Squid Speaks

Woof, Grrrr…Squid was chillaxing in the lair, noshing on nine-layer dip, trying to keep Flapjack the Octopus (Squid’s bestie) from sucking down too many Jell-o shots and kind of watching the Superbowl (but mostly surfing the internet), when Squid came across a story that many at Squid’s football bash described as good news, but which made Squid shrug. Here’s the headline: “Squid Brains are Nearly as Complex as Dog Brains, Researchers Claim.” As Squid fixed Squid’s large eye on that headline, Squid’s beloved English bulldog, Rosco P. Coltrane, was in the corner, back leg thrown over his head so he could more effectively chew his own ass, making Squid wonder exactly what dogs do with their supposedly complex brains.

But Squid took a look at the article anyway. Here’s the first sentence: “We all know that cephalopods are wicked smart, and their complex nerve systems go some way to explain their aptitudes. Now, a first-of-its-kind magnetic resonance imaging study of squid brains confirms just how rich the connections in their brains truly are.”

Yeah, Squid thought, our brains ARE complex—we think of many things at once, things like, which local market has the best deal on shrimp this week, and, is Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., part cephalopod as well since he seems to be lacking a spine, and, which of our local legislators cares most about the environment.

Actually, that last question wouldn’t have occurred to Squid were it not for an email that arrived in Squid’s inbox last week from the California League of Conservation Voters. It was too late for Christmas, true, but what a gift it was: the league took a deep dive into the environmental voting records of every member of California’s legislature (State Sen. Brian Dahle, a Republican from El Dorado Hills, was in the sub-basement with a rating of 12 percent, having failed to participate in votes on six environmental bills and voting against iterations of those bills 12 other times. His lifetime ranking by the league is 13 percent.)

And over on the Democrats’ side, Monterey County’s own State Sen. Anna Caballero was also in the basement, given a 55-percent rating by the league and appointed to their “Polluter Caucus,” described by the league as the five legislators who are “standing in the way of climate solutions” and have “rolled back or halted our progress to protect the environment.” 

(Over on the league’s Goody Two Shoes list of environmental champions was State Sen. Bill Monning, who received the title “water champion,” a 100-percent rating and was described as having “the political will to introduce bold environmental action.” Over in the Assembly, meanwhile, Assemblymember Robert Rivas, D-Salinas, scored 94 percent on the report card, while Assemblymember Mark Stone, D-Santa Cruz, scored 99 percent.)

Back to Caballero, though. Squid knows that the environment isn’t necessarily her jam, although social justice is. Squid took a dive into her rankings and saw lots of green checkmarks, meaning Caballero had voted in favor of a lot of environmental bills: Yes on Safeguarding California from Crude Oil Spills, Yes on Banning Wildlife-Killing Rodenticides, Yes on Ongoing Funding for Cleanup of Lead Contamination and Yes on Complete Streets for Active Living. 

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All good stuff backed the the league, Squid thought, so why the 55 percent?

The league notes Caballero voted against SB 772, which would have publicly owned utilities and their ratepayers pay for pumped hydropower storage. She voted against SB 659, which would require the losing party of a lawsuit challenging a project through the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to pay the attorney’s fees for the prevailing party. She also introduced SB 25, which would restrict public participation through CEQA for a broad range of projects, including projects that are funded in whole or in part by Federal Opportunity Zone funds. (Squid notes: Salinas, Caballero’s stomping ground, is loaded with Opportunity Zones, and projects are looming and really, what developer wants to pay prevailing wages—sometimes the real goal unions are after in CEQA complaints—anyway?)

Squid’s human colleague reached out to Caballero’s team in Sacramento, and the senator called back to chat about the scorecard and where she stands on it. 

"I have seen it and I was disappointed because I think it mischaracterizes my positions. The environment is really important to me, but I've spent years working on issues that are equally important," she says. "The environmental community is more and more acting in a silo without looking at the consequences of the things they support and without building coalitions with other groups." 

Witness SB 25, Caballero says: "It is the greenest bill I've ever run and it has some of the highest standards that have to be met…and I probably won't even get a hearing on it. The environmental community has it hung up and the chair of the (environmental committee) has made a commitment to not advance anything that has CEQA in it and it's silly."

Not as silly as comparing Squid's brain to a dog's brain, but it's close.  

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