|Sacramento County, CA||November 7, 2000 Election|
Long-Term Regional and Statewide Planning
By Jan Louis BergeronCandidate for Member of the State Assembly; District 9
This information is provided by the candidate
Discusses a proposal to create regional planning commissions, water conservation and air pollution and traffic congestion.Regional and Statewide Planning - DRAFT Proposal
California needs long-range, systemic solutions to our systemic problems. We need to get serious about regional and statewide planning. I propose that the legislature establish regional planning areas throughout the state. These planning areas would be based on bio-regions and economic regions, which will usually overlay each other.
Each planning region will have a regional planning commission (RPC) made up of representatives of each of the local governments within the region. Each RPC shall elect a board of directors. The state will provide staff and technical support and funding.
The RPC will be responsible for developing a 15 - 25 year growth management master plan, focussing on land, water and other natural resource conservation. State created planning boards and commissions will be absorbed by the RPC.
Each plan will be presented to a legislative statewide planning committee (SPC), probably a joint legislative committee, for initial review. The SPC will be responsible for resolving conflicts between regional plans. For example, If Sonoma County wants to widen highway 101, but Marin County doesn't, the SPC will work to resolve the difference and develop a coordinated solution.
After initial review of the SPC, the plan will go to the various standing committees of the legislature for review of their specific elements. For example, the Assembly transportation committee will review the plan for it's transportation components. The plan will then go through the usual legislative process and be voted on by each house.
If a RPC fails to get a master plan approved by a specified date, the SPC will withhold state funds for development projects within the region and freeze new building permits until a regional plan is passed into law. This will compel local politicians to work together to work out a master plan.
Eventually, we should redraw county lines based on these regional boundaries. For example, Placer county extends from the Sacramento valley across the high Sierra to the Nevada border. The western part of Nevada county would be in the Sacramento valley regional planning area, the eastern part would be in the central Sierra planning district.
The fundamental flaw in this proposal is that local politics tends to be dominated by developer interests, and the legislature is dominated by big business interests. Until we change that, expect low standards of conservation to be applied to these master plans.
Limiting Factors - Our economic system is a totally dependent subsystem of the natural economic system, the environment. Our economy is booming now in large part because we are spending the savings accounts of natural resources we inherited from millennia past. As our economic system is currently structured, sooner or later we will begin to run out of some commodity that the economy needs to keep growing and when that happens, the economy will take a nose-dive. If nothing else, fresh water will be that limiting factor.
Amory Lovins is a physicist with the Rocky Mountain Institute in Colorado. He developed the concept of "nega-watts" the idea that it is cheaper for utility companies to buy energy efficiency than to construct new electrical generation capacity. And before deregulation, the implementation of this concept in California saved us billions of dollars in energy costs. We can take that concept and apply it to water, from nega-watts to nega-water.
The state should phase out all water subsidies, which go mostly to agribusiness, and which only encourage water waste, and take some of that money to subsidize those same agribusinesses to implement state of the art water conservation measures.
And we need to cover the California aqueduct. Do you have any idea how many millions of acre-feet of water are lost to evaporation each year from the California aqueduct? Neither do I, but even the ancient Romans knew enough to cover their aqueducts.
Reducing Air Pollution and Traffic Congestion
Traffic congestion is becoming a major issue in California. Is there not enough roadway, or are there too many vehicles? If we look at our road and highway systems, we see that they are congested only during peak commute times, a few hours in the morning and as few hours in the afternoon- perhaps eight hours a day, on weekdays. The rest of the time, over two thirds of the time, our road and highway system is under used and over capacity. This is not an efficient use of land resources. Expansion projects like widening Watt Avenue or Highway 99 are short sighted and inefficient uses of land. And if this is all we do to relieve congestion, we will simply end up with more congestion and sprawl in a few years.
So we need to do other things to get people out of their cars during commute hours. There are many things we should have been doing for a long time. Better land use planning to locate jobs near housing affordable to the people in those jobs. Bike lanes and sidewalks. But the one thing that can get more people out of their cars is to give them a reasonable alternative in public transit.
Motor Vehicle User Fee to Fund Public Transportation Improvements
I own a house. I pay a monthly fee for disposal of the waste I generate - trash pickup, city sewer service. Motor vehicles produce waste, which is emitted out of the tailpipe into the air. These emissions into the atmosphere have serious negative effects on local air quality and the health of plants, animals and people. Acid rain and smog originating in the Central Valley are even hurting our beloved Sierra Nevada forests. And then there is the spectre of the Greenhouse Effect and global climate change.
The cost of disposing of toxic vehicle emissions has, in effect, been socialized, paid for by all the people who suffer smog headaches, or develop emphysema and asthma, or worse.
But the atmosphere is a public resource and using it as a private waste dump for motor vehicle emissions is a privilege, not a right. Just as I must pay a user fee for the city and county to dispose of the waste I produce in a reasonably safe manner, so too, drivers should pay a fee to use the atmosphere for the (unsafe) disposal of their vehicles' toxic emissions. Therefore, I propose that a fee be assessed on motor vehicle fuel on a per gallon basis at the pump. Dirtier fuels will have a higher fee. Theoretically, drivers who use the most fuel (because their vehicles are not fuel efficient or because they drive more) and the dirtier fuel will pay the more.
Assessing the fee per gallon at the pump not only provides revenue for the state, but serves as an educational tool, reminding people every time they gas up the SUV that they, personally, are polluting the air, contributing to smog and the Greenhouse Effect.
I do not expect this, by itself, to cause an appreciable reduction in driving or fuel consumption, but if the money generated is used to improve public transportation to where it is a reasonable alternative to driving, coaxing people out of their cars, this combination could produce a significant reduction in pollution and traffic congestion.
I am convinced that, more than anything else, new automotive technology will be the primary factor in significant reductions of greenhouse gasses. Foremost among these technological advancements is the synthesis of ultralight body construction and hybrid-electric/fuel cell power - the hypercar.
The hypercar is made with the judicious use of ultralight, high strength carbon fiber materials, engineered to minimize air and rolling resistance (making it "super slippery"), and is powered by electricity. But instead of hauling around a heavy battery that needs to be recharged every 60 miles, the electricity is generated on board by either a carbon burning (gas, methanol, ethanol, etc.) generator or a hydrogen fuel cell.
Physicist Amory Lovins, director of the Hypercar Center at the Rocky Mountain Institute in Colorado, says we can produce "a family car that combines the amenity, refinement and spaciousness of a Lexis, the stiffness and solidity of a Mercedes, the safety of a Volvo, the acceleration of a high-end BMW, the price of a Taurus, " with near zero emissions and up to 200 miles per gallon equivalents. Honda recently introduced a hybrid/electric car that gets 60 miles per gallon, and it is not ultralight or super slippery.
This technology can be applied to any type of vehicle, delivery vans and trucks, busses, even light rail trains. If used for light rail, Lovins says it would reduce the cost of a new system by two thirds because rail beds, trestles and bridges wouldn't need to carry nearly as much weight and therefore could be built to lower weight bearing capacity. (Visit the hypercar website athypercarcenter.org.)
The State of California has hundreds of passenger cars in it's vehicle fleet, excluding CHP and other law enforcement vehicles. I propose that we authorize the Department of General Services, in cooperation with the Hypercar Center and the U.C., which is also working on this technology, to develop specifications for an ultralight hybrid electric or fuel cell vehicle to replace the state's current passenger car fleet. These specifications should come close to Lovin's claim of what a hyper car can be, getting at least 120 miles per gallon. Then put the specifications out to competitive bidding and see what comes in.
The purpose of the demonstration project is to demonstrate to the public that ultralight hybrid electric (or fuel cell) cars are safe, reliable and affordable. It will also accelerate the advancement of this technology and provide a model that other governments and companies with large vehicle fleets can improve on.
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