Climate Politics radio broadcast 4.26.19

(Climate Politics is broadcast on the second and fourth Fridays of each month on KFCF 88.1FM in Fresno. ) LISTEN HERE ON SOUNDCLOUD to the April 26, 2019 show.

INTRODUCTION: Good afternoon and welcome to a special edition Climate Politics. This show is dedicated to the premise that if we hope to avoid climate change’s worst impacts, then we need to fix our political climate, from Fresno to D.C. and everyplace in between.

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Rev. B.T. Lewis, Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church, Fresno

And it’s impossible in this country, and certainly this town and valley, to discuss our politics without grounding them in the context of the systemic racism that has shaped every institution, policy, and practice in both the public and private sector.

But, to paraphrase the advice of former First Lady Michelle Obama, let’s focus on what we CAN control — in this case our local politics and politicians and how we hold them accountable.

Too many of our elected officials or their staff or appointees to boards and commissions are taking their cue from the unabashed racist occupying the White House.

So today we’re going to listen to some short recordings of them in action in the public sphere: City of Fresno economic developer Larry Westerlund, Fresno Unified School Board Trustee Terry Slatic, Fresno County Housing Authority Commissioner Terra Brusseau, and Fresno County Supervisor Steve Brandau.

Yes, we could add a few more, such as city councilman Barry Bredefeld or supervisor Buddy Mendes. All white, all Republican, all trouble.

Most seem unaware of their own prejudices, others appear to revel in them. But we must all push back against this ugly tide as it surges in these dark times.

Fortunately, we have a light — a very bright light — in this local struggle with us here today and to take your calls and comments, Rev. B.T. Lewis of Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church in West Fresno.

–Kevin Hall, host

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Developer Dollars, Democratic Duplicity

(This article first appeared in the April 2019 issue of Community Alliance magazine.)

By Kevin Hall

Few were downtown at Fresno city hall on a cold morning in late January to witness the new council fail its first real test of character. The one that matters most in city politics, it’s a single-question exam: Do developers still run this town?

They do.

The new five-member, veto-proof Democratic majority on the council has raised the hopes of many locals. At long last, some say, our humble burg of half a million souls will be governed by a body with a greater interest in the needs of poor and working families, one willing to take on the special interests running roughshod over lives and futures.

Assemi Kashian $ Totals
When dread developer Darius Assemi looks up at the dais in Fresno City Hall, he is looking at more than $200,000 invested by his family members and their businesses in the political careers of the current council and mayor. The city’s election cycle limits are easily ignored and candidates often receive four or five times the limit from Assemi interests. Commercial developer Ed Kashian is the second most prolific backer in local politics.

Continue reading Developer Dollars, Democratic Duplicity

Oil Money Seeps into Fresno Politics

March 31, 2019

By Kevin Hall

Today would be a good day for Paul Caprioglio, Luis Chavez, Nelson Esparza, and Esmeralda Soria to get out their checkbooks and return some dirty campaign contributions. Nearly $100,000 in Big Oil money made its way into Fresno politics in 2018, and the Fresno city council members have received direct and indirect contributions from Chevron and the California Independent Petroleum Association.

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Council member Esmeralda Soria received $5,000 in direct contributions from the California Independent Petroleum Association in 2018. Chevron donated $90,000 to the Chamber of Commerce PAC which gave $5,400 each to Luis Chavez and Nelson Esparza.

Soria’s contributions came directly from the Irvine-based petroleum association in the form of a pair of $2,500 contributions on Feb. 24 and June 4, according to City of Fresno Electronic Filing System reports. She has a direct connection to the organization through Willie Rivera, a former coworker. Himself an elected city council member in Bakersfield, Rivera is the regulatory affairs director for the oil organization.

Rivera is apparently serious about his job as the local oil industry’s junkyard dog fighting off government regulation. In 2018 his association PAC launched campaigns in Arvin, Kern County, against young, progressive Latinx officeholders there who supported Mayor Jose Gurrola’s ordinance limiting oil operations within the beleaguered city limits. Soria and Rivera worked together in the offices of state senator Michael Rubio, the disgraced official from Bakersfield who left office a year early to join Chevron in their war on the planet as director of government relations. Continue reading Oil Money Seeps into Fresno Politics

Dodging the bullet train for a uniquely Valley future

Continue reading Dodging the bullet train for a uniquely Valley future

Valley air board doing poor job of recognizing reality of climate change

This opinion piece appeared in The Fresno Bee on December 14, 2018.

By Kevin Hall

Climate change denial is alive and well in the San Joaquin Valley. Most worryingly, it is the dominant opinion among politicians serving on our regional air quality board. The eight-county agency handles hundreds of millions of dollars annually in state funds dedicated to reducing greenhouse gases, and the money couldn’t be in worse hands.

At issue is our children’s survival. Not our grandchildren, this generation. The babes and toddlers around us already face an uncertain adulthood due to the latent excess heat stored in the ocean that will be warming the planet for decades to come.

Last year’s jump in global emissions has the world on track with scientists’ worst-case outcome. Under that scenario, sometime between 2030 and 2050 six thresholds known as “tipping points” get crossed at a 1.5 C increase in global average temperature, unleashing natural stores of greenhouse gases that no amount of reductions by humans can reverse.

Yet climate-change deniers on the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District board have gone so far as blame the tragic loss of life in the climate-fueled Camp fire on a lack of logging. They mistakenly claim forest management practices are responsible for all state wildfires in recent years, though the majority of the deadly infernos have been at foothill elevations, and most important, increasingly frequent wildfires of greater intensity are now a worldwide phenomenon.

It’s not possible to provide specific citations from air board meetings so people might witness this appalling ignorance firsthand. The secretive agency refuses to post an online archive of its proceedings.

Clearly this body is ill-suited for its role in helping to address the immediate and long-term threats of our destabilizing atmosphere, despite the threats faced by 4 million, soon to be 6 million, Valley residents.

Consider the risk from wildfire. Foothill communities lying at the mouths of the canyons and river gorges of the Sierra Nevada could face the same meteorological conditions that led to the deaths of unfortunate Butte County residents in Magalia and Paradise. Like here, the populations of those towns were disproportionately retirees, many of whom had physical mobility limitations and couldn’t escape the flames.

All that’s missing, for now, are the high easterly winds that drove the incineration of 70,000 acres in 24 hours, spawned a fire tornado and took at least 85 lives. Such winds are possible here now as the jet stream’s path becomes increasingly unstable, dipping further south and more forcefully into this region.

The urgently needed adaptations and pollution reduction efforts are complex, involved and expensive. And they’re beyond the interest and ability of our air board.

Of its 15 members, two are appointed by the governor for their expertise in health or air pollution-related science; no complaints there.

But of the remaining 13, eight are county supervisors, one each from Kern to San Joaquin. Five more are city council members, two from cities with populations of greater than 100,000 and three from smaller cities.

The white, male, conservative perspective is grossly overrepresented. With less than 40 percent of the Valley population, whites hold 92 percent of these board seats; men, with less than half the population, comprise 84 percent; and Republicans, a mere third of registered voters, are at 92 percent.

This select group is bound to a political ideology that seemingly requires them to ignore basic science and promote an agenda of less regulation, more pollution, and disregard for everyone’s health and safety.

Let’s reform our air board.

This will take state legislation and uncommon leadership from our Sacramento delegation. An earlier attempt lasted five years and yielded minimal improvement. Democrats including Juan Arambula then proved nearly as intractable as their Republican colleagues, and two more recent disappointments were Michael Rubio and Henry T. Perea, both of whom left office early and now work as oil industry lobbyists.

The push for reform and a realistic action plan must come from the grassroots, pressuring politicians at every level of government for immediate action. A volunteer effort, #ValleyClimate, is underway. For a presentation in your community, contact sjvalleyclimate@gmail.com or on Twitter, @sjvalleyclimate.

Milking Sacramento

 

$500m subsidy, market price guarantees sought for cow manure as ‘renewable’ energy

By Kevin Hall

SACRAMENTO – The California dairy industry has Sen. Ben Hueso (D-San Diego) by both teats and is pulling hard, and Hueso is clearly enjoying it.

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Sen. Ben Hueso (D-San Diego) laughing off objections to the dairy industry’s air pollution impacts and the projected increases under his bill, SB 1440, now working its way through the Assembly committee process.

Continue reading Milking Sacramento

Male Privilege, Misogyny & White Fear on the Campaign Trail

By Kevin Hall

Three candidates are vying to become the next representative for District 7 on the Fresno City Council. The one woman, Veva Islas, and two men, Brian Whelan and Nelson Esparza, will have raised and spent more than $400,000 on the June primary election alone, an unusually high amount in local races. Clearly, there’s a lot riding on this, but for whom? Continue reading Male Privilege, Misogyny & White Fear on the Campaign Trail