Bay Area Council Blog: Water Archive

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Group Seeking to Tear Down Hetch Hetchy Launches Petition Drive for November Ballot

The threat of losing the Hetch Hetchy clean water and power system that serves 2.5 million Bay Area residents and businesses took a dangerous step closer to reality with supporters launching a petition drive to qualify a measure for the November ballot in San Francisco. The Bay Area Council has been a strong opponent of past efforts to eliminate Hetch Hetchy and is working with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, our members and a diverse coalition of business and community leaders to fight back the current effort. But recent polling by EMC Research shows that proponents of tearing down Hetch Hetchy can win in November unless there is a well-funded campaign to inform voters about the true intent of the measure, which is positioned under the pleasant guise of increasing water conservation. What the measure doesn’t state is that San Francisco and the Bay Area are already among the most miserly water users in the state, and that removing Hetch Hetchy would cost more than $10 billion, dramatically increase the region’s vulnerability to water shortages and drought and do away with a major source of clean energy.  To participate in the Council’s effort to protect Hetch Hetchy, contact Policy Vice President Matt Regan at mregan@bayareacouncil.org.

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Council Announces Positions on Ballot Measures

The Bay Area Council Executive Committee has taken positions on a number of statewide measures and one local measure appearing on the June and November ballots. The Council continues to analyze other initiatives that have been proposed for the November ballot. Thank you to all Bay Area Council members who participated in the survey

Measure B, San Jose Pension Reform (June 2012)

Summary: With the unsustainable cost of public pensions imperiling fiscal stability, Mayor Chuck Reed has crafted a bold measure that treats existing employees fairly and establishes prudent reforms to San Jose’s retirement system.  The outcome of this measure could have statewide implications. Making public retirement systems more fiscally sustainable is among the Council’s lead priorities.

Position:  Support

Proposition 28: Limits on Legislators’ Terms in Office (June 2012)

Summary: Reduces the total amount of time a person may serve in the state legislature to 12 years, but increases number of terms a person could serve in either the Assembly or Senate. This measure would allow legislators to develop the greater policy expertise to lead California.  This measure will enable legislators to better focus on developing sound public policies, instead of having to run for their next office.

Position: Support

Safe, Clean and Reliable Drinking Water Act (November 2012)

Qualified for the November ballot

Summary: This proposed measure would allow the state to borrow $11.1 billion to overhaul the state’s water system. The Bay Area Council participated significantly in the development of the compromise that led to this package and to it being placed on the ballot.

Position:  Support

Tax for Education and Early Childhood Programs (November 2012)

Circulating for November ballot qualification

Summary:  The proposed initiative is well-intentioned but does not include any reforms to address California’s structural budget problems and improve our low-performing education system. Major studies have consistently indicated that reform must accompany new investment. The measure would introduce an across-the-board 1 percent increase in state income tax rates for most Californians, expiring after 12 years and generating an estimated $10 billion earmarked for public school districts and early childhood development programs.

Position: Oppose

The Government Performance and Accountability Act (November 2012)

Circulating for November ballot qualification

Summary:  This proposal calls for sensible budgeting, accountability and governance reforms, by establishing two-year state budget cycle; prohibiting the Legislature from creating expenditures of more than $25 million unless offsetting revenues or spending cuts are identified; permitting the Governor to cut budget unilaterally during declared fiscal emergencies if Legislature fails to act; requiring performance reviews of all state programs; and, requiring performance goals in state and local budgets, among other features.

Position: Support

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Improving Business Climate Tops Council’s 2012 Priorities

Revving up the Bay Area and state economies will lead the Bay Area Council’s top priorities for 2012, with specific focus on reforming the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), creating a healthcare system that places a premium on controlling costs, and winning substantive reforms to our unsustainable public pension system. Those priorities are among five in which the Council will invest considerable time, energy and resources during the coming year. The Council will also focus on modernizing Caltrain, the outdated commuter rail service in the heart of the region’s biggest economic and jobs engine. In addition, the Council will expand its successful initiative to grow trade with China.

The priorities were finalized last week by the Council’s Executive Committee under the leadership of new Council Chair Janet Lamkin, who oversaw a comprehensive review of the Council’s priorities over the past several months. In establishing the priorities, the Executive Committee relied on staff research and analysis of various issues, member surveys, and a series of individual and group meetings.

Reforming CEQA. Despite some sector-specific dynamism, new research by the Council’s Economic Institute shows that the Bay Area economy essentially has been stuck in neutral for the past two decades.  Business leaders overwhelmingly point to burdensome regulations, including CEQA, workers’ compensation laws, and other red tape, as a main source of the problem.  The Council will produce empirical research to support what we know anecdotally.  We will build and lead a coalition of business groups and others in a major five-year effort to reduce the business regulations that have been stifling the Bay Area and California.  A key focus will be on stopping the continuing expansion of the California Environmental Quality Act and returning CEQA to its original scope and intent. To join us in reforming CEQA, please contact Policy Vice President Matt Regan at (415) 946-8710 or mregan@bayareacouncil.org.

Controlling Healthcare Costs. The healthcare cost-escalation crisis continues, harming businesses and consumers alike and jeopardizing our global competitiveness.  The Affordable Care Act created a framework that can be used to ratchet down rising health care spending, via state-based implementation. The Bay Area Council will continue to lead the business community and other allies behind a strategic vision of an affordable, high-quality health care system for California.  We will implement that vision through legislation to be enacted in 2012 and 2013 that will prioritize market-based solutions and technological innovations for reducing healthcare costs and improving patient health outcomes. To join us in controlling healthcare costs, please contact Senior Policy Advisor Micah Weinberg at mweinberg@bayareacouncil.org.

Reforming the Pension System. California’s unfunded pension and liabilities are estimated at $265 – $737 billion.  Add to that unfunded healthcare and pension liabilities at the county, city and special district level, and the numbers soar past the imagination.  In the short term and, especially in the long term, these liabilities mean much less money for services, education and infrastructure.  The Council will work with Governor Jerry Brown and proponents of a potential 2012 ballot measure to ensure that California reforms and manages public pensions in a fiscally stable manner. To join us in reforming pensions, please contact Policy Vice President Matt Regan at (415) 946-8710 or mregan@bayareacouncil.org.

Modernizing Caltrain. Surveys of business leaders and residents alike consistently cite traffic as the Bay Area’s top problem.  Congestion on Highway 101 between San Jose and San Francisco – our country’s most economically productive corridor – has particularly escalated.  Modernizing Caltrain would substantially increase its ridership and take thousands of cars a day off of Highway 101. Unfortunately, the modernization project has partial but incomplete funding.  The Council will lead an effort to build public and political support  to secure final funding and clear other hurdles, allowing the project to be completed, thereby reducing some of our region’s worst traffic. To join us in modernizing Caltrain, please contact Policy Vice President Michael Cunningham at (415) 946-8706 or mcunningham@bayareacouncil.org.

Expanding China Trade. Global trade is among the biggest drivers of Bay Area economic activity. Through our existing relationship with the Shanghai Yangpu District and a new large-scale “Technology Park” opportunity in Shanghai, we will continue to expand the presence and clout of Bay Area businesses in China with a physical landing pad, and attract more Chinese companies and investments to our region. To join us in increasing trade with China, please contact Director of Global Initiatives Bing Wei at (415) 946-8270 or bwei@bayareacouncil.org.

In addition to these strategic priorities, the Council will continue to collaborate with other partners in supporting a range of key issues, including cybersecurity legislation, high speed rail, science and technology education, water and energy efficiency, and protecting the Hetch Hetchy water system, among others.

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Public Private Partnerships Can Create Millions of CA Jobs, Fix Infrastructure

Ramping up California’s use of public-private partnerships to help fund and construct major infrastructure projects could create millions of jobs, save taxpayers millions of dollars and speed up delivery of projects, according to a report the Bay Area Council Economic Institute released this week. The report pegs the cost of California’s unfunded infrastructure needs at up to $737 billion and possibly as much as $765 billion. Using public-private partnerships to generate $250 billion in infrastructure investment could create 1.7 million direct jobs – or 3.4 million total jobs — while investments of $500 billion and $750 billion could create up to 3.3 million and 5.5 million direct jobs, respectively, over 10 years. According to the report, however, California lacks the policies, procedures and practices necessary for government to make broader and effective use of public-private partnerships. The report offers nine recommendations for incorporating public-private partnerships into the state’s toolbox of methods for funding and building infrastructure, including roads, highways, schools, hospitals and other public facilities.

Read the full report: Accelerating Job Creation in California Through Infrastructure Investment: Opportunities for Infrastructure Asset Formation and Job Creation Using Public-Private Partnership Procurement Methods

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Council Mounts Effort to Protect Vital Regional Water Supply

A campaign to dismantle the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir — the source of clean, reliable and affordable drinking water for 2.5 million residents and businesses of San Francisco, Silicon Valley and the East Bay – picked up steam this week with a request by Rep. Dan Lungren to investigate whether San Francisco has been a good steward of the resource. The Bay Area Council has been a strong supporter of keeping the Hetch Hetchy system in place and believes that San Francisco and our region’s strong conservation and water recycling efforts demonstrate well that we do not take this valuable asset for granted. The Council also believes that spending $10 billion to remove a vital piece of infrastructure that benefits so many Californians makes little financial or economic sense at a time when we should be investing public resources to meet our many unmet infrastructure needs. To learn more about the Council’s efforts to protect Hetch Hetchy water, contact Matt Regan at mregan@bayareacouncil.org.

11.4.09

Major Deal Overhauling State’s Water System Reached

By Andrew Michael

Today, after many days and a long night of debate in the Legislature, lawmakers passed a long awaited, comprehensive water package. We expect the Governor will sign off on this five-bill package – which will bring a much needed overhaul to the State’s antiquated water system. The package includes an $11.1 billion bond measure that will be up for voter approval in November 2010.

Our work in this area, with the leadership of Jim Levine, Chair of our Water Policy Committee and many members, in collaboration with over 15 major business associations from around the state, has led the effort to reform California’s water governance system. Thanks to those of you who recently urged the legislature to adopt a strong governance structure in the new water plan. Many of the reforms sought by the Bay Area Council are included in the bills that were passed this morning.

The Bay Area Council has been leading efforts to resolve water issues affecting the state and the Bay-Delta for many years. It was the Council’s leadership at the beginning of the millennium that sought to bring together all parties from the water, environmental, business, and agricultural community in the CalFed process.

In recent years, the Bay Area Council has worked with other business groups, and water agencies in northern and southern California, Delta representatives, and with major environmental groups to explore solutions to a water and ecological system in crisis. Through this new collaboration of leaders from Northern and Southern California, we found more in common than we had expected, and came together on a number of common sense strategies to resolve the difficult issues of water supply reliability and ecosystem recovery.

We are heartened by the water deal but there is much more work ahead. We plan to continue our work – with your help – on this very important issue. There is a case to be made that the package doesn’t go far enough – but given the complexities of the issues and the challenge of passing meaningful legislation – we think this package is a good outcome. We congratulate the Legislature for their work and the Governor for calling the special session.
Highlights of the water package include:

• Oversight: A new seven-member board to oversee the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. The board would consist of gubernatorial and legislative appointees, along with the head of an existing delta commission. The board could approve a controversial peripheral canal to channel water around the delta.

• Conservation: A 20-percent conservation mandate for urban areas, with credits for cities that have made significant conservation efforts. Agricultural entities will have to follow best practices for water use.

• Groundwater Monitoring: New regulations to monitor groundwater levels throughout the state.

• Water Rights: Increased penalties for illegal water diversions, although the penalties and enforcement were significantly weakened from an earlier plan.

• Financing: A $11.1 billion bond to pay for the overhaul. Of the total, $3 billion would be set aside for new water storage, which could be reservoirs, and more than $2 billion would go toward restoration of the delta ecosystem. Other money in the bond would pay for water recycling, drought relief, conservation and watershed protection projects.