PROTECTING CALIFORNIA'S ENVIRONMENT
Planning and Conservation League
January 8, 1994
Living in California provides many experiences to remind us why we are environmentalists. Prominent among my memories are the times that I spent hiking in Yosemite with my father and the summers spent camping in the Sierras with my children.
Another moment that I remember conjures up somewhat less picturesque images, but was important nonetheless. I was on the Board of Public Works in Los Angeles, preparing a speech for Proposition M. For those who don't live in Southern California, Prop M was the largest single bond measure to fix our sewer system that had ever been put on the ballot in the history of Los Angeles.
I was preparing my speech and, like an attorney, writing the brief and the arguments for it. I began with the facts of the case: that we had 440 million gallons of
waste water that pumped through our 4000 miles of sewers everyday. I began to wax eloquent about the secondary treatment benefits versus the tertiary treatment benefits, and my brother walked in and said, "What in the world are you talking about?" I told him what I was doing and he said, "Get a grip. Hold on here." He said -- sort of like the guy in The Graduate who turns to Dustin Hoffman and says "Plastics" -- he turned to me and he said, "Stewardship." It helped focus my energy and my attention on what my mission was, not only in that speech, but in my assignment as a Board of Public Works member and indeed my assignment in any position, any place that I find myself in life.
The definition of stewardship that I called upon is the Old English definition. The Old English definition of stewardship relates to one who is a servant of the people
who administers wealth. In this case the wealth represents our city's, our state's, our nation's, and our world's resources.
While it may seem peculiar that preparing a speech on sewer bonds represents an important piece of my environmental education, it reflects the fact that
environmentalism is not just about preserving the beauty of California's mountains and streams, but also about managing the mundane issues of sewer, trash, and traffic systems.
So the mission of stewardship seems to me to be a threefold mission:
First, I have an obligation to help safeguard every citizen's right to a quality of life that includes such things as safe drinking water, clean beaches, wholesome
food and surroundings that are free of toxic chemicals. Environmental justice is a basic right that we must never forget.
Second, I have an obligation to express and foster the linkages between investment and infrastructure and the environment. These are linkages analogous to the
ecosystem, in which we, as species, are all interdependent.
And finally, I have an obligation to communicate to the public at large our responsibility as individuals to turn over to our children, and to our grandchildren, an
Earth and a World whose air is clean, whose rivers are pristine, whose old growth forests are still standing, and whose life forms are thriving.
These obligations encompass the basic mission of stewardship. That was the basic argument I made in trying to get Prop M passed, and we succeeded in that endeavor.
In fact, it's the notion of stewardship that motivated so much of what I did during my two years on the L.A. Board of Public Works, and will take with me in whatever assignment that I have.
I take some pride in the accomplishments that I had on the Board of Public Works. The most important, I think, was an attitude adjustment. The Board, in the days before I was fortunate enough to serve there, was dominated in part by technocrats, in part by bureaucrats, in part by politicians who all seemed to believe that the "solution to pollution was dilution." But we converted that traditional Board of Public Works to a Board of Environmental Works -- of futurists who understood the environmental mission.
Perhaps my greatest contribution on the Board of Public Works is the woman who I recruited to replace me: Felicia Marcus. She was a great contribution to that
Board, elevating it to unparalleled heights, and she continues to fight for environmental quality today.
While a lot can be done at a local level like the Board of Public Works, even more can be done at the state level.
Four years ago, I talked about the kind of things I wanted to do as State Treasurer. I feel a sense of pride in my accomplishments since taking office, primarily in the
area of selling park land bonds. As Treasurer I've sold $723 million in park land bonds, and I expect that by the end of my term I will have nearly cleared the $1 billion dollar backlog that existed when I came into office.
I have also pledged to sell transportation bonds for as many projects as the transportation commission can certify will be completed. More work needs to be done in
Probably one of the most innovative programs in the Treasurer's office is the CLEAN program: California Loans for Environmental Assistance Now. It is intended to
service small businesses throughout the state. Small businesses are the driving force of job growth in California's economy. Unfortunately, they are the least
able to finance many of the environmental retrofits and other upgrades they need in order to be good environmental citizens. The CLEAN program provides loans to these small businesses.
My favorite story is the one of Dean Dungey, the dry-cleaner in Orange County. His enormous dry-cleaning facility needed to have some cleaning devices added because of the pollutants that it released. Well, Dean was about 79 years old, originally from Arkansas, and he wanted the government to get out of his life. He was going to shut down his business because of the AQMD requirements, and basically just tell the government to go to hell.
Instead, we told him about the CLEAN Program. We sat down with him, and he added up what the cost would be to retrofit all his equipment, then he added up what his savings would be in terms of utility bills, chemicals used, and other costs associated with doing business, and this guy couldn't believe it. He said, "You mean I can be a good environmental citizen and make money too?" And we said, "You bet you can be!" He is making money hand over fist now in his dry-cleaners in Orange County.
That story has repeated itself over and over and over again with the loans that we have provided for small businesses. It is a marvelous story that talks about the
marriage of the economy and economic opportunity with environmental quality.
But while there is a lot that can be done from the Treasurer office, the key to environmental protection lies in the Governor's office.
Think how much progress we could have made to protect California's environment over the last twelve years if we had Governors who understood why it is important to the state's future.
Think how much progress we could have made in cleaning up our air if we had a Governor who was willing to work with the Clinton Administration to improve the state's Smog Check Program, who was willing to sign Drive Plus, and who was willing to stand by a strong environmentalist like Jan Sharpless.
Smog causes at least 3 additional deaths a day in Los Angeles County, and causes over half the children in the area to have 15 to 20 percent less lung capacity than
children living in other parts of the country.
And if you're truly serious about creating and protecting jobs in this state, then you have to understand that the best way to meet air quality standards without
harming business is to reduce mobile sources of air pollution.
On the issue of automobile smog check checking, Governor Wilson has reversed his administration's earlier position and now opposes efforts to improve California's
system. While this may help him score political points, his posturing has put our state at risk of losing $800 million in federal highway funds for our failure to meet
National Clean Air Standards -- standards that Wilson voted for as a U.S. Senator.
I think we should be doing everything possible to meet the National Clean Air Standards.
And that's not all. If I have a chance, I'll sign Drive Plus, to give tax incentives to people who buy fuel efficient cars. And I'll stand firm on zero emission and
low emission vehicle mandates. They are in our best interest environmentally and economically.
Recycling and Solid Waste
There's more. Think how much progress we could make towards protecting our environmental future if we had a Governor who was committed to recycling.
When I was on the Board of Public Works, I helped develop L.A.'s curbside recycling program, which is now the largest program of its kind in the country. I also helped create the City's Office of Integrated Solid Waste Management, to develop waste reduction programs for Los Angeles industries.
Recycling is a critical part of protecting our state's resources.
That's why I'd make sure that AB 939 is successfully implemented, and why I'd oppose any efforts to weaken the California Beverage Container Recycling Bill.
And just think how much progress we could make towards protecting our environmental future if we had a Governor who understood that the threats to our coast include not just oil drilling, but also sewage and storm drains.
When I was on the Board of Public Works, I helped create the city's sludge management program, which allowed the city to stop discharging sludge into the ocean. We developed programs to reduce the discharge of toxic heavy metals into the Santa Monica Bay. And we dramatically improved the performance of the city's Hyperion wastewater treatment plant.
Coastal pollution has caused great harm to the coastal tourism industry. In the last 10 years, there's been a 40 percent drop in the number of beach visitors to Santa
Monica Bay. Storm drains are the largest source of pollution to our oceans and rivers.
That's why I'd work to see that all the relevant regulatory agencies start working together on a storm water management plan, and a unified regulatory program.
Now think how much progress we could make towards protecting our environmental future if we had a governor who didn't stall, then veto the Sierra accord, and who didn't stack the Board of Forestry with representatives of the forestry industry.
The status quo is not an acceptable approach to managing our disappearing old growth forests, deteriorating watershed, and headwaters forests. We can have a thriving, healthy, and economical forest industry in California, but not if we maintain the short-sighted, industry-dominated practices of the Wilson Administration.
That's why I'm committed to developing sustainable forestry management programs, and appointing environmentalists to the Board of Forestry, so it has a
more even-handed perspective.
Finally, think how much progress we could have made towards protecting our state's precious water supply if we'd had a Governor who was willing to stick with the work of trying to create standards for the Bay Delta, instead of pulling the plug.
California cannot survive if we do not protect our rivers and lakes. We must invest in conservation and efficiency, so we can restore and enhance our limited
water resources, instead of straining them further.
That's why I'm committed to protecting the Bay Delta, and why I support increased use of reclaimed water. In the city of Los Angeles alone, over 80 million gallons of reclaimable water is dumped into the L.A. River each day.
And think how much progress we could make towards protecting our environmental future if we had a Governor who understood that environmental clean-up and clean technology are not an economic burden, but an economic opportunity.
In the 21st Century, California's economic success will depend heavily on our ability to nurture industries that create environmental clean-up equipment, low-emission or zero-emission vehicles, and other non-polluting equipment.
That's why, the plan I unveil in the coming months to restore California's economy will be based heavily on encouraging green growth.
In 1992, Pete Wilson held the state hostage for 63 days with his inability to resolve the budget deficit. But for three years, he's brought gridlock to the state with a
permanent vision deficit.
Because of Pete Wilson's vision deficit, California isn't meeting Clean Air Act Standards, we have a regulatory system that doesn't protect the environment or protect
businesses, we lost a chance to build consensus on critical water and forestry issues, and our state's regulatory agencies are filled with people who have no commitment to our environmental future.
Because of Pete Wilson's vision deficit, we still fight the argument that environmental protection is inconsistent with economic growth, when each and every one
of us knows that this is untrue.
Because of Pete Wilson's vision deficit, most of the state's environmental leaders -- many of whom are in this room today -- are not at the table when critical decisions
about this state's future are made.
But most important, because of Pete Wilson's vision deficit, we have no leader who is willing to stand up and remind our people that all of us have an obligation to
protect the beauty and the resources that make California such a wondrous state.
Every day, millions of Californians demonstrate their commitment to our state's environmental future. With some hard work and determination, California can once again have a Governor who shares that same commitment -- a green Governor with the colorful name of Brown.
Thank you very much.
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