Part of the Bay Area News Group

Archive for August, 2008

The Speier and Eshoo update

Before Jackie Speier learned about the handiness of the bicycle rickshaw, she wore out her feet Monday trekking from one event to the next in downtown Denver. She estimates she walked six miles that day, much of it in high heels. She was eventually forced to stop and buy a pair of flats to ease the pain.

John Kerry spoke at a delegates breakfast Wednesday morning and tore the roof off with a speech that was very much like the one he delivered later that day at the Pepsi Center. Speier said the speech reinforced her opinion that John McCain is an “extremist,” from foreign policy to abortion, and not a maverick.

At a lunch hosted by Sen. Barbara Boxer later that day and put on by none another than local Democratic Party insider Joe Cotchett, California’s junior senator regaled the crowd with stories of her interactions with McCain when she first got to Washington in 1992.

Boxer recalled seeing flashes of McCain’s anger on more than one occasion, said Speier, who like Barack Obama himself Thursday night questioned whether McCain has the temperament to be a steady commander in chief.

“The question I would ask is, do we really want someone like that holding on to the red phone?” said Speier.

Speier wanted to see her fellow Democrats go on the offensive against McCain during the convention. Rep. Anna Eshoo had a different approach, warning that bashing McCain too aggressively could produce a backlash.

“By the time the TVs are off with the closing of the convention, (voters) need to be left with the impression that it was thoughtful,” Eshoo said. “This is not about (a) bumper sticker mentality. That’s what the Republicans like to do, but that’s not enough. It’s about the future of our country.”

Nevertheless, Eshoo predicted Wednesday, by the end of the convention, “The lines will have been drawn.”

We’re trying to check in with both Speier and Eshoo today to see if the final 24 hours of the convention lived up to their expectations.

Posted on Friday, August 29th, 2008
Under: 2008 Congressional Race, 2008 Presidental Race, Aaron Kinney, Anna Eshoo, Barack Obama, Democratic Party, Hillsborough, Jackie Speier, Political Campaigns, Republican Party, San Mateo County | No Comments »

Speier and Eshoo in Denver

[Update: We were snowed under Thursday. We'll have a full account from Speier and Eshoo, as well as San Mateo County Supervisor Rich Gordon, on Friday. Apologies for the delay.]

We talked Wednesday afternoon to both Reps. Jackie Speier and Anna Eshoo, who shared their thoughts on Sen. Hillary Clinton’s speech Tuesday night, among other subjects.

What else did they talk about? Speier mentioned some interesting remarks that Sen. Barbara Boxer made about John McCain, while Eshoo offered up a vision for a successful finish to the Democratic National Convention that keeps McCain bashing to a minimum.

Check back here Thursday morning for more on those subject and few others.

Posted on Wednesday, August 27th, 2008
Under: 2008 Congressional Race, 2008 Presidental Race, Aaron Kinney, Anna Eshoo, Barack Obama, Democratic Party, Hillsborough, Jackie Speier, Political Campaigns, Republican Party, San Mateo County | No Comments »

Tip of the Speier

Rep. Jackie Speier speaks with constituents July 19 in Pacifica

Rep. Jackie Speier speaks with constituents July 19 in Pacifica

[This post was updated Tuesday. See below.]

Rep. Jackie Speier, who is now in Denver for the Democratic National Convention, paid a visit to the Times last week to provide an update on her first year in Washington.

Speier touched on several topics over the course of about 45 minutes, starting with the first federal bill she’s authored, an attempt to lower America’s oil consumption by setting a national speed limit of 60 mph in urban regions and 65 mph in rural areas.

The legislation has sparked a bit of an outcry, which is understandable, since Americans love their cars and love to drive fast. Great numbers of U.S. citizens enjoy watching automobiles drive in a circle for hours, and they’ll pay large sums and absorb near-fatal doses of sunlight to do it.

But Speier said she’s not deterred by the criticism.

“I’m not there to make friends,” she said. “I’m there to do the people’s work.”

Speier said reducing oil consumption is the sort of thing that’s missing right now from the national debate about energy, with Republicans screaming for offshore oil drilling that won’t yield its miniscule benefits for more than a decade and Democrats pushing for alternative-energy incentives.

Speier acknowledged that it’s unlikely H.R. 6458 will get a hearing during the September congressional session, meaning the bill may not get off the ground until next year.

In case you were wondering, all of Highway 101 from San Jose to San Francisco would be a 60 mph zone, according to federal guidelines for defining urban and rural areas.

Speier also offered her take on a subject that’s had many liberals on edge for weeks: Barack Obama’s recent inability or unwillingness to counter the relentless attacks from his Republican opponent’s newly dirty campaign.

(As Paul Krugman of the New York Times wrote on Monday, “many Democrats have had the sick feeling that once again their candidate brought a knife to a gunfight.”)

It had been one bad news cycle after another for Obama during the month of August, at least until last week when John McCain forgot how many houses he and his wife own and cable TV news shows began obsessing about Obama’s choice for vice president.

But Speier said she’s confident that Obama will pull out of it. Obama is a quick study, she said, and he’s more aggressive in responding to political attacks than John Kerry was in 2004.

“The truth is the public loves a competition,” Speier said of the presidential race. “They want it to be close right now.”

(The Insider happens to agree with this assessment, but only if you substitute the word “media” for the word “public.”)

“They’re swiftboating” Obama, Speier said of the McCain campaign, which is now being run by political operatives who learned their trade at the hooves, er, feet, of Karl Rove.

The common perception in 2004 was that Kerry’s biggest strength was his military experience, which could protect him from Republican smears suggesting he hated America and despised the troops.

Obama’s biggest strength is his personal magnetism, which makes McCain look creaky and creepy by comparison, so the McCain team has launched its “celebrity” ads to turn Obama’s star power against him, Speier said.

“You take someone’s absolute strength and try to wrap it around their neck and choke them,” said Speier.

Speier said Obama needs to frame the election around the Supreme Court, since the next president will choose as many as two or three justices. The choices to replace the justices who are on the verge of retirement will have a major impact for “the rest of this century,” Speier said.

UPDATE:

A few other observations from the interview.

– Regarding an account we’d heard indicating that Speier has been surprised by the arduousness of her commute to and from Washington, Speier confirmed that, especially in the first months, the travel has been hard.

When Congress is in session, Speier typically flies to Washington first thing Monday morning and returns Friday on a late afternoon flight so she can spend the weekends with her family.

“My body doesn’t know what time zone it’s in anymore,” she said.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, August 26th, 2008
Under: 2008 Congressional Race, 2008 Presidental Race, Aaron Kinney, Activism, Barack Obama, Jackie Speier | No Comments »

Fond memories of a pugilist

Pat Valentino and Ezzard Charles before their 1949 title bout

Pat Valentino and Ezzard Charles before their 1949 title bout

There’s nothing political about this, but it sounded like a good time.

Molloy’s Tavern in Colma held a memorial get-together last Sunday for San Francisco boxer Pat Valentino — a distant relative of silent film legend Rudolph Valentino — who died last month at the reported age of 88.

Tavern co-owner Blanid Molloy said the reason for the memorial is the bar’s celebration of boxing history and the fact that Valentino used to train in Colma. Valentino’s son Ken was on hand, in addition to a contingent of Teamsters (Valentino was a member) and fighters.

Valentino had a colorful history and a pretty good career as a heavyweight fighter. In a 2004 interview with the Oakland Tribune, Valentino recalled both a 1949 fight he lost to heavyweight champion Ezzard Charles at the Cow Palace and his regrets about his manager.

“I wish I had someone to advise me,” said Valentino, sounding more than a little like Marlon Brando in “Along the Waterfront.”

“I had to pick a manager who was a used-car salesman. He didn’t care about me,” Valentino continued. “When I got in the ring with Charles, my manager said to take it easy. I said, ‘Take it easy?’ He must have had money on Charles.”

Posted on Thursday, August 21st, 2008
Under: Aaron Kinney, Colma | No Comments »

A local connection to Oaktown scandal

It turns out there’s a local angle to the case of Deborah Edgerly, the former administrator for the city of Oakland.

Edgerly (pictured below and to the right) was fired last month by Mayor Ron Dellums after she was suspected of tipping her nephew off to a gang investigation being conducted by Oakland police.

But that was just one of myriad improper things Edgerly is now accused of having done during her time at the top of Oakland’s bureaucratic pyramid. And many of those allegations are contained in a civil lawsuit filed against her by Millbrae’s finance director, LaRae Brown.

Brown served as Oakland’s controller until March 2007, when Edgerly fired her. In her suit, filed June 8 in Alameda County Superior Court, Brown said she was let go in retaliation after she uncovered all sorts unethical practices taking place on Edgerly’s watch.

Brown said she discovered in 2006 that the city’s payroll and accounting practices were completely out of whack and that Edgerly was overstating the city’s cash balance by $172 million.

But when she took her concerns to her supervisor, she was stonewalled, and Edgerly continued to provide misleading financial reports to the City Council, according to the suit, which surmises that Edgerly wanted to prevent the bad news from surfacing prior to her planned retirement in 2008.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, August 21st, 2008
Under: Aaron Kinney, City Council, Corruption, Millbrae | No Comments »

It’s nothing personal

As the city of San Carlos has grappled in recent months with its dire budget problems, Councilman Matt Grocott has focused on finding ways to cut costs rather than put a half-cent sales tax measure on the ballot — a step that his council colleagues favor.

Matt Grocott

One cost-cutting step Grocott has zeroed in on is doing away with the city’s assistant city manager position in order to save roughly $200,000.

So we thought we’d ask Assistant City Manager Brian Moura what he thought of the idea. Has it made for any awkward exchanges in the hallway?

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, August 12th, 2008
Under: Aaron Kinney, San Carlos | No Comments »