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Archive for December, 2008

Imagine there’s no Diebold

Warren Slocum, San Mateo County’s chief elections officer, participated in a national conference earlier this month in Washington, D.C., on America’s system of voting.

The three-day conference was put on by the Pew Center on the States and the JEHT Foundation with the goal of brainstorming solutions to common problems, from public wariness of electronic voting machines to long lines at the polls.

For Slocum, it was a chance to get creative, as he participated in a Dec. 9 panel discussion titled, “Imagine we could start over: How would you design an election system?”

Slocum was joined on that panel by half-a-dozen elections officials, including the secretaries of state for Kentucky and Missouri. The conference itself was attended by a wide range of people, from academics to congressional staffers.

One of the subjects Slocum’s panel touched on was universal voter registration. Jurisdictions throughout the country handle registration differently, so people in various states and counties fall through the cracks in different ways.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, December 22nd, 2008
Under: Aaron Kinney, Elections Office, Jerry Hill, San Mateo County, Warren Slocum | No Comments »

Considering a trip to Washington

Belmont resident Leslie Williams, a member of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, heard about his invitation to President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration just like the rest of us –- in the news.

Williams, 89, said he hasn’t received an actual invitation yet, but he’s not particularly worried. The federal government was able to track him down, after all, when the Airmen were invited to Washington in 2007 to receive the Congressional Gold Medal.

“That was a very significant part of my life, regardless of the circumstances,” Williams said last week, referring to the racism he and the other black pilots encountered.

The question right now is whether Williams will be able to make it to the Jan. 20 extravaganza. He’s still recovering from a fall he suffered while visiting his wife in the hospital.

At the moment, he’s not sure if it would be wise to go, given the massive crowds that are expected for the inauguration, not to mention the cold — and possibly icy — weather.

Williams said he’ll see how he feels next month. In the meantime, he’ll keep an eye out for any mail with a return address from the District of Columbia.

Posted on Thursday, December 18th, 2008
Under: Aaron Kinney, Barack Obama, Belmont, Democratic Party | No Comments »

Speier statement on auto bailout deal

Rep. Jackie Speier voted with the majority in the House on Wednesday and issued a statement about the deal:

“The American auto industry must clean up its act. Its decades-long obsession with gas-guzzling vehicles is over. The European Union has mandated that cars achieve fuel efficiency of 50 miles per gallon by 2015 and we need to make sure that the good jobs that will come from these fuel-efficient vehicles are also created here in America.

“It’s important to note that other industrialized countries are stepping up to support their automobile industries and we should do no less during this time of global financial upheaval. This is not just about the economy, it’s about national security.

“This bill is palatable only because it is a short-term bridge loan and taxpayers will have a preferred position for repayment. Longer-term support is predicated on an agreement by the car makers to restructure — or make progress towards restructuring — by March 31, 2009. The restructuring plans should demonstrate that the companies can do four things:

1) Survive and thrive against global competition
2) Meet the mandated 2020 mileage standard by 2015
3) Pay back taxpayers
4) Replace the leadership at GM and Chrysler

“Given new management, new goals and secure financing, I think the industry can thrive. But let us not underestimate the Herculean effort that must be made by everyone involved in the industry. Tonight is either a new dawn for the American auto industry or the twilight of its end. The choice will become apparent in the next three-and-a-half months. America stands ready to offer a hand up but not a hand out.”

Posted on Wednesday, December 10th, 2008
Under: Aaron Kinney, Democratic Party, Jackie Speier, San Mateo County | No Comments »

Mark Church makes appearance on “Lou Dobbs Tonight”

In case you missed it, county Supervisor Mark Church was on “Lou Dobbs Tonight” last week, trying to protect his eyes from the glare of the CNN host’s blindingly white teeth.

Dobbs featured a segment Dec. 1 with both Church and lawyer Joe Cotchett, whose firm is handling the county’s lawsuit against Lehman Brothers, the collapse of which deprived the county of about $150 million in investments.

The suit asserts that the company fraudulently misled investors into thinking their money was safe, even as the investment firm slid closer to the abyss.

“What makes this case so outrageous is that all the while upper management was siphoning off millions of dollars for their own personal benefit, leaving investors holding the bag,” said Church, according to a CNN transcript.

Cotchett referred to Lehman Brothers’ executives as “modern-day robber barons.”

“One thing is for sure,” Cotchett said of the company’s leaders. “They shouldn’t have a $21 million condo on Park Avenue to return home to every night.”

Posted on Wednesday, December 10th, 2008
Under: Aaron Kinney, Board of Supervisors, Joe Cotchett, Mark Church, San Mateo County | 1 Comment »

Brisbane’s new City Hall

The Times ran a couple photos yesterday of Brisbane’s new City Hall, which opened to the public on Monday. We have a few others in the hopper that didn’t make it into the paper. Here’s the facade:

Here’s one of the building’s open staircases:

A worker puts the finishing touches on the audiovisual equipment in the City Council’s new meeting room:

This is where the city planners sit:

Click here for more information on the renovation.

Posted on Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008
Under: Aaron Kinney, Brisbane, City Council, Planning | No Comments »

A dispatch from “Twilight” in San Mateo

The following goes to show that the Insider is liable to appear anywhere.

You see, we were among the legions of fans that caught the highly anticipated opening of “Twilight” at 12:01 a.m. last Friday at San Mateo’s Century 12 theaters.

Our senses were assaulted when we walked into the theater by the high-pitch chatter of a couple hundred love-sick tweens and teenage girls. We sat off to the side and waited for the show to begin. Behind us we heard a girl wail, “He’s hot!”

Presumably she was referring to Robert Pattinson, the actor portraying vampire-protagonist Edward Cullen. In “Twilight,” a vampire romance novel written by Stephenie Meyer and consumed with ferocity by the young-adult set, Cullen falls in love with 17-year-old human Bella Swan.

The lights in the theater dimmed and everybody cheered. They applauded the sneak previews too. After many false starts, the movie began. We braced ourselves for Pattinson’s appearance, knowing the madness that would ensue.

When Pattison sauntered onscreen, squeals of joy erupted. And when he said something cute or looked at Bella with longing, girls sighed, then giggled.

Despite some awkward acting and cheesy special effects, it was an enjoyable piece of moviemaking. Still waiting for our hearing to come back, though.

Posted on Monday, December 1st, 2008
Under: Christine Morente | No Comments »

Democrats say: Put it to a vote!

The San Mateo County Democratic Central Committee has adopted a resolution urging the county to hold an open election to fill the seat of departing Supervisor Jerry Hill, who is off to Sacramento, rather than make an appointment.

“The person who is elected or appointed to fill Jerry Hill’s seat will likely remain on the (Board of Supervisors) until he or she is termed out in 2022,” committee member Nick Akers, author of the resolution, said in a statement.

“Our county’s at-large system for electing supervisors gives a strong advantage to incumbents,” Akers continued. “It has been nearly three decades since a supervisor running for re-election has been defeated. The people of San Mateo County should be given the opportunity to fill this open seat.”

Committee members voted “overwhelmingly” on Nov. 20 in favor of the resolution for an election. They’re looking to peg a special county election to an anticipated special statewide election in June 2009.

Not that the San Mateo County government has a reputation for being clubby and nontransparent — cough, cough — but the Insider agrees with local Democrats that holding an election to fill the seat of Assemblyman Hill, irrespective of the cost, would be the democratic thing to do.

Posted on Monday, December 1st, 2008
Under: 2008 Congressional Race, 2008 Local Races, Aaron Kinney, Assembly, Board of Supervisors, Democratic Party, Elections Office, Gene Mullin, Jerry Hill, Political Campaigns, San Mateo County, Warren Slocum | No Comments »