Archive for the ‘John Garamendi’ Category

Calbuzz Face-Off: Drill Baby Drill, Yea or No Way?

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

oilrigAs the state’s budget battle drags on amid bitter debate over program cuts, there is equal acrimony over a revenue-raising proposal to allow drilling for oil in state waters off the coast of Santa Barbara. With the controversial Tranquillon Ridge project raising questions about finances, the environment and political process, Calbuzz invited the leading advocate on each side, Deputy Finance DirectorTom Sheehy and Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, to make his case for our readers. Their posts — yes and no — are linked below.

No: Arnold’s Plan is a Quick and Dirty Power Grab

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

Garamendi PhotoBy Lt. Gov. John Garamendi
Special to Calbuzz

The Schwarzenegger Administration, through the California Department of Finance, wants to “drill baby drill” off the Golden State’s coastline, and they’re willing to undermine 70+ years of checks and balances to do it. Will we let them get away with it?

In late January, I joined California Controller John Chiang in a two-to-one vote of the California State Lands Commission (SLC) to reject what would have been the first new oil lease in California waters in more than 40 years.

As chair of the SLC, I take my responsibility as a steward of the environment very seriously, and I did not think the proposal was in the best interests of the state. Beyond the inherent environmental risks posed by all new drilling projects, I did not think assurances included in the proposal to decommission oil platforms decades down the road were enforceable.

Unfortunately, the Department of Finance is unable to take “No” for an answer. For the first time in our commission’s 70-year history, their proposal is to bypass the SLC and permit the Department of Finance to authorize the oil lease off the Santa Barbara coast. Let’s keep in mind it was 70 years ago that a major scandal (link) at the Department of Finance led to the State Lands Commission having the authority to issue leases.

What is wrong with this picture? Plenty, and at the expense of California.

The Schwarzenegger Administration refuses to tax Big Oil companies that now extract oil in California to fund critical health care services, children’s programs and education. This tax would generate $1.2 billion dollars annually.  On Monday, the Governor warned he will veto the budget bill package including an oil production tax.

Instead the administration is taking the quick and dirty way out. Big Oil has offered to California $100 million dollars to seduce the state into granting the first new oil drilling lease in California since the Santa Barbara oil spill 41 years ago, a spill that covered hundreds of miles of ocean and over 30 miles of sandy beaches with more than three million gallons of crude oil.

Learning from history means not blindly repeating the mistakes of the past.
At an open hearing of the SLC last month in Santa Monica, Controller Chiang and I again joined together to voice our opposition to this power grab, backing a resolution calling on the legislature to reject the Department of Finance’s proposal. During public comment, 12 environmentalists agreed with our position – including representatives from the Sierra Club and Environmental Defense Center – while not a single individual rose in support of the Department of Finance’s end-run around the SLC.

”We cannot get away from the fact that this is the first new offshore oil lease in 40 years, and if I sound upset, it’s because I am,” said Susan Jordan, director of the California Coastal Protection Network. “I have never seen such a blatant power grab.”

“We don’t always agree with the decisions made by this body, but we recognize and support the hard work of your staff and the public process designed to enforce the protection of our precious state lands,” added Joe Geeber, California Policy Coordinator for the Surfrider Foundation.

The science is clear; drilling for new oil now exposes our coast to the potential devastation caused by an oil spill and contributes to the greenhouse gases that chill our ability to combat global warming. As I’ve said in the past, California must focus on becoming a renewable energy leader and leave the extraction of new sources of fossil fuels to the 20th century.

But you don’t have to agree with me to appreciate the larger issues at stake.
To bypass the SLC and give the Department of Finance authority to approve this oil lease threatens the independence of the SLC, a commission designed to be an independent environmental watchdog.

More than 35 environmental organizations are opposed to the Department of Finance’s plan, including some that were initially supportive of the oil lease proposal. To allow the Department of Finance to usurp the independent commission responsible for protecting our state lands and waters means we will lose one of the most important safeguards available to California ‘s natural habitats.

How Oil Scandal Shaped State Politics

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

crude-politicsThe current political brawl over offshore oil drilling between the State Lands Commission and Governor Arnold’s Department of Finance has historic roots in a Depression-era scandal that helped shape today’s energy politics in California.

The Commission and the Finance Department have clashed in recent weeks over the governor’s push to resurrect a proposed lease for drilling off the coast of Santa Barbara. The Commission rejected the plan in January, but the Department of Finance this week released draft legislation to overturn that decision and give authority over the disputed lease to the Schwarzenegger administration.

Ironically, the State Lands Commission was created in 1938 precisely to take away from the Department of Finance the power over oil drilling on public lands, in the wake of a bribery and kickback scandal that helped bring down the administration of Republican Frank Merriam at the hands of Democratic reformer Culbert Olson.

“Olson accused Merriam of having let the Department of Finance…become ‘the agency of private interests,” according to “Crude Politics,” a UC Press history of state oil policy by Paul Sabin. “The…scandal and the investigator’s report on legislative corruption, both in 1938, opened a window on internal administrative and legislative corruption in Sacramento.”

Among other things, the book recounts how oil companies seeking leases on state land were told to “go see Rosie,” a reference to Merriam’s chief political consultant, Joe Rosenthal, while famed lobbyist Artie Samish meanwhile doled out slush fund cash to lawmakers backing the Finance Department’s plays on behalf of Standard Oil and other companies.

The scheme unraveled in 1938, when Samish was arrested for refusing to testify at a grand jury looking into allegations that Department of Finance executives held up oil companies for stock, cash, kickbacks and nepotism, in exchange for the rights to drill on state oil tidelands and sites offshore Southern California.

“Vast Tideland Oil Fraud,” screamed the Chronicle on August 14, 1938, disclosing details of the scandal that eventually capped a decade in which oil politics dominated the Capitol and the courts.

At issue in Olson’s victory over Merriam was the charge that oil companies, not the public treasury, were receiving maximum benefit from oil drilling on state lands. Over the next decades, the politics of the issue changed dramatically, so that the central concern became conservation of beaches and tidelands, not financial exploitation of the minerals beneath them.

The current controversy over the Tranquillon Ridge project reflects that political framework – alas, it has no exciting charges of bribery and corruption, at least to date – as Lands Commission chairman and Lite Gov. John Garamendi is accusing Schwarzenegger’s Department of Finance of trading long-term environmental protection for short-term economic gain. Led by chief deputy director Tom Sheehy, the finance department insists the deal would benefit both the environment and the budget.

Fishwrap: CA Firesale, Chinese Wine & Cheese, Central Coast Fratricide

Friday, May 15th, 2009

Governor Arnold says California should sell off some of its iconic real estate assets like San Quentin, the Cow Palace and the Los Angeles Coliseum, to help balance the budget.

While this may not help much in the short run – it would likely take two to five years to close deals this big – Calbuzz has some ideas on 10 other properties the state can auctihearstcastle-712894on off, along with some possible buyers, to keep the fire sale revenue stream flowing for years.

1- Hearst Castle: Media News mogul Dean Singleton, an unscrupulous news business titan just like the original owner, could throw lavish parties to entertain all the Bay Area journalists he’s put out of work.

2-The Golden Gate Bridge: Dianne Feinstein and Dick Blum, who already own a swell place in nearby Presidio Terrace, could buy the bridge and close it from 9 pm-9 am to help keep the neighborhood quiet.

3- The Historic Governor’s Mansion: Jerry Brown is already eyeing it, while waxing nostalgic for his old bedroom on the second floor; best to get some up front cash now, before he gets a chance to move in for free.

4-Asilomar: Clint Eastwood, the former mayor of nearby Carmel-by-the Sea, would have plenty of room in the spacious Monterey Peninsula conference center to exercise his core political belief: “Everyone leaves everyone else alone.”

5-Fort Tejon: Flush with cash, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians or the Morongo Band of Mission Indians might snap up the historic Army fort, originally used to wage war on Native Americans, in a nice bit of historic payback.

6-Old Town San Diego: The Federation for Immigration Reform could celebrate the Bear Flag Revolt every day in the historic district, an ideal base for furthering their nativist views about Mexico.

7-The State Capitol: Ipoh Ltd, redevelopers of the famed Queen Victoria Building in Sydney, have a lot of experience converting historic buildings into shopping centers. Besides, the governor and legislature aren’t really using it for much.

8-Angel Island: Just think what Steve Wynn, world’s most imaginative casino developer, could build on all that wasted open space in this little slice of heaven in San Francisco Bay. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

9-Will Rogers State Park: On their way out the door, the governor and First Lady Maria Shriver could do their small part to erase the budget deficit by retiring in splendor, and keeping the show biz vibe alive, at this Santa Monica showplace.

10-La Brea Tar Pits: Okay, the state doesn’t officially own the pits, but General Services could seize it by eminent domain and sell it to the senate Republican caucus; those guys are all free enterprise fans and, anyway, what more appropriate site for party headquarters?

Today’s sign the end of civilization is near: With great pride and enthusiasm, Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, in his role as (all rise) chairman of the California Commission for Economic Development, this week announced “the formation of the California Wine and Cheese Expo in Shanghai Pudong’s Wai Gaoqiao Free Trade Zone.”

Now there’s something you don’t see everyday.

“At the Commission for Economic Development, we craft strategies to help improve California ’s economy and business climate, and beneficial international trade relationships are an essential part of that equation,” said Garamendi. “China ’s white collar population is expanding rapidly, and demand for quality wines and cheeses is on the rise. ” Who knew?

Memo to Arnold: In cutting the budget, maybe start by eliminating the lieutenant governor’s office altogether.

No tranquility at Tranquillon: The Terminator’s bid to overturn the State Lands Commission’s veto of a new offshore oil drilling lease at Tranquillon Ridge off Santa Barbara County has added fuel to an already heated Democratic legislative primary.

The commission’s January vote, which torpedoed a deal negotiated between coastal advocates and oil company PXP, bitterly divided local environmentalists, and led to to the contested primary. Longtime enviro Susan Jordan, who’s running to succeed husband Pedro Nava in the 35th AD, staked out a lonely stance opposing the deal, while most of her erstwhile allies, including city councilman Das Williams, backed it.

Williams who had earlier pledged to support Jordan, cited her position on Tranquillon as his key reason for making an about-face entry into the race. The issue had finally died down when Schwarzenegger resurrected the lease deal as part of his May revise budget plan.

Uberhead: Party Hearty, Donkeys!

Saturday, April 25th, 2009


Gets applause when he notes that back in the ’70s, California spent 3% of its general fund on prisons and 17% on schools but today it’s even . . .says CA has to invest in kids . . .

More Jerry: Extols his own record on clean energy . . . says they made fun of him as Moonbeam but 30 years later this is the national paradigm . . . We stand on the shoulders of those who’ve gone before . . . (Does this mean Jerry’s standing on his own shoulders? How’s that work? A yoga thing?) . . . He has no text or talking points, so he makes it up as he goes along . . .

Jerry Brown being introduced . . . Bruce Springsteen’s “We All Have a Dream” . . . difficult at conventions, he says, to speak the “truth to power” . . . not engaged in the campaign process yet . . . decries that White House authorized torture . . . Thank God our president has brought out into the full light of day the horror of torture under George Bush . . . talks about what he’s done as attorney general . . . OMG he’s leading a teach-in on the collapse of the banking system . . . casting himself as the populist (as opposed to the latte-sipping Newsom) . . . tough on white-collar criminals who exploit blue-collar workers in the underground economy . . .

Don’t know why, but the speaking order has been shuffled and Jerry Brown has yet to make it to the podium. Boxer delays her press avail so’s not to step on Jerry . . .

More Boxer: To the surprise of no one, she formally announces she’s running for re-election next year. Take that, Carly Fiorina . . . As a postscript, Babs announces a new line of Boxer merchandise, including bibs for babies and scarves for dogs (Barkers for Boxer) . . .The speech is better than Dianne Feinstein’s (who must be helping Tony V solve the LA budget troubles) . . .

Boxer demonstration to the tune of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” . . . lots of bass beat . . . Boxer thanks incoming CDP Chairman John Burton for teaching her to be polite, diplomatic and reserved . . . Biggest applause so far in praising Barack Obama: “Our pro-choice president has reversed the international gag rule that stopped family planning dollars from going overseas.” . . .

No media avail. Says Newsom Guru Garry South: “Our speech speaks for itself.” . . .

Besides his shots at Brown, Newsom also directly took on his biggest leftover political liability: the “whether they like it or not” gay marriage clip used so effectively by supporters of Prop. 8 last fall: He said he enjoyed being introduced by outgoing party chair Art Torres “a whole lot more than the introduction I got in a few of those TV ads last fall. Well, whether they like it or not – my name’s Gavin Newsom, and I’m here to get things started.”

More Newsom: So far, his speech is better than LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s . . . (Here’s the opening shot at Jerry Brown) Will we offer the voters of California a stroll down memory lane, or a sprint into the future? . . . Will we choose the past — or will be embrace the future? . . . We’re not a state of memories, we’re a state of dreams. . . . We are not content to relive history. We are going to keep making it. . . .

Flack Peter Ragone hands out an actual speech text for SF Mayor Gavin Newsom . . . big cheers with Coldplay’s “Viva la Vida” playing . . . Newsom: This state is ready for a new direction . . . We need to stop talking about universal health care and start providing it in this state . . . the old ways of doing business just don’t cut it in this tough new world . . . Gives rosy description of health care and schools in San Francisco, but we’re wondering will it all hold up to scrutiny in the heat of the campaign . . .

Treasurer Bill Lockyer has taken the podium and turned the decibel level down considerably, using a buttery late-night FM voice to deliver a Top 10 list of movie remakes, spinning off various disasters that have struck the economy in the last year; nice premise but the execution is too clever by half. Best joke: mug shot of Bernie Madoff used in remake of Spielberg film: “Swindler’s List” . . .

Bob Mulholland, political director for the state party, drops by the skybox to ask: “In five years, what will be around – the Chronicle or Calbuzz?” Ace Chron writer Carla Marinucci blanches…

John Garamendi spontaneous floor demonstration to the tune of “We Are Family” gets tepid response . . . For some mysterious reason, Garamendi is yelling really, really loudly and apparently believes he’s speaking to the 1968 convention in Chicago. Modulate, man . . . something in his vision about “algae and waste products” and methane collectors . . . still yelling . . . quoting FDR now (twice) . . .

Chris Finnie, the Boulder Creek Dem activist who is challenging Lord John Burton for party chair, tells us people have come up to her seeking so many flyers she’s been almost wiped out of her cache . . .

Dr. Hackenflack’s crack political team is settled into the Calbuzz Sky Box at the California Democratic Party convention, not listening to Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, who is warm-up speaker for Gov Lite John Garamendi . . .