The Road Ahead: Sustaining Our Progress, Protecting the American Dream
The American Dream has been getting harder for the average person to achieve… and November’s national election results have raised serious questions about the potential effects of changes in legislative and budgetary support for social services and environmental action.
With the status of new EPA leadership, the Paris Agreement, the Clean Power Plan, the Clean Water Act and a slew of social protections in question, California’s role as a beacon for progress, innovation and environmental leadership is ever more critical.
The 2017 Yosemite Conference will focus on protecting and advancing critical elements of the American Dream, ranging from affordable housing and reliable transportation options to sustainable natural resources (including clean air and water) and equitable opportunities for our diverse communities.
The average price tag to own or rent a home in California is more than double the national mark. To keep pace with nationwide housing costs, California would have needed to build millions more new homes over the last three decades. Our panelists will explore potential decisions by the new federal administration, and discuss state and local strategies to increase housing supply and affordability.
Transportation is the second-largest expense for most households, with those in auto-dependent regions spending 25% of their income. Cities with good transit systems can also save riders up to $10,230 annually if they switch from owning a car to taking transit. Unfortunately, the state is struggling with a big infrastructure-funding shortfall, much less finding new dollars to increase transit.
If there is a silver lining, cities and counties have increasingly realized that they can’t depend on state and federal government to meet their needs, and have been putting measures on the ballot to fund their own regional transportation priorities. The voters concurred, approving 75% of local transportation measures on the November ballot – proving once again that Americans want better transportation options. Our panelists will explore potential consequences for transportation under the new federal administration (including privatization of infrastructure), discuss the local advantages of emerging advancements in autonomous vehicles, and share local strategies to increase transportation funding.
Sustainable Natural Resources
The president-elect has worried smart-growth practitioners with his campaign-season denouncement of climate-change– threatening to eliminate the EPA and the Clean Power Plan and pull the U.S. out of the Paris Agreements. Those early fears have been heightened by the recent appointment of climate contrarian Myron Ebell to lead the EPA transition.
That said, climate-change leadership and innovative responses continue to been driven at the state and local level – from the bipartisan U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement in 2005 to California’s landmark AB 32 (signed by a Republican governor). Governor Brown signed a first-of-its-kind agreement, the “Under 2 MOU,” with international leaders from 11 other states and provinces, collectively representing more than $25.7 trillion in GDP and over a billion people, to limit the increase in global average temperature to below 2 degrees Celsius. Our panelists will explore the new climate for climate-change initiatives within the new federal administration, and share how state and local governments can continue momentum to increase clean energy and fight climate change.
Underlying everything we do to improve housing and transportation and protect our environment is the imperative to continue to defend each other’s rights (particularly the rights of the poor, people of color, immigrants, women and LGBTQ). As public servants, we have a professional responsibility and a moral obligation to ensure that the decisions we make today uphold – and are grounded in – the expressed needs of our most vulnerable residents. In doing so, we can also help make the whole of our communities stronger and more resilient.
Americans are resilient, and we’re accustomed to triumphing under adversity. Our nation needs bold, steadfast leadership from states like California now more than ever to maintain and extend hard-won social and environmental protections.
We’re all in this together, rich or poor, north or south, red or blue. Together, we have a responsibility to protect our communities, natural resources and the industries that energize our Golden State.