Southern California environment news and trends

Morning greens: Green taxis, short subway, and more energy debates

lacab Morning greens: and

LA City Council moved to ‘green’ city’s taxi fleets — “at least 80 percent of the city’s taxicabs within the next five years” — as a condition of renewing the taxi franchise system. LA Times reports “several environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the evidence of environmental improvement was sketchy.” We’ll have more on this at Pacific Swell later in the week.

Metro’s recommending that the Subway to the Sea only stretch to Westwood, which has made some subway supporters unhappy. In case you missed the Metro public meetings, the transit agency’s blog The Source explains why the transit agency’s recommending a shorter line than what many transit advocates desire. “The short explanation comes down to one word: ‘money’” — as in federal funding, the criteria for which are not met by a longer subway line. Whether you agree or disagree with Metro, you can voice your opinion at the Metro Board of Directors Hearing on the Westside Subway Extension tomorrow.

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Proposition 26, Part 2: the money [UPDATED]

Okay, to refresh your memory, here's the argument the Yes on 26 people make: according to the president of California's Chamber of Commerce - 

Higher taxes and fees make it more difficult for businesses to stay in California – the very businesses that employ Californians, create jobs and generate revenue for our state. Increasing employment and growing the economy are crucial to California’s recovery.

Fees are bad, right? Well. Let's look at who hates fees. Mostly corporations who pay them.

One of the oil companies I mentioned in my Proposition 23 story today is Occidental Petroleum. Their support of Propositions 23 and 26 represents a continuous line of interest in limiting the impacts of climate change laws by a company whose greenhouse gas burden is, uh, impactful.

But it's not just oil companies who don't like fees. People who make the booze and smokes - increasingly targeted for health and environmental reasons for fees associated with their societal costs - don't like 'em - a LOT. The Wine Institute supports 26. They've given a quarter of a mil to the cause. American Beverage Association out of DC has more than 1.2 million worth of skin in the game. They've stepped up lobbying efforts since cities and school districts started placing FEES on soft drinks citing health and environmental concerns. And small groups - Stone Brewing Company - Stone Pale Ale, Stone Ruination IPA anyone? - care about this issue too.

MillerCoors. ConocoPhillips. Phillip Morris, The Small Business Action PAC - read this Capitol Weekly piece about the transparency (or lack thereof) of their funding, as not-required by California law. And Chevron - as Siel noted back midmonth - has started to throw down the real dough. $3.75 million, much of it in the last 2 weeks.

Who likes fees? Well, I dunno. But groups opposing 26 are: Credo, teacher's unions, state employees' unions, firefighters, highway patrolmen, the Alliance for Local Leaders for Education, Registration and Turnout  (The what now? "Established in 2002, ALLERT's mission is to deepen and expand the civic participation of traditionally underrepresented communities of color, youth, and low-income residents in South Los Angeles and other inner city neighborhoods of Los Angeles.") SCOPE  (WHO? "California's eroding tax base and federal policies that emphasize military over domestic spending aggravate conditions in communities already plagued by poverty and disinvestment.")

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Proposition 26, Part 1: environment arguments

So, what the hell would Proposition 26 do? I'll look at the Yes side, the No side, and the LAO's analysis to find out.

News today is that UCLA law professors released their analysis - that's included in the no side below. In a battle of people I've interviewed in the past, we've got former DTSC chief Maureen Gorsen vs. UCLA's Sean Hecht - both making interesting points about green chemistry regulations' ability to survive in the future.

WHATS GOING ON WITH THE YES ARGUMENT
So, the people backing Prop 26 say they're worried about "hidden taxes" -

In the past decade, state legislators and local officials have been using a loophole to propose more than $10 billion in “hidden taxes” - fees disguised as taxes - on goods and services that Californians use every day, like groceries, gas, cell phones, or even emergency services.

State and local politicians routinely circumvent the state Constitution’s requirements by disguising taxes as fees because fees are easier to pass than tax increases.  At the state level, the Legislature calls many taxes “fees” so they can pass or increase the tax with a bare majority vote – not the two-thirds vote required for taxes.  At the local level, politicians call taxes “fees” so they can avoid voters and our Constitutional right to vote on most tax increases.

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UCLA students can rent bicycles for $35 a quarter

A good commuter bike can cost a bundle — especially once you add on the requisite lights, helmet, locks, rack, and — for the caffeine-addicts — cup holder. But at UCLA, students can now get cycling on a stylish new fully-equipped Felt Café Series hybrid city-style 8-speed cruiser — for just $35.

CAFE 8 M NAVY 2011 USA SMALL

That’s thanks to the brand new UCLA Bike Library, which started renting out bikes to students earlier this week. For $35 a quarter, any UCLA student can be a proud temporary owner of a tricked out Felt cruiser bike — complete with front and rear fenders, front and rear lights, a rear rack, and a cup holder. A similarly-equipped Felt bike would cost $550 to buy — and wouldn’t come with the complimentary bike lock, combination lock, and helmet UCLA’s providing to borrowers.

Jealous about the sweet deal Bruins are getting on bikes? Well, the UCLA students ARE paying for the UCLA Bicycle Library. The money for the program comes from The Green Initiative Fund, created two years ago by a student vote that raised student fees by $4 a quarter in order to fund student-initiated sustainability projects.

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Green picks: Have a green Halloween

Where to go, what to do, how to green. Our event picks for the coming week:

pumpkin events

Tonight: Tue, 10/26: “How Will Cities Survive Climate Change?” is the question Matthew Kahn, author of Climatopolis: How Our Cities Will Thrive in the Hotter Future, will tackle at The Actors’ Gang, 9070 Venice Blvd., at 7:30 pm

Thu, 10/28: Burbank environmentalists can schmooze over drinks at Fall Eco-Mixer: Mixing Business with Green, a Burbank Chamber of Commerce organized by local environmental community group Burbank Green Alliance. The networking event happens at Gordon Biersch, 145 S. San Fernando Blvd., Burbank from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm. Cost: $10 per ticket (includes 2 drink tickets) for Chamber members who RSVP to info@burbankgreenalliance.org by Oct. 27, $15 at the door for non-members.

Thu, 10/28: Get your two cents in on the future of public transit in Los Angeles at the Metro Board of Directors Hearing on the Westside Subway Extension and Regional Connector, happening at One Gateway Plaza, Board Room, 3rd Floor, Los Angeles starting at 9 am.

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