By Tommy Hough
Throughout my campaign for San Diego City Council in 2017 and 2018, the issue I spent the most time on and repeated over and over to every audience I spoke before was the issue of our crumbling roads and infrastructure.
As my team and I went door to door throughout District 6 in Mira Mesa, Clairemont, Rancho Peñasquitos, Kearny Mesa and Sorrento Valley, we emphasized the need for San Diego to invest in our communities and aggressively rebuild and maintain our roads to serve us for the next 60 years, and to prepare for a wet winter like the one we're experiencing.
Granted, San Diego isn't Boston or Chicago. But because our weather is much more benign and temperate, we as a city have often fallen into the trap of not maintaining our infrastructure as aggressively as other cities that actually experience severe weather. However, our roads are as susceptible to drainage issues and poor construction as any other, and we're now seeing the result of the short-term planning and lack of political will to meaningfully maintain our roads.
Cynical political operators may point to my concerns as shooting fish in a barrel, but this has long been an issue for residents. And nowhere is this emergency more acute than on the east end of Gold Coast Drive, the road that prompted me to run for office in the first place. Mayor Faulconer and Councilmember Cate should declare this road an emergency, and move heaven and earth to fix it immediately, before more damage is done to the cars of residents and commuters who use this critical arterial every day.
I'm aware plans are underway to rebuild Gold Coast Drive between Camino Ruiz and Black Mountain Road, in part due to my city council campaign making this long-neglected and potholed road an issue last year. One of my criticisms of Mr. Cate is that he has been in office since the end of 2014 and was certainly aware of the terrible state of Gold Coast, Parkdale, Port Royale, and other streets in Mira Mesa (detailed, in part, in a May 2014 article in Voice of San Diego) and had done nothing to address them other than to slurry seal neighboring streets which, frankly, were not in as severe a state of disrepair. But the slurry-sealing was window dressing, as well as an unnecessary aggravation for many residents. Worst of all, it never addressed the real problem of crumbling streets and problem roads like Gold Coast.
Throughout 2018 I warned that the only reason we didn't have worse potholes in District 6 was because we hadn't had a severe winter that year. Well, we're having a severe winter this year, and the weather is preying upon the region's most vulnerable roads – no more so than Gold Coast Drive.
Last summer, when I attended a forum on the proposal to rebuild Gold Coast, I saw members of the city engineering staff acknowledge the road's poor condition, and noted their amazement that it had been allowed to remain in such poor shape for so long. I also learned how the quick-and-dirty road building effort in the rapid build-up of Mira Mesa in 1970 and 1971 may have been, in part, to blame for the vulnerability of Gold Coast and other neighboring streets to the kind of drainage issues and damage that have been clear to anyone driving on it for well over a decade.
Chris Cate had at least three years to move heaven and earth to serve his constituents and fix these roads by the time I entered the race to challenge him in late 2017. He failed to do so. That failure is evident at this moment along Gold Coast Drive. This is an immediate crisis. The road is a disgrace.
Declare an emergency, sir. Get on a soapbox. Use the power of your office. Do something for your neighbors. Telling constituents you're aware of a problem and giving them the e-mail address of a staffer is hardly a solution. And passing responsibility for immediate action on to other city departments as though you are only a powerless bystander at the mercy of a bureacracy is not acceptable.
District 6 is desperate for a roll-up-your sleeves, get things done leader who makes a difference. My hard-working neighbors deserve it. That's part of the reason I ran for council.
The weather will soon dry, but the problem of crumbling infrastructure and lack of leadership won't go away. Whether by car, bus or bicycle – we have an immediate need to do better by our neighbors. Let's start by acknowledging the crisis. It's the roads, stupid.
Tommy Hough is a San Diego broadcast personality, environmental advocate and non-profit consultant. He lives in Mira Mesa.
By Tommy Hough
I'm looking forward to spending a bit of our weekend together this Sunday, Feb. 17, as San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action and club president Cody Petterson pitch in to support my campaign debt relief effort with a special fundraising event for my committee at Cody's home from 2 to 3:30 p.m.
Can you join us? RSVP now to reserve your spot for this Sunday, Feb. 17.
I co-founded San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action in 2014 and served as the club's first president, and I couldn't be more proud of our current board, direction and membership, especially at this critical moment for our region's environment.
And as we've seen in recent weeks with the advent of the Green New Deal and the passage of a pro-conservation Public Lands Bill in the Senate, when bonafide Environmental Democrats are elected and leading in office, we can get the environmental policy our planet needs.
From supporting Community Choice to opposing the Border Wall, preserving vernal pools to finding a lasting solution to the Tijuana River border sewage crisis, there is so much to do in San Diego County.
If you've already given the maximum, or if you'd like to make a larger contribution to my committee, let me know. And share this invitation with friends, neighbors and family.
Join San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action for a campaign debt relief fundraiser this Sunday, Feb. 17, at 2 p.m. in La Jolla, as we look toward 2020 and rededicate ourselves to our club's mission.
RSVP for more details. Thank you for your support.
By Tommy Hough
Last week, Senator Kamala Harris introduced two public lands conservation bills into the U.S. Senate: the Northwest California Wilderness Recreation and Working Forests Act, and the San Gabriel Mountains Foothills and Rivers Protection Act.
I'll get into the details of both bills in a follow-up post, but in both cases the Senate legislation is essentially duplicate versions of earlier House bills. That's fine – that's how these things work. This is a small speck of good news and a move Democratic policymakers across the country should begin to emulate.
Over the last several years, the GOP-dominated Congress, now aided and abetted by the most anti-environmental presidency in our nation's history, has presided over a wholesale reversal of America's conservation heritage, dating back to the era of Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir (if not Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson).
The rollbacks have been big and small, with varying consequences, but they've been entirely to the benefit of oil, gas and mining outlets in the west – further cementing the hostility the GOP has towards conservation policy, and the lucrative sway fossil fuel extractors continue to hold over our nation, the democratic process, and our planet's health.
Two generations ago, Richard Nixon signed into law the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Clean Water Act and Endagered Species Act. Of course, no one's going to confuse Richard Nixon with an environmentalist, but these bills were sent to Nixon's desk by a Democratic Congress – and he signed them because they were good politics. In fact, they were bipartisan affairs. In 1970, the public wanted and demanded these policies after decades of environmental degradation.
In fact, the first administrator of the EPA was a long-time Republican and outstanding environmental steward named William Ruckelshaus, whose first order of business was to ban DDT. But today, instead of embracing our best and brightest, Republican lawmakers (enabled by destructive right-wing media) defy science and reality in the service of corporate masters and benefactors, and use media and money to "confuse" the issue.
So let us ensure there is no confusion on this point: The GOP has collaborated and worked in tandem with fossil fuel and resource extraction industries since the 1980s to enable the current rollback of long-standing, functional environmental policies, even as growing mountains of evidence demonstrate the damage the extraction and use of fossil fuels has on our planet.
Energy and fossil fuel industries have been actively pushing these rollbacks, even as they claim to embrace renewable options for the sake of good public relations. To be fair, Democrats dance with many of these same players too, but not to the extent of the GOP, and certainly not to the point where active, effective policy is being rolled back as it is now. The damage and fallout comes in a variety of forms.
In 2014, during Obama's second term, a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) weakened by persistent budget cuts to their law enforcement arm – and exacerbated by a lack of political will in Washington and within their own agency – was humiliated by scofflaw Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who became the darling of nutjob conspiracy theorists and weapons fetishists when his refusal to pay decades-old grazing fees on land that belongs to all Americans prompted an armed standoff with federal agents.
This clumsy inability to bring Bundy to justice, or even appropriately serve him with papers, not only indirectly led to a mass shooting in Las Vegas in 2014, but a domestic terrorism incident the following year as Bundy's family and followers carried out the armed seizure of the Malheur National Wildlife Preserve in Eastern Oregon on New Year's Day 2016. Aided by regional GOP lawmakers, the seizure was an attempt to ignite a sagebrush rebellion, and resulted in a monthlong seige and the death of one of the culprits, as well as environmental damage to the site.
Interestingly, the Malheur was one of the first National Wildlife Refuges established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908, and remains one of the area's biggest employers – hardly the Big Government-style "land grab" Bundy's supporters claimed they were remedying.
By early 2017, things had gone from bad to horrible with the election of Donald Trump. I'd warned throughout Obama's second term that the only thing keeping us from the abyss of an already runaway GOP was the pen of Barack Obama. As the Trump administration took office, we found out how accurate that was. Curiously, Trump's megalomania and incompetence has prevented some of the darkest aspects of GOP environmental skullduggery from moving forward, but he is still tolerated by the GOP elite as a useful idiot who will sign whatever is put in front of him.
Despite some weak pledges to the contrary during the 2016 campaign, Trump wasted no time taking a wrecking ball to Obama-era environmental policies once he took office. His administration has undone requirements for more fuel-efficient vehicles, scrapped industry-negotiated regulations to reduce toxins from coal-fired power plants, enabled coal plants to dump mercury and other toxins into our rivers and waterways, and is even cheering the melting of the polar ice cap (the better to ship oil across the North Pole).
And despite Democrats' success in the midterm elections, over the last several weeks the Trump administration has enabled drilling access for the oil and gas industry on 9 million acres of threatened sage grouse habitat in the intermountain west, mining on 1.3 million acres of the Mojave Desert here in California, and perhaps most tragic of all, the violation of 1.5 million acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which had been protected for preservation since the Eisenhower administration in 1960 until Congress shamelessly subverted this last great American wilderness last year. Just this week, bulldozers will begin plowing through the National Butterfly Center in Texas in order to enable construction of Trump's absurd border wall.
Then there was the undoing of the EPA's mission under Scott Pruitt (and now Andrew Wheeler), in which the agency actually issued an official video praising the benefits of coal, while voices of "dissent," otherwise known as capable scientists, were expelled from the agency. Over the last two years, hundreds of government professionals with decades of experience applying evidence to policy have been driven from the ranks of the EPA in an orchestrated brain drain never seen in our nation's history. We used to recruit the best and the brightest. Now we just want you to follow orders.
At the Interior Department, the gutting of regulatory and management agencies followed a similar path, and continues with a promotion of science-defying ignorance. Even in the first week of the Trump administration, the president made his Saddam Hussein-style banana republic dictatorial tendencies clear as the National Park Service – the Interior Department's showcase agency – came under pressure to "verify" Trump's bizarre claim about the number of attendees who had been in the National Mall for his inaguration.
Undeterred from looking like the fool he is, Trump pushed Interior, now under the leadership of phony cowboy and nakedly corrupt Ryan Zinke, to move forward with the unprecedented undoing of the boundaries of 27 National Monuments – an assault on the very heart of American conservation and the idealized western value of untrammeled open space and room to roam.
The radicalized Interior Department has thus far settled on two National Monuments the GOP and fossil fuel interests have long despised: Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah, which was originally declared a monument by President Clinton in 1996, and Bears Ears National Monument, also in Utah, which was designated by President Obama during his final months in office.
Now, the Interior Department is enabling the sale and leasing of that land to fossil fuel extraction interests. This is public land that had been protected as part of the American heritage of National Monuments, and now stolen from a 112-year tradition of conservation. Consider for a moment the precedent that has now been set by an administration that has no connection to the outdoors, no connection to the west, and is only interested in what its oligarch funders instruct them to do.
The Russian model of doing business has been adopted by the executive branch of the United States and their elected minions in Congress. I've always said we'll be lucky if all Trump does is rob us blind, but as we've seen over the last two years, it's much worse than that. It's worse than we imagined.
So the midterm elections are over, but the work is not finished. In fact, the work hasn't even begun. We have much to do to simply return the scales to where they were before Trump took office on Jan. 20, 2017. Taking the House of Representatives was a needed beachhead – but the forces of cronyism, Big Energy, Big Oil, and anti-environmentalism still have a firm grip on the Senate, the White House, and to a lesser but more permanent extent, the Supreme Court. Will some of that change in 2020? Not if we allow ourselves to be divided and diminished.
Our work is not finished. There are no laurels. There is only policy that must be introduced and nurtured until we have a human being in the White House again who is capable of thinking beyond himself, who respects process, values democratic order vs. self-aggrandizing chaos, cares about our institutions and the missions of our agencies, and puts capable people in place to lead successfully – not deliberately fail out of incompetence as a predetermined demonstration against "big government."
Our work is not finished until we have a legislative branch that answes to all Americans, not Russian oligarchs, Trump cronies, destructive right-wing media, or money disguised as "speech" under the Supreme Court's cataclysmic 2010 Citizens United ruling.
This is why the introduction of conservation policy – the very essence of legislative humility – into the current chamber of horrors beneath the Capitol dome is needed. Conservation and preservation on its face isn't designed for short-term gain, but longevity that exceeds the lives of those here today.
Conservation policy acknowledges limits on man's ambitions into the wild, that there are some places where mankind is "only a visitor," and that there are some reaches of our land which are not part of civilization, and will never be tamed. Our government not only has a role in ensuring that, but a proud heritage and tradition of doing so, from the National Park Service to the Wilderness Act to the Roadless Rule. Leaders can move the needle.
Senator Harris' two bills, however small they may appear, are brave and necessary. If conservation policy passes as defiance, so be it, but these bills do a great deal to ensure greater protection for our wild ecosystems, and enable more effective, holistic access for a citizenry increasingly in need of quiet, space, and solace – and an opportunity for young and old to re-connect with our vanishing natural world.
We need more from the incoming House of Representatives than investigations. We need more from our wise members of the Senate. We need more from the boots on the ground of Americans everywhere. We are not content with our remaining wildlands and habitat becoming the fenced-off domain of oil and gas exploitation, of mining, of violent and destructive "recreation," and of clearcuts reaching into the horizon.
We are Americans, and preserving our natural heritage is an extension of our patriotism – claim it. It will always be up to us to ensure our public lands are treated with care and dignity for the benefit of all, but at this moment, on our watch, they remain endangered unlike any other time in our nation's history. The preservation of our country's natural heritage and special places is the task before us.
San Gabriel Mountains Wilderness photo by Tommy Hough
Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument photo by Bob Wick
Public lands graphic courtesy of The Wilderness Society
By Tommy Hough
We made time for the ballots to be counted, and it's clear the voters have spoken.
While we came up short, I'm proud of our effort, especially knowing we ran the very best, drama-free campaign possible.
I'm exceptionally proud of my team and the work we did in our District 6 communities of Clairemont, Mira Mesa, Kearny Mesa, Miramar, Sorrento Valley and Rancho Peñasquitos. You did an amazing job.
I can't begin to express how grateful I am to our volunteers. Those of you who helped, pitched in, made calls, walked, donated over and over, and wore this campaign as a badge of honor over the months know who you are.
You went the distance with me, and I will not forget it.
We had to overcome all the issues that come with a first-time candidacy, with little institutional support – not to mention running in a district many chose to believe was unwinnable from the outset. We were outspent by an 8 to 1 margin. When you factor in the additional resources my opponent had access to, that margin is even greater.
But I knew this was an opportunity to offer strong, dynamic, hands-on leadership for communities that are being left behind at City Hall.
Talking with our neighbors, listening to voters, and respecting the wisdom of our neighborhoods was the best way to represent the communities of District 6 and ensure they were heard.
I saw what it's like to live with gravel flying into my neighbors' yards from broken streets long overdue for repair, to know the gnawing insecurity that comes with an unstable paycheck and medical emergencies, and to understand what it means when children move away from home because they can't afford to live in the city of their birth.
I was also welcomed into my neighbors' homes to share backyard barbecues, eat fresh fruit from their trees, and talk about politics and policy over a local beer. In every case, my neighbors demonstrated generosity in time and attention, even when we disagreed.
I took the risk of running to offer a real choice to our District 6 residents, and to make a difference in the lives of the innumerable neighbors I connected with and the thousands of doors I knocked on this past year.
The result is clearly not what I would have preferred. But I wouldn't trade the time we've had together for anything.
Thank you for believing in me, my campaign, and our vision for San Diego.
Editor's Note: Sagebush is the dominant plant species in the Great Basin, especially in valley bottoms, plateaus and mountain foothills. Sagebrush provides habitat for a variety of animals in the region, most notably the sage grouse, which is declining as a species because of human activity like cattle grazing and gas drilling.
By George Wuerthner
Management with the Challis and Salmon Bureau of Land Management (BLM) districts in Central Idaho appear ready to destroy much of the sage grouse habitat in the nearby Lemhi, Pahsimeroi and Lost River valleys, ironically in the name of protecting sage grouse, in a destructive sagebrush "mowing" effort on 134,000 acres of public land in the Gem State.
As an ecologist, and someone who has studied both sagebrush and sage-grouse ecology, I find the proposal to crush over 130,000 acres of sagebrush in prime and associated sage grouse habitat almost criminal. I do not use that term lightly.
There is abundant scientific evidence that demonstrates sagebrush is critical to sage grouse survival. Currently, much of the area proposed for "treatment" doesn't even meet the BLM's minimum levels of sagebrush cover for sage grouse — thus destroying tens of thousands of acres of sagebrush can only lead to the continued decline of sage grouse in the area.
There is also abundant evidence that disturbance of sagebrush landscapes leads to an increase in cheatgrass. Cheatgrass is an invasive annual grass that is highly flammable. Since it can increase wildfire frequency in sagebrush landscapes, it is one of the significant threats to sagebrush ecosystems and sage grouse.
But cheatgrass does not suddenly appear from space or with aliens. Instead, the spread of cheatgrass is a direct consequence of disturbance that harms native grasses and landscapes. One recent study in Oregon that compared mowed and unmowed sagebrush sites concluded: "By the third year post-treatment annual forb and annual grass (cheatgrass) biomass production was more than nine and sevenfold higher in the mowed than reference treatment."
Another 2012 study found: "The preponderance of literature indicates that habitat management programs that emphasize treating (like mowing) Wyoming big sagebrush are not supported concerning positive responses by sage-grouse habitats or populations." The same study went on to conclude: "Most published information suggests that treatments to winter or breeding habitats of sage-grouse have a negative effect on the species."
And research published this year concludes that "grazing impacts resulted in reduced site resistance to B. tectorum, suggesting that grazing management that enhances plant and biocrust communities will also enhance site resistance" to cheatgrass. Translation: If you want healthy sagebrush ecosystems, remove the irritations like livestock grazing.
Beyond the fact that these treatments are likely to increase cheatgrass at the expense of sagebrush and sage grouse, the real threat to sage grouse in these valleys, and elsewhere across much of its range, is livestock production. Yet the BLM does not even consider the cumulative impacts of sagebrush destruction with the ongoing, adverse effects of domestic livestock production on these same lands.
If the BLM really wanted to improve things for sage grouse, it would be eliminating livestock grazing on OUR public lands.
For instance, much research has shown that the trampling of biological crusts enhances the spread of cheatgrass. Biological crust covers the soil in between perennial bunchgrasses and inhibits the seedling establishment of annual grasses like cheatgrass.
Cattle are also the primary agent that have destroyed riparian areas and wet meadows which are critical habitat to sage-grouse chicks. Livestock breaks down creekbanks which can lead to entrenchment of waterways and a lowering of water levels, which can then lead to a shrinkage of wet meadow habitat. Plus, by consuming streamside vegetation and reducing hiding cover, cattle expose sage grouse chicks to predators.
Fences constructed to control livestock constitute a significant source of mortality to sage grouse. Sage grouse are weak fliers and tend to fly close to the ground. In some studies, as much as 30 percent of sage-grouse populations are killed by collisions with fences.
Fences also act as "lookout posts" for avian predators like ravens.
In fact, why are their fences on public lands at all? Only one reason — to facilitate the exploitation of public resources for the benefit of private ranching interest.
The sage grouse requires habitat with a diverse plant community to provide shelter and food, especially a steady supply of insects to feed its young. Sage brush grouse also eat the leaves and flowers of soft, succulent forbs, as well as the insects that visit the plants. Unfortunately, livestock consumes many of the same forbs that sage grouse chicks require during the first couple of weeks of their lives, thus directly competing with sage grouse for an essential and critical food resource.
Water troughs designed to serve livestock also serve as breeding grounds for mosquitoes that spread West Nile Virus, which in some areas is also a significant source of sage grouse mortality.
In short, the BLM appears to be capitulating to private interests at the expense of the public's interest in healthy sagebrush ecosystems and healthy sage-grouse populations.
This article originally appeared in The Wildlife News.
George Wuerthner has worked as a biologist, wilderness ranger, and range conservationist for the federal government. More recently he has served as a university instructor, photography instructor, consulting biologist, and wildlife policy analyst. He is the Oregon director of the Western Watersheds Project. George appeared on Tommy's Treehuggers International show in 2010.
By Tommy Hough
A final statement on the status of our campaign will be issued soon, but the most recent batch of election results are revealing:
These observations are telling. From the beginning, we knew this was a winnable race. We made it clear to those who would listen.
When my opponent and I taped a segment for NBC San Diego's Politically Speaking last month, he said I wasn't "connecting" with voters. How wrong he was.
And when Councilmember Cate's chief of staff felt I wasn't conceding fast enough for his liking after the election, he posted this unprofessional, unprovoked Tweet:
I'm not sure what kind of leader endorses mocking another person's debt, but I made the decision early on to build a machine to compete and win in District 6.
Regrettably, we've come up short. And that's why I need your help to reduce our campaign debt so I can honor my commitments. So many of you have already been so generous helping pay down our debt. Thank you.
If you haven't yet, can I count on you to make a contribution during your giving today?
Please consider a contribution to our debt relief effort. Every bit helps.
And if you or someone you know would like to make a significantly larger contribution to our debt relief effort, please contact our campaign consultant on how to do so.
Thank you for your support.
By Tommy Hough
On Sept. 24, 2018, while a candidate for San Diego City Council District 6, I filed an ethics complaint against my opponent, Councilmember Chris Cate, for late reporting of at least $7,500 in behested payments he received from San Diego Gas and Electric earlier in the year.
Shortly thereafter I received a letter dated Sept. 25, 2018, from the city's Ethics Commission acknowledging my complaint. The letter noted two things:
Despite two requests from myself and two letters sent to the Ethics Commission from our attorney, I have yet to receive any communication from the Ethics Commission on the status of the investigation. And since we have received no word from the Ethics Commission regarding our complaint, we can conclude Mr. Cate is, again, under investigation.
On Oct. 19, 2018, my opponent and I recorded a segment for NBC San Diego's Politically Speaking program, which aired that Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 20 and Oct. 21.
Host Gene Cubbison opened by asking my opponent about the ethics charges, noting in his introduction that Mr. Cate had already "been fined twice for ethics violations."
My opponent said I was "speaking before having all the facts," and proceeded to lay out a scenario where the behested payment filings were made before he had received money from San Diego Gas and Electric – implying the filings were made for no reason and with no money to report.
You can see the exchange here. The discussion begins at :37 seconds in.
If there were additional facts to be considered at that time, Mr. Cate should've share them with the TV audience, or with the public ahead of the election. Obviously, he was never going to do that.
Furthermore, the Ethics Commission should've made the status of the ongoing Preliminary Review public ahead of the election, as outlined in their letter and clearly intended by the commission's own "within 90 days of a municipal election" provision – which is there to ensure voters know the outcome of the investigation before the election.
Unfortunately for voters, and the public, someone ran out the clock ahead of Election Day. But the public still has a right to know, and the Ethics Commission has an obligation to see an investigation through under the provisions outlined in their own letter.
You can contact the San Diego Ethics Commission by phone at (619) 533-3477, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Maria Hough
Hello, my name is Maria Hough, although I typically go by Cory. I'm Tommy's wife.
My colleagues often ask what it's like having a spouse running for office.
While it often means long days and a haphazard schedule, I've never seen Tommy more happy or energized. He wants this job because he wants to make San Diego the best it can be.
I couldn't ask for a better husband. Ever since we fist met and began dating, Tommy has always been supportive of my career and choices, and his honesty, genuine nature and commitment to our neighbors will make a meaningful impact at city hall.
And while I know Tommy talks tough, I also know he wears his heart on his sleeve, which is one of the things I love about him.
If you know Tommy, you know he's committed to our environment and the less fortunate, and knows that making our communities better is ultimately better for everyone. Tommy knows our city can be a better place. That's why he's running.
Well, tomorrow is October 10th – Tommy's birthday. And the best gift you can give him is a contribution to his campaign.
You know Tommy won't quit until every door has been knocked, every phone number called, and every sign dropped in the yard of someone who has said "yes."
Can you give a little extra for Tommy's birthday? Every amount makes an impact with this campaign.
Whether you give the maximum of $550, or contribute $250, $100, $50, or $20, every amount gets Tommy closer to the finish line.
I hope to see you at one of Tommy's upcoming fundraisers, including this Saturday, Oct. 13, as hosts Eden and Kyle Yaege, Mark West and Michael Torti host a reception for Tommy with Congressman Scott Peters from 4:30 to 6 p.m.
And don't forget, Tommy has a reception with Senate President pro tem Toni Atkins coming up next Tuesday, Oct. 16, and an event with San Diego Democrats for Equality on Thursday, Oct. 18.
Tommy will also participate in the City Council Candidate Forum on Homelessness tomorrow evening, Wednesday, Oct. 10, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at The Observatory North Park, located at 2891 University Ave. We hope you can join us as Tommy talks with panelists, fellow council candidates Monica Montgomery and Antonio Martinez – and you – about one of the most critical, heart-wrenching crises facing San Diego.
Thank you for supporting my husband, and thank you for celebrating Tommy's birthday tomorrow with a contribution today.
By Tommy Hough
Today, on this Labor Day, I'd like to reflect on the personal meaning labor has for my family.
There once was a time when 40-hour work weeks, eight hour days and a minimum wage weren't the norm in the United States, but unions and organized labor made that a reality.
There once was a time when health insurance and retirement plans weren't reasonable expectations of a full-time job, but unions and organized labor helped make that a reality too – along with child labor laws, collective bargaining, maternity leave, overtime, sick leave, workplace safety oversight, even lunch breaks.
My grandfather, Bert Hough, was one of those labor leaders of an earlier era who worked to organize labor at his workplace into a force to stand as equals with management.
The era was the 1920s, and the location was the Crucible Steel Works along the Ohio River in Midland, Pennsylvania, about 35 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.
An immigrant to the United States from Scotland, and a survivor of the Gallipoli and Western Front campaigns in World War One, Bert was already known to be fearless – but life in the mill was still demanding and dangerous. There were few, if any, protections for workers if someone was injured or killed on the job. Employee recourse was non-existent.
Like all mill employees, Bert began as a scarfer retouching raw steel to remove imperfections. Slowly but surely, he rose through the ranks of leadership, and by the early years of the Great Depression was actively organizing workers.
Unlike organizing in a major city, Bert's activism presented problems living in a small "company town" like Midland, where city services and the police force were recruited and paid for by Crucible.
Intimidation, violence, and even bomb threats became a part of the organizing process that demanded courage. But with support from colleagues and fellow organizers, Bert prevailed, and in 1937 founded United Steelworkers Local 1212 as the local's first president.
By the time the U.S. entered World War II in 1941, Crucible Steel's Midland Works was the largest producer of tool-grade steels in the United States, and Crucible manufactured more types of steel than any other company during the war era.
The mill's stability, and versatility, was enabled not just by the ability and expertise of its employees, but by organized labor and Local 1212's apprenticeship program (which continues to this day), along with the expectations for workers spelled out in the National Labor Relations Act of 1935.
The act remains today, and is the gold standard upon which labor operates in the U.S.
The stability the United Steelworkers brought to the region also benefited my father, who became a steelworkers lawyer, thereby enabling my middle class upbringing. He eventually went into private practice, argued before the United States Supreme Court and was an expert on collective bargaining, which he later taught at the University of Pittsburgh Law School.
That stability also improved the region's environment. When tough pollution standards were proposed following the war in 1945 so the air, water and natural ecology of Western Pennsylvania would no longer be irreparably harmed, labor was a willing partner.
The era of Big Steel, of course, eventually came to an end in Western Pennsylvania, and the era of collective bargaining is now threatened by the Janus v. AFSCME decision. But thousands of workers around the nation continue to work today under contracts that guarantee them benefits and a livable wage, negotiated in good faith by labor and management.
The National Labor Relations Act also remains the law of the land, which is why the "reason for the season" is so critical to remember today, on Labor Day, first celebrated as a federal holiday in 1894.
I hope you and your family enjoy your time together on this day enabled by the labor movement.
And if you're ever along the Ohio River in Midland, Pennsylvania, the Bert Hough building that served as the union hall for USW Local 1212 still stands at 617 Midland Ave., now the site of a Pennsylvania Cyber school after Local 1212 moved to new offices in 2010.
Photos by George W. Harris, Jay Reilly, Mark Grago, Keith Schneider, Steve Rivera and Tony Tepsic.
By Tommy Hough
The Cadiz Water Project is a decades-long scheme to drain an aquifer located beneath the Cadiz Valley in Mojave Trails National Monument, in order to pump water to coastal Southern California so Orange County residents can water their lawns.
Given the current subversion of our government, from the nihilism of the 115th Congress to the sheer ignorance and greed of the Trump Administration, it will come as no surprise that a former Cadiz Inc. lobbyist named David Bernhardt is now the second-in-command at the Interior Department behind Secretary Ryan Zinke, who himself has already carved out a record as the worst Interior chief in our nation's history in less than a year on the job.
Environmental organizations didn't take kindly to Bernhardt's appointment, in part because of his role at Interior a dozen years ago during the first term of George W. Bush. At that time, Bernhardt served as Interior's solicitor general under Secretary Gale Norton (another one of our worst Interior chiefs), and wrote a now-dismissed legal opinion that would've made it easier for the Interior Department to dismiss endangered species recommendations.
Along with loading federal agencies with idiot savant surrogates and destructive minions like Berhardt and Zinke, the Trump administration has done two specific things in order to facilitate the Cadiz Water Project.
One, in local conjunction with Congressman Paul Cook of Yucca Valley, they've recommended reducing the boundaries of dozens of long-standing National Monuments around the nation in order to create the precedent to change the boundaries of Mojave Trails National Monument in San Bernardino County in order to access the Cadiz Valley and get at the aquifer.
Two, the Trump Administration has re-written federal right-of-way railroad laws in order to facilitate the project so "red tape" that would otherwise slow the approval of the water pipeline across federal land – in part because water infrastructure doesn't "further a railroad purpose" – would no longer apply.
Fortunately, San Bernardino County is located in California, and the State Lands Commission gets a say because the pipeline would cross state education lands set aside in 1857 by the federal government in the interest of the-then new state of California.
The commission has already determined a lease to cross state lands will require additional environmental review, and that will likely trigger a public process. That's good, and it demonstrates how poorly the Interior Department's original environmental review was, because they didn't even have the right land agency and land ownership indicated in their materials.
The shame is legislation could've been passed to prevent this. AB 1000 would've stopped the Cadiz project, but unfortunately, even though it was signed off by Governor Brown and nearly every Democrat in the legislature, it was held up by none other than Sen. Kevin DeLeón, who has otherwise been a solid environmental champion. DeLeón allowed the bill to die in committee in September, before announcing his intent to challenge fellow Democrat and desert conservation champion Dianne Feinstein for her incumbent U.S. Senate seat.
According to Bettina Boxall in the Los Angeles Times, "Cadiz donated $5,000 to a DeLeón campaign fund," in June. "Cadiz and [Cadiz Inc. founder Keith] Brackpool, a long-time friend of former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, have together contributed nearly $85,000 to Villaraigosa's gubernatorial campaign."
From the environmentalists I've spoken with, state lawmakers can take the case of AB 1000 back up in January, and the Trump Administration still has the State Lands Commission to deal with. How voters opt to handle Sen. DeLeón's role in killing AB 1000, however, is another matter.
Photos by Chris Clarke (top) and David Lamfrom (bottom).
Tommy Hough is a former San Diego broadcast personality, wilderness and parks advocate, California Democratic Party delegate, and the co-founder and former president of San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action. He was the endorsed Democratic candidate for San Diego City Council in District 6 in 2018.