California Department of Transportation, 2021, Earth Day [Global Insight] California Senator on global partnerships and green recovery

Remember the environment that surrounds and sustains us and the pressing challenges we face as the world aims to make a green recovery from the cove 19 pandemic. Many countries are working to reshape their industrial landscapes, living spaces and transportation to make them sustainable for our planet and our future generations. The united states administration has recently announced a 2 trillion plan to build resilience against a variety of economic, social and climate related challenges. It’S a plan of unprecedented ambition and scale for the american nation, but for years, activists and politicians have been advocating for such changes, and today we speak with california senator robert hertzberg, who has long been campaigning for sustainability and for the protection of civic rights. Now elected to the state assembly in 1996, mr herzberg has since been the architect behind some of california’s, most successful programs to cut carbon, revamp infrastructure, rebuild education and empower all social groups. Hello, senator it’s great, to have you on our show. Thank you for joining us. How are you today, i’m great and thank you so kindly? I appreciate it and i think that this is a show that shows the connectivity of all of us on this very small planet. Indeed, although i would love to be on the other side in california, with your sunny conditions, but well, a lot of thunder in california and you’ve been calling for a lot of uh you’ve been calling for alternative energy, affordable housing, clean drinking water and better educations.

Since the beginning of your political career and you achieve success with steps towards sustainable future for california, what do you then make of this two trillion dollar plan that mr biden’s office announced last week? Do you think it’s ambitious enough? Yes, in addition to well, if you just start for a minute, first of all, california’s economy is booming uh. We have a huge surplus and we’re going to use a lot of that money from california as a result of the growth of the economy, even in this pandemic time to invest in infrastructure, green infrastructure, broadband, all sorts of things that are important to those goals. Second, the the president and the congress in the united states put out a 1.9 trillion dollar plan, of which 151 billion dollars comes to california. Again, a lot of that provides opportunity for more of this investment and then third, the point that you ask on this two trillion: dollar investment. It is transformational there’s, no there’s, no blueprint on this before maybe except in our country. When franklin, roosevelt was president, and we have to be smart about how we invested and really try to be a catalyst for investment, and i think there’ll be a lot of opportunities. There’S unbelievable relationships between south korea and the united states, particularly california, i’ve, been there many times, and we just built a big tower with korean airlines in downtown los angeles and um. I think it’s great opportunities for all of us and and there’s a shared values in terms of this level of a green economy for all of us, i’ve seen it in your country, well, you’ve been advocating infrastructural and environmental policies for years and years, and i imagine That the journey has been an incredibly tough one, given all the political yeah i’m, not that old.

It can’t be that long years and years right just a few years then but i’m sure you’ve seen some uh a lot of um bickering and fights in your time and well. How challenging do you think it’s going to be to really push through this 2 trillion plan through congress hard hard? Okay, get a life, go to work i’m. Sure your parents told you the same thing that’s. Why you’re sitting on that set today as being someone as popular as you are don’t bellyache about it, put on your work and clothes and go to work of course, it’s hard uh, you know, but it doesn’t mean it’s not valuable and i suspect there’ll be some Modifications the thing about biden is he’s been around a long time. He knows how to negotiate, and so it might not be as big, but even if it isn’t it’s still gon na be gigantic. You know there’s no other way around it. I mean when you’re, when you say like two: it seems like a small word, but it’s me followed by the word trillion, which is a you know, a very big number. It blows out of proportion really and well it’s a big change, a drastic change in u.s uh policy, because well for the last four years. You’Ve had president who’s denied that global warming exists and but of course, his denial hasn’t exactly stopped. The forces of global warming and the impact of climate change has continued to progress.

How situation? How serious is the issue right now i mean how are these environmental challenges affecting society and the quality of life? Well, i think you only need to go and whether it’s of your listeners in all parts of the world that are listening to this now look at the next generation, they’re really worried about this stuff. In terms of their future. I don’t blame them, it’s a serious, serious problem and let’s assume that that we’re wrong and we transfer to electricity and we transfer away from carbon fuels. Okay. What? If we’re right? We need to get it right, the consequences to humanity and all parts of the globe. You know we, as human beings form these governments and we have cities and states and counties and countries, but the globe is one place and the pollution from one part of the worth to the other part of the earth affects us all, and we have to think Globally, that’s, why these relationships are so important that’s, why i’ve traveled many times to your country and other parts of the world to build those kinds of relationships, so it’s a very big deal and i think it’s going to have very significant economic impacts across the globe. Many companies in south korea and other parts of the world are doing incredible things in the green space and it’s, having a really both a benefit to the environment, but also a benefit to economies and how has outdated infrastructure and a lack of access to very critical Public services affected communities very disproportionately, well, there’s, two things: you know as i’ve traveled the world one goes to china and you see all the brand new airports.

You have a number of new airports. Japan has a number of new airports. A lot of the airports that we have in our in the united states were built many years ago and they’re also in city centers, where there’s all sorts of challenges, and so we need to really you know reinvent ourselves. We need to start working on that stuff, it doesn’t last forever streets, don’t, last forever bridges, don’t last forever, and and so when we were on the forefront of things many years ago in the united states. Now, a lot of that infrastructure is old and needs to be replaced. The economic activity as a result of it there’s a number of korean firms by the way that are involved in a lot of infrastructure development here in california, that we’ve hired on public works projects. So it’s really really important that we upgrade it and, more importantly, in communities that are more challenged where they have freeways going through them, where there’s certain communities, where there’s various other aspects of of environmental justice issues that are affected it’s critically important. So you know, look the idea for all of us in our democratic societies. Are we continually rethink? We continually course correct. We continually improve, we don’t judge it. We just get better, we learn we grow and that’s what we need to be doing now. Well, california is, of course, one of the most diverse states in america, if not the most and well.

What efforts do you think are needed to really ensure that minority groups and underserved groups across all of america, aren’t left behind as the nation tries to move forward? Well, we’re doing that if you were to be when you come to california next, i know you’re only here when you’re nine months old, but next time you come, you should come to the state legislature and watch the level of discussions that we have in our government Are extraordinary in terms of protecting underserved in trying to create a fair and just system of government i’m, just finishing a book that i’m writing called actually course: correction, revising the social contract in california and what i’m looking at is this big problem of the rich poor Divide that also is all around, and the listeners here listening to this around the world it’s a significant problem. We have to really think through. All of us need to do this to be able to make sure there’s better opportunities for people who are poor, whether it’s through home ownership, instead of being renters, whether it’s, you know student loans for kids getting out of schools. You know there’s a whole host of things that we’re looking at here in california. We just put out a big budget proposal today and it’s completely uh informed by creating a more just and equitable society. It is important for all of us and well. It looks like mr biden’s going to go quite big on electric vehicles and california has received a lot of global attention because it’s really leading in terms of sales and and market growth in terms of electric vehicles in america, possibly across the world as well.

How do you, how do you, then? How did you manage to encourage drivers to actually uh go electric and uh? What kind of outcomes have you seen in public health spending as a result of all these policies? Money? Real simple? You know i don’t mean to be so fancy, but if you bought an electric car, we gave you a seven thousand five hundred dollar tax credit. So if you leased it if for three years, that’s 7500 dramatically reduced the cost. Second, we created it. You know like you have in seoul: we got traffic, unfortunately, and so we created a special lane where you could, if you had electric car, you can get outside the traffic and travel in that lane and you have a sticker on your car. So we’ve done those kinds of things: we’ve, given other kinds of tax incentives to elon musk at tesla and other things to deal with it. We’Re now spending a bunch of money in addition to what the federal government’s doing to put in charging stations everywhere and really try to. You know build that infrastructure and to create the incentives for people to to drive electric right, really making it accessible and also another thing you’ve been working for is water issues where you’ve been working on water issues for a long time, and you introduced the drought resilient Communities at can you tell us what you’ve achieved with that and what you think is really crucial to allowing now all americans to enjoy access to clean water, one of the goals of this new infrastructure plan.

Well, your your producers are doing their homework. That’S, pretty amazing. All the way across the globe, someone knows about that act, that’s funny, uh, i’m, joking, but but no i’ve been. I wrote my dissertation on water years ago. The thing about california just two points i want to make that are important. That are interesting because california is such a fun and interesting place and i’m sure a lot of your listeners have been here. Uh um viewers have been here is: is that it’s really interesting? Southern california has no water. So what we do is we. We build a big uh, uh canal from the colorado river and we bring in water that direction and then we go and we build canals from northern california and bring in water in southern california, because a big part of the population is in los angeles, koreatown and Los angeles, one of largest populations outside of seoul outside of all of south korea, that we have that. Actually i used to live in and represented the korean times and korean grocers association and had the first korean speaking lawyer in my office many many years ago. Uh. But but the point is: is that that’s what we’ve done so we need to be smarter and more resilient about how we do this. You know taking water instead of putting the ocean recharge. The groundwater uh um we’ve had wait. Now we have a drought where we only are allocating in the farmers five percent of their allocations, so where this act is all about and what we’ve done a couple of years ago is conservation conservation in the agricultural communities, conservation in cities uh, you know and really Trying to be smart about how we use water because it is so precious.

You know there’s one of these old sayings here in the united states that whiskey’s for drinking and waters for fighting over, and that has really been the case. I’Ve been dealing with this, for i don’t know, 45 years or so, and it’s uh it’s been an unbelievable issue and there’s nothing more important to all of us than water, and you definitely have very strong connections to uh the korean community and korea, south korea itself And you served as uh chair of the los angeles economic development corporation in 2004 and 2011 and that’s, the largest economic development agency in the country, so very significant rule and you’ve led trade missions to east asia, and that would include south korea, japan and china. To really facilitate bilateral investment and trade opportunities, you’ve mentioned a couple of areas where we could collaborate but which industries do you think are really uh promising and what strengths do you think we can really put together from both? Well, when i went i went, i went i’ve been to korea many many times. I think the first time i was there and was in 86, which i suspect you weren’t nine months old then. But the point is that uh, you know i’ve been in many times and done a lot of business there, and also both leading delegations as speaker of the legislature, as well as as delegations as the chairman of the cal los angeles county economic development corporation and the La world trade uh center trade council, so so uh it actually.

We went and met with chairman cho, who unfortunately passed away from the korean airlines, son walter uh and, and he built this extraordinary, the tallest building in downtown los angeles. If you come here, you got ta come to it. He just did it fantastic job, it’s, really a fun place with the i think, it’s 73rd floors, where you check in and there’s a bar up at the top it’s, really a lot of fun and so um. But look i think that there’s a lot of opportunity for investment, the size of the community, the korean american community here is nothing less extraordinary, there’s, a lot of opportunities as big korean banks, korean insurance, but also in the green energy space and construction. A lot of this infrastructure, the the opportunities, are nothing less than extraordinary. The relationships are incredible, and you know we. We really spend a lot of time together and with the consul generals and and with so many other people in the business community, the religious community and the like. So i i’m bullish on korea, i’m bullish in terms of the region, how important it is for president biden and the secretary of state to really bolster relationships. I think, given the challenges that are faced in the region, it’s critically important, so you know i’m on this call today, as this majority leader of the california senate, because i believe in this relationship – and i think it’s really important well, i myself would love to visit California, as you have suggested, and really you have an implementation of changes and you know see the teslas, try the hamburgers and also go to k town, because if the rumors are true, the korean food, there is better than it is here in south korea.

So my last question to you really: do you have any favorite korean foods or anything you like to barbecue barbecue barbecue, barbecue, yeah korean barbecue, it’s? Incredible, but i lived. I live. My father’s law office, who was a lawyer for many many years, was in k, town and and i lived right in the middle of canada, but i when i started there, i think cape town was like 60 000. now it’s, like 450 000 folks, it’s gotten really Huge i’m telling you we were very involved with the community it’s a lot of fun. People are very gracious and very kind, and uh it’s a real asset to the city of los angeles. I actually ran for mayor of los angeles 16 years ago and lost by just a smidge and a handful of votes, but uh, and the korean community was very, very supportive of my effort for mayor i’ve got these. You know koreans for herzberg signs, it’s kind of fun. Well, it’s really encouraging to hear about all these efforts to really rebuild societies, make them more resilient to all these challenges we face and to be going global, whether as well as california has and well i’m afraid we’re out of time today. But we really appreciate you joining us on our show. This was senator robert hertzberg majority leader in the california state senate. Again, thank you very much for your insights today. Come to california, we will try after the pandemic is over.

Thank you so much then, and to our viewers. As always.

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