept in the form of a working prototype to validate their solutions. Proposals must be submitted by Sept. 15, and the winning teams will be announced by Sept. 30.

Gavin Newsom“California produces almost half of all the fruits, nuts and vegetables grown in the United States therefore the impact of our solutions are both local, national, and global,” Newsom said in a news release. “In the spirit of the Orteig Prize of 1919, my goal in working with Singularity University is to activate the incredible talent and ingenuity of Californians and the SU global community to solve twenty-first century challenges with twenty-first century solutions.”

Newsom both is author of the 2013 book “Citizenville,” which calls on government to collaborate with private citizens in order to reap the most innovate solutions, and a candidate for governor in 2018.

Singularity University – funded by corporations including Google and located in the NASA Research Park at Moffett Field near Mountain View – provides educational programs, innovative partnerships and a startup accelerator to help individuals, businesses, institutions, investors, NGOs and governments understand cutting-edge technologies, and how to utilize these technologies to help people.

Rob Nail, Singularity University’s CEO and associate founder, said he can “think of no greater effort” than putting international expertise to work for solving California’s water issues. We are particularly pleased to be working with Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom and his team, who can provide the pipeline of leadership to insure that the winning solutions have a direct line to decision-makers and the infrastructure of California to get them quickly into practice.”

4

Excessive water use tax of up to 300%?

Water agencies could impose a tax of up to 300 percent on excessive use, under an East Bay lawmaker’s bill.

Bob WieckowskiSB 789 by state Sen. Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, will be heard Wednesday by the Assembly Local Government Committee. He held a news conference Tuesday at the Matsui Water Park, along the Sacramento River.

“California is in an historical drought emergency that threatens basic water supplies in some areas, yet there are still some residents and businesses who seem oblivious to the need to conserve, or they just don’t care,” Wieckowski, who chairs the Senate Environmental Quality Committee, said in a release issued afterward.

“SB 789 allows local water districts to go to the voters for permission to levy an excise tax on the worst water abusers,” he said. “It is one more tool local agencies can utilize to change bad behavior. This is a drought that affects all of us and we should all conserve and do our part to get us through this crisis.”

The State Water Resources Control Board has moved to curtail water use during the state’s historic drought, calling for a 25 percent cut, yet many water agencies are far from reaching their reduction goals despite managers’ best efforts. Wieckowski’s bill would let agencies impose up to a 300 percent tax on excessive use – a level to be determined by the local agencies – with revenue going to water conservation projects for those communities.

3

California’s House water war continues

The California House delegation’s internecine water war continues.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, announced Wednesday morning that H.R. 5781 – the California Drought Relief Act, introduced by Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford – will be scheduled for a floor vote next week. McCarthy said:

“California is facing the worst drought in a century, which has led to barren farms and drastic water shortages in our communities. We have reached this point after years of inaction by Senate Democrats while ill-conceived policies have continued to prioritize the well-being of fish above people. Though only Mother Nature can dictate the duration of the drought, the situation demands immediate action to address government-created barriers to ensure available water flows throughout our state and not washed out to the ocean.

“After the House and Senate passed separate California water bills this year, months were spent working on a bipartisan compromise for a long-term solution. Unfortunately, the Senate was pressured to quit negotiations at the last minute.

“This crisis cannot go unanswered, and the House’s unwavering commitment to find a solution has led to the California Emergency Drought Relief Act, introduced by Congressman David Valadao. Due to the urgent nature of the water crisis, the House will vote on this legislation next week.

“The first storms of the season are currently over California, with hopefully more to come in the subsequent months. It would be reckless and irresponsible to let the water from these storms be released into the ocean rather than directed to our local communities in need. The California Emergency Drought Relief Act contains provisions from the original Senate-passed bill and from the House’s negotiations with the Senate. Absent action now, California will continue to lose the water from storms in this water year and will face another year of devastating water-crisis. While more must be done toward a long-term solution, this legislation is another critical step to provide relief to our communities suffering from the drought, which is why the House and Senate must act on this bill.”

The Fresno Bee’s write-up on the bill characterizes it as “friendly to farmers and frightening to environmentalists.” The bill’s co-sponsors include McCarthy; Devin Nunes, R-Tulare; Tom McClintock, R-Granite Bay; Ken Calvert, R-Corona; Doug LaMalfa, R-Oroville; and Jim Costa, D-Fresno.

Bay- and Delta-area Democrats including Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; George Miller, D-Martinez; Mike Thompson, D-Napa; Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento; Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove; and Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, responded with a joint statement Wednesday afternoon:

“With just a few days left in the legislative session, the House plans to pass yet another divisive, dishonest, and potentially devastating California water bill without any public input or legislative oversight. This is unconscionable, and just the latest chapter in Republicans’reckless approach to micromanaging the state’s water during one of the worst droughts in our history.

“The idea that this bill is a ‘compromise’ is laughable. It is clear that this bill was thrown together without any input from anyone other than those who stand to benefit from its passage. This bill was not reviewed by the Natural Resources Committee, nor has it received input from federal agencies, the state, affected local water agencies, the fishing industry, tribes, or communities. Legislation this sweeping should be the subject of public hearings and input from all affected stakeholders.

“The bill makes it more difficult for state and federal agencies to make real-time water decisions, undermines state water rights priorities, misstates current law, and explicitly overrides the Endangered Species Act. These sweeping changes would place the west coast’s environment, tribes, communities, and the fishing industry in harm’s way in the next drought year.

“The drought does not stop at the edge of congressional districts, yet this bill insulates some parts of the state from the tough water decisions that will be made in the next year. We’re all in this together, and Congress should not tie water managers’ hands nor should we address drought conditions in some parts of the state at the expense of others.”

1

House Dems applaud DiFi water plan’s failure

A bunch of Northern California House members are relieved that U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein has pulled the plug on closed-door negotiations over a California water bill.

“You’ve got to work with people to get something done,” Feinstein, D-Calif., told the Associated Press on Thursday, adding that “I’m going to put together a first-day bill for the next Congress, and it can go through the regular order.”

But the question of which people she’s working with remains. Feinstein and California’s House Republicans have been pushing water bills without the usual mark-up hearings, with House Democrats largely excluded and little or no public scrutiny.

Representatives Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; George Miller, D-Martinez; Mike Thompson, D-Napa; Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento; Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove; and Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, issued a joint statement Thursday saying they’re glad Feinstein’s effort failed.

“We are pleased Senator Feinstein will not be pursuing passage of the water legislation secretly negotiated by her and House Republicans. This legislation would have eviscerated environmental laws protecting fisheries, California watersheds, local water supplies, and tribal and local economies in order to benefit a few powerful Delta water exporters,” they said. “We applaud the Senator for stepping away from this deeply flawed legislation and realizing that a bill of this magnitude requires public hearings and regular committee process.”

The lawmakers, whose mostly Delta-adjacent districts would be direct affected by such a bill, said they’ve been “raising serious objections to both the secretive process and the harmful content of this legislation” and will “continue to demand next year that any water legislation responding to California’s severe drought be balanced and take into consideration the array of stakeholders in California.”

Restore the Delta, a grassroots environmental protection group, had issued a statement blasting the possible bill a few hours before news broke that it won’t happen this year.

“Senator Feinstein is carrying water for industrial growers who have planted tens of thousands of acres of almonds and other permanent crops in the midst of the past several very dry years,” Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Restore the Delta’s executive director, said in a news release. “Sen. Feinstein is rushing through legislation to aid these growers at the expense of the rest of California.”

UPDATE @ 3:23 P.M.: This just in from Feinstein:

“Over the past several weeks I have been working closely with members of the California delegation who expressed interest in reaching a bipartisan agreement on legislation to address California’s drought crisis without violating the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act or biological opinions.

“Although we have made progress, it has become clear that we will be unable to present an agreed-upon proposal before Congress adjourns this year.

“I deeply believe the people want both parties to work together, and that is the only way we will be able to enact water legislation. Claims that this has been some kind of secret process are false. In order to come up with a bill that is ready for public comment, back-and-forth negotiations and consultations are often necessary, including extensive technical assistance from federal and state agencies. That process is ongoing and we have no agreed-upon bill at this time.

“It is important to remember there is a real human face to this crisis. Some communities can no longer deliver water to homes. Thousands of residential wells have run dry. And many families lack very basic necessities like water for showers and cooking.

“California is in a state of prolonged drought, and we must come together to find ways to provide the water necessary for life and well-being. This isn’t about corporate agriculture, this is about California.

“It’s my hope that groups critical of this effort will strive to be productive rather than destructive. It’s clear that we need to get more water to our cities, businesses, farmers, households, fish and the Delta. And it’s equally important that we continue to protect wildlife and the environment. Only together will we stand a chance of agreeing on a bill that can help accomplish all of these goals.”

1

New poll: Brown leads Kashkari by 25 points

A new poll finds Gov. Jerry Brown leading Republican challenger Neel Kashkari by a much wider gap than previously reported.

The latest USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll found that if the election were held today, Brown would beat Kashkari 57 percent to 32 percent – a significantly larger lead than the 16 points that the Field Poll reported last week.

The USC/LAT poll found Brown has the support of 82 percent of Democrats, 59 percent of no-party-preference voters, and 18 percent of Republicans, while 72 percent of Republicans, 25 percent of independents and 10 percent of Democrats support Kashkari.

The poll also found Brown’s job-approval rating at 57 percent, slightly higher than his 54 percent job approval rating in May and a double-digit increase from his 44 percent approval rating in April 2011, soon after he took office.

“Incumbents are defeated when the challenger gives the voters a compelling reason to make a change, and Kashkari simply hasn’t been able to attract enough attention to make that case to voters,” said Dan Schnur, director of the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll and executive director of the Unruh Institute of Politics at USC.

“California is an uphill challenge for any Republican running statewide. California is an uphill challenge for any underfunded candidate running statewide,” he said. “But California is a very, very steep hill to climb for an underfunded Republican candidate running for statewide office.”

Much of Brown’s lead might have to do with name recognition. When Californians were asked if they knew the name of the current governor of California, 78 percent of voters correctly identified Brown, with 20 percent unsure. Only 20 percent of voters identified Kashkari as the Republican candidate for governor, with 79 percent unsure of the candidate’s name.

Californians are feeling better about the state’s future, though most still aren’t happy, the poll found – 37 percent now say the state is on the “right track” while 48 percent disagree, but that’s a vast improvement from November 2010, when only 15 percent felt it was on the right track and 77 percent said it was headed in the wrong direction.

The USC/LAT poll also found:

    The Legislature has a 43 percent disapproval rating and 38 percent approval, showing a slight increase from May 2014 when voters reported a 40 percent disapproval rating and a 41 percent approval.
    Proposition 1 — a $7.5 billion bond measure for water infrastructure projects — is backed by 66 percent of voters, a considerably higher level of support than the 52 percent figure reported by the Field Poll last week. But when provided with more information – including that the measure would increase state bond repayment costs but also providing savings to water projects for local governments – support dropped to 57 percent.
    The number of voters who see California’s historic drought as a crisis is on the rise, up 11 percentage points from a May 2014 poll.

The USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll of 1,507 voters was conducted Sept. 2 through Sept. 8 and has a margin of error of +/- 2.9 percentage points.

0

(Jerry) ‘Brown is the new green?’

California’s anti-drought slogan is “Brown is the new green,” even as Gov. Jerry Brown’s environmental bona fides are at issue during his re-election campaign.

Coincidence? Absolutely… but let’s exploit it anyway!

Brown is the new green lawn signThe slogan aims to make property owners feel better about letting their lawns shrivel. A state water agency last week approved unprecedented penalties for those who waste water, and Brown signed a bill into law Monday prohibiting homeowners associations from fining residents who don’t water their lawns.

Already the signs are proliferating. An Antioch golf course adopted the slogan a few weeks ago, and the Santa Clara Valley Water District on Friday announced a $500,000 summer ad campaign using the slogan. District spokesman Marty Grimes said the district is merely following in the state’s footsteps and it’s strictly non-political: “I think the message is pretty clear that it has nothing to do with the governor.”

But could it hurt the governor for his name to be deemed “the new green” as he seeks re-election against Republican challenger Neel Kashkari? Actually, there are more than a few environmentalists – especially opponents of fracking – who would say Jerry Brown is certainly not “the new green.”

Dan Newman, a consultant to Brown’s re-election campaign, said Friday this slogan is a zero-sum equation with an earlier, unofficial drought slogan. “Isn’t that cancelled out by the classic ‘If it’s brown flush, it down – if it’s yellow, let it mellow’?”

Likewise, Kashkari spokeswoman Mary-Sarah Kinner’s response to the slogan Friday was “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.”

Great minds think alike, no matter what side of the aisle.