Category Archives: November election

America Voted. The Climate Lost.

Repost from The New Republic
[Editor: Benicia wasn’t alone in this last election, suffering from the intrusion of Big Oil’s Big Money.  Oil companies ratcheted up their meddling in local politics all across the land.  This article highlights only a few: oil interests apparently spent $20 million in WA and $40 million in CO defeating key measures (carbon fee & fracking safety rules respectively).  – R.S.]

Fossil fuel companies spent record amounts to oppose pro-climate ballot initiatives, and it paid off.

By EMILY ATKIN, November 7, 2018

The last two years in American politics have spelled trouble for the global climate, thanks largely to the Trump administration. And the next two years probably won’t be much better, given the results of Tuesday’s midterm elections.

Voters failed to pass a historic ballot initiative in Washington state to create the first-ever carbon tax in the United States. They rejected a ballot measure to increase renewable energy in Arizona, and to limit fracking in Colorado. Some of Congress’ most outspoken climate deniers held onto their seats. Several candidates who ran on explicitly pro-climate agendas lost.

Democrats did not quite get the blue wave they wanted, but it was even worse for environmentalists. There was no green wave whatsoever. That’s partially because of record political spending by the fossil fuel industry to oppose pro-climate initiatives, but also because of the Democratic Party’s failure as a whole to draw much attention to the issue.

The midterm elections were always going to be consequential for climate change. The world’s governments only have about twelve years to implement policies that can limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. That’s the point at which catastrophic impacts begin, according to a recent report from an international consortium of scientists.

The U.S., as the largest historical emitter of greenhouse gases, is essential to achieving that target. But for the last two years, the U.S. government has been ignoring the need to reduce emissions—and in many cases, actively working against it. Along with withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement, President Donald Trump has been attempting to repeal and weaken existing climate regulation, with the support of the Republican-controlled Congress.

The midterms gave voters two opportunities to change America’s course on climate change. They could have elected a Congress that would no longer support Trump’s anti-climate agenda. And they could have approved strong statewide climate policies to counter the federal government’s inaction.

Voters took the first opportunity, but only slightly. Democrats won the House of Representatives, making it near-impossible for Trump to pass any anti-climate legislation.

But voters didn’t elect many candidates who ran on pro-climate agendas. Environmentalists had hoped that Florida, being on the front lines of climate change, would make history in that regard. But Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, a climate champion, was unseated by Governor Rick Scott, a Republican accused of banning the word climate from state government websites. And Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, who pledged to act swiftly on climate, lost to a Republican who has dismissed the problem.

Voters rejected almost every opportunity to enact strong state-level climate policies.The biggest failure by far was in Washington. Initiative 1631 would have made the state the first in the country to charge polluters for their emissions. The proceeds from the carbon fee could have provided Washington with “as much as $1 billion annually by 2023 to fund government programs related to climate change,” Fortune reported, and “potentially kickstart a national movement to staunch greenhouse gases.” The measure lost by 12 percentage points.

The renewable energy ballot initiative in Arizona also presented a big opportunity to reduce emissions. Proposition 127 would have required electric companies in Arizona to get half of their power from renewable sources like solar and wind by 2030. (In a rare win for the environment on Tuesday, Nevada voters passed their own version of that initiative.) Proposition 112, Colorado’s ballot initiative to keep oil and gas drilling operations away from where people live, was far more about protecting public health than it was about limiting climate change. But the effect would have been to limit further fossil fuel extraction in the state.

The oil and gas industry spent quite a lot of money opposing all of these pro-climate ballot initiatives. The campaign against Washington’s carbon fee “raised $20 million, 99 percent of which has come from oil and gas,” according to Vox. The carbon fee was thus one of the most expensive ballot initiative fights in Washington state history. The renewable energy fight in Arizona was also the most expensive in state history because of oil industry spending. The same was true for Colorado’s anti-fracking measure, as the oil and gas industry clearly spent nearly $40 million opposing it.

While Tuesday’s results show the impact of massive political spending by the fossil fuel lobby, they also shine a light on Democrats’ failure to mobilize voters on the issue. The Democratic Party has failed to treat climate change with much, if any urgency this election season. According to The New York Times, the “vast majority” of the party’s candidates did not mention the problem “in digital or TV ads, in their campaign literature or on social media.” And the party’s leaders in Congress have given little indication that they intend to prioritize climate change in the future. Is it any wonder voters weren’t excited about solving the problem, either?


Correction: A previous version of this story stated that Nevada voters rejected Question 6, a ballot initiative on renewable energy. The measure won. 

Emily Atkin is a staff writer at The New Republic.
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    Benicia election results – unofficial but unlikely to change

    By Roger Straw, November 7, 2018
    [Editor – this is NOT the latest update.  For that, see Latest Benicia Election Results – no changes, just new numbers.  – R.S.]

    Unofficial at this hour, but unlikely to change:
    City Council: Strawbridge and Largaespada
    School Board: Maselli, Zada and Ferrucci
    Measure E Cannabis: YES

    Solano County Registrar of Voters
    Election Results

    Run Date:11/07/18 01:14 AM (Next update 11/7/2018 at EOD)

    Same information as above, in text, can be copied/pasted:

    County of Solano
    UNOFFICIAL RESULTS
    Statewide General Election November 6, 2018
    Run Date:11/07/18 01:14 AM

    TOTAL VOTES     %    ELECTION DAY  VOTE BY MAIL   PROVISIONAL

    City of Benicia Member, City Council
    Vote for no more than  2    (WITH 8 OF 8 PRECINCTS COUNTED)
    CHRISTINA STRAWBRIDGE  .  .  .  .  .  .      6,279   33.47         2,195         4,084             0
    LIONEL LARGAESPADA  .  .  .  .  .  .  .      5,554   29.61         1,933         3,621             0
    KARI BIRDSEYE .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .      4,919   26.22         1,749         3,170             0
    WILLIAM EMES JR. .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .      1,934   10.31           717         1,217             0
    WRITE-IN.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .         72     .38            33            39             0

    Benicia Unified School District Member, Governing Board
    Vote for no more than  3    (WITH 10 OF 10 PRECINCTS COUNTED) MARK MASELLI  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .      7,138   28.61         2,507         4,631             0
    SHERI ZADA .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .      6,582   26.38         2,375         4,207             0
    DIANE FERRUCCI.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .      5,202   20.85         1,678         3,524             0
    ADREAN HAYASHI.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .      3,082   12.35         1,058         2,024             0
    GETHSEMANE MOSS  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .      2,810   11.26         1,082         1,728             0
    WRITE-IN.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .        132     .53            45            87             0

    City of Benicia Measure E – Cannabis tax
    Vote for no more than  1    (WITH 8 OF 8 PRECINCTS COUNTED) YES  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .      8,421   76.17         2,892         5,529             0
    NO.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .      2,634   23.83         1,132         1,502             0

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      The grapes are in fact sour

      By Roger Straw, November 7, 2018

      Losing is never easy.  One learns to lose graciously, and most times, it’s best  to do so.  This morning, however, the candidate might disagree with me, but the grapes are in fact sour.

      My take: they learned their lesson – and the lesson they learned is not good.  Attack.  The way of Trump works.

      Fill your promo literature and phone calls with a bad enough lie.  Smear the candidate.  Scare the public.  Fill a dump truck with money.  Hire a nasty lawyer.  Get away with it.

      Here in Benicia, if you take off the gloves and punch low, the public might not notice.  Go with hit pieces and innuendo and the public might give you a pass.  Heaven help us in 2020.

      City of Benicia Member, City Council
      Vote for 2
      Precincts Reported: 8 of 8 (100%)
      Candidate Name Total Votes Percentage
      6,279 33.47%
      5,554 29.61%
      4,919 26.22%
      1,934 10.31%
      72 0.38%

       

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        KQED: State chooses not to investigate Valero’s push poll

        Repost from KQED California Report
        [Editor:  The anonymous Valero spokesperson’s comments quoted here amount to yet another last-minute hit-piece.  The letter from which the quotes are taken is malignant with lies, and appears in the online edition of the Vallejo Times-HeraldRead this article to the end for comments by Mayor Patterson and Vice Mayor Young.  – R.S.]

        State Rejects Benicia’s Bid to Have Political Watchdog Investigate Valero

        By Ted Goldberg, Nov 2, 2018
        The Valero refinery in Benicia. (Craig Miller/KQED)

        State campaign finance regulators have decided not to launch an investigation into one of the apparent tactics the Valero Energy Corp. may have used in order to influence the Benicia City Council election. The San Antonio-based oil company operates a refinery that’s one of the Solano County city’s largest employers.

        City officials last month filed a complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) against the Valero refinery in connection with a series of phone calls made to Benicia residents about the election.

        City Attorney Heather McLaughlin alleged that Valero sponsored a so-called push poll that may have involved a questioner laying out negative statements about one of the council candidates the company opposes, and positive ones about two candidates the company sees as allies — but did not disclose it was behind the poll during the calls.

        The FPPC said Thursday it would not pursue an enforcement action against Valero.

        “The Enforcement Division found insufficient evidence of a violation of the Political Reform Act,” Galena West, the division’s chief, wrote in a letter on Thursday.

        The company says it’s not surprised by the FPPC’s decision.

        “It only highlights the greater concern that the Mayor and Vice Mayor consistently and inappropriately use their City Council leadership positions and our city resources to advance their agenda against our company,” the refinery said in an open letter Thursday to the city’s residents.

        Valero and five of its allies have spent more than $165,000 on a political action committee to influence the election, an amount that’s close to three times as much as all of the candidates have raised combined.

        Valero-Backed Group Spends Heavily to Sway Benicia City Council Election

        The PAC is pushing to defeat Kari Birdseye, an environmentalist, and is backing Christina Strawbridge and Lionel Largaespada, to candidates the committee sees as Valero backers.

        The energy company claims that McLaughlin, Mayor Elizabeth Patterson and Vice Mayor Steve Young inappropriately used city money, time and energy to go after Valero in an effort that supports Birdseye.

        “The goal of these political antics is to provide the Mayor with a secure majority vote for a single minded agenda to negatively impact our refinery,” Valero said. “This is just the latest example of the Mayor using bully tactics against our company in her quest to shut down our business,” the company said.

        Birdseye has been critical of the refinery and has expressed support for the mayor’s proposed safety regulations that emerged after Valero’s May 5, 2017 full-facility power outage that led to a major release of toxic sulfur dioxide.

        That proposal, called an Industrial Safety Ordinance, failed at the City Council.

        Strawbridge and Largaespada do not support the ordinance. The three candidates, along with a fourth candidate, William Emes, are running for two spots on the Council.

        McLaughlin, the city attorney, said the city was disappointed with the FPPC’s decision but is still looking into the matter. In fact, city officials still have not been able to confirm what questions were used in the poll, she said.

        On Thursday night, the Council directed McLaughlin to get a copy of the questions from the commission and Valero to determine if they violated the city’s clean campaign laws.

        One of the firms Valero hired to conduct the poll, EMC, has refused to hand the questions over.

        Gary Winuk, a lawyer representing EMC, argued that the poll was conducted in full compliance with federal, state and local laws. EMC does not engage in campaign advertising and the poll was not partisan, Winuk argued in a Oct. 9 letter to the city.

        The poll’s purpose was to gather feedback from local voters and the company is not obligated to hand over its questions, according to Winuk.

        “Professional polling companies are under no obligation to provide you with the information you requested,” he said.

        Mayor Patterson and Vice Mayor Young disagree.

        “We are seeking facts to determine if the polling was for or against candidates,” Patterson said.

        “We respect freedom of speech even for large, mega-billion-dollar fossil fuel corporations trying to bully and buy council seats.” she said in an email.

        “There is no reason why Valero or the polling company should not now agree to our repeated requests to provide a copy to the city,” Young wrote, also in an email Friday.

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