Only Elizabeth Betancourt Can Restore Prosperity To The First Assembly District

Elizabeth Betancourt

If you read the Record Searchlight’s coverage of the candidate’s forum for California’s 1st Assembly District held in Redding earlier this month, you might have walked away thinking all five candidates believe climate change is real and we ought to do something about it.

In fact, there’s just one candidate, watershed resource management scientist and Happy Valley farmer Elizabeth Betancourt, who believes that.

The only Democrat in the field for the Tuesday, Aug. 27 special primary election is in agreement with the Democratic-led super-majorities in the state Assembly and Senate, which during the past decade have embarked on an ambitious series of programs designed to reduce climate change’s impact.

Betancourt has grasped the scope and scale of the state’s response to the climate crisis—and the potential economic windfall it represents for the largely rural First Assembly District that has really never recovered from the decline of the timber industry two decades ago.

There will be much more on that later. Meanwhile, here’s the RS reporter’s take on the other candidates response to the climate change question at the forum:

“When questioned on climate change, each candidate started by saying they believe climate change is real. But their answers on approaching the issue were more nuanced.”

Having watched the video of the forum I’d say the four Republicans’ responses were more disingenuous than nuanced. Three appear to be climate-change deniers; the one who isn’t doesn’t believe any action is necessary.

Former Redding city councilman and gun-shop owner Patrick Henry Jones said he believes the climate has changed—since the last ice age—and claimed to be open to the possibility human activity might be responsible. In his next breath, he refuted the vast abundance of scientific data indicating that’s the case.

Lassen County military veteran Joe Turner, a self-proclaimed strict constitutionalist, blamed the warming climate on the giant fusion reactor at the center of our enormous solar system. You know, the sun.

Megan Dahle’s main claim to fame is she’s running for the seat vacated by her husband, Sen. Brian Dahle, who won the special election for First District State Senate seat in June. Like her husband, she’s slippery when presenting her views on AGW, which rarely occurs.

At the forum, she agreed the climate is changing, without elaborating on what she meant or what if anything we should do about it. She then complained about excessive emission regulations on weed eaters and the Dahle company’s truck before noting a single giant mega wildfire can spew more carbon into the atmosphere than all the state’s automobiles produce in a year.

I’m still not sure what what she’s proposing.

Earlier in the forum Dahle complained about subsidies for wind and solar energy, without noting that she and her husband’s trucking company benefits from just such a subsidy provided to the biomass energy industry, engineered by former-Assemblyman Dahle and funded by the state’s cap-and-trade greenhouse gas reduction program—which the assemblyman had earlier voted against.

You can read more about the Dahles hauling biomass ash here.

Redding business owner and former legislative staffer Lane Rickard was the only Republican whose response could be called nuanced. While he said he believes in the science underpinning AGW, he pledged not to support or propose any climate legislation if elected.

Betancourt seemed bemused by her fellow candidates’ answers. When her turn to answer the climate change question arrived, she knocked it out of the park.

“As a scientist and just a person in this world, I don’t know that climate change is something we believe or don’t believe, the science is real,” she answered. “More importantly, it doesn’t matter what you believe about climate change, the solutions we’re talking about are good for all of us.”

That last line bears repeating.

“It doesn’t matter what you believe about climate change, the solutions we’re talking about are good for all of us.”

The scientist isn’t pulling our leg. California’s going big on climate action. One part of the solution is the California 2030 Natural and Working Lands Climate Change Implementation Plan. It proposes to do what the free market has failed to accomplish: Put people back to work in the woods and other forestry-related occupations in large enough numbers that a critical shortage of such workers has already been forecast.

If the plan is fully implemented by 2030, billions of dollars will be spent over the coming decade to quintuple the number of acres under soil conservation, double the pace of forest management and restoration, triple the pace of restoring oak savannas in riparian areas and double the rate of wetland and sea grass restoration. The plan refers to the jobs that will be created from this activity as the “restoration economy.”

“The restoration economy—defined as jobs created through environmental conservation, restoration, and management—will be an important consideration for implementing this Plan and future research,” the plan states. “Actions on natural and working lands have the potential to produce economic benefits in California’s communities and create new job opportunities for farmers, ranchers and foresters.”

The plan estimates that for every $1 million invested, 10 to 40 jobs will be created in the restoration economy. If the plan is fully implemented in the north state, it will provide a tremendous boost to the economies of the struggling counties, cities and towns in the First Assembly District.

Now, I’ll ask the reader a question. Which candidate is more likely to support full implementation of the 2030 Natural and Working Lands Climate Change Implementation Plan?

One of the four Republicans, all of whom deny climate change is a serious problem?

Or Betancourt, the watershed scientist who understands the scale of the climate crisis and has spent most of the past 20 years working in the northern California Sierra with all the stakeholders involved, including local water purveyors, tribes, business and tourism advocates, environmental groups and timber companies?

The answer is obvious to anyone who cares about the future of the north state. Recently, I emailed Betancourt a series of questions about the state’s ambition plans and her role in implementing them should she be elected. As you shall see, she has deep knowledge of the district and the subject material and an inclusive approach to all of her potential constituents. That’s why I’m endorsing her for First District Assemblywoman in the special election Tues., Aug. 27.

Elizabeth Betancourt on the campaign trail with a supporter.

Q&A On Climate Change Action

R.V. Scheide: Let’s presume a best-case scenario: you are elected, the state secures the funding, the plan is fully implemented with all stakeholders on board including the feds. What will AD-1 look like in 2030 in terms of natural and working lands management? Be creative.

Elizabeth Betancourt: Oh my goodness, R.V., what an optimistic picture this is! I see it as exceedingly possible, but of course it will take concerted collaborative and holistic policies to ensure we can get to a future that includes the resources, the training, the specialists, and the optimism to address climate change head on. What I see is:

Exceedingly low unemployment, due to the majority of our working-age adults being employed in a variety of work environments: on-the-ground management activities in our forests and farms; technical applications in biomass energy facilities and on dispersed solar installations; economic strategizing and transportation planning on a local and regional level; and innovation hubs and think-tank centers where our best and brightest work with the resources we have to envision a productive and inclusive future!

A network of small local farms provides produce, meat, and other food products in a local foodshed, building the local economy at the same time as building soil carbon, water retention capacity, and local expertise.

California Native American Tribes are integrated into all that we do, and especially the work we do on natural spaces and in their heritage places.

There may still be cars on the road, but I see big changes in vehicular travel along the lines of an expanded sharing economy combined with self-driving and electric vehicles capable of the long travel distances we have in AD1—maybe powered by solar energy en route—so that emissions are avoided but individual direction and needs are still addressed.

Education options support the needs we have in this community, as well as providing for a diverse array of futures for our young people. K-12 and post-secondary education alike is provided locally, affordably, with respect for individual needs and the broader society, and in a way that supports the entire human.

Broadband is recognized as a human right to participating in our modern society and is provided ubiquitously throughout the district, facilitating remote workspaces, easy access to statewide and international markets, and social cohesion.

Our downtown spaces are robust, busy, and provide a diverse array of shopping and service options. This addresses the need for a robust local economy, but also addresses societal cohesion, community development and emissions avoidance.

Our communities provide not only places to live and work, but green spaces safe from wildfire and other catastrophes that provide places to play, clean air, cooling space for all, safety and security from wildfire and other natural disasters, and the aesthetics of a desirable community.

We recognize all members of this community–all members, including a robust and complete ecology– as essential to getting the work done to make our community whole, safe, and ready for the future.

As a result of inclusion, family-supporting wages, and a renewed faith in our region and in each other, our social ills dramatically drop: adverse childhood experiences, domestic violence, low-level crime, and other issues of our current society would be effectively dealt with in large part through a growing economy that includes every single one of us.

R.V. Scheide: In your work as a watershed resource management specialist, you encounter all of the stakeholders involved in this process. Some of these rural farm/timber/business interests are quite conservative, decry any sort of government regulation and believe climate change is a hoax. How much does this hinder progress? How can these people be convinced that responding to climate change means jobs, jobs, jobs?

Elizabeth Betancourt: Many of our resource managers–farmers and foresters–are on the front lines of climate change, seeing these changes come sooner than those in urban spaces. Certainly not everyone recognizes the science behind anthropogenic climate change, but, conveniently, many of the actions we need to take on the climate front are things that we need to do anyway in rural California.

Identifying new and renewable energy sources, managing our forests to ensure resilience, building the local economy to provide for more and diverse jobs, and preparing for extreme drought, extreme heat, and extreme precipitation events are all things that all of us can agree are needed. There is enough momentum in the science of climate change that most Americans, 50 percent to 70 percent, now “believe” in climate change; certainly that disbelief hampered action initially, and set us on a track where change is inevitable, and is now happening.

However, at this point, it is our word choices and decision matrices that matter most: Talking about climate change or global warming may not bring everyone to the table, but discussing the need to increase forest management activities, develop innovative local renewable energy options, and eat more local food is something everyone can value.

What real resilience–real change–comes down to is behavior change: It’s hard for every single one of us to make choices that are outside of our normal practices. Incentivizing things like energy conservation, electric vehicles, and biomass energy production, is what we must do on a policy level to nudge all of us toward making choices that are better for us, better for society, better for the economy, and better for the planet.

Elizabeth Betancourt on the campaign trail with a supporter.

R.V. Scheide: Because of the decline of the timber industry, there’s a critical shortage of people with the forestry skills necessary to do the work required. Where will these future workers come from, and who will train them? Would passage of the Schools and Communities First initiative next year aid in this regard?

Elizabeth Betancourt: These future workers are our neighbors, our children, new immigrants, long-time residents, former prisoners, veterans, Native American tribal members, us! People are looking for real, meaningful work to do, and forest and watershed management is just the beginning of developing a restoration economy that serves everyone.

A word that gets passed around a lot in policy circles is providing a “just transition” to all. This is a term coined by trade unions, and means that individuals working in more climate-cost areas of our economy (cement production or coal-fired power plants, for example) should not bear the brunt of the change to a climate-smart future. The term emphasizes “justice” in workers’ rights and family livelihoods that recognizes that past changes have left these individuals behind (consider the spotted owl catastrophe of the 1980s on the timber industry). We should never do this again. All or nothing, everyone or no one, is as much a reality of physical need as it is a reality of cultural demand.

New resources are essential to start this process, certainly, and the Schools and Communities First Initiative, an effort to provide some equity in the way commercial property is taxed when compared with personal property, would be an incredible shot of adrenaline into this new economy. This initiative would not hurt current businesses, as the tax rate is based on time of purchase, and most businesses in the District are small and were purchased relatively recently: their tax rate would likely not change. Further, commercial rents are set based on market rates versus the cost of taxes, so businesses on rental property would likely not be affected, either. For those larger businesses in AD1, property tax is such a small ratio of their overall business costs that it is unlikely to be a burden on their businesses. Agricultural and multi-family properties and rental housing stock would be preserved.

For too long we have been “outsourcing” the costs of doing business: to the environment, to the poor, and to the broader economy/society. Redistribution is not what I’m advocating for: I’m advocating for pure capitalism, where the beneficiary pays their fair share of the cost, and those bearing the cost also benefit from economic growth. Allowing 8 percent of the commercial properties in California to cost our society nearly $9 billion in lost revenue is not ethical and not helping anyone but that 8 percent of property owners.

R.V. Scheide: Your opponents say “thinning the forests” is the answer, when restoring resiliency to our forests involves much more than that. For example, it requires the removal of slash, forest debris and other fuels, most of which aren’t at present marketable. The plan advocates the increased burning of biomass to generate electricity as one possible solution, but critics like the Sierra Club say it’s not carbon neutral, especially given the state’s aging biomass facilities. Do you think the state should invest/support new biomass energy/carbon storage technology to address this issue?

Elizabeth Bethancourt: Forest resilience is the classic “all of the above” answer, and a resilient forest absolutely requires the removal of slash and small-diameter trees that aren’t marketable. We know, based on our recent experience, scientific modeling, and common sense, that all forests will burn at some point. We want healthy forests for many reasons, but two primary reasons (for this question, anyway!) are for safety and to avoid emissions.

Thinning the forests and removing the understory helps with safety, in mitigating the risk of stand-clearing wildfire, but we also must avoid emissions. Burning this biomass in a controlled facility will always result in fewer emissions–much of the pushback to biomass energy is due to facilities in the San Joaquin Valley burning garbage and resulting in really dirty emissions; wood is different–and if we can burn it in modern facilities, the emissions are even further reduced.

Yes, I advocate for increased investment in biomass energy development, but those facilities should always be co-located with new technologies creating value-added products to increase economic development, jobs availability, and providing for the “highest and best use” of all of our resources. These new facilities must include technologies like cross-laminated timber, co-generation for dimensional lumber production, and development of product lines specifically designed to use small-diameter trees. Most biomass energy facilities are already co-located with railroad tracks, providing a natural way to transport materials. Biomass energy production would be a product co-created with these new additions to California’s economy.

R.V. Scheide: One casualty of AGW is the Sacramento/San Joaquin River Delta and the state’s water conveyance system from north to south, which is threatened by ongoing deterioration and sea level rise. The plan to address this has now gone from Twin Tunnels to a Single Tunnel, and faces significant opposition. Does it make sense to invest in new water storage projects in the north state, financed by southern California water districts, when we can’t be sure if we can even deliver the water in the future?

Elizabeth Betancourt: The tunnel decision must be decided prior to some of the projects envisioned in the North State, but other projects could operate without the tunnel. Sites Reservoir, though not the best storage location, is being discussed actively on a number of levels. In a drought, it is likely that any and all options will be welcomed–remember the cutbacks of the last drought–so carefully considering all options is important.

Ensuring that we’re considering operations under all possible future scenarios is also important: climate science is to the point where we can consider a range of emissions, and thus weather conditions, and complete reservoir and system-wide operations projections under that variety of scenarios. That must be done, and considered in line with all possible future benefits—water supply, fresh water for the Delta—with costs: water temperature, public funds for a project that doesn’t operate as planned.

Our opportunity in the north state is in the restructuring of the Delta tunnels project by the current California administration. Because of this renegotiation, we just might be able to advocate for increased investment in our water supply network: more than hard infrastructure, getting increased state investment in the green infrastructure of our rivers, forests, and meadows could add resilience to our system in greater measure, with greater employment numbers, and with a longer and more diverse lifetime of benefits.

R.V. Scheide: Worst question last: What happens if the north state stays with the status quo politically and ends up doing nothing to address the climate crisis?

Elizabeth Betancourt: Doing nothing to address the climate crisis cannot be an option. While the majority of California’s emissions may not come from the north state, it is unlikely that the state will invest in north state needs if we don’t work hand-in-hand with everyone else.

Climate change effects mean that: More of our communities will burn in fires like the Klamathon, Carr, and Camp; investments in agricultural processes and products will be lost due to extreme weather patterns that don’t allow for operations in the ways to which we’ve become accustomed; potential innovations, resulting in new jobs, educational opportunities, and community development, will be lost or ignored; and outside investment will be even more difficult to come by due to risk aversion.

It’s likely too late to avoid these terrible outcomes completely. However, we can work to mitigate their severity and their effects.

Added to these physical effects, AD1’s absence from the climate effort as California moves toward a more active and positive approach to climate change adaptation and mitigation will make us even less likely to benefit by state investment than we currently are.

Right now we lack investment because of population, in part, but also because the Legislature and administration don’t recognize that we need increased investment or would benefit by it–or that the state would benefit by it. Making this case requires real and effective advocacy on a level that develops trust, confidence, and momentum. Collaboration and knowledge of the issues is essential to moving this district forward.

R.V. Scheide
R.V. Scheide has been a northern California journalist for more than 20 years. He appreciates your comments and story ideas. He can be emailed at RVScheide@anewscafe.com.
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35 Responses

  1. Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

    It feels good to have cast my absentee ballot for Betancourt. Thanks, R.V., for this interview.

  2. Avatar Buffy Tanner says:

    She has my vote.

  3. Avatar Linda Coopoer says:

    Definitely a pleasant surprise to read well-researched journalism!

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      It helps when the candidate has so much familiarity with the issues like Elizabeth Betancourt does!

  4. Avatar Janet Tyrrel says:

    Excellent article. She is a superior candidate.

  5. Avatar Carrie says:

    My absentee ballot for Betancourt went off in the mail few days ago. Yes, this is an excellent article!

  6. Avatar Mark Twitchell says:

    Megan Dahle’s comments in her ads to the effect that: We need to stop rivers just running off into the ocean, makes me wonder who she thinks are going to be her constituents; we here in the Northstate, or the Westlands Water District in Modesto?

    (Also makes me wonder who’s paying for all those TV ads.)

    • Adrienne Jacoby Adrienne Jacoby says:

      Everytime I see her ad and she gets to the line about water running to the ocean, I recall Grump’s comments during our fires last year and I think, “DOG WHISTLE!” Who’s paying? Indeed!!!

  7. Avatar Dan Scollon says:

    Refreshing to see a candidate articulate an understanding of the issues and possible solutions. This sort of forward thinking is just what we need at this time .

  8. Avatar Tim says:

    The climate change “solutions” she is proposing seem little different from the past “solutions” California has implemented, to little effect.

    For example, among the first major attempts at energy conservation was a comprehensive set of expensive new building codes in 1978 that promised to save homeowners 80% of gas & electricity. We now know that while it did succeed in reducing gas usage by 33%, electricity usage actually went up 50%. People not only felt free to crank down their AC, they were also much more inclined to move into larger homes filled with more electronics located in less temperate parts of the state.

    You offen see the same thing when people replace a gas guzzling car with a prius – suddently they start driving more because they can more easily afford a weekend jaunt to the coast or Reno or wherever.

    If you are a serious believer in AGW, the only real solution is to make energy more expensive, not make things more efficient (which the market would do naturally with higher energy costs). Energy subsidies are therefore counterproductive. And you’re fooling yourself if you think wind and solar are truly “clean energy” — there is no such thing.

    Of course if you’re a true believer in AGW you really need to limit population growth too. But raising taxes on energy and limiting population are not politically palatable policies, so AGW will not be stemmed – especially not without getting China and India on board. So a climate change realist would do better to stop distorting the market with feel-good do-nothing policies and instead try to prepare for a future with uncertain and more severe weather patterns.

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      Actually, California leads the nation in energy efficiency and has for many decades. The state’s approach to climate change is multi-faceted, and that’s one part of it. I love it when climate change deniers try to explain what climate change believers should believe.

    • Avatar Randy says:

      Possibly you can present your visions of what your plans to address AGW would look like as Elisabeth has done?

      • Avatar Tim says:

        Like I said, no realistic plan is palatable so the realistic response is to plan on adapting to life with an uncertain climate.

        But what does a realistic plan look like? Well current global energy consumption is about 18 terrawatts. Experts say we need to cut carbon emissions by 45% to stop global warming so I’d estimate we need to cut energy consumption by 50% to start reversing its effects.

        8 billion people on earth sharing 9 terrawatts translates to an allotment of 1,125 watts energy per person (enough power for about eleven 100 watt incandescent lightbulbs running constantly). Those using less would sell their remaining rights on the open market to those using more and the market wouod dictate the price based on supply & demand.

        To address overpopulation, if a couple chose to have 4 kids, their children would eventually inherit the rights to half the normal energy allotment. If a couple chose to have 1 child, he would inherit twice the normal allotment. Childless folks (or even those with children) could will their allotment to charities or others.

        Of course you’d have the problem of monitoring and enforcement – as well as the enticement of governments & powerful organizations to commit genocide to increase their energy allotments. But that’s what it would actually take – everybody using less energy (not just electricity – energy) than it takes to power 11 old lamps…

        • Avatar Randy says:

          “Those using less would sell their remaining rights on the open market to those using more and the market wouod dictate the price based on supply & demand.”

          I arrived at this exact plan several years ago. Something like the coupon allotment system of WW2. Someone wanting to drive their Hummer around might have to go negotiate with someone living under a bridge.

        • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

          You sound an awful lot like Danish economist Bjorn Lomborg. Coincidence, or are you familiar with him?

          • Avatar Tim says:

            I had not heard of him. After a brief Wikipedia detour, I don’t see much in common aside from skepticism toward the efficacy of generally accepted solutions to AGW. Is there something I’m missing?

  9. Avatar Robert Scheide Sr. says:

    Great story and saved me a lot of work. Climate change is my biggest concern and anyone who is a climate denier will not get my vote.. Elizabeth gets mine

  10. Adrienne Jacoby Adrienne Jacoby says:

    Again, THANK YOU, R.V.!!

  11. Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

    Great, highly informative interview. Betancourt is the ONLY candidate worth voting for in this election. Unfortunately, though, it will be an uphill battle to convince all the science-denying right-wingers in the Northstate of that fact.

  12. Avatar Chris Solberg says:

    There is only one choice for the First Assembly District !

    https://twitter.com/RdgLvsandFsh/status/1164332427143081984

  13. Avatar Paula and Richard Kahler says:

    Thank you RV, for this informative interview with a great candidate. Elizabeth is getting our votes!

  14. Avatar Nancy Geer says:

    Good interview. I am very impressed with her anylasis of the issue. I spoke at length with her last night addressing womens rights; immigration and gun control and I saw that same balanced assessment and her eagerness to work across party lines to get the issues solved.

  15. Joanne Snyder Joanne Snyder says:

    Excellent interview. One comment following this article talked about people buying Prius cars, but the ads on TV incourage people to “BUY BIG”. I went to breakfast with friends the other day and the lot was filled with big trucks! Sometimes I wonder if your social status in Shasta County isn’t determined by the size of your truck.
    I’m more impressed the more I learn about this candidate. Nothing is as simple was we would like it to be. There are lumber companies that have been following environmentatlly sound and sustainable practices for years. There are others that have cut and run.
    I certainly voted for a brilliant woman who has a plan that allows different factions of our complex world to work together for the health and health of the North State.
    Thank you R.V.

    • Adrienne Jacoby Adrienne Jacoby says:

      When I see someone driving one of those monster vehicles I always think I’d like to put my hand on their shoulder and comment that I’m so sorry to hear about their physical impairment!

  16. R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

    Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders will be in Paradise today to unveil is $16 trillion climate action program.

    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/aug/22/bernie-sanders-climate-change-plan

  17. Frank Treadway Frank Treadway says:

    Great questions, great responses…Not only will Elizabeth be part of the majority party at the Capitol in SAC, but will have the ear of the legislators and the Governor; the ones’ who make decisions for you and me on a daily basis. That means a lot for Shasta County and the North State. If moderate Republicans want to have a say in SAC, they best vote for Elizabeth, it’s that simple. She is not someone who is politically irrational and can be talked to regardless of party affiliation. BTW, the Shasta Co. Election
    Dept. says that of the 77,000 vote-by-mail ballots mailed out, only about 17,500 have been returned. Please don’t forget to sign your name under the flap and mail your ballot, it’s free postage.

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      Thanks Frank. I agree, if you’re a moderate Republican, Elizabeth Betancourt is the right choice!

  18. Avatar Jist Cuz says:

    EYE PREDICT JONES GOES HOME CRYIN’… AGAIN +!+

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      I got my first mail flier from Jones yesterday. It was half the size of a normal flier, and he calls himself an “environmental steward.”

      • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

        I wonder who is footing the bill for Dahle’s never-ending television ads. Those have to be costing mega bucks.

  19. Frank Treadway Frank Treadway says:

    Sorry Chris Solberg, but there’s no person of that name on the AD1 ballot, no write-ins are allowed for this election.
    Now, Ms Dahle’s ads talk about many things, but one that stands out for me is she’s against ‘our water going to the ocean’. What does she mean ? The water which flows from the Sacramento River is one of several tributaries that help keep the salinity out of the Delta, an important aspect for agriculture. And then of course the water returns to all of us here in the North State via rainfall. So please Ms. Dahle, stay home, tend to your farm and take a night course in biology/science. And one more thing I heard her say…’I was on the public school board in Bieber for several years, and I support home schooling and vouchers’…all in one breath. Tell me I didn’t hear that ? Cast your ballot for Elizabeth Betancourt for sound representation at the Capitol. She lives in Shasta County and knows the issues.