Saving AB 32
Butte County’s campaign to defeat Prop 23 heats up during Chico rally
While thousands of people walked around downtown during the Taste of Chico event Sunday (Sept. 12), Jessica Allen and several other sign-holding activists began what promises to be an energetic local effort to defeat Proposition 23.
The “Butte County No on Prop 23” group’s first Chico gathering started at the entrance to the City Plaza at Fourth and Main streets, with participants chanting slogans such as, “We want our green jobs!” and “Prop 23 is a dirty job!”
Authored by local Assemblyman Dan Logue (R-Linda), Prop 23, the so-called “California Jobs Initiative,” is expected to be one of the most polarizing issues this November not only in Butte County, but also throughout the state.
“Aside from the statewide effort to defeat Prop 23, ours is already officially backed by many powerful groups like the Butte Environmental Council, the Chico Peace and Justice Center, the local League of Women Voters and the Butte County Healthcare Coalition,” Allen said.
She was joined at the rally by about two dozen opponents of the initiative, including Chico Vice-Mayor Tom Nickell. The group set up signs, banners and booths at the plaza, then marched around downtown chanting and handing out literature to the throngs of people participating in Taste of Chico, before heading back for speeches about the effort.
Allen, her golden dreadlocks falling well below her knees, explained that she is the group’s director. It is a coalition of factions organized under the auspices of the Chico Conservation Voters, founded by activist Kelly Meagher and former Chico Councilman David Guzzetti.
The group’s main concern with Prop 23 is that it will undo California’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 far into the foreseeable future. Passage of the law, also known as Assembly Bill 32, was championed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger because it met his goals of vastly reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.
The global-warming act aims to, among other things, provide incentives for the creation of green jobs, reduce California’s emission levels by more than 170 million tons by 2020, and cut them to 80 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2050.
Logue, who believes that AB 32 will destroy 1 million jobs in California, has been on a crusade for months to undo the landmark law. If passed by voters in November, his initiative would stave off implementation of AB 32 until such time as California’s unemployment rate is reduced to 5.5 percent or lower for four consecutive quarters, or an entire calendar year.
Logue and his supporters say Prop 23 will simply postpone the landmark act until the economy improves. However, opponents emphatically declare that to be a blatant deception.
They reveal that sustained 5.5 percent unemployment of four quarters has occurred only three times in the last 30 years. Noting that the state is enmeshed in the largest financial meltdown since the Great Depression and that the jobless rate is inching toward 13 percent, Prop 23’s opponents assert that it amounts to a blank check for deregulating polluting businesses.
Nickell took exception to Logue’s assertion about job losses, calling it a hoax.
“We’re losing jobs because of the high cost of electricity,” said the councilman.
What outrages opponents the most is that Logue’s initiative is funded by out-of-state special interests.
Of the more than $8 million spent thus far to fund Prop 23, virtually all of it (97 percent) comes from corporate oil companies. The biggest backers are Texas oil behemoths Valero and Tesoro.
“Why isn’t Dan Logue standing up and protecting our environment instead of using the big lobbyists and big money that supported his campaign to push this through?” asked Nickell.
Opponents also point out that the proposition’s supposed “grassroots” mobilizing efforts are funded by oil-baron brothers Charles and David Koch, owners of Wichita, Kan.-based Koch Industries. The brothers are listed as the wealthiest people in the United States, with the exception of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.
The Koches recently donated a cool $1 million to the cause.
Further polarizing the issue is a recent New York Times piece revealing that David Koch is the founder and financier of a right-wing group, Americans for Prosperity, that has worked closely with the Fox News-friendly Tea Party since its beginnings.
Nickell said that overturning the act is hypocritical on Logue’s part.
“Dan Logue ran on a platform to protect our borders,” Nickell said. “But how can you protect our borders when you’re destroying laws that protect the environment for future generations?”
Allen, a Chico State alumna, pointed out that many opponents are high school students who are too young to vote. The group has a Facebook page and has planned a fundraising jazz all-you-can-eat brunch at the ARC Pavillion on Sunday (Sept. 19) and has another rally in the works at City Plaza Oct. 24.
“We really wanted to get the information out to voters and let them know who’s behind Proposition 23,” Allen said. “We can’t guarantee they’ll vote against it, but we hope they’ll look into it more.”