Joe Mathews writes in the L.A. Times on whether California has always been in crisis

In an article in the L.A. Times on Sun., Jan. 25, 2009, author Joe Mathews, currently an Irvine Fellow at the New America Foundation, wondered if, based on his reading of writings by Carey McWilliams, Joan Didion and others, the norm throughout California’s history has been financial crisis, as the state has had to deal with the costs of continuous growth.

From the article:

“‘No calculus exists by which needs can be fully anticipated in California,’ McWilliams wrote. ‘Other communities can project a population curve, and, with fair accuracy, anticipate needs twenty and thirty years in advance; but it would be a brave man, indeed, who would undertake to chart California’s growth for the next decade. There are too many unpredictable factors; too many variable elements.’

“That passage begs the question that’s been posed recently by media analysts, and even by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in this month’s state of the state address: Is California still governable? Reading McWilliams suggests the proper answer is another question: When was California ever governable?”

Court settlement on Route 50 expansion environmental review includes transit improvements

The Sacramento Bee reports today (Jan. 22) that a Sacramento judge gave his OK Friday to what’s being called a landmark agreement between state officials and environmentalists to allow carpool lanes on Highway 50 in Rancho Cordova.

According to the article, based on comments from legislative leaders, the  lawsuit settlement clears a major sticking point in state budget negotiations, legislative leaders said.

Caltrans planners say the freeway widening will smooth traffic on what has been a troublesome corridor, where congestion occurs in both directions, morning and evening, as some commuters head to downtown Sacramento, others to Rancho Cordova’s office parks.

In exchange, Caltrans has agreed to finance $7 million in improvements to the Sacramento Regional Transit light-rail line that parallels the freeway.

Caltrans also agreed to pay to make a pedestrian and bike crossing from an old railroad bridge over Highway 50 near Mather Field Road and a light-rail station.

For the complete story, click here.

Stephanie Pincetl writes on plans for the L.A. River

In a blog post Jan. 21, 2009, Stephanie Pincetl, Director of the UCLA Institute of the Environment, Urban Center for People and the Environment, discusses current efforts to “restore” the Los Angeles River. Dr. Pincetl asks whether plan for the river constitute a restoration or a reinvention. From the post:

“In the early 1980s, Louis McAdams, a performance artist, had a vision that the Los Angeles River could be restored and returned to life, extricated from its concrete confines, and allowed to flow naturally. This vision, at first ridiculed and trivialized, has become the city’s own. Plans are a-foot to create parks along its long trajectory from the San Fernando Valley to the sea, to build new river-oriented housing and commercial developments along the river, and to remove the concrete lining where feasible, balancing public safety from flooding, cost and ecological considerations.

“But is this restoration or the(re) invention of the Los Angeles River? The river’s flow today is tertiary treated sewage from the Tillman Sewage Treatment Plant and dry weather run-off from urban irrigation. Most of the River’s own indigenous flow is captured by the City of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power for the city’s drinking water supply and kept in underground aquifers. Only when it rains does the river have true flow, and since the river is channelized to prevent flooding, most of the rainflow is directed to the sea.”

“Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW, and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century”; at the Berkeley YWCA Jan. 22

The UC Berkeley Labor Center, Institute for the Study of Social Change, Institute of Governmental Studies, and Chicano Studies are sponsoring an evening with Randy Shaw, author of the new book Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW, and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century. In Beyond the Fields, Shaw reveals the untold story of how the spirit of “Si Se Puede” that began with Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers in the 1960s still sets the course for today’s social justice movements. Shaw finds that the influence of Chavez and the UFW has ranged far and wide: in labor campaigns like Justice for Janitors, in the building of Latino political power, in the fight for environmental justice, in the growing national movement for immigrant rights, and even in Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. In fact, many of the ideas, tactics and strategies that Chavez and the UFW so skillfully employed, like grassroots organizing and the cultivation of young activist talent, were integrated into the Obama campaign and overseen by former UFW disciples like Marshall Ganz.

Thurs., Jan. 22, 2009, 6:30 p.m.

YWCA Berkeley
2600 Bancroft Way
Berkeley (2 blocks from the Labor Center)

For more information contact Andrea Buffa,, 510-642-6371.

Carlo Marchiori – ‘Gone with the Wine’, at the Napa Valley Museum

Carlo Marchiori – ‘Gone with the Wine’:
Paintings, Sculptures and Ceramics Inspired by the Dionysian Culture of the Napa Valley”

December 5, 2008 through January 18, 2009

“Gone With the Wine” is a humorous exploration using the Pulcinella character from the Italian Commedia dell’Arte. A Pulcinella character cavorts across the museum walls from pedestal to pedestal, always inspired and fueled by wine. As he surrenders to the magic of the grape, displaying joy then foolish abandon, the viewer can partake in his frivolity.

Marchiori, classically trained in Padua and Venice before his immigration to the U.S., chose Pulcinella for his character traits that lend themselves to the “everyman” role he plays in this body of work.  The use of Pulcinella allows the artist to explore the realm of the senses. Like so many people, Pulcinella indulges in exaggerated behavior as he drinks and splashes the liquid all around.

For more information, click here.

Stephen De Staebler “New Work”, a special exhibition of 21 recent pieces of sculptures at the Napa Valley Museum

Stephen De Staebler
“New Work”, a special exhibition of 21 recent pieces of sculptures

January 24, 2009  – March 1, 2009

An opening reception featuring “New Work” by noted San Francisco Bay Area Artist Stephen De Staebler, will held on Saturday, January 24 from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m. at the Napa Valley Museum.  The wine and hors d’ oeuvres reception is free for members; non-member admission is $4.50.

For more information, click here.

Going Green in L.A. and Saving Money – A Note from Julia Stein

Going Green in 2008 and Saving Money

In spring of 2008 I stopped using plastic bags because I learned that millions of our plastic bags are in the Pacific Ocean killing birds and fish. In the spring at Santa Monica College I heard Marcus Eriksen read from his book “My River Home: A Journey from the Gulf War to the Gulf of Mexico” about taking a raft he made of soda pop bottles down the whole length of the Mississippi. Eriksen worked for Algalita Marine Research Foundation in Long Beach, California, which does research on plastic bags in the Pacific Ocean. In late spring he and his colleague took Junk, a raft they made out of plastic, and sailed it from California to Hawaii doing research all the while on plastics in the ocean.

I decided if Erikesen could sail the raft across the Pacific I’d quit using plastic bags. Whenever I went grocery shopping, I trained myself in a new habit of bringing my cloth bags to haul my groceries home. A lot of community groups gave out free cloth bags so I have quite a collection. I also bought organic cloth bags for $30 to bag fruits and vegetables rather than using the small plastic grocery store bags. I don’t have all these plastic or paper bags cluttering up my drawers or needing to be recylcled, so cloth bags are definitely more convenient.

Also, I started composting in my mother’s backyard. I took a class in composting that the L.A. Parks and Recreating holds at its Griffith Park composting facility:

After the class I bought one of the low-cost big green composting bins they had for sale. Learning how to compost was very easy, and I got two households to compost: mine and my mother’s. Actually it was amazing to watch how the compost reduced itself. Keeping up the compost doesn’t take much time–just add more fruits, vegetables, leaves, lawn clippings and water. One needn’t take a class. In a half hour Internet research one can find out how to compost. By composting, getting rid of the plastic bags, and recycling all paper, metal, and plastic in the blue bins, I’ve reduced my trash for landfill quite a lot.

Also in 2008 I helped plant three trees. I donated money to Treepeople to plant a tree as a memorial for two friends who had died: my mother’s old friend Delores Smith and our family friend Dr. Saul Niedorf. I find it comforting that out there in Southern California there is the Delores Smith tree and also the Dr. Saul Niedorf tree growing.Treepeople, who have planted one million trees in the Los Angeles area, can be found online at

I also got a free tree from the Los Angeles Conservation Corps which was planted in the parkway in front of my mother’s house and I’ve ordered another tree from them for the parkway. In Los Angeles people can get free trees from either Los Angeles Conservation Corps or LA DWP as part of Mayor Villaraigosa’s initiative to plant a million trees My mother’s garden already has a fig tree, an orange tree, a tangerine tree, and a lemon tree, and we’ve ordered a fuji apple tree. I’ve also had bougainvillea planted around my mother’s back window to shield the house from the sun.

In the spring my brother and I planted our first vegetable garden in my mother’s backyard. I figured if I want to green the earth I’d start by learning about our backyard soil, so did a test to see how quickly the soil absorbs water and also put store-bought compst to improve it before we planted We used Pat Welsh’s excellent book “Southern California Gardening: A Month-by-Month Guide” as our bible. We planted corn, beans, tomatoes, carrots, watermelon, strawberries, radishes, and herbs–basil, sage, parsley, rosemary. I used the basil to make pesto, the carrots to make carrot cake, and we enjoyed eating the corn. We didn’t plant in the fall but I want to resume planting as soon as possible. Though a few things didn’t work out–the watermelon, for instance or the zuchinni–but we learned a lot and are proud of our first vegetable and herb garden. I had to learn how to dry and store our rosemary and sage.

I’ve also enjoyed the whole process of going green this year, especially the gardening. I love to cook, and love to go to the garden, clip off rosemary or sage or tomatoes or lemons from the lemon tree–nothing could be finer. I’m sorry we let the garden go fallow in the fall but hope we’ll have a bigger, better garden using our own compost. In the end I think I saved money through all these measures. Now my brother I am are planning our garden so we’ll soon do a winter planting but we live in L.A. and crops grow year round!