Fringe Climate Skeptics Wield Undue Influence on Rural Public Policy

By Steve Frisch

I have been thinking a lot about our regional climate change skeptics in the Sierra Nevada and their impact on public policy. Occasionally I do my share of getting into debates and doing a little warming myself though I know it simply empowers their position at times.

I do however have a couple of observations about how they make their case and the consequences.

Rarely do they get into the actual scientifically peer reviewed papers and make their case based on the efficacy of the science itself.

The case I hear is that any science wholly or even partially funded by the government or private foundations done by agencies, academic institutions, professional groups, or individual scientists is inherently flawed due to their source of funding. Then I hear that any science using past data funded by any of these groups is inherently flawed due to confirmation bias. Next I hear that the peer review process itself is inherently flawed due to dependence on government funding. Then I hear that when the aggregate data and multiple proof points indicate a significant change occurring we should be giving more weight to the outlier data proving the opposite, as though the very small percentage of those valid peer reviewed reports should be given some weight that contrary data is not due. Finally I hear that if there is some evidence that anthropogenic climate change is occurring the cost of doing something about it is prohibitive.

It is as though climate skeptics do not wish to even understand or acknowledge the peer review process and the critical role it plays in vetting data and its analysis.

I guess this would not be an issue if the consequences of being wrong were not so high.

The impact of a changing climate on California’s water supply alone is measured in the tens of billions of dollars in economic impact annually. Worse, because we live in a state where the vast majority of people do believe climate change is a real threat, and our state has adopted policies to adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change through laws like AB 32 and SB 375, the low carbon fuels standard and the renewable portfolio standard, much of our state is rushing ahead with adaptation and mitigation strategies, strategies funded through a combination of our state general fund budget, surcharges on electricity, and revenue derived from the Cap and Trade program. Those revenues are being used to adapt our infrastructure, like water delivery systems, roads, bridges transportation networks, and wastewater treatment. Those revenues can also be directed at solving the seemingly insurmountable problem in the Sierra Nevada of long-term forest management and wildfire management, establishing a link between forests, mountains, watershed management, and water supply that is the number one commodity export of the Sierra Nevada and the source of much of our states wealth.

The problem we face is that distribution of revenue is controlled by a political process; our state budget voted on by legislators annually. In a political process funds don’t get distributed to regions and legislative districts where the elected representatives don’t acknowledge a problem is occurring and actively obstruct solving the problem in other areas of the state. Consequently the Sierra Nevada and its climate related issues do not receive their fair share of state funding which is being paid for by all of the taxpayer of the state, even us rural residents.

The stakes are very high indeed; by 2020 more than $5 billion per year will be distributed to adapt to climate change in California. Where will that money go? Who will benefit from the public works, construction, community improvement and middle class jobs related to implementation?

We are allowing the voice of a small minority of climate skeptics and their ability to influence our local politics by being the ‘loudest voice in the room’ to deny our region the funding we deserve, relegating our local communities and economies to a permanent backwater and underprivileged status.

The Onion may be parodying this phenomenon, but our communities are living it, we are watching as billions of dollars a year are collected from our residents and going to urban districts where the populous is more amenable to climate adaption and mitigation strategies. If I were a rural legislator I might listen to the skeptics, but I would not deny my regions the fruits of their taxes, surcharges and fees.

At some point pragmatism has to take over.

I only wish I knew where that point was so I could push to reach it.


Steve_FrischSteve Frisch is President of the Sierra Business Council and one of its founding members. He is a dedicated project manager with over 20 years experience managing people in a highly competitive environment. Steve manages SBC’s program staff and programmatic development. He also manages sustainable business and building projects to encourage the adoption of socially responsible business and development practices.

Prior to joining the Sierra Business Council, Steve owned and operated a small business in Truckee, California and was president of the Truckee Downtown Merchants Association. Steve has served on the Nevada County Welfare Reform Commission, the Town of Truckee redevelopment agency formation committee and as an advisor to the California Resources Agency’s California Legacy Project.


The Worst of Nevada County in National News, Again

Why is that only the worst of Nevada County — in this case another right-wing gun nut — makes the national news?

Esteemed journalist and historian Rick Perlstein, writing in Salon, found occasion to notice this Nevada County event (while gently chiding the New York Times for failing to cover it):

Here is a truth so fundamental that it should be self-evident: When legitimately constituted state authority stands down in the face of armed threats, the very foundation of the republic is in danger. And yet that is exactly what happened at Cliven Bundy’s Nevada ranch this spring: An alleged criminal defeated the cops, because the forces of lawlessness came at them with guns — then Bureau of Land Management officials further surrendered by removing the government markings from their vehicles to prevent violence against them.

What should be judged a watershed in American history instead became a story about one man’s racist rants. Even as two more Nevada lunatics, inspired by their stint at Cliven Bundy’s ranch, allegedly ambushed and mowed down two police officers and killed a bystander after crying, “This is the start of a revolution.” And now, an antigovernment conspiracy theorist named Douglas Cole recently shot at two police officers in Nevada County, California (though you may not have heard about that, because the New York Times hasn’t found the news yet fit to print).

From “Gun Nuts Are Terrorizing America: The Watershed Moment Everyone Missed

Ah, but here’s some Nevada County news that the New York Times did find “fit to print.” But wait, it’s also bad news!

Nevada County

Nevada County ranks 58th of 58 in diversity in California.

Students, in 2006 15,446
White 13,496 87%
Black 142 1%
Hispanic 1,336 9%
Asian 240 2%
Native American 232 2%

Some might consider Nevada County’s connection to the founding of the Tea Party Patriots good news. But there’s hardly a consensus about that.

I look  forward to the day when we get into the national news for integrating our local economic and environmental interests, for our understanding of the economic importance of restoring local watersheds, for our leadership in bridging the urban/rural divide. and for our creative reconciliation of liberal and conservative values.

The fact that this all sounds very idealistic and touchy-feely is an indication of how far we have to go in making it a reality.

But why else should we be here, if not to work for that?


Short Video: Wolf Creek, Beauty and Community

By Don Pelton

Here’s a short (4+ minute) video loop Jane and I made for the Wolf Creek Community Alliance non-profit display table being featured at the Grass Valley Center for the Arts for the month of June. (Full disclosure: I’m a member of the WCCA Board).


“The Time for the Wolf Creek Parkway is NOW”

FORWARDING TO FULL PAGE FORMAT …


Op-Ed: Ralph Silberstein, “Retain the Good Supervisor” (Terry Lamphier)

By Ralph Silberstein

Terry Lamphier is a polite, open-minded, hard working Supervisor and should be re-elected. He studies the issues and has the interests of the community at heart.

Dan Miller, who is running against Terry for District 3, is not qualified to be on the board. He does not seem to understand the issues and rudely condemns those who disagree with him.

One example: In spring 2011 the Nevada County Airport Land Use Commission was fulfilling its mandate to update the Grass Valley Airport Land Use Plan and had identified a conflict with the proposed Loma Rica housing project and Airport Safety Zones. Proposed units in Loma Rica’s McBoyle Lake area were in a potential hazardous air traffic zone. The City of Grass Valley clearly knew this before approving Loma Rica in May 2011, and certainly City Councilman Miller, who was also on the Airport Commission, should have known it. The conflict was even pointed out in the final Loma Rica Environmental Impact Report.

The approved Loma Rica project left 243 units within the new Safety Zones.

Miller subsequently sat through the Airport Commission’s final review of the draft Airport Land Use Plan on July 20, 2011. During the CEQA review period, which ended August 8, no actions or comments were submitted by Miller or City to the Commission about the Loma Rica problem, although the City did submit written comments on other aspects of plan.

When someone finally woke up to the problem, Miller supported the effort to delay the Airport Commission’s final vote. In his dual role as Airport Commissioner and City Councilman, he did not seem to understand that the Airport Commission first and foremost has a responsibility to address safety concerns. And instead of correctly representing the Commission’s responsibilities to the City Council, he belittled the commission’s actions, claiming “no one on the [Airport] Commission understands planning or land use…” [GV City Council, 9/13/11, video, 01:47]. The Airport Commission included County Supervisors Nate Beason and Ed Scofield, among others.

Sept 21, 2011, the Airport Commission approved the Safety Zones despite strong pressures from developers and City representatives. Miller, now occupying his seat on the Airport Commission, cast the only NO vote.

A subsequent waste of time and public resources ensued in which the City joined the developers in an embarrassing lawsuit against the Airport Commission.

A year later, Miller’s reply to LAFCO’s request that the lawsuit go away: “…they stuck their nose into something they shouldn’t have…” [GV City Council, 9/11/12, video, 00:55]. LAFCO is the state mandated agency that oversees regional planning decisions.

In the end, the Airport Commission stood by its approved Airport Plan, so the City Council voted to override the Safety Zones for the benefit of the Loma Rica project and other developers. When a local jurisdiction decides to overrule airport Safety Zones, the proposal must be submitted to the CalTrans Division of Aeronautics for review. The CalTrans review came back as harshly critical of the City’s proposal to override and pointed to numerous inconsistencies and safety conflicts.

Miller’s response to the CalTrans review consisted mainly of ridiculing the CalTrans representative for ‘not setting the blocks when he parked the airplane’ following an onsite evaluation.

Throughout the entire process, Miller seemingly failed to grasp the idea that, for the Airport Commission, public safety should come before the profits of some developers. After the City concluded their actions, Miller said “And Keoni [developer Keoni Allen] is correct in that … we should have had more support and more understanding by the different agencies in our area that oversee these, but instead we get sticks being stuck in our spokes that slow us down…” [Grass Valley City Council, video, 9/11/2012, video, 01:07]

Miller’s final rant on the debacle is an ironic testimony to his own failings: “And to have this type of opposition and this type of unnecessary interference, it wears on me, ….to get this close and have to go through this and where do we end up and after all this is said and done the developer has to spend money, we waste time, and we are right where we really were when this all started. Go figure.” [Ibid]

This reminds me of the famous Pogo quote: “We have met the enemy, and he is us”.

I’ll vote for Terry Lamphier.


Ralph Silberstein is a former Grass Valley Planning Commissioner.


A Creek Runs Under It — Part 2

A large group of students, teachers and parents from Grass Valley Charter School arrived this afternoon with tons of colored chalk and drew (above ground) the path (under ground) that Wolf Creek follows beneath the parking lot at Holiday Inn Express in downtown Grass Valley, before it emerges again into daylight beyond Safeway a couple of blocks away.

Spirits were high among the Charter School artists, and among the onlookers, who included Parkway Steward Bruce Herring, WCCA president Jonathan Keehn, District 3 Supervisor Terry Lamphier, Sierra Fund’s Izzie Martin and many others, including officials from the Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce, who were also there for a ribbon cutting ceremony welcoming the Wolf Creek Community Alliance as a new member of the Chamber.

It would be wonderful if all those young chalk artists could now become Wolf Creek ambassadors to the rest of the community, carrying the message that the Creek is an important – though neglected — part of the environment, and could be — if the Wolf Creek Parkway were completed — an important part of the economic life of Nevada County.

Below is a photo of the design schematic used by the artists, and a photo of the chalk work in progress.

Virtual_Wolf_Creek_Design


Virtual_Wolf_Creek_in_Progress


OTHER IMAGES FROM TODAY’S EVENT:

IMG_0004 IMG_0009 IMG_0012 IMG_0016 IMG_0024 IMG_0031


Nevada County Board of Supervisors Delays Decision on Blue Lead Mine

The Nevada County Board of Supervisors was surprisingly receptive to those appealing the recent decision of the Planning Commission to grant Blue Lead Mine a “mitigated negative declaration” in lieu of a full EIR (environmental impact report).

After a full afternoon  (1:30 to 7:30) of testimony and deliberations before a completely packed chamber, the Board voted 3-2 to delay the decision on the appeal until after further study of the water issue (the Blue Lead project plans to use 20,000 gallons of water per day in its mining activities, with impacts on local wells completely uncertain).

My impression is that most of the pro-mine comments came from owner Robert White and his family, Blue Lead employees/consultants and recreational miners.

Most of the comments critical of the proposed mining project came from people living in the vicinity of the mine, whose arguments in favor of the appeal and in favor of an EIR, were compelling, The process  could still (after some months of further study?) end up in an EIR, depending on the results of the water study.

More details can be found here on Yubanet (the first to report on this BOS meeting):

Red Flags for Blue Lead Mine – Decision Postponed

 


City Needs Comprehensive Development Plan Centered Around the “Real Gold in Grass Valley”

By Bruce Herring

Much ado lately in local press and other spheres concerning the future of Grass Valley. Citizens, elected officials, print journalists, bloggers, and other characters have bandied about a variety of notions. At issue: What is, what has, and what will really revitalize Grass Valley? It has been suggested the new Dorsey interchange is the true “silver bullet.” It has been suggested a new “Lifestyle Mall” at the interchange is the key to our future, complete with a big or at least a medium box. “It’s what the people want.”

Not long ago the buzz was the re-opening of the Idaho-Maryland Mine. Before that it was Loma Rica, other annexations, the shopping malls, and heck even the freeway itself. Brilliant idea that freeway, and convenient. Of course great swaths of private and commercial property were condemned, Nevada City lost the old gazebo, and Wolf Creek sentenced to run underground through tunnels and culverts for much of its downtown reach. A bit further back are the mines themselves, the mills, Lake Olympia, the Narrow Gauge Railroad, and …

Except for a portion of the original Loma Rica plan, these ideas and “improvements” – while visionary to varying degrees – are all based on quite conventional nineteenth or twentieth century thought. All have brought, or will bring some gain. All have tradeoffs. Everything does.

Several recent comments aim to push the conversation toward a 21st century framework. One suggests we are leaving history out of the equation. Others call for a comprehensive outlook instead of the usual piece-meal strategy. Steve Frisch of the Sierra Business Council goes one step further to suggest folks today “Want to live, work, shop and be entertained in the place they live; they want to walk and ride bikes; they want access to trails and open space; they want affordable starter housing for working people because young people can’t afford the single family residential American dream anymore; people crave authenticity and a sense of place.”

Two things. One, the City of Grass Valley has secured a grant to pursue a Comprehensive Economic Development Plan. I am told by high level city staffers that a multi-year series of public meetings will commence sometime later this year to do just that. Fabulous.

Two. Yes, a comprehensive outlook with a broad perspective is indeed a welcome idea. But the discourse must also include the age-old concept of the Commons. To be sure Grass Valley and Western Nevada County need to continue moving forward economically. But as Mr. Frisch suggests, we should do so authentically and with a renewed sense of “place.”

The common thread through Grass Valley is Wolf Creek. Like most “commons” it has been virtually invisible, neglected, used, and abused since the get-go in the 1850s. Commons in general are taken for granted and not valued in the complex accounting of GDP and “economic growth.” And yet in their wisdom the Grass Valley City Council unanimously approved a Conceptual Plan for a Wolf Creek Parkway in 2006. A Wolf Creek Trail is mentioned in city documents as early as 1999 and is included in the Downtown Strategic Plan.

Little or nothing has happened in the last eight years to move the concept forward. The time to do so is now. The Wolf Creek Parkway can and should stand as the centerpiece of any Comprehensive Economic Development Plan. Yes for the creek’s sake, but more importantly for OURS. We need a healthy visible accessible creek to revitalize ourselves. A place to walk, a place to bike, a place to just sit by moving water will provide a profound sense of place and connection to the natural world. It will help each of us feel good about our town. Citizens and visitors alike will benefit from the shared values derived from Wolf Creek, the “Real Gold in Grass Valley.”

Urban river and creek restoration has boosted property values and economic vitality in San Luis Obispo, Napa, Santa Rosa, and Tempe, AZ. Plans are underway for a major rehabilitation of the Los Angeles River. Freeway interchanges, bridges, and places to shop locally are indeed essential to our vitality, as would be high speed internet access. But the Wolf Creek Parkway will make a statement and put Grass Valley “on the map.” The Parkway epitomizes a bold move into 21st Century thinking.

Let the conversation continue. For additional information please visit the website of the Wolf Creek Community Alliance.


Bruce_Herring_thumbBruce Herring is a former whitewater rafting guide for O.A.R.S., running in the 70s and 80s on the Stanislaus, Tuolumne, Merced, American, Rogue, San Juan, Tatshenshini, and Grand Canyon. He spent ten years teaching and as Principal of Bitney Springs High School in Grass Valley, stepping aside in 2013. He currently serves as the Managing Director for A&B Associates, and volunteers for the Wolf Creek Community Alliance. See his blog at “Steward’s Log.”


Fundraiser Tomorrow at the Fairgrounds for Pete Lance and Family

This is our long-time arborist, Pete Lance, and his family. A few days before he was scheduled to do some work for us earlier this month, he fell from a height of 50 feet while working at a home in Folsom and broke his back. He’ll have a long recovery, and he’s (I think) the sole support of his family. If you live in the Grass Valley area, please consider coming to a spaghetti-feed fundraiser at the Northern Mines building at the Nevada County Fairgrounds from 4 PM to 9 PM Saturday (tomorrow). He and his family really need help.

The way the community has come together for Pete is truly inspiring: Jim Norman of Trees Unlimited will do the job here as Pete spec’d it and give all the profit to the Lance family. Andy Bjorson, who will do the logging portion of our job, will also donate his profit to the family.

Click the image below for current information on Pete’s progress and for more information on how you can donate:

Pete_Lance_Family


This Little Light of Mine … I’m Gonna Let It Shine

I was in the Booksellers bookstore in Grass Valley recently and one of the clerks pointed at my pants and asked “What’s that?” I looked down and saw that the little flashlight attached to my keychain inside my pocket had accidentally switched on and was shining a light right through my pants. Without hesitation, I answered, “This little light of mine … I’m gonna let it shine!”

Which of course made me think of this wonderful opening scene — one of my all-time favorites — from the Tina Turner biopic, “What’s Love Got to Do With it?”


Next Page »