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This November, Sonoma County Conservation Action supports Damon Connolly for the 12th Assembly District
The 12th district is currently represented by Assemblymember Marc Levine, who chose to not run for re-election and instead threw his hat in the ring for Insurance Commissioner. He lost. But meanwhile, the newly formed 12th Assembly District had moved on to a very competitive race between four Democrats in the June election. In the primary, two candidates emerged for the November runoff: Supervisor Damon Connolly and Coastal Commissioner Sara Aminzadeh.
Sonoma County Conservation Action is, at its core, a grassroots organization that believes that local voices should be centered in all our efforts. Both candidates have placed the environment as the foundations of their campaigns for the Assembly, and in that regard, voters in the 12th Assembly District are guaranteed to have a representative who understands the urgency of addressing climate change. We are grateful for this, and we applaud grassroots environmental advocates for helping to shape this debate and push forward those critical issues. With both candidates being strong champions of the environment, this endorsement process was a deep and thoughtful discussion.
In this head-to-head matchup in November, after examining voting records, campaign donations, policy positions, and interviews, Sonoma County Conservation Action supports Damon Connolly. Damon has been a thoughtful, accessible representative who has a proven track record and voting history of working on our behalf to advance environmental issues. We will be well-served with him as our Assembly member.
Assembly District 12
Assembly District 12
Damon Connolly 
Damon Connolly has spent his entire political career advocating for the environment and has repeatedly highlighted the urgency of addressing climate change – as a school board member, City Councilmember and Supervisor. As Vice Mayor in San Rafael, he helped author and advocate for Marin County’s first Climate Change Action Plan and was a co-founder of Marin Clean Energy, a Community Choice Aggregator that has not only allowed Marin jurisdictions to make a noticeable dent in their carbon emissions, but has helped fuel the movement in other jurisdictions (such as Sonoma County with Sonoma Clean Power). He has a record of fighting to preserve and restore open space, ban single-use plastic bags and takeout food containers (before it was in vogue), and every year does a “Ride with Damon” program where he spends a month using only public transportation and his bike to highlight the deficiencies in our public infrastructure and to encourage people to get out of their single occupancy vehicles.
Damon has a history of taking on big-monied interests. As a Supervisor, he has pushed back on offshore oil drilling, and as a Deputy Attorney General, Damon was part of the team that took on the out of state power companies that gouged ratepayers during California’s energy crisis including Enron.
Sara Aminzadeh 
Sara Aminzadeh was appointed to the Coastal Commission in 2017. She is an attorney and prior to running for office was the vice president of partnerships at the US Water Alliance and the Executive Director at California Coastkeeper Alliance. Sara has an impressive body of work as an advocate for the environment and has built a campaign largely around climate change. Sara provided thoughtful answers to our questions and it is clear she has studied deeply on some critical environmental issues. However, being new to the district, she has less experience working on our local issues than her opponent and her voting record on the coastal commission has been decidedly mixed.
As an example, Sara was the swing vote to advance a controversial proposal to manage the mice population on the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary by using helicopters to seed the area with 3,000 pounds of rodenticides. Sonoma County Conservation Action has worked hard to partner with local elected officials and organizations – such as our good friends at Sonoma Safe Ag, Safe Schools – to reduce the use of poisons in our critical public areas and ecologically sensitive open spaces. Damon opposed the plan and has helped lead the charge to ban roundup/glyphosate throughout the County of Marin.
Follow the money 
By virtue of their professional backgrounds, an interesting dynamic has emerged in this race. While their total dollars raised and spent thus far is strikingly similar (with nearly $600,000 raised by both candidates as of their last campaign filing), Damon has been the candidate with support from within the district. 59.1% of his total dollars raised come from people who live in the 12th Assembly District. His average donation is $910.38 per donor. Sara, on the other hand, has received 25.52% of her campaign dollars from the people she seeks to represent. Her average donation per donor is $1,049.59.
Likewise, with some notable exceptions, Damon’s endorsements largely come from local elected officials and organizations. He has the support of three of his four colleagues on the Board of Supervisors and four of the five Supervisors in Sonoma County. Sara’s endorsements are more broadly based, with endorsements from the Lieutenant Governor, the State Controller, and numerous state Senators and Assemblymembers. She also has support from Congressman Jared Huffman.

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Our program will focus on the lessons learned from the pandemic and how communities have used recovery dollars to invest in a better, more sustainable future for our kids and grandkids. As always, we will honor our environmental champions, and give thanks to those who have fought every day to make Sonoma County the special place it is.

 

Organizational Champion: $10,000

16 tickets (2 tables) special Gala goodies, and program recognition

Woodland Warrior: $5,000

12 tickets (1.5 tables) special Gala goodies, and program recognition

Toxic-Free Fighter: $2,500

8 tickets (1 table) special Gala goodies, and program recognition

Climate Champion: $1,000

4 tickets and program recognition

Movement Sustainer: $500

2 tickets and program recognition

Individual Tickets: $100

Your generous Sponsorship Donations will be an investment to sustain our organizations mission and advocacy, while also allowing us to launch new educational programs, like our new Monthly Nature Outings Program-getting folks back into nature and exploring our beautiful Sonoma County. We will be able to support environmental candidates who don’t have the big-dollar-donors that we see dominate our political system. It will also allow us to continue to monitor and participate in City Council meetings, advocate for local policies that will help our community adapt to our changing climate. Please join us and sponsor the incredible work of our team

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SCCA Endorsements 2022

State Legislature

US Congress

County Supervisor

District Attorney

Sherriff

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The most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report tells us what we already know: our climate is changing, and local communities like ours are already feeling the sting. We must continue to elect leaders who won’t just play lip service to environmental concerns, but can push past tired excuses to support the types of substantial change we need. This coming June, voters will be asked to cast their ballots, and we’re urging you to use your vote to elect environmental champions. Today, we will focus on one of the few competitive races in the County.

Sonoma County Board of Supervisors – District 2
Sonoma County Conservation Action is proud to support Blake Hooper for the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, district 2 seat. Blake is the challenger – but with significant experience. Blake currently serves as a Petaluma Planning Commissioner and is a legislative aide for the California State Senate. Blake has previously worked in a community role for Congressman Jared Huffman as well. For full disclosure, Blake Hooper is a member of the Sonoma County Conservation Action Board of Directors, though he obviously did not participate in the endorsement process. It did, however, underscore for our membership that his commitment to environmental issues isn’t a campaign talking point, but rather work that he actively engages in. 
Anyone following his campaign on social media will quickly recognize two things: first is what an aggressive campaign he’s running – working day in and day out to really hear from constituents and talk about their issues. The second is how he’s centered equity in every aspect of his campaign.

 

Running against an incumbent is always an uphill battle. And yet, Blake boasts a very impressive list of local endorsements – including the last three Mayors of Petaluma, the last two Mayors of Rohnert Park, and the current Mayors of Cotati, Santa Rosa, Healdsburg, and Sebastopol. In fact, Blake is supported by a majority of City Councilmembers in every city that the 2nd Supervisorial district encompasses. The people who most rely on strong relationships with their County counterparts….support the challenger over the known commodity. He is also supported by the Sonoma County Democratic Party, the Sonoma County Green Party, California Young Democrats, North Bay Labor Council, and Sierra Club.

 

The incumbent, David Rabbitt, has a long track record for voters to consider, particularly when it comes to transportation. He is the current Chair of SMART, serves on the Golden Gate Transit Board, and is the former Chair of the Sonoma County Transportation Authority and Regional Climate Protection Authority. And in fairness to the incumbent, after nearly twelve years on the Board of Supervisors, David can rightfully tout some of the progressive accomplishments that have been realized by county government. We question, however, whether he was a leader on important environmental and social equity issues or a passenger along for the ride. David is largely regarded as the most conservative member of the Board, and as such, his voice has been absent from some key conversations, such as 2020’s Measure P, which sought greater transparency and accountability from the Sonoma County Sheriff’s office. Our membership has also found him inaccessible. 

County leadership matters, and whether you live in District 2 or not, the decisions made by the Board of Supervisors will have significant impacts on the future of our region. We strongly urge you to support Blake Hooper for Supervisorial District 2 by walking, donating, and voting.

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By Eve Kahn, Gary Margadant and Michael Allen 

 

Last December the California Board of Forestry gutted California’s fire safe road regulations, leaving already vulnerable communities at-risk for future destruction. 

Perhaps most problematic is the significant reduction in the minimum width of roads. Existing standards require twenty-foot width, while the newly adopted regulations require only fourteen (and no shoulder). This significant reduction means that new homes will be built on roads that have insufficient room for fire trucks to respond to an emergency – especially while residents are evacuating. Most fire trucks are nine feet wide, while the average car is nearly six. Fourteen-foot roads create logistical challenges and potential bottle necks should two fire vehicles need to maneuver around one another (eighteen feet) and leaves insufficient room for cars to squeeze past a fire truck (fifteen feet). 

Despite objections from California’s fire fighters and environmental advocates, the Board chose unmitigated sprawl over smart growth. This decision will not only put future residents in very high fire severity zones, but would additionally over-burden existing infrastructure, making it more difficult for current homeowners to evacuate in an emergency. 

The elimination of minimum dead-end-road requirements, reduction in bridge weight requirements, and significant weakening of ridgeline protections will likewise have a disastrous impact on vulnerable communities. 

Approving these regulations without common sense fire-safe measures or heeding the wisdom of our subject matter experts will further increase wildfire risk to lives and property, tie the hands of our first responders, strain firefighting budgets, and make it more difficult to obtain property insurance. 

Exacerbating an already bad decision, the Board chose to apply these rules only to newly constructed roads while allowing continued development to occur on substandard infrastructure. The Board failed to understand the cumulative impact that would occur “downstream” as residents move out of harm’s way. As we have seen in numerous conflagrations, the ability of emergency personnel to move evacuees seamlessly and without pinch points is paramount to saving lives. The regulations also allow local jurisdictions to seek exemptions and reduce these requirements further. 

California can build housing where it’s appropriate to build – in city centers with adequate infrastructure, and without increasing the risk to our vulnerable communities. The Board of Forestry must reconsider their regulations and, at a minimum, conduct a CEQA analysis to quantify the dangers of intensifying land use in high fire severity zones. 

Eve Kahn and Gary Margadant are co-presidents of Napa Vision 2050. Michael Allen is the Chairman of the Board for Sonoma County Conservation Action.

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SCCA is pleased to honor the outstanding record of recent SCCA Board member Dr. Jane Nielson

Ph.D geologist, Jane impressively served on the SCCA Board for seven years. She still loves Sonoma County, but is relocating to Portland to be near family

Rigorous Scientist

Jane brings scientific integrity and logical consistency to all her projects. She has three degrees in geology, including MS in Geochemistry from The University of Michigan and Ph.D. in Geology from Stanford University, and is a California Licensed Professional Geologist (PG). She worked 18 years for the U.S. Geological Survey as a field and research geologist, and taught undergraduate geology courses at Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff AZ; California State University, Hayward; and Pomona College, Claremont CA. After retiring from USGS, she moved to Sonoma County in 1999. Here, Jane applied her skills to launch multiple projects involving public policy, environment, and – most especially – water use and resources. At SCCA, she excelled at rigorous policy discussions and evaluating candidates for elective office.

Jane Nielson at Point Arena area of geologic interest.

Geologist and Water Activist

Jane has given her time selflessly to environmental causes. With a PhD in geology and experience from her United States Geological Survey (USGS) career, Jane provided pro bono geological reviews. Her advice has resulted in the re-writing or withdrawal of nine flawed draft EIRs. She was a co-founder of the Sebastopol Water Information Group (SWIG), helping develop a program for quantifying and managing water conservation and energy issues related to water. She participated in the Sonoma County Water Coalition (SCWC) and served on the board of O.W.L. (Open-Space, Water, and Land Conservation) Foundation, focusing on realistic management of water resources. She is co-author of The American West at Risk: Science, Myths, and Politics of Land Abuse and Recovery, published by Oxford University Press in 2008.  In 2010, Jane was voted environmentalist of the year by the Sonoma County Conservation Council

Jane Nielson on the San Andreas Fault at Fort Ross.

Engaging Educator

Jane lectures on geology and environment because activism begins with education. Her popular lectures include “Sonoma County Has Its Faults: A Rock and Roll History.” She speaks and writes with beauty and passion:

“[P]reserving lands has a central role for protecting air and water quality, and water supplies – and all support a healthy living environment. The idea that all life on earth is connected in a great chain of being, and that all life is connected to the physical earth in many obvious and subtle ways.”

Family and Friends

Jane highly values her identity as wife, mother, grandmother. She and fellow geologist Howard have a close blended family. And many friends and admirers. Jane proves Women CAN have it all! 

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SCCA is pleased to award Marylee Guinon the Leadership & Sustainability Award for her tireless work on fire safe roads.

The Threat

The State Board of Forestry’s Fire Safe Regulations have long required safe concurrent firefighter access and civilian evacuation for all new development in the fire-prone Wildland Urban Interface (WUI). These Regulations require minimum 20-ft. road widths and dead-end road limits, including for existing roads, according to the State Attorney General. But at the local level, full compliance is lacking. In the November 2018 Camp Fire, Paradise suffered community burnover. Many residents had insufficient time to evacuate and were evacuating through the fire, often on roads too narrow to allow safe concurrent access for emergency wildfire equipment and civilian evacuation. Fatalities occurred.
CNPA Award Winner Sacramento Bee Nov 10, 2018

A Local Victory! 

In 2019 and 2020, Sonoma County asked the BOF to certify that its fire ordinance complies with the State Fire Safe Regulations. County leadership dismissed objections of local citizens, organizations such as SCCA and – prominently – Marylee Guinon. Marylee and a core Sonoma County group, including Craig Harrison and Deborah Eppstein, worked tirelessly with the BOF to reveal the ordinance’s deficiencies. Victory was won in October 2020, when the BOF explicitly refused to certify Sonoma County’s fire ordinance, citing the Attorney General, Public Resources Code and the State Fire Safe Regulations.

Standing Up for Fire Safe Roads

Fully grasping that hope is not a strategy when it comes to wildfire, Marylee, recipient of SCCA’s Leadership and Sustainability Award, sprang into action. Working with several wildfire professionals, environmental groups, and other champions of wildfire safety across California, they have pivoted to the BOF’s current update of the Fire Safe Regulations. Unfortunately, 2021 drafts show evidence of anti-regulation political influence and impermissible false narratives. 

What’s Next? 

Wildfire experts express an urgency to seriously address community evacuation and firefighter access, referred to as “fire safe roads” or “fire safe development.”  Notwithstanding expert opinions, public officials at the local level have not, over decades of ill-advised land-use planning and permitting of development in the WUI, reckoned fully with the accumulated evacuation and safety risks associated with new development. Hence, we need the BOF to preserve the Fire Safe Regulations and resist delegating all discretion and authority to local jurisdictions to continue to sacrifice community safety to more WUI development.   
Marylee Guinon, recipient of SCCA’s Leadership and Sustainability Award, conducting research of Giant Sequoia in Europe in the 1980’s

Can We Afford to Sacrifice Community Safety to More WUI Development? Please help SCCA advocate for fire safe roads and fire safe development.

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Please join us at the November 4th Planning Commission Meeting to demand stronger protection against Oak and Forest Land conversion in the county.

 

Scientists agree, protecting existing forests is the best low-cost approach for immediately sequestering large amounts of atmospheric carbon dioxide, ultimately reducing our adverse impacts on the climate.

In Sonoma County, thousands of acres of woodlands and forests – broadly speaking trees – lack legal protections to prevent them from being cut down in large numbers.

Given the severity of the climate crisis and the power of trees to soften its impact on our community, it is critical that the County take immediate steps to protect our working woodlands from being cut down.

Planning Commission Agenda and Details

RSVP for More Details and a Reminder on Facebook

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Dear Commissioners,
Thank you for your continued dedication to California and for the hours of testimony and input you have collated and guided over the past year. As you continue to look beyond visualizations and begin to craft, tweak, and adopt final boundaries for California’s state representatives, Sonoma County Conservation Action strongly urges you to consider the North Coast as an important community of interest.
The existing Congressional and State Senate lines run from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon border. This configuration has allowed our local communities to have particularly strong voices on coastal needs: the impact of coastal development on California’s wildlife, the impacts of offshore oil drilling, toxic algae blooms and acidic Dungeness crab, plastics and marine debris, access to healthcare and education, to name a few. Coastal issues are unique and important to California’s success, and dividing coastal communities will dilute their voices.
The North Coast includes Del Norte, Humboldt, Mendocino, Sonoma, and Marin counties. These counties combine for a population of just under 1 million residents. While that is sufficient for a California State Senate district, it is too large for any one Congressional district (750,000 population). Of those counties, the population density for Sonoma County (500,000) makes the most sense for a clean division between a coastal Congressional district and a second Congressional district.
In a poll by the PPIC, 77% of respondents listed the condition of California’s iconic ocean and beaches as an important issue. Our residents already see the coast as a significant community of interest and we urge the commission to follow their lead.
Warmest regards,
Chris Rogers
Executive Director
Sonoma County Conservation Action

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SCCA joins the Sonoma County Democratic Party, Wine Country Young Democrats, North Bay Labor Council, President Joe Biden and many, many others in endorsing a ‘No’ on the upcoming Gavin Newsom recall.

The recall is powered by a partisan, Republican coalition of national Republicans, anti-vaxxers, QAnon conspiracy theorists, anti-immigrant activists and Trump supporters. They want to overturn Governor Newsom’s election, and their victory could threaten California’s efforts to fight COVID-19.

National Republicans like Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee and Devin Nunes have all backed the recall effort. The Republican National Committee has even cut the recall a $250,000 check.

Instead of fighting COVID-19, Republicans are pulling a page from the Trump playbook and attacking Californians. In fact, a Republican recall will cost the state $100 million – money that could be used to help vaccinate our communities.

How to vote

  • Vote “NO” on the recall and leave the second question blank
  • Send back your mail-in ballot by 9/14

You can find a dropbox to deposit your ballot on the Secretary of State’s website after mid-August: https://caearlyvoting.sos.ca.gov/ or by contacting your local county elections office: https://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/polling-place