tv This Week in Northern California PBS June 25, 2011 1:00pm-1:30pm PDT
captioning by vitac, underwritten by fireman's fund in sacramento, controller john chiang says lawmaker paychecks are not in the mail and the wait for a balanced budget continues. a troubling number of california schools face insolvency. could new proposals stabilize state funding for education? a shakeup at muni leaves the bay area's largest transit agency poised for big changes. and the effect of global warming on our treasured national parks. coming up next.
good evening, everyone, i'm scott shafer sitting in tonight for belva davis. welcome to "this week in northern california." joining me on our news panel tonight is rachel gordon, city hall reporter for "the san francisco chronicle." ana tintocalis, education reporter from the "california report" on kqed public radio and wyatt buchanan. sacramento bureau reporter for "the san francisco chronicle." wyatt, let's begin with you. it's been a few days since state legislators found out they're not going to get paid until they passed a balanced budget. how do they like working for free? >> they don't. nobody is happy about this decision, but the reactions came
in different ways from different folks. mostly democrats came out and criticized it. republicans stayed either quiet or said, you know, okay, this is -- we're okay with this decision. we need a budget. there were a few democrats who said that, too, but there were some really fiery language from some democrats. >> now, of course, the state controller is a democrat, and just as they were unhappy with jerry brown's veto, they're also unhappy with the controller's decision. what did john chiang say was the reason for withholding their pay. >> what he did was took a look at the budget as it was passed, added up what they said, you know, was to be spent by the state, added up what the revenues were and said, these don't match. the biggest -- it was about $1.85 billion was the difference. most of that was education funding. but he really stepped into a pretty messy process. the budget isn't a, you know, a clean process where things just, you know, go from one to another. there's a lot of moving parts
all the time every year. now he -- the controller stepped in and basically said, you're going to have to have this done in a really sort of tight way by the deadline. >> wyatt, isn't this exactly what california voters wanted, though? they said, we're tired of having the budget process drawn out for months, sometimes, after the deadline to get this done. you have to start figuring out how you can get a budget, a balanced budget together. and it sounds like they might be trying to figure it out at this point, right? people dug in and said, we're just going to eat tuna fish from here on out. >> they're working on an alternative. i think we're likely to see something next week. >> it's working that's withholding the pay? working extra hard now? >> it's only been a few days. i think there definitely is a -- it's a brand new element we've never seen before up there. you know, it could go on and on like it has in past years. last year was the latest in state history. you know, it's like, this is what happens. now everybody is talking about the paychecks. >> wyatt, we should say this
didn't just come out of the blue. this is because of prop 25 which the voters passed in november. and -- but there was some interpretation by the controller, right? it wasn't -- or was it? was it a black and white issue? there was no budget, therefore, you don't get paid? >> well, yeah, the controller which has never done before, took a look at the budget and did this calculation and, you know, he -- there are actually two propositions that are in play here. there's a prop 58 passed in 2004 that mandates the balanced budget. he said these two propositions are in the same section of the state law. i have to look at both of these. one is, is it on time? two, is it balanced? and he said no. >> wyatt, how are people viewing chiang? is he scoring political points? how are lawmakers viewing him? >> he's a democrat. he did this to the majority democratic party, you know, just a week, less than a week after the democratic governor vetoed the budget.
so i think some people are pretty upset that they think he made a political move here, because the legislature is wildly unpopular, and, you know, you make a move like this, people just love it. you know, the voters -- i think they see -- they passed this proposition. it's actually doing what we intended it to do which is not always the case with propositions. >> can you go back and tell us what the sticking points are? you said it's over education. who has to give? what are they going to give up? what are they looking for? what did governor brown say, this is how we have to move to move forward for california's budget? >> well, this is all happening behind closed doors right now. so -- >> i mean, is it still tax measures that are out there? >> there's a parallel track. there's two things happening. the governor is saying, i want this tax measure to go on the ballot to get four republican votes to do it. >> that's to extend taxes we already have here, right? >> that expire next friday. >> what about that? because, you know, jerry brown had been saying all along we want to just extend these taxes.
if they expire, and they expire july 1st, right, next week, so it becomes a tax increase. does that change the politics of it, if it does go to the ballot? >> i think it does. political consultants say absolutely it does. because you're not -- polling has shown the numbers are higher for an extension of current rates. but when you say an increase, that's real money. right now, you'd be paying about the same that you were, you know, last year, but if that goes away, you know, about $1,000 for a family of 4 is what it would amount to, and people have to decide, well, do i want to spend more now? >> i was wondering, i mean, do you think the governor in a sense has kind of painted himself in a corner at this point with his plan "b?" what would plan "b" be? >> he never had a plan "b." he was proud of that. and, you know, i think we're seeing some things develop behind the scenes now,
alternatives, but, you know, the governor made a series of promises in the campaign and he has been adamant he's going to stick to them. and he, himself, is in a really unusual position as a politician. his age, his experience, you know, his lack of ambition for, you know, higher office, you know, so he can really stick to that and, you know, i think the veto was really, you know, a bit of an earthquake. >> political earthquake. >> i mean, people, it seems he went into office just with that message. to folks. that he has nothing to lose. he's not looking forward to the next thing. so it's -- it is what the voters demanded on this budget first time. we'll see what happens if they actually make cuts, right? is that what the voters want? >> well, of course, those cuts if they come are going to be education -- education is going to be taking a big hit. ana, one of the things that's been kicked around this week up in sacramento is a new kind of tax that would help fund type ox
s in the past in california. there's a long history. polling shows people would rather protect education than see cuts elsewhere. supporters are thinking they have a good chance. >> like you said, it was 2006 u prop 87 was on the ballot which would have done exactly this. the money would have gone into a general fund, not into education. there was $150 million spent on that campaign.
who's behind this? does he have deep pockets? >> i guess not surprisingly enough, it's a community college professor. he's in long beach. his name is peter matthews. he's leading the fight. he's one for congress before i think. he's definitely a political type. and he's the man, the face behind this. he has such a small little budget that he's working with. i think so far they've raised $7,000 to buy the petitions, the actual papers to start disseminating them. they're relying on communities, students that are fed up, unions, faculty unions, teachers unions. he's saying, we're relying on these grassroots volunteers until we get enough money, hopefully $1 million by july to hire paid professional signature gatherers. >> is this simply a new tax on existing oil that's being extracting from the ground? are they kind of saying, let's do this and let's open up california much more to the oil companies to take out a lot more oil and get the money that way? is it just what we're tapping
into already? >> yeah. i mean, a lot of experts say this is a natural resource. it's in our ground. it's not moving anywhere. it has a limited life span to it. we need to tax it. the soil doesn't belong to the companies. it belongs to the people of california. and there's a lot of other taxes around oil companies. you know, there's a fact that's thrown out there that california is the only oil-producing state that doesn't tax for extraction of oil, but there's other kinds of taxes. and oil -- the oil industry has been successful in convincing voters, you know, if you tax us, this extraction, it will pass on to consumers. you'll pay more at the pump. they've been successful getting in that argument through. >> the oil companies may disagree the oil belongs to the people. they pay for the leases and so on. what about that argument, though, ultimately this is going to get passed on to the voters? right now gas prices are so high. it seems like that would be an
easy campaign to run, you want to pay more money still for gasoline? >> the drafters of these type of initiatives have kind of built this mechanism where you can't pass it on to consumers. there's a lot of back and forth in legal maneuvering and conversations about, can you legally pass this on to consumers? but the folks with this particular initiative is saying, we have the safe guard, you can't pass it through, and it just makes absolute sense. like it's almost crazy that california doesn't tax. doesn't have this tax on the books whereas alaska and texas, those type of states do. >> ana, where is the teachers unions on this? cta, you know, these groups are some of the largest players in sacramento. have some of the deepest pockets in the state and can get things passed. they haven't jumped on on this yet? >> yeah. i think that's one of the big flaws with this particular proposal and initiative. ballot initiative. process. is that they have a lot of smaller unions that are latching on to this, namely community
college professors, and student groups. you don't see the large, powerful teachers unions grabbing on to that. so you lose some political muscle in their argument for it. so that's to be seen. i think they're trying hard. in fact, peter matthews, the man at the center of this initiative is in the bay area. he'll, this weekend, he'll be at the pride parade trying to get signatures. he's running up and down the streets to try to get more support. >> we'll, of course, the schools come into contact with a lot of people, and so does the muni. the metropolitan transit association. the mta. there's big shakeups going on over the last week. rachel, tell us what's going on. >> they're big ones. the municipal transportation agency has 700,000 boardings a day. it's the largest public transit agency in the bay area. seventh largest in the country. it's an agency that doesn't just run the muni transit system. it runs taxi programs, bike,
pedestrian, parking and traffic. anyone getting their car towed, parking tickets, know about this agency. there are big changes that happen. nathanial ford who has run the agency 5 1/2 years now, through mutual agreement his contract was terminated early, 2 1/2 years early ily. he got a severance package. most of the money he would have gotten anyway if he left early. that brings the opportunity, raises the opportunity for the agencies to bring in new leadership. new blood in there to change things. you have to ask, why would they want to? muni has been, it's an agency you both love and you hate. you love it because you don't have to walk more than four blocks to catch a bus or cable car or street car. that's generally how it is. you come from a town like fresno or los angeles or st. louis, you can name it, you go like, what are you guys complaining about? this is a great transit system here. if you rely on it every day, it's hard to rely on.
it has a dismal on-time performance rate that voters said we want a 85% on-time performance. it's never gotten past 75%. that's one of the big things with it. >> so headley, kind of a quiet guy hasn't talked about muni. what role is he playing her, if any, in easing out nathanial ford and maybe steering this agency toward someone else who he likes? >> right. he's only supposed to be here for a year in san francisco an interim mayor after gavin newsom left to become governor. whether he decides to leave or not, november election is still up in the air. he insists he isn't. he played a quiet role in this. it's up to the independent board to choose who's going to run muni, if someone is going to be out or not. ed lee wants someone who's 150%, his phrase, committed to running this very important agency. even if you don't take the buses, you want people to be on buses so there aren't traffic
jams. a lot of people care about it. a guy -- he's not saying this is who i definitely want. the choice is in the mayor. someone i can live with, i hired him before, ed riskin. he hasn't had transportation experience but has a lot of political support at city hall. he has support from the activists. he's a big transit first advocate in the city. so he's a front-runner. there are a number of people on the executive team at the agency that are also angling for this job, and it remains to be seen who might get it. >> are they looking in san francisco? ford came from atlanta. this time around, are they saying -- >> the chairman of the board of directors is saying he'd like someone close to home, someone who can hit the ground running. that gives ed riskin, the dpw, a head start. this is happening as well, the operators union, 2,000, 2,200, got a new contract imposed on
them. contentious contract battle. this contract, what voters wanted, gave management a lot more power over work rules, over discipline, over scheduling. you go, how come management didn't have those powers before? it's been about four decades really the operators have had a lot of say of how the agency -- >> is this an agency that is doing well and the next director is going to just build on the progress that's been made by the existing executive director or what? where's it at? >> it's an agency that's really struggling, i think. the transit agency in san francisco, like the transit agency not only across california but across the country have been slammed by a bad economy. the state of california has taken a lot of money away from transit. in san francisco, other city departments have been tapping into muni's money as well. which they've been able to with some fancy bookkeeping there. so in that sense, it's been difficult. they have a lot of plans in place that can make this agency kind of balloon. in fact, it's being nationally watched, internationally watched, actually, on a new
parking management program they have called sf park which uses demand-based pricing and supposed to ease congestion in the city. we also have something called the transit effectiveness project in the city which is supposed to remake all of muni's routes and make it run efficiently. they haven't been able to get -- the park is on wait to going through. >> quickly, rachel, what qualities do you think are needed in the next successful muni director? >> someone with thick skin, very politically adept. it's an extremely scrutinized agency. someone who can struggle a lot of balls. you're not running the buses but the whole transportation scene in san francisco. >> thank you very much. i'm sure we'll be sffollowing t story. as global warming, it's affecting the landscape, animals of national parks. including some right here in california. what if anything can be done by the national park service to
mitigate the effects of climate change? senior editor craig miller sat down with national parks director jon jarvis to find out. >> jon jarvis, thanks for taking time with us. >> thank you. >> you and i first met last fall up in glacier national park. you were talking to a group of reporters on a creek. and you said the greatest threat to the integrity of the national park system that you've ever faced is climate change. that's a huge statement. >> i believe every bit of it. glacier national park is the perfect place to do that besides being a beautiful place. gra glacier is the poster child for climate change. based on predictive models we see, within a couple of decades, the glaciers that define glacier national park will literally be gone. glaciers store water. they provide a refrigerator service basically for free for streams that support wild trout
and other species. all of that is going to change. the basic integrity for our national parks is being challenged by climate change. >> california has a huge stake in this. i think i counted more than 20 parks, monuments -- >> 25. >> 25. you know the exact number. joshua trees. according to a recent report from the u.s. geological survey, likely to disappear from 90% of their current range by the end of the century, i think that includes joshua tree national park. >> right. >> you can't just pick up a park and move it, right? >> nor can -- nor will joshua trees migrate on their own either. we're deeply concerned about, you know, the purposes for which the national parks were established were to preserve a piece of natural wildness. and our mantra, core value has been about preserving these places unimpaired for future
generati generations. yet now we're seeing impairment to the basic components of the system driven by climate change. >> so how do you attack a challenge like that? what's the counteroffensive to something you basically can't change? >> well, i think the national park service has a unique role in climate change. and i can kind of click them off. one is basic science. we are perfect laboratories to really understand climate change and its effects and its rate, because these are the few places that have been set aside and are at least relatively natural in their current state. the second piece is, we're an opportunity for education. to actually show the american public the effects of climate change. we're literally seeing on the ground right now. great thing about parks, our visitors have repeat visitors. so if you go visit your cousins and you'll see their kids, you know, go over, like, ten years, every time you see them they get another foot taller or whatever, people come back to national parks repeated and we can actually see the change within
their visit framework. >> i want to talk about that. >> that's a perfect opportunity for education. the third piece is really mitigation. the national park service, itself, can reduce its own carbon footprint and at the same time demonstrate that to the american public. >> it's hard to imagine the parks have a huge carbon footprint. very small part of the problem. >> we don't, but we can be an exemplar. we can demonstrate how to reduce carbon footprint. >> what are you seeing on the ground right now? what are you doing about it? >> well, for instance, in the sierras, we're seeing a lengthening of the fire seasons. i mean, they start earlier and they burn later and they also burn more intensely. and when you get fire burning with higher intensity, you begin to change the ecology. and a result, some new species come in. grass in the southwest is an example of an invasive species. it's flashy and it can -- it can
cause increased frequency of fires which result in, you know, death of joshua trees or other species. >> this isn't a blip. you think this is a symptom of systemic ongoing climate change? >> absolutely. absolutely. i mean, we can correlate the changes, like, for instance, in the cascades in mt. rainier, north cascades, olympic, those kinds, the northern tier, we're seeing a very well-documented shift in rain on snow, which would typically happen in the spring. historically, it's just been a positive trend. you have these big snow packs. it rains in the spring. the snow is so big, it's like a big sponge. it sort of soaks up all that rain and lets it out through the spring which is essential to not only the environment but agriculture communities down below, portable water systems. that rain now is now happening in the fall instead of the spring. very documented, scientifically
based shift. and the result is there's no snow pack, so it's just heavy rains and it's washing out systems, washing out millions of dollars of infrastructure, road systems, all of that. so we're really beginning in our planning process to plan for climate change. plan for sea level rise. where we locate facilities. what kind of facilities we put in as we replace those that are lost as a result of this kind of damage is all part of our planning agenda for parks. >> you mentioned money. this is not going to be cheap to try to do this kind of adaptation and mitigation. here in california, you know, we hear biologists using the term species triage, trying to pick winners and losers, which ones we're going to save. we're starting to do that with parks here in california. can you foresee a day when we they have to face that with national parks as well? >> well, i think the key, one of the keys to the concerns about climate change at the landscape scale is connectivity.
we need to look at the landscape slightly differently than we have. we've always partitioned our landscape and say, you know, this is private, this is agriculture, this is protected. now we need to be thinking about how they integrate. that if species are going to move, and they are moving now -- >> right. >> they need corridors. they need paths in order to get from this place to this place. now, ultimately, we may have to get to what's called assisted migration. if there's a species, you know, let's say it's a pica which is a wonderful little -- >> rat relativrelative. >> and they're fantastic little creatures that live in the sierras. they are literally moving up, you know. we have that well documented that climate change is driving them higher and higher. ultimately get to the top, you don't have any place to go. but mountains in north may be able to support those populations. and so we really have to work
with academia, with all the land management agencies, forest service, park service, blm, state parks and all that to look at how we can build in resilience and redundancy in natural systems so they can make it into the future. >> that's a huge challenge. i want to let you get back to. it. thanks for taking a few minutes out for us. >> sthauthank you very much. it's great. >> sounds like they really have their work cut out for them. thanks for coming in today, rachel, wyatt, ana. have a great weekend. thank you to you for joining us. visit kqed/thisweek to catch up on episodes and segments. one program note. we'll be off next week for the july 4th holiday. join me back here on friday july 8th for the television special "republic of cannabis" part of our in-depth look at california's booming medical marijuana series. for more about the series, check in kqed.org. i'm scott shafer sitting in for belva davis. good night.