Council to discuss ordinances to deal with dirty campaigns and overwhelming PAC money

By Roger Straw

IMPORTANT – TUES., JAN 15… See Council’s agenda item 15.B. below and check out the various reports. This item is in response to the nasty attack ads, push polling and huge money spent by Valero and it’s labor buddies in last fall’s campaign.  They successfully smeared Planning Commission Chair Kari Birdseye and helped to elect their chosen candidates. Council and staff have been looking into any measures that can be taken to strengthen Benicia’s campaign ordinance.  PLEASE ATTEND THE COUNCIL MEETING ON TUESDAY, JANUARY 15!  Let Council and staff know that this is really important so that we don’t have this again in 2020.  (To send an email comment see WHERE TO WRITE…)

BENICIA CITY COUNCIL
CITY COUNCIL MEETING AGENDA
Benicia City Hall 250 East L. Street
January 15, 2019
7:00 PM

15.B -SECOND STEP OF COUNCIL MEMBER CAMPBELL’S 2-STEP PROCESS

REQUEST TO DISCUSS UPDATING THE CAMPAIGN ORDINANCES (City Attorney)

At the December 18, 2018 City Council meeting, Council Member Campbell’s two-step process request was presented to the Council to consider updates to the city’s campaign ordinances. The Council directed staff to agendize the item for discussion. Staff has included preliminary research on this subject.

Recommendation:

Provide direction on whether the Santa Clara model and any other proposed updates should be considered and whether updates should be discussed and reviewed by an ad hoc group or by the Open Government Commission prior to consideration by the Council.

Staff Report -Campaign Ordinance Updates -Campbell

      1. Two-Step Agenda Request Campbell -Campaign Ordinance Update
      2. Santa Clara Dark Money Ordinance -Campaign Ordinance Update
      3. Campaign Disclosure Forms and Filings City of Santa Clara Webpage -Campaign Ordinance Update
      4. Campaign Regulations City of Santa Clara Web Page -Campaign Ordinance Update
      5. Government Code 84222 Multipurpose Org -Campaign Ordinance Update
      6. Government Code 84211 Contents of Statement -Campaign Ordinance Update
      7. Other Possible Ordinance Updates -Campaign Ordinance Update

    Rep. Mike Thompson introduces gun bill requiring universal background checks

    Repost from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat

    North Coast U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson unveils expanded gun bill requiring universal background checks

    By Kevin Fixler, January 8, 2019, 6:31PM
    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, right, watches as Gun Violence Prevention Task Force Chairman fellow Democratic Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, signs the bill, accompanied by gun violence victim former Rep. Gabby Giffords, left, and others, during a news conference to announce introduction of bipartisan legislation to expand background checks for sales and transfers of firearms, on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

    With the stroke of a pen and a stroll onto the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives Tuesday, North Coast Congressman Mike Thompson introduced the highest-profile legislation of his political career, believing the newly sworn-in Democratic majority finally will be able to deliver on the promise of requiring universal background checks on all private gun sales.

    The St. Helena Democrat and House veteran of 20 years was accompanied in Washington, D.C., for the ceremonial submission of House Bill 8 by former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Arizona, who nearly lost her life in a mass shooting attack in Tucson in 2011.

    Tuesday marked eight years since a gunman shot and killed six people and wounded 13 others, including Giffords with a bullet in the head from close range, outside a Safeway supermarket during a public meet-and-greet event.

    Since recovering, she and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, have dedicated much of their lives to advocacy work to prevent gun-related deaths.

    “Stopping gun violence takes courage — the courage to do what is right, the courage of new ideas,” Giffords said during an afternoon press conference announcing the introduction of Thompson’s expanded legislation to help ensure people only get access to firearms after their backgrounds are vetted. “I’ve seen great courage when my life was on the line. Now is the time to come together, be responsible — Democrats, Republicans, everyone. We must never stop fighting.”

    Not one year after the tragedy in Tucson, a 20-year-old gunman stormed Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, killing 20 young children and six adults. Thompson, a Vietnam War veteran and recipient of the Purple Heart after being wounded while serving, has been working to gain traction on enhanced gun legislation ever since that 2012 tragedy.

    The latest call for background checks on all gun sales, including for the first time at gun shows, over the internet and in classified ads, is Thompson’s fourth try at getting a gun safety bill to reach the House floor for a vote. The new Democratic majority and Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, again in the key decision-making position as House speaker should allow that to happen.

    “For the last six years, there was Republican control of the House, and they would not even have a hearing on the issue of gun violence prevention, let alone on the bill,” Thompson said in an interview Tuesday. “This is a new day. Every day that goes by potentially loses more lives and the whole idea is to save lives.”

    His previous attempts at a law weren’t as ambitious, he said, because the congressional appetite hadn’t yet fully formed. Thompson, chairman of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force and lifelong hunter, said he needed to remain practical. Through “a natural progression,” however, he now thinks he’s garnered the necessary support across the aisle to pass the bill onto the Senate, namely as the pendulum has swung further forward with each subsequent mass shooting — Aurora, Orlando, Las Vegas and Parkland, to name a few.

    “The fact of the matter is the population across the country is fired up on this,” Thompson said. “Young student leaders from one end to the other, they’re engaged and demanding that some action happen. The American people are way out in front of this and I believe the public sentiment wins out.”

    The No. 8 assigned to the legislation was a symbolic decision by Pelosi to pay respect to the eight-year mark of the shooting in Tucson on Jan. 8. But the single-digit number for the bill also is used to signal its importance and level of priority for the new speaker, who spoke of the issue’s “growing crescendo” from the packed stage during Tuesday’s press conference announcing the bill.

    “In communities across America, courageous survivors, families and young advocates are showing outstanding courage and persistence demanding an end to the horrific scourge of violence in our nation,” Pelosi said in a prepared statement. “Our Democratic majority will press relentlessly for bipartisan progress to end the epidemic of gun violence on our streets, in our schools and in our places of worship. Enough is enough.”

    The Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 is actually co-sponsored by 10 members of Congress, including five Republicans. Rep. Peter King, R-New York, is for the fourth time joining Thompson in his pursuit of what’s been labeled “commonsense” and “bold” gun legislation.

    A request seeking comment on the legislation from the National Rifle Association, which traditionally opposes the expansion of laws that restrict access to guns, went unreturned Tuesday. If passed by both congressional chambers as written and signed into law by President Trump, Thompson’s bill still would allow firearm transfer exceptions between families, friends and hunting partners. It does not address a Trump administration rollback of an Obama-era gun law that would have required the Social Security Administration to provide information on those with mental disorders during background checks.

    Thompson bristles at the idea of maintaining inaction as the continued response to tackling the complex issue because there exists no panacea for ending mass shootings and gun deaths in their entirety in America.

    “There’s no single piece of legislation that’s going to solve all the problems and address the overall issue of gun violence,” he said. “The experts say the single most important thing that yields the greatest return is expanding background checks. It’s our first line of defense in keeping people who shouldn’t have guns from having guns.”

    No set timetable for when the bill might advance through a House Judiciary Committee hearing and then, if approved, onto the House floor, but Thompson said he’s confident it will pass with near-total support among the 235-member Democratic majority and at least the five Republicans who signed on as co-sponsors. He said he expects that will happen in the first 100 days of the 2019 Congress, and then it would be up to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, whether to put the bill up for a vote in the Senate.

    “The Senate is a hurdle,” Thompson acknowledged. “I also think sending this bill over with a good bipartisan vote puts pressure on McConnell to allow the issue to come up in the Senate. It’s important we have success with this, pass the bill out of the House, which sends a loud message that yes we can do these things, and my colleagues in the House and Senate need to stand up for what’s right and take these issues on.”

      America’s 2018 carbon emissions – the biggest increase in eight years

      Repost from The New York Times

      U.S. Carbon Emissions Surged in 2018 Even as Coal Plants Closed

      By Brad Plumer, Jan. 8, 2019
      Passenger planes at the Phoenix airport in July. Greenhouse gas emissions from airplanes and trucking increased sharply in 2018. Credit: Angus Mordant/Bloomberg

      WASHINGTON — America’s carbon dioxide emissions rose by 3.4 percent in 2018, the biggest increase in eight years, according to a preliminary estimate published Tuesday.

      Strikingly, the sharp uptick in emissions occurred even as a near-record number of coal plants around the United States retired last year, illustrating how difficult it could be for the country to make further progress on climate change in the years to come, particularly as the Trump administration pushes to roll back federal regulations that limit greenhouse gas emissions.

      The estimate, by the research firm Rhodium Group, pointed to a stark reversal. Fossil fuel emissions in the United States have fallen significantly since 2005 and declined each of the previous three years, in part because of a boom in cheap natural gas and renewable energy, which have been rapidly displacing dirtier coal-fired power.

      Yet even a steep drop in coal use last year wasn’t enough to offset rising emissions in other parts of the economy. Some of that increase was weather-related: A relatively cold winter led to a spike in the use of oil and gas for heating in areas like New England.

      But, just as important, as the United States economy grew at a strong pace last year, emissions from factories, planes and trucks soared. And there are few policies in place to clean those sectors up.

      “The big takeaway for me is that we haven’t yet successfully decoupled U.S. emissions growth from economic growth,” said Trevor Houser, a climate and energy analyst at the Rhodium Group.

      As United States manufacturing boomed, for instance, emissions from the nation’s industrial sectors — including steel, cement, chemicals and refineries — increased by 5.7 percent.

      Policymakers working on climate change at the federal and state level have so far largely shied away from regulating heavy industry, which directly contributes about one-sixth of the country’s carbon emissions. Instead, they’ve focused on decarbonizing the electricity sector through actions like promoting wind and solar power.

      But even as power generation has gotten cleaner, those overlooked industrial plants and factories have become a larger source of climate pollution. The Rhodium Group estimates that the industrial sector is on track to become the second-biggest source of emissions in California by 2020, behind only transportation, and the biggest source in Texas by 2022.

      There’s a similar story in transportation: Since 2011, the federal government has been steadily ratcheting up fuel-economy standards for cars and light trucks, although the Trump administration has proposed to halt the toughening of those standards after 2021.

      78 Environmental Rules on the Way Out Under Trump.  This is the full list of environmental policies the Trump administration has targeted, often in an effort to ease burdens on the fossil fuel industry. Oct. 5, 2017
      There are signs that those standards have been effective. In the first nine months of 2018, Americans drove slightly more miles in passenger vehicles than they did over that span the previous year, yet gasoline use dropped by 0.1 percent, thanks in part to fuel-efficient vehicles and electric cars.

      But, as America’s economy expanded last year, trucking and air travel also grew rapidly, leading to a 3 percent increase in diesel and jet fuel use and spurring an overall rise in transportation emissions for the year. Air travel and freight have also attracted less attention from policymakers to date and are considered much more difficult to electrify or decarbonize.

      Demand for electricity surged last year, too, as the economy grew, and renewable power did not expand fast enough to meet the extra demand. As a result, natural gas filled in the gap, and emissions from electricity rose an estimated 1.9 percent. (Natural gas produces lower CO2 emissions than coal when burned, but it is still a fossil fuel.)

      Transmission towers near the coal-fired Will County Generating Station in Romeoville, Ill.CreditDaniel Acker/Bloomberg

      Even with last year’s increase, carbon dioxide emissions in the United States are still down 11 percent since 2005, a period of considerable economic growth. Trump administration officials have often cited that broader trend as evidence that the country can cut its climate pollution without strict regulations.

      But if the world wants to avert the most dire effects of global warming, major industrialized countries, including the United States, will have to cut their fossil-fuel emissions much more drastically than they are currently doing.

      Climate Change Is Complex. We’ve Got Answers to Your Questions. We know. Global warming is daunting. So here’s a place to start: 17 often-asked questions with some straightforward answers. Sept. 19, 2017

      Last month, scientists reported that greenhouse gas emissions worldwide rose at an accelerating pace in 2018, putting the world on track to face some of the most severe consequences of global warming sooner than expected.

      Under the Paris climate agreement, the United States vowed to cut emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. The Rhodium Group report warns that this target now looks nearly unattainable without a flurry of new policies or technological advances to drive down emissions throughout the economy.

      “The U.S. has led the world in emissions reductions in the last decade thanks in large part to cheap gas displacing coal,” said Jason Bordoff, director of the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University, who was not involved in the analysis. “But that has its limits, and markets alone will not deliver anywhere close to the pace of decarbonization needed without much stronger climate policy efforts that are unfortunately stalled if not reversed under the Trump administration.”

      The Rhodium Group created its estimate by using government data for the first three quarters of 2018 combined with more recent industry data. The United States government will publish its official emissions estimates for all of 2018 later this year.

      For more news on climate and the environment, follow @NYTClimate on Twitter.
      Brad Plumer is a reporter covering climate change, energy policy and other environmental issues for The Times’s climate team. @bradplumer

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