Fighting climate change like crime

FinancePoliticsEnvironmental IssuesCrime, Law and JusticeGlobal WarmingGlobal Change

Today, Spence and Cole discuss the state attorney general's proper role. Yesterday, they debated citywide general plans, Monday, they dissected how Jerry Brown became the flash point in this year's budget impasse, and later this week they'll focus on California's cultural differences and more.

Forget elusive gases; what about solid criminals?By Mike Spence
Rick, there is an old joke that the initials for attorney general, A.G., really mean "aspiring governor." Jerry Brown has confirmed he is interested in that job.

His predecessor, Bill Lockyer, still wants to run. During his tenure, he sued automakers to pay for the effects of greenhouse gases.

Jerry Brown knows that using his office in this way, to sue San Bernardino County and threaten other agencies and projects, will garner him publicity and cater to an important Democratic Party constituency.

AB 32 regulations haven't been written yet, and the target date for full compliance isn't until 2020.

So what things are being ignored while Jerry Brown dresses in green to audition for another Governor's Ball?

There is political corruption. Just this week Senate Democratic Leader Don Perata of Oakland was accused of misspending campaign funds on wines, women's clothing, etc. He also was discovered to have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars through his campaign to relatives. But, even though investigating someone from your political party is good politics, it isn't good partisan politics, so Brown probably won't do that.

Why not try illegal immigration? The net costs of illegal immigration to California taxpayers were just under $11 billion in 2004, according to a study by the Federation for American Immigration Reform. Enforcing immigration-related law would be very popular. While tricky because of Democratic Party politics, Brown could go after high-profile human and sex traffickers. The traffickers can't have that big a voting constituency.

Education should be an issue. All, except most of the Los Angeles Unified School District, would welcome getting to the bottom of waste and fraud in the LAUSD.

Of course, there's always crime. Twenty years ago, this issue was his undoing, what with former Chief Justice Rose Bird, the death penalty, etc. There have been more than 80 murders in his former city of Oakland this year alone. He could focus on cleaning up his old stomping grounds. Or he could go to L.A. and work against the gangs and show up a potential gubernatorial rival. Everyone likes a crime fighter, even if he is late to the game.

These things would all be popular and consistent with the proper role of the attorney general. But there is risk. They are things that voters can see. They are tangible, solid. He could fail at these measurable tasks and be held accountable.

Instead, Jerry Brown has picked gas, particularly greenhouse gases, as his issue. (The "hot air" jokes were too easy.) These gases can't be seen by voters, they're hard to get a handle on; no one knows what impact they are really having or whether what we are doing is helping to reduce them. The goals are far from being reached.

The phrase "climate change" is brilliant; climate is always changing. This issue of "global warming" has become the perfect political issue for Brown. There is no risk in fighting it. You don't need arrests, convictions or trials. All you need are media cameras to show the world and potential voters how hard you are fighting it.

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.


We need California Republicans to fight global warmingBy Rick Cole
Mike,

Let me remind you about our question today. It wasn't: What do die-hard Republicans dislike about Jerry Brown? It was: Should the California attorney general be a crusader on climate change?

If Californians didn't want an attorney general to be an environmental crusader, why did they elect Jerry Brown, and by a lopsided margin? The former governor isn't a newcomer to the environmental cause -- he's been one of California's most prominent environmental crusaders for more than 30 years.

Mike, on that same day, Californians elected a Republican governor who's also a climate-change crusader. It was Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger who issued an executive order setting the goal of reducing 2020 greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels, more than a year before the Legislature passed the landmark AB 32.

According to a recent statewide survey released by the Public Policy Institute of California, a majority of Californians (54%) think global warming poses "a very serious threat to the state's future economy and quality of life." Fully 73% support AB 32, and 61% favor state government "making its own policies, separate from the federal government, to address the issue of global warming."

As Schwarzenegger declared, "The debate is over -- we know the science, we see the threat, and the time for action is now."

That's the mandate for all California officials. The real debate should be about what steps we should take.

Here, Mike, your skepticism is useful. There are lots of "feel good" panaceas out there that may distract us from more effective actions. By denying the role of greenhouse gas emissions in the global climate crisis, you risk marginalizing yourself from the mainstream debate. That's not only bad for your party's political fortunes, it's bad for California. Republicans should play a vital role in shaping sensible climate-change policy because the market and business can -- and must -- play a vital role in tackling this shared challenge.

Let's start with the California Environmental Quality Act. In your first post, you blasted Brown for seeking relief from the act's silliest applications while he was mayor of Oakland. You should be cheering him for it. He was working to ensure that a law passed to protect our natural environment wasn't misused to discourage revitalizing inner cities. That reform is long overdue, but Democrats are usually terrified of touching the environmental act lest they be branded as "anti-environment." Only a bipartisan effort can ensure that the law is reformed to protect our environment, not discourage smart growth.

The same applies to "cap and trade" systems that provide financial incentives to business to pursue innovative ways to save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Instead of seeking to embarrass Atty. Gen. Brown, Senate Republicans could have used their leverage to push for more market-based climate change policies.

As I said in my last post, neither side has a monopoly on virtue or sensible ideas. Get in the game, Mike. Let's work across partisan lines to effectively implement a key law -- one that three out of four California voters support.

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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