Rich Ehisen

Back Writer

Rich Ehisen writes Comstock’s monthly Discourse column, featuring insightful interviews with the Capital Region’s most influential leaders. He is also the managing editor of the State Net Capitol Journal. His work has appeared in print, online and on video in Government Technology, Sunset, San Francisco Magazine, California Journal, Sacramento Magazine and the Lexis Legal Network. On Twitter @WordsmithRich.

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Water Wise Man

Engineer David Ford gives unpopular answers to flood of questions

Being the bearer of unwelcome news rarely makes you the most popular person in town, particularly when it comes to flood control. But it doesn’t worry David Ford, one of the most trusted figures on California’s sometimes-contentious flood control scene and a man with a knack for speaking what Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Frank Hagar once called “the truth that men prefer not to hear.”

Jul 1, 2011 Rich Ehisen

Stockton Record

A city manager on budget shortfalls and solutions

Bob Deis has been Stockton city manager for less than a year. Since coming on board last June, Deis has faced numerous challenges, most notably finding a solution to the city’s enormous budget shortfall and looming pension obligations. We sat down with him recently to discuss some of those issues and his plans to revitalize Stockton’s business climate.

Mar 1, 2011 Rich Ehisen

Green Teach

Preparing workers for tomorrow's jobs

When Californians went to the polls on Nov. 2, they did more than just select a slate of new Capitol denizens. With the eyes of the world upon them, voters emphatically rejected Proposition 23, the oil industry-backed initiative to block Assembly Bill 32, the state’s groundbreaking effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Dec 1, 2010 Rich Ehisen

Growing up Urban

The political climate of land-use planning

For decades, devising a clear solution for California’s suburban sprawl and ensuing car culture has been the Holy Grail for smart-growth advocates. One trip on any of the Golden State’s perpetually clogged roadways during peak hours shows how ineffective most of those efforts have been.

Nov 1, 2010 Rich Ehisen

Air Conditioning

Emissions standards target key industries

If there is one thing a business owner hates, it is uncertainty. Planning for the future — or even managing the present — cannot effectively happen unless the person signing the checks knows the rules of the game. But when it comes to California’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, uncertainty is about the only thing employers can count on right now.

Oct 1, 2010 Rich Ehisen
Mexican national Yulithza Ortiz (center) strands outside the Memorial Auditorium surrounded by family after his U.S. citizenship ceremony last month.

Immigration Reform

Arizona laws spark local dialogue

When Barack Obama was running for president in 2008, he vowed that if elected he would take up George Bush’s failed 2007 effort to reform the nation’s immigration policy, secure U.S. borders and provide a path to citizenship for undocumented persons who had lived in America for years. Since then, however, issues such as health care reform have pushed immigration to the back burner.

Jun 1, 2010 Rich Ehisen

McNamara’s Peace Garden

From D.C. to a walnut farm in Winters

How many farmers can say they spent their childhood bowling at Camp David or playing football with the Kennedy clan on the White House lawn? It’s the path Craig McNamara, 60, has taken from Washington, D.C., to his 450-acre organic walnut farm, and, at times, it was torturous.

Mar 1, 2010 Rich Ehisen
Kevin Johnson gets face time with constituents at a town hall meeting at George Sim Community Center.

Mayor, May I?

Kevin Johnson's shot at a strong-mayor initiative

From the moment Kevin Johnson began his 2008 campaign to unseat Sacramento Mayor Heather Fargo, he promised that, if elected, he would shake things up at City Hall. Now, slightly more than a year into his tenure, nobody can deny he has kept that promise.

Jan 1, 2010 Rich Ehisen
Tim Quinn, executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies, says that desalination should be part of the state's water solution, however, "You don't solve the problem by shifting it from one ecosystem to another."

(Photo: Jill Wagner)

Salt of the Dearth

The role of desalination in California's water crisis

If Sir Isaac Newton were around today to assess California’s interest in seawater desalination, he would likely reference his own third law of motion, which in simple terms states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. In short, as our water supply dwindles, the desire to glean freshwater from salty oceans and brackish groundwater is growing.

Nov 1, 2009 Rich Ehisen

Delta Vision

Phil Isenberg on the state's water policy

Phil Isenberg, a longtime environmental advocate and former Sacramento mayor and state assemblyman, will lead the Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force. We sat down with him recently to talk about the state’s efforts to bring its water system into the 21st century.

Nov 1, 2009 Rich Ehisen
Elk Slough, near the Delta town of Clarksburg

Peripheral Vision

Can state and federal officials agree on comprehensive reform before it's too late?

For centuries, the biggest environmental concern for most California water users was how to squeeze every last drop from nature. While a wet year might shift concerns to flood control, grab-as-grab-can gusto came back almost as soon as the waters receded. But that was then. Today, environmental concerns are center stage in the state’s ongoing effort to reform its water system.

Nov 1, 2009 Rich Ehisen
Alfalfa fields near the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and Steamboat Slough.

Spending Water Like Money

When conservation alone can't solve the state's water problems

For many environmentalists and residents of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the solution to California’s water supply sounds brilliant in its simplicity: Use less than we do now, particularly in areas of the state that have precious little of their own to begin with, thereby eliminating the need for spending billions of dollars on new water storage. But don’t try selling that idea to the bulk of California’s most powerful water stakeholders, many of whom contend that all the low-flow toilets and drip irrigation systems in the world won’t mean much without more dams and reservoirs to capture water during wet years and reap the benefits in dry times.

Oct 1, 2009 Rich Ehisen
The Edmund G. Brown California Aqueduct (shown here near Westley in Stanislaus County) stretches about 400 miles, carrying water from Northern California to users in the south.

Hydrating the System

The state's water woes and its faltering economy

Most recognized California as “the Golden State” long before lawmakers adopted the official nickname in 1968. But while California’s standing as the land of big ideas and golden opportunities is well-earned, so too is its recent reputation as a state in perpetual crisis. In few places is this more evident than the state’s ongoing debate over its aging and unsustainable water management system.

Sep 1, 2009 Rich Ehisen
(Photo illustration: C.J. Burton)

Organizational Misbehavior

Are you grooming or stifling tomorrow's leaders?

With the national economy stumbling along like a wounded animal, the only steady growth these days is in the number of workers being shown the door. But while layoffs can be demoralizing, those workers who remain on the job may find “the Great Recession” to be a huge career booster.

Aug 1, 2009 Rich Ehisen

Air Time

Mary Nichols on statewide solutions to global issues

Mary Nichols is no stranger to innovation. As one of the nation’s first environmental attorneys, Nichols has spent her career protecting natural resources at the state and federal level. She also served as the California Air Resources Board Chairwoman from 1978 to 1983, and now she’s at it again.

Aug 1, 2009 Rich Ehisen

Lady of the House

Doris Matsui on what is takes to build a better Capital Region

When most people think of action heroes, they do so in Hollywood terms: big, brawling, muscle-bound guys for whom compromise is always a dirty word. But in politics, brute force rarely holds sway over the art of the deal. In that regard, Doris Matsui, who represents much of Sacramento in Congress, may just be our very own action star.

May 1, 2009 Rich Ehisen