Victoria Brandon, PRESS DEMOCRAT
Everyone agrees that Highway 37 needs fixing.
For nearly a decade, the environmental community has debated plans to restructure Highway 37 between Vallejo and Marin County. Usually, environmental engagement on highway projects focuses on ways to reduce negative impacts, but in this case there is an opportunity for a genuinely positive outcome.
Replacement of the current road with a built-for-resilience elevated causeway would not only protect the highway from flooding, it would reconnect the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge and other tidal wetlands to San Francisco Bay waters.
Wetlands sequester carbon dioxide, encourage biodiversity by increasing ecologically vital habitat and play a crucial role in meeting the state’s 30 by 30 goals — preserving 30% of land and coastal waters by 2030.
Elevating the highway would also increase the climate resilience of North Bay communities by buffering high-tide events and reducing nearby flooding and by allowing more sediment to flow into San Pablo Bay, which will help protect marshes and communities against sea level rise.
Everyone agrees that Highway 37 needs fixing. Not only does heavy commute traffic and the absence of a transit alternative create daily gridlock, portions of the road become impassable when bay waters are high, and climate change is only going to make that situation worse.
Sierra Club Redwood Chapter activists were therefore disappointed when instead of moving forward with an elevated causeway that its own studies have identified as the preferred alternative, Caltrans proposed an interim fix — an outdated conventional highway-widening project that will reduce traffic congestion and flood risk at best temporarily.
Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/opinion/close-to-home-a-right-way-and-a-wrong-way-to-fix-highway-37/#comments
Tyler Silvy, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Some local officials who split sharply with the anti-tax group said the voting results represented the fall of an inflexible coalition that had lost touch with the electorate.
A powerful coalition of Sonoma County business groups that spent tens of thousands of dollars to fight local tax measures up and down the ballot appears to have lost every race, the group conceded Wednesday, a stinging blow for industry leaders who were piecing together what went wrong.
The 2020 Tax Moratorium Coalition, a group comprised of the Santa Rosa Metro Chamber, the Sonoma County Farm Bureau, the North Bay Leadership Council and the North Coast Builders Exchange, spent nearly $80,000 to oppose eight county- and city-level tax measures, including a countywide sales tax extension for roads and transit projects and a new countywide tax to bolster mental health and homeless services.
But with preliminary results showing a solid majority of voters backed all measures, rejecting the group’s message countywide, county leaders and political experts say the coalition is due for a reckoning.
“I was dumbfounded when they took this position,” Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Chair Susan Gorin said Tuesday night. “And I think this is a repudiation of any coalition of groups to take an inflexible position on every tax measure across the board.”
Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/sonoma-county-business-coalition-fails-in-costly-bid-to-sink-local-tax-meas/
Rebecca Hersher & Robert Benincasa, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO
The federal government spends billions of dollars annually helping communities rebuild and prevent future damage. But an NPR investigation has found that across the country, white Americans and those with more wealth often receive more federal dollars after a disaster than do minorities and those with less wealth. Federal aid isn’t necessarily allocated to those who need it most; it’s allocated according to cost-benefit calculations meant to minimize taxpayer risk.
If they had known, they never would have bought the house on Bayou Glen Road. Sure, it was a beautiful lot, tucked in a bend of the creek, backyard woodsy and wild, the neighbors friendly and the street quiet. A little piece of nature just 20 minutes from downtown Houston. It was exactly what John and Heather Papadopoulos — recently married, hoping to start a family — were looking for in 2007. They didn’t think much about the creek that ran along their yard, aside from appreciating the birds it attracted to the neighborhood.
Across town, the Evans family was similarly indifferent to the wooded bayous that cut through their neighborhood. Janice Perry-Evans chose the house she rented because it was conveniently located near the local high school, which made it easy for her two boys to get to class and home from football practice. Her commute to the post office wasn’t far either. Plus, at $800 per month, the rent was affordable. By 2017, the family had lived there for four years, and didn’t have any plans to move.
And then, in August of that year, both homes were destroyed. Both families had to start over from nothing. But today, one family is financially stable. The other is facing bankruptcy.
Read more at https://www.npr.org/2019/03/05/688786177/how-federal-disaster-money-favors-the-rich
Steven Weissman, LEGAL PLANET
The California Energy Commission’s new mandate receives mixed reviews.
The recent decision of the California Energy Commission to require the inclusion of rooftop solar photovoltaics on most new homes has engendered praise from some quarters, and criticism from others. Some see this new policy as a positive force, helping to reduce the cost of solar and contribute to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Others despair policy makers’ tendency to choose technology winners and losers, and argue that the least cost choices are usually the best.
There is no disputing that the state’s new policy is a landmark event that may or may not set the stage for broader solar adoption across the country. Regardless of where you might find yourselves in the cheering section, allow me to offer several red flags to watch for, when considering critical perspectives on the topic of requiring rooftop solar:
1. When someone argues that rooftop solar is foolish because central station solar is cheaper, they are ignoring, or at least minimizing the import of, the difficulty in siting central station solar, the decade-long process of making such a project happen, the direct land use impacts of that technology, the need for more transmission lines and all of the related land-use impacts, the reduced reliability resulting from concentrating so much solar generation in one area as clouds roll by and nighttime falls, the potential of local grid benefits from local generation, and the way onsite generation can contribute to a broader strategy to make the use of energy more efficient and less impactful.
Read more at http://legal-planet.org/2018/05/18/californias-new-rooftop-solar-mandate/