THE ORIGIN STORY PART 1
Wildfires and transportation emissions are making our air quality among the worst in the world. To restore California's clean air, we need action now to prevent wildfires and reduce air pollution from vehicles. Proposition 30, which will be before the state's voters in November 2022, is a bold solution to these historically unprecedented challenges. Like most great ideas, Proposition 30 comes with a seldom told backstory. It's a story of committed activists working with few resources, of experts and leaders giving time to think about what's needed, and of seizing opportunity to make transformative change. It's the story of how Proposition 30--which is now supported by dozens of environmental, labor, and public health groups, as well as climate change and clean air experts, elected officials, and community leaders--got its start.
A Nascent Partnership Begins to Emerge
In the summer of 2020, Nick Josefowitz, Policy Director at SPUR, an environmental and planning think tank in San Francisco with a history that dates back to the Earthquake of 1906, and Stuart Cohen, recently retired as the executive director of TransForm, the Bay Area’s leading transit advocacy organization, were listening to a national webinar sponsored and organized by Transportation for America, a progressive transportation and land use policy nonprofit.
Nick and Stuart were part of a team that had been seeking legislative authorization from Sacramento for a ballot measure to raise significant funding for transit investments throughout the Bay Area. That “Faster Bay Area” effort, however, was itself a victim of the COVID pandemic that hit California in the spring of 2020 and closed down the legislature before any real activity took place.
One of the speakers on the Transportation for America webinar was Denny Zane, executive director of Move LA and a friend of Stuart’s. Denny and Move LA had initiated several transportation funding measures in Los Angeles County including Measure R in 2008 and Measure M in 2016. Both were approved by more than two-thirds of Los Angeles County voters. Together Measures R and M were expected to generate more than $120 billion over 40 years to invest principally in transit infrastructure: multiple light rail lines, a couple of subways, bus rapid transit and expanded bus service, and to provide significant operating dollars for the system.
These victories in the world-acknowledged capital of the automobile had piqued the interest of many, which explains why Denny was a featured speaker at this particular Transportation for America webinar.
Move LA's effort to create a regional measure leads to the idea of a statewide measure
In 2019 Denny had been seeking legislative authorization for a sales tax measure in collaboration with the South Coast Air Quality Management District that would seek to raise about $65 billion over 30 years to invest in strategies to reduce air pollution. In addition, this regional measure would also invest in the modernization of the diesel-powered Metrolink system, converting it into a zero-emission, high-velocity regional rail system likely powered by hydrogen fuel cells.
Unfortunately, special interests blocked the authorizing legislation. But important lessons had been learned.
One lesson was that it would require almost exactly the same number of signatures to qualify a statewide voter initiative as it would to qualify a regional measure in the South Coast Air District.
The SCAQMD includes most of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, not including the high desert areas of those counties, which represent about half the state’s population. State law requires 10% of registered voters to qualify a measure in a local district, about 5% of registered voters to qualify a measure statewide. In other words, 10% of half the state is equal to 5% of the whole state.
In addition, polling indicated that a regional measure could expect to win about 63 percent of the vote. If one compared voting behavior in the region to voting behavior in the whole state when it comes to tax and environmental measures, the whole state votes consistently about 3 percent better, which encouraged the idea of a statewide measure.
In sum, qualifying an environmental tax measure in the whole state would require about the same effort and the same resources as qualifying a measure in half the state, but could be easier to win, would yield about double the revenue, and there was no need for the legislature to approve any authorizing legislation. Most importantly, the measure would have a far greater impact.
This sort of logic really piqued Denny’s interest in a statewide measure to reduce climate emissions.
Bad news on climate change motivates a shift in emphasis
In addition, in 2018 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had asserted that the human race had about one decade to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions or risk permanently losing control over climate change. This had caused Denny to become very motivated to develop a statewide voter initiative to raise funds to fight climate change as well as air pollution.
So, in the summer of 2020, when invited by Transportation for America to speak to a national audience about how one goes about winning a local transit measure, Denny decided at the last second to lay out his thinking about a statewide climate measure in California—believing that when it comes to climate change, when California leads, the world soon follows. He hoped that there might be people on the call who would be interested in his idea.
He was fishing for partners, and keeping big ideas a secret is no way to find them. With a national audience, he thought, perhaps important potential partners might be listening.
And, so they were . . .
THE ORIGIN STORY PART 2
The Seeds of a Partnership Are Planted
Nick Josefowitz and Stuart Cohen were in the virtual audience of this webinar when Denny was speaking. Their dream of a “Faster Bay Area” ballot measure having been doused by the Covid-closure of the legislature, their activist imaginations were piqued by Denny’s statewide climate measure idea.
Stuart and Denny had become friends over the years of their mutual work on transit system development in their respective communities. Denny had participated in two statewide coalitions that Stuart had convened—ClimatePlan and Sustainable Communities for All. Stuart suggested to Nick that they give Denny a call. A Zoom rendezvous was soon scheduled.
Separately, Denny and Jeremy Madsen, former Executive Director of the Bay Area-based Greenbelt Alliance and a member of the Board of Smart Growth America, Transportation for America's parent organization, had a chance encounter on a Washington DC light rail line, and Denny had filled the hour with conversation about the idea of a statewide climate measure in California. Jeremy had been very responsive then and now he was invited to join the discussion with Stuart and Nick.
When these four first met virtually, Denny elaborated on why he thought a campaign for a statewide climate measure could win and perhaps could provide the scale of resources needed to really make a difference with respect to both climate change and clean air.
Nobody needed convincing about how important it could be: The most recent IPCC Report was convincing enough.
The seeds of Proposition 30 had been planted.
Denny, Nick, Stuart and Jeremy agreed that the most important next step would be to engage in proactive outreach to potential partners to gauge their interest. They had to see whether there would be enough common ground about investment priorities among a critical mass of prospective partners, especially within the community of environmental and environmental justice advocacy organizations.
Soon Mary Creasman, CEO of California Environmental Voters, and Alvaro Sanchez, Vice President of Policy at the Greenlining Institute, joined the dialogue. From this discussion it was agreed that half the funding should go to benefit low-income and disadvantaged communities. All agreed that the important next step was to see if policy and investment priorities could be reconciled, and if funding partners might emerge.
To accomplish this, an outreach strategy was needed that incorporated both high visibility and high substantive content, and that could flush forward partners with whom they had common ground and provoke interest from individuals or organizations that could fund the effort. The Zoomposium strategy that followed seemed just the ticket to accomplish the objectives of both visibility and substance.
It was decided to do a series of Climate Change and Clean Air “Zoomposiums,” convened by Move LA and SPUR. Here is a link to a 30-minute video of the highlights from the first Zoomposium. Over the next year there were seven Zoomposiums in all (links to all seven Zoomposiums are here), each attracting an audience of several hundred people.
The fundamental question being asked of the panelists would be: “If we could place a ballot measure before California voters to abate climate change and end air pollution, what should the investment priorities be?"
Participants in the Zoomposium series discussion included:
Environmental organizations: Breathe California, Breathe SoCal, California League of Environmental Voters, Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice (CCAEJ), Climate Center, ClimatePlan, Climate Resolve, Climate Works, Coalition for Clean Air, Emphysema Foundation of America, Energy Independence Now, Environment California, Environmental Defense Fund, Greenbelt Alliance, Greenlining Institute, Healthy Air Alliance, Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability, NRDC, Pacific Environment/Ship it Zero, Planning and Conservation League, Policy Link, Sierra Club, and the Nature Conservancy.
Business entities or associations: Southern California Edison/SCE eMobility, Southern California Gas Company, Clean Energy, GNA, Calstart, Bioenergy Association, LA Clean Tech Incubator, Plug In America, Maritime Technology Association.
Labor organizations: IBEW Local 11, NECA-National Electrical Contractors Association, Jobs to Move America, Utility Workers Union of America.
Public entities (participating in the dialogue without endorsement of the idea of a ballot measure): California Air Resource Board, South Coast Air Quality Management District, Bay Area Air Quality Management District, Los Angeles County Department of Public Works, California Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Energy, University of California.
THE ORIGIN STORY PART 3
Conclusions Following the Seven Zoomposiums
1) Investment in zero emission transportation vehicles and equipment is the top priority for achieving reductions in greenhouse gases as well as air pollution.
- Transportation sources are the largest source of both climate emissions and air pollution;
- 50% of all greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation sources including refineries;
- 86% of NOx emissions, the key precursor to ozone, come from transportation sources in Southern California;
- Light-duty gasoline-powered vehicles emit about 2/3 of GHG emissions from transportation sources;
- Heavy-duty on-road/off-road vehicles and equipment emit about 1/3 of transportation GHG emissions and 80% of NOx.
2) If fighting climate change is the top priority, then an aggressive roll-out of zero-emission light-duty vehicles and infrastructure should be a top priority.
3) The manufacturing capacity and charging infrastructure needed for accelerating deployment of zero-emission light-duty vehicles is much more advanced compared to that needed for accelerating deployment of zero emission heavy-duty trucks or off-road vehicles and equipment, which may be hard to electrify may have to operate on green hydrogen.
4) For zero emission heavy-duty trucks and off-road vehicles and equipment, a ramp-up period will likely be needed to create facilities for battery development or green hydrogen production, as well as the retooling of manufacturing and creation of fueling infrastructure.
5) Strategies to prevent and suppress catastrophic wildfires will also avoid significant black carbon emissions and air pollution.
The parameters of the measure emerge
Heading into the spring of 2021, the parameters of a climate and clean air measure were beginning to emerge, and the investment priorities were clear: 1) accelerated deployment of zero-emission transportation and light-, medium-, and heavy-duty trucks and on-road and off-road vehicles and equipment 2) wildfire prevention and suppression.
In addition, several potential revenue sources had been identified and polling had demonstrated that such a measure could gain more than 60% of voter support especially for a revenue source taxing incomes over $2 M/year.
Move LA's other interest—affordable housing—takes off and SPUR takes the reins
Because Move LA was having significant success with another major ballot measure to fund affordable housing in the City of Los Angeles, it was difficult to give the statewide climate measure priority staff time. However, thanks to the tenacity of Nick Josefowitz and SPUR, the effort to launch a statewide climate measure did not falter, but stayed on track.
Move LA got pulled away because of what has become known as United to House LA, a voter initiative in the City of LA that is on the November 2022 ballot because of LA's extraordinary homelessness crisis as well as the awareness that court decisions had determined that local voter initiatives to raise taxes should not need a 2/3 vote for approval—only a majority vote. This prompted Move LA to convene a committee to discuss the possibility of this measure and what it should include while at the same time discussing what became Proposition 30 with Nick, SPUR, and others.
The United to House LA measure that emerged from these discussions is a very big deal. If approved, it will raise nearly $1 billion per year, with 30% to be invested in programs to prevent homelessness and 70% to be invested in strategies to develop new affordable housing.
THE ORIGIN STORY PART 4
The Climate Measure Evolves Into Proposition 30
Following the Zoomposiums, a broader coalition emerged of environmental groups, environmental justice groups, labor unions, public health groups, state climate leaders and enaged businesses. Over the course of the following months, they engaged in significant outreach and began to draft and circulate potential measures. Through continued engagement with a wide variety of stakeholders, the measure’s clear focus on clean air, climate change, and catastrophic wildfires emerged.
That meant that the initial priority for expenditure of the measure’s funds—though not the only category of investments—should be to accelerate development of both the market and the charging infrastructure for zero-emission light-duty passenger cars, pickups, SUVs and medium-duty trucks, buses and other on and off-road vehicles.
This focus would take advantage of the advanced level of development of the light-duty EV manufacturers’ capability, the wider availability of these EVs, and the wider availability of charging infrastructure for them. The early emphasis on light-duty EVs would likely enable them to rapidly zero out these tailpipe emissions.
Move LA, reflecting Southern California's special concern about air pollution, urged that after the first five years and during the full term of the measure, the priority for the use of measure funding should, in addition to reducing GHGs, be reducing NOx and particulate emissions. This would mean shifting incentives and investments to accelerate the development of the capability of manufacturers likely to produce zero-emission heavy-duty trucks, trains, ships, port and construction equipment, etc., in order to build the market for these zero-emission products and to make investments in development of their fueling infrastructure.
We are using the term "fueling" rather than "charging" because this sector, consisting mostly of goods movement technologies, is often referred to as the hard-to-electrify sector. It is expected by us that this sector will likely rely on some paradigm shift in battery technology or primarily use green hydrogen fuel-cell powered vehicles and equipment.
Thus, not only is there need for ramp-up time for manufacturers to retool manufacturing plants to produce green hydrogen-fuel-cell-powered vehicles and equipment, but there is also ramp-up time needed to get clean green hydrogen production and distribution up to the scale that is needed.
This explains why Proposition 30 smartly emphasizes light- and medium-duty ZEVs in the first five years, but after that we believe the preponderance of investment will likely shift to the development of either newer battery technologies or green hydrogen-powered alternatives to totally phase-out diesel-powered vehicles and equipment..
THE ORIGIN STORY PART 5
Funding Partners for the Statewide Climate Measure Identified
After our series of Zoomposiums, after the dialogue had been going on for at least a year and a half, and while Move LA was preoccupied with development of the United to House LA measure referenced above, the growing coalition identified and made contact with funding partners from the Bay Area, including Lyft and IBEW, who understood the impact that this measure could have on California . Thank you, Lyft and IBEW.
This part of the story and the development and implementation of the signature drive to qualify Prop 30 for the ballot is really Nick Josefowitz’s story to tell. Move LA has rejoined the effort now as our affordable housing measure campaign is well under way with other capable leaders in charge, and urges you to vote Yes on Prop 30.
Paid for by Move LA, a Project of Community Partners, 1000 N. Alameda St., Suite 240, Los Angeles, CA. 90012.