Apr 26, 2013

Jerry Meral, the Brown administration's point man on the $23 billion project to build huge tunnels in the Sacramento-San Joquin River Delta, is in hot water: A number of Congressional Democrats want him ousted because of comments he allegedly made that the Delta could never be saved.


From the LAT's Anthony York: "The controversy surrounds Jerry Meral, deputy director of the state Natural Resources Agency, who allegedly told officials that Brown's water plan was never about saving the delta and that in fact the delta could not be saved."

"That contradicts statements made by Brown who has said his plan would include measures to restore the delta, the confluence of the two rivers and the San Francisco Bay, which serves as the primary source of drinking water for most of the state's residents. Brown administration officials were not immediately available for comment."

"The region is at the heart of a controversial $23-billion plan by Brown to build two massive new tunnels that would divert water around the delta to Southern California. Democrats and Republicans around the delta have criticized Brown's proposal, saying it would jeopardize the future of central California's water in order to benefit residents in the southern half of the state."


Meanwhile, in a request that could have been timed better, Brown asked the feds to fast-track the tunnel project.


From the Bee's Matt Weiser: "Gov. Jerry Brown wants federal officials to expedite review of the controversial Bay Delta Conservation Plan, his proposal to build two giant water diversion tunnels in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta."


"In a letter to the U.S. secretaries of Interior and Commerce, Brown called on the agencies to release an environmental impact statement and Federal Register notice on the project this summer. The intent is to ensure this process coincides with his own administration's plan to release a state-level environmental impact report and associated planning documents."


"l stand willing to mobilize whatever resources we have at our disposal to assist the federal government in their document review," Brown wrote in the letter, sent Monday. "My office staff and Department of Water Resources, the agency responsible for the plan, are ready and able to provide funding, staff time, consulting, or whatever else it takes to get this done."

The whole point of independent expenditure committees is that they are supposed to be independent -- they can't coordinate their spending with a campaign. But the state's political watchdog has levied penalties against an IE for doing exactly that -- and it may be a first.


From the AP's Juliet Williams: "California's political watchdog agency on Thursday approved a fine against an independent expenditure committee for coordinating spending with a Democratic assemblyman's campaign, a case that is believed to be the first in which officials were able to show direct ties between a campaign and a group that is supposed to be independent."

"The board of the Fair Political Practices Commission approved the $6,500 penalty against Voters for a New California."


"Assemblyman Luis Alejo's paid campaign manager, Joaquin Ross, helped run Voters for a New California when it spent nearly $29,000 on mailers backing the Watsonville Democrat a month before the June 2010 primary. Such groups can spend unlimited amounts but are not allowed to coordinate with campaigns, which face limits on donations."


Democrats are divided over Gov. Brown's education funding reform package, and that means the political fight is going to be long and hard.


From EdSource's John Fensterwald: "Joan Buchanan, the Democratic chair of the Assembly Education Committee, grilled administration officials at length Wednesday on Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to reform school funding. She wanted, without success, to get them to concede there are flaws and inconsistencies in the plan."


"Buchanan’s intense questioning prompted a frustrated Assemblymember Das Williams, a fellow Democrat from Santa Barbara, to call for a shift in the discussion from “poking holes” in the plan to “doing what we can to make it work.”


"Their exchange captured the split among Democrats and the education community between those, like Williams, who want to act now on Brown’s Local Control Funding initiative to redo a school funding system universally acknowledged to be irrational and inequitable, and those, like Buchanan, D-Alamo, who are struggling to understand the details of a complex plan hundreds of pages long."


Scores of production workers at the Mercury News are being laid off -- the latest crop of bad news in a beleaguered industry.

From Nathan Donato-Weinstein in the Silicon Valley Business Journal: "Production workers at the San Jose Mercury News will lose their jobs at the paper's San Jose facility beginning April 28, as a decision to sell its longtime home marches forward."

"A total of 118 employees were issued layoff letters, according to a notice filed with the California Employment Development Department this week."


"An undetermined number of those workers will be offered jobs at other facilities connected to the paper, Publisher Mac Tully said in an interview on Wednesday."




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