San Francisco Voters Say ‘No’ to Study Draining Hetch Hetchy

By Lauren Sommer

Hetch Hetchy Reservoir occupies Hetch Hetchy Valley behind O'Shaughnessy Dam. (Photo: Andrew Alden)

Hetch Hetchy Reservoir occupies Hetch Hetchy Valley behind O'Shaughnessy Dam. (Photo: Andrew Alden)

Voters in San Francisco say they are not ready to consider draining the city’s Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite National Park, for environmental restoration. The idea was rejected last night by more than a three-to-one margin.

Authors of Measure F stressed that a “yes” vote was to order a study of the future of Hetch Hetchy, not a vote to drain it. But San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee opposed it right away.

“I called it stupid,” the Mayor recalled. “I still think it is.”

Senator Dianne Feinstein and business groups also joined the opposition. But supporters say their goal was just to open the debate.

“I do think the voters are open to our message,” said Mike Marshall, director of Restore Hetch Hetchy, the group that put the measure on the ballot. “We’re very excited by the results and that sounds awkward given that we’ve lost but in fact it’s really, really true.” Measure F was defeated 77-23 percent.

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Archive: KQED Public Radio’s ‘Forum’ Examines 10 State Propositions

Michael Krasny in studio

Through the studio glass: Michael Krasny hosts KQED's daily call-in show "Forum."

Here at KQED, we take elections pretty seriously. It’s a time when our mission of educating the public comes to a head — the messages coming from the campaigns are unrelenting and taken as a whole can present a confusing picture. So helping you cast an informed vote is our aim.

That was the philosophy behind our state proposition guide. Some people, however, prefer listening to reading. For those folks we present a complete archive of Forum’s 2012 state proposition shows. Some are an hour long, some are half an hour, but all present views from both sides and include community input we received via calls, emails, Facebook and Twitter. So sit back, turn up your speakers, and take a listen…


Prop. 30: Gov. Brown’s Tax Increase for Education, Public Safety

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Did the No-On-37 Campaign Fabricate a Quote From the FDA?

A mailer sent by the No On 37 campaign to millions of California households is the subject of the latest scuffle in an increasingly feisty tit-for-tat over the state proposition that calls for food made with genetically modified components to be labeled.

GMO soybeans. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

At issue are a single quotation mark – either a typo or a fabrication, depending on whom you ask – and the questionable use of a federal logo.

The mailer that No On 37 sent out highlights five anti-Prop 37 quotes, including one each from the California Farm Bureau Federation and the U.S. Latino Chamber of Commerce. Alongside each quote is the group’s logo.

But one of the quoted organizations, the Food and Drug Administration, cannot, by law, endorse state ballot items. And according to FDA policy, its logo “is for the official use of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and not for the use of the private sector on its materials… Misuse of the FDA logo may violate federal law and subject those responsible to criminal penalties.” Continue reading

Arguments For, Against Prop 37’s GMO Labeling Requirement

Most of the corn in the U.S. is grown from genetically engineered seeds. (fishhawk: Flickr)

Most of the corn in the U.S. is grown from genetically engineered seeds. (fishhawk: Flickr)

One California proposition that is getting nationwide attention is Proposition 37. It requires labeling on raw or processed food that’s made from certain genetically engineered materials. It also prohibits calling any foods “natural” on the packaging — if those foods are made with genetically modified organisms (GMO). Supporters say consumers have a right to this information. Opponents say the measure is misleading and full of loopholes.

The California Report’s Scott Shafer talked with science reporter Amy Standen on Thursday about Prop. 37. Here’s an edited transcript of their discussion:

SCOTT SHAFER: Let’s begin with a background question. How are genetically modified foods used right now; how prevalent are they?

AMY STANDEN: Very prevalent. In fact, pretty much everything you’ll find in the middle of the supermarket — everything from sodas to crackers to cereals to cookies — almost all of those foods contain genetically modified ingredients. That’s because most of the corn, soy and a lot of the rice grown in the U.S. is grown from genetically modified seeds.

SHAFER: And what does that mean? How are they engineered and why? Continue reading

Will San Franciscans Vote to Move Their Water Supply?

Lauren Sommer from KQED Science has a report up on San Francisco ballot measure F, which would “require the public utilities commission to draw up a plan, at the cost of $8 million, for draining the reservoir and finding new water storage. In 2016, that plan would go before San Francisco voters.”

Here’s the audio, below. You can read the text version here.

Fact-Checking the Arguments on Prop 37, GMO Food Labeling Initiative

by Amy Standen, Jon Brooks, Lisa Aliferis

KQED Public Radio’s Forum program ran a debate last week on Proposition 37, which requires the labeling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients. It was a spirited discussion, and we thought one exchange, in particular, deserved a bit more digging.

GMO soybeans. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

It began with Bob Goldberg, UCLA professor and author of one of the ballot arguments opposed to Prop. 37, calling it a “Trojan horse.”

“Prop. 37 is not a simple labeling proposition. It’s a Trojan Horse, and the reason it’s a Trojan Horse is it has a threshold requirement that the grocery stores are not going to be able to have anything that has more than .5 percent genetically engineered ingredients or derivatives from genetically engineered crops. That threshold goes to zero percent in a few years.”

After looking over Prop 37 in the KQED Proposition Guide, we weren’t so sure that was accurate and decided to investigate.

Let’s break the issue down into two parts.

1) Would Prop. 37 keep foods with GM ingredients out of stores?

Over the weekend, the Sacramento Bee’s “Ad Watch” dinged the No-on-37 camp for saying that Prop 37 “would ban thousands of common food products in California unless they are specially relabeled to meet complex new requirements and restrictions that would only exist in our state.”

The Bee says, “but those foods could still be sold – without the labels – if the manufacturers go organic or use ingredients that are not genetically engineered.”

Yes on 37, naturally, agrees. “Prop 37 is a label, not a ban,” says Stacy Malkan. Grocery stores can sell anything they want with genetically engineered ingredients, it would just have to be labeled.”

So, in short: Prop 37 doesn’t ban products with GE ingredients; it requires labels on them.

2) What about this “.5 % threshold?”  How would it affect processed food makers like General Mills, who buy raw ingredients from farmers across the country?

The section of the proposition relating to the threshold is actually a temporary exemption to the labeling requirement. It reads:

The requirements of Section 110809 [the labeling requirement] shall not apply to any of the following…

Until July 1, 2019, any processed food that would be subject to Section 110809 solely because it includes one or more genetically engineered ingredients, provided that: (1) no single such ingredient accounts for more than one-half of one percent of the total weight of such processed food…

So the claim that  “grocery stores are not going to be able to have anything that has more than .5 percent genetically engineered ingredients or derivatives from genetically engineered crops” is not something that is stipulated in the text of the initiative.

“The Prop includes a percentage (.5%) until 2019 to give companies time to find alternatives (if they so choose) for GE micro-ingredients that don’t have easy substitutes. But after 2019, they have to label if they are intentionally using GE ingredients,” says Malkan.

We’ve left Bob Goldberg, the Prop 37 opponent, phone and email messages inviting him to respond, and we’ll update this post if and when we hear back from him.

(Update 2:35 p.m.) Kathy Fairbanks, spokesperson for No on Prop 37, says that Bob Goldberg “misspoke” in saying that under the initiative “grocery stores are not going to be able to have anything that has more than .5 percent genetically engineered ingredients or derivatives from genetically engineered crops.”

She amended the statement by saying, “It’s a ban unless the products are repackaged, relabeled, or remade with non-GE ingredients.” (Emphasis ours).

(Update Oct 8) Bob Goldberg has gotten back to us and replies with the following:

You are correct, Prop 37 requires a label. It’s not a ban. However, it’s “guilt by association.” The label implies that foods containing an ingredient derived from a genetically engineered crop MIGHT be a cause for concern. In fact, foods derived from genetically engineered crops are the most thoroughly tested in the 10,000 years of agriculture, and have been been shown to be completely safe for human and animal consumption.

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Transcript: Debate Over Prop. 37’s GMO Labeling

GMO soybeans. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

On election day, voters will decide on the so-called “Right to Know” Proposition 37. The measure would require labeling of genetically altered raw or processed foods known as genetically modified organisms or GMOs. Prop. 37 would make California the first state in the country to require labels on a host of food products found in grocery stores.

KQED’S Forum last week hosted a debate about Proposition 37 that has drawn a lot of interest online. So we’ve transcribed the first half of the show, which included a debate between two scientists, one for and one against the measure. Listen to the show here, or read the transcript after the audio player.

Edited transcript:

Host Michael Krasny: Stacy Malkan is a spokesperson for Yes on 37. She is co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and author of “Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry.” Greg Palla is the executive vice president and general manager of the San Joaquin Valley Quality Cotton Growers Association. He’s  member of a farming family that’s been in operation now for a century, in business here in California. Generally, we make a practice of beginning with the “pro” side. Why do we need this, Stacy Malkan?

Yes on 37’s Stacy Malkin: What we are seeing here in California is a true people’s movement for our right to know what’s in the food we are eating and feeding our families. We had almost a million people sign petitions in the state to get Proposition 37 on the ballot — thousands of volunteers across the state, many of them moms and grandmothers, people who are not typically out on the streets petitioning for political issues, but saying, “We have a right to know what’s in our food. We are eating this food. We get to decide.” And that’s why we have the largest health, consumer, environmental and labor groups on our side saying, “Yes on 37.” This is truly about the people of California versus the largest pesticide and junk food companies in the world that don’t want us to know about the genetic engineering of our food system. Continue reading

Spreading the Wealth: America’s Geography of Jobs


Opening speaker at Silicon Valley's DEMO Conference for new technology

Stephen Brashear/Flickr

KQED’s Forum host Michael Krasny held a provocative conversation Tuesday with UC Berkeley economics Professor Enrico Moretti about Moretti’s new book “The New Geography of Jobs.” The Italian-born economist describes the growing chasm between prosperous cities in the United States that are centers of education, innovation and technology — and struggling cities that were once powerhouses of manufacturing but are now losing ground.

In theory, the shift from an industrial economy to one driven by innovation was supposed to make geography matter less. In fact, Moretti says, we are witnessing a “great divergence” where the resource gap between places like San Francisco, Boston and Raleigh on the one hand, and Detroit, Cleveland and St. Louis on the other.

Moretti offers a case in point through the story of a young Silicon Valley engineer, David Breedlove:

The year is 1969 and Breedlove, just like many other professionals at the time, is thinking that urban areas were not good places to raise a family. He has a house, he has a good job in Silicon Valley, but he wants something quieter. At the time Visalia is not that all that different from a place like Menlo Park. Sure, wages are slightly higher in Menlo Park and there are slightly more professionals. But at the time, both cities have a mix of residents, both cities have decent schools and both cities have a variety of social classes.

If you look at the two cities today, 40 years after Breedlove made his choice, it’s almost like looking at two different continents. On the one hand, Menlo Park has become one of the most vital and prosperous innovation hubs of the world –Menlo Park including the communities around it, the entire Silicon Valley area. Visalia hasn’t grown in 40 years. It hasn’t added any college graduates to its population. Its wages are falling, schools are very problematic. Crime, that used to be higher in Menlo Park, is now twice as high in Visalia. Pollution is much worse there.

It exemplifies what has been going on with many American communities. They were very alike in the ‘60s and the ‘70s and they’ve been growing apart and now they’re almost different continents.

The key predictor of a community’s economic success today, Moretti says, is the education level of its workers — in particular the number of college graduates in the workforce.

“It didn’t use to be like that,” he adds. “Sixty or seventy years ago, infrastructure and physical capital were the key predictors of a community’s success. Workers in Detroit were well paid because they had access to great infrastructure and great physical machines.”

But in the information age, Moretti says: “new ideas and successful innovation are rarely born in isolation” and clustering educated, innovative people has a multiplier effect.

That’s bad news for a place like Flint.

So what are we to do to secure American prosperity? One solution, Moretti believes, is that the United States must put more resources into education and support for research and development:

It’s clear that there are two engines that are supporting U.S.prosperity right now. It’s human capital — meaning people and education — and innovation. And it’s clear that we’re not investing enough in either one. We all know about the problems of not investing in education. The U.S.used to be a leader in high school graduation and college graduation and for the past 30 years it has been surpassed by a number of countries.

The second under-investment we’re doing is in innovation.America does have some of the greatest innovation hubs of the globe. But at the same time we are grossly under-investing in R & D and that is costing us right now in jobs and it’s going to cost us jobs even more in the future. In the same way that there’s a market failure in the creation of human capital, there’s a market failure in the creation of innovation.

When a company, for example when Apple invents a new product like the iPad, it generates private profit in the form of its sales but it also generates an external benefit for all the other companies in the same industry that can see the new product, can learn from it and will copy the new product. Apple doesn’t get compensated for that part of innovation. That’s why the federal government provides R & D tax credits for innovation because there is a private benefit from investing in innovation but there is also a public benefit. The problem is this tax credits are not large enough and they are not permanent.

We really need to put more resources in investing in human capital and more resources in subsidizing innovation, because they both are activities that generate vast benefits for us as a society. It’s not a fairness argument; this is just a purely pragmatic self-interest argument.

 Another idea for revitalizing America’s Rust Belt (and beyond) in the post-industrial age, comes from journalist and historian Cathy Tumber, who’s new book, Small, Gritty and Green: The Promise of America’s Smaller Industrial Cities in a Low-Carbon World, argues that there’s hope for smaller American industrial cities to be revitalized through a green economy. Of course more investment in education and innovation may still be key.

Mitt Romney Brings Campaign to Solyndra

MItt Romney

Mitt Romney took reporters on "magical mystery tour" of Solyndra. Photo: Peter Jon Shuler/KQED

The Romney camp loaded select reporters on to a bus early Thursday and took them on a mystery field trip. (read: a press conference at an undisclosed location that by many reporters’ accounts was simply “weird”). The secret location ended up being Solyndra, the now infamous and bankrupt solar company that received  $528 million in federal loans. Here’s a compilation of social media chatter on the outing, much of it from the journalists actually on the bus.
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San Francisco’s Measure A: Who Get’s SF’s Mess?

KQED’s Cy Musiker spoke to USF’s Corey Cook about San Francisco’s Measure A, which seeks to change San Francisco’s waste collection from a regulated monopoly with Recology to a competitive bidding process. He also checked in with folks on both sides of the measure. At stake is San Francisco’s current eco-friendly waste collection system and potentially $40 million in savings. The piece lasts about 4 minutes. Click here to have a listen.