Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A New Look at Owens Lake

Massive diversions of water in northern California have attained the status of “best practice” in water management. This practice runs contrary to sustainability as an underlying principle of water allocations. Water politics in this state is focused in a state legislature that is not reflective of the needs of users. Looking at the ecological changes around Owens Lake may not be as important as looking at the ramifications of the diversion of Owens Lake to Los Angeles. The series of articles at the website are updates of the current status on the ecosystems surrounding Owens Lake and the changing relation between urban and rural ecosystems.

Not mentioned in this narrative (Wyoming is in Los Angeles) is the battle waged by agricultural and ranching users in the Owens Valley region that reached the level of armed conflict. Unless a new model, based on adaptive governance and regional water planning, is adopted throughout the state of California, the political influences of southern users will continue to have their way.

States, such as Texas, have demonstrated the effectiveness of regional water plans and have increased the ability of local users to construct plans based on regional supplies. The issue is how can we establish processes that protect the the needs and concerns of local users, address the hydrological and environmental ramifications of decisions when others are free to come in and open the spigot for others. At what point do decisions that rob one region of the water resource for the benefit of others reach the level of being arbitrary and capricious? Why are voters throughout the state empowered to make the decisions that will not impact on their lives?

Underlying the questions is how we try to learn the lessons from the Owens Valley experience. It’s all very good for us to aesthetically gaze on the remarkable changes in Owens Lake ecosystem. It’s another thing to incorporate the reasonable concerns of users who are robbed of their needed resource as a vital component before decisions concerning diversions are made.

rholmes says:
April 27, 2010 at 9:06 amThanks for the comment, Martin.

The last thing we would want to do is merely “aesthetically gaze” on Owens Lake! Though I won’t deny that mammoth has a bit of fascination with weird and broken ecologies, our fascination has as much to do with the histories, functions, and futures of those ecologies as it does to do with their aesthetic properties.

It is quite true that this post skipped over the Water Wars and the ethical ramifications of the diversion of water which collects in the Owens Valley to Los Angeles, but it should be noted that a discussion of both the history of conflict over water rights in Owens Valley and of the contentious future of southern California’s demands for water is part of the text which we are reading, so the issue has by no means escaped our notice.

You raise a very interesting and difficult question, which is how best to balance the water needs of a distant majority with the obvious economic and environmental water interests of the localities that they obtain their water from.

I’m curious what your proscription for resolving that tension would be — it seems to me that you feel the decision-making process is rigged in a way that disadvantages the Owens Valley (which, historically, is obviously accurate), but what does a more just allocation look like to you?

I’m not familiar with Texan regional water plans, but I’d be quite curious to learn more, particularly if those plans do demonstrate a more equitable resolution of this tension. Can you point us towards a source that discusses them?

Martin Zehr says:
April 27, 2010 at 10:35 amThank you for your response.

As a participant in the Middle Rio Grande regional planning process, I spent close to ten years working in a model of ecological democracy in the Albuquerque-Rio Rancho region of NM. I would point you to the website of the Middle Rio Grande Water Assembly as a specific model in which I was engaged. The website is: The plan is accessible on the Home page.

My reference to the Texas plan is a result of the frequent news articles that have appeared in regards to the updates that are ongoing in Texas. Also, as good as the process was in the Middle Rio Grande, it failed in the implementation stage because municipalities failed to utilize its recommendations and overview. Despite the fact that governmental entities, irrigator associations, county commissions and flood control agencies signed off on the plan before it was submitted to the Interstate Stream Commission, the Bernalillo County Commission was the only entity to reference the plan in its water conservation ordinance.

As a Green urban user, I spent much time on the Urban Users and Economic Development Advocates’ committee that was represented on Action Committee. As a member of that committee, I represented Green [Party] urban users and sought to integrate quality of life issues with the plan’s recommendations and preferred scenario.

The reason for this is a political issue. As users in California know, those making the decisions are not those impacted the most by them. The planning process in California is top-down and has little real authority in regards to establishing regional water budgets or Public Welfare statements. Its advisory character is directed towards a state plan that remains weak and undirected in regards to regional users, the science and the environment. Furthermore, the state legislature continues to undermine regional planning through inter-regional diversions to both urban and rural users in southern California. Likewise, the oveerlapping jurisdictions and conflicting agencies continue to make water management and administration a Gordian knot if we were to establish adaptive governance and regional planning as the underlying principles.

Martin Zehr says:
April 27, 2010 at 2:18 pm“if we were to establish adaptive governance and regional planning as the underlying principles.”

should read “UNTIL we slice through it by establishing adaptive governance and regional planning…”

The planning template provided to the 16 planning regions in NM by the Interstate Stream Commission included a stipulation for regions to provide a plan that was not dependent on transfers from other regions in order to be balanced.
The goals of the MRG plan included a stipulation to “balance growth with renewable supplies” that was opposed by the WRB of the Middle Rio Grande Council of Governments thereby making an administrative body of the local municipalities a significant obstacle in the implementation of the regional plan. (see section 1.3.3 of the plan )

rholmes says:
April 28, 2010 at 9:51 amThanks, Martin. We appreciate you taking the time to relay your experiences and providing us with a first-hand account of the politics of hydrology, attesting to the importance of good, responsive governance and transparent planning processes (through what sounds like their unfortunate absence).

From the executive summary, it looks like the Middle Rio Grande plan was a very reasonable document.

These are exactly the sorts of issues which architects and landscape architects need to be able to negotiate successfully and publicly (and ethically!), if we’re going to contribute to the planning, design, and re-design of large-scale infrastructures.


Saturday, April 24, 2010

Arizona's New "Anti-Immigrant" Law

Let's get to the heart of the problem. The proposed method of the "immigrant crackdown" is aimed at American citizens through a massive system of stopping, demanding papers and incarcerating or charging Americans without the approriate identification. This is a fundamental assumption of powers reminiscent of dictatorships in the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. You can't be where you "don't belong" unless you can justify it. Having lived in NM, I have gone through many immigration checkpoints. Going into Mexico with Peace and Dignity and coming back again we had our vehicles searched. But all these are point of entry procedures. This on the other hand establishes a distinct class of individuals within the United States who are subject to public harrassment that include large numbers of American citizens. It not only won't work but is a restriction on the personal liberties of individuals, establishes restrictions on travel and movement and fundamentally alters the assumption of "reasonable suspicion" required for law enforcement officials.

It does absolutely nothing in addressing the profound impacts of the migration on public infrastructure in the US. Nor does it address the failure of the Mexican government to address the issue from its end better. It is critical for Greens to begin to wake up and address the massive impacts on the Carrying Capacity of our resource management, our public health services and our public educational systems. The political discussion to be held is not one that seeks to increase the police powers of our states or the Federal Government. Neither can it be focused on the agendas of posturing politicians promoting a new "iron curtain" on the border.

We cannot simply assume that we can address the circumstances that have arisen without new political structures and improved investments in public infrastructure. The United States alone accounts for 37.1% of the world's net immigration total. We do no one a favor when we simply disregard the impact of massive increases of people on our institutions. Plans for naturalization or amnesty need to address current impacts of the profound increases in population on our urban and rural communities. The duopoly political parties have disregarded the fundamental denials of education and health care that has resulted when emergency rooms are shut down or schools are not equipped to address the needs of the 44% of students in the state of California who speak a langauge other than English at home. The Green Party has the credentials, as a "green" party, to address these issues and remove the attempts to deny the rights and liberties of Americans.

The California Green Party candidates and Platform need to address the impacts of the continued population increases without contributing to xenophobic rhetoric. We need to be wary of simply echoing others and begin to find our own ways that reflect the valid concerns and worries of the California electorate and all the people of California. New solutions require better methods of addressing problems and not simply forcing draconian measures that attack our liberties. We certainly cannot leave the solutions to those with their own interests in maintaining the status quo or making the situation more divisive and repressive.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Cal Democratic Convention: Winograd vs. Harman

Originally Posted on Dick & Sharon's LA Progressive, April 19, 2010
"Clearly the Party Leadership Circled the Wagons"
by Caitlin Frazier

marcy winograd

To many attending the California Democratic Party convention in Los Angeles last weekend, the vote to approve or object to the endorsement of Rep. Jane Harman (CA/36), was too close to call – certainly not reflective of a frenzied convention tabulation Party Chair John Burton delivered with the qualifier, “No one was bribed.”After over a thousand votes were counted in just a few minutes, congressional challenger Marcy Winograd questioned the validity of the approximately 60-40% vote count to endorse Harman. Said Winograd, “I saw a sea of objections to Harman’s endorsement. I don’t know who had the majority of the floor, but I suspect the reported tally was way off. Delegations overlooked by the counters had to scream to get counted.”

To push the vote to the floor, a hundred Winograd for Congress supporters gathered at the convention Saturday night to collect nearly 500 delegate objections in four hours to Harman’s pre-endorsement by the local caucus, composed of mostly elected officials and their appointees.
On the floor of the convention, Party leadership tried to cut off debate, then had officers leave the stage to argue for Harman’s endorsement on the floor because Harman herself did not even show up. “Clearly the leadership was taken aback at the strength of our challenge and circled the wagons,” said Winograd.

In her speech, Winograd told fellow delegates, “Brothers and sisters, rank and file Democrats, this is a struggle for the soul of the Democratic Party. Are we for jobs or wars, homes or big banks, our street or Wall Street? You have the power to change the course of history.”

With the endorsement process over, Winograd will concentrate on reaching the voters directly with her message of grassroots empowerment. “It is time to end the corporate stranglehold on Congress and usher in a new day for working families,” said Winograd.

Caitlin Frazier is Press Secretary for Marcy Winograd

Photo by Ralph Oden

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Thin Green Line

Last night, I was fortunate enough to watch Nature on PBS. The episode was entitled Frogs: The Thin Green Line.

One of the featured segments dealt with the effects of agriculture on frogs. In particular, it focused on the work that Tyrone Hayes (UC Berkeley) has done regarding the hormonal effects of the pesticide atrazine on amphibians. It turns frogs with male DNA into females, capable of laying eggs. That is scary.

I had heard of the work of Dr. Hayes before, but had not ever seen it so well laid out for the general public.

You might ask why this is so important. Atrazine is the most widely used pesticide on some major crops in the US (e.g. corn) and it's effects on humans have also been described, such as the low sperm count identified here.

In the comments to the section on the agricultural effects on amphibians, Dr. Hayes commented:
tyrone hayes says:
April 7, 2009 at 8:36 am

You can support the ban on atrazine by writing to Congress:
Keith Ellison
A form letter is available at
Every email counts and moves us in a forward direction to protect wildlife and human health.

I am asking you to do just that. Mark Twain's Jumping Frog of Calaveras County deserves to live.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


The passage of Resolution 380 on water being a priority and the passage of the Water Planning plank of the California Green Party Platform were steps taken away from the foundation funded advocacy groups and directs our Party's work towards eco-issues and related voter blocs. They introduce the concept of formulating local strategies and tactics that are ecologically-based and focused. As a political party, we have stepped into an arena of the ballot as a third party. Few in the U.S. Greens have been willing or able to successfully establish consistent constituencies or stable cores of leadership capable of navigating the turbulent waters of electoral politics.
We have seen the importance of a stable leadership and the consequences for constant internal bickering. We have learned that we can appeal to voters outside of the Democratic/progressives’ spheres of influence. We have learned that expected progressive constituencies do not inherently deliver the sound base needed for campaigns and candidates. We have seen the failings of our own candidates in expanding the scope of our message in a way that is inclusive of broad sections of the American public and engaging them to identify with the Green vision.
The intent of the water resolutions and the water plank was to provide some political review of the tasks ahead and to shape it based on the work of Greens. For too long some Greens have taken their cue from writers, academics and professional critics and defined our priorities and policies without a review of election results and review of the demographics of Green Party support at the ballot box.
Deconstructionism has failed to establish a political agenda because it is at heart anti-political in its program of action. Activists who work outside the political system and advocacy groups continue to see alternative societies as the solution to issues of social justice and environmental restoration. Naomi Klein illustrated her anti-electoral approach with her summary on C-SPAN that the failure of activists lay with those who invested their focus on electoral work around Obama. Naomi’s real blindspot lies in her inability to grasp the significance of electoral political work. Green electoral work remains outside of Naomi’s realm of review and consideration. Such critics have been more then willing to criticize the presence of Green candidates when the GP can significantly impact election results. Many would rather be in the streets then in the legislatures and when push comes to shove go running back to the Democratic Party.
Structural reform of governmental entities is always the last thing on the agenda of the advocacy giants. The Green Party has stepped into the arena of water politics at the planning level. It has found a much broader base for sustainability politics then simply that defined by the rigorously stratified constituencies of the Democratic/Urban and Republican /Rural Parties. The emergence of ecological democracy and adaptive governance has the potential to re-shape traditional political definitions of party allegiance. If strategy was linked to priorities, campaigns and policies, this would be addressed. It is unfortunate that the new alignment of potential supporters has been grasped by so few of the Green Party and as a result few state parties have worked to promote political campaigns centered on land and water use, regional planning and urban development.
It is important to connect the Platforms of the state Green Parties with the campaigns and the candidates. It is critical to understand who we are speaking to and what we have to say that is important to voters. If we are to grow, we need to localize our message, pinpoint those who share common concerns and interests and recruit candidates with credentials and local support of their own. Platforms are statements of our political agenda in the society we live in. People will grasp what most relates to their lives and when the organization demonstrates its own organizational viability they will add to our understanding of the concerns of voters.
Brian Tokar presented a succinct review of US Green Party progress and problems, “THE GREENS AS A SOCIAL MOVEMENT: VALUES AND CONFLICTS “Greens have contested the norm of US politics as largely an elite activity, and raised the important question of whether a political party in the US can aspire to act as an expression of a broader social movement. This is often taken for granted in Europe, with its history of political parties rooted in organized labor, but explicitly contradicts the managerial pragmatism that dominates politics in the United States – and increasingly in the European Union as well. Whether there is room in the American political landscape for a multi-issue, ecologically based social movement seeking an explicitly political expression still remains to be seen. But the twenty year history of the US Greens raises the hope that this may one day be realized, along with a host of valuable lessons for those who will most certainly keep trying.”

Thursday, April 08, 2010

9to5 Leadership Conference in San Jose

It's been become a cliché to say the U.S.A. in general, and California in particular, are in an unprecedented crisis. Unfortunately, this is one political cliché that happens to be true. Know something else? Low-income working people, especially working women struggling to balance work and family, are the first to get thrown under the political campaign bus. Progressives are constantly bombarded by appeals from high-powered groups to "get involved" in worthy causes around the world, but we must never forget the need to "take care of business" right here. Middle-class and low-wage working people did not create this crisis, but they are the ones being kicked in the teeth. It's clear nobody, neither "conservative" Republicans nor "liberal" Democrats are going to organize to fight for us. Therefore, we must organize to fight for ourselves.

Event:9to5 California -- National Association of Working Women
6th Annual Regional Leadership Conference

"Changing the Workplace, Changing the World"
Date:Saturday, April 10, 2010
Place:2302 Zanker Road, San Jose, CA 95131
Time:9:00 AM -- 2:00 PM


Panel Discussion with Workshop Breakouts:

CalWORKS/State Budget Fight Back

Sally Lieber,
Former Speaker Pro Tem, CA State Assembly

Wage Theft and Equal Pay Action

Ethel Long-Scott
Director, Women's Economic Agenda Project (WEAP)
Oakland, CA

Universal, Single Payer Health Care in California

Joan Goddard,
Legislative Director, 9to5 California
San Jose, CA

Luncheon with Honored Guests:

Cindy Chavez,

South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council

Jim Beall,,

California State Assembly

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Policy Action Days

9to5 joins California Partnership Coalition in Sacramento
  • Monday, April 26th -- Advocacy and Training
  • Tuesday, April 27th -- Visits with Local Legislators

Carpool from San Jose on Monday, 8:00 AM.

You may register online at:

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Jimi Castillo for Lt. Governor

Jimi Castillo is now officially in the race for Lt. Governor and, without any primary oppostion, his position is secured on the November ballot. This gives me an opportunity to ask a few pertinent questions.

This past weekend, the Service Employees International Union (S.E.I.U.) held a statewide video conference candidate endorsement session. They called it "Rebuild California." The television coverage of that event focused on the Lt. Governor's race, seen by the S.E.I.U. as between LA City Councilwoman Janice Hahn and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. Newsom was especially careful to make talk about how he wanted to re-define the role of the Lt. Governor… a key requirement since he had dissed the position while he was still in the race for Governor.

The S.E.I.U. seems to send us a message saying "don't bother."
The town hall was open to all workers represented by S.E.I.U. and is part of an inclusive, democratic process that gives S.E.I.U. members a direct role and voice in the political decisions of their union.
They are really saying that an inclusive democratic process will let their members hear from those candidates pre-selected by the union leadership.

I am sure that they would have been pleasantly surprised by hearing from Jimi. It would not have been the stirring language of self promotion that flows so easily from Newsom. I am sure the contrast would have made an impression, had he been there to present. Jimi is, after all, a union man and has been his entire working life.

Now, I have contacted the S.E.I.U. and they said that they did not know Jimi was interested in being considered. I wonder if Janice or Gavin needed to come to the union and ask to please let me talk to your people.

Leeland Yee versus Sarah Palin?

I find it interesting that State Senator Leeland Yee is busy making headlines in his criticisms of the Stanislaus Foundation for refusing to disclose the speaker fees for Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin has been scheduled for a fundraiser at Cal State University- Stanislaus. Needless to say many have jumped on Leeland’s bandwagon because it involves Sarah Palin.

In the interest of public disclosure, I should preface this article with the links to a three part article that I posted during the 2008 Presidential campaign about Sarah Palin and Alaska Natives. They can be found on Part one is here. Part two is here. And part three is here. The purpose of the article was to demonstrate that Sarah Palin was clearly in over her head in addressing the numerous issues impacting Alaskan Natives in her role as Governor. It is worth noting that I even stated in the article: “Governor Palin has NOT shown herself up to the task of Governor and has failed to focus on defending Alaska’s natural resources, preserving its unique environment or protecting and enhancing the democratic rights of Native Alaskans. Most of the problems have NOT been of her making, but neither has she demonstrated the ability to ‘think outside the box’ of the powerful economic interests seeking to come into the state for their own short-term profits.”

From this point on, I want to take issue with the kind of politics that seeks to garner headlines while disregarding the consequences of actions by the state government. Let me begin by saying that the Stanislaus Foundation has very specific obligations under the California Public Records Act. The Act can be found in its entirety. It should be noted that legal action is stipulated for both the public and the District Attorneys. Section 6263 states:”A state or local agency shall allow an inspection or copying of any public record or class of public records not exempted by this chapter when requested by a district attorney.” This is the nuclear option of the California Public Records Law. It provides the ultimate mechanism for ending ceaseless back-and-forth public disputes of what is and what is not open to disclosure. Senator Yee currently has a proposal on the table to include public foundations in the public records law.

Not being an attorney, I am neither qualified nor intend to propose a legal opinion in regards to the current applicability of the California Public Records Law to the matter in question. As to the purpose of fundraising for CSU-Stanislaus, it has been noted in a Fresno Bee article that ”The foundation's 2008 tax return shows it raised $4.1 million and distributed close to $3 million in scholarships and assistance to the school.”

As to the politics of the issue, there is no question that State Senator Yee has been actively engaged in the past on issues in regards to state universities and city colleges in regards to disclosure practices. The current issues are being wrapped around the personality of Sarah Palin. It is worth asking the question as to whether the case that is being made can be handled under existing law or if State Senator Yee’s visibility is directed towards amending the California Public Records Law. In either event, the issue of Sarah Palin being the speaker should be taken out of the discussion.

State Senator Yee has chosen to make the speaker the issue. On his Facebook page he has chosen to raise the cancellation of a proposed FOX NEWS interview with him to substantiate his case. Fortunately for Americans, FOX NEWS editorial decisions have no bearing on the enforcement of California state law.

The Stanislaus Foundation has not disclosed the speaker’s fee because of a non-disclosure clause in her contract. The case for open disclosure is obvious to all and is important in maintaining the accountability of public institutions. Can a case be made for fundraisers who have agreed with speakers not to reveal the speakers’ fees? It should be said that Sarah Palin is not the only speaker to require a non-disclosure fee in the contracts made for appearances.

It is worth discussing before changes are made whether we want to restrict the options for fundraising at a time when state budgets have been cut. Non-disclosure clauses are not new and reflect the desire of the speakers to define the conditions for their appearance. The Stanislaus Foundation was free at the time of negotiating the contract to reject Sarah Palin’s non-disclosure clause. If their agreement to inclusion of the non-disclosure clause was a violation of the California Public Records Law, then it is clearly a matter for a District Attorney. It is entirely possible that the Foundation’s legal review of the contract might have missed something required under the Public Records Law. For this there are procedures included in the Public Records Law.

State Senator Yee is more familiar with the law then I am. I grant his expertise on the Law as he has actively sought to expand its applicability as cases were brought to light in the state higher education system. I do not challenge his personal motives in this regard. I am wary of efforts that are pinpointed towards “unpopular” opinions as they are seen here in San Francisco. I am concerned about the impact of increased disclosures on the ability to raise funds for higher education. I do not cling to it as something that cannot be amended as needed. I simply want fundraisers to be provided with options to raise funds for the schools so they can benefit present and future students. It is clear that the Governor and the California State Legislature have not lived up to their obligations to fully fund state higher educational institutions.

This goes well beyond the message that Sarah Palin could conceivably present at her speaking engagement. It goes well beyond my own political disagreements with Sarah Palin. It goes well beyond the particulars of FOX NEWS coverage. When it comes to open disclosure, I support increasing it as possible and relevant to the oversight of public records. There is no argument that there are plenty of people in the Stanislaus area who would pay $500/head to see her. I’m not one of those. But, I am not at all threatened by the views of Sarah Palin or the movement among middle class Americans known as the Tea Party. These folks include family members of mine who have no sublimated racist or fascist tendencies. I have always had disagreements with my family since the Vietnam War. I don’t expect that to change now. But I have never seen them aggressively act to deprive others of their Constitutional or legal rights.

Respect for diversity of views has always been important in this state and throughout the U.S. The Green Party has been subjected to many efforts initiated by Democratic Parties in states to restrict our ballot access. We know that they have been no less inclined then the Republican Party to play the game that restricts political representation by marginalizing third parties. The Tea Party movement will find this out for itself and Sarah Palin will be the main proponent of staying within the Republican Party. My word of advice to them is to realize what Libertarians and Greens learned a long time ago: there are no friends in the duopoly Democratic and Republican parties when it comes to forming parties that represent a distinct political agenda removed from their control.