From California ReLeaf
Davis, CA (January 9, 2009)- As of December 22, 2008, California’s State Treasurer suspended nearly $4 billion dollars worth of bond projects that were already underway, including Propositions 50 and 1e (water bond) projects. This forced the Director of Finance to direct all state agencies to suspend work on all bond-funded projects, effective December 17th. Working in partnership with a number of other conservation organizations across the State, California ReLeaf is keeping all in the urban forestry world updated on the state budget situation, and requests that everyone act together quickly and strategically communicate the impacts of inaction and to get the bond dollars back on track.
Some nonprofits have been forced to respond with layoffs, while others are struggling to cover outstanding reimbursements from the state. Anyone with an impacted project should have heard from the state agency(s) directly by this time (for urban forestry projects, the state department is CalFire, although some bond-funded projects are through State Parks and other Resources Agency departments).
Unfortunately, there does not appear to be any significant movement in Sacramento in terms of resolving the state budget situation. In fact, the stalemate between the Governor and the Democratic leadership on relaxing environmental regulations for transportation projects resulted in his veto Monday of the budget and economic stimulus package passed by the Legislature in December, further delaying any potential budget solution.
The Treasurer and Department of Finance have both stated that they do not expect the freezing of bond-funded projects to end until a budget is passed that addresses the financial situation and the Treasurer can resume bond sales.
CONSERVATION COMMUNITY’S PLAN OF ACTION
Working with colleagues at the California Council of Land Trusts (CCLT), California ReLeaf has elevated the bonds freeze to its primary policy objective in hopes of raising awareness of this issue and its deep impact to urban forestry, and land and water conservation in California. Here is a plan that we hope will serve as the foundation for moving the state closer to a solution that gets these dollars flowing again. Effective immediately, California ReLeaf is undertaking the following:
1. Compiling an Impact List. California ReLeaf is compiling a list of the impacts that the bond freeze has had on urban forestry and other community-based organizations who have bond-funded grants — either through California ReLeaf, CalFire, or other state agencies. This information will be invaluable in several ways and the more details you can provide, the better.
2. Media Coverage. CCLT is working with Resources Media Group, a media consultant, to generate press statewide about the adverse impacts of these bond dollar delays. They will select specific projects to use in media stories/op-eds to illustrate the impact of the bond freeze on local communities. This situation is costing California millions in lost wages and lost opportunity, yet the public is generally unaware of the impact this is having on the state or their communities.
3. Grassroots Campaign. Through a broad coalition of environmental organizations, a letter to the Governor is being circulated for add-on signatures. Time is of the essence and we are hoping to have as many groups as possible sign-on by early next week. The letter can be viewed at: http://stopworkimpact.ning.com/. You will find the letter on the left-hand side of the homepage under the Main tab, “Organizations: Sign on to Letter to Governor by COB 1/12/09”- you will need to register with the site, which you can do on the far right side of the homepage. Once you’ve registered, click on the letter, read it to make sure you’re comfortable signing on and then click “add a comment” at the very end of the letter and ask to signed on to the letter and provide your name, title and organization. The organizers of the letter are asking that folks sign on by the end of the day Monday, January 12, but if you’re seeing this email after that, take a look at the site – they might still be accepting signatures after that date.
It is of the utmost importance that as many groups as possible sign-on to this letter so that policy makers know that these freezes are exactly what the state does not need right now — delays to infrastructure development that provide jobs in our failing and flailing economy.
WHAT WE NEED FROM YOU
1. Please communicate with us as soon as possible about the impacts of the bond freeze on your projects and organization. Send your emails to Joe, our Program Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Specifically, we would like to hear about how the bond freeze/stop work order has impacted your organization; please share with us: (a) brief description of what the project involves, (b) the total value of the project, (c) bond dollars from the state and from which agency(s), (d) the amount of other dollars or charitable contributions involved, (e) if there is a deadline past which you could risk losing the project, (f) who is doing the work – a contractor, staff or other, (g) other impacts the bond freeze is having on your operations, including, but not limited to how many and what staff positions are at risk due to the freeze; other projects that are in jeopardy due to potential cash-flow issues; the effect the delay has had on other funding sources, and (h) anything else you want to share.
Here is an example:
As of December 22, the California Dept of Forestry and Fire Protection notified the Urban Forest Tree Map Project to stop working on the grant-funded Tree Map project in keeping with the State Comptroller’s requirements. The official letter did not provide information on when, or even if, funding would resume. This is a “shovel-ready” project just waiting for someone to give them their “shovels” back.
2. Join with your colleagues in the conservation community and sign on to the coalition letter at: http://stopworkimpact.ning.com/ (see item 3 above for detailed instructions). With your help, we hope to have 200 or more organizations signing on to this letter, letting the decision-makers in Sacramento know how important this issue is to California’s environment.
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