Senator Wolk Punished For Standing Up For Her District, Environment

LoisWolkLast fall when Democrats were crumbling in the face of water bill demands by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, one the Democrats who stood the strongest against potential destruction of the Delta was Senator Lois Wolk in her first term as Senator after spending six years in the Assembly.

Capitol Alert now reports that Senator Wolk has been punished for her leadership and vision in protecting the delta by having been stripped of key committee positions.  She has just two of the seven committee assignments she previously held.

Reports the Bee:

“[Senator] Wolk retained the chairmanship of the Revenue and Taxation Committee and a spot on the Natural Resources and Water committee and picked up one assignment — a seat on the Food and Agriculture Committee.

But she was stripped of seats on Appropriations, Budget and Fiscal Review, Health, Transportation and Housing and Local Government.”

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg’s spokesperson Alicia Trost of course claims that Wolk was not specifically targeted in the committee reorganization.

“It’s consistent with our overall goal of reducing workload so members can focus on specific issue areas.”

Obviously it is mere coincidence that the Senator that bucked the President Pro Tem in an outspoken way on a key issue is one of the big losers in the reorganization of Senate committee rosters.

Back in November as Democrats fell over themselves praising a bill that would deal a huge blow the Delta and possibly set the stage for the controversial peripheral canal, Senator Wolk stood up to her party leadership and stood up for her constituents and the environment.

She said:

“This plan will by no means solve the problems in the Delta.  First of all, the Delta counties are not involved to the extent they should be and the changes are going to be significant.”

She continued:

“There are multimillions of dollars for projects that have nothing to do with water.”


“The history of water in California has been that the user pays for what they use.  This plan turns that on its head. It turns water rights on their head and financial mechanisms on their head and, at the end of the day there is no guarantee that there will be enough water to survive.”

On Sunday, in an Op-Ed in the Woodland Daily Democrat she proclaimed it was “time to fix the Delta fix.”  She wrote:

“Just two months ago, the Governor and legislative leadership hailed the recently enacted water deal as a monumental step forward to save Delta.  Ironically, that enthusiasm is not shared by many of those that live, work and play in the Delta region. Those that know the Delta best are all too aware that the celebrated water package leaves much more to be done in order to save the largest estuary on the west coast.”

The heart of the problem was a financing plan to construct a peripheral canal:

“This newest “fix” relies upon voters approving an $11.14 billion pork laden bond measure on November’s ballot. That bond will help finance the costs of a new peripheral canal — a ditch the equivalent of a 100-lane freeway, 48 miles long, through prime farmland, diverting water from the Sacramento River around the Delta directly to pumps and aqueducts southward.”

The Democratic leadership came together to completely exclude the five Delta counties from the process.

Senator Wolk did not just issue forth rhetoric either, she took action.  In September, she withdrew her authorship from a bill that would create a Delta Conservancy after she learned that it would be amended to include provisions that she opposed.

She said at the time:

“When I learned that the Conference Committee intended to alter key provisions of the bill, as well as other pieces of the water package, it was clear I could no longer carry this legislation.  What began as a sincere effort to create a state and local partnership to restore the Delta and sustain the Delta communities and economy is becoming, day by day, amendment by amendment, a tool to assist water exporters who are primarily responsible for the Delta’s decline.”


Senator Wolk earned a lot of respect in her fight for her constituency over a party that for some reason has sold out the delta and the environment.  Numerous columns and stories have been written about the multibillion dollar fight over the Delta.

It is ironic that Senator Wolk who made her name as an establishment politician and as a Davis Mayor as a more developer Democrat, would end up paying for her unwavering support for the Delta which has always been her hallmark issue.

I have always respected Senator Wolk on this issue, even as I have found her a bit too moderate on other issues.  It is one thing to talk about supporting the Delta.  It is another thing to strongly support legislation that supports the Delta.  But it is far more powerful to pay a huge price for that support and that is what Senator Wolk has done. 

The residents of this district on this day should be proud of their Senator and honor her as someone willing to fight for what she believes in even as that fight comes at a huge cost.

While I have always liked and respected Senator Darrell Steinberg, I am very disappointed both in his leadership on the Delta Issue and his retaliatory behavior overall.  I expected more of this man and am deeply disappointed.  California, the Delta, and the environment will pay a high price for this water deal soaked in blood and special interest money.

Today my hat is off to Senator Wolk for standing tall against all of this in the face of overwhelming odds and becoming a pariah in her own party because of it.

—David M. Greenwald reporting


About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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11 thoughts on “Senator Wolk Punished For Standing Up For Her District, Environment”

  1. Rich Rifkin

    [quote]she was stripped of seats on Appropriations, Budget and Fiscal Review, Health, Transportation and Housing and [u]Local Government[/u].[/quote] There is another possible explantion for stripping Wolk of her power. In fact, the other explanation makes more sense to me (though I concede I could be wrong): Wolk’s action on the Local Government Committee ([url][/url]).

    That committee has just 5 members: 3 Democrats and 2 Republicans. That is the committee through which the California Professional Firefighters had to get past to pass the Mariko Yamada bill to make it impossible for local governments to declare bankruptcy. (Firefighters don’t want a bankruptcy judge to have any say in reforming their lucrative contracts up and down the state.) But after Yamada and her fellows in the Assembly, all funded by CPF money, passed Yamada’s bill, it went to Wolk’s Local Government Committee in the Senate. Wolk knew Yamada’s CPF legislation was against the public interest. It was strongly opposed by the League of California Cities.* While the two other Democrats went along with their party leadership — flush with firefighter money — Wolk joined the two Republicans and voted no. And THAT VOTE killed Yamada’s assinine bill. And subsequently Wolk was stripped by her party of her seat and chairmanship on that committee.

    *Even though the League of California Cities opposed it, you will note that the City of Davis never spoke out in any way (formally or informally) against Mariko’s bill. (I spoke with Lamar and Sue about it and they strongly opposed Mariko’s bill.) That raises the question: Why is it that the City of Davis has resolution after resolution about questions of war & peace and abortion and the death penalty and on and on, but it is completely silent about state legislation designed to hurt cities in California, including Davis? It’s impossible to not conclude that all that money the Davis firefighters have poured into our City Council did not buy effectively their silence ([url][/url]).

  2. Rich Rifkin

    [quote]In this case, everyone in the Capitol knew what was going on there, that’s why it ended up in the Capitol Alert. [/quote] I’m sure the wise people at Capitol Alert know more about what motivates the Democratic leadership than I do. However, if her actions on the Delta legislation were what caused Steinberg to strip her of her committee assignments, why was she left on the Natural Resources and Water Committee, which deals with the Delta?

    Keep in mind that even if Wolk went rogue on the Water Bill, she did not stop it from moving ahead. By contrast, when she went rogue on the bankruptcy bill, she was the one person in both chambers who played the key role to kill that bill.

    Again, I could be wrong. But on its face, it sure looks to me like the firefighters wanted her off of Local Government and that’s why she was stripped of her seat there. AFAIK. no one in the entire state Senate, not even Darrell Steinberg, who was a City Councilman in Sacramento, has as much experience in local government (county + city) as Wolk. Yet she was yanked off of that committee because she opposed Steinberg on the Delta bill?

  3. E Roberts Musser

    Reminds me of what the Democrats tried to do to Lieberman, at the national level. Wolk needs to continue standing her ground – it isn’t always easy to do the right thing…

    The chances of a $11+ billion water bond being passed during these economic times would be neglible, I should think. I doubt voters will go for it.

  4. davisite2

    I think that Rich Rifkin as on to something here. It is fair to assume that since cities already have the ability to declare bankruptcy(as Vacaville did), albeit the process is more lengthy and has several steps that must be taken before bankruptcy is declared, the bill that Wolk supported probably makes it easier for cities to declare bankruptcy and void their labor contracts. This fits in well with Wolk’s long history of supporting the Estabishment/business power structure. Mariko is a staunch supporter of labor and would reject weakening labor’s negotiating position.
    As to the water bill, the Governator forced the legislature to put something forward(called an Emergency session). What they came up with is expensive and caters to the usual politically powerful agricultural special interests. It is extremely weak(actually zero) in any mandatory water conservation measures and in addressing other critical environmental issues. It is not going anywhere when the voters see the price tag…just another act of political theater. For a detailed discussion of the water bill, go to for 3 essays by this former State Senator who authored the bill that now requires developers to identify the water resources that will be necessary for their development BEFORE they begin building.

  5. davisite2

    “It is not going anywhere when the voters see the price tag…

    Actually, it could well pass. Putting the cost off into the future via a bond measure along with the promise of more and cheaper water for the “thirsty” Southern Californian majority population could carry the day.

  6. davisite2

    “the bill that Wolk supported…”

    Oops!… looks like I got this one turned around as Wolk rejected the bill that would have made it more difficult(impossible?) for cities to declare bankruptcy. I think that the basic argument as to Wolk’s and Yamada’s positions on labor are still pertinent, however.

  7. Don Shor

    Steve Wiegand had a long story about the water package negotiations back in November:

    Just a history lesson: the peripheral canal measure that Californians voted on in 1980, carefully negotiated by Jerry Brown, passed in every county of Southern California. It failed in every county in Northern California, by a larger margin. In an unholy alliance with environmental groups, Valley farmers actively opposed it — because they felt it didn’t guarantee them enough water. This time around, agricultural interests support these water bills.

    Since then, some water districts have diversified their resources, others have enacted water conservation measures. But some, particularly EBMUD, have even more precarious water supplies and growing populations.
    So in my opinion, the voters may be more favorably inclined towards this measure.

    By the way, it is Vallejo, not Vacaville, that declared bankruptcy.

  8. Rich Rifkin

    [i]”It is fair to assume that since cities already have the ability to declare bankruptcy (as Vacaville did) …”[/i]

    Not Vacaville. You mean Vallejo.

    [i]”… albeit the process is more lengthy and has several steps that must be taken before bankruptcy is declared, the bill that Wolk supported probably makes it easier for cities to declare bankruptcy and void their labor contracts.”[/i]

    Everything you suggest here is untrue. You should read my column. You don’t understand what happened or Lois’s position or how municipal bankruptcy works.

    [i]”This fits in well with Wolk’s long history of supporting the Estabishment/business power structure.”[/i]

    In fact, it is just the opposite. She opposed organized labor; and organized labor controls the Democratic Party. Other than the trial lawyers, no one is as powerful as the firefighters and the prison guards in the Democratic Party. No one. And she bucked the firefighters, who run our government.

    [i]”Mariko is a staunch supporter of labor and would reject weakening labor’s negotiating position.”[/i]

    That is 100% right. Mariko knows who pays her bills: the firefighters who funded her campaign.

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