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San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer wrote a letter last month asking Gov. Jerry Brown to waive state environmental laws so the city can clear vegetation and debris from flood control channels.

Seventeen other regional mayors, as well as County Supervisor Bill Horn, also signed the letter. They want Brown to declare a state of emergency now because of El Niño, the weather pattern that is supposed to dump massive rainfall on Southern California.

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An emergency declaration would help cities skip over a lengthy and expensive permitting process that involves up to six different regulatory agencies. Brown was already expected to issue some sort of El Niño-related executive order, but if and when that will come and what it will say is uncertain.

Environmentalists are worried the city of San Diego is asking for permission to denude the region’s rivers and streams. Plus, they argue the city fails to do routine channel clearing, then ends up relying on emergency permits.

David Gibson, the head of San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board, a state regulator, said the city does have some needed projects that he would approve. But he compared a project list to a flock of sheep: Among the sheep, Gibson warned, may be wolves in sheep’s clothing that could be “rushed through with the rest of the flock.”

If there is an emergency declaration, the city would still have to do environmental mitigation after the immediate flood control work ends. That means if the city rips out some precious bird habitat, it has to create new habitat for birds somewhere else. That’s expensive.

Bill Harris, a spokesman for the city storm water program, said mitigation can add up to a $1 million to the cost of a project. The work itself sometimes only costs a few hundred thousand dollars.

Ry Rivard

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

 Sen. Ben Hueso was among the stampede of lawmakers and journalists to try out the new cross-border airport terminal connecting San Diego to Tijuana’s airport.

Photo courtesy of state Sen. Ben Hueso
Photo courtesy of state Sen. Ben Hueso

As a member of the San Diego City Council, Hueso pushed for the project.

“This is a unique project that would facilitate airline travel for the region which includes two major international cities. This project will provide tremendous regional and local benefit,” Hueso wrote in a 2010 memo to the mayor and City Council.

 At least one Democratic lawmaker is withdrawing her support of California’s bullet train project. Assemblywoman Patty Lopez, who represents the San Fernando Valley, told the L.A. Times the project would cut through her district, and that she believes other priorities are more important. She also said other Democrats are reconsidering their support but declined to name them.

 Deep thoughts, featuring Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez:

Sometimes I go sit at a bus stop in the middle of my district, just to watch. It reminds me who I work for. I highly recommend it.

— Lorena Gonzalez (@LorenaSGonzalez) December 8, 2015

The State of Sex Ed

EdSource has created a cool little stop-motion video explaining the state of sex education in California, and the many decisions that got us to this point.

Among them: A Fresno court decision from earlier this year that found “Access to medically accurate and age-appropriate sex education is an important public right,” and a bill written by San Diego Assemblywoman Shirley Weber and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown this year that ensures students receive comprehensive curriculum about sexual health and contraception.

Anderson: Supes Bid Is Real

Even after state Sen. Joel Anderson got a ginormous $200,000 check from San Diego County Republicans for his bid to oust fellow Republican County Supervisor Dianne Jacob, people wondered whether he was really going through with the race. After all, he’s also raising funds for a 2018 Assembly bid.

On Thursday at his legislative open house in El Cajon, Anderson put the rumors to rest: “There’s a reason why I’ve been walking precincts every weekend. There’s a reason why I’ve raised $270,000 in the supervisors race,” he told KUSI. “I know that my opponent likes to say that I’m not running, but everybody in my district knows I’m running.”

Chavez’s Outspoken Week

Back in February, before Oceanside Assemblyman Rocky Chavez had officially jumped into the U.S. Senate race, he told me that it was too early for Republicans to write off the possibility of winning, and thought GOP donors in D.C. seemed receptive to his candidacy.

That optimism has worn off.

This week, Chavez excoriated state Republicans for sleeping on the race – or even actively encouraging people not to donate – in an interview with the Sacramento Bee:

“We have a good message as a party and California needs it,” he said. “Thirty percent of the population is in poverty. You have schools that aren’t (performing.) We passed a bond for water and haven’t done a damn thing for it. Stand up. This is not a blue state. This is a pragmatic state. It needs to hear our message.”

• Also this week, Chavez joined protestors desperate to see more state funding for disability service providers.

Earlier this year, the Legislature convened a special session that was supposed to directly deal with the issue, but then, in a shocking turn of events, didn’t.

• The Union-Tribune editorial board applauded Chavez’s latest anti-Donald Trump comments.

California’s Paris Takeover Continues

California’s moment in the global spotlight continued this week. While California politicians aren’t actually part of the official negotiations at the Paris climate talks, the state is being looked to as a model for effective climate policies. Countries like China are trying to learn from the state’s cap-and-trade program and Los Angeles’ battles with smog.

Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger echoed this sentiment, telling Politico that when it comes to climate change policy, “as long as people will be smart enough to follow California, they don’t have to reinvent the wheel at all.”

This has brought many state lawmakers, including Assemblywoman Toni Atkins and Gov. Jerry Brown (Rep. Scott Peters was supposed to be part of a U.S. House of Representatives delegation to the talks, but the trip was canceled due to other votes scheduled in the House for Thursday).

Schwarzenegger also pointed out that California should be a model nationally, specifically referring to California’s bipartisanship when it came to environmental laws and taking issue with Republicans in Congress who have taken a hardline against climate change.

But California leaders didn’t show up to the conference just to lead by example. As national governments falter in trying to enact effective policies, local governments – like states and cities – are already taking action to stem climate change. And Brown is using his time in Paris to strengthen relationships and forge agreements with other nations, like China, Germany and Mexico. The governor has also been spearheading an agreement between states and regions on the sidelines to further limit greenhouse gases.

California continues to plough ahead of the world with climate legislation unveiled this week. A state Senate bill sets targets for three short-lived climate pollutants – methane, hydrofluorocarbon gases (from air conditioners and refrigerators) and black carbon. These pollutants have been a hot topic at the Paris climate talks because managing them could be a quick way to reduce greenhouse gases.

As Brown put it during a speech in France on Sunday, “We’re just warming up.”

Maya Srikrishnan

Golden State News

• Attorney General Kamala Harris is dropping lots of cash in her Senate race on hotels and airfare, and Democrats aren’t happy about it. (Disclosure: My husband works for the attorney general’s office.) (National Journal)

• Meanwhile, Harris’ main Senate opponent, Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Santa Ana), is catching guff for saying 5 to 20 percent of Muslims “have a desire for a caliphate.” (Sacramento Bee)

• If there’s an agency that screams scandal, it’s the state Board of Equalization. This week, Bloomberg reported that the board’s chairman, Jerome Horton, directed almost $800,000 in charitable donations primarily to nonprofits tied to his wife.

• State Sen. Marty Block is getting props for his bill that lets community colleges begin issuing four-year bachelor’s degrees. (Sacramento Bee)

• Two of the proposed ballot measures cleared to start collecting signatures this week include one that would legalize marijuana, and Carl DeMaio’s initiative to reform public employee pensions statewide. (Secretary of State)

• A nice little pro-tip from David Lazarus: California’s Lemon Law protects electronics too. (L.A. Times)

Sara Libby

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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