The Greatest Debate, the Best Presidential Debate

As a professional facilitator, I have been disappointed by the failure of moderators to better manage the 2016 presidential debates. A clear set of rules could help to avoid the disrespectful banter that has dominated the dialogue.

While recognizing the debates have become a source of entertainment, there is still time for a meaningful debate, if the media and the candidates are willing.

Two primary rules should be followed:

  • The candidates should agree to respect the opinions of others even if they don’t embrace that point of view. The late Justice Anthonin Scalia said it best: “I respect the people who have them, but I think those views are just flat out wrong.”
  • The moderator should never lose control of the microphone.

Candidates would be allowed to respectfully say “I don’t agree with the way the U.S. is handling this issue.” They would not be allowed to disrespectfully say “he is lying about that.”

To maintain respectful dialogue, the moderator should be able to mute the microphone of each candidate. The first time a candidate violates any rule, he or she is cut off for five minutes. The second time, the penalty is ten minutes. Five minutes would be added for each violation thereafter.

Given the disrespectful tenor of the past debates, these two additional rules should also apply:

  • No references to other candidates, their policies, or the names of past presidents. For example, candidates should not say “I want to get rid of ObamaCare,” but would be allowed to say “the Affordable Care Act doesn’t achieve the health care reform we need. This is what’s wrong with it and what I would do to fix it.” This effectively would describe a point of view about the current status of healthcare without disparaging a person or personalizing policy. Similarly, they would not be allowed to allude to their opponents in a negative way. The purpose would be to focus on their own points of view instead of just blaming or praising others.
  • Adjectives that provide an opinion would not be allowed. Given the current rancorous dialogue, this rule would remove the ability to describe a policy by just calling it “great” or to characterize a candidate by calling their hands “small.”

These are the questions and the progression of the debate that would make it work.

  1. In place of an opening statement, what are the three most important professional positions you have held that qualify you to be president?
  2. What are the three most important issues or problems that must be addressed or resolved? Describe your view about why each is a problem in no more than three sentences using facts.
  3. What would this issue look like in the future if you could fix the problem?

The issues would be listed on the screen in the order that they were most frequently mentioned and discussed in that order. Each candidate be asked to list the three most important steps they would take to address the issue.

During the remaining time, candidates would debate the ideas for each issue, testing each other’s responses, but not personalizing them.

Closing comments would be limited to describing what they learned during the debate that will help them present their viewpoints to the American people during the rest of the campaign.

The debate should not be a party-centric. There are eight candidates remaining, three Republicans, three Democrats, one Green, and one Libertarian. Democrat Roque De La Fuente is on the ballot in all fifty states but has been ignored. Libertarian Gary Johnson, the former Governor of New Mexico, and Green candidate Jill Stein have also been invisible in the media.

De La Fuente, Johnson, and Stein have no chance of becoming president, but perhaps they have knowledge or points of view that would inform the dialogue. For example, De La Fuente is a major landowner on the Mexican border at San Diego and Johnson was the governor of a state bordering Mexico. They might provide some intelligent observations about border issues. Likewise, Jill Stein is a physician who might have thoughtful views on health care.

This debate format might attract and hold less viewers than those to-date, particularly those viewers who have been watching primarily to gape at the juvenile banter, but it would tell us more about the candidates and their ideas than we know now.

Two questions remain:

  • Is there a major media outlet willing to host a great debate, the best debate, using these rules?
  • Would the candidates participate if invited?

NOTE: This post first appeared in the Huffington Post on March 16, 2016.

Where In the West Are the Presidential Candidates?

As the presidential election cycle ramps up, the usual polarizations are apparent: blue states and red states, Tea Party vs. liberals, and right-to-life vs. choice. The new anti-establishment trend has firmly established itself with Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump gaining unexpected support.

However, another trend has gone unexplored by campaign analysts: the lack of candidates from the West.
Presidential Candidates Residences 2

The above map of all 2016 presidential candidates locates their city of residence and shows the South and the Northeast are well represented with well-known candidates, but the West doesn’t even have one with name recognition.

As defined by U.S. Census Bureau, the West has a population of 76 million, nearly 25 percent of the nation. Except for the Libertarian Gary Johnson from New Mexico and Democrat Roque De La Fuente from California, there are no candidates from the western half of the country. Both De La Fuente and Johnson are virtually unknown, have no access to debates, and might not be representative of the West even if they were to be heard. But we haven’t heard from them, so we don’t know.
Remaining Presidential Candidates Residences
As of February 21, 2016, ten candidates remained, and the map above of those remaining shows even more clearly the representation of candidates with name recognition from the South and the Northeast.

Every sitting president must take into account the needs of the populations of all the states. However, that accounting is shaped by the dialogue of the campaign season. Without strong, recognizable voices competing in the presidential campaign, even voices unlikely to win, the interests, issues and opportunities that come from the West will be less likely to be heard. As a result, western issues will be less likely to gain traction with the next administration.

“Without strong, recognizable voices competing in the presidential campaign, even voices unlikely to win, the interests, issues and opportunities that come from the West will be less likely to be heard.”

A good example is the immigration/border issue. The national agenda has focused on illegal immigration, closing the border, and striking fear into working class audiences about how illegal immigrants are taking U.S. jobs. A California point of view might ask how could the border be more open, how could we better take advantage of the synergies between our two economies, and how we can create programs that allow legal status to workers needed to fill seasonal positions so they aren’t considered criminals?

There are those who argue that U.S. workers won’t take jobs that are filled by immigrant workers. The discussion about how immigrant workers take low paying jobs does not rise to an understanding that workers who have crossed the border illegally have no way to object to low pay. There is no discussion about how pay levels might improve if those workers had legal status, even to the point where more U.S. workers would take some of those jobs. Whether these points of view are right or wrong the dialogue to bring clarity is missing.

Consumers and the businesses who hire undocumented immigrants likely benefit through lower labor costs and a resultant lower cost of goods and services, but at the expense of creating an illegal class of marginalized workers. This discussion is not on the table, in part because there are no candidates from the West who understand the immigration issues in a different way.

According to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the U.S. is the largest import market for Mexico with $293 billion coming to the U.S. and Mexico is the second largest export market to the U.S. with $243 billion being exported to Mexico. Every dollar spent by the U.S. in trade with Mexico returns forty cents to the U.S. because the products Mexico exports to the U.S. contain a high percentage of U.S. components. Compare this to the exchange with China where only six cents is returned to the U.S. for each dollar spent on Chinese goods exported to the U.S. Where in the presidential debates is the dialogue on the importance of bringing manufacturing in China back to Mexico which would boost the economies of both Mexico and the U.S.? In addition, there would be global benefits in reducing carbon emissions and benefits to the U.S. companies outsourcing manufacturing because they would be closer to the manufacturing facilities. Who is talking about that?

The current relationship between the U.S. and Mexico has been forged through the High Level Economic Dialogue, an effort to place national priorities on cross-border transportation infrastructure, security, education and other issues of mutual importance. The educational initiative has a goal of 100,000 students from each country studying in the other country by 2020. This is intended to increase long-term relationships, cultural understanding and trade over time. With no western candidates, there are no voices to explain the strategy behind these initiatives or discuss whether it is important to the nation’s future.

From climate change and energy policy to water rights, there are viewpoints in the West that deserve focus in the campaign dialogue, but without western candidates to voice them, the silence is deafening.

NOTE;This article first appeared on LinkedIn on February 29, 2016, and later the same day on IVN.

Water Update April 9, 2015

The Nett Report SPECIAL EDITION – 2015 Water Update

As California moves into the 16th year of a drought pattern, it is more important than ever to stay up-to-date on the status of water and what is being done to address the impacts of low water supplies to the economy, the environment, and ability of various sectors from all regions to work together toward both short and long-term solutions. This special edition of “The Nett Report” is designed to give clients and friends an overview of the subject. Nettleton Strategies specializes in water and other issues relating to sustainability and resource use. If you need media relations, government relations, communications, or facilitation services regarding water or other issues, please contact us at: info@nettstrategies.com.


The State of the State’s Water
Governor Brown Announcing Water Restrictions and Snow PackOn April 1, 2015, California Governor Jerry Brown announced a mandatory 25 percent reduction in water use throughout the state, excluding agriculture. Depending on past levels of conservation, communities will be required to achieve water savings of between 10 and 35 percent. The specifics of the proposed cutbacks can be visualized on this New York Times Interactive map. Some communities are likely to protest the levels of cutback. The details of the restrictions to help achieve these reductions can be found in this story from VOX. NBC San Diego created a short quiz to help its viewers become aware of the restrictions. The photo at left is at the site of the press conference where Governor Brown made the announcement regarding the restrictions. The location where he is standing is adjacent to where the state’s snow pack is measured every year. April 1 is considered the date when the snow pack in the northern Sierras is at its peak. In a normal year, there would be five to six feet of snow on the ground where he is standing (see graph below).

How Low is California’s Snow Pack?
As shown in the photo with Governor Brown above, the snow pack is essentially non-existent.  There is some snow in the Sierras, approximately 5 percent of average, but the graph below shows how this year compares to an average year, last year, the year before, the previous worst year (1976-1977), and the wettest year (1982-1983). A foot of snow fell in the Sierras early on the week of April 6 which will provide a small amount of additional supply (image courtesy of Department of Water Resources, California Data Exchange Center).

April 1 2015 Northern Sierra Snowpack 650 px

Understanding Reservoir Capacities
Media reports often use local reservoirs as a backdrop for drought stories, giving the impression that the levels of these reservoirs are indicative of the status of available water supply.  While local reservoirs play an important role in capturing San Diego’s limited rainwater, their primary role is as storage for the imported water that supplies more than 85 percent of the region’s supplies. To gain a sense of the relative size of reservoirs that are important to San Diego, please see the chart below displaying the capacities of four representative reservoirs and how imported water flows to and through them.

Reservoir Capacities copy

Both Lake Mead on the Colorado River and Lake Oroville in the northern Sierras provide water to the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. One of the reservoirs receiving that water is Diamond Valley Lake, built in 1999 to help bolster Southern California reserve capacities. Diamond Valley is connected by aqueduct to San Diego, and the San Vicente Reservoir has recently been expanded to provide the largest local storage capacity.  From this chart, you can see that the reservoirs with the greatest water storage capacity are Lake Mead and Lake Oroville, however, each reservoir throughout the state’s water system plays an important role in capturing, storing and transferring water.

Where Are Reservoir Storage Levels Now?
Storage in Lake Mead on the Colorado River is hovering above the shortage level. Because that level has not yet been reached, California is receiving its full allocation of Colorado River water. Snow pack in the Rockies was below average this year, but not at record lows. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation projects there is a 21 percent chance the water level in Lake Mead will drop below the shortage level in 2016 and a 54 percent chance in 2017. Even if shortage rules go into effect, Arizona and Nevada are required to take the first cuts in supply. However, it is likely that California will help its neighboring states should that occur. Lake Oroville, the primary storage reservoir for the State Water Project, is at 66 percent of average and 51 percent of capacity. These numbers are not shocking in themselves except that with snow pack at an historic low, containing only five percent of average water content, there will be little snowmelt to replenish Oroville as the reservoir is drawn down during the summer. The graphic below illustrates the issue (image courtesy of Department of Water Resources, California Data Exchange Center).

 2015

  Colorado River Concern About Future Water Levels Results in New Hoover Dam Turbines
Colorado River Aqueduct copyAlthough Colorado River supplies are not yet at shortage levels, last year the New York Times reported that the Colorado River and reservoirs from the Rockies to southern Arizona “are being sapped by 14 years of drought nearly unrivaled in 1,250 years.” Last year, for the first time, water released from Lake Powell to Lake Mead was decreased by ten percent, but those cutbacks did not affect Lake Mead allocations. The Times said that “studies now show that the 20th century was one of the three wettest of the last 13 centuries in the Colorado basin. On average, the Colorado’s flow over that period was actually 15 percent lower than in the 1900s. And most experts agree that the basin will get even drier.” Five new  turbines have been installed in the Hoover Dam to keep the power plant working with less water in the reservoir.

Is It a Four-Year Drought or a 16-Year Drought?
Most news outlets have reported California is entering its fourth year of drought since 2011, a year with well above average precipitation.  However, many climate scientists agree that California has been in a drought pattern since 1999. Since that year there have been only two water years that have been significantly above average: 2011, as mentioned above, and 2006. To illustrate the situation, the image below shows Sacramento River runoff between 2002 and 2015. The 2000 and 2001 water years were also below average (image courtesy Metropolitan Water District of Southern California).

Sacramento River Runoff Drought Since 1999

Is the Drought Due to Climate Change?
Ridiculously Resilient Ridge 2015While climate change is projected to significantly change future weather and precipitation patterns, the current drought does not appear to be climate related. Most climate scientists attribute the drought to variability in annual precipitation patterns. In addition, there appears to be no linkage between either oceanic or climatic conditions that could account for the last two years of very limited precipitation. The culprit is a persistent high-pressure system (see image on the left) that has blocked storms from reaching Northern California and most of the West Coast. Known as the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge, this high-pressure system has forced storms north into the Arctic, and they have found their way back into the continental U.S.. creating the severe cold weather that has brought record-breaking snow to the eastern U.S. However, scientists admit that two consecutive record-breaking dry years is unusual. It is clear that climate change has exacerbated the drought. Record warm temperatures have caused what precipitation has reached the state to fall as rain rather than snow, contributing to the minimal snow pack. In addition, the heat dries the soil and vegetation, creating a greater chance of fire danger and increasing water use for irrigation in both urban and rural areas (image courtesy NOAA).

To further inform the conclusion that the last two years of historically low precipitation and the current drought are not part of a climate pattern, scientists also analyzed tree ring research which shows there have been a number of drought periods in history not unlike the current dry period. Here are some highlights of that research:

  • 1580 – the driest single year in history when the estimated flow of the San Joaquin River was half of the 1976-77 water year.  1976-77 is considered the lowest flow year in the modern era.
  • Mid-1100s –  marked by a rarity of wet years.
  • Mid-1400s – a persistent drought when precipitation was less than the median for 13 consecutive years.
  • 20th century – droughts longer than four years were not unusual.

This historical data was gathered from tree ring studies going back to 900 A.D., researched and published by the University of Arizona’s Laboratory of Tree Ring Research.

Finding Your Water Use Restrictions and Tips for Conserving Water
SDCWA EGuide copyTo find water use restrictions your water agency has implemented, the San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA) has created an agency locator. A link to each agency will take you to the page with the water restriction rules currently in place. You can also find information about ways to conserve water at the SDCWA web site and at each agency’s site. One quality product is the Water Authority’s “Guide to a WaterSmart Lifestyle.” This 140-page digital book is an interactive resource to water conservation and can be accessed on computer, tablet, or smartphone. The guide is in a flipbook format that allows you to move through the pages as if it were a real book. Interactive features allow users to share ideas on Facebook, electronically “pin” plant and garden photos for their followers, watch videos, and scroll through a library of images. The eGuide includes plant finders, interactive maps, animated graphics, landscape design tools, and details about rebates and incentives. The San Diego Union-Tribune has published a story, “33 Ways You Can Save Water Now,” that can also be helpful.

Nettleton Strategies Out and About on the Water Issue
With more than 30 years of experience with water issues, Nettleton Strategies continues to participate in water-related activities.  Here are some of the more recent highlights.

  • Currently participating on the working group developing a curriculum for the CCO Training Bootcamp on “The Fundamentals of the Energy, Water & Food Nexus,” a component of the Climate Change Officer Certification for the Association of Climate Changer Officers.
  • Interviewed regarding water conservation on NBC San Diego’s Politically Speaking with Equinox Center Executive Director Stephen Heverly. Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, San Diego County Water Authority General Manager Dennis Cushman, were on the previous segment. March 29, 2015.
  • Represented Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) in a roundtable discussion on the Water Energy Nexus convened by the California Senate Select Committee on Climate Change and AB32 Implementation chaired by Senator Fran Pavley. March 20, 2015.
  • Presented “California Drought – a Big Picture Perspective with NIDIS Insights” at the University of San Diego’s University of the Third Age. January 15, 2015.
  • Guest host and moderator for the Global Classroom “Resilient Cities – Designing Resilient Waste Systems” for the World Resources Simulation Center Summer Series 2014. July 31, 2014.
  • Presented “California Drought – a Big Picture Perspective with NIDIS Insights” at the Water Conservation Action Committee, July 20, 2014, and at multiple other public venues.
  • Facilitated “Making Stormwater Alternative Compliance Programs Work: Opportunities in Development, Funding and Partnering,” sponsored by Procopio, July 17, 2014. The event was a live interactive session with nearly 150 stormwater professionals including San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board Executive Officer David Gibson.
  • Moderated the Public Policy Panel at San Diego World Affairs Council’s Climate Energy and Climate Change Symposium, May 14, 2015. Panel included Representative Scott Peters; Ambassador Reno Harnish, Director of the Center for Environment and National Security at Scripps Institution of Oceanography; and Gary Gero, President of the Climate Action Reserve.
  • Interviewed by KPBS Evening Edition regarding the San Diego World Affairs Council Climate and Energy Symposium, May 12, 2014.
  • Moderated the Water/Energy Nexus panel at the February 2014 Climate Leadership Conference hosted by theAssociation of Climate Change Officers.

Nettleton Strategies serves on the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce Energy and Water Committee and on the leadership group for the Water Conservation Action Committee. Other current activities include working with clients or partners on municipal water conservation projects,financing concepts for water recycling, and developing a data analysis tool related to water, emissions and energy. If you need assistance with water regulations, moving your water-saving technology into the mainstream, or just connecting with the right people in the right places, please contact Nettleton Strategies (see below).

The Ocean: San Diego’s Greatest Asset

The Oceans and the Economy of San DiegoThe recent 2013 Regional Economic Development Forum included a Mega-Region Economic Development Panel, six business leaders charged with discussing “economic development tools and regional assets” that have led to their firms’ successes. While not an intentional outcome of the session, five of the six panelists demonstrated that the ocean is important to their firms’ presence in the region. Between them, they represented San Diego’s manufacturing, research, military, tourism and marine sectors. Continue reading “The Ocean: San Diego’s Greatest Asset”

Boosting Clean Tech Development and Implementation

Air2Air Mag15 Boosting Clean Tech 201305California’s push to be an international leader in the development of clean technology will soon receive a boost from two new sources of funding:

  • New tax revenues generated by Proposition 39 (2012) and
  • The auction of carbon credits called for by the implementation of the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006.

Let’s review each of these in detail.

Continue reading “Boosting Clean Tech Development and Implementation”

The Dynamics of San Diego’s Water Supply

Air2Air Mag14 Dynamices of Water 201301With water being an increasingly precious commodity in San Diego, as well as all over the world, understanding the dynamics of water supply is critical.

For starters, San Diego has three primary sources of water (2011 statistics):

  • 30 percent is imported from the Sacramento San Joaquin Bay Delta
  • 54 percent is imported from the Colorado River
  • 16 percent is from local sources

Some factoids of interest include:

Continue reading “The Dynamics of San Diego’s Water Supply”

Strategic Alliance Formed with Clean Tech Advocates

 

 

 

February 1, 2013

Nettleton Strategies today announced the firm has formed a strategic alliance with Clean Tech Advocates, a new Sacramento-based government affairs firm focused on “collaborating with other clean technology pioneers, innovators and environmental policy-shapers for the greater good of California.”

According to Nettleton Strategies President Carl Nettleton, the alliance brings his firm a stellar resource for connecting clients with the state’s regulatory, legislative and funding initiatives related to clean technology.

“Clean Tech Advocates expertise and relationships provide access and insight at every level of state government,” Nettleton said.  Clean Tech Advocates principals include:

Continue reading “Strategic Alliance Formed with Clean Tech Advocates”

Getting the Words Out of the Way

A2A Mag13 Words in the Way 201211 150 px copy

Communicating about public policy and business issues is a challenge.  We all use words that we think mean the same thing to other people, but don’t. The words get in the way of our ability to move forward together.

In the Dr. Seuss’ book “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish,” author Theodore Geisel writes:

Say!  What a lot of fish there are.
Some are sad. And some are glad.

Continue reading “Getting the Words Out of the Way”

From Foreign Fuels to Biofuels

How the Military is Helping to Lead the Transition

In June, a Gulfstream G450 made the first trans-Atlantic flight powered by biofuel. Two weeks later international aviation regulators approved commercial use of renewable fuel. On Labor Day, one of the pilots on the Blue Angels team performed in a plane with a 50 percent biofuel mix. In addition, Forbes Magazine has reported that “aviation could be the first global industry to kick fossil fuel addiction.”

The Blue Angels’ demonstration is particularly important because the Department of Defense (DoD) has taken a lead role in transitioning from being one

Continue reading “From Foreign Fuels to Biofuels”

Paradise in Progress

An Untold Story About Building Downtown San Diego

The year was 1999, The San Diego Convention Center Expansion was underway, and planning for Petco Park and the 26-block redevelopment area surrounding it was in full swing. There were 30 projects in progress and more than 100 on the drawing boards, including high rise condominiums, water and sewer pipelines, road-way improvements, hotels. Concern was brewing. How could downtown businesses, residents and the all-important visitors navigate a downtown that everyone feared would be torn apart by construction?

Continue reading “Paradise in Progress”