Parks, Taxes & Fracking: Measures E, X, and Z Pass

November 10, 2016

While voters at the national level were rejecting the neoliberal consensus of the Democratic and Republican elites by hurling a human bomb into the White House, voters in Monterey County quietly banned fracking and voted to tax themselves to support parks and transportation projects.

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Garland Regional Park: The passage of Measure E ensures that popular parks, like Garland, will continue to be adequately funded.

Measure E

The Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District needed a 2/3 majority vote on Measure E to prevent an assessment on real property (amounting to about $25.00 per year on single family homes) from expiring. The Monterey Peninsula Taxpayers Association predictably opposed the Measure.

There was a time when the Taxpayers Association (formed in the 1960s to prevent a public takeover of the water system) carried enough clout that their opposition would likely have prevented the District from achieving the needed super majority. Not this time.

Peninsula residents overwhelmingly expressed their support for keeping the parks and wildlands managed by the District adequately funded and Measure E passed with a, more than comfortable, 71% of the vote.

Measure X

I’ve written before (in long and boring detail) about the difficulties of getting the 2/3 vote needed to pass a transportation sales tax measure and become a “self-help” county, but it looks like the Transportation Agency for Monterey County has finally succeeded (this was their fifth try) by a razor thin margin of 67.36%.

This result was made possible by getting the environmental community on board (mainly by including $20 million for a bike and pedestrian trail to be built on the former Ft. Ord), while otherwise making the measure car-centric enough to avoid opposition from the Hospitality Association and Farm Bureau (both of which threatened to oppose the Measure due to the trail funding but, in the end, did not).

Measure Z

Oil interests, led by Chevron, probably set some kind of Monterey County record by spending more than $5 million in their unsuccessful effort to defeat Measure Z. On a dollars-per-vote-gained basis, though, they will probably still fall short of the better than $217 per vote Cal Am spent in 2014 to prevent the Monterey Peninsula Water District from finding out whether public ownership of the water system would make economic sense.

In an even marginally sane and science-driven world, Monterey County’s extremely carbon intensive oil (dirtier even than the infamous Canadian tar sands) would have been taken out of production more than 20 years ago (the urgent need to radically reduce carbon emissions was internationally recognized in 1988, let’s not forget), so Measure Z, which allows current operations to continue, is hardly a radical measure. It is, in fact, little more than a first tentative step toward protecting our water and climate. But the planet’s most powerful and irresponsible industries do not suffer interference in their operations gladly.

With nearly 56% of voters in favor, in spite of opponents outspending proponents by better than 30 to 1, this was an extremely impressive victory. Hopefully, it is a victory that will inspire others to take similar grassroots level action. The prospects for leadership on climate issues at the national and international levels aren’t looking so good.


Is a Sane Evacuation Policy Too Much to Ask For?

August 24, 2016

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Dealing with disaster is hard enough already. The rules shouldn’t make it harder.

The way we handle evacuations is broken. Current policy actually encourages people to ignore evacuation orders and has, during the Soberanes Fire, led to a wide variety of injustices and absurdities. Read the rest of this entry »


A Boring Post About Transportation Policy

April 24, 2016

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Traffic

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in eight years of blogging, it’s that if you want anyone to read your stuff, don’t write about transportation issues. My 2008 posts examining the Transportation Agency for Monterey County’s failed efforts to pass a transportation sales tax measure remain, by a considerable margin, the least popular pages on this site. Last month’s post about current water levels in South County reservoirs got more page views in a few days than transportation-related posts get in years. Read the rest of this entry »


Dogs Banned from Carmel Beach

April 1, 2016

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The end of an era

The City of Carmel announced today that dogs have been banned from the Carmel Beach effective immediately. The ban is the result of a determination that the sound of barking constitutes a public health emergency. While monitoring of decibel levels near the beach has failed to find any instances of barking that exceeds government noise standards, the City believes those standards aren’t strict enough and that Scenic Road residents, in spite of having bought property next to a public beach, simply can’t be expected to put up with the sound of dogs frolicking in the surf and chasing each other in circles on the sand.

“Even extremely low levels of noise can be detrimental to physical and emotional health,” says a City spokesman, “and people living in multi-million dollar homes seem to be particularly vulnerable. Now that we’ve learned about the impacts of noise, we can’t pretend we don’t know how harmful it is. ”

Dogs are banned from most beaches in California and this has led to a gradual increase in the number of dogs visiting the Carmel Beach. While noise has only recently emerged as an issue, many Carmel residents have been complaining for years about an increase in visits by mangy mutts from outside the City of Carmel.

“I know it’s not politically correct to say this,” warns a member of the City Council, “but 70% of the dogs on the beach these days are not purebreds from the City of Carmel. These outside dogs just don’t have enough respect for the sensitive feelings of our residents. They just aren’t our kind of dogs.”

“Just to be clear, though,” interjects another member of the Council, “that has nothing to do with the decision to impose a ban. The ban is only because of the extreme public health emergency being created by barking.”

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A Carmel dog drowns his sorrow over the closing of the beach


The Sorry State of Water Conservation on the Monterey Peninsula

February 5, 2016

For years local officials have waived off suggestions that the Monterey Peninsula could do more to save water by falsely claiming that “residents of the Monterey Peninsula use less water per person per day than anywhere else in the state.” They’ve even gone so far as to publish fraudulent figures purporting to support this claim.

The purpose of this grandiose bragging has been to promote approval of as large and growth-inducing a new water project, whether dam or desal, as possible. That effort appears to have succeeded, but at the cost of undercutting efforts to increase water conservation. Read the rest of this entry »


Steelhead Lose Again at Carmel River Mouth

January 11, 2016

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Slowly rising lagoon

A few days ago, everything was working out perfectly for the Carmel River’s remnant steelhead population. With the San Clemente Dam gone, the door was open for more young steelhead smolts to safely reach the lagoon, and eventually the sea, than had been possible for many years. Then, relatively gentle rains put enough flow in the river to provide easy fish passage from the higher elevation tributaries to the lagoon, but not enough to breach the high summer sandbar at the lagoon mouth. Behind the bar, the slowly filling lagoon was becoming an ideal habitat for young steelhead to undergo the rapid growth and physiological changes necessary to survive at sea. Read the rest of this entry »


Coastal Commission to Weigh in on Carmel Beach Fires

December 8, 2015

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Carmel Beach

If you’re sitting at a city council meeting and hear the mayor proudly describe how he got the head of a government agency to write a letter threatening to take enforcement action against the city, you’re probably not really in Bizarro World or the Twilight Zone; you’re just in Carmel and the item on the agenda is beach fires. Read the rest of this entry »