Kevin’s Corner May 2023 - Volume 11, Issue 5
Some quick items to cover this month…
Stopping the Firefight? Last month you may recall that I briefly covered the efforts of the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to cut down on air pollution sources. One of the better ideas is an effort to thin wildland vegetation before wildfires occur. To put the pollution impact of wildfires into perspective, the wildfires of 2020 produced the equivalent of all the emissions cut in California from 2003 to 2019. A few weeks after sharing that proposal with you, I came across an article (Los Angeles Times / Firehouse magazine) that reports the United State Forest Service is being sued by the Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics in an effort to force USFS firefighters to STOP using the pink colored firefighting liquid dropped from firefighting airplanes. The article quotes the opponents as saying, “There’s no scientific evidence that it makes any difference in wildfire outcomes”. They further claim that the retardant does more harm than good. I can share with you the hundreds of times I have witnessed (and had dropped on me) the incredible effectiveness of USFS and/or CAL-Fire airtankers using the pink retardant to slow down or even knock down wildfires before ground crews even reached parts of the wildfire. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of homes and many times more acres of forest and critical habitat have been saved in this county by firefighting airtankers dropping retardant. I fear that if the federal government is ordered to stop the use, that our State aircraft will follow suit.
Employee Benefits to Be Sacrificed? Having passed its first hearing, Senate Bill 252 is working its way through the California State Legislature, seeking to mandate that the gigantic CalPERS organization (that provides retirement benefits to state employees and Riverside County employees, among others) will have to divest (sell off) its enormous stock holdings ($9.4 billion) in any companies producing fossil fuels and forgo the significant dividends that help CalPERS fund and meet its fiduciary pension obligations. If the legislation is successful, the State general fund and the Riverside County general fund (and many other funds) will have to kick in substantially larger annual contributions to make up for the loss of revenues, or CalPERS will have to reduce the guaranteed pension benefit to employees, or potentially even both. This would come on top of an already growing obligation by State and local governments to fund even more because of growing pension obligations. Before this latest Senate Bill was introduced Riverside County was already anticipating a projected $152 million employer contribution increase over the next 10 years. Stay tuned!
Warehouse Relief or State Meddling? Or Both? Some of you may recall that several years ago I pushed for a Riverside County Good Neighbor policy that sought to adopt stringent new warehouse standards largely to protect adjacent residential homes and neighborhoods from the encroachment of new warehouses. I am a strong advocate for private property rights – BUT – I believe that those private property rights apply on both sides of the fence, not just the developer side. Unfortunately, my original Good Neighbor proposal which included mandatory separation/distance standards between warehouses and homes was significantly watered down and actually made optional. Now after several years of Riverside County being ground zero for new warehouse construction, the State Legislature has several bills (AB 1000 & AB 1748) that would do what the local leaders couldn’t or wouldn’t do to help protect quality of life concerns. Now, does it irk the heck out of me that state officials are going to try and insert themselves (again) into local land use decisions? YES it does! BUT, if local leaders can’t or won’t act to protect their own constituents - then we have no one to blame but ourselves when someone else steps in to try.
As usual, if you have a suggestion to help improve county services – please drop me a note. I read pretty much every email.
Kevin Jeffries, First District Supervisor