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.
In a nation full of hot-button issues, few are as torrid as federal health care reform. More than a year and a half since its passage, the law — officially dubbed the Affordable Care Act but derisively called “Obamacare” by its critics — is still being fought in the courts, Congress and statehouses across the country. But for all the political and legal wrangling, the law is marching forward.
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.”
It’s been about 20 months since lawmakers and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger breathlessly announced a historic agreement called the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Reform Act of 2009, an ambitious plan to overhaul the state’s antiquated water system. Much has changed since then, but much more is still on the way.
Former California State Treasurer Phil Angelides was tapped in 2009 to chair the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, a 10-member commission that Congress tasked with determining the causes of the Great Recession.
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.
Scott Syphax is an unlikely person to garner a nickname like Dr. Doom. After all, the president and CEO of Sacramento-based Nehemiah Corp. of America is far too thoughtful and deliberate to be saddled with a sobriquet more in line with a snickering cartoon villain.
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.
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.
Sacramento State President Alexander Gonzalez’s tenure has been one of the most tumultuous in the university’s history.
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.
For years, the debate over climate change centered almost exclusively on science: Is global warming occurring, and if so, are humans causing it? But with the economy still struggling, the argument has shifted to one of dollars and cents.
It has been almost a year since California lawmakers reached an agreement on the most comprehensive overhaul of the state’s water management system in more than four decades.
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.
For Ken Apperson, the pivotal moment came in fall 2002. He was shuffling through the sporting goods section of Walmart in search of tennis balls when his cell phone rang. The caller, his old chum Scott Knorp, wanted them to quit their lucrative sales jobs and start their own telecom company.
Donna Lucas’ political acumen has made her one of the most respected public affairs strategists in the nation and one of the most influential people in California state government.
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.
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.
This is the final story in a four-part series on water. This month, we’ll wrap up by examining upcoming issues in 2010. Past installments of this series have explored water issues ranging from storage, conservation and desalination, to impacts of a peripheral canal on the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.