ACCW Wants Your Input on Bond Freeze Impacts

September 21, 2009 § Leave a comment

Los Angeles River - Glendale Narrows - photo by Elon Schoenholz

Los Angeles River - photo by Elon Schoenholz

I received word from Freeman House that there’s a new statewide watershed group just formed. Freeman put me in touch with David Simpson, who is coordinating the ACCW – the Association of Conservation Contractors and Workers. For background, see this ACCW article at Conservation Maven. They’re bringing together folks who’ve been impacted by the recent bond freeze.

The ACCW is gathering information on the impacts of the freeze, and requests that organizations fill out their survey. Some of these impacts were gathered by the Sonoma Ecology Center, and in L.A. by the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers Watershed Council. See ACCW’s survey request below, including the link to their survey:

Invitation to Survey
Colleagues

We are writing to ask for your help in restarting and maintaining the flow of funding to conservation work that was halted by the December 2008 bond freeze. Corroborating the ongoing impacts of the freeze and bringing that information before decision-makers and the public is the best tool we have to get back to our work of protecting and improving the California environment.

To this end, we ask you to participate in this on-line survey on behalf of your organization or get it to someone else who might be better positioned to respond. All surveys received will remain confidential, and we will share the total results with all respondents. The link is:



We urge you to tolerate us if we get more than one invitation to you, and we hope you will take the time to help make this survey successful — both by answering as fully as you can, and by passing on the survey to other groups. Policy-makers and the press still do not realize how severely land conservation and restoration continue to be impacted by the freeze, and gathering this data may be a powerful tool to remedy that situation. Thank you,

Association of Conservation Contractors and Workers
Mattole Restoration Council
Sonoma Ecology Center
For Additional Information contact accw.California@gmail.com

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Governor thaws frozen bonds

April 23, 2009 § 1 Comment

After 4+ months of being on hold, environmental projects such as the Topanga berm removal and stream restoration, Malibu Lagoon restoration, and Ballona Wetlands restorations will be kicking back into gear.

The state was able to sell some bonds and so infrastructure projects are back in business.  

Happy enviros are forwarding the Gov’s press release and scouring the lists to see if their project is on it, and with some confusion, as different lists are circulating. 

While relieved at this turn of events, I wonder if we’ve advanced any discussions about the meaning/wisdom of depending on bonds for funding, our microcosm of the financial morass taking place in the macrocosm.  Just sayin’…

Bond freeze redux

February 27, 2009 § Leave a comment

Just passing along the chisme, folks.  I heard from a couple of sources that state agencies are not expecting bonds for environmental projects to start getting sold again until early summer 2010.  At earliest, one person said.  Others say FY 2010, which isn’t too far away.  The Stimulus package could help backfill funding for projects that have already been allocated under the various prop’s, depending on how the State chooses to allocate the money (loans vs. grants, and who it is allowable to make grantees).

News and Upcoming Events – February 9 2009

February 10, 2009 § Leave a comment

A Clean River is a Fun River (from Milwaukee - thanks to Federico for alerting me to this link at the Wooster Collective blog - click image for more and larger photos)

A Clean River is a Fun River - from Milwaukee (thanks to Federico for alerting me to this link at the Wooster Collective blog - click image for more and larger photos)

Forgive me, readers, it’s been a long time since my last consolidator post.

(Fairly) Recent News:

Cornerstone Theater Company is producing a new play about the Los Angeles River! They’re looking for river-interested folks to audition, no acting experience necessary, only adventurous spirit. Auditions will be February 18th, 21st and 22nd.

The Los Angeles Times remembers the 1934 New Year’s Day floods, called “The Montrose Flood,” which killed dozens of people as the Pickens Canyon Wash (a tributary of the Verdugo Wash, which is a tributary of the Los Angeles River) overflowed. Check out the historic photos documenting the serious debris flows. (Thanks to the Verdugo City blog)

“It is … not a restored nature, it is an invented nature.” Stephanie Pincetl blogs on The Los Angeles River: Restoration, (Re)Invention? The Politics of Nature in L.A.

“We want it to remain neighborhood-friendly to dogs and anyone else who walks, runs or cycles there.” The Studio City Sun covers the planned Studio City stretch of the Los Angeles River bikeway and greenway.

“At a time when the California economy needs stimulus, it has been devastating to our communities to have to stop work and lay off staff” Read all about it in the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers Watershed Council’s press release on the bond freeze: Legislative and Gubernatorial Budget Inaction Continues to Cripple Water Protection in Los Angeles.  (Creek Freak’s earlier freeze coverage here and here.)

Some Recommended Video Viewing:

>Eye on L.A.’s Exploring the L.A. River (the filming of was mentioned earlier)
>The Environmental Protection Agency’s Reduce Runoff: Slow It Down, Spread It Out, Soak It In.

Upcoming Events:

The City of L.A.’s River Zoning Ordinance will be heard by the City Planning Commission this Thursday February 12th 2009.  The meeting starts “after 8:30am” at City Hall room 1010.  Read earlier coverage here and, for serious creek geeks, read the staff report here.  L.A. Creek Freak encourages river-supporters to attend and make sure that this important ordinance passes.

Ever thought about blogging? Want to learn how to use the internet to promote your business or cause? L.A. Creek Freak‘s Joe Linton and L.A. StreetsBlog‘s Damien Newton will be teaching an internet skills course on Wednesdays February 18th and 25th. The class takes place from 7pm to 9pm at the Bresee Foundation‘s computer center.

On Saturday February 21st from 8am to 11am, the City of Los Angeles Department of Public Works is hosting a community clean-up event, including a Los Angeles River clean-up site at Taylor Yard.

Finally!

January 21, 2009 § 2 Comments

(and apologies to La Opinión)

Here I was whining about the lack of local media coverage on the bond freeze, and La Opinión was ON IT from day one!  Remind me to read it more often. Like every day.

12.18.09 Paran obras públicas en Calfiornia (Public works projects stopped in California)

SACRAMENTO.— Demandas por incumplimiento de contratos y la pérdida de alrededor de 200 mil empleos traerá la decisión de funcionarios estatales de detener la realización de obras de infraestructura, financiadas con dinero público por casi 4,000 millones de dólares, debido a que los legisladores no han podido ponerse de acuerdo en el cierre del déficit presupuestario.

1.17.09 Liberan fondos estatales (State funds are freed up)

SACRAMENTO. — La Junta de Inversión del Dinero Conjunto del estado ‘descongeló’ ayer parcialmente los fondos para los proyectos de infraestructura que fueron paralizados en diciembre pasado, con el objetivo de ahorrar dinero al estado ante la falta de un acuerdo que cierre el déficit de 42,000 millones de dólares.

Now these La Opinión stories focus on public works projects generally, which is still great, as this larger issue was largely not covered.  Thankfully, Judith Lewis was also there, blogging on the freeze and its statewide effects, with an environmental focus, for the High Country News:  Budget crisis stalls conservation

And finally, the city’s English-language paper of record, the LA Times, noted we’re up a s@%t’s creek:  Funding freeze halts environmental projects across California.  They did a great job describing the effect across Southern California.  Thankfully.  Finally.

For more stories statewide about the impact of this funding freeze, go to Stop Work Impact: Responding to California’s sudden bond funding freeze.

NGOS hit by bond freeze: Sonoma Ecology Center wants to talk.

December 31, 2008 § Leave a comment

I’m hearing from friends to the north that they too have a news blackout on the effects of the bond freeze.  Perhaps when everyone’s back from the New Year’s break and realize they don’t have anything to work on the issue will bubble up to public attention.

In the meantime, the Sonoma Ecology Center is reaching out, with strategy and a request in hand.  If you are with a NGO or have projects that have been hit by this freeze, please take a look and take action!

————–

For the Bay Area Watershed Network, the California Watershed Coalition, and all of the rest of us affected,

Caitlin Cornwall

Sonoma Ecology Center

 

Hello colleagues,

The bond grant crisis keeps deepening. We know it’s temporary, but it’s having permanent effects. We don’t know when the budget will be passed, whether its passage will actually be a green light for working on all our projects, or how long it will take for the checks to start coming. We do know that our story isn’t being heard, so that’s the work before us. Please do what you can on the following fronts, and keep communicating about what you are experiencing. It does help to know that all of us are facing this at the same time.

1. TELL THE GOVERNOR: DO WHAT IT TAKES TO PASS THE BUDGET IMMEDIATELY

This message is especially important to convey to the governor. Fax: 916-558-3160.

2. TELL OUR ELECTED OFFICIALS: FIND WAYS TO LESSEN THE DAMAGE OF THE STOP-WORK ORDER

For example… Issue IOU’s, instead of checks, that will be honored by our banks and credit unions. Staff up the controller’s office and otherwise minimize delays in paying invoices. Find other ways to reduce the damage to our workers, the land itself, and to our organizations. This message should go to the governor and to legislators. You can find your legislators at http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/yourleg.html. Fax and mail is more effective than email or phone. A meeting is the best, preferably with more than one legislator at a time.

3. GET PRESS COVERAGE

Call up your newspapers and radio stations and get the word out. The general public has no idea of the impact this is having.

To all of these audiences, tell your story: how is this hurting you, your staff, your organization’s viability, your projects, the watersheds, landowners, waterbodies, communities, and species you work with?

 

To legislators, you could also mention that (to use an example from our organization) we have already paid staff for work they did on November 1, 2008, and now we cannot get reimbursed for that work until some unknown future date, possibly in February 2009. This is on top of a state reimbursement mess that regularly delays reimbursement for 3 to 6 months, even when paying small, hard-working nonprofits and RCD’s with little or no cash cushion, who are doing valuable work for California’s land and communities at bargain rates. (Sorry, I got a little impassioned there.)

4. HELP GATHER STATISTICS

The press and electeds have been asking how many people and how many projects are affected. So please let us know: how many of your people will likely be laid off, how many of your projects are stopped, how many organizations are folding? If you know information like this for organizations other than yours, please provide that, too.

5. HELP WITH STRATEGY

If you know anyone in the controller’s office, the Division of Finance, or anyone else savvy about the details of the state’s reimbursement process or the market for California’s bonds, please let us know.

For the Bay Area Watershed Network, the California Watershed Coalition, and many other affected organizations,

 

Caitlin Cornwall

Sonoma Ecology Center

(707) 996-0712 x 105

Figuring out the bond freeze

December 28, 2008 § 10 Comments

I am still waiting for local media to cover the effects of the bond freeze, and have been contemplating summarizing the projects that I know of, that have been halted.  Tim Brick, of the Arroyo Seco Foundation, just made it a little easier for me:  ASF sent out a press release calling out the State and the impact they will be having on their projects.  Thank you Tim, for standing up and making yourself heard!

An excerpt from Tim’s announcement, of projects halted:

The Arroyo Seco Watershed Coordination Program — $35,000 — Two staff people have been told to stop work on the grant program, as requested by the California Department of Conservation. This program began in July and had quarterly billing, so there has only been one invoice (July-September), and the grant managers have not yet processed the invoice for payment. In other words, ASF has not been paid for five and a half months of work on the grant, amounting to about $35,000 in staffing costs and expenses.

The Central Arroyo Stream Restoration Program — $251,000 — All work on this program was completed in September and the final invoice for $251,371 was submitted. The grant manager and the administrator in Sacramento both praised the program accomplishments and approved the invoice for payment, but that invoice did not reach the State Controller’s Office by December 17th, so it will not be honored.

(Note – my understanding – which is third-hand – is that the State changed their tune and gave agencies til 12/23 to turn in final invoices.)

As mentioned in my earlier post, pretty much all bond-related projects that are funded and managed by the Regional Water Quality Control Board, Rivers & Mountains Conservancy, Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority, State Coastal Conservancy and Wetlands Recovery Project have been halted – even existing contracts – in the arenas of stormwater treatment, wetlands acquisitions and restoration.  (to say nothing of housing, road projects, and stuff outside of Creekfreak’s purview).  This means a lot of people are suddenly without work.  

Locally, here’s a short list of projects impacted (expanding on the two mentioned by Tim above):

If your project has been impacted, feel free to add a comment.  I think it would be good for the Creekfreak-reading public to see the breadth of work in the region has been halted.

Meanwhile up in Sac, the Bee covered the halt, as it relates to Bay-Delta projects.  Most chilling (if you happen to live behind this levee) is the halting of a levee repair project.  

Funding crisis threatens park, levee, science projects – Sacramento Politics – California Politics | Sacramento Bee.

Now here’s where I have go off the edge into speculation.  I would be thrilled for a newspaper to cover the story – and set the record straight.  Does the problem go away when we pass a state budget?  Or is our state credit rating so down in the dumps that we need to take other action to be able to sell bonds again?  And what is this statement below by our State Treasurer, especially the part highlighted in red? 

“Normally, the money the PMIA lends to infrastructure projects gets replenished when the State sells bonds. Unfortunately, the credit crunch and State budget woes have combined to close the bond market to California. Lockyer has determined the State will not be able to sell bonds until the Legislature and Governor forge a budget solution. With the State unable to sell bonds, continued lending for infrastructure projects would substantially reduce the resources available to the PMIA to keep the State afloat.

The PMIB’s action will, through June 2009: stop new infrastructure loans; bar increases to existing loans; and generally prohibit agencies from spending any more funds under existing loans. Staff estimates the actions would make available to the PMIA $3.8 billion to pay for services supported by the general fund.

As a practical matter, the development shuts down infrastructure funding from the PMIA until a budget solution is enacted and the State can sell bonds again. ”  –Tom Lockyer, State Treasurer, statement published in California Progress Report, Failure to Resolve Budget Crisis Harms Economic Recovery Efforts – California Progress Report.

This sounds like a great opportunity to take that 6 month sabbatical I’ve been hankering for.  But seriously, this is totally confusing. someone (LA Times?) really needs to clarify this.  Please.  Because June 2009 is a very, very long work furlough.

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