Voters who usually agree with us did not support our Proposition 30, a ballot measure we had talked about extensively on a well-attended series of Zoom calls in 2020-21. This was a measure we'd originally dreamed up, partnered with San Francisco-based SPUR, California Environmental Voters, the Coalition for Clean Air and the Greenlining Institute to draft, and then built a robust and broad coalition in support that included the California Democratic Party, IBEW, and CalFire.
The measure would have taxed Californians making $2 million or more per year to provide the funding needed to support zero-emission vehicle programs and to prevent and respond to wildfires.
As of Dec. 5 57.64% % of voters said no and 42.36% said yes.
Gov. Newsom spoke out against Prop 30 in ads on TV, suggesting that Lyft, which had been the major funder of the measure, would have received a huge financial windfall from it. In fact, Lyft would not have received any money from the measure, though it would have benefited indirectly in so far as 90% of the cars used by Lyft, Uber and other ride-share companies must be zero-emission by 2030. Prop 30 would have dramatically expanded the universe of EV drivers and helped make this target more readily achievable.
The LA Times wrote that Ann Ravel, former chair of the Federal Election Commission and California’s Fair Political Practices Commission, said she thought Newsom misled voters because Lyft would not have benefited directly while millions of Californians who wanted to purchase electric vehicles—most of whom don’t drive for Lyft, Uber or other ride-hailing companies—would have been more able to purchase them.
Prop 30 would have benefitted us all, including the ride-hailing companies, by dramatically expanding the universe of EV drivers.
Move LA had begun working with partners in the Bay Area on this measure in 2020, believing that in California, where so many people are dependent on their cars, the goods movement industry generates excessive levels of toxic diesel emissions, and we have the worst air pollution in the U.S., a measure like this is essential. In addition, as the United Nation's COP27 international gathering on climate change recently demonstrated, our climate crisis has become much more urgent.
We are greatly disappointed that the governor was unaware of the true origins of Prop 30 and thus mischaracterized the measure and its purposes. As a result voters were led to believe a false description of the measure and its origins and defeated it.
Unfortunately, unless something as dramatic as Prop 30 is done, our air quality will not improve, climate change will become more threatening, and our most severe air quality challenge—toxic diesel emissions—won't be addressed.
Diesel emissions especially burden Southern California communities. The dirty diesel trucks that travel though LA, Riverside, San Bernardino and Orange counties from our two ports, which are the largest in the U.S., are the dominant source of our worst air pollution. The generally lower-income families of color who live in communities along these freeways—because housing there is more affordable—suffer greatly from the consequences.
The California Air Resources Board's Scoping Plan lays out a path forward to reduce planet-warming emissions by 48% this decade compared to 1990 levels. The plan envisions a "thirty-five-fold increase in zero-emission vehicles and four times the amount of power generation from wind and solar energy," Tony Briscoe wrote in the LA Times.
This is all good news except for the fact that CARB must rely on the legislature and on government agencies to not only pass the legislation and the regulations necessary to achieve the goals laid out in the Scoping Plan, but CARB must also find the funding necessary to do this. Prop 30 could have provided the funding.
Despite being completely neglected in the public discussion about Prop 30, its greatest contribution to cleaning our air and abating climate change may have been the accelerated deployment of zero-emission heavy-duty trucks, trains, ships, aircraft, port and construction equipment—all of which are now operating on diesel fuel.
Losing the opportunity to transform the diesel sector to zero-emission technologies is an especially regrettable outcome.
But while we mourn the failure of Prop 30 we know we must have another idea about how to move major emission reductions forward. The coalition of advocates that championed Proposition 30 have begun discussions about future efforts, including the possibility of another statewide measure.
We know the climate crisis commands that we go big and we do it soon.
Perhaps the challenges of funding the implementation of the recently released Scoping Plan combined with the state's impending budget deficit will make it possible to find common ground with our governor.
Another option could be several coordinated regional measures. Prior to the conversations that led to Prop 30 we had been discussing the idea of a regional Southern California ballot measure, also a majority vote initiative, with the South Coast Air Quality Management District. This measure would have been similar to Prop 30 but somewhat more focused on climate and air quality issues that are in large measure the result of our heavy-duty truck traffic as well as other diesel-powered vehicles.
Moreover, we were suggesting that this measure also fund an improved and expanded regional transit system—a 500-mile Metrolink system that could be zero-emission and high-velocity. Like BART in the Bay Area this system could transport the increasing number of people who live in sprawling neighborhoods on the outskirts of cities—where housing is more affordable—to their workplaces in downtowns.
An improved transit system that is faster, more frequent and that would run on either hydrogen fuel cells or electricity—not diesel—could become very important to those who are now driving their cars in very heavy traffic to get to work as well as to those who live along our freeways.
This way the people who are currently stuck in traffic as they drive 30 miles to get to their jobs can at least travel in comfort, and work if they need to on the train—there’s no better way to get people out of their cars than providing an easy alternative to LA’s heavy traffic. Because of the failure of Prop 30 we won’t have as many affordable zero-emission cars on the road as we had hoped, but zero-emission high velocity transit will also reduce air pollution and climate emissions.
From our point of view it's time to turn the defeat of Proposition 30 into an opportunity for other major victories that clean our air and fight climate change.
You can read more about the origins of Proposition 30 here:
There's a 30-minute video of the highlights from the first Zoomposium here.
Links to all seven Zoomposiums in 2020-21 are here, each attracting an audience of several hundred people. If you click the graphic for each it will take to the Zoom online.