Enviro justice groups become Calif.’s new kamikaze political movement

NIMBYs and labor unions are being overshadowed by deep-pocketed environmental nonprofits that litter state and local government with white papers and protests.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has had it with environmental groups after their opposition to his infrastructure plan for the state, including tanking a $250 million package that was proposed in the budget for downtown Fresno. 

Newsom spoke out to The New York Times, complaining that the progressive groups which he has been allied with are hurting the future of California. 


The backstory: As part of his budget proposal last month, Newsom designated $250 million to downtown Fresno, much to the joy of Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer. 

  • Dyer quickly formulated his plans for the money, which included $80 million for downtown housing and improving aging infrastructure, $70 million for two new parking structures and $55 million for public transportation, green space and landscaping. 
  • Yet a group of progressive social justice organizations wrote a letter to Newsom and California lawmakers in opposition to Dyer’s plan. They also complained that south Fresno was being neglected by the governor. 
  • Last week, the California Legislature approved its plan for the budget and is negotiating with Newsom to reach a deal by the end of the month. State lawmakers have proposed just $50 million for downtown Fresno in this year’s budget, tendering hope that the remaining $200 million could still come in future years. 

Newsom’s response: “This is ridiculous,” Newsom told the New York Times. “These guys write reports and they protest. But we need to build. You can’t be serious about climate and the environment without reforming permitting and procurement in this state.” 

  • With over 100 environmental groups joining together to fight the proposed infrastructure budget trailer bills, Newsom said people are losing trust in the state’s ability to build big projects, pointing to high-speed rail as an example. 
  • “I licked envelopes for these nonprofits as a kid,” Newsom said. “My father was on the board of the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund for more than a decade. This was my life. But this rigidity and ideological purity is really going to hurt progress. I did the climate bills last year, and these same groups were celebrating that. But that means nothing unless we can deliver. That was the what; this is the how.” 
  • Newsom continued, “People look at me all the time and ask, ‘What the hell happened to the California of the ‘50s and ‘60s?’”
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