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Bye, bye Taj Mahal; hello, Sacramento

If it weren’t for the California budget crisis, perhaps few would know or care that
state Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, is out of the country, experiencing the wonders that are India on a two-week trip with seven other state senators.

But, having missed much of the special legislative session on the state’s money meltdown, Corbett is cutting the overseas visit short, her chief of staff, Peggy Collins, said today, in order to rush home for Sunday’s planned floor sessions of the Senate and Assembly in Sacramento.

The trip, which started on Nov. 12 and was scheduled to end the day before Thanksgiving (Nov. 26), is sponsored by the California International Relations Foundation, a Senate program that organizes programs and trips to promote “economic and cultural relations” throughout the world, according to its Web site.

“It is a significant and important trip for California and the district,” Collins said, carefully avoiding any hint that the trip might be considered a vacation. High-tech businesses and educational institutions were on the senators’ tour itinerary. The trip originally was planned to coincide with a Legislative recess.

The foundation does raise money for overseas trips, and hosts visits here by international government representatives. Foundation directors include employees of major California law firms and corporations that lobby the state on behalf of their business interests.

The cost of the trip, and the breakdown of who paid for what, wasn’t available today. However, in trips of this type, sponsoring organizations and the legislators themselves usually pay the travel expenses.

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Democrats wrap parties around weekend walking, phoning

Politics is pretty scary business, and Eden Area United Democratic Campaign volunteers will prove it tonight when they celebrate a “Fright Night” Halloween before making the final push to Tuesday’s election.

They have reason to celebrate. Their “get out the vote” campaign helped Democratic registration soar in Castro Valley, Hayward, San Leandro and San Lorenzo during the past five months, as the Alameda County registrar of voters disclosed this week.

Beginning at 7 tonight, volunteers — in costume, campaign coordinator Edith Looney hopes — will enjoy candy, popcorn and soft drinks at the campaign headquarters, 1139 A St., in Hayward while watching “Young Frankenstein” and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

Then, at 8 a.m. Saturday, they’ll be back at work again to get the Barack Obama-Joe Biden ticket elected on Tuesday. For 12 hours, volunteers are scheduled to walk precincts or to call other states, reminding other registered Democrats to get out and vote.

More walking and phoning is scheduled on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, ending with another big party — the Democrats hope — after the polls close.

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Democrats increase lead in state, county, Hayward area

The Democratic surge in state voter registration, reported today by the California Secretary of State’s office, is spurred in part by efforts in the Eden Area United Democratic Campaign.

Volunteers working out of the Democrats’ local office on A Street in Hayward registered 700 new voters last weekend, reports office manager Edith Looney. Now, the volunteers will spend between now and Election Day walking 300 precincts in Castro Valley, Hayward, San Leandro, San Lorenzo and other unincorporated areas on behalf of local and national candidates.

Personal cell phones in hand, they’ll also be calling voters in other states the next two Saturdays on behalf of the Obama-Biden ticket.

The Alameda County Registrar of Voters reported Wednesday that the county had 787,971 registered voters. Overall, that’s up from 734,171 — nearly 54,000 voters — from Sept. 9, the last voter registration listing.

The latest party registrations weren’t available from the county Wednesday. However, in September, registrations in Assembly and state Senate districts covering the greater Hayward area tell the story. In the 18th Assembly District, represented by Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, D-Hayward, Democrats outnumbered Republicans by a margin of 56 percent to 19 percent. In the larger 10th state Senate District, represented by Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, the margin is 51 percent Democrat, 20 percent Republican.

In both the Assembly and Senate districts, “declined-to-state” voters in September also outnumbered Republicans.

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An unexpected election twist?

There’s no love lost between the San Leandro Teachers’ Association and district Superintendent Christine Lim, whom the association now and in the past has accused of trying to influence elections in favor of “rubber stamp” trustees who will endorse Lim’s programs and budgets.

But, this tactic — in support of two challengers running against two incumbents on Nov. 4 — could fizzle with an off-the-record tip that Lim is among six finalists for the job of New Haven school district superintendent.

Reportedly, Lim has informed her staff and San Leandro trustees that she is a finalist for the top post in the 13,000-student New Haven school district serving Union City and south Hayward. On Wednesday, New Haven representatives are visiting San Leandro to learn about Lim’s leadership. On Saturday, two finalists are expected to meet with the New Haven board, and an appointment could precede November’s election.

Lim has headed the 8,700-student San Leandro district since 2003.

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Chalk it up to politics

In politics, you win some and you lose some.

It’s been that kind of week for state Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro.

First, she was named one of the top 100 attorneys in California by the Daily Journal, which publishes California legal newspapers and magazines. Corbett, who graduated from McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, practiced civil law before her election to the Assembly and then the state Senate. She also chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Then, on Wednesday, Gov. Schwarzenegger signed legislation — authored by Corbett — designed to ensure that privately owned buildings are built to meet disability access design standards.
This law, SB 1608, is effective Jan. 1, 2009.

But, the governator also terminated — er, vetoed — one of Corbett’s bills on Wednesday. SB 1313 would have banned food packaging containing chemicals found to cause cancer, and developmental, neural and reproductive problems in test animals.

“Legislation has always been an effective way to protect consumers from health risks,” Corbett said in a press release.

But only if it passes both legislative houses and is signed by the governor.

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Way down yonder in the Big Easy: What’s cookin’ in San Leandro

San Leandro schools Superintendent Christine Lim and a quartet of other top district administrators are in New Orleans today talking about how the district’s anti-racist efforts have contributed to “significant gains on state tests, especially for African-American and Latino students.” They’re speaking at The Summit for Courageous Conversations: Achieving Racial Equity and Excellence in Education, which is sponsored by San Francisco-based Pacific Educational Services.

They are discussing how a five-year equity program, and “courageous conversations about race” have helped to close the racial predictability gap in achievement tests. Teaching strategies, inclusion of the “student voice” and training of under-represented parents are among the methods used.

Oh, and speaking of sensitivity, the summit’s organizers apologized on their Web site (www.summitforcourageousconversation.com) for their religious insensitivity, scheduling the conference at the same time as the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah and the Muslim month of fasting known as Ramadan.

Have any thoughts about the district’ success? If so, add your comments here.

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Making history hip: Rock out, Abe!

Thanks to Hayward-based Big Toe Audio, the 1860 presidential election is hip. Very, very hip.
As in, hip-hop, rock and pop — music included in a daily multimedia podcast on presidential election history.

With 4 1/2 months to go in the current presidential campaign, Big Toe owner Shane Sharkey has teamed up with KGO talk show host John Rothmann on “Fight for the White House.” The free two- to three-minute podcast combines audio clips, campaign theme songs, radio news reports, music and Rothmann’s explanations of each election.

To add a local political angle, historian Rothmann is Alameda County Supervisor Gail Steele’s cousin.

“Our main goal is to give listeners, epecially young voters, a better context on the coming election,” said Sharkey, whose audio production company has been in business since 1999. “We try to do that by combining campaign trail audio clips with an eclectic mix of hip-hop, rock and pop music that helps illustrate and punctuate the subject being covered.”

Each election is broken down into five podcasts. A new podcast is posted daily Mondays through Fridays. So far, they have covered the 1860 (won by Abraham Lincoln), 1920 (won by Warren G. Harding) and 1960 (won by John F. Kennedy) elections.

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Sweet charity, redux

The Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) on Thursday reported that Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, D-Hayward, is the latest Assembly member this year to have a contribution made, at her request, by the Barona Band of Mission Indians.

Check out the ”behested payments” page on the state’s FPPC Web site.

So far this year, the Lakeside, Calif.-based band has made 17 payments of $5,000 each to charities, government or legislative programs at the “behest” of Assembly members. The payments are not considered campaign contributions or gifts.

The Barona tribe operates the Barona Valley Resort and Casino near San Diego.
The May 12 donation is going to Woodrow Wilson Elementary School in San Leandro, and will be used for reading improvement books.

Behested payments made at the request of state Sen. Don Perata, whose district includes Castro Valley, total $261,495 for the first six months of 2008, according to the FPPC.
But, the year still is young.

In 2007, the FPPC said, donors contributed $71,200 to various groups at Hayashi’s behest. Perata raised $840,000 for a variety of causes.

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Green team wins

Forget the red and blue states.
How about the red and green precincts?
Lakes of red in seas of green — that just about sums up the precinct picture for Measure F, the unincorporated areas’ utility tax, in the June 3 primary election.
The Alameda County Registrar of Voters’ Web site maps precinct votes for the measure. Voters throughout the county cast ballots to extend and increase the tax, which is paid only in unincorporated areas such as Ashland, Castro Valley, Cherryland, Fairview, San Lorenzo and Sunol.
The results: widespread approval, with more than 65 percent of the voters countywide approving Measure F. Support was heavy in the cities, indicated in green on the registrar’s map.
Where did it fail? Check out the red zones: Castro Valley, Ashland, San Lorenzo and eastern Alameda County predominate.
Opponents of Measure F, mostly from unincorporated areas, said voting should be limited to communities where residents, property owners and business operators pay the tax.

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Skatin’ towards San Leandro

Hayward City Councilman Kevin Dowling is going to San Leandro.
Relax, San Leandro politicians, he’s not after your jobs. He’s going to work in July as development director of the San Leandro Boys & Girls Club.
June 27 is Dowling’s last day as an aide to Alameda County Supervisor Alice Lai-Bitker. For seven years, he’s worked in Lai-Bitker’s San Lorenzo district office, tackling such youth-related projects as the San Lorenzo skate park, Youth Collaborative, and Team Up For Youth.