Thinking global, acting municipal

Today, Spence and Cole discuss what California cities should and will do to fight climate change. Yesterday, they debated the cultural divide behind policy disagreements; Wednesday, the proper role of the attorney general, Tuesday, citywide general plans, and Monday, they dissected how Brown became the flash point in this year's budget impasse.

Environmentalism shouldn't be NIMBYismBy Mike Spence
Well, Rick, the end of the week is here, and you will have the last word. I should have thought that out more on the schedule.

The answer to today's question is pretty simple. Cities have no choice but to start to craft plans to deal with "global warming."

If they don't, the attorney general will sue them. The Air Resources Board will have rules written at some point that will tell cities what they must have. The debate will begin all over again because it will be easier for some to comply than others.

I think you and I agree that local flexibility is better than micromanaging mandates from Sacramento bureaucrats or lawmakers.

This system would allow local values and priorities to be represented in the planning process. The diversity of population, land and economy would seem to demand this approach. We will see. There are those, not you Rick, who view CEQA and AB 32 as ways to limit population growth in California.

This is not realistic nor is it wise. In past columns, we've argued over the impact of CEQA. The CEQA process can become so burdensome that it stops needed growth and/or drives prices up.

Even Democrats have recognized the problems that CEQA has caused to growth plans. State Sen. Tom Torlakson (D-Antioch) has been outspoken for some streamlining of the process. His spokesman was quoted a couple of years ago as saying, "There's a feeling among Senate Democrats that CEQA is being abused . . . It wasn't put in place to prevent working people from getting a house. NIMBYs are shutting down too many reasonable housing projects - at the same time, we have a housing crisis."

Jerry Brown, as mayor, asked for CEQA exemptions. State Senate Democratic leader Don Perata supported them.

Rick, don't get me wrong. I'm glad they got exemptions. I'm glad that housing and economic growth projects were streamlined. Republicans voted for those exemptions. I'm for this flexibility.

The frustration is that the courtesy extended to those select areas doesn't get implemented in other regions as they deal with the growth issue. AB 32 complicates that process further and has the potential to be devastating depending on what rules are finally written.

Every area's values should be taken into account, not just those of a select few. That goes for infrastructure projects like roads as well.

One area missing from all this discussion is accountability. How are we going to evaluate the real costs and benefits of AB 32? We don't know. Many California lawmakers will push for a national standard to prevent other states from benefiting further from our unfriendly business climate.

"Economic Climate Change" is an issue for another week, but we need standards that are clear in order to see if what is implemented is working and at what price.

Rick, next time I'm in Ventura I'll give you some sales tax money at a mixed-use project. That will be my contribution toward a sustainable Ventura. But like most Californians, I will come by car.

Mike Spence is president of the California Republican Assembly, California's oldest and largest Republican volunteer organization. He is a member of the West Covina School Board and a partner in Citadel Campaigns, LLC.

Pollution is nonpartisanBy Rick Cole
Thanks, Mike. We're in this together - like all Californians. None of us can say how much our profligate consumption of fossil fuels is altering the global climate. Nor do we have adequate answers on how to solve this man-made problem. But together we can tackle this challenge with the same entrepreneurial energy that's made California such a leader in the world. As we conclude our debate, it's heartening that the two of us can find such common ground:

  • Yes, cities should craft their own "sustainability plans," and be held accountable for their share in meeting the goal of reducing 2020 greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels. See our Green Ventura website for the efforts we're making.
  • Yes, these planning efforts should take into account local values and priorities instead of rigid mandates from Sacramento bureaucrats or lawmakers
  • .
  • Yes, AB 436, the bill Jerry Brown pushed through as mayor of Oakland, should be a model for statewide reform of the California Environmental Quality Act. Leaders from both parties deserve our support for recognizing that "CEQA is being abused....... It wasn't put in place to prevent working people from getting a house." Particularly if that home is near workplaces, shopping and transit, and in an area where local general plans incorporate smart growth principles.
  • Yes, we should demand national legislation - and global treaties - to ensure that California's environmental leadership doesn't undermine our global competitiveness. In fact, by encouraging innovative approaches to meeting the 2020 targets, we can promote California as a world leader in green industry and green building.

Avoiding catastrophic climate change is too important for partisan bickering. As that great Republican, New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, famously observed, "There's no Republican or Democratic way of collecting the garbage." Nor should there be any Republican or Democratic solution for global warming.

Meeting this challenge won't damage our economy if we rely on the great inventiveness of our people and our communities. As President Kennedy proclaimed in his inaugural address: "I do not shrink from this responsibility, I welcome it. The energy, the faith and the devotion that we bring to this cause can light our country and all who serve it and the glow from that fire can truly light the world."

I hope you'll visit us often in Ventura to keep tabs on our efforts to revitalize older neighborhoods and recycle old oil fields for high-wage, high-value jobs (we're home to a growing number of green business leaders like Patagonia, Agromin and Stewart+Brown). I hope you'll consider coming by train (Metrolink or Amtrak), and, on arrival, that you'll enjoy our public transit choices. You can hop the No. 12 shuttle (a CNG-powered vehicle painted to look like a classic surf "woody") that runs on compressed natural gas between our downtown and harbor, serving all our major hotels.

Our goal is to be a model of environmental responsibility, thinking globally and acting locally. If you do come by car, I hope you'll consider a hybrid. I'd be happy to give you a tour in my Prius the next time you're in the neighborhood.

Rick Cole is the city manager of Ventura and a member of the Sustainability Advisory Committee of the International City/County Management Assn. In 2006, he was listed as one of Governing magazine's "Public Officials of the Year," the only Californian among the nine honorees. His views are his own.

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