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Regional Water Planning and California’s Water Crises‏

We can begin to grasp the distinction and significance in formulating regional planning processes as the foundation for a Green political position in regards to water that can be presented in issues work and candidate campaigns. A Green position needs, on the one hand, to promote a sound decision-making process that assures grassroots democracy while representing the needs and concerns of our voters and supporters in defining and supporting policies to implement our state Green Party Platforms.  Structural reforms in our political entities are a fundamental focus in accomplishing both goals.  

 Prioritizing regional allocations should be a reserved right for the regions that are impacted by such decisions. Transfers and diversions have become the convenient (but expensive) alternative in California to placate the most vocal and influential users. Briefly put, what are political decisions are made into administrative matters through the State Legislature. Water wars are structured around agricultural vs. urban demands. No surprise there. Population increases, increased agricultural land use, dedicated surface water inflow increases, aquifer depletions and transfers from one region to another have become a juggling act. Politicians at the state level juggling these conflicting uses never define common goals or processes where the needs and concerns of local communities are an integral component of the decision-making process. Instead, it’s “all-or-nothing” debates where winners take all. 

The state is simply acting as a water company moving the water from one place to the next. Take note of the consequences of governmental control of allocations in this context. Existing governmental institutions and processes make Federal domination of water flows inherently divorced from regional users. In California, most of the decisions on water take place, not in the communities impacted but in a State Legislature where urban legislators confront rural legislators in diversion debates. As a result the distinct needs of the wide range of rural, urban and agricultural communities never become the focal point of water supply issues.  

The plethora of advocacy groups of users, environmentalists, hydrologists and various interests on all sides battle each other and form coalitions based on the prioritization of allocations. It’s the real essence of water politics in the state. Rarely are local people somewhere in their own communities looking at the situation and working together in making the hard decisions. Instead partisan politics pervade and conflicts are fostered pitting one community against another. 

Instead of management and administration, what results is just plain old-fashioned power politics through the Governor and the State Legislature. What are lacking are institutions that merge stakeholders, the environment and the science in a regional holistic process.  What is lacking is a view of the regional demands and supplies of water in one comprehensive analysis that can point the way forward in a 50 year plan.  

Choices do need to be made; priorities do need to be established. Consensus does need to be reached in regards to numerous aspects of water that range from monitoring and measurement to urban and rural conservation to efficient uses and re-uses of water to new sources for supply to reduction of evaporation losses to water quality concerns to ecological restoration. Parceling these issues into separate components leads to bureaucracies that are removed from those impacted by the decisions. It dissects regional matters and apportions them to a multitude of agencies and obscures the “how” and the “why” of decisions. And it removes those impacted the most from the decision-making processes. 

Beginning with a state plan is little help in addressing the multitude of regional concerns. They do not have the ability to distinguish regional variances in supply and demand or quality and measurement and are simply general proposals that fundamentally lack substance. The preferred sequence would be regional plans, upstream-downstream integrations and then a state body to address conflicts through Water Court and a secondary adaptive governance institution of stakeholders, the environment and the science of hydrology.

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Greens Vs Democrats Vs Republicans

Greens have been around long enough to include us in the spectrum of political ideas. All too often Greens are lumped into the “left” end of the spectrum. It’s time to evaluate Green perspectives from our base up. To do that we have to address matters such as voter support and electoral strategies and find ways to implement our Platform.

It is worthwhile to review the current administration’s policies with the previous administration’s and ask: “What’s new about this or that?” We also can ask why are we not making the structural changes that are really needed for ecological democracy or adaptive governance. We don’t need to gloss over differences to include them in the decision-making processes and yet, that is what we continue to do. Rather then using a model that proposes central government versus state governments, I would suggest a model that presents autonomous regions (or governing entities) with defined authorities integrated into both state and Federal governments. Continue Reading

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California Greens and San Francisco Greens Endorse Labor Teach-In

On May 9th workers in the San Francisco Bay Area will be gathering to discuss the recent economic crisis and will plan the moves ahead for a unified effort for the difficult days ahead. The gathering was initiated by the San Francisco Labor Council, South Bay Labor Council, and Workers Emergency Recovery Campaign. It was endorsed by the Green Party of California and the San Francisco Green Party. The effort is being organized by labor unions, community organizations, student groups, single payer healthcare advocates and various political organizations in the region.

In a letter the Executive Director of the San Francisco Labor Council Tim Paulson wrote:

“Dear Sisters and Brothers,
I want to urge you and your members to participate in a teach-in and mobilizing meeting scheduled for May 9, 2009 at the Plumbers’ Hall (1621 Market Street, between Franklin and Gough) from 1:00 to 5:00 pm. This event is being co-sponsored by Bay Area Labor Councils. This event is of special importance because it will highlight an action plan developed by the San Francisco Labor Council that includes the following goals:
• No layoffs. Massive job-creation programs.
• Tax the rich—don’t bail out the banks.
• Pass the Employee Free Choice Act.
• Single-payer healthcare for all.
• Affordable housing for all. Moratorium on foreclosures and evictions.
• Funding for jobs, social services and infrastructure, not for war.
• Stop the ICE raids and deportations. Legalization for all.
This May 9 event will propose large public actions to promote this action plan. We believe this plan is not only good for working people in San Francisco, but for the country as a whole since we cannot get out of this deepening recession unless working people are working at union jobs with union-scale wages, they enjoy good health, and they have the security of a home.” (excerpted)

The people of California continue to pay for the consequences of the financial manipulations of the large multi-national corporations and investment banks. Unemployment in California has risen to 11.2%. 135,000 default notices on mortgages were sent out in the first three months of the year in California, an 80% increase from the fourth quarter of 2008 and a 19% increase from the previous year period.

In a Press Statement released April 1, 2009 Laura Wells, Green Party candidate for California State Controller in 2002 and 2006 declared: “Anger over the unprecedented transfer of public money to private corporations must be channeled into political pressure on Mr. Obama and Congress members, and into electing candidates who stand for people instead of powerful lobbies.”

The Green Party stands with working people not just on election day, but every day. From this event there will be a plan developed for a Solidarity action that begins to unify the various social forces of our community towards  common action with a common agenda. Greens in the Bay Area have been urged to attend the Teach-In and to visibly demonstrate our solidarity and our commitment to the cause of social justice.

Those in the region who plan to attend are urged wear Green Party T-shirts and can help hand out brochures from the Green Party presenting our support. Green public officials and candidates for public office in past years and years to come are invited to join and speak at the open mike. Coalition leaflets for the Teach-In are online in PDF format here

People wishing to help out the day of the Teach-In should contact Martin Zehr at 415-337-5773. people wishing to donate to the San Francisco Green Party can do so online at:  this page.

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GOVERNMENT, PLANNING AND THE POLITICS OF WATER

 

In addressing the issue of water in the West we must be willing to address that prior solutions have not addressed the core problem. Today, we continue to base solutions through increasing supplies. In the past, it has been simply a matter of addressing increased demand for water by increasing the supply combined with conservation. Reservoirs and dams were built with wide surface areas resulting in huge evaporative losses, aquifers were pumped to the maximum, urban water conservation was voluntary and private wells were unmetered. Supply was there. Sometimes new sources, such as Owens Lake in California, or the San Juan /Chama diversion in NM were piped to urban centers to increase supply.

Supply solutions are still available. Desalination of ocean waters, dredging reservoirs and deep aquifer drilling are playing a new role in the discussions as the old sources dry up or prove unable to address increased demand. New deep water, low surface area, high altitude reservoirs can be built. Brackish water can still be tapped from deep aquifers and desalinated. Water pumped in rural areas with low demand can still be piped to urban areas. In other words, there remains the capacity to continue to address water management and administration in the same old way.

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EcoAction Committee Passes Water Resolution

RESOLUTION
Presenter: EcoAction Committee

Contact: Martin Zehr, 415-337-5773, m_zehr@hotmail.com


Subject: Protecting water is a priority for the Green Party
at the national, state and local levels.


Background and Purpose: Water is the source of life. El agua es vida. The Green Party seeks to safeguard the well-being of future generations and restore ecological systems. Clean and available water is a critical priority which government can and must secure for all people.


Proposal: The National Committee of the Green Party of the United States provides the principles listed below as guidelines to Green Party candidates and organizers to increase the visibility of water issues in Green campaigns and increase our ecological focus in electoral and political activities.


We propose:


• to work together with our neighbors in making decisions on water issues that recognize the stake that
future generations have in those decisions; (Future Focus)


• to recognize our dependence on a finite supply of fresh water, the importance of oceanic waters and the aquatic life that provide oxygen and food for the planet; and to respect the integrity of ecosystems and the natural patterns of water; (Ecological Wisdom)

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Schools Failing, Money Needed

California’s public education system is dysfunctional and it is the children and the future generation that have paid the costs. In addressing both the short term issues and the long term, true solutions need to be found. It is not a solution that is found in demonstrations. Teachers’ unions have been unable to demonstrate a significant role in addressing the real needs of teachers. The result has been high teacher turnover, a decrease in the number of new teachers and high student drop-out rates.

Alternatives, whether vouchers or charter schools are patch work remedies that have no significant impact on the vast majority of students in the public school system. Increasingly, public school systems are contracting out to private education contractors. In the interest of full-disclosure, it should be said that I periodically work for such a company. It is worthwhile to mention that the stimulus proposal includes increasing funding to Special Education. This is worth supporting.

At issue in California are the glaring inadequacies of state funding to education. (see the article ) The existing state funding has frozen in place a system that cannot address the needs of limited English language students, special education and districts with low tax bases. It has replaced school buildings with mobile homes. It has replaced textbooks with Xerox copies. It has undermined student focus on learning and increasingly undermined the ability of teachers to focus on teaching.

This presents the budget issue and the inability to raise taxes on the front burner in the state of California. It presents Prop 13 as the first hurdle to be leaped in addressing the stalemate that is dragging the state down. It presents changing the vote required for the budget to be passed. There are no solutions for the “corporations” to pay or no way around the recognition that in difficult times we all pay the costs for our failures to invest in education during good times.

Greens running in local elections and for school boards need to be up front on these issues and begin to form a new consensus that sees the priority in investing in our children’s future. Greens working within teachers’ unions need to build a caucus that can increase the visibility of the teacher in the funding process.

“Children are the future of this country, special needs or not, everyone can have a chance to reach success if they are just given the chance to do so. Even though the schools were reimbursed for their funds spent out of pocket, the settlement figure is only slightly more than half the $1.1 billion dollars the CSBA originally claimed the schools were owed (http://www.specialednews.com/states/statesnews/CAfunds111500.html). These states are getting off easy, more needs to be done to ensure each special needs child has a chance for a proper education, no matter what school district or state they are in.” http://sitemaker.umich.edu/delicata.356/funding_for_special_needs_education

 

 

 

 

 

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Nahla Hussein al-Shaly: A Martyr for Women

When the President of the United States has a pair of shoes thrown at him the story covers the front pages and the video is repeatedly played on cable news programs for a week. When the leader of a Kurdish women’s group is assassinated and beheaded, the story is given a brief AP notice. The fact is that in the context of increasing violence in the city of Kirkuk against Kurds, this act of barbarity is aimed at those forces within southern Kurdistan and northern Iraq that seek to protect the democratic rights of women and the national rights of the Kurdish people. Earlier this month, 57 people were murdered in a bomb attack in Kirkuk against a local initiative to seek political unity.

There is in southern Kurdistan various left political parties and organizations that have sought to unite the national aspirations of Kurdish people with the political demands for socialism and a secular state. The struggle for women’s equality is a profound focus in those movements that seek to oppose the institutionalization of Islamic sharia law in defining social and political rights. The brutal murder of Nahla Hussein al-Shaly was aimed at preventing the effective political organization of Kurdish and Iraqi women defending equal rights.

In 2004, women organized a demonstration in Suleimaniyah where 5000 women protested the attempt to introduce legislation scraping Iraqi secular family law in Iraq. “The 1959 code was once considered the most progressive in the Middle East, making polygamy difficult and guaranteeing women custody rights in the case of divorce.”This decision is unacceptable for an overwhelming majority of Iraqi people. It violates not only the rights of women of Iraq and Kurdistan, but also international conventions,” said Takhshan Zangala, head of the Kurdistan Women’s League, affiliated to the communist party. This was the organization that Nahla Hussein al-Shaly worked for in her fight for equal rights for women.

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James Howard Kunstler: People Get Ready

[Yes, we’re going to get change all right, but, as James Howard Kunstler says, “The broad American public voted for “change” but they thought that meant a “changing of the guard.” Out with the feckless Bush; in with the charismatic Obama… and may this American life now continue just as it ever was. The change actually coming will be much more than they bargained for, namely our transition from a wealthy society to a hardship society.”]

In the twilight of the Bush days, in the twilight of the twilight season, a consensus has formed that we are headed into a long, dark passage leading we know not where. Even CNBC’s Lawrence Kudlow has been reduced to searching for stray “mustard seeds” of hope on hands and knees in a bleak and tortured financial landscape. Half the enterprises in the land are lined up for some kind of relief bailout and a blizzard of pink slips has cut economic visibility to zero.
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Automakers Point the Economy at the Peoples’ Heads

The show is over. The chief executives have driven to Congress in their electric cars and have proposed to shelve their corporate jets. With hat in hand and the UAW President singing the same tune with them, the Big Three showed up to testify before Congress pleading for $34 billion to get them out of the hole that they dug themselves in. Once again we are being told that “What’s good for GM is good for America”. The presumption is that this a sound economy that just needs a little tinkering and that the automakers will pick themselves up with a lot of money from the Federal Government. Unfortunately, this premise fails to recognize the great gap in income, the approaching Peak Oil and global warming. It ignores that plain fact that the auto industry does not hold the key to economic recovery. If, as Congressional Democrats say that “one in ten jobs are tied to the auto industry”, it is long overdue to restructure the economy from what it has been, rather than prolonging its death.

 

The economic extortion from automakers “Pay Us, or We Kill the Economy” to maintain continued growth disregards the inherent contradiction that we are facing in the long run with Peak Oil and global warming. Things do not just become better and better and better, just because GM gets a hand from taxpayers.

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