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Bear Essentials: It’s Infrastructure Week

June 9, 2023

The clock is ticking for California to invest $180B into infrastructure to fund water storage, clean energy, transit, broadband, and create 400,000 good-paying jobs. Don’t let this opportunity go to waste.

  • Whiskey’s for drinking, water’s for fighting
  • Yes, downtown Fresno deserves $250M
  • The West’s battle over statues

The Problem $17B Couldn’t Solve

The Golden Gate Bridge took five years and $670M inflation-adjusted dollars to build.

Over the last four years, the state of California has spent $17 billion combatting homelessness.

Apparently, there are some problems money can’t solve.

A powerful new story in this week’s Wall Street Journal chronicles the plight of the infamous Wood Street encampment in Oakland, less than 10 miles from the Golden Gate as the crow flies. As the state’s homelessness crisis ballooned by 50% from 2014 to 2022, the Wood Street saga became a microcosm of the state’s broader challenges navigating a frustrating array of overlapping jurisdictions, bureaucratic inertia and activist fervor, with some of the state’s most vulnerable people caught in the middle.

The story — filled with staggering photography, offers a window into the complex legal battles and political wrangling that came with attempts to clear the increasingly dangerous Wood Street encampment, spotlighting the plight of individuals who, despite being offered shelter, often choose precarious encampment life over separation from their belongings and pets.


🤫 Everything you should know

- Vintage furniture: yes. Vintage water rights: not so much. California’s current water rights system dates back over 100 years old, and some critics say the toothless system does not allow regulators to verify “whether claims of senior water rights are valid” and gives them little power to penalize those who break the rules. Here comes Sacramento with three bills this session to change California’s water rights which are loved by environmentalists but loathed by some farmers, who want to make sure they have access to enough water to keep the country’s Breadbasket running. Bolstering the state’s power over water rights comes as Democrats and Republicans have advocated for more water capture and storage infrastructure so we don’t let the manna from heaven, like we saw this past season, go to waste. Whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting – and there’s going to be some serious brawls as the state tries to take water rights away from senior water rights holders aka farmers. - LA Times

- Why not Fresno?! CalMatters is reporting on the $250 million earmarked for Fresno in Governor Newsom's budget. Upgrades to the sewer and water systems are in order, along with infrastructure to “attract residential development.” Ultimately, the plan is to add 10,000 housing units to downtown Fresno and bolster its infrastructure to help the city Gov. Newsom has identified as the anchor of the Central Valley’s economy. Walkability is key to bringing in more residents and businesses, and advocates cite adding a grocery store to the area could be a draw. Yes, $250 million is a big number but it could have an outsized impact in a city like Fresno that’s adding more foot traffic in recent years, and could be a rock solid plan to create a thriving downtown. - CalMatters

- California’s own battle over icons and statues plays out with the history of missionaries. A court has ruled that the city of Ventura had the right to remove a statue of Junipero Serra that has stood in front of their city hall since 1936. It’s a rite of passage for California elementary students to create a mission and learn about the rosy side of history that created the state we know and love today. Reckoning with our genocidal and oppressionist history shouldn’t end with statues, although we have faith California won’t stop there. Goodbye, monuments dedicated to Junipero Serra and “hello” to a more accurate depiction of history. - Sacramento Bee

😨Passing this legislation will impact California for the next 50 years

As you know, it’s infrastructure week in California with a number of hearings about the Governor’s package to help California build faster and get billions from the federal government in the process. Good news – the fun isn’t just for the legislators. Become a citizen sponsor of the infrastructure package to show your support for water storage, broadband, clean energy, transit and the creation of 400,000 jobs!  

🔥Take that, NY. California wins the fire pollution contest!

New York is getting a taste of particulate matter with polluted air thanks to Canadian wildfires. According to Marshall Burke, an economist at Stanford University’s Doerr School of Sustainability who studies social and economic impacts of environmental change, California’s  PM2.5 levels were higher during the 2018 and 2020 fires. For context, On Sept. 11, 2020,  it was recorded at 147.3 micrograms per cubic meter, in SF while New York experienced 101 micrograms per cubic meter this past week. 

📚You get a book and you get a book and YOU GET A BOOK

California did something cool for kids and literacy by expanding Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library which sends a book a month to kids under 5. It’s estimated that 2 million California will be served by this program over the next few years. This expansion was made possible by bipartisan legislation sponsored by Senators Grove and Atkins. Maybe the rest of the country can take a page from California’s proliferation of books for kids.

Image of scientists climbing a Sequoia treet.

Photo credit: Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library

🍔Take us back to 19 cent burgers

The beginning of an epic (and notorious) legacy. “May 15, 1940 – McDonald’s opens its first restaurant in San Bernardino, California.”

Image of scientists climbing a Sequoia treet.