Tag Archives: Ash Kalra

San Jose’s Ash Kalra Gets An ‘A’ On Climate Change

San Jose Asemblymember Ash Kalra (CA-27) got an ‘A’ from the California League of Conservation Voters (CLCV), winning a 99% rating as a climate change champion when CLVC released its annual California Environmental Scorecard this year.

Unfortunately, the state of California got a dismal C.

The Scorecard is a comprehensive analysis of where the state’s leaders stand on the environment and climate change.

Kalra was named Nature Defender  by CLVC for championing AB 3030 in the state assembly, to preserve biodiversity and access to nature. He  was recognized as “someone the environmental community can always count on to be the progressive leader and environmental champion that California needs.”

Kalra’s  track record supporting a range of environmental bills on the assembly floor (buffer zoners for oil and gas safety, clean cars, and transparency within the Department of Toxic Substances Control), earned a 100% rating for two consecutive years (2017 and 2018), and a 99% in 2019.

Most recently he co-authored AB 1289, with Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), to help smaller family farms stay in business by transitioning from animal agriculture to sustainable plant-based agriculture.

Kalra stated that CLCV was his ‘go-to group “ for environmental leadership because they were helping combat the climate crisis with new, innovative proposals designed “to strengthen clean air and water for our communities.”

Mary Creasman, CLCV CEO, said that though California had a reputation for being progressive, 2020 was largely a year of ‘climate change inaction.’

Only 11 (nine Assemblymembers and two Senators) out of 120 legislators scored 100%.

Governor Gavin Newsom earned a score of 87% despite California’s poor track record on climate change initiatives last year, only because he issued executive orders  at the year end to conserve biodiversity and boost climate resilience

CLVC said that the climate crisis took a back seat in Sacramento last year. For the first time, the annual Scorecard revealed that 70% of the California Legislature accepted campaign contributions from oil companies and major oil industry Political Action Committees (PACs). According to their analysis, 60% of Democrats and 100% of Republicans took these dollars.

Even though Kalra and a small band of legislators fought for climate justice, they failed to convince a majority in the legislature to pass bold policies. In reality, corporate interests are still calling the shots in Sacramento when it comes to the environment and public health, added Creasman.

“Corporate polluters continue to have an outsized impact on policy in Sacramento.”

With less than nine years left to address the most severe impacts of climate change, the California League of Conservation Voters is calling for renewed action in Sacramento and, in particular, the development of a comprehensive climate action plan for the state.

Mike Young, Political and Organizing Director at CLCV urged the Governor and the legislature to work together to renew their focus on the climate crisis. He pointed them to the Biden Administration’s climate action plan, with justice, jobs and public health at its center, nothing that “We need a vision for the future that centers the health and safety of Californians.”

CLVC called for California to create a clear climate action plan of its own, because “the country and the world is looking to California for leadership.”

California’s Overall Score: 74%

Governor Newsom’s Score: 87%

Assembly Overall Average Score: 71%

Senate Overall Average Score: 73%

Meera Kymal is a Contributing Editor at India Currents

Connecting to Nature is Good for Public Health

The Bay Area is a great place to live in. It is blessed with progressive land planning that has set aside vast open space areas for recreation. Measures, like Measure Q and now T, to be voted in by the people, ensure that open spaces in Santa Clara Valley stay protected and accessible.

During the lock-down, families truly appreciate the value of access to public parks and open spaces. 

Atulya Sarin, Professor of Santa Clara University lost his beloved 12 year old dog Bufar Bryant Sarin last year. During the pandemic Sarin yearned to be outdoors . “I truly understand how my dog Bufar felt,” says Atulya Sarin with a smile, “I can’t wait for 5pm when I can go for my walk.” 

What helped families like Professor Sarin’s to escape to the outdoors was Measure Q, a $24 parcel-tax that was approved in 2014 by voters. It generated approximately $7.9 million per year, thereby enabling the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority to nearly double protected space in the county to more than 26,000 acres.

 It also preserved about 1,000 acres in North Coyote Valley, so Santa Clara Valley’s residents had open spaces and lands to escape to during lockdown.

Measure T, on the November 2020 ballot, renews Measure Q – keeping the parcel tax at $24 – but with the clause that it will renew automatically each year unless ended by voters. 

All funds are spent in the cities of San Jose, Milpitas, Santa Clara, Campbell, Morgan Hill, and in the unincorporated portions of Santa Clara County.

“We are in a great place and the reason we are in a great place is because measure Q gave us resources to buy up land,” said state Assemblymember Ash Kalra at a virtual meeting organized by Ethnic Media Services on October 1. At the end of the day, said Kalra, the land cannot be protected unless it is bought. Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority purchased land to protect it permanently. 

“We can zone land any which way, but a different council can change that. It is critical therefore that in addition to legislation to create a conservation program we must have the Open Space Authority have resources to purchase and protect the land permanently,” he said. 

Coyote Valley

A case in point is Coyote Valley – 7,400 acres of land between the Santa Cruz mountains and the Diablo range. The land is key for flood protection and safeguarding the valley’s ecological livelihood. 

In the 1980s, Apple eyed Coyote Valley as a place to build its world headquarters. In the 1990s, Cisco Systems tried to build a massive campus there. Environmental groups, who said the area — currently used by farmers and wildlife — should be left in its natural state, fought both proposals.

“We all know a little bit of development causes a domino effect and next thing you know it really becomes a totally different type of landscape. 

Measured Response

The pandemic and wildfires have choked California this year.   

“Scientists are telling us that we need to protect 30 percent of the land to keep global warming at bay,” said Kalra. “The more land we can protect the more we can combat global warming. We are seeing how human behavior is connected to all these tragedies,” he said.

South Bay leaders at the press briefing urged a vote for Measure T, which would preserve a tax used for parks and open areas.

“We need to protect this open space for the preservation of a sustainable future for California,” said state Assemblymember Ash Kalra, a long-time environmental advocate. 

Expanding public access to nature improves public health  “Spending as little as two hours a week in nature, 15-20 minutes a day, can improve self-reported health and well-being,” says Sadiya Muqueeth, director community health at the Trust for Public Land.

“We can fix it! We created it and we can fix it,” said Kalra 

Ritu Marwah is a 2020 California reporting and engagement fellow at USC Annenberg’s Center for Health Journalism.


Ethnic Media Roundtable with Elected Officials

The Asian American population grew 72% between 2000 and 2015 (from 11.9 million to 20.4 million), the fastest growth for any major racial or ethnic group in the US; in California, 1 in 7 votes were cast by an Asian American. 

That is a powerful statistic.

Though Asian Americans have not been politically active historically, believing that their votes did not matter statistically, there are signs this may be changing. More political contenders are reaching out to ethnic communities they have overlooked because, by virtue of numbers, Asian Americans are a voting bloc with clout.

Five Californian elected officials participated in a Civic Leadership Forum on October 30, co-sponsored by India Currents and Ding Ding TV in Santa Clara, and shared their perspectives with ethnic media outlets that included Ethnic Media Services, VietPress USA, Mail Business Newspaper (Wall Street Journal in South Korea), Lion Television Channel 16.10, North California, GlinkNews, Tan Phuong Media, Voice of Chinese America, and design2market.

The officials included:

Vandana Kumar (Publisher, India Currents) and Diana Ding (CEO, Ding Ding TV) moderated the forum. The key takeaways were:

 How does the narrative in DC affect trust in government?

Ash Kalra commented that plummeting trust in our highest office “undermines trust in government” and impacts all communities, especially immigrants. After serving in the State government, Kansen Chu has decided to run for local office in the next election because he believes he can have a stronger impact in his community.  

Johnny Khamis was a Republican who became an Independent after the Trump Family Separation policy; he pointed out that true conservatives did not have a voice in the federal government “nobody trusts them because they have an R next to their name”.  

Chu and Kalra have created a Hate Crime select committee in Sacramento to combat hate crimes against immigrant communities and people of color that have increased since the last election. But, despite a growing culture promoting minority phobia, said Rishi Kumar, Silicon Valley remains a testament to the idea of a melting pot.

Ensuring ethnic communities get counted in Census 2020

“Everyone counts. It’s important to get that message out,” said Anna Song. She believes the Korean American community is one of the most siloed ethnic groups in America, and their lack of civic participation forces candidates with limited resources to dissect their ethnic data and reach out only to “high propensity voters”. So she would be more likely to canvass Chinese, Vietnamese or Indian- Americans, rather than Korean, said Song, simply because they show up at the polls more regularly. 

Kansen Chu  said that voter registration is critical. He hoped that a Korean woman running for office would generate interest in civic engagement in the Korean community. Chu emphasized the danger of an undercount leading to lost congressional seats and reduced federal funding for critical services (transportation, education and health care) for California. He also confirmed that the state has allocated the resources and budget necessary to ensure an accurate census.  

Getting Minority Voters to Vote

Johnny Khamis reaffirmed the importance of voting because he won by a single vote in his very first race, while Vandana Kumar called on elected officials to spend their marketing dollars on not just the mainstream media but also the smaller ethnic media outlets to urge minority communities to vote. 

Focusing on Local issues 

With wildfires raging across the state, Ash Kalra drew attention to the climate change crisis and the irresponsibility of allowing PG&E to operate as an investor-owned utility. “PG&E sees no reason to change its model, if the state keeps bailing them out,” he added, calling the influence of money in politics “detrimental to society.” Kalra believes the state government must make PG&E accountable and compensate those affected by the power shut offs. As for the housing crisis, Kalra blamed housing costs for keeping California’s poverty level high and opposition from builders and developers to market price housing initiatives.  

Are regulations throwing off the balance between innovation and human values for gig-economy workers in the Silicon Valley? 

A spirited debate rose between Ash Kalra and Johnny Khamis about the impact of regulations on California’s economy, with Kalra contending that “complete depletion of wages” rather than taxes and regulation, was responsible for stifling the fifth largest economy in the world; he asserted it was “harder for people to survive… because productivity, wealth and profits have gone up ..but wages have not”. 

Khamis argued that excessive regulation and taxing was responsible for some of the housing crisis, while complex environmental regulations were making it burdensome for builders to construct more affordable housing.  

Anna Song worried that Silicon Valley innovation has created a society of haves and have nots, with wealthy homeowners from companies like Uber outpacing Uber drivers economically. She sees this inequality also play out in the County Board of Education, with parents asking for Interdistrict transfers because we have “created a community where we cannot live where we work”.

Both Kalra and Khamis agreed that tax reform was vital. Kalra noted that the wealthy have a voice in the system which is why there are no increases in payroll, wealth or estate taxes because these are easier for corporations to support.   “We only tax the middle-income earners because that is easy to do,” said Khamis, so “we need different voices in the state legislature.”

Kalra also explained that the California law CB5 which did not include gig economy workers like Lyft & Uber in its exemptions, was not about stifling innovation but about respecting existing laws that other industries have to comply with to make the economy fair to all citizens.

“Everyone wants a free flowing economy and the only reason to throttle it would be to protect citizens,” said Rishi Kumar.

Should Facebook be a technology gatekeeper for political speech or for free speech?

There is general consensus that Facebook should be regulated if it’s violating norms when deciding “what we see, who sees it and how much they see it” based on their analytics and revenue generation model.  All speech should be protected said Kalra, with only exceptions for public safety because there could be consequences “if people don’t like what you say.”  

 Anjana Nagarajan-Butaney is a Bay Area resident with experience in educational non-profits, community building, networking and content development and was Community Director for an online platform. She is interested in how to strengthen communities by building connections to politics, science & technology, gender equality and public education.

Edited by Contributing Editor Meera Kymal