State Government

State Supreme Court decides for City of Marina against CSU

Submitted: Aug 01, 2006

The California Supreme Court yesterday decided the Marina, City of v. Board of Trustees (CSU) case in favor of Marina. The state high court found that the argument of California State University, Monterey Bay that state agencies have no obligation to pay for off-site mitigation, defined in environmental impact reports arising from their construction or expansion, was without merit.

The San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center, Protect Our Water and the Central Valley Safe Environment Network filed an amicus brief on the side of the City of Marina, et al. The University of California filed an amicus brief on the side of CSU.

Below, you will find a newspaper article, the docket of the case, and the state Supreme Court decision.
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Modesto Bee
CSU must fund Monterey Bay...AP
http://www.modbee.com/state_wire/story/12526098p-13239942c.html
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - California State University cannot skirt its financial obligations to the environment if it wants to expand its Monterey Bay campus, the California Supreme Court unanimously ruled Monday. A CSU spokeswoman said trustees would negotiate a payment plan with the Fort Ord Reuse Authority and would ask California lawmakers to pick up that tab for the growing 1,375-acre campus.
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For more information on this case, please go to:
http://appellatecases.courtinfo.ca.gov/search/dockets.cfm?dist=0&doc_id=281894
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Docket (Register of Actions)
MARINA, CITY OF v. BOARD OF TRUSTEESCase Number S117816

Date Description Notes
07/29/2003 Received: petition for review from resp Fort Ord Reuse Authority. (did not contain proper cert. of word count, counsel is sending it)

07/29/2003 Petition for review filed by counsel for resp Fort Ord Reuse Authority (word count cert rec'd)

08/04/2003 Received Court of Appeal record 1 envelope and briefs.

08/19/2003 Answer to petition for review filed by counsel for appellant (Board of Trustees of the California State University). (timely per rule 40k)

09/18/2003 Time extended to grant or deny review The time for granting or denying review in the above-entitled matter is hereby extended to and including October 27, 2003, or the date upon which review is either granted or denied.

10/01/2003 Petition for review granted (civil case) Votes: George, C.J., Kennard, Baxter, Werdegar, Chin, Brown and Moreno, JJ.

10/06/2003 Record requested requested balance of record.

10/07/2003 Received Court of Appeal record balance of record.

10/14/2003 Certification of interested entities or persons filed By counsel for Respondent {Fort Ord Reuse Authority}.

10/15/2003 Request for extension of time filed by respondent (Fort Ord Reuse Authority) requesting to Dec. 15, 2003 to file opening brief on the merits.

10/17/2003 Certification of interested entities or persons filed by counsel for appellant (Board of Trustees of the Calif. State University).

10/20/2003 Extension of time granted On application of respondent (Fort Ord Reuse Authority) and good cause appearing, it is ordered that the time to serve and file the opening brief on the merits is extended to and including Dec. 15, 2003. No further extensions are contemplated.

12/15/2003 Request for extension of time filed respondent requesting to Dec. 29, 2003 to file opening brief on the merits. (Recv'd fax from attorney Susan M. Popik on behalf of attorney Mary L. Hudson, counsel for respondent.)

12/17/2003 Extension of time granted On application submitted by Susan Popik on behalf of counsel for respondent and good cause appearing, it is ordered that the time to serve and file the opening brief on the merits is extended to and including December 29, 2003.

12/30/2003 Opening brief on the merits filed by counsel for respondent (Fort Ord Reuse Authority). (40k)

01/05/2004 Received: Errata notice from counsel for respondent regarding opening brief on the merits filed 12/30/03. Provided page 50 that was missing from brief.

01/22/2004 Request for extension of time filed by counsel for appellant requesting a 30 day extension to file the answer brief on the merits.

01/26/2004 Extension of time granted On application of appellant and good cause appearing, it is ordered that the time to serve and file the answer brief on the merits is extended to and including March 1, 2004.

01/27/2004 Received Court of Appeal record two boxes

02/17/2004 Filed: application for leave to file answer brief on the merits in excess of 14000 words - from appellant.

02/17/2004 Answer brief on the merits filed with permission by counsel for appellant (Board of Trustees of the Calif. State University.

03/09/2004 Reply brief filed (case fully briefed) with permission by counsel for respondent. (tan covers - should be white) (40k)

04/06/2004 Received application to file amicus curiae brief from the Regents of the University of California in support of appellant

04/07/2004 Received application to file amicus curiae brief City of Davis in support of Respondents.

04/07/2004 Request for extension of time to file amicus curiae brief by The Coalition for Adequate School Housing ("CASH") requesting a 20-day extension.

04/07/2004 Received application to file amicus curiae brief by League of California Cities and the California State Association of Counties in support of respondent Fort Ord Reuse Authority.

04/08/2004 Received application to file amicus curiae brief by West Davis Neighbors in support of respondents City of Marina and Fort Ord Reuse Authority.

04/08/2004 Received application to file amicus curiae brief by San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center, Protect Our Water, and Central Valley Safe Environmental Network in support of respondent Fort Ord Reuse Authority.

04/12/2004 Permission to file amicus curiae brief granted The Regents of the University of California in support of appellant.

04/12/2004 Amicus curiae brief filed The Regents of the University of California in support of appellant. Answer is due within twenty days.

04/12/2004 Permission to file amicus curiae brief granted City of Davis in support of Respondent {Fort Ord Reuse Authority}.

04/12/2004 Amicus curiae brief filed City of Davis in support of respondent {Fort Ord Reuse Authority}. Answer is due within twenty days.

04/12/2004 Permission to file amicus curiae brief granted League of California Cities and California State Association of Counties in support of Respondent {Fort Ord Reuse Authority}.

04/12/2004 Amicus curiae brief filed League of California Cities and California State Association of Counties in support of Respondent {Fort Ord Reuse Authority}. Answer is within twenty days.

04/12/2004 Extension of time granted To April 28, 2004 to file application and amicus brief of Coalition for Adequate School Housing.

04/12/2004 Permission to file amicus curiae brief granted San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center, Protect Our Water and Central Valley Safe Environmental Network in support of respondent {Fort Ord Reuse Authority}.

04/12/2004 Amicus curiae brief filed San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center, Protect Our Water and Central Valley Safe Environmental Network in support of respondent {Fort Ord Reuse Authority}.Answer is due within twenty days.

04/13/2004 Opposition filed By Respondent Fort Ord Reuse Authority to request for extension of time filed by Adequate School Housing.

04/13/2004 Permission to file amicus curiae brief granted West Davis Neighbors in support of Respondents.

04/13/2004 Amicus curiae brief filed West Davis Neighbors in support of Respondents. Answer is due within twenty days.

04/19/2004 Filed: JOINT Application of ( Applt. Bd. of Trustees and Resp. Fort Ord.) for extension of time to May 18, 2004, to file one consolidated answer to amicus curiae briefs.

04/21/2004 Request for extension of time filed

04/26/2004 Extension of time granted for Appellant and Respondents to serve and file one consolidated Answer to Amicus Curiae briefs to May 18, 2004.

04/29/2004 Received application to file amicus curiae brief Coalition for Adequate School Housing.

05/03/2004 Permission to file amicus curiae brief granted The Coalition For Adequate School Housing. Answer due within 20 days.

05/03/2004 Amicus curiae brief filed The Coalition for Adequate School Housing in support of Appellant. Answer due within in 20 days.

05/18/2004 Response to amicus curiae brief filed By appellant {Board of Trustees of the California State University} to AC Briefs.

05/19/2004 Response to amicus curiae brief filed Respondent ( Fort Ord) one consolidated brief.

04/04/2006 Case ordered on calendar Tuesday, May 2, 2006, at 1:30 p.m., in San Francisco

04/21/2006 Supplemental brief filed Fort Ord Reuse Authority, respondent Sheri L. Damon, counsel

05/02/2006 Cause argued and submitted

07/27/2006 Received: letter dated July 25, 2006, regarding recent decision of a Court of Appeal case, # D046728 Fort Ord Reuse Authority, respondent Mary L. Hudson, counsel

07/31/2006 Opinion filed: Judgment reversed and the cause remanded to that court with directions to order the superior court to vacate its writ of mandate and to issue a new writ consistent with the views set forth in this opinion.Majority Opinion by Werdegar, J. joined by George, C.J., Kennard, Baxter, Moreno and Corrigan, JJ. Concurring & Dissenting Opinion by Chin, J.

Filed 7/31/06
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IN THE SUPREME COURT OF CALIFORNIA

CITY OF MARINA et al., )
) S117816
Plaintiffs and Respondents, )
) Ct.App. 6 H023158
v. )
) Monterey County
BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE ) Super. Ct. Nos.
CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY, ) M41795 & M41781
)
Defendant and Appellant. )

The Fort Ord Reuse Authority (FORA) challenges an environmental impact report (EIR) prepared by the Board of Trustees of the California State University (Trustees). The EIR concerns the Trustees’ plan to expand a small campus into a major institution that will enroll 25,000 students. The planned expansion will have significant effects on the physical environment throughout Fort Ord, the former Army base on which the campus is located. While the Trustees have agreed to mitigate effects occurring on the campus itself, they have disclaimed responsibility for mitigating some effects occurring off campus. In particular, the Trustees have refused to share the cost of certain infrastructure improvements proposed by FORA, the base’s new civilian governing authority. FORA challenges the Trustees’ decision to certify the EIR despite the remaining, unmitigated effects as an abuse of discretion under the California Environmental Quality Act (Pub. Resources Code, § 21000 et seq.) (CEQA). Like the superior court, we conclude the Trustees have abused their discretion and thus reverse the Court of Appeal’s contrary decision.

I. FACTUAL, LEGAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Fort Ord is a former United States Army base on the Pacific Coast, about five miles north of Monterey and 125 miles south of San Francisco. The base lies on the northern end of Monterey Bay, an important tourist destination known for its scenic beauty and historic sites. In 1994, the Department of Defense formally closed the base and transferred 27,000 acres (over 42 square miles) to a variety of governmental entities and local organizations. The closure created both problems and opportunities for the region. On one hand, the loss of one of the nation’s largest military installations threatened to disrupt the local economy. On the other hand, valuable land that for over 75 years had been exclusively controlled by the Army became available for civilian economic development.

To provide a government for the former base and to manage its transition to civilian use, the Legislature enacted the Fort Ord Reuse Authority Act (Gov. Code, § 67650 et seq.) (hereafter the FORA Act or the act). Effective May 9, 1994, the act authorized FORA’s creation and conferred upon it governmental powers and duties within the former base that prevail over those of any other local governmental entity. (Id., § 67657, subd. (c).) FORA’s general statutory purpose is “to plan for, finance, and carry out the transfer and reuse of the base in a cooperative, coordinated, balanced, and decisive manner.” (Gov. Code, § 67652, subd. (a).) The act also charges FORA with the more specific policy goals of “facilitat[ing] the transfer and reuse of the real and other property [of the base] . . . with all practical speed,” “minimiz[ing] the disruption caused by the base’s closure on the civilian economy and the people of the Monterey Bay area,” “maintain[ing] and protect[ing] the unique environmental resources of the area,” and accomplishing these tasks “in ways that enhance the economy and quality of life of the Monterey Bay community.” (Id., § 67651, subds. (a)-(d).) The 13 members of FORA’s governing board are appointed by local governments neighboring the base—Monterey County and the Cities of Carmel, Del Rey Oaks, Marina, Monterey, Pacific Grove, Salinas, Sand City and Seaside. (Id., § 67660.) Also on the board are 10 ex officio, nonvoting members, including one appointed by the Chancellor of the California State University. (Id., § 67661.)

The charter for Fort Ord’s future use and development is the statutorily mandated Base Reuse Plan (hereafter Reuse Plan), which FORA adopted on June 13, 1997. (See Gov. Code, § 67675 et seq.) The plan addresses land use, transportation, conservation, recreation and capital improvement in Fort Ord until the year 2015. (See id., § 67675, subd. (c).) Pursuant to the plan, FORA will make land available over time for a wide range of civilian uses, including residential housing, business, light industry, research and development, visitor services, recreation and education. All such development will require improvements to the infrastructure the Army left behind. Recognizing this, the Legislature gave FORA the power and duty to prepare the base’s infrastructure for civilian development. In the words of the act, FORA “shall identify those basewide public capital facilities . . . that serve residents or will serve future residents of the base territory” (Gov. Code, § 67679, subd. (a)(1)) and “shall undertake to plan for and arrange the provision of those facilities, including arranging for their financing and construction or repair, remodeling, or replacement” (ibid.; see also id., § 67675, subd. (c)(5) [Reuse Plan must include capital improvement plan]).

FORA has, as the Legislature directed, prepared a capital improvement plan identifying public facilities that need construction or improvement and projecting future expenditures for that purpose through the year 2015. (See Gov. Code, § 67675, subd. (c)(5).) The facilities FORA has identified include elements of Fort Ord’s infrastructure for transportation (mainly roadways), water supply and distribution, wastewater management, drainage, and fire protection, among other things. FORA plans to improve these facilities over the life of the Reuse Plan, as increasing land use necessitates the improvements and as funding becomes available. Funding is not expected to come through legislative appropriations. Instead, the Legislature has directed FORA to arrange its own financing as it sees fit (Gov. Code, § 67679, subd. (a)(1)), employing any of several funding methods authorized in the FORA Act. FORA may, for example, “levy assessments, reassessments, or special taxes and issue bonds” under existing laws governing public finance (id., § 67679, subd. (d)), “levy development fees on development projects within the area of the base” (id., § 67679, subd. (e)) pursuant to the Mitigation Fee Act (id., § 66000 et seq.), sell or lease land (id., § 67678, subd. (a)), and “seek state and federal grants and loans or other assistance” (id., § 67679, subd. (c)). FORA and its local-government member agencies (id., § 67660) may also provide by contract for the transfer of tax revenues (id., § 67691) and/or adopt programs of local revenue sharing (id., § 67692).

In order to determine the long-term financial viability of the Reuse Plan, FORA has prepared a Comprehensive Business Plan setting out assumptions about projected revenue and expenditures. As part of this exercise—one obviously subject to numerous contingencies given the long planning horizon—FORA has projected that it will spend $249.2 million to improve Fort Ord’s infrastructure over the 20-year life of the Reuse Plan, i.e., from 1996 to 2015. FORA projects that the largest part of its operational revenue over the same period will derive from the sale of land and from a one-time special tax under the Mello-Roos Community Facilities Act of 1982 (Gov. Code, § 53311 et seq.). Other revenue is expected to come through local development fees, water and sewer fees, a grant from the federal Economic Development Administration, and the annual dues of FORA’s members.

The California State University (CSU) is the largest university system in the United States. Governed by the Trustees, CSU’s 23 campuses across the state collectively enroll 405,000 students and employ 44,000 faculty and staff. CSU Monterey Bay (CSUMB), which occupies 1,370 acres transferred by the Army to CSU in 1994, is presently the main user of the base. CSUMB opened in 1995 with 633 students, using existing military buildings, and now enrolls approximately 3,800 students, 2,600 of whom live on campus. From this modest beginning the Trustees plan to expand enrollment at CSUMB greatly over the next few decades, eventually reaching the target enrollment of 25,000 full-time equivalent (FTE ) students in the year 2030. On May 13, 1998, the Trustees approved a Campus Master Plan (hereafter Master Plan) to guide CSUMB toward this target. Under the Master Plan, CSUMB’s resident population of students, faculty, staff and household members would gradually increase to 10,350. The campus’s average daily population, which also includes students who commute, would grow to 19,000.

Together with the Master Plan for CSUMB, the Trustees also prepared and certified an EIR. The EIR is the focus of the environmental review process and, as we have explained, “the primary means” of achieving the state’s declared policy of taking “ ‘all action necessary to protect, rehabilitate, and enhance the environmental quality of the state.’ ” (Laurel Heights Improvement Assn. v. Regents of University of California (1988) 47 Cal.3d 376, 392, quoting Pub. Resources Code, § 21000, subd. (a); see also CEQA Guidelines, § 15003, subd. (a).) The EIR’s more specific purposes are “to identify the significant effects on the environment of a project, to identify alternatives to the project, and to indicate the manner in which those significant effects can be mitigated or avoided.” (Pub. Resources Code, § 21002.1, subd. (a).) CEQA expressly requires that an EIR accompany the Master Plan for CSUMB. “The selection of a location for a particular campus and the approval of a long range development plan are subject to [CEQA] and require the preparation of an [EIR].” (Id., § 21080.09, subd. (b).) The Trustees necessarily serve as the “lead agency” (id., § 21067) responsible for preparing and certifying the EIR (id., § 21100, subd. (a)) because they possess “full power and responsibility in the construction and development of any state university campus” (Ed. Code, § 66606) and thus final authority to approve or disapprove the Master Plan.

In their EIR for CSUMB, the Trustees have determined that expanding CSUMB to accommodate 25,000 students will have many significant effects on the physical environment of Fort Ord. CEQA requires “[e]ach public agency [to] mitigate or avoid the significant effects on the environment of projects that it carries out or approves whenever it is feasible to do so” (Pub. Resources Code, § 21002.1, subd. (b)) and to discuss feasible methods of mitigation in the EIR (id., § 21100, subd. (b)(3); CEQA Guidelines, § 15126.4, subd. (a)(1); see also Pub. Res. Code, § 21002.1, subd. (a) [one purpose of the EIR is “to indicate the manner in which . . . significant effects can be mitigated or avoided”].) In fact, the Trustees’ EIR does identify and adopt specific measures that the Trustees have found will mitigate most of the environmental effects of campus expansion to a level that is less than significant. Full mitigation of five remaining effects, however, will require action not just by the Trustees on the CSUMB campus but also by FORA on a basewide or regional basis. These remaining effects have become the subject of this litigation.

The Trustees’ EIR describes the five remaining environmental effects, for which the Trustees have not provided full mitigation, as follows: (1) Drainage: “Construction of new buildings and facilities will increase impervious surfaces and runoff, and could result in localized drainage problems and/or flows exceeding storm drain capacities, if storm drainage facilities are not adequately sized and maintained.” (2) Water supply: “CSUMB water demand will contribute incremental demands on existing deficient facilities and/or non-existent facilities.” (3) Traffic: “Campus-related traffic will result in a decrease in level of service from D to E[ ] at the [Light Fighter] Drive/North-South Road intersection[ ] during the PM peak period in the year 2005, from D to E along Del Monte Blvd. between Reindollar [Avenue] and Reservation Road[ ] in the years 2005 and 2015, and will contribute to Highway 1 impacts in the years 2015 and 2030.” (4) Wastewater management: “Campus growth will result in increased wastewater generation that can be accommodated by the existing wastewater treatment system, but will contribute flows to currently deficient sewer lines.” (5) Fire protection: “Campus population and facility growth will result in increased demand for fire protection services.”

Before a public agency, such as the Trustees, may approve a project for which the EIR has identified significant effects on the environment, such as the Master Plan for CSUMB, the agency must make one or more of the findings required by section 21081 of the Public Resources Code. The required findings constitute the principal means chosen by the Legislature to enforce the state’s declared policy “that public agencies should not approve projects as proposed if there are feasible alternatives or feasible mitigation measures available which would substantially lessen the significant environmental effects of such projects . . . .” (Id., § 21002; see also id., § 21002.1, subd. (a).) More specifically, the agency must find that the project’s significant environmental effects have been mitigated or avoided (id., § 21081, subd. (a)(1)), that the measures necessary for mitigation “are within the responsibility and jurisdiction of another public agency and have been, or can and should be, adopted by that other agency” (id., subd. (a)(2)), and/or that “specific economic, legal, social, technological, or other considerations” render mitigation “infeasible” (id., subd. (a)(3)). When the agency finds that mitigation is infeasible, the agency must also find “that specific overriding economic, legal, social, technological, or other benefits of the project outweigh the significant effects on the environment.” (Id., subd. (b).)

In their EIR, the Trustees have identified and adopted a variety of measures they have found will partially mitigate the five remaining environmental effects noted above. Full mitigation of these effects to the level of insignificance will, however, as the EIR specifically notes, require FORA to improve Fort Ord’s infrastructure. In fact, FORA’s own planning documents take the Trustees’ plans for CSUMB into account and propose specific infrastructure improvements that will fully mitigate the expanding campus’s remaining effects on water supply, drainage, wastewater management, traffic, and fire protection. Concerning each of these effects, the Trustees have declared in their formal findings certifying the EIR and approving the Master Plan (see Pub. Resources Code, § 21081) that the implementation of FORA’s proposed improvements constitutes the “specific measure to mitigate [each of CSUMB’s corresponding environmental impacts] to the level of insignificance . . . .”

As part of its long-term planning process, FORA adopted the assumption that that CSUMB would pay, as its share of the cost of infrastructure improvements, 18 annual installments of $1.139 million each, beginning in fiscal year 1997/1998 and ending in fiscal year 2015/2016, for a total contribution over time of approximately $20.5 million. At the present time, however, FORA has not imposed any tax, fee or charge on CSUMB or proposed to do so. Instead, FORA hopes to reach agreement with the Trustees on their fair share of the cost of infrastructure improvements. The Trustees, however, have refused to contribute any amount to FORA for improvements in roads and fire protection, even while finding that FORA’s proposed improvements constitute the specific measures necessary to mitigate CSUMB’s effects in these areas. Accordingly, the Trustees cannot logically find and, indeed, have not found that CSUMB’s effects have been fully mitigated. Instead, to justify certifying the EIR and approving the Master Plan despite the remaining, unmitigated effects, the Trustees rely on the following three alternative findings: (1) improvements to roads and fire protection are the responsibility of FORA rather than of the Trustees; (2) mitigation is infeasible because the Trustees may not legally contribute funds toward these improvements; and (3) the planned expansion of CSUMB offers overriding benefits that outweigh any remaining unmitigated effects on the environment. (See Pub. Resources Code, § 21081, subds. (a)(2), (3) & (b).)

While the Trustees have refused to contribute any amount for improvements in roads and fire protection, they are willing to contribute for improvements in water supply, drainage and wastewater management, albeit not in the amount FORA has proposed. Instead, the Trustees propose to contribute through the procedure set out in chapter 13.7 of the Government Code (section 54999 et seq.). Chapter 13.7 authorizes a public utility that is providing a public utility service to a public educational agency to impose a capital facilities fee on the latter “after agreement has been reached between the two agencies through negotiations entered into by both parties.” (Gov. Code, § 54999.3, subd. (b).) The resulting dispute over the amount of the Trustees’ contribution creates uncertainty about the extent to which CSUMB’s off-campus environmental effects will be mitigated. Accordingly, to justify certifying the EIR and approving the Master Plan for CSUMB, the Trustees have made alternative findings of the same type used to address CSUMB’s effects on roads and fire protection. Specifically, the Trustees have found that (1) the basewide infrastructure improvements proposed by FORA constitute the specific measures necessary to mitigate CSUMB’s effects to the level of insignificance, (2) the mitigation of CSUMB’s effects on drainage, water supply, and wastewater management are FORA’s responsibility, and (3) overriding circumstances justify certifying the EIR and approving the Master Plan despite any remaining unmitigated effects.

In an appendix to the EIR addressing public comments, the Trustees explain why they have refused to contribute toward improvements in roads and fire protection, and why they have agreed to contribute toward improvements in drainage, water supply and wastewater management only through the procedure established in chapter 13.7 of the Government Code (§ 54999 et seq.), even though these decisions will leave some environmental effects unmitigated. Whether the Trustees, in view of the unmitigated effects, properly exercised their discretion to certify the EIR and to approve the Master Plan for CSUMB depends in large part on whether they have correctly understood the nature and scope of their obligation to contribute to FORA. We thus briefly summarize the relevant portion of the appendix, which effectively defined the issues in the lower courts and anticipated the Trustees’ arguments in the present proceeding.

CSUMB’s land, the Trustees observe in the appendix to the EIR, is exempt from taxation as “[p]roperty owned by the State” under article XIII, section 3, subdivision (a) of the California Constitution. This constitutional provision has been interpreted as implicitly immunizing state-owned property from special assessments imposed by local governments, except as authorized by the Legislature. (San Marcos Water Dist. v. San Marcos Unified School Dist. (1986) 42 Cal.3d 154, 160-161 (San Marcos).) In reaction to San Marcos, the Legislature passed a law (chapter 13.7 of the Government Code, beginning with section 54999) authorizing any public agency that provides public utility services to a public educational agency to impose a “[c]apital facilities fee” on the latter “after agreement has been reached between the two agencies through negotiations entered into by both parties.” (Gov. Code, § 54999.3, subd. (b).) This law, which addresses only fees intended to “pay the capital cost of a public utility facility” (id., § 54999.1, subd. (b)), defines “ ‘[p]ublic utility facility’ ” for these purposes as “a facility for the provision of water, light, heat, communications, power, or garbage service, for flood control, drainage or sanitary purposes, or for sewage collection, treatment, or disposal” (id., subd. (d)). The FORA Act, in turn, provides that “[t]he applicability of any capital facilities fees imposed under this title [i.e., the FORA Act] to public educational agencies shall be subject to the provisions of Chapter 13.7 [of the Government Code] (commencing with section 54999) . . . .” (Gov. Code, § 67685.)

Based on these authorities, the Trustees conclude in the appendix that the Legislature has in effect authorized FORA to impose fees on CSUMB for the purposes mentioned in chapter 13.7 of the Government Code (e.g., water, drainage and sewage; see id., § 54999.1, subd. (d)) but not for any other purposes not mentioned (e.g., roads and fire protection). Any payment to FORA for a purpose not mentioned in the section, the Trustees conclude, even a voluntary payment made in order to mitigate CSUMB’s environmental effects, would amount to an assessment prohibited by the state Constitution, as interpreted in San Marcos, supra, 42 Cal.3d 154, and constitute a gift of public funds. Having thus concluded that any contribution by CSUMB to mitigate the campus’s effects on roads and fire protection would be unlawful, the Trustees further conclude that to mitigate these effects is “infeasible,” presumably for “legal” reasons (see Pub. Resources Code, § 21081, subd. (a)(3)), and thus not required by CEQA because, in the Trustees’ view, overriding considerations justify proceeding with the project despite the unmitigated effects (see id., § 21081, subd. (b)).

A lengthy statement of overriding considerations accompanies the Trustees’ findings certifying the EIR and approving the Master Plan for CSUMB. In the statement, the Trustees reiterate the requirements of CEQA, the content of the EIR, the principal features of the Master Plan for CSUMB, and favorable public comments on the EIR. The following excerpts summarize some of the considerations underlying the Trustees’ conclusion that campus expansion will offer benefits that outweigh any remaining unmitigated effects on the environment: “The CSU has identified the need for a university in the Monterey Bay area that addresses the projected demand for postsecondary education in the state of California by accommodating 25,000 [FTE students] at buildout. CSU recognizes official projections of future increases in the number of students to be served . . . which cannot be accommodated within [the] existing system capacity of the CSU. The reuse of Fort Ord for this purpose is particularly advantageous to the CSU because of the difficulty in acquiring campus-size parcels, the value of existing development on the site, and the attractive location of the site in the Monterey area. The master plan has been designed to provide an institution that will effectively serve the mission of the CSU system.” In addition, development of the campus will offer higher education to “historically underrepresented populations and cultures of the state of California,” “foster economic revitalization of a region impacted by closure of the largest residential military training facility in the nation” and “create job opportunities for approximately 2,760 faculty and staff as well as significant additional employment in university support activities.”

On May 13, 1998, the Trustees adopted resolutions approving the statement of overriding considerations, certifying the EIR, and approving the Master Plan for CSUMB. Thereafter, FORA and the City of Marina filed separate petitions for writ of mandate challenging the Trustees’ actions. The petitions alleged, among other things, that the Trustees had (1) failed to identify and adopt existing, feasible measures to mitigate significant effects on the environment described in the EIR, (2) improperly certified the EIR and approved the Master Plan despite the availability of feasible mitigation measures, (3) improperly disclaimed responsibility for mitigating CSUMB’s environmental effects, and (4) improperly relied on a statement of overriding considerations to justify certifying the EIR and approving the Master Plan.

The superior court granted the petitions, issued its writ of mandate directing the Trustees to vacate their actions certifying the EIR and approving the Master Plan, and to set aside the EIR’s statement of overriding considerations. A divided Court of Appeal reversed. We granted FORA’s petition for review.

II. DISCUSSION

The question before us is whether the Trustees have properly certified the EIR for CSUMB and, on that basis, approved the Master Plan. FORA contends the Trustees’ decision must be vacated because three findings critical to their decision depend on an erroneous legal assumption, namely, that the California Constitution precludes them from contributing to FORA, even for the purpose of mitigating the environmental effects identified in the EIR, except as expressly permitted by chapter 13.7 of the Government Code (§ 54999 et seq.). The first two challenged findings are (1) that the Trustees cannot feasibly mitigate CSUMB’s significant environmental effects and (2) that to mitigate CSUMB’s effects is not the Trustees’ responsibility. These two findings have, in turn, necessitated the third, which is (3) that overriding considerations justify certifying the EIR and approving the Master Plan despite the remaining unmitigated effects. (See generally Pub. Resources Code, § 21081.) We conclude FORA is correct and that the Trustees have abused their discretion.
We review the Trustees’ decision, as CEQA directs, under the abuse of discretion standard. (See Pub. Resources Code, § 21168.5.) For these purposes, “[a]buse of discretion is established if the agency has not proceeded in a manner required by law or if the determination or decision is not supported by substantial evidence.” (Ibid.) Although this standard would command much deference to factual and environmental conclusions in the EIR based on conflicting evidence (e.g., Laurel Heights Improvement Assn. v. Regents of University of California, supra, 47 Cal.3d 376, 393, 409), no such conclusions are here at issue. At issue, rather, are the Trustees’ findings that mitigation is infeasible and that mitigation is not their responsibility. These findings depend on a disputed question of law—a type of question we review de novo. De novo review of legal questions is consistent with the abuse of discretion standard. In the context of review for abuse of discretion, an agency’s “use of an erroneous legal standard constitutes a failure to proceed in a manner required by law.” (No Oil, Inc. v. City of Los Angeles (1974) 13 Cal.3d 68, 88; see also Save Our Peninsula Committee v. Monterey County Bd. of Supervisors (2001) 87 Cal.App.4th 99, 118 [“questions of interpretation or application of the requirements of CEQA are matters of law”].) De novo review of legal questions is also consistent with the principle that, in CEQA cases, “ ‘[t]he court does not pass upon the correctness of the EIR’s environmental conclusions, but only upon its sufficiency as an `informative document.’ ” (Laurel Heights Improvement Assn. v. Regents of University of California, supra, at p. 392, quoting County of Inyo v. City of Los Angeles (1977) 71 Cal.App.3d 185, 189.) An EIR that incorrectly disclaims the power and duty to mitigate identified environmental effects based on erroneous legal assumptions is not sufficient as an informative document.

A. Is Mitigation Infeasible?

1. Is mitigation infeasible because the Trustees may not lawfully contribute to FORA?

We consider first the Trustees’ finding that they cannot feasibly mitigate the environmental effects of their plan to expand the CSUMB campus. CEQA defines “ ‘[f]easible’ ” for these purposes as “capable of being accomplished in a successful manner within a reasonable period of time, taking into account economic, environmental, social, and technological factors.” (Pub. Resources Code, § 21061.1.) To this list, the CEQA Guidelines add “legal” factors. (CEQA Guidelines, § 15364; see also Pub. Resources Code, § 21081, subd. (a)(3).) The Trustees, by arguing the state Constitution prohibits them from voluntarily contributing funds to FORA as a form of mitigation, in effect take the position that such contributions are legally infeasible. We discuss here only the permissibility of voluntary payments by the Trustees. Some of the public financing laws that FORA has the power to invoke (see Gov. Code, § 67679, subd. (d)) would, as the Trustees acknowledge, permit FORA to assess state-owned property such as the CSUMB campus. FORA has not, however, attempted to impose an assessment.

The plain language of the California Constitution does not support the Trustees’ position that voluntary mitigation payments are impermissible. The provision on which the Trustees rely, article XIII, section 3, subdivision (a), provides simply that “[p]roperty owned by the State” is “exempt from property taxation . . . .” FORA has not imposed a tax on the Trustees. We have, however, interpreted the same constitutional provision as implicitly exempting publicly owned property from special assessments made without legislative authority. (Inglewood v. County of Los Angeles (1929) 207 Cal. 697, 703-704; see also Regents of University of California v. City of Los Angeles (1979) 100 Cal.App.3d 547, 549; County of Riverside v. Idyllwild County Water Dist. (1978) 84 Cal.App.3d 655, 659-660; cf. Regents of University of California v. City of Los Angeles (1983) 148 Cal.App.3d 451, 454, fn. 2 [questioning whether the exemption is grounded in policy considerations rather than the Constitution].) We reaffirmed this conclusion in San Marcos, supra, 42 Cal.3d 154, 160-161, the case on which the Trustees principally rely. The Trustees, as noted, argue based on San Marcos that any payment by themselves to FORA for the purpose of improving Fort Ord’s infrastructure would constitute a special assessment prohibited in the absence of legislative authority. The Trustees find in chapter 13.7 of the Government Code (§ 54999 et seq.) legislative authority for payments related to subjects mentioned therein, such as water, drainage and sewage collection (id., § 54999.1, subd. (d)), but not for any purpose not mentioned, such as roads and fire protection.

The Trustees have misinterpreted San Marcos, supra, 42 Cal.3d 154. The decision addresses only compulsory charges imposed by one public entity on another. The case has nothing to say about a discretionary payment made by a public agency that voluntarily chooses that method of discharging its duty under CEQA to mitigate the environmental effects of its project. Because the Trustees’ interpretation of San Marcos critically underlies their position in this case, we examine the decision and its consequences in detail.

At issue in San Marcos, supra, 42 Cal.3d 154, was the validity of a “capacity fee” (id., at p. 157) imposed by a public water district on a public school district. The specific question was whether the capacity fee was a user fee, which the school district conceded it would have to pay, or a special assessment, from which the school district was exempt under the cases cited above. The court held the school district was exempt. The purpose of the fee was not to pay for water service but to provide a source of funds for capital improvements to the water system. (Id., at p. 159.) The capacity fee thus fit the definition of a special assessment as “ ‘a compulsory charge placed by [the government] upon real property within a pre-determined district, made under express legislative authority for defraying in whole or in part the expense of a permanent public improvement therein . . . .’ ” (San Marcos, at p. 161, quoting Spring Street Co. v. City of Los Angeles (1915) 170 Cal. 24, 29.) In applying this definition, the court “look[ed] to the purpose of the fee being charged, and not simply to the form of the fee, a matter which can be easily manipulated.” (San Marcos, at p. 163.) Accordingly, the court attributed no significance to the fact the water district had calculated the charge by reference to the volume of water the school district anticipated using—a characteristic typical of user fees. While the assessment’s form thus caused it to resemble a user fee in some respects, the water district was not permitted “ ‘to do indirectly that which it could not do directly.’ ” (Ibid., quoting County of Riverside v. Idyllwild County Water Dist., supra, 84 Cal.App.3d 655, 659-660.)

In summary, the court in San Marcos, supra, 42 Cal.3d 154, announced two holdings: the court reiterated the existing rule that publicly owned property was exempt from special assessment absent “ ‘positive legislative authority therefor’ ” (id., at p. 161, quoting Inglewood v. County of Los Angeles, supra, 207 Cal. 697, 704), and the court determined that the particular charge at issue was an assessment rather than a user fee (San Marcos, at pp. 163-165). The court found analogous support for its conclusions in prior decisions identifying “[t]he rationale behind a public entity’s exemption from property taxes and special assessments [as being] to prevent one tax-supported entity from siphoning tax money from another such entity; the end result of such a process [possibly being] unnecessary administrative costs and no actual gain in tax revenues.” (San Marcos, at p. 161, citing Eisley v. Mohan (1948) 31 Cal.2d 637, 642.) The court also acknowledged, perhaps bluntly, one of the more significant consequences of its holding: “Our conclusion does not mean,” the court wrote, “that the water district cannot collect money for capital improvements from its customers; it simply means that the private customers will pay the entire cost of capital improvements. Public entities, such as the school district, will not be required to allocate their limited tax revenues to pay for capital improvements built by the sewer district.” (San Marcos, at p. 158.)

The Legislature promptly reacted to the decision in San Marcos, supra, 42 Cal.3d 154, by authorizing public utilities to charge public-entity customers their fair share of the utilities’ capital costs and by ratifying fees previously imposed for that purpose. Under chapter 13.7 of the Government Code (§ 54999 et seq.), enacted in response to San Marcos, “[a]ny public agency providing public utility service” may impose on any public agency a “capital facilities fee” (id., § 54999.2), meaning “any nondiscriminatory charge to pay the capital cost of a public utility facility” (id., § 54999.1, subd. (b)). A “ ‘[p]ublic utility facility’ ” for these purposes is “a facility for the provision of water, light, heat, communications, power, or garbage service, for flood control, drainage or sanitary purposes, or for sewage collection, treatment, or disposal.” (Id., § 54999.1, subd. (d).) Motivating these changes to the law was the Legislature’s perception that public utilities and their public-entity customers, on the whole, had not shared the court’s understanding of the law. “[M]any public entities that provide public utility service,” the Legislature explained, “have imposed capital facilities fees applicable to users of public utility facilities in order to equitably apportion the cost of capital facilities construction or expansion required by all public and private users of the facilities.” As a result of San Marcos, however, “the fiscal stability and service capabilities of the affected public utility service agencies which have in good faith collected and spent these fees for capital improvements are seriously impaired as is the ability to finance essential future facilities.” (Gov. Code, § 54999, subd. (a).)

Against this background, we may easily reject the Trustees’ argument that they may not lawfully contribute to FORA as a way of discharging their obligation under CEQA to mitigate the environmental effects of their project to expand CSUMB. The Trustees’ three-part argument may be summarized as follows: (1) Any payment by the Trustees to FORA for the purpose of capital improvement in Fort Ord is an assessment, regardless of form; (2) public agencies are exempt from assessment except as permitted by the Legislature; and (3) the Legislature has permitted assessments only for the purposes set out in chapter 13.7 of the Government Code (§ 54999 et seq.).

The Trustees err crucially at the outset. An assessment connotes, at the very least, a compulsory charge imposed by the government on real property. (Knox v. City of Orland (1992) 4 Cal.4th 132, 141; see also Southern Cal. Rapid Transit Dist. v. Bolen (1992) 1 Cal.4th 654, 660; San Marcos, supra, 42 Cal.3d 154, 161; Spring Street Co. v. City of Los Angeles, supra, 170 Cal. 24, 29.) FORA has imposed no charge on the Trustees, let alone a compulsory one. As part of its planning process, FORA has made a provisional effort to estimate the Trustees’ fair share of the cost of infrastructure improvements, but FORA has taken no steps to create an enforceable legal obligation to pay. Indeed, FORA disclaims any intention to impose a charge on the Trustees and looks instead exclusively to a negotiated payment. This case is not a collection action or an action to validate an assessment. Instead, FORA claims the Trustees have abused their discretion under CEQA by certifying an EIR that improperly fails to identify voluntary contributions to FORA as a feasible method of mitigating the environmental effects of their project to expand CSUMB.

In other words, the question of payment arises not because FORA has imposed a charge (it has not), but because CEQA requires the Trustees to avoid or mitigate, if feasible, the significant environmental effects of their project (Pub. Resources Code, § 21002.1, subd. (b)) and because payments to FORA may represent a feasible form of mitigation. To illustrate the point, if campus expansion requires that roads or sewers be improved, the Trustees may do the work themselves on campus, but they have no authority to build roads or sewers off campus on land that belongs to others. Yet the Trustees are not thereby excused from the duty to mitigate or avoid CSUMB’s off-campus effects on traffic or wastewater management, because CEQA requires a public agency to mitigate or avoid its projects’ significant effects not just on the agency’s own property but “on the environment” (Pub. Resources Code, § 21002.1, subd. (b), italics added), with “environment” defined for these purposes as “the physical conditions which exist within the area which will be affected by a proposed project” (id., § 21060.5, italics added). Thus, if the Trustees cannot adequately mitigate or avoid CSUMB’s off-campus environmental effects by performing acts on campus (as by reducing sufficiently the use of automobiles or the volume of sewage), then to pay a third party such as FORA to perform the necessary acts off campus may well represent a feasible alternative. A payment made under these circumstances can properly be described neither as compulsory nor, for that reason, as an assessment.

Arguing to the contrary, the Trustees emphasize the court’s statement in San Marcos, supra, 42 Cal.3d 154, 163, that courts will identify an assessment by “look[ing] to the purpose of the fee being charged, and not simply to the form of the fee, a matter which can be easily manipulated.” Based on this statement, the Trustees argue that a voluntary payment made to fund projects that might also be funded by an assessment, such as infrastructure projects, must be considered an assessment for all purposes. The San Marcos court announced no such conclusion. Instead, the court made the quoted statement in the context of determining whether an admittedly compulsory charge was a user fee or an assessment. Nothing in San Marcos speaks to voluntary payments or purports to address or narrow any public agency’s duties under CEQA.

The Trustees also seek to draw support from the court’s statement in San Marcos, supra, 42 Cal.3d 154, of the reason traditionally thought to underlie the rule exempting public property from taxation, i.e., that the exemption “prevent[s] one tax-supported entity from siphoning tax money from another such entity; the end result of such a process [possibly being] unnecessary administrative costs and no actual gain in tax revenues.” (Id., at p. 161.) Inviting an analogy, the Trustees point out that any payment by CSU to FORA for infrastructure improvements will reduce the amount of money available to CSU for its core educational functions. The Trustees read too much into San Marcos. While there does exist a general rule to the effect that “[p]roperty owned by the State” is exempt from taxation (Cal. Const., art. XIII, § 3, subd. (a)), no rule precludes a public entity from sharing with another the cost of improvements benefiting both. Furthermore, while education may be CSU’s core function, to avoid or mitigate the environmental effects of its projects is also one of CSU’s functions. This is the plain import of CEQA, in which the Legislature has commanded that “[e]ach public agency shall mitigate or avoid the significant effects on the environment of projects that it carries out or approves whenever it is feasible to do so.” (Pub. Resources Code, § 21002.1, subd. (b), italics added; see also id., § 21002 [declaring the same obligation to be “the policy of the state”].) Nothing in San Marcos can fairly be read as addressing, much less narrowing, a public agency’s obligations under CEQA.

The Trustees, as noted, are willing to contribute to FORA for the limited purpose of mitigating CSUMB’s effects on drainage, water supply, and wastewater management under the terms of chapter 13.7 of the Government Code (§ 54999 et seq.). Chapter 13.7, as already explained, contains the law the Legislature passed in the wake of San Marcos, supra, 42 Cal.3d 154, authorizing public utilities to charge public-entity customers their fair share of the utilities’ capital costs. Under the law, “any public agency proposing to initially impose a capital facilities fee . . . may do so after agreement has been reached between the two agencies through negotiations entered into by both parties.” (Gov. Code, § 54999.3, subd. (b).) In such a case, “[t]he public agency imposing . . . the capital facilities fee has the burden of producing evidence to establish that the capital facilities fee is nondiscriminatory and that the amount of the capital facilities fee does not exceed the amount necessary to provide capital facilities for which the fee is charged.” (Id., subd. (c).) The FORA Act expressly invokes this negotiative process by specifying that “[t]he applicability of any capital facilities fees imposed under this title [i.e., the FORA Act] to public educational agencies shall be subject to the provisions of Chapter 13.7 . . . .” (Gov. Code, § 67685.)

Because FORA has not imposed or sought to impose a capital facilities fee on the Trustees, chapter 13.7 does not literally apply. That having been said, we see no reason why an agreement between the Trustees and FORA regarding a voluntary payment negotiated according to the procedure set out in chapter 13.7 for the purpose of mitigating specified environmental effects (i.e., water supply, drainage and wastewater management) would not satisfy the Trustees’ CEQA obligations as to those effects. While the amount determined by negotiation may not equal the amount FORA originally projected, for its own planning purposes, that the Trustees would pay, nothing in chapter 13.7 of the Government Code, CEQA or the FORA Act permits FORA unilaterally to determine the amount of any voluntary contribution the Trustees may choose to make as a way of satisfying their obligation under CEQA to mitigate the environmental effects of their project. To the contrary, the Trustees as the lead agency under CEQA have the power and duty to assess the adequacy of mitigation measures, subject only to judicial review for abuse of discretion. (See Laurel Heights Improvement Assn. v. Regents of University of California, supra, 47 Cal.3d 376, 393.) Furthermore, nothing in chapter 13.7 of the Government Code, CEQA or the FORA Act obliges the Trustees to pay more than is necessary to mitigate CSUMB’s effects. Certainly the Trustees need not pay to mitigate effects caused by other users of the base. To the contrary, CEQA requires that mitigation measures “be ‘roughly proportional’ to the impacts of the project.” (CEQA Guidelines, § 15126.4, subd. (a)(4)(B), citing Dolan v. City of Tigard (1994) 512 U.S. 374; cf. id., at p. 391.)

Finally on this point, the Trustees argue that chapter 13.7 of the Government Code (§ 54999 et seq.) and the FORA Act (id., § 67650 et seq.), which specifically authorize FORA to impose on the Trustees a negotiated fee for certain purposes (e.g., water supply, drainage and wastewater management), suggest the Legislature must have contemplated the Trustees would have no obligation to contribute to FORA for other purposes (e.g., the cost of improving roads and fire protection). We discern in the cited provisions, however, no evidence of a legislative intent to bar the Trustees from voluntarily contributing, as a way of meeting their CEQA obligations, their fair share of the cost of improvements to roads and fire protection necessitated by CSUMB’s expansion. On this point the FORA Act, as noted, provides simply that “[t]he applicability of any capital facilities fee imposed under this title to public educational agencies shall be subject to the provisions of Chapter 13.7 [of the same code].” (Gov. Code, § 67685, italics added.) Chapter 13.7, in turn, speaks only of fees “impose[d]” (id., § 54999.3, subd. (b), italics added) by public utilities. Because FORA has imposed no fee on the Trustees, neither Government Code section 67685 nor chapter 13.7 has any literal application to the present case. Moreover, neither law purports to limit the Trustees’ independent obligation under CEQA to protect the physical environment from the effects of their project to expand the CSUMB campus.

2. Is mitigation infeasible because a contribution by the Trustees to FORA would amount to a prohibited gift of public funds?

The Trustees next argue that any payment to FORA made otherwise than under Government Code chapter 13.7 (§ 54999 et seq.) would constitute an illegal gift of public funds. (See Cal. Const., art. XVI, § 6.) The argument invokes the court’s statement in San Marcos, supra, 42 Cal.3d 154, that the ability of the school district in that case to “agree to pay [the disputed capacity] charge depend[ed] upon whether the [water] district ha[d] the power to impose it,” and that payment of an invalid charge “would amount to a ‘gift of public funds’ in contravention of article XVI, section 6 of the California Constitution.” (San Marcos, at p. 167, quoting County of Riverside v. Idyllwild County Water Dist., supra, 84 Cal.App.3d 655, 660.) We have, however, already rejected the central premise of this argument, which is that a voluntary payment by the Trustees would constitute an assessment.

In any event, the relevant law makes clear that a payment by the Trustees for the purpose of mitigating CSUMB’s environmental effects would not constitute an unlawful gift of public funds. “It is well settled that, in determining whether an appropriation of public funds or property is to be considered a gift, the primary question is whether the funds are to be used for a ‘public’ or a ‘private’ purpose. If they are for a ‘public purpose’, they are not a gift within the meaning of [the Constitution].” (County of Alameda v. Janssen (1940) 16 Cal.2d 276, 281.) Such a payment by the Trustees would have the public purpose of discharging their duty as a public agency, under the express terms of CEQA, to “mitigate or avoid the significant effects on the environment of projects that [they] carr[y] out or approve[] whenever it is feasible to do so.” (Pub. Resources Code, § 21002.1, subd. (b).)

3. Is mitigation infeasible because the Trustees cannot guarantee that FORA will actually implement the proposed infrastructure improvements?

As a final reason why they cannot feasibly mitigate CSUMB’s environmental effects by voluntarily contributing to FORA, the Trustees argue they cannot guarantee that FORA will actually implement the infrastructure improvements proposed in the Reuse Plan. The argument is not persuasive.
In certifying the EIR and approving CSUMB’s Master Plan, the Trustees specifically found that the infrastructure improvements proposed by FORA constitute the “specific measure[s]” necessary to mitigate each of CSUMB’s corresponding environmental impacts to the level of insignificance. The Trustees did not find that mitigation of these impacts was feasible, however, in part because of asserted doubts about FORA’s ability to fund and implement the proposed improvements. CEQA, as noted, defines a “ ‘[f]easible’ ” mitigation measure as one that is “capable of being accomplished in a successful manner within a reasonable period of time, taking into account economic, environmental, social, and technological factors.” (Pub. Resources Code, § 21061.1; see also CEQA Guidelines, § 15364.) Invoking this definition, the Trustees found in the EIR as to each remaining environmental impact that “implementation of the regional mitigation . . . is currently disputed, [and that] mitigation of the impact to a less than significant level cannot be assured by CSU.”

The Trustees explained their position in more detail in response to public comments on their EIR: “Although all parties to the MOA[ ] will agree that the determined contributions by CSUMB are intended to mitigate the offsite impacts contributed by development of the Master Plan, it is acknowledged that CSUMB’s contribution represents only a portion of the funding needed to implement the regional improvements. Similar payments will need to be made by other jurisdictions contributing to regional impacts in order for the improvements to be implemented. In addition, ultimate implementation of the improvement program is under the responsibility of FORA, and cannot be controlled or assured by the University. For these reasons, . . . the [EIR] determine[s] that the significant impacts on drainage, water supply, traffic, wastewater generation, and fire protection, identified as caused by the Master Plan, will remain significant and unavoidable. These impacts will therefore require the adoption of a Statement of Overriding Conditions by the [Trustees] in compliance with CEQA.”

The presently identified, unavoidable uncertainties affecting the funding and implementation of the infrastructure improvements FORA has proposed in its Reuse Plan do not render voluntary contributions to FORA by the Trustees infeasible as a method of mitigating CSUMB’s effects. Both the CEQA Guidelines and judicial decisions recognize that a project proponent may satisfy its duty to mitigate its own portion of a cumulative environmental impact by contributing to a regional mitigation fund. Under the Guidelines, “a project’s contribution to a significant cumulative impact” may properly be considered “less than cumulatively considerable and thus . . . not significant” “if the project is required to implement or fund its fair share of a mitigation measure or measures designed to alleviate the cumulative impact.” (CEQA Guidelines, § 15130, subd. (a)(3).) Similarly, courts have found fee-based mitigation programs for cumulative impacts, based on fair-share infrastructure contributions by individual projects, to constitute adequate mitigation measures under CEQA. (E.g., Anderson First Coalition v. City of Anderson (2005) 130 Cal.App.4th 1173, 1188; Save Our Peninsula Committee v. Monterey County Bd. of Supervisors, supra, 87 Cal.App.4th 99, 140.)
“Of course a commitment to pay fees without any evidence that mitigation will actually occur is inadequate.” (Save Our Peninsula Committee v. Monterey County Bd. of Supervisors, supra, 87 Cal.App.4th 99, 140; see also Kings County Farm Bureau v. City of Hanford (1990) 221 Cal. App.3d 692, 727-728 [lacking evidence water would be available for purchase, an agreement to purchase replacement water did not adequately mitigate groundwater depletion].) There is, however, no reason to doubt that FORA will meet its statutory obligation as the government of Fort Ord to prepare the base for civilian development by constructing whatever public capital facilities are necessary for that purpose. (See Gov. Code, § 67679.) As noted, FORA plans to implement the improvements over a period of several years, as increasing land use necessitates them and as funding becomes available. To enable this task to be accomplished, the Legislature has given FORA a broad array of fundraising powers, including the power to levy assessments and development fees, to share tax revenue with its local-government member agencies, and to sell and lease property. (See Gov. Code, §§ 67678, subd. (a), 67679, subds. (c)-(e), 67691, 67692.) Furthermore, the law specifically directs FORA to use its powers to ensure the success of its statutory mission (e.g., Gov. Code, § 67679, subd. (a)(1) [FORA must “undertake to plan for and arrange the provision of [public capital] facilities, including arranging for their financing and construction”]), and the courts ordinarily presume that the government, in this instance FORA, will comply with the law (e.g., City of Beaumont v. Beaumont Irr. Dist. (1965) 63 Cal.2d 291, 297; Save Our Peninsula Committee v. Monterey County Bd. of Supervisors, supra, 87 Cal.App.4th 99, 141).

By way of analogy, the court in Save Our Peninsula Committee v. Monterey Bd. of Supervisors, supra, 87 Cal.App.4th 99, held that a county had adequately ensured the mitigation of traffic congestion effects by “provid[ing] for improvements to be constructed as the traffic triggering the need for the improvements exceeded a projected threshold and the funds to pay for the improvements were generated by the new development.” (Id., at p. 141.) CEQA, the court explained, required not “a time-specific schedule for the County to complete specified road improvements” (ibid.) but only “that there be a reasonable plan for mitigation” (ibid.). FORA’s Reuse Plan satisfies that criterion. The Trustees’ assumption that CEQA requires more is an error of law invalidating their finding that voluntary mitigation payments to FORA do not represent a feasible method of mitigating CSU’s off-campus environmental effects. (No Oil, Inc. v. City of Los Angeles, supra, 13 Cal.3d 68, 88 [an agency’s “use of an erroneous legal standard constitutes a failure to proceed in a manner required by law”]; see also Save Our Peninsula Committee v. Monterey County Bd. of Supervisors, supra, 87 Cal.App.4th 99, 118 [“questions of interpretation or application of the requirements of CEQA are matters of law”].)

B. Is Mitigation Exclusively the Responsibility of FORA?

CEQA, as previously noted, does not require a public agency to undertake identified mitigation measures, even if those measures are necessary to address the project’s significant environmental effects, if the agency finds that the measures “are within the responsibility and jurisdiction of another public agency and have been, or can and should be, adopted by that other agency.” (Pub. Resources Code, § 21081, subd. (a)(2).) The Trustees have made such a finding with respect to the measures necessary to mitigate CSUMB’s projected effects on drainage, water supply, wastewater management, traffic, and fire protection. As to each such effect, the Trustees have found that “the specific measure to mitigate [each] impact to a level of insignificance is to implement the planned regional FORA . . . improvements,” and that “[i]mplementation of the planned regional improvements is FORA’s responsibility.”

Certainly FORA has responsibility for implementing the infrastructure improvements it has proposed. (See Gov. Code, § 67679.) Just as certainly, however, the FORA Act contemplates that the costs of those improvements will be borne by those who benefit from them. (See ibid.) A finding by a lead agency under Public Resources Code section 21081, subdivision (a)(2), disclaiming the responsibility to mitigate environmental effects is permissible only when the other agency said to have responsibility has exclusive responsibility. As the CEQA Guidelines explain, “[t]he finding in subsection (a)(2) shall not be made if the agency making the finding has concurrent jurisdiction with another agency to deal with identified feasible mitigation measures or alternatives.” (CEQA Guidelines, § 15091, subd. (c).) The Guidelines’ logical interpretation of CEQA on this point “avoids the problem of agencies deferring to each other, with the result that no agency deals with the problem. This result would be contrary to the strong policy [requiring the mitigation or avoidance of significant environmental effects] declared in Sections 21002 and 21002.1 of the statute.” (Discussion of Resources Agency following CEQA Guidelines, § 15091; see also 1 Kostka, Practice Under the Cal. Environmental Quality Act (Cont.Ed.Bar 2005) § 17.19, pp. 821-823.)

The Trustees offer two arguments in support of their finding disclaiming responsibility for the measures necessary to mitigate CSUMB’s off-campus environmental effects. Neither withstands close scrutiny. The Trustees’ first argument—that they may not lawfully contribute to FORA in view of San Marcos, supra, 42 Cal.3d 154, and the constitutional exemption of state property from taxation (Cal. Const., art. XIII, § 3, subd. (a))—has already been considered and rejected. The Trustees’ second argument—that they lack the power to construct infrastructure improvements away from campus on land they do not own and control—is beside the point. Certainly the Trustees may not enter the land of others to widen roads and lay sewer pipe; CEQA gives the Trustees no such power. (See Pub. Resources Code, § 21004 [“[i]n mitigating or avoiding a significant effect of a project on the environment, a public agency may exercise only those express or implied powers provided by law other than this division.”].) CEQA does not, however, as we have explained, limit a public agency’s obligation to mitigate or avoid significant environmental effects to effects occurring on the agency’s own property. (See Pub. Resources Code, §§ 21002.1, subd. (b), 21060.5.) CEQA also provides that “[a]ll state agencies . . . shall request in their budgets the funds necessary to protect the environment in relation to problems caused by their activities.” (Id., § 21106.) Thus, as we have also explained, if the Trustees cannot adequately mitigate or avoid CSUMB’s off-campus environmental effects by performing acts on the campus, then to pay a third party such as FORA to perform the necessary acts off campus may well represent a feasible alternative.

To be clear, we do not hold that the duty of a public agency to mitigate or avoid significant environmental effects (Pub. Resources Code, § 21002.1, subd. (b)), combined with the duty to ask the Legislature for money to do so (id., § 21106), will always give a public agency that is undertaking a project with environmental effects shared responsibility for mitigation measures another agency must implement. Some mitigation measures cannot be purchased, such as permits that another agency has the sole discretion to grant or refuse. Moreover, a state agency’s power to mitigate its project’s effects through voluntary mitigation payments is ultimately subject to legislative control; if the Legislature does not appropriate the money, the power does not exist. For the same reason, however, for the Trustees to disclaim responsibility for making such payments before they have complied with their statutory obligation to ask the Legislature for the necessary funds is premature, at the very least. The superior court found no evidence the Trustees had asked the Legislature for the funds. In their brief to this court, the Trustees acknowledge they did not budget for payments they assumed would constitute invalid assessments under San Marcos, supra, 42 Cal.3d 154. That assumption, as we have explained, is invalid.

C. Do Overriding Circumstances Justify Approving the Campus Master Plan?

When a public agency has found that a project’s significant environmental effects cannot feasibly be mitigated, the agency may nevertheless proceed with the project if it also finds “that specific overriding economic, legal, social, technological, or other benefits of the project outweigh the significant effects on the environment.” (Pub. Resources Code, § 21081, subd. (b).) The Trustees, as noted, have made such a finding with respect to each of the remaining, unmitigated environmental impacts on drainage, water supply, wastewater management, traffic and fire protection.

If we agreed with the Trustees that mitigation were infeasible for the reasons given in the findings, i.e., that the Trustees may not legally contribute to FORA and that the Trustees cannot ensure that FORA will actually construct infrastructure improvements—we would give much deference to the Trustees’ weighing of the project’s benefits against the remaining environmental effects. Generally speaking, “a court’s proper role in reviewing a challenged EIR is not to determine whether the EIR’s ultimate conclusions are correct but only whether they are supported by substantial evidence and whether the EIR is sufficient as an informational document.” (Laurel Heights Improvement Assn. v. Regents of University of California, supra, 47 Cal.3d 376, 407.) Moreover, an agency’s decision that the specific benefits a project offers outweigh any environmental effects that cannot feasibly be mitigated, while subject to review for abuse of discretion (Pub. Resources Code, § 21168.5), lies at the core of the lead agency’s discretionary responsibility under CEQA and is, for that reason, not lightly to be overturned. (Cf. Laurel Heights Improvement Assn. v. Regents of University of California, supra, 47 Cal.3d 376, 392 [court reviews the EIR’s sufficiency as an informative document and not the correctness of its environmental conclusions].)

In this case, however, the Trustee’s statement of overriding considerations is invalid for a reason that does not require us to reweigh benefits and detriments, or to inquire into the statement’s factual basis. A statement of overriding considerations is required, and offers a proper basis for approving a project despite the existence of unmitigated environmental effects, only when the measures necessary to mitigate or avoid those effects have properly been found to be infeasible. (Pub. Resources Code, § 21081, subd. (b).) Given our conclusion the Trustees have abused their discretion in determining that CSUMB’s remaining effects cannot feasibly be mitigated, that the Trustees’ statement of overriding circumstances is invalid necessarily follows. CEQA does not authorize an agency to proceed with a project that will have significant, unmitigated effects on the environment, based simply on a weighing of those effects against the project’s benefits, unless the measures necessary to mitigate those effects are truly infeasible. Such a rule, even were it not wholly inconsistent with the relevant statute (id., § 21081, subd. (b)), would tend to displace the fundamental obligation of “[e]ach public agency [to] mitigate or avoid the significant effects on the environment of projects that it carries out or approves whenever it is feasible to do so” (id., § 21002.1, subd. (b)). This conclusion does not, however, preclude the Trustees from including in a revised EIR a statement of overriding considerations regarding environmental effects as to which they have properly found mitigation to be infeasible for reasons other than those we have rejected.

III. CONCLUSION

From the foregoing discussion it follows that the Trustees must be directed to vacate their actions certifying the EIR and approving the Master Plan and set aside the EIR’s statement of overriding circumstances. The superior court’s writ of mandate does order such relief. The writ is, however, incorrect in one respect. In describing the principles that would apply should the Trustees decide to make voluntary mitigation payments to FORA, the court wrote that “CSUMB’s proportional share of the cumulative impacts on public capital facilities in the region necessary to mitigate the significant adverse environmental impacts of the CMP shall be determined by [FORA] . . . .” (Italics added.) To the contrary, having chosen not to assess the campus but instead to rely on the Trustees to comply with their CEQA obligation to mitigate or avoid the environmental effects of their project, FORA has no power to dictate the manner in which the Trustees exercise their discretion. Neither do the remedial provisions of CEQA “authorize a court to direct any public agency to exercise its discretion in any particular way.” (Pub. Resources Code, § 21168.9, subd. (c).) CEQA requires only that any mitigation measures the Trustees adopt be adequate. If FORA wishes to compel the Trustees to contribute a specific amount to infrastructure improvement projects, FORA is free to proceed by exercising the powers specifically granted in the FORA Act (e.g., Gov. Code, § 67679, subd. (d)), and in the public financing statutes to which the act refers (ibid.), to impose a formal assessment on the CSUMB campus, complying of course with the procedural requirements set out in those statutes and in the California Constitution (e.g., art. XIII D, § 1 et seq.).

IV. DISPOSITION

The judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed and the cause remanded to that court with directions to order the superior court to vacate its writ of mandate and to issue a new writ consistent with the views set forth in this opinion.
WERDEGAR, J.

WE CONCUR:
GEORGE, C.J.
KENNARD, J.
BAXTER, J.
MORENO, J.
CORRIGAN, J.

CONCURRING OPINION BY CHIN, J.

I concur in the judgment and in most of the majority opinion’s reasoning. I write separately to explain my reasons for agreeing that the Board of Trustees of the California State University (Trustees) may not rely on Public Resources Code section 21081, subdivision (a)(2), and to express concern about the majority’s discussion of this issue.

Under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) (§ 21000 et seq.), when a certified environmental impact report identifies significant environmental effects of a proposed project, section 21081, subdivision (a)(2), permits a public agency to approve or carry out the project if it finds that “changes or alterations” in the project that would mitigate or avoid the identified environmental effects “are within the responsibility and jurisdiction of another public agency and have been, or can and should be, adopted by that other agency.”

The Trustees, who made such a finding here, argue that this provision applies because, under the Fort Ord Reuse Authority Act (Gov. Code, § 67650 et seq.) (FORA Act), the Fort Ord Reuse Authority (FORA) has “exclusive authority to plan and construct off-campus local infrastructure improvements” and “the University lacks jurisdiction . . . to build off-site improvements.”

In my view, the Trustees err by focusing on the wrong question: Whether the Trustees, acting for the California State University (CSU), have any responsibility and jurisdiction regarding actual construction of the necessary off-campus infrastructure improvements. The particular mitigation measure at issue here—i.e., the proposed “change[] or alteration[]” in the project to mitigate or avoid the identified environmental effects (§ 21081, subd. (a)(2))—is not actual construction of the improvements, but is payment to FORA to help fund the improvements FORA intends to construct. Thus, the relevant question here in applying section 21081, subdivision (a)(2), is not, as the Trustees argue, whether they have jurisdiction actually “to build off-site improvements,” but is whether they have any responsibility and jurisdiction to help fund FORA’s construction of those improvements.

Based on provisions of the FORA Act and the Education Code, I conclude that the Trustees have such responsibility and jurisdiction. Regarding the former, the FORA Act declares the “financing . . . of the reuse of Fort Ord” to be “a matter of statewide importance.” (Gov. Code, § 67657, subd. (c).) It provides that FORA’s Fort Ord reuse plan “shall be the official local plan for the reuse of the base for all public purposes, including . . . funding by all state agencies.” (Gov. Code, § 67675, subd. (a), italics added.) It directs FORA to “arrang[e] for the[] financing” of—not to finance itself —“basewide public capital facilities” such as “roads.”

(Id., § 67679, subd. (a)(1).) It also authorizes FORA to “seek state and federal grants and loans or other assistance to help fund public facilities” (id., § 67679, subd. (c)), and to “enter into contracts and agreements as necessary to mitigate impacts of the reuse of Fort Ord.” (Id., §67680.5.) These provisions demonstrate the Legislature’s intent that funding of the necessary infrastructure improvements not be solely FORA’s responsibility, and that funding be provided, at least in part, by other public agencies.

Several provisions of the Education Code also are relevant to the Trustees’ responsibility and jurisdiction. The Education Code declares generally that “[t]he mission of the public segments of higher education . . . include[s] a broad responsibility to the public interest.” (Ed. Code, § 66010.5.) Of course, payments to FORA to help mitigate significant environmental impacts of the expansion project here at issue would serve the public interest. The Education Code also declares “the intent of the Governor and the Legislature, in cooperation with the Trustees,” to “[p]lace a major priority on resolving the serious problem of impacted and overcrowded classes, not only with respect to the [CSU], but throughout public postsecondary education.”

(Id., § 66015, subd. (a).) Consistent with this declared priority, the Education Code imposes on the CSU a duty “to plan that adequate spaces are available to accommodate all California resident students who are eligible and likely to apply to attend an appropriate place within the system.” (Id., § 66202.5.) It also grants the Trustees “full power and responsibility in the construction and development of any state university campus, and any buildings or other facilities or improvements connected with the [CSU].” (Id., § 66606.) Finally, it directs the Trustees to “expend all money appropriated for the support and maintenance of the [CSU]” (id., § 89750), and authorizes them to “enter into agreements with any public or private agency, officer, person, or institution, corporation, association, or foundation for the performance of acts or for the furnishing of services, facilities, materials, goods, supplies, or equipment by or for the trustees or for the joint performance of an act or function or the joint furnishing of services and facilities by the trustees and the other party to the agreement.” (Id., § 89036, subd. (a).) Based on these provisions, I have no trouble concluding that the Trustees have both responsibility and jurisdiction within the meaning of Public Resources Code section 21081, subdivision (a)(2), to contribute to the cost of off-site infrastructure improvements needed to mitigate significant environmental impacts of an expansion project designed, in part, to address the statutorily declared “priority on resolving the serious problem of impacted and overcrowded classes, not only with respect to the [CSU], but throughout public postsecondary education.” (Ed. Code, § 66015, subd. (a).)

I do not join the majority’s analysis of this issue insofar as it relies on several CEQA provisions to find that the Trustees have jurisdiction and responsibility within the meaning of section 21081, subdivision (a)(2). (Maj. opn., ante, at pp. 34-35.) The majority cites section 21002.1, subdivision (b), which requires “[e]ach public agency [to] mitigate or avoid the significant effects on the environment of projects that it carries out or approves whenever it is feasible to do so,” and section 21106, which requires “[a]ll state agencies . . . [to] request in their budgets the funds necessary to protect the environment in relation to problems caused by their activities.” (Maj. opn., ante, at pp. 34-35.) Because these two CEQA statutes apply to every state agency, the majority’s analysis substantially limits the circumstances under which a state agency may invoke section 21081, subdivision (a)(2). It is unclear to me the Legislature intended section 21081, subdivision (a)(2), to be read so narrowly. Because my analysis depends on non-CEQA provisions, I need not, and do not, address that question.

I also do not join the majority’s analysis insofar as it appears to suggest that a public agency lacks jurisdiction and responsibility within the meaning of section 21081, subdivision (a)(2), when “the Legislature does not appropriate” money requested to pay for mitigation measures. (Maj. opn., ante, at pp. 34-35.) To begin with, the discussion is dictum. As the majority notes, there is no evidence here the Trustees have even asked the Legislature for the necessary funds. (Maj. opn., ante, at p. 35.) Thus, it is both unnecessary and premature to express an opinion about whether the Legislature’s denial of a funding request would affect the Trustees’ jurisdiction and responsibility for purposes of applying section 21081, subdivision (a)(2).

The other reason I do not join the majority’s dictum is that I question its soundness. It is not clear to me that, for purposes of applying section 21081, subdivision (a)(2), a public agency has no responsibility or jurisdiction for a mitigation measure simply because the Legislature denies a specific request for money to pay for that mitigation measure. Here, for example, even were the Legislature to reject such a request, arguably, the Trustees would still have responsibility and jurisdiction to contribute to FORA with money from the CSU’s general operating fund. Moreover, the Legislature has expressly authorized the Trustees, at their discretion and “without the prior approval of any other state department or agency,” to “sell improvements located on the land at the . . . Monterey Bay campus that was transferred” from the federal government (Ed. Code, § 89010, subd. (a)) and to use proceeds from those sales “for the purposes of building, maintaining, and funding a campus . . . at Monterey Bay through expenditures for improvements to the campus . . . .” (Id., § 89010, subd. (b).) Arguably, by virtue of these provisions, even were the Trustees to make, and the Legislature to reject, a specific appropriation request regarding the off-campus improvements here at issue, the Trustees would have “the power” to make contributions to FORA for those improvements (maj. opn., ante, at p. 35) and would have jurisdiction and responsibility within the meaning of Public Resources Code section 21081, subdivision (a)(2), to make such contributions. Because of these substantive doubts, because we need not decide the question here, and because we have no briefing on the question, I decline to join the majority’s dictum.

CHIN, J.

See next page for addresses and telephone numbers for counsel who argued in Supreme Court.

Name of Opinion City of Marina v. Board of Trustees of California State University
__________________________________________________________________________________

Unpublished Opinion
Original Appeal
Original Proceeding
Review Granted XXX 109 Cal.App.4th 1179
Rehearing Granted

__________________________________________________________________________________

Opinion No. S117816
Date Filed: July 31, 2006
__________________________________________________________________________________

Court: Superior
County: Monterey
Judge: Richard M. Silver

__________________________________________________________________________________

Attorneys for Appellant:

Horvitz & Levy, John A. Taylor, Jr., Patricia Lofton; Miller, Starr & Regalia, Basil S. Shiber and Christian M. Carrigan for Defendant and Appellant.

James E. Holst, Alan C. Waltner and Jeffrey A. Blair for The Regents of the University of California as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Defendant and Appellant.

Miller Brown & Dannis, Marilyn J. Cleveland, Chad J. Graff and Kenneth S. Levy for Coalition for Adequate School Housing as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Defendant and Appellant.

__________________________________________________________________________________

Attorneys for Respondent:

Lombardo & Gilles, Sheri L. Damon; Law Offices of Robert Wellington, Kenneth D. Buchert; Law Offices of Mary L. Hudson, and Mary L. Hudson for Plaintiffs and Respondents.

Manuela Albuquerque, City Attorney (Berkeley) and Zach Cowan, Assistant City Attorney, for League of California Cities and California State Association of Counties as Amici Curiae on behalf of Plaintiffs and Respondents.

McDonough Holland & Allen, Harriet A. Steiner and Kara K. Ueda for City of Davis as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Plaintiffs and Respondents.

Law Offices of Donald B. Mooney, Donald B Mooney; Law Offices of Marsha A. Burch and Marsha A. Burch for San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center, Protect Our Water and Central Valley Safe Environmental Network as Amici Curiae on behalf of Plaintiffs and Respondents.

Norma Turner, Mary-Alice Coleman and Jeffrey A. Diamond for West Davis Neighbors as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Plaintiffs and Respondents.

Counsel who argued in Supreme Court (not intended for publication with opinion):

Patricia Lofton
Horvitz & Levy
15760 Ventura Boulevard, 18th Floor
Encino, CA 91436
(818) 995-0800

Mary L. Hudson
Law Offices of Mary L. Hudson
1505 Bridgeway, Suite 206
Sausalito, CA 94965
(415) 331-7712

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Let them play Monopoly behind gates we lock

Submitted: Jul 30, 2006

In 1950, it has been repeated ad nausea; Los Angeles County produced more agricultural commodities than any county in the state. By the mid-1970s, it began to lead the nation as the most polluted air basin, despite its sea breezes. Today, in this grim "metric," it appears to have fallen behind both the San Joaquin Valley and Riverside/San Bernardino counties.

The San Joaquin Valley is the richest farmland in the western US. Today, Los Angeles is an asphalt jungle and its eastern neighboring counties are developing along the same dismal pattern.

Humanity has yet to learn how to reclaim asphalt jungles for agriculture, should the need or desire occur.

It is not too late to stop the LA-ification of the San Joaquin Valley. Abundant farmland still exists. Given its inversion layer, more development can only turn this valley of the best farmland in the West into a respiratory hell.

Regional and national food security, health and safety for San Joaquin Valley inhabitants and a responsible attitude toward global warming and the waning of the Sierra snow pack argue forcefully against more population growth.

All that is stopping a sane approach to Valley agricultural and natural resources and health and welfare of its inhabitants is the entire political economic system – local, state and federal – dominated by real estate development and the financial, land-owning, construction, and realty interests that swarm around it, and the political passivity of the residents. To turn the San Joaquin Valley into a continuous metropolitan region from Sacramento to Bakersfield is no more nor less than business as usual: destructive enrichment of the few at the expense of many.

It was recently argued in a Merced County staff report on a residential development that criticism of how the development would deal with a Williamson Act (farmland preservation) matter was, in fact, an attempt to stop the project and the population growth and increase in autos the project would create. This, the staff report implied, was an illegitimate reason for arguing the Williamson Act matter.

The same is constantly said about criticisms and lawsuits for violations of local, state and federal environmental law and regulation. "It doesn't matter because the critics just want to stop growth."

This sort of logic reminds me of an old movie, "Never on Sunday," in which an Athenian prostitute who attended every performance of ancient tragedies and was greatly moved by their sorrow and destruction, consoled herself with the belief that in the end "they all went to the seashore."

Presumably, county officials that produce this bilge plan to retire to Pismo Beach to breath clean sea air after their careers of disservice to the San Joaquin Valley public.

The growth now occurring in the San Joaquin Valley is a tragedy, of which one element is always the willful denial of truths like endemic respiratory illness and global warming, which can only worsen with more Valley growth.

The loss of the culture of farming is both sad and frightening.

“The best product of the American farm is the careful farmer,” Wendell Berry once wrote. There are some left. There are also some San Joaquin Kit Fox left, but the trend toward extinction is clear in both species.

American culture and economy -- this gargantuan brat -- has no place for the modest, patient, skillful and inventive farmers who built our valley. Those people wisely mistrusted booms and all the other deals too good to be true, and they did not indefinitely abide whores in government. They believed in hard work and earnest prayer.

In our valley today, the political theory is that the public is the servant of the public servant, who is the servant of destructive enrichment, a form of self-indulgence practiced by a few people and corporations with great wealth, who lack the imagination to do anything but destructively pursue greater wealth.

The poor dears. The appropriate places for them are gated reservations locked from the outside instead of the inside. Let them play Monopoly with their money! Meanwhile, permit the San Joaquin Valley public time and space to deal with the consequences of their binges in real estate.

Bill Hatch

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The desperation of MCAG

Submitted: Jul 25, 2006

Last week the Merced County Association of Governments decided to put Measure A, the transportation sales tax defeated in June, back on the ballot in November, despite a poll that indicated it might not do any better then than it did either in June or in 2002. The MCAG, composed of all five supervisors and one elected official for each of the six incorporated cities in the county, in their judgment overrode the poll results, declaring that the November election will draw more voters than the primary did. The Merced Sun-Star opined without attribution that:

Only 24 percent of registered voters in the county -- about 22,500 people -- showed up to the polls, partly because of lackluster statewide issues and little competition among county races.

A much more attractive November ballot that includes billion-dollar infrastructure bonds and a governor's race is sure to draw more voters.

Evidently this is the received political wisdom on the upcoming General Election.

Might one suggest an alternative analysis?

Billion-dollar infrastructure bonds might get a few Mercedians out to vote against them, which does not on the surface, seem to favor a local half-cent sales tax increase.

The governor's race, featuring the Hun against the Developer's Democrat, Angelo's Boy in the Capitol, is shaping up to be a real ho-hummer of a race.

Locally, Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, is running unopposed. Kathleen Galgiani, chief of staff of retiring state Assemblywoman, Barbara Matthews, D-Tracy, appears to have wired her succession to her boss's seat several years ago. The state Senate race, between incumbent Jeff Denham, Knucklehead-Salinas, and Wiley Nickel, Water Plutocrat-Merced, seems to turn on the fascinating political question of who can accurately define an exchange contract.

One can see long lines in front of polling places, stretching into the frosty night this November. The campaigns are so intense we cannot even see paid voter registrars chasing old ladies to their cars, begging for their signatures, whether they are registered to vote or not. Perhaps they are moving too fast for the human eye.

What could be called strength of leadership, if only by scribes paid to write it, from a charitable point of view could be called stubbornness. In fact, it is suspected resubmitting this measure to the voters in November is an act of sheer political desperation, and perhaps an unintended referendum on how much voters like leaders in the pockets of developers, UC, WalMart and the Riverside Motorsports Park -- the only real beneficiaries of this measure.

MCAG has a huge reputation problem on its hands, stemming from our newly acquired exalted political position after having won the Valley-wide sweepstakes for the San Joaquin Valley UC campus.

In the squalid fashion of UC flak, top bobcatflakster Larry Salinas told the Merced City Council last week that UC Merced was the only UC campus in the Central Valley. And here we thought there was a highway, I-80, that passed along the border between the San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys, not far from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, through a college town called Davis, said to have been the site of a UC campus for nearly a century.

MCAG has been designated by the Hun administration in Sacramento to lead an eight-county San Joaquin Valley program, including eight councils of government working with Modesto-based Great Valley Center, to create a blueprint for growth to override the niceties of public process and state and federal environmental laws and regulations. These transportation COGS and CAGS are political institutions of nebulous land-use authority, which have banded together as the public in their counties have grown politically restive and are more actively resisting at the city and county government level the developer-driven slurbocracy the most immediate consequences of which are rapidly deteriorating air quality as well as other impediments to a decent quality of life.

Sacramento Area Council of Governments, which includes among other jurisdictions, Yolo County, where some say there is another UC campus, is the model for all this fine regional planning to avoid the niceties of law and regulation. Sacramento and nearby Placer counties have vied with Bakersfield for years for the worst air quality north of Los Angeles, and now they are winning the prize. Following these institutions will help you, your children or your parents' chances of being a candidates for a UC Merced study in respiratory disease once it gets that new medical school started.

If the Merced Board of Supervisors and city governments cannot con thier own citizens into voting a half-cent raise in sales tax to create a matching fund to attract Federal Highway Administration funds to build roads, how can they lead the other COGs and CAGs into a dimming, asthmatic future of slurb. If they cannot even con their own voters into making an abundant contribution to local greenhouse gases that will affect the Sierra snow pack, how can they lead other CAGs and COGs in the pockets of CalDevelopment, Inc., our real rulers, into this absurdly unhealthy future?

Oh, well, there are always the county’s new electronic voting machines, if all else fails.

Perhaps, Merced voters can send a message to the Federal Highway Administration that they do not want millions spent on widening Highway 99 so that WalMart can more easily get its 900 diesel trucks a day in and out of its proposed distribution center at the Mission Interchange. Perhaps, Merced voters can inform the FHWA that they are not interested in funding that interchange to provide one blue-and-yellow brick road to UC Merced. Perhaps, the Merced voters can explain to the FHWA that they are also disinterested in funding another blue-and-yellow brick road from Atwater to UC Merced, one which passes by property acquired in 2004 from an inmate of Sandy Mush County Jail by the sheriff who was incarcerating him, the DA who was prosecuting him, their good friend, the president of Ranchwood Homes, and several other prominent local investors.

All new roads and widened highways in Merced mean is more air pollution and more growth. Obviously, for example, a widened Highway 99 would make it more convenient for millions of stock-car racing fans to come to the proposed Riverside Motorsports Park in Atwater, and they would bring their ozone with them and leave it here.

Perhaps, people in Merced are smart enough to understand this and have begun to get irritated that their leaders are so willing to sell them out to any developer with another air-polluting, traffic-increasing, country-destroying project, and are growing more irritated by the day by their leaders ongoing insult to the voters' intelligence.

Yes, we do realize that something like 30 percent of our air pollution is blown over the hill to us from the Bay Area. But, it does not outrage us that we cannot become Fremont. We do have one of the more important agricultural economies in the world. Perhaps we need to work on that a little more than working on becoming the next great slurbocracy in California. And if we find that our elected officials want Growth Above All, maybe we need new elected officials, because this gang is not working for the best interests of its own public.

Bill Hatch
----------------------------------

Notes:

June 5, 2006

URGENT URGENT URGENT URGENT URGENT URGENT URGENT

A flyer against the Merced County Transportation Tax Measure A appeared in the Merced Sun-Star Monday morning. We have included it below and attached it to this message.

We urge you to read and share these flyers with Merced County residents before the Primary Election on Tuesday, June 6.

We should not use a sales tax to raise money for transportation funds to benefit special interests because a sales tax has an unfair impact on lower-income residents. (1) Merced County ranks fifth from the bottom of California’s 58 counties in per capita income. (2)

Sincerely, Central Valley Safe Environment Network

VOTE NO on Measure A Tax

MAKE Residential and Commercial Development Pay Its Own Way!

REJECT Welfare Subsidies for the Building Industry Association!

In 2002, the Citizens of Merced County VOTED DOWN the Measure M road-improvement tax. Merced County and its cities went right on approving thousands of new homes. This RECKLESS action is destroying hundreds of miles of our existing streets and roads because new development just doesn’t pay for itself.

Facts vs Claims on Measure A Tax

Measure A Claim: "We can be sure one thing won't go to Sacramento ... Every single dime of Measure A funds will stay right here in Merced County"

Fact: The Major funder behind Measure A is the California Alliance for Jobs, a consortium of statewide highway construction contractors and unions. We can be sure this additional sales tax will go here, there, and everywhere, including Sacramento.

Measure A Claim: "The state and federal governments cannot take one dime of Measure A funds"

Fact: Measure A is a matching fund gimmick to attract more than a billion dollars in state and federal highway funds that may arrive and be spent as state and federal government agencies decide. Your potholes are not on their lists. This is a make work scheme for statewide contractors and out- of- town union members.

Measure A Claim: "We're not betting the farm"

Fact: Measure A is certainly betting Merced County farms will be absorbed by urban growth. Even the Measure A “farm picture” appears to be out-of-state. Minnesota, perhaps?

Fact: Fresno County has had a transportation sales tax in place since 1986. Since that time, entire farming districts in Fresno County have been swallowed by urban sprawl. Fresno citizens are paying for development that does not pay for itself.

Fact: Measure A will induce Fresno-level sprawl, Fresno-level air pollution, Fresno-level asthma and Fresno-level political corruption investigations.

Fact: But even Fresno subjected its reauthorized transportation tax plan to public environmental review. Merced leadership wants you to pay the Measure A tax before they begin any public environmental review of the consequences of the sprawl these funds will induce.

Measure A Claim: "Projects include: Ensuring safer routes to school for local children"

Fact: The highest priority project Merced County leaders have is the Yellow Brick Beltway to UC Merced, connected to Highway 99 south of Merced and north of Atwater. There are less than a thousand UC Merced students and they come from all parts of California.

Measure A Claim: “using developer impact fees to supplement Measure A funds so that new growth pays its share of transportation costs”

Fact: Special interests want you to tax yourselves so they won’t have to pay for their impacts on your county. These special interests include: public developers like UC Merced and CalTrans; local, national and international homebuilders; highway construction companies and their unions; the statewide and international aggregate companies mining your rivers and creeks; your elected public officials and their staffs; and the local media.

Measure A Claim: "Citizen oversight: An independent taxpayer watchdog committee and annual third-party audits will ensure that Measure A funds are spent wisely"

Fact: Presently Merced County oversight is by ‘special interest’ only: This conversation between Ranchwood Homes owner and county supervisor Crookham shows how economic development really works in Merced.

Feb. 3, 2006: Mrs. Crookham, this is Greg Hostetler calling. My cell number actually is 704-13** if you need to call me. I’m on a cell phone cause my other battery I’m trying to save that, preserve it you know. I’m into preserving things too from time to time, but anyway, uhm, I’m just calling you, uh, to let you know that…ah if you don’t already know… that we’ve had a lot of drama and trouble in the county … everywhere I do business [inaudible] apparently I guess because of Mrs. uh…Mrs. Deirdre Kelsey ah… thinks staff may need some help, because she’s climbing all over them… using [inaudible] staff for her personal pit bulls…trying to bite our people, and our staff — this is my opinion — causing a lot of drama in Livingston, for the City of Livingston and we’re trying to uh in the progress of uh in the process of installing a sewer line over there. If you haven’t talked to Dee Tatum, he could fill you in on what’s going on over there. But uh this probably will not end any time soon. So, I just wanted to give you the update, and if you could give staff any help I’d appreciate it… Thank you! ..."

Here is a partial list of residential developments ALREADY planned for Merced County

Atwater - 1,584 units, Atwater Ranch, Florsheim Homes 21 Units, John Gallagher, 25.2 acres.

Delhi - 1,100 units, Matthews Homes, 2,000 acres.

Fox Hills - 907 units, Fox Hills Estates north 337 units, Fox Hills Estates, central- 1,356 units.

Hilmar-JKB Homes, over 3,000 units.

Livingston - 1,200 units, Ranchwood Homes 420 acres. Del Valle, Gallo Ranchwood, 1,000acres,

Los Banos -, Ranchwood, 932 acres 323 units, Pinn Brothers, 34 units, Court of Fountains, 2.7 acres 95 units, Woodside Homes,

City of Merced - 11,616 units, UC Merced Community Plan 1,560 acres; 7,800 units,

Ranchwood Homes, 2,355 acres, 7,000 units, Bellevue Ranch, 1,400 acres,

Vista Del Lago, 442 units, Weaver Development, 920 units, Fahrens Creek II, -1,282 units,

Fahrens Creek North, 1,093 units, Hunt Family Annexation,

Planada - 4,400 units, Village of Geneva at Planada, Hostetler 1,390 acres.

Felix Torres Migrant Megaplex 127 units, Park Street Estates, 31.8 acres, 200 units.

San Luis Creek 629 units, F & S Investments, 180 acres.

San Luis Ranch - 544 units, 237 acres.

Santa Nella - 8,250 units - Santa Nella Village west 881 units, 350 acres,

The Parkway, phase III, 146 acres - 138 units, Santa Nella Village, 40.7 acres - 544 units,

San Luis Ranch, phase II - 232 units, 312 acres - 182 acres, Arnaudo 1 &2

Stevinson - 3,500 units, Stevinson Ranch/Gallo Lakes Development - 1,700 units, 3,740 acres.

Winton - 50 units, 17 acres- Gertrude Estates, Mike Raymond, 18 acres - 142 units, Winn Ranch

Commercial Development

WalMart Distribution Center, Riverside Motorsports Park and a growing number of Strip Malls ….and the list goes on!

What You Can Do:

Vote No on Measure A Tax
Demand to participate in General Plans and community plan update process
Support public statements advocating slow growth or no growth until General Plans and Community Plans are legally compliant.

Paid for by the Committee Against Measure A Tax
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7-25-06
Merced Sun-Star
Measure A may make return trip to ballot...Chris Collins
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12498850p-13214958c.html
Despite a poll conducted this month that says the half-cent sales tax that failed in June will do even worse if it is put up for a vote later this year, Merced County officials decided last week to place it on the November ballot. They say the measure, which would raise $446 million over 30 years to fix roads, will get the required two-thirds vote this time because more people will show up to the polls in November than in June. Measure A's failure...stunned many of its supporters. A much more attractive November ballot includes billion-dollar infrastructure bonds and a governor's race is sure to draw more voters. MCAG board members, which includes all five county supervisors and an elected official from each of the six cities in the county, say the county has a one-shot chance at taking advantage of $1 billion that will be set aside for "self-help" counties if voters approve the state bond measures on the November ballot.Sacramento-based Jim Moore Methods...polled 400 county residents earlier this month about the possibility of a November sales tax, concluded that the measure would get only 58 to 66 percent of the vote. "I would not recommend going forward with Measure A again this November," Jim Moore wrote in a letter to Brown. "The survey clearly shows that a November 2008 election date would provide Measure A with the next best chance for passage." If voters reject the measure again in November, it would be the third time a transportation sales tax would fail in Merced County in the last four years.
New measure:
• $10 million for Phase One of the Campus Parkway
• $85 million to widen Highway 99 to six lanes throughout the county
• $10 million for the Highway 152 bypass in Los Banos
• $8 million to widen Highway 59 from 16th Street to Black Rascal Creek
• $8 million to replace the Highway 140 Bradley overhead
• $6 million for Dos Palos street reconstruction

Wal-Mart project opinions sought...Leslie Albrecht
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12498854p-13214978c.html
Concerned about what 450 trucks driving in and out of the proposed Wal-Mart distribution center every day would do to Merced's air quality. The city wants to hear from you Thursday... planners will host two public meetings. The answers will be ready in January 2007, when consulting group EDAW, Inc. is slated to finish the environmental impact report. The City Council approved EDAW's $344,655 consulting contract in May; Wal-Mart will pay for the entire project. Wal-Mart meeting...WHAT: Two public meetings about what should be studied in the environmental impact report for the proposed Wal-Mart distribution center. WHEN: 2:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. Thursday WHO: The afternoon meeting is for state and local government agencies and the public. The evening meeting is for the public. WHERE: City Council chambers, 678 W. 18th St.>/b>

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Mirage

Submitted: Jul 23, 2006

It’s fitting to speak of mirages when the Valley gets this hot.

The political mirage of the week, in the wake of former Merced County DA Gordon Spenser’s spectacular fall that ended in Bear Creek a week (just before a mysterious fire in the DA department’s offices), was the set-to between developer Greg Hostetler (Ranchwood Homes) and Supervisor Deirdre Kelsey at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisor’s meeting, exhaustively detailed below by the local press.

There is nothing like a juicy scandal. However, the whole thing was inevitable and is probably not the biggest political scandal waiting to unfold in Merced County.

All this drama, and the press and political obsession with making it all personal and a matter of integrity and reputation, is a waste of time and nothing but a scintillating diversion from the problem.

When urbanization comes, farming goes. It is a cold-blooded, ruthless process driven by the long-range planning of one small group, developers, and their profit taking. Everything else, including the reputations of particular developers and particular politicians, so engagingly showcased in this case, is a sideshow. Yes, it is flamboyantly Merced that the DA and the sheriff would have been partners in a deal to buy an advantageously placed land parcel from an inmate of the county jail indicted for attempted bribery of a police officer, who ended up serving six months instead of nine years. Yes, the peculiar blend of arrogance, stupidity, greed, and possibly actionable behavior is what we have come to have a perfect “right” to expect from “leadership” in Merced County.

Furthermore, we are not holding our breath in expectation that either Spenser, Pazin, Hostetler or any other members of the Bellevue Partnership (purchasers of the inmate’s land) will ever be indicted for anything, by Attorney General Bill Lockyer or the newly appointed DA, Larry Morse, II. Lockyer’s connections with Merced and Spenser are deep -- for instance, he has appointed two not one but two former Merced law enforcement officials to the top investigative position in the state Department of Justice -- and Morse has his own political career to look after. It is even a question how much further this investigation will go, if any further at all, because of what else might be found and who else, among the county’s “good old boys and girls” would be implicated in backroom land deals.

When the county “leadership” committed itself and the rest of us to becoming home to the University of California, Merced campus, it set in motion a speculative real estate boom that has laws of its own, not all of them legal, if you get the distinction.

There used to be another such informal law, in politics, that was pretty widely observed between the end of WWII and the election of Ronald Reagan as governor, and even the Reagan people mostly observed it. The idea was that the people would accept an ambition for political power and they will accept an ambition to get rich, but they will not – at least would not – accept an ambition for both in the same politician. The combination was felt to violate the public taste, which can lead to disasters now befalling Spenser and perhaps others soon to follow here in Merced County.

Another informal law from that bygone epoch was that an office holder was expected to be able to drink with people attempting to influence his vote, accept their political contributions and even their prostitutes, and vote against them the next morning.

Today, it is nauseatingly obvious here in the big speculative land boom that the loyalty of local, state and federal legislators representing Merced County has been sold to developers. You see it week after week in local land-use decision after decision, at the state level in the new Valley partnership for growth, and in Congress Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, has introduced three bills in three years tailor-made to streamline the sale of farm and ranchland to developers and urbanize this area over the dead body of the Endangered Species Act and the species it is designed to try to protect.

All the protestations of personal insult, damage to reputation, even allegations of danger to a supervisor in the board chambers (because Hostetler called her out on her own profound conflicts of interest), are nothing but a Punch and Judy show. Anyone who has ever articulately opposed a board of supervisors’ or city council’s position in Merced County has received worse abuse from supervisors and council members than Kelsey received from Hostetler. One recalls grimly, former Supervisor Cortez-Keene’s McCarthyite interrogations, for example. More recently, board chairman Mike Nelson’s nasty response to any criticism and supervisor John Pedrozo’s belligerence toward it are equally fondly recalled. So, the public doesn’t buy Kelsey’s political vapors anymore than it buys Spenser’s memory loss.

The law in Merced County is that the most aggressive developer wins, period, whether it’s done crudely, as the scofflaw Hostetler does it, or more smoothly as larger, richer competitors of Ranchwood Homes do it, or with the elegant disdain of UC Merced, which steadfastly denies it is a developer at all while being the largest developer in the county. What is called “planning” in the county amounts to accommodation to development. Political competence consists of making sure developers agree to pay all legal expenses the county might incur as the result of lawsuits arising from their land-use decisions, which frequently violate aspects of the California Environmental Quality Act and laws of public process.

“Planning” in the county is a complete joke. The county has not updated its General Plan since before UC Merced was even contemplated and has chosen the route of simply amending it whenever necessary. It’s present face reminds one of members of Davy Jones’ crew in Pirates of the Caribbean. Now, with the university launched and the speculative boom gyrating out of control, local land-use jurisdictions are planning new general plan and community plan updates here, there and everywhere.

Even this tardy diligence is grudging and is planned to take about as long – as best it can be guessed – as the boom itself continues to its bust. The best thing for the public interest that could be done is to have a building moratorium while these updates, particularly the county general plan, are being done. When confronted with a public statement, signed by a coalition 15 local and regional groups, urging a moratorium, the supervisors voted for business as usual.

Whose interests do they represent?

Bill Hatch
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Notes:

Coalition Statement on Merced County Planning Process

We call for a moratorium on County General Plan amendments, variances, minor sub-divisions changes to existing projects, zoning changes, and annexations of unincorporated county land by municipal jurisdictions, MOU’s and developments with private interests and state agencies, until a new County general Plan is formulated by a fully authorized public process – and approved locally and by the appropriate state and federal agencies.

The continual process of piecemealing development through amendments, willfully ignoring the cumulative impacts to infrastructure and resources, for the benefit of a small cabal of public and private special interests, is illegal and reprehensible conduct on the by elected and appointed officials of local land-use authorities.
We also call for a permanent moratorium on indemnification of all local land-use jurisdictions by private and public-funded developers.

Indemnification is the widespread, corrupt practice in which developers agree to pay for all legal costs arising from lawsuits that may be brought against their projects approved by the land-use authority — city or county. Without having to answer to the public for the financial consequences of decisions made on behalf of special interests, local land-use authorities can be counted on to continue unimpeded their real policy: unmitigated sprawl, agricultural land and natural resource destruction, constant increases in utility rates, layering of school and transportation bonds on top of property taxes, and the steady erosion of the county’s infrastructure.

Adopted 2006

San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
Protect Our Water
Central Valley Safe Environment Network
Merced River Valley Association
Planada Association
Le Grand Association
Communities for Land, Air & Water
Planada Community Development Co.
Central Valley Food & Farmland Coalition
Merced Group of Sierra Club
Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge VernalPools.Org
California Native Plant Society
Stevinson Citizen’s Group
San Bruno Mountain Watch
San Joaquin Valley Chapter of Community Alliance with Family Farmers

CENTRAL VALLEY SAFE ENVIRONMENT NETWORK
MISSION STATEMENT

Central Valley Safe Environment Network is a coalition of organizations and individuals throughout the San Joaquin Valley that is committed to the concept of “Eco-Justice” — the ecological defense of the natural resources and the people. To that end it is committed to the stewardship, and protection of the resources of the greater San Joaquin Valley, including air and water quality, the preservation of agricultural land, and the protection of wildlife and its habitat. In serving as a community resource and being action-oriented, CVSEN desires to continue to assure there will be a safe food chain, efficient use of natural resources and a healthy environment. CVSEN is also committed to public education regarding these various issues and it is committed to ensuring governmental compliance with federal and state law. CVSEN is composed of farmers, ranchers, city dwellers, environmentalists, ethnic, political, and religious groups, and other stakeholders.
P.O. Box 64, Merced, CA 95341
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Merced DA under fire for 2004 land deal
He, 7 other investors made deal with a man facing bribery charge
By Chris Collins
Merced Sun-Star

Last Updated: July 9, 2006, 05:20:05 AM PDT
California Attorney General Bill Lockyer has launched a third investigation into Merced County District Attorney Gordon Spencer, this time examining whether Spencer committed a crime when he and a group of local investors bought a piece of property from a man who was sitting behind bars and facing charges from the district attorney's office.

The latest investigation comes on top of an ongoing criminal probe into Spencer's potential embezzlement of public funds and an inquiry in December that found Spencer had impersonated an investigator.
The attorney general now is looking into a 21-acre lot on Bellevue Road that Spencer, Sheriff Mark Pazin, Ranchwood Homes owner Greg Hostetler and five other prominent locals bought in 2004.

The owner of the farmland, former Merced College police chief Richard Byrd, was arrested in March 2004 for bribing a sheriff's deputy. His bail was set at $500,000.

Byrd said his imprisonment forced his security company to go out of business and prompted his daughter to sell his land to help pay for attorney fees and other expenses.

Prosecutors in Spencer's office were working on a plea deal with Byrd in May 2004 when Spencer and the other investors pitched their offer to buy the land, according to public records and property sale documents Byrd provided.

Investors close deal

The investors, organized under the Campodonica Trust led by Merced real estate agent Carl Campodonica, closed the $1.3 million deal on the land July1, 2004. Byrd was released from jail 15 days later.
Frank Dougherty, the Merced County Superior Court presiding judge, said he has looked into the case and found that Spencer was "intimately involved" in pressing felony charges against Byrd.

It also is clear from property sale records that Spencer knew he was buying land from the man he was prosecuting. One document shows Spencer's and Pazin's signatures next to Byrd's name.
When the purchase went through two years ago, it drew little attention. But concerns about the deal have resurfaced in the wake of multiple investigations launched by state and local agencies examining Spencer's use of grant funds and county dollars.

The attorney general's investigation of the land deal could lead to extortion charges against Spencer.
Robert Weisberg, a Stanford law professor who specializes in white-collar crime, said Spencer's decision to pursue the land deal while prosecuting Byrd was "unbelievably bad."

"If the district attorney said to the defendant, 'I'm going to charge you with crime X, but if you reduce the price on your land, I'll give you a better deal,' then, boy, you could talk about extortion," Weisberg said.
Byrd said he never was approached by anyone from the district attorney's office while he was in jail. But he said he originally was told through his lawyer that he was facing nine years in state prison.

Byrd gets sentence reduced

After Byrd's daughter accepted the Campodonica Trust's offer to buy the land, Byrd was offered a plea deal that reduced his sentence to six months of county jail time.

Byrd also said he wonders why his $500,000 bail never was reduced.

Spencer did not return calls last week seeking comment. His Merced attorney, Terry Allen, said the attorney general's investigation is based only on "speculation."

"I assure you Byrd wasn't coerced into doing anything and Gordon wasn't doing anything to gain some advantage over him," Allen said.

Most of the other seven investors who were part of the Campodonica Trust either didn't return calls or said they didn't want to comment.

Hostetler, a local developer, said he joined the investment group at the last minute to help provide a little extra money needed to seal the deal. He said he didn't know Byrd was the seller.

Sheriff regrets joining group

The attorney general's office won't acknowledge it's investigating the land deal, but Pazin and Chief Deputy District Attorney Larry Morse II said two investigators and a deputy attorney general have interviewed them as witnesses about the property purchase.

Pazin said that, at the behest of Dougherty, he sent a letter to the attorney general a few weeks ago asking his office to look into the land deal.

The sheriff said that when he joined the Campodonica Trust he didn't see a problem with entering the land deal. But he said he now regrets joining the investors.

Pazin said he didn't realize he was buying land from Byrd, who was in the custody of the Sheriff's Department at the time, until the final stages of the deal.

"Is there anything neglectful that I did? The answer is no," Pazin said.

"But is there a perception issue? Yes. And I accept that."

News that Spencer bought the land from a man he was prosecuting has roiled some county supervisors.
"The whole thing sounds like a real bucket of rotting fish," Supervisor Deidre Kelsey said.

"I'm surprised that a transaction like that would occur."
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7-19-06
Merced Sun-Star
Land deal rhetoric flares up...Leslie Albrecht
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12471197p-13189784c.html
Tension about recent press coverage of former District Attorney Gordon Spencer's land deal with Merced County Sheriff Mark Pazin and other prominent locals boiled over at the supervisors' meeting Tuesday when Ranchwood Homes president Greg Hostetler harshly criticized Supervisor Deidre Kelsey. Hostetler is one of the investors who bought land from a man while he was in jail being prosecuted by Spencer. During the meeting's public comment period, Hostetler leaned over the podium and read a statement that first refuted information in the Sun-Star story, then accused Kelsey of making "uncalled for comments." Hostetler said a Merced County civil grand jury investigation into Kelsey's family mining business five years ago left Kelsey in no position to pass judgment on others. This isn't the first time Hostetler and Kelsey have clashed. In March a voicemail message reportedly left by Hostetler was posted on the Web site Badlands Journal. In the message Hostetler accused Kelsey of using county staff members as her "personal pit bulls" to attack his employees.
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Kelsey fires back in strongly worded letter to chairman
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12481759p-13199319c.html
By Leslie Albrecht
LALBRECHT@MERCEDSUN-STAR.COM
July 21, 2006

The fire of controversy ignited when developer Greg Hostetler publicly criticized Supervisor Deidre Kelsey is heating up.

Kelsey fanned the flames with a letter to board chairman Mike Nelson saying that she felt afraid for her safety when Hostetler read a statement about her during the public comment period at Tuesday's supervisors meeting.

"I am extremely disappointed that NO ONE intervened appropriately to stop the personal attack coming at me from the podium," Kelsey wrote in her letter to Nelson.

Kelsey's letter also says Hostetler used the "county forum as a means to personally attack me and my family."

Hostetler called Kelsey's letter a "mischaracterization" of what happened at the meeting.

"It would be my opinion that Deidre has overreacted, is acting childish, and is spinning the truth," said Hostetler.

He called for Kelsey to resign immediately because of the findings of a 2001-2002 Merced County civil grand jury report that investigated a complaint about Kelsey's family's mining company.

Hostetler's comments at the Tuesday meeting were a response to a Sun-Star article about a land deal Hostetler made with former District Attorney Gordon Spencer, Merced County Sheriff Mark Pazin, and other prominent locals.

Hostetler, Spencer, Pazin and others bought the land from a man who was in jail awaiting prosecution by Spencer. The State Attorney General's office is investigating the deal.

Kelsey was quoted in the article saying, "The whole thing sounds like a real bucket of rotting fish."

At Tuesday's meeting Hostetler called Kelsey's comments "inflammatory and unprofessional."

He held up a copy of the 2001-2002 grand jury report -- which investigated a complaint about Kelsey's family's mining company -- and said that Kelsey had engaged in "unethical conduct."

The jury's report accused Kelsey of having a conflict of interest involving her family's mining business. Kelsey told the Sun-Star in 2002 that the report was the work of "a good-old-boy network" upset because she did not bow to economic special interests.

Kelsey said Nelson, as chairman of the meeting, should have stopped Hostetler's speech because he was harassing and haranguing her and "looking with hostility directly at me" and "leaning forward towards the dais."

"I demand to be provided with a safe workplace and I believe the law provides for the safety of elected officials while engaged in county business," the letter said.

Kelsey's letter asks that "this issue be resolved either through some action of (Nelson's) or through the collective actions of the Board policy immediately."

Nelson met with County Counsel Ruben Castillo on Thursday and asked him to provide a legal opinion about whether the supervisors can restrict public comment.

A state law called the Brown Act governs how elected bodies like the Board of Supervisors run their meetings, said Castillo, so any county policy would have to be in line with that law.

"I have a constitutional right to speak at a public forum," said Hostetler. "The government may not silence speakers on the basis of their viewpoint or the content of their speech.

"I will not be silenced. I live in America, not in Baghdad."

Nelson's seat on the supervisors' dais has a button that controls the microphone on the public podium. He said his role as chairman is to turn the mic off if a member of the public becomes disruptive.

"If I thought any member of the public was getting out of hand I would have asked for the sheriff to step in, but that wasn't the case," said Nelson.

Kelsey also faulted Sheriff Pazin and Undersheriff Bill Blake -- who were both in the audience during Hostetler's comments -- for not intervening during Hostetler's speech.

But Blake said he and the sheriff attend supervisors' meetings as participants, not police.

"I don't know what she wants us to do," said Blake. "I can't arrest him for being mean to the Board of Supervisors."

He added, "He didn't swear, he didn't threaten, he didn't yell ... I can't get up and say 'Greg you're breaking the law', because he's not. In fact, I would be afraid that a civil libertarian would think I was infringing under color of law on his free speech."

Kelsey said Hostetler's comments at the meeting caught her totally off-guard.

The meeting's original agenda included a ceremony where Kelsey was to receive a pin honoring her 10 years of service on the board, but the ceremony was postponed.

Instead, Kelsey found herself on the receiving end of Hostetler's criticism.

She said all elected officials can expect criticism, but Hostetler chose the wrong setting.

"That's the elbows and knees aspect of being in politics," said Kelsey. "However, in a public meeting doing county business is a different matter.

"There's a different set of expectations when I'm out and about in the community than when I'm sitting as a supervisor on the dais."

Reporter Leslie Albrecht can be reached at 385-2484 or lalbrecht@mercedsun-star.com.

Controlling speech at meetings and the Brown Act

A state law called the Ralph M. Brown Act governs how elected bodies like the Board of Supervisors run their meetings. The California First Amendment Coalition's Web Site includes this question and answer about limits on public comments.

Q: How far can an elected body go in controlling what speakers say in their comments?

A: In creating an opportunity for citizens to address a legislative body, the Legislature has created what is described in First Amendment jurisprudence as a limited public forum.

It is limited in the sense that speakers may be held to subject matter relevant to the meeting (or at least the agency's role) and may also be restricted by reasonable rules of time limitation and good order.

But, concluded the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the First Amendment would not permit officials presiding in a public forum of even this limited scope to outlaw comment simply on the basis of its being offensive -- "personal, impertinent, slanderous or profane."

What they may do is react to actual disruption, which in the context of a government meeting can mean simply wasting time to the detriment of all others present.

Board of Supervisors transcript

To view or listen to the meeting, check the Board of Supervisors Web site: web.co.merced.ca.us/bos/archive.html

HOSTETLER: Good morning, everyone. My name is Greg Hostetler, 2000 M Street, Merced, California.
I am here today because of my concerns about recent events. I would like to say several things this board and public should know.

I am speaking for myself and not the Bellevue Partnership.

The real estate transaction involving Sheriff Mark Pazin and District Attorney Gordon Spencer was negotiated, signed and agreed to between two business professionals and the seller Mr. Byrd and his daughter.

Neither Mr. Spencer and Mr. Pazin had any negotiations as to the price, terms, and conditions of the purchase from Mr. Byrd. If anyone of the Board of Supervisors would like to see the contract I would be more than happy to show you.

I believe that the purchase contract was professional and ethical.

The property was listed with a Merced real estate company and placed on the MLS, Multiple Listing Service, for approximately 30 days or longer for all members to sell, which is around 700 sales people in the Merced area.

One offer was received for $1.1 million from a potential buyer. The seller countered, Mr. Byrd, with a $1.4 million counter offer. The counter offer was declined by the buyer.

The next offer was received for $1.3 million was presented to Mr. Byrd by two Merced professionals, and it was accepted by Mr. Byrd. Subsequently portions of the buyer's interest were sold to other individuals in Merced, including the sheriff, including myself and a number of other partners and the district attorney. Because the seller wanted an all-cash transaction at $61,000 an acre, which is in the county. The property adjacent to it, two months earlier, sold for approximately $36,000 an acre. It has been reported that the land was annexed and rezoned. That is incorrect.

Several local investors and business professionals felt it was not a good enough investment so they declined to purchase a share.

I think hypothetical comments without the facts about the transaction are uncalled for such as those made by Stanford law professor and comments made by Deidre Kelsey.

They are inflammatory, unprofessional, and do not show the leadership qualities this county needs.

I think Deidre Kelsey's conduct is unethical on a number of issues. One being the operation of the mine of the Kelsey property in Snelling which has been the subject of a former grand jury investigation and it was reported that it had been operated for at least six years and failed to pay county road taxes ...

NELSON: Mr. Hostetler ...

HOSTETLER: ... and operating in a fishing business without county ordinance permitted ...

NELSON: Mr. Hostetler.

HOSTETLER: Yes.

NELSON: I would ask you to confine your comments to not attacks on board members please.

HOSTETLER: It's open public I can talk about the grand jury investigation ....

NELSON: I understand that ...

HOSTETLER: ... and I'm going to talk about it.

NELSON: Well you have a minute and four seconds.

HOSTETLER: That's fine. And I understand that. There's an ongoing investigation I understand to the operation of the mining there now and hopefully it will not go unenforced like the last time according to the grand jury report. Thank you.

(Kelsey left the chamber during Hostetler's comments. After Hostetler was done, she returned and sat down.)

KELSEY: If people bring things up that pertain to myself or my family in this forum I will recuse myself from the public forum at that time. And you can see I did leave and I have now come back.

(At the end of the meeting, each supervisor makes a report. Nelson's included the following comments.)

NELSON: I have nothing to report necessarily, but I did want to say, you know we always welcome people to come make comments during public opportunity to speak, but it's nice when people don't make personal attacks. It's just not, really, it's just not appropriate. That's all I have to say.
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DA still in hospital
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12439963p-13161488c.html
By Scott Jason
SJASON@MERCEDSUN-STAR.COM
Last Updated: July 13, 2006, 01:38:01 AM PDT

The Merced County district attorney remained in the hospital Tuesday night with short-term memory loss after a rollover crash Monday night, his attorney said.

Terry Allen, Gordon Spencer's attorney, said he called Spencer as a friend to check his condition.

"He can't remember anything from two to three days ago," Allen said, adding Spencer can't recall the circumstances surrounding the crash.

Spencer was taken by his wife to Mercy Medical Center Merced after the wreck. He could not be reached for comment.

The California Highway Patrol is continuing its investigation into the crash, though it doesn't look like any charges or citations will be filed, Public Information Officer Shane Ferriera said.

The district attorney, who was wearing a seat belt, was driving alone on South East Bear Creek Drive at about 5 p.m., Ferriera said.

Spencer was a mile east of McKee Road when he apparently didn't follow a left curve and plunged his truck into the creek.

He did not appear to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, Ferriera said.

A 35 mph sign is posted just before the turn. The CHP is not sure if Spencer was speeding, Ferriera said.

A man who lives near the crash site, Dan Smith, and his two children found Spencer and helped him call his wife. Assisting people who drive their cars into the creek is nothing new, Smith said.

"We treated him and did for him what we've done for a dozen other people," Smith said.

Smith's 9- and 12-year-old sons were tubing down the creek when they found Spencer's truck upside down at 5:30 p.m. Only the wheels and undercarriage were visible above the water.

They told their dad, who thought the truck was abandoned because people have stolen cars, stripped them and dumped them in the creek, he said.

When the two boys went back to get the Ford F-150's license plate number, they saw Spencer waist-high in the creek leaning against the bank.

Smith's 12-year-old son asked if Spencer needed help, and said the district attorney mumbled he didn't.

The son went home and told his dad there was a man in the creek.

After seeing the kids, Spencer crossed the creek and started walking toward Smith's home, about a quarter-mile from the crash, Smith said.

Spencer, wearing khaki pants and a button-down shirt, told Smith he was OK, and that he was driving, missed a turn and wrecked his truck.

There weren't any signs the district attorney was drinking or under the influence of drugs, Smith said.
"He acted like someone who had been in an eye-opening wreck," he said.

Smith recognized Spencer as the district attorney and brought him to his house to make a call.

"He was fine and talking with no apparent injuries, except an abrasion on his face from an air bag," Smith said.
Spencer called his wife from Smith's phone, and she took him to the hospital at about 6:30 p.m. She reported the crash to the CHP at 8:10 p.m., Ferriera said.

Leaving the scene and seeking treatment, as Spencer did, is not uncommon in single-vehicle wrecks with minor injuries, Ferriera said.

"It's not like it was a hit-and-run," he said.

The investigating officer interviewed Spencer at the hospital and tested him for driving under the influence.

Ferriera said the test includes looking for the smell of alcohol, slurred speech or red, watery eyes.

Ferriera said he did not know if Spencer was given a breathalyzer test.

The Merced County Sheriff's dive team checked the truck to make sure there weren't any other people in it. After 11 p.m., tow trucks removed Spencer's truck from the creek.

Timeline of the wreck

5 p.m. -- District Attorney Gordon Spencer rolls his Ford F-150 truck into Bear Creek.
5:30 p.m. -- A neighbor and his kids find Spencer and let him use their phone to call his wife.
6:30 p.m. -- Spencer's wife picks him up and takes the district attorney to Mercy Medical Center Merced.
8:10 p.m. -- California Highway Patrol officers are called about Spencer's crash. The investigating officer goes to the hospital to interview Spencer and test him for driving under the influence.
11:15 p.m. -- Tow trucks remove Spencer's pickup from the creek.

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Saving the edges of the Central Valley

Submitted: Jul 05, 2006

Throughout the borders of the Central Valley where cattle graze, although the great fields of vernal pools in pasturelands are being illegally taken, individuals and groups are finding positive ways to work together to try to stop the destruction of this unique ecology, home to a number of endangered and threatened species, essential for groundwater storage, open space that does not contribute to air pollution, and productive cattle land.

We include a several pieces:

"Easy on the land," by Glen Martin, San Francisco Chronicle, July 2, 2006;

The California Rangeland Resolution, an unprecedented agreement among local ranchers and their industry groups, farmers and their industry groups, state and federal resources agencies and local, state and national environmental groups, that this land must be saved. There is even one local land-use authority, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors;

A US Fish & Wildlife Service white paper, “Wetlands Creation in existing vernal pool landscapes.”

Bill Hatch
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http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/07/02/MNGOQJO6P41.DTL

EASY ON THE LAND
Ranchers and farmers, spurred by the growing market for natural foods, are finding a silver lining in the conservation cloud
Glen Martin, Chronicle Environment Writer

Sunday, July 2, 2006

Darrell Wood drove slowly across his land near Chico, a battered cowboy hat pulled down over his forehead, his eyes darting back and forth as he sized up the Black Angus cattle grazing nearby. In the back of his truck, three border collies stood at attention, ready to work.

The cattle looked in prime shape as they stood in lush pasturage dotted with sapphire vernal pools. Large flocks of northern pintails dabbled in the water, while white-tailed kites hovered overhead and red-winged blackbirds called from the sedges along the pools.

"This ecosystem is like anything else," said Wood, gesturing across the gently rolling plain that stretches all the way to the foothills of the Sierra. "Properly managed, it flourishes. Improperly managed, things start falling apart. We're doing everything we can to manage it properly."

Not too many years ago, that kind of talk might have sounded strange coming from a cattleman. But Wood represents a new breed of rancher. He and hundreds of other ranchers and farmers in California and across the nation are part of a growing private initiative that "embeds" wildlife habitat into the working agricultural landscape.

The trend is driven more by market incentives than bunny-hugging sentiments: The natural and organic food business is now a multibillion-dollar industry. But farmers and ranchers who produce for this market find they also have the opportunity to improve or create wildlife habitat on their land.

Adding to the incentive for wildlife-friendly agriculture are conservation easements -- essentially, cash payouts by government agencies or private conservancies in voluntary exchange for future development rights. The trend for such easements is bullish. In the last 20 years, about 260,000 acres of land have been protected in California through conservation easements --Â with 85 percent of that land set aside in the last decade.

Increasingly, environmentalists see easements and similar management tools -- and the ranchers like Wood who utilize them -- as key elements in 21st century conservation efforts.

"To a large degree, our society has become reluctant to fund large-scale national park and wildlife refuge acquisitions," said Dawit Zeleke, the Central Valley eco-regional director for the Nature Conservancy's California program.

Wood and his family own 10,000 acres and lease 100,000 acres from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management near the Lassen County town of Susanville, which they use as summer pasturage for their stock. They also own 2,700 acres and lease 10,000 acres from the Nature Conservancy on the Vina Plains near Highway 99 between Red Bluff in Tehama County and Chico in Butte County.

The area is considered a top priority by environmentalists because of its vernal pools -- seasonal wetlands that support several native plants and animals. The conservancy requires ranchers to pay fair market value for leased land. In the Vina Plains area, that averages about $12 an acre, said a spokeswoman for the California Cattlemen's Association.

Wood said he manages his stock to mimic the way tule elk once grazed the land.

"We allow the cattle to graze very intensively for short periods, then move them off," he said. "When the elk came through, they did essentially the same thing -- they ate everything and moved on. That keeps all the indigenous vegetation in the system. It's adapted to that kind of cycle."

When the land was managed more traditionally -- with cattle allowed to graze moderately, rotated off when the grass got shorter and moved back on when the grass grew back -- the vernal pool ecosystems suffered, Wood said: Noxious nonnative plant species, such as yellow star thistle and Medusa head, took over.

Wood's family has been ranching in Northern California since the 1860s, but in recent years he found it tough making a profit by raising and selling his cattle in the standard ways.

"Several years ago, cattle prices were at all-time lows, and I didn't know if we were going to survive," he said. "A guy approached me and asked if I was interested in raising natural grass-fed beef -- no hormones, no grain or antibiotics. I went for it. Right from the start, we got better prices than we did for standard beef."

The natural beef business has steadily expanded since 2000, and Wood's production has grown with it. He has enlisted neighboring ranchers into his operation, and the partnership now ships 130 to 160 cattle weekly, mostly to Whole Foods Markets and Trader Joe's, but also to several restaurants.

While Wood allowed he isn't getting rich, the future looks brighter than it has in some time. But if you're going to make it with natural beef, he said, profits must come from conservation easements and grants as well as cattle sales.

In addition to the Vina Plains programs, Wood's family is restoring wetlands, riparian corridors and upland sage-hen habitat on their property in Susanville, east of Mount Lassen, with funding from the National Resource Conservation Service, Ducks Unlimited, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Environmentalists have long criticized the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service for allowing excessive livestock grazing on federal lands. But grazing levels are about a third of what they were in the 1950s, said Ralph Mauck, a rangeland management specialist for the bureau's Eagle Lake district office, which manages about 1 million acres of rangeland near Susanville.

The district allows about 9,000 cattle and 5,000 sheep on its range, and ranchers are paying the district assessments of about $85,000 this year, Mauck said. Federal wildlife habitat can be improved by improving cattle range, he added.

"If it's done right, when you do one, you do the other," Mauck said. He said his agency is emphasizing management policies that incorporate wildlife values -- fencing off sensitive habitat areas, reseeding range to native plants and protecting riparian zones.

While ranching naturally lends itself to habitat restoration because the landscape is left more or less intact, intensive farming -- the cultivation of grains, vegetables or fruit -- is another matter.

To grow these crops, the face of the land must be changed radically, and usually little room is left for critters. In California's Sacramento Valley, there is one exception to this broad rule: rice lands. They can provide vast expanses of prime seasonal habitat for waterfowl, shorebirds, wading birds and raptors. Environmental impacts can be further reduced by growing the grain organically, or with minimal fertilizer and pesticide applications.

Lundberg Family Farms in Butte County has been a prime mover in the promotion of eco-friendly rice farming. The company and its contract growers cultivate about 12,000 acres of rice around the crossroads hamlet of Richvale, and markets a wide array of products, from organic brown rice to rice cakes, rice syrup, rice chips and rice milk.

The Lundbergs don't have any acres in true conservation easements, said the company's board chairwoman, Jessica Lundberg, but they participate in a U.S. Department of Agriculture initiative known as the conservation security program. Under the program, farmers are paid an incentive to maintain and improve environmental soil and water standards on their lands over a 10-year period.

The Lundbergs enrolled 3,500 acres, comprising their core family holdings, into the program and received $45,000.

The enterprise's patriarch, Albert Lundberg, came to California with his wife, Frances, in 1937, having fled the dust bowl in Nebraska, said CEO Grant Lundberg, the grandson of the founders.

"The complete environmental collapse they witnessed in the Midwest was due mainly to terrible farming practices, and it made a tremendous impression on them," he said. "When they came out here, they were determined to improve the condition of the land, not degrade it."

The Lundbergs were at the forefront of organic grain production in California, obtaining certification for organic rice production in 1980. Today, about 9,000 acres of rice land under the family's control is certified, with the remainder managed for "natural" rice produced with minimal pesticides and artificial fertilizer.

Organic and natural rice fetch higher prices than standard rice. Another attraction, Jessica Lundberg said, is that the land fares better under organic production. The regular use of cover crops for fertilizer improves the tilth and net fertility of the soil, she said, and shunning chemicals and artificial fertilizers saves money -- and is a boon to wild creatures.

During a recent tour of the Lundberg fields, wildlife was omnipresent. Pheasants burst from ditch side coverts, and scores of ducks and shorebirds foraged in the soggy fields.

The Lundbergs also pioneered post-harvest field flooding. Throughout most of the last century, Sacramento Valley rice farmers burned their rice stubble after harvest to dispose of the straw and reduce disease pathogens. But the family always felt flooding was a better way, said Jessica Lundberg.

Such "decomp" rice flooding is now standard for the industry. It wasn't wildlife concerns that drove the trend -- rather, stringent air quality standards in the 1980s and 1990s required an alternative to stubble burning. But birds and other wildlife have been major beneficiaries of the practice.

"It attracts all the ducks and geese that over-winter in the valley," she said. "They eat the waste rice, trample the stubble down, incorporate it into the soil where it degrades. That gets rid of the straw and increases the volume of organic matter in our soil -- makes it richer and healthier."

The Sacramento Valley's flooded rice fields now amount to hundreds of thousands of acres of seasonal wetlands, said Greg Mensik, the deputy refuge manager for the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex, which administers six refuges in the Sacramento Valley.

Zeleke of the Nature Conservancy said educating American city dwellers about private conservation efforts will be the next great challenge for the movement.

"As the population becomes more and more urbanized, people lose touch with the essential qualities of sustainable, wildlife-friendly ranching and farming," he said. "But I think we'll see increased public access to these properties -- guided tours, fishing and camping, maybe even some new variations of the classic dude ranch. We have to get people out there so they can understand the stakes."
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The California Rangeland Resolution

The undersigned recognize the critical importance of California’s privately owned rangelands, particularly that significant portion that encircles the Central Valley and includes the adjacent grasslands and oak woodlands, including the Sierra foothills and the interior coast ranges. These lands support important ecosystems and are the foundation for the ranching industry that owns them.

WHEREAS, these rangelands include a rich and varied landscape of grasslands, oak woodlands, vernal pools, riparian areas and wetlands, which support numerous imperiled species, many native plants once common in the Central Valley, and are home to the highest diversity and density of wintering raptors anywhere in North America;

WHEREAS, these rangelands are often located in California’s fastest-growing counties and are at significant risk of conversion to development and other uses;

WHEREAS, these rangelands, and the species that rely on these habitats, largely persist today due to the positive and experienced grazing and other land stewardship practices of the ranchers that have owned and managed these lands and are committed to a healthy future for their working landscapes;

WHEREAS, these rangelands are a critical foundation of the economic and social fabric of California’s ranching industry and rural communities, and will only continue to provide this important working landscape for California’s plants, fish and wildlife if private rangelands remain in ranching;

THEREFORE, we declare that it is our goal to collaboratively work together to protect and enhance the rangeland landscape that encircles California’s Central Valley and includes adjacent grasslands and oak woodlands by:

Keeping common species common on private working landscapes;

Working to recover imperiled species and enhancing habitat on rangelands while seeking to minimize regulations on private lands and streamline processes;

Supporting the long-term viability of the ranching industry and its culture by providing economic, social and other incentives and by reducing burdens to proactive stewardship on private ranchlands;

Increasing private, state and federal funding, technical expertise and other assistance to continue and expand the ranching community’s beneficial land stewardship practices that benefit sensitive species and are fully compatible with normal ranching practices;

Encouraging voluntary, collaborative and locally-led conservation that has proven to be very effective in maintaining and enhancing working landscapes;

Educating the public about the benefits of grazing and ranching in these rangelands.

Current signers of the California Rangeland Resolution include the following:

Alameda County RCD
Alameda County Board of Supervisors
American Land Conservancy
California Cattlemen’s Association
California Resources Agency
California Wildlife Foundation
Central Valley Land Trust Council
Bureau Land Management
Defenders of Wildlife
Butte Environmental Council
Environmental Defense
California Audubon Society
Institute for Ecological Health
California Cattlemen’s Association
Natural Resources Conservation Service
California Dept of Fish and Game
San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
California Dept of Food and Ag
San Joaquin Valley Conservancy
California Farm Bureau Federation
Sierra Foothills Audubon Society
California Native Grasslands Association
The Nature Conservancy
California Native Plant Society
Trust for Public Land
California Oak Foundation
US Fish and Wildlife Service
California Rangeland Trust
US Forest Service
California Resource Conservation Districts
VernalPools.org
Wildlife Conservation Board
----------------

US Fish & Wildlife Service white paper

Wetlands Creation in existing vernal pool landscapes
04/02/2006

For the past couple of years (and probably before) we have been reviewing
and accepting the creation of vernal pool features/wetlands within existing
vernal pool landscapes as a means to address the no net loss of wetlands
policy. Specifically I am talking about the practice of creating vernal
pools in existing vernal pool landscapes where none occurred previously (as
opposed to restoring or re-creating vernal pools where it can be determined
they did occur previously). Each time we are asked to accept this practice
we have difficulty determining that this mechanical ground disturbing
activity does not significantly affect the function and value of existing
vernal pools landscapes (uplands as well as wetlands) and also result in
adverse impacts to listed species like plants, salamanders and shrimp.
Each time I see another one of these creation proposals, the densities go
up and the project seems more like the creation of a Frankenstein type
creature than "enhancing" or complimenting the processes of a natural and
dynamic ecosystem

The only compelling reason I can see for these types of creation proposals
are that this is the most cost effective approach for the regulated
community. That is, credit can be given for preserving existing vernal
pools (which are difficult and costly to develop on in the first place) and
creation can be accomplished without purchasing additional ground.

I can see no real biological benefits of this approach that do not outweigh
the impacts, nor do I see any credible scientific evidence that this is an
appropriate approach for vernal pool conservation. In fact the more and
more we analyze and discuss this issue in the scientific and academic
community, the more and more evidence is presented that we are likely
causing great harm to an existing functioning landscape. Impacts to upland
components/habitat for listed plants, pollinators, salamanders and kit fox,
hydrology, water chemistry, microclimate, etc are just a few of the impacts
that have been brought to my attention.

I know there will continue to be great debate about the pros and cons of
this practice, and we should continue have this discussion in the
academic/scientific community. It is just getting very difficult to have
this debate in the regulatory process.

Thus, my thoughts for the day. We are reviewing several of these types of
actions in the office now and we will continue to work with the proponents
to minimize the impacts to listed species and if necessary to suggest the
appropriate compensation to avoid significant impacts and likely have to
prepare additional biological opinions on the proposals.

However, in the future, my strong recommendation is to look for
restoration/creation sites that are not within existing vernal pool
landscapes. There are numerous areas where vernal pools have been lost or
impacted due to agricultural or other practices that are prime candidates
for creation/restoration. If we are asked to evaluate the creation of new
vernal pools in existing landscapes that have impacts to listed species it
will be very difficult to justify these proposals on biological grounds
without out considerable analysis of effects to uplands, wetlands,
hydrology, etc. Please, consider looking away from existing vernal pools
for your creation component. thanks

Ken Sanchez
Assistant Field Supervisor
Endangered Species
US Fish and Wildlife Service
Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office
2800 Cottage Way-Suite W-2605
Sacramento, CA 95825
(916) 414-6671

| »

Notes on random evidence of the people's voice

Submitted: Jun 08, 2006

Several rapidly growing counties, including Merced, put sales-tax increases on their ballots in the June 6 election earmarked for transportation improvements. Costly mailers, paid for by developers, road construction companies and their unions, explained to the voters that without this "self-help" fund emanating from the county, CalTrans would not be likely to fund their projects. The voters seemed to ask why development doesn't pay for itself. (1)

In Humboldt County, voters passed a measure to prohibit outside special interest contributions to local political campaigns. Humboldt's forests are largely held by outside corporations, the largest and most belligerent being Maxxam's Pacific Lumber Co., which recently funded a recall campaign against newly elected DA Paul Gallegos, who had the gall to sue the lumber company for back taxes. Gallegos also won reelection. (2)

In Mendocino County, a supervisor who claims to be impeccably green but recently closed down a mill to develop it on the outskirts of Willits, lost to John Pinches. Hal Wagonet, the loser, narrowly defeated Pinches in the last election. Pinches' margin of victory was greatly aided by local citizens against Wagonet's development plans. (3)

In Placer County, rapidly developing Lincoln-based Supervisor Robert Wagonet beat back a challenge funded by the Tsakopoulos family, irritated that he had held to proper planning processes on a Tsakopoulos development in his district that would have featured at its center a "world-class university." (4)

Former Rep. Ron Dellums, D-Oakland, won the primary for Oakland mayor (to replace Jerry Brown). Alameda County is having to hand count its ballots so it is not yet certain whether Dellums will have to face a runoff election in November. Dellums took courageous stands on national defense spending and on the right of Palestinians to exist. (5)

Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy received 62 percent of the Republican vote in the 11th congressional district against former Rep. Pete McCloskey's 32 percent. McCloskey came, as a former Marine officer and lawyer, to defend the Constitution against the one-party, far-rightwing that has advanced Pombo so rapidly in the House. He came from out of the district as a co-author of the Endangered Species Act and several other key environmental laws, and as co-founder of Earth Day, to cause Pombo, co-author of the gut-the-ESA bill now stalled in the US Senate, as much political harm as possible. McCloskey came to do battle with Pombo as a Republican, to save the soul of the Republican Party.

It is doubtful McCloskey knew much more about the real estate manias of San Joaquin County, the basis of the power of Pombo and his extensive Pombo family clan of ranch realtors, than does Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, House Minority Leader, who backed the loser in the Democratic Party primary. The core of the district, San Joaquin County, is mysterious to Bay Area types. But Pombo needed 70 percent to scare away big Democratic Party money. If the Democrats can bring themselves to back the winner of their primary, Jerry McNerney, and run a decent voter registration drive, the could continue wounding Pombo and possibly beat him.

However, there is a sense Democratic Party treachery may be afoot in poor old San Joaquin County. The Democrats may be keeping their money for a state Sen. Mike Machado, D-Linden, campaign for Congress in two years. Meanwhile, if one follows the Delta press, it appears that Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Pelosi, both San Franciscans, are too chummy with Pombo by far. (6) (7)

Oakland Mayor and former Gov. Jerry Brown walked away with the Democratic Party nomination for attorney general. State Senator Charles Poochigian, R-Fresno, his opponent, threatens a harsh campaign on Brown's record. Fresno doesn't like it that Brown marched with Cesar Chavez and created the Agricultural Labor Relations Board. So what, Chuck? (8)

With an infusion of $8.6 million from the Tsakopoulos family, state Treasurer Phil Angelides defeated state Controller Steve Westly, a Silicon Valley magnate who funded his own campaign. Angelides, a former Sacramento developer and protege of Angelo Tsakopoulos, has also been a long-time Democratic Party funder and has served as state chairman of the party. His knowledge of Wall Street, through investment of billions in state retirement funds and his involvement in the many billions in bonds by which the state now finances itself -- because development doesn't pay its way -- may be an asset for the state government. Whether that expertise translates into assets for the state's people is a mystery. We think it is unlikely that the Tsakopoulos family will not receive some benefit for their generosity in the primary campaign. (9)

Voter turnout was generally, wretchedly low. Arnold the Hun was voted in on a "progressive reform" platform, a purely nostalgic confection of the public relations profession aimed at conjuring up images of Hiram Johnson and Teddy Roosevelt in the Age of Bush, Tom the Hammer, Pombo, Cunningham and Jack Abramoff and the K Street Project. Yet, the feeling for reform is genuine in the populace, if only it can sort out the flak to get to its best shot for a little bit of it. The people might conclude that Angelides serves too many masters. At least with the Hun, you know he serves only one master.

Bill Hatch
-----------------------

Notes:

(1) Measure A: Road fixes to take longer

http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12289754p-13025572c.html

By Leslie Albrecht
Last Updated: June 8, 2006, 01:58:29 AM PDT

… "It's devastating," said District 2 Supervisor Kathleen Crookham, who starred in television ads promoting Measure A, the half-cent sales tax that would have raised $446 million for transportation projects throughout the county.

The initiative fell 795 votes short of achieving the two-thirds majority it needed to pass, leaving Merced County leaders disappointed and wondering what kept voters home.

A May 19 poll showed 71 percent support for the initiative, but those numbers failed to materialize on Tuesday.

It wasn't only in Merced.

Transportation tax initiatives in Monterey, Solano and Napa counties all went down in flames. (Merced's fared the best -- Monterey's measure got 56 percent, Napa's got 52 percent, and Solano's got 45 percent.)

A few anti-tax groups campaigned against the Solano and Napa measures, but Merced's saw no organized opposition except for some fliers inserted into newspapers two days prior to the election.

"The fact that we lost millions and millions of dollars by just a few percentage points is just unbelievable," said Crookham. "It was local people who made the decisions about which projects it would fund.

"Why they didn't go to the polls and vote for what they wanted just leaves me baffled" ...
------------------------------------

(2)
http://www.eurekareporter.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?ArticleID=11963

Measure T passes with 55 percent majority
by Rebecca S. Bender, 6/7/2006

Humboldt County sent a message to out-of-area corporations looking to throw their weight around in local elections Tuesday night: Go away.

Measure T, also called the Ordinance to Protect Our Right to Fair Elections and Local Democracy, would prohibit non-local corporations from donating to county elections.

“We’re really excited!” enthused campaign co-manager Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap said close to midnight on Tuesday. “We’re very proud of our community — but we’re not surprised!”

As of press time, with 94 percent of precincts reporting, Measure T was ahead with 54.97 percent of votes stacking up in its favor and 45.03 percent against.

Absentee ballots, reported shortly after the polls closed at 8 p.m., fell along a similar divide, with 52 percent yes votes and 48 percent no, giving an initial indication of which way the vote might go.
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(3) http://www.ukiahdailyjournal.com/local/ci_3909566

3rd District voters choose Pinches' Colfax leading in 5th district race
By KATIE MINTZ The Daily Journal

John Pinches and David Colfax look to be the likely 3rd and 5th District supervisors following Tuesday's election...

With 100 percent of 3rd District precincts reporting, Pinches was the unofficial winner of the 3rd District supervisor seat with 54 percent of the votes...

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(4)
http://www.thepresstribune.com/articles/2006/06/07/news/top_stories/05weygandt.txt
Weygandt wins county supervisor race Tuesday

By: Joshua W. Bingham, Gold Country News Service
Wednesday, June 7, 2006 10:09 AM PDT

Through receiving 70 percent of the votes with 92 percent of the precincts rep-orting at 9:40 p.m. Tuesday, Robert Wey-gandt clearly was elected to his fourth term as District 2 Supervisor on the Placer County Board of Supervisors ...

Simmons estimated his team spent about $380,000 on the campaign. Weygandt, however, estimated the Simmons camp spent twice as much as his own.

Causing much media coverage was the fact the Tsakopoulos family, major developers in the area, donated $100,000 to Simmons' campaign on May 31.

Although a Placer County Elections Division spokesperson relayed that, according to late contribution reports, while $118,500 was given to Weygandt's campaign and $232,251.83 was given to Simmons' campaign between May 25 and June 2, a true receipt of how much money was spent wouldn't be available until required in a report later in the year...
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(5)
http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/06/08/BAG46JAKDK1.DTL&type=politics
ELECTION 2006
Oakland Races
Dellums leads, but counting not over
Christopher Heredia, Chronicle Staff Writer

Thursday, June 8, 2006

Ron Dellums was winning Oakland's mayoral race by the slimmest of margins Wednesday, but with thousands of absentee and provisional ballots still to be counted one by one, the outcome was nowhere near assured.

The former congressman, who gave what sounded a lot like a victory speech Tuesday night, had just 125 votes more than the 50 percent majority needed to win the election outright, election officials said Wednesday.
-----------------------

(6)
http://www.shns.com/shns/g_index2.cfm?action=detail&pk=POMBO-06-07-06

Primary vote shows 'vulnerability' for Pombo

By MICHAEL DOYLE
McClatchy Newspapers
07-JUN-06

WASHINGTON -- Republican Richard Pombo could pay a price for his victory in his most challenging Republican primary ever.

It all depends on what the meaning of "win" is.

The seven-term congressman from Tracy, Calif., did handily defeat his GOP challenger Tuesday, former congressman Pete McCloskey, 62 percent to 32 percent. In a general election, that would be a more than comfortable margin.

But in a primary, facing a 78-year-old challenger who only recently had taken an apartment in the Northern San Joaquin Valley congressional district, the win could be spun in several ways. Not all of the interpretations favor Pombo.

"The result shows a serious vulnerability, but no more than that," Bruce Cain, a political science professor at the University of California at Berkeley, said Wednesday. "At a minimum, it means that the Republicans will have to put money into this race, which they certainly did not want to do."

Money is certainly abundant. Helped by his perch as chairman of the House Resources Committee, Pombo reported raising $81,300 in just the past week. All told, Pombo has raised more than $1.7 million this election cycle.

But it wasn't just the congressional candidates pouring money into the race. In an interview Wednesday, Pombo estimated that the Sierra Club and other environmental groups, among others, spent several million dollars attacking him with ads. Some even ran on expensive San Francisco stations, a rarity for a San Joaquin Valley race ...
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(7)
http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/06/08/BAG46JAFDG1.DTL&type=politics
11TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
Pombo basks in his decisive victory
30 percentage point win over McCloskey 'pretty convincing'
Greg Lucas, Chronicle Sacramento Bureau

Thursday, June 8, 2006

Rather than proof of weakness, Rep. Richard Pombo's 62 percent- to-32 percent primary victory over former Rep. Pete McCloskey just as likely signaled how strong the seven-term Tracy Republican will run in November.

Pombo benefits from a district centered in his home San Joaquin County with 44 percent GOP registration to 37 percent Democratic and a challenger in favor of increasing taxes -- including gasoline -- whom Pombo defeated handily two years ago.

"People can dream all they want but it was a pretty convincing win," said Wayne Johnson, Pombo's chief political consultant. "We stopped our advertising two weeks out because we didn't see what the point was."

Environmental groups, angered by the House Resources Committee chairman's desire to weaken the federal Endangered Species Act, spent more than $1 million to defeat him.

They, and national Democrats, see Pombo as vulnerable, particularly if voters carry through in November on an anti-incumbent mood showing up in public opinion polls.

"He isn't motivating his base. He's got a large anti-Pombo vote within his own party," said Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife, which spent more than $400,000 against Pombo in the Republican primary ...

"Pombo won the primary by more 30 points. And for anyone who thinks that's a blow to him you have to look at Pete McCloskey," said Bob Giroux, a former Democratic campaign consultant, now lobbyist. "McCloskey was known in the district but he's also a legend. You could put him in San Bernardino and he'd still get 32 percent" ...

But Pombo is likely to zero in on McNerney's support for increasing a number of taxes.

In a survey on the Project Vote Smart Web page, McNerney said he supports slight increases in alcohol, cigarette, inheritance and gasoline taxes. He wants large increases in capital gains and corporate taxes.

"On just about every issue, he is on the wrong side for the district," Johnson said. "I've never seen a political suicide note this long."
-------------------------

(8)
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/08/us/08brown.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
Jerry Brown Wins Nomination for California Attorney General

By JESSE McKINLEY
Published: June 8, 2006
SAN FRANCISCO, June 7 — Jerry Brown, the former governor of California and the current mayor of Oakland, handily won a Democratic primary for state attorney general on Tuesday, setting up a fight with a lesser-known but well-financed Republican candidate.

Skip to next paragraph
Related
Narrow Victory by G.O.P. Signals Fall Problems (June 8, 2006)
Schwarzenegger Voices New Confidence (June 8, 2006)
This Time, Jerry Brown Wants to Be a Lawman (June 5, 2006)With all precincts reporting, Mr. Brown had received 63 percent of the vote versus 37 percent for Rocky Delgadillo, the city attorney of Los Angeles. The Republican candidate, Chuck Poochigian, a state senator from Fresno, was unopposed.

On Wednesday, Mr. Poochigian blazed through a series of interviews, promising a serious challenge to Mr. Brown, the son of a former governor, Edmund G. Brown Sr., and a three-time presidential candidate who has spent nearly four decades in politics.

"My biggest challenge is overcoming Jerry's name advantage," Mr. Poochigian, 57, said in a telephone interview from Sacramento. "But Jerry has a bigger challenge to overcome, and that's his record."

Mr. Brown embarked on his own campaign tour, barnstorming through the state on a private plane, traveling from Oakland, across the San Francisco Bay, to a pair of Southern California stops in Burbank and San Diego; then north to Sacramento; and south again to Bakersfield and Los Angeles.

Along the way, Mr. Brown ventured to Mr. Poochigian's turf in the Central Valley to address police officials. At every stop, he sought to remind voters of his credentials, including his "practical hands-on experience" as a governor and a mayor.

"I've been an independent leader, not just an appendage of narrow partisan politics," said Mr. Brown, 68, before boarding a plane in San Diego. "I'm running against a man who has basically been a staffer or bureaucrat or a legislator. He's never run a darn thing."

But Mr. Brown said he expected a tough campaign, and predicted that Mr. Poochigian would use negative advertisements to try to paint him as being out of step with average Californians.

Mr. Poochigian promised to run "a truthful campaign," but he was already hammering Mr. Brown for a recent spike in crime in Oakland. "In the case of Jerry Brown, the truth is going to hurt," he said.

In the election to determine Mr. Brown's successor in Oakland, the former congressman Ron Dellums appeared to have won, although officials were still counting the ballots.

Mr. Poochigian has $3.3 million in his campaign chest, aides said, and has already raised more money than any other Republican running for statewide office except Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

But he probably faces an uphill battle in a state that often votes Democratic. Mr. Brown's vote total among Democratic voters on Tuesday was just 771 shy of what Mr. Poochigian received from all Republican voters.
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OFF AND RUNNING
'NEW ERA': Angelides opens campaign after joining Westly in a unity pledge
Carla Marinucci, Tom Chorneau, Chronicle Political Writers

Thursday, June 8, 2006

M

Sacramento -- Democratic gubernatorial nominee Phil Angelides and Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger took to the skies and roads Wednesday, kicking off what's expected to be a pricey general election contest and a raucous debate over who can best protect California's future.

Angelides, on a state fly-around that began just hours after he was declared the winner of a bruising primary battle against state Controller Steve Westly for the party's gubernatorial nomination, promised to bring Democrats together in a unified campaign to lead "a new era of progressive action in California."

"I'm full of hope and optimism ... about what this state can be," said Angelides, surrounded by supporters including Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez and Democratic lieutenant governor nominee John Garamendi.

In a ballroom at the Sheraton Hotel near Universal Studios, Angelides and Westly declared unity, clasped hands, shared a brief hug and tried to downplay the vitriol that dominated the primary campaign.

Westly said Angelides is "committed to the environmental values" of the Democratic Party -- a statement in stark contrast to ads Westly ran during the past week accusing Angelides of playing a role in the dumping of millions of gallons of sludge into Lake Tahoe.

Schwarzenegger, meanwhile, who for months has appeared at events designed to showcase his gubernatorial policies and status, also went into full campaign mode ...

"The other side is talking about the future; we are building the future," he said. "The other side is talking about all the problems California has; we are solving the problems" ,,,

Eleni Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis, the president of Sacramento-based AKT Development and daughter of developer Angelo Tsakopoulos -- who with her father donated $8.7 million toward the Democratic candidate's effort to an independent expenditure campaign -- said yesterday that her family was "absolutely convinced it was the right thing to do" and was "enormously proud" of Angelides' win.

But in an interview with The Chronicle, Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis said "I don't know" if the Tsakopoulos family will play another major financial donor role in the general election.

She said the primary effort was aimed at helping firefighters, police officers and teachers get out their message of support for Angelides and level the playing field for the treasurer in his battle against the wealthy, self-funded Westly.

"Phil Angelides is now the Democratic Party candidate -- and the Democratic Party is going to do what it needs in this election," she said. "The party is going to support him" ...

Just how quickly Democrats can recover from the wounds of a bloody political primary competition and turn full attention to Schwarzenegger was openly questioned by former San Francisco mayor and radio talk show host Willie Brown in the state Capitol.

"I think probably Westly will be able to do it -- I don't know about Angelides," Brown said. "He's the one who's most offended" ...
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Vote No on Measure A Tax

Submitted: Jun 03, 2006

URGENT URGENT URGENT URGENT URGENT URGENT URGENT

A flyer against the Merced County Transportation Tax Measure A appeared in the Merced Sun-Star Saturday morning. We have included it below and attached it to this message.

We urge you to read and share these flyers with Merced County residents before the Primary Election on Tuesday, June 6.

We should not use a sales tax to raise money for transportation funds to benefit special interests because a sales tax has an unfair impact on lower-income residents. (1) Merced County ranks fifth from the bottom of California’s 58 counties in per capita income. (2)

Sincerely,

Central Valley Safe Environment Network
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VOTE NO on Measure A Tax

MAKE Residential and Commercial Development Pay Its Own Way!

REJECT Welfare Subsidies for the Building Industry Association!

In 2002, the Citizens of Merced County VOTED DOWN the Measure M road-improvement tax. Merced County and its cities went right on approving thousands of new homes. This RECKLESS action is destroying hundreds of miles of our existing streets and roads because development doesn’t pay for itself.

VOTE NO on Measure A because it doesn’t fix the problems. It adds to them! The intent of this tax measure to improve highways 99, 152, 59, and 33, and to build the Mission Ave. Interchange, is to attract more urban growth, not to fix local potholes. The only “economic engine” helped here is the profits of developers who want you to pay for the impacts of their projects while they plant the last crop in the San Joaquin Valley- subdivisions!

VOTE NO on Measure A because the county General Plan is an absurdly outdated, non-compliant hodge-podge of amendments and conflicting goals and policies. About 20 citizens’ groups petitioned the Merced County Board of Supervisors to slow growth until county and city general plans and community plans are legally compliant. Special interests – not the public – are controlling the Merced County planning process. Use your vote to send a message to government highway funders that these special interests do not speak for us!

VOTE NO on Measure A because UC won’t pay more than $350,000 to cover the $200 million cost of it’s impacts to local streets, parks and schools. Measure A will be used to finance the Mission Ave. Interchange off Hwy 99, the Yellow Brick Beltway to UC Merced and west to Atwater. This will hasten sprawl and will eat away productive agricultural land. This UC beltway will draw business away from downtown Merced. The Mission Ave Interchange will become the location of a Wal-Mart Distribution Center, bringing in about a thousand diesel trucks a day to increase our air pollution.

VOTE NO on Measure A because it is a matching fund gimmick created by special interests. Your supervisors have used your tax dollars to create a lobbying group called the One Voice Committee that speaks for special interests, not for you. VOTE NO on Measure A to tell state and federal highway funders “One Voice” speaks for special interest, not for you.

VOTE NO on Measure A because the sand and gravel trucks supplying these proposed highway projects tear down our county roads and degrade our waterways. Spending dollars on new roadways instead of for maintenance and repair of existing county roads and city streets is a misappropriation of public funds for special interests.

VOTE NO on Measure A because you’re tired of government by and for special interests – from UC Merced to local, national and international development corporations – making land deals for their profits and your losses. An estimated 100,000 new homes are already in the planning process in Merced County.

VOTE NO on Measure A because you will have no vote on the projects it will fund. Special interests have already decided how that money will be spent and will continue to decide how it will be spent.

VOTE NO on Measure A now and you may prevent Measure Z later, as special interests continue to pile on special taxes for schools, water, sewer, electricity, parks and recreation, libraries, solid waste, emergency services, police and fire protection – like Measures S, M and H, and the Merced City Hotel Tax for a UC Olympic-size swimming pool.

PAID FOR BY MERCED COUNTY RESIDENTS AGAINST MEASURE A
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VOTE NO on Measure A Tax

Here is a partial list of residential developments ALREADY planned for Merced County
Atwater - 1,584 units, Atwater Ranch, Florsheim Homes 21 Units, John Gallagher, 25.2 acres.

Delhi - 1,100 units, Matthews Homes, 2,000 acres.

Fox Hills - 907 units, Fox Hills Estates north 337 units, Fox Hills Estates, central- 1,356 units.

Hilmar-JKB Homes, over 3,000 units.

Livingston - 1,200 units, Ranchwood Homes 420 acres. Del Valle, Gallo Ranchwood, 1,000acres,

Los Banos -, Ranchwood, 932 acres 323 units, Pinn Brothers, 34 units, Court of Fountains, 2.7 acres 95 units, Woodside Homes,

City of Merced - 11,616 units, UC Merced Community Plan 1,560 acres; 7,800 units, Ranchwood Homes, 2,355 acres, 7,000 units, Bellevue Ranch, 1,400 acres,

Vista Del Lago, 442 units, Weaver Development, 920 units, Fahrens Creek II, -1,282 units,

Fahrens Creek North, 1,093 units, Hunt Family Annexation,

Planada - 4,400 units, Village of Geneva at Planada, Hostetler 1,390 acres.

Felix Torres Migrant Megaplex 127 units, Park Street Estates, 31.8 acres, 200 units.

San Luis Creek 629 units, F & S Investments, 180 acres.

San Luis Ranch - 544 units, 237 acres.

Santa Nella - 8,250 units - Santa Nella Village west 881 units, 350 acres,

The Parkway, phase III, 146 acres - 138 units, Santa Nella Village, 40.7 acres - 544 units,

San Luis Ranch, phase II - 232 units, 312 acres - 182 acres, Arnaudo 1 &2

Stevinson - 3,500 units, Stevinson Ranch/Gallo Lakes Development - 1,700 units, 3,740 acres.

Winton - 50 units, 17 acres- Gertrude Estates, Mike Raymond, 18 acres - 142 units, Winn Ranch

Commercial Development

WalMart Distribution Center, Riverside Motorsports Park and a growing number of Strip Malls

….and the list goes on!

Measure A gives the green light to all this proposed new residential and commercial development!

VOTE NO on Measure A Tax

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Notes:
(1) http://highered.mcgraw-hill.com/sites/0072554096/student_view0/chapter_15/economic_naturalist_exercises.html
Sales taxes are regressive taxes. This means that the proportion of income paid in taxes declines as income rises. That is, people with low incomes pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes than people with high incomes. But what makes a sales tax regressive?
People with low incomes tend to spend a high percentage of the income they receive. At higher income levels, people begin to save (not spend) larger parts of their income. A person is able to save (not spend) part of their income only after they are able to take care of buying necessities like food, housing, clothing, and medical care. Therefore, low-income consumers will spend most of their income while higher income consumers can begin to save more and more.
Since a sales tax falls on income that consumers spend, and low income people spend a larger part of their income, the sales tax falls more heavily on low income consumers. This makes the tax regressive ...

(2) http://www.answers.com/topic/california-locations-by-per-capita-income
Merced ranks 54th in per capita income among California's 58 counties. Only four counties have lower per capita incomes.

CENTRAL VALLEY SAFE ENVIRONMENT NETWORK

MISSION STATEMENT

Central Valley Safe Environment Network is a coalition of organizations and individuals throughout the San Joaquin Valley that is committed to the concept of "Eco-Justice" -- the ecological defense of the natural resources and the people. To that end it is committed to the stewardship, and protection of the resources of the greater San Joaquin Valley, including air and water quality, the preservation of agricultural land, and the protection of wildlife and its habitat. In serving as a community resource and being action-oriented, CVSEN desires to continue to assure there will be a safe food chain, efficient use of natural resources and a healthy environment. CVSEN is also committed to public education regarding these various issues and it is committed to ensuring governmental compliance with federal and state law. CVSEN is composed of farmers, ranchers, city dwellers, environmentalists, ethnic, political, and religious groups, and other stakeholders

P.O. Box 64, Merced, CA 95341

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A little justice, maybe

Submitted: May 25, 2006

Lay, Skilling Convicted in Enron Collapse
By Kristen Hays
The Associated Press

Thursday 25 May 2006

Houston - Former Enron Corp. chiefs Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling were convicted Thursday of conspiracy to commit securities and wire fraud in one of the biggest business scandals in U.S. history.

The verdict put the blame for the demise of what was once the nation's seventh-largest company squarely on its top two executives. It came in the sixth day of deliberations following a trial that lasted nearly four months.

Lay was also convicted of bank fraud and making false statements to banks in a separate trial related to his personal banking.

Lay was convicted on all six counts against him in the trial with Skilling. Skilling was convicted on 19 of the 28 counts against him, including one count of insider trading, and acquitted on the remaining nine.

"You have reflected on this evidence for the last few days and reached a very thorough verdict, and I thank you," U.S. District Judge Sim Lake told jurors.

He set sentencing for Sept. 11.

Lake set a $5 million bond for Lay and ordered him to surrender his passport before he leaves the courthouse. The judge said the bond already in place for Skilling was sufficient. The judge said he did not believe home confinement was necessary for either.

The former corporate titans are now felons facing years in prison after being convicted of running an elaborate fraud that gave the company a glamorous illusion of success.

Jurors declared through their verdict that both men repeatedly lied to cover a vast web of unsustainable accounting tricks and failing ventures that shoved Enron into bankruptcy protection in December 2001.

The conviction was a major win for the government, serving almost as a bookend in an era that has seen prosecutors win convictions against executives from WorldCom Inc. to Adelphia Communications Corp. and homemaking maven Martha Stewart.

The panel rejected Skilling's insistence that no fraud occurred at Enron other than a few executives skimming millions from secret scams behind his and Lay's backs, and a lethal combination of bad press and poor market confidence sank the company.

Both men testified in their own defense. Skilling is expected to appeal.

The government's victory caps a 4 1/2 year investigation that nabbed 16 guilty pleas from ex-Enron executives, including former Chief Financial Officer Andrew Fastow and former Chief Accounting Officer Richard Causey.

All are awaiting sentencing later this year except for two who either finished or are serving prison terms.

Many deemed the outcome of the Lay-Skilling case a final exam of sorts of the federal government's ability to prove complicated corporate skullduggery.

Enron's implosion and the subsequent scandals vexed Wall Street, sent skittish investors fleeing, increased regulatory scrutiny over publicly traded companies and prompted Congress to stiffen white collar penalties.

Former WorldCom head Bernard Ebbers awaits a 25-year prison term for orchestrating the $11 billion accounting fraud that bankrupted the company. Stewart did five months in prison and more time confined to work and home for lying about a stock sale. Adelphia Communications Inc. founder John Rigas and his son got double-digit prison terms for looting their company.

HealthSouth Corp. founder Richard Scrushy bucked the trend with his acquittal last year of fraud charges despite five former finance chiefs pointing the finger at him in a $2.7 billion scheme to inflate earnings. He dropped in on the Lay-Skilling case during Fastow's lengthy testimony in March, saying the ex-CFO couldn't be believed.

But those cases were much simpler than that against Lay and Skilling.

The government's vast investigation seemed to stall until Fastow pleaded guilty in January 2004 to two counts of conspiracy and paved the way for prosecutors to secure indictments against his bosses. Fastow also led investigators to Causey, who was bound for trial alongside Lay and Skilling until he broke ranks with their unified defense and pleaded guilty to securities fraud just weeks before the trial began.

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The Blockhead Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley

Submitted: May 23, 2006

The newest “vision” for the San Joaquin Valley, according to the California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley, which graced us with its prestigious presence last week in Merced, is composed of four elements:

· rapid urbanization;
· destruction of local, state and federal environmental law, regulation and resource-agency enforcement;
· demand for state and federal public funds to pay for the infrastructure caused by the on-going speculative housing boom;
· demand for a “business-friendly regulatory climate” (including maintaining low wages) to entice state, national and global corporate investment in a new “economic engine” for the San Joaquin Valley.

The last element is urged with all the sincerity and passion middle-aged bureaucrats are capable of, because, of course, the Valley is incapable of creating its own economic engine from its own enormous capital from its own state, national and global corporations, built on low wages, a large pool of unemployed, illegal immigration, as well as an enormous amount of hard work, savvy business management, superb marketing campaigns, total control of elected officials, and basic agricultural and engineering ingenuity (the best of it without academic credentials).

In short, the Valley “vision” remains what it has always been: nostalgia for the funding of federal and state water projects that made it great. When you add subsidized water to a huge alluvial fan, hard working, intelligent farmers and ranchers from Europe, the Midwest and the Middle East, low-paid seasonal workers from Oklahoma to Okinawa to Michoacan to the Punjab and elsewhere, Presto! You get the best agricultural economy in the world, which just naturally attracts every business and political force in the nation to try to suck it dry and bleed it to death, currently represented by cartels that monopolize pesticides, fertilizers and seeds, coupled with foreign trade policies that expose Valley agricultural production to competition from every lower wage agricultural economy in the world, including some, like Texas, right here at home. Chinese cotton and genetically modified organisms are perhaps the two most pressing issues, but there are others. The incredible ability of Valley farmers to produce has been the source of great prosperity (for some producers) but also a source of great economic pain. Excellent economic arguments exist that the Valley’s curse is overproduction. A corollary to that, in political circles, given the volume of production and its dependency on foreign markets, trade policies and subsidies, is that the Valley has never been adequately represented in Congress. Our 250 crops fare badly in Congress against the basic grains of the Mississippi Valley states. Our creativity, our diversity and our ingenuity are our curse. Yet, even there, in an odd, backhanded way, we benefit, for surely the dumping of Midwest corn in Mexico since NAFTA (1993) has driven hundreds of thousands of able Mexican farmers off their land and flung many of them against the border walls and fences.

The Valley agricultural economy has never been stable. The kind of dynamism and genius that created it is, frankly, not stable. It’s quirky. It’s a boom and bust deal. After a season of plenty, disaster. Within living memory the Boswell Corporation gave its workers a year’s paid vacation when Tulare Lake flooded. Although it is hard to imagine that the Miller-Lux Company would have been beneficent, it is harder to get a descendant of its employees to speak ill of it. In the years before the UFW went bankrupt economically and organizationally, how many farmers that did their own tractor work and sprayed their own crops denied their businesses were built on the backs of their Mexican workers? How many who could not abide the union hiring hall paid union wages to non-union workers? How many workers who could not abide the hiring hall worked out of some loyalty to the grower as well as the wages? The thing between workers and growers only becomes that abstract concept, Labor, when some people work in the field and others don't.

But now, there is a new “vision” for the Valley: the developer’s vision of the Valley as real estate upstream in the state’s water supply system. It’s a classic business con game, built on floating investment looking for a home, and it is growing increasingly more tenuous as the national economy sours. Perhaps this spring the assault on every natural resource, including the agricultural, in the Valley, by developers and their bureaucratic lackeys appears merely ridiculous; by next year it will be so absurd we might not get another Partnership dog-and-pony show, trotting out local and state leadership whose glamour is fading by the week, along with the Hun’s chances for reelection.

Local officials came whining before the Partnership panel, crying poverty, unemployment, drug abuse, domestic violence (Rep. Dennis Cardoza’s staffer’s arrest on that charge was politely not mentioned), immigrant populations, the unfairness of government to the San Joaquin Valley, our wretched state – so much worse than Appalachia, how the Valley groans under the impact of cruel, heartless environmental law employed by demons in human form who aim, devilishly, only to harm the half dozen or so big developers in the region and to humiliate their army of bought and sold elected officials and sycophantic staff, who engineer the destruction of law and regulation.

Fact – to refute the plaintive wanderings of the former UC Merced planning director: UC railroaded the process of state and federal environmental review. The deal was run out of Gov. Gray Davis’ office, an honest political payoff for an honest political service – delivery of the Valley vote in 1998, principally as a result of the brilliant staff work out of former Rep. Gary Condit’s office. Condit was the first California congressman to back Davis in the primary. Together they developed a Valley strategy to pick up the necessary votes to win the General Election. Condit’s price was UC Merced (in his district). Davis delivered. Straight political deal. The only problem was that it ran roughshod over a number of environmental laws, regulations and the agencies charged with enforcing them. Smith echoed with perfect pitch the huge Merced Whine about these laws, regulations and agencies. Only Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, can do it better, when he is in full cry about the Anguish of His Contributors.

How dare members of the local community sue the University of California, this glorious project with such widespread public support! Perhaps we are having a senior moment, but we cannot remember when the public was ever asked to vote on UC Merced.

Normally, we would have expected the Shrimp Slayer to have been at the Partnership event. But the vice chair of the Partnership is San Joaquin County’s largest developer, who last year threw a joint fundraiser for the Shrimp Slayer and Rep. Richard Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy, shortly before the demented duo introduced their “bipartisan” bill to gut the Endangered Species Act. Rather than face this political awkwardness among his constituency, aware of the beating Pombo is currently taking from Pete McCloskey, Cardoza is in hiding south of his district. He is probably holed up in the Fresno offices of Westlands Water District, planning how to wreck the settlement negotiations between the Friant Water Users Authority and the Natural Resources Defense Council over the thorny problem of how much water can continue to flow to eastern Fresno, Tulare and Kern counties after a federal judge has mandated that the San Joaquin River must actually have water in it – even in the middle of Fresno County, where it hasn’t had water in it for 50 years.

The Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley, the current governor's pale attempt to replicate the pale Valley Economic Summit Gov. Davis tried (once), had no new ideas. State leadership and its stakeholding panel -- the chairwoman was secretary of CalTrans and some other agencies, the secretary of food and agriculture, various representatives of “the private sector,” and assorted local elected officials – had no new ideas. They had a few new words for business as usual, including “partnership” and “blueprint,” for unregulated urban growth.

That, coupled with the local "one-voice" whining for more political power and the disgusting begging for public funds, made this event a milestone in the political grotesque, perhaps the last milestone before the cliff is reached.

Or else.

Or else the agricultural economy of the Valley – universally vilified by the local whiners and the panel (except the secretary of food and agriculture, who noted that the agricultural economy is still – miraculously and most inconveniently – GROWING) – will continue to limp along, feeding us, housing us somewhat, providing the taxes that will support what education exists, and may, in some way utterly unknown to the political classes and their developer funders hungry for farms and ranches to turn into subdivisions, may just get us through the concocted economic crisis portrayed by the whining local bureaucrats to the sympathetic hearts of the state bureaucrats so deeply buried in the pockets of developers that the spare change in those pockets seems like manna from Heaven.

The plight of Valley public education is truly horrible, if only one lacks any historical perspective on the problem. Valley public education has always been what it is, moreorless the same as public education anywhere, and often better than in most places. I would still rather have a child of mine in public schools in Merced than in any major California city. There is a quality about our helplessly diverse immigrant population of children here in the Central Valley that has always inspired the best kind of teaching, the most quixotic commitments among the core of real teachers that ever make a difference, because these kids manage complex acts of peace, hope and harmony so far beyond the so-called adults who allegedly lead us.

The city will always outscore the Valley on city-designed academic tests. But, until recently at least, its entry-level jobs have provided youth and immigrants a chance to learn through work that has far out-stripped the learning possibilities of urban youth. We should build on that experience, not constantly run it down.

Yes, educational administrators are correct to ask for more money. That is their job, but only because they refuse to stand up and openly, consistently denounce state policies, encrypted in SB 50, that despoil public education in rapidly urbanizing regions like this one. Better than begging, our school administrators should openly, consistently, and simply, denounce SB 50, the filthy deal between the developers and the Legislature behind it, and the local deals between developers and politicians here and now. On behalf of our children, we should stand without equivocation, as so many Central Valley teachers stand, without equivocation, before pupils they need to teach and often do teach. Begging and wheedling before a blockheaded panel, whose formation is nothing but a political stunt, doesn't represent the tradition of Valley public education its administrators seem to have forgotten how to be proud of.

We have a good tradition of public education in the Valley. To see it on its knees, as the local superintendent presented it, was the ugliest thing about this ridiculous hearing. But that ugliness goes to the fundamental point at stake in the spring assault on Valley resources, human, agricultural and environmental: a century of unexamined pro-growth-at-any-cost state policies has impoverished us all. It is ruining our water supply and quality; it has already ruined our air quality; and it seeks with all the zeal of bought and sold politicians and their appointed staffs, to destroy our environmental law, regulation and resource agency enforcement of those laws and regulations.

This is wrong and contrary to the spirit of Valley public education and the families and neighborhoods behind it.

UC Merced was mentioned frequently as the savior of absolutely everything. Yet, other reports indicate not so many college applicants want to come to UC Merced.

A suggestion (from a comment made by the Los Banos city manager): close UC Merced. It was never anything but a boondoggle for a few land owners, financial institutions and real estate speculators anyway. Convert its facilities into a first class vocational training institute, on the model of the one in Klamath Falls, OR. Train students in the skills of manufacturing. If they can’t get jobs in the US due to continuing corrupt, off-shoring policies, they will probably be able to do well in Korea, Taiwan, Mexico or elsewhere. These skills will produce stable incomes. Perhaps, if the Valley “leadership” awakes from its dreams of quick bucks from real estate, it may even see the potential in such a course, if for no other reason because it is within the culture and tradition of the Valley – AS IT IS – to educate people in practical industries.

The core of any industrial economy and the means by which that economy transcends its last generation lies in an educated industrial workforce. Something has gone terribly wrong with the institutional culture of the University of California. Perhaps one too many win-win, public-private partnerships has erased from its institutional memory the idea that it is a "public research" institution, that its purpose is to serve the California public's higher educational needs rather than exploit the medical research opportunities provided by its being the "engine of growth" in the worst polluted air basin in the nation. The Valley doesn't want to be the UC laboratory for lung disease anymore than we want our politicians to solve air pollution by suspending air quality law to allow for more UC-stimulated urban growth.

So, we propose that, rather than UC Merced educating some class of technologists better developed at any of its other campuses, we close its campus and reopen it as the best vocational training center in the nation, producing the top machinists, tool and die makers, mold makers, auto and farm equipment engineers – in general, a class of brilliant, forward looking people who can build very complex, useful things with their hands and help California catch up with the rest of the industrialized world in building cleaner industrial processes. Sometimes, academic engineers and scientists are required in this process, but without the people who can build the new equipment, giving constant feedback in the process of invention, innovation does not occur.

I make this suggestion because it is harmonious with the genius of the Valley. This is the training that will build the next best post-harvest handling shed. Someone from this school will build a thresher that will not kill every ground-nesting bird in its path. Here, a student will be presented with the challenge of how to make local streams both habitable to wildlife and adequate to carry increasing flows and she will solve the puzzle.

Here, invention will occur because the Valley, as always, will attract devoted teachers and eager students. The Valley itself – socially, economically, environmentally – remains a huge, beautiful puzzle, an enormous challenge for people with the right kind of education, stressing the practical, hands-on solutions to concrete puzzles.

UC, lamentably, is not that institution. UC Merced was and remains a land deal. Of course, the Regents and the chancellor, could never ever admit they were taken for such a wild political railroad ride. This, too, is our genius. We have always had to be better at politics than our urban cousins and we have always risen to the challenge.

Why?

Because agriculture is always more complex than urban reality. Political leaders from agricultural areas must always both know their own economy and the urban economy. Urban politicians indulge themselves in the illusion that they do not have to know agricultural economics.

It’s complicated.

What the Partnership and every other developer-driven economic model coming at us says is that reducing farmland to its real estate value is simple and the complexity of a living agricultural system -- however mangled by agribusiness conglomeration it is – is messy and dys-economic.

To this, if you are a Valley person, you can only reply with deleted expletives. We will stand behind our rich, incredibly diverse population and our incredibly rich, diverse agricultural production. We will say NO to local and state leadership bought and sold by developers wishing to make the Central Valley the next, upstream, San Fernando Valley. We will oppose a "new" economy based on selling the most productive agricultural land in the world to outside real estate speculators. That isn't economics; that is just ruin.

Statistically, our immigrants look poor. In their hearts they aren’t poor. In their hearts they know what real poverty is – learning takraw in a Thai refugee camp, running for your life from a federale, a government that sold your village, the sheer stagnation of island living.

We have here in the Valley a unique population composed of some of the strongest, most adventuresome people in the world, people who stood up, escaped, lived, thrived, carried on, survived miseries and oppressions our begging bureaucrats will never understand and so will never realize is the only real source of capital there ever was.

The entire panel of the Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley should have adjorned, after their dismal hearing, to Applegate Park to observe Hmongs throw spinning tops. Although they would not have understood the language or how to play the game, those with some residual sensitivity could not have failed to catch the feeling.

The top spinners have no money to pay blockhead partnership. Only the developers can really support partners in the style to which they have become accustomed. A pity. The Hmong top spinners could have reminded the partners of human dignity, a nice palate cleanser after a morning listening to local officials begging for sewer funds to accommodate irresponsible growth. But the partners chose to dine by invitation to their own kind only.

"What are the top 3 priorities for action that will improve the future economic prosperity and quality of life for the San Joaquin Valley?" the Partnership asked.

The public, invited for short comments at the end of the session, replied in part, as follows:

Our "leaders" are dimwits. Don't listen to them. We don't. They have no ideas but urban growth. Their minds are like salad oil slipping off the lip of a plate, as oily as the latest "balancing" of antagonistic, mutually exclusive goals, greased up in new terms every fresh funding season. Our leaders want everything but to make real choices. The public, not our bought and sold empty suits, should have been first, not last, to speak at this hearing. But, the manage that would have required real political leadership on the part of the panel, which has none.

There should be a moritorium on growth until general plans are updated.

There should be a permanent outlawing of the corrupt practice of developers indemnifying land-use authorities against legal challenges arising from their irresponsible, bought and sold land-use decisions.

We should preserve agriculture and wildlife habitat to allow agriculture and wildlife the opportunity to reach their next stages of evolution.

We should develop our enormous human capital rather than allow UC to use it for its public-private, win-win research projects.

We are sick and tired of the "one voice" of local shills for outside speculators. Why is the second point on their agenda always keeping wages low if they wish to develop the Valley? When will they ever awaken from the dream of the fast real estate deal and stand up for their own people, the agricultural productivity of this land, policies that will improve rather than worsen our air and water? When will they quit automatically selling our environment and our workforce on the cheap? When will they find within themselves some other value than simple money greed?

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Water's high and the visioning is easy

Submitted: Apr 10, 2006
Water's high and the visioning is easy
So cry, l'il baby
Things done gone awry.

Anonymous
Locke CA

Our governor, the Hun, and the Democratic leaders of the state Legislature, who recently failed to pass an infrastructure bond to finance the public works projects the state needs to catch up with its speculative real estate mania, hand-in-hand this week, are ennunciating a new California vision on how to combat global warming. They're going to "break from the Sacramento gridlock" and lead the nation.

"Nobody from the White House to most state capitals has wanted to face the politically risky choices needed to curb industrial emissions, driving habits and everyday life. That's where California aims to be different," San Francisco Chronicle editorialists intone hopefully.

"The controls aim mainly at industry: oil refineries, cement kilns, dump sites -- even manure ponds on big dairies, which give off lung-clogging gas. State law has already begun mandating caps on power plants. Cleaner tailpipe rules approved in 2004 are tied up in a lawsuit brought by automakers and joined by the Bush administration," they add,problematically.

Vision. Leadership. Smart growth. Win-win public/private partnerships. Environmental stewardship. Consensus! California, the world's 12th largest emitter of greenhouse gases will -- with leadership -- drastically cut those emissions by ... you pick a date, the Hun likes 2020.

These are the politics of an over-populated region that has grown beyond the carrying capacity of its resources, devouring its incredible agricultural capacity, where developers own leadership, lock, stock and barrel, and so we must be led into paths of denial to keep the development based economy afloat at all costs ... without raising taxes.

In the various cults of leadership elites "workshop" weekend-by-weekend, paying enormous attention to "visioning," (what used to be called "discovering and following your passion," and in an earlier, far, far more honest time, "getting stoned.")

These visions fall upon a discontent and anxious populous like an immaterial fog of WD-40. The only difference is that they don't fix anything.

Why not fix something? Anything. Start small. Work your way up to global warming after you get the deficit down. Why not make something work beside the next greased permit for the next subdivision?

Bill Hatch
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State steps up on combatting global warming

San Francisco Chronicle
Sunday, April 9, 2006

IF WASHINGTON won't, then Sacramento will. This state has set its own course many times over: on car tailpipe emissions, a ban on coastal drilling and abortion law. Now comes the biggest go-it-alone bet in a long time: greenhouse-gas controls.

Both Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, an avowed greenie, and pro-environment Democrats have produced comparable plans that would put California on a tough pollution diet. By 2020, the state must roll back greenhouse gas emissions -- mainly carbon dioxide -- to 1990 levels.

It's a drop of 25 percent that will bring changes across the state in the ways people work and play. But it also sends a message to the rest of a nation that is neglecting mounting danger signs and passing the buck to future generations.

Other plans to rein in California's air pollution are already underway from farms to freeways, but the attack on global warming goes after greenhouse gases left largely unchecked. These emissions form a heat-trapping ceiling in the atmosphere and are blamed by most scientists for weather swings, higher temperatures, changes in vegetation and wildlife, and future rises in sea levels. In recent years, California state researchers have reported more rain, less snow, floods and beach erosion traceable to a warmer climate.

Nobody from the White House to most state capitals has wanted to face the politically risky choices needed to curb industrial emissions, driving habits and everyday life. That's where California aims to be different.

What makes change possible is a break from Sacramento gridlock. Both the Republican governor and Democratic leaders are on the same wavelength in proposing a major goal and directing state agencies to get there. Heard this before? The governor's vaunted infrastructure package, pegged at $222 billion over 10 years, splintered when it landed in a suspicious Legislature.

And it could happen again with greenhouse controls, which have already come under attack from the state Chamber of Commerce. But the governor's staff has vetted the plan in public meetings ad collected 15,000 comments, mostly favorable. Democrats likewise have sounded out their plan in a bill (AB32) carried by Assemblymember Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills. Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez has made the bill a top priority.

The plans are more alike than not. Both establish a definite deadline and call for a cap on emissions. The plan by the governor's team leans on trading pollution credits that reward clean businesses while costing dirty ones more. The Democratic plan leans on flat cap on emissions and turns over the regulatory rules to the state smog board. Both plans avoid a tax on fuel to raise research funds, an idea that Schwarzenegger opposed.

The controls aim mainly at industry: oil refineries, cement kilns, dump sites -- even manure ponds on big dairies, which give off lung-clogging gas. State law has already begun mandating caps on power plants. Cleaner tailpipe rules approved in 2004 are tied up in a lawsuit brought by automakers and joined by the Bush administration.

The car emission lawsuit illustrates the problem. Washington isn't about to do anything on global warming. President Bush is a famous non-believer when it comes to the science behind the greenhouse effect.

Last June, Schwarzenegger broke with this antediluvian view and declared the greenhouse effect was real in a speech in San Francisco. He directed Alan Lloyd, head of the state Environmental Protection Agency, to come up with a plan. After fits and starts, including the dropping of a politically touchy tax, this plan emerged.

On Tuesday, from the same perch in City Hall, the governor will explain his year-later outlook on global warming controls. He'll do it before an audience of enviros, scientists and skeptical business leaders.

There's no question that the subject is loaded. Raising clean-air standards will impose costs. Chamber of Commerce President Allan Zaremberg believes the state will lose jobs and end up importing products from high-polluting competitors, a double whammy that will punish California.

But supporters have a twofold answer. First, states or countries that have neglected the problem will, over time, follow California's lead because of local pressure. If this state, now the planet's 12th largest emitter of greenhouse gases, can reform, so can others. Secondly, the conversion to a cleaner industrial landscape will churn out more jobs, not fewer, as new businesses develop to meet the 2020 goals. A UC Berkeley study predicts 20,000 new jobs from such work.

Business may not be united in opposition. Silicon Valley is backing the initiative with notables from Sun Microsystems, Google and the venture capital world writing the governor. Several major oil companies, such as Shell and BP, are already on a voluntary state reporting list of greenhouse emissions.

There remain serious risks in redirecting the state's economy. The suggested system of trading pollution credits is still in its infancy. Policymakers have ducked the question of money for research, enforcement and new programs. Lawsuits may surface as state rule-making enters new areas.

But the governor and Democrats are right to take on these risks. They haven't dodged a future challenge and are working together. California has a shown way to be a leader once again.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Why do anything at all?
A study ordered by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger predicted these effects of unchecked greenhouse gas emissions:

Average temperatures would rise by 3 degrees within 100 years.

The state's snowpack, which is half the water supply, would diminish by 75 to 90 percent.

Los Angeles and the Central Valley, which already have the worst smog levels in the nation, would see a jump from 25 to 75 percent in pollution-heavy bad days.

Rising sea levels in the Bay Delta, water shortages and hotter weather would damage California crops.

Floods would strain the state levee system.

Higher temperatures would damage forests and increase chances of wildfires.

Warmer weather would push demand for air conditioning, driving up prices and demand for more emission-producing power plants.

Source: www.climatechange.ca.gov

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