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Speier’s remarks on Lehman relief

By Aaron Kinney
Tuesday, May 5th, 2009 at 3:52 pm in Aaron Kinney, Anna Eshoo, Board of Supervisors, Democratic Party, Jackie Speier, Rich Gordon, San Mateo County

Here, courtesy of the office of Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, are the prepared remarks she made this morning during a hearing of the House Financial Services Committee. Speier and Rep. Anna Eshoo were joined by San Mateo County Supervisor Rich Gordon, among others, in seeking federal relief for local jurisdictions from losses incurred during the Lehman Brothers collapse:

Chairman Frank, (Rep.) Bachus, and colleagues –

I thank you for convening this hearing today to examine the devastating impact the failure of Lehman Brothers has had on state and local governments and other publicly funded entities. Although my district has been hit particularly hard, this truly is a national problem, as you will hear from the witnesses today from California, Colorado and Florida.

There are affected communities in at least 20 states, from Alaska to Washington to Massachusetts. Some of the losses are relatively small — only $18 in Tennessee as far as we can tell — but Minnesota lost more than $56 million, Missouri lost $50 million, Oregon lost $173 million, and Arizona lost $61 million. You will hear from one of today’s witnesses that Florida, already hurt hard by natural disasters and the recession, lost more than $465 million.

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Speier oversight panel meets tonight

By Aaron Kinney
Monday, May 4th, 2009 at 2:32 pm in Aaron Kinney, Brisbane, Burlingame, Democratic Party, Jackie Speier, Millbrae, Pacifica, Public Works, SamTrans, San Bruno, San Mateo County

Rep. Jackie Speier’s Citizens Oversight Panel, which is charged with reviewing local appropriations requests, will meet tonight at 6 at the San Mateo Community College District Offices, 3401 CSM Drive, San Mateo.

Thirteen transportation projects will be reviewed, including projects in Brisbane, Burlingame, Millbrae, Pacifica and San Bruno.

Here are the projects, as listed in a press release from Speier’s office:

City of San Francisco — Ocean Avenue Streetscape project.

City of Burlingame — U.S. 101/Broadway Interchange Reconstruction Project.

SamTrans and CalTrain (2 projects) — Electric Multiple Units and Redi-Wheels Vehicle Expansion.

City of Pacifica — Manor Drive Overcrossing and Milagra On-Ramp.

San Mateo County City/County Association of Governments (3 projects) — San Mateo County Smart Corridors; U.S. 101 Auxiliary lanes from San Bruno to San Francisco County line; Alternative analysis (study) for operational improvement of the U.S. 101/SR92 interchange.

City of Millbrae — Millbrae Avenue Pedestrian Overcrossing Project.

City of Brisbane — Bayshore Boulevard Overlay Project.

City of San Bruno (3 projects) — Caltrain Grade Separation Project; Streetlight Rehabilitation and Energy Efficiency Upgrade; Sidewalk, Lighting, Accessibility and Landscape Improvement Project.

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San Mateo holds a tea party

By Aaron Kinney
Thursday, April 16th, 2009 at 5:49 pm in Barack Obama, Economy, Republican Party, San Mateo

Could the humble tea bag slingshot the Republican Party into the 21st century?

This week’s latest news frenzy, beating out swashbuckling Somali pirates and even the swirling maelstrom surrounding Bo, the First Family’s hypoallergenic new ball of fur, came courtesy of the modern-day tea party tax protest.

It’s probably the most exciting thing to ever happen on April 15 since the Titanic sank back in 1912. And the Insider was grateful that there was something to distract us from the looming task at hand, namely, procrastinating on doing our taxes until the last minute Wednesday night.

In San Mateo, it was no different. A tea party to protest excessive government spending was held on El Camino Real, on a thin strip of sidewalk in front of the Hillsdale Shopping Center. By 2 p.m., the number of protestors — many in historical-era costumes — had swelled to around 250, turning the sidewalk into a tightly packed corridor of fiscal-responsibility loving, flag-waving tax protestors.

Demographically, the crowd tended toward the older end of the age spectrum. Many seemed new to the whole “protest” thing.

“This is my first time getting involved in activism,” said Sara Dumont, a 76-year-old from South San Francisco. “I’ve always been interested but this one really got me.”

Dumont said she had gotten notice of the protest by e-mail, and advance notice of the event was posted on message boards like the conservative website Freerepublic.com.

And while there has been constant debate over the whether or not the tea parties represent a true grassroots movement or are merely a cynical political device for the Republican party, the important thing to note is that using the tools of grassroots organizers, the events organizers were able to pull in an impressive number of attendees, many in their 60s and 70s, in a predominately Democratic district.

And while the protestors’ passion was apparent (And yes, we mean you, wiry guy in the baseball cap screaming “How do you guys all like that change now!” while maniacally laughing), the thing that struck us was the sense of relief and belonging that swept over the crowd.

That everyone in attendance was thrilled to find like-minded people was obvious. Complete strangers would excitedly jump into a conversation about the dubious origins of President Obama with a comment about the broken immigration system.

It was like witnessing the simultaneous appearance of a bunch of gophers who had cautiously popped their heads out of their holes, only to be overcome with surprise … at seeing other gophers! Or like the end of that Blind Melon video, the one with the girl in the bee costume.

Back near the Hillsdale Caltrain station, we came across one lone man in a nearby parking lot, pacing in front of a black SUV. When asked what he thought of the spectacle across the street, he replied matter-of-factly, “Hey man, it’s part of what this country does, gets pissed off and then tells everyone else about it.”

And even though we knew we would be cursing the federal government later that evening as we sweated over W-2s and 1099s and piles of receipts that had faded like the summer sun, at that moment we couldn’t help but think, “God bless America.”

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Speier on AIG

By Aaron Kinney
Tuesday, March 17th, 2009 at 4:19 pm in Aaron Kinney, Democratic Party, Economy, Jackie Speier

Rep. Jackie Speier released a statement Monday afternoon regarding the lavish bonuses that American International Group gave out with government money. She went further than most of her colleagues in Congress, except maybe for the guy who called for AIG execs to commit seppuku, in demanding accountability, suggesting that the U.S. government may have to take the company apart if it doesn’t change its tune:

“AIG has shown, once again, that they are incapable of grasping the enormity of the financial mess which they helped create. Despite receiving more than $180 billion in taxpayer money, they are set to reward executives with $165 million in bonuses. Many of the executives are from the same ethically challenged Financial Products Division whose irresponsible practices drove the world economy off the cliff in the first place.

“I appreciate that President Obama has directed Treasury Secretary Geithner to use every legal means to stop the bonuses. If AIG insists that they are unable to change the existing contracts, perhaps it is time for us, as AIG’s largest shareholder, to break up AIG, sell off its profitable state-regulated insurance companies, fire the executives of the Financial Products Division, and put in place a leadership team that respects the American taxpayer.”

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Speier vs. Stein

By Aaron Kinney
Monday, March 2nd, 2009 at 1:42 pm in Aaron Kinney, Democratic Party, Economy, Jackie Speier, Republican Party, San Mateo County

We’re a bit late on this, but here’s a clip of Rep. Jackie Speier (shown earlier this month during a tour of Greenbox Technology in San Bruno) on the Feb. 18 edition of “Larry King Live,” where she debated Ben Stein on the merits of President Obama’s plan to help American homeowners facing foreclosure.

Digression: King introduced Stein as a “noted economist,” among other things. But Stein is not an economist, let alone a noted one. He talks and writes about the economy, yes, so you could call him a noted “commentator,” but that’s about it.

In order to be an economist, you should probably have a postgraduate degree. Stein is certainly a very well-educated man, but majoring in economics in college does not make you an economist any more than majoring in philosophy makes you a philosopher.

Speier, who is mourning the recent death of her mother, Nancy, also made some news last week by opposing the omnibus spending bill on the basis of the earmarks it contained. She has also proposed an amendment to a housing bill that would make it easier for struggling homeowners to refinance their loans.

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More local stimulus reaction

By Aaron Kinney
Tuesday, February 17th, 2009 at 3:21 pm in Aaron Kinney, Anna Eshoo, Barack Obama, Democratic Party, Jackie Speier, Republican Party, San Mateo County

Here’s a link to Saturday’s Insider column, which dealt with Reps. Anna Eshoo and Jackie Speier’s reactions following Friday’s House vote on the economic stimulus package.

A couple comments from Anna Eshoo didn’t make it into the column. Responding to a question about the fact that President Obama’s efforts at bipartisanship have so far been a dismal failure*, Eshoo said she doesn’t think he’ll stop trying to reach across the aisle:

“The Barack Obama I know is very genuine about reaching out to everyone,” she said. “I think it’s in his DNA. But once having done that, and soliciting viewpoints, I believe he’s a man of action.”

On the subject of how Obama appeared to have let the debate on the stimulus get away from him in the weeks leading up to the vote, during which Republicans dominated the conversation on cable news programs, Eshoo said the Obama administration simply “had a bad week” and may have been thrown off its game a bit when Tom Daschle withdrew his nomination as health and human services secretary.

“It’s a brand-new White House,” she said, referring to the fact that Obama and his advisers are getting accustomed to their new positions. “They’re still putting it together.”

Mouse trap

Speier had an Op-Ed in the Feb. 14 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle on the subject of the salt marsh harvest mouse, which became the source of much confusion after a GOP staffer made a false claim to the effect that efforts to protect the mouse would get millions in stimulus money.

Check out Speier’s Web site for that and a lot more information on the stimulus.

*In two ways. First, the general perception in the media that Obama, despite his overtures to the GOP, has somehow not been bipartisan enough. Second, the fact that Republicans have greeted Obama’s advances with hostility.

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Dedication in Belmont

By Aaron Kinney
Monday, February 9th, 2009 at 5:16 pm in Aaron Kinney, Belmont, Education, Schools

Parents braved the weather Friday morning to line up for the opportunity to register their kids for the Merry Moppet Preschool in Belmont. They’d have to stay there until Saturday morning for a chance to register their kids in the private preschool, which is affiliated with the K-5 Belmont Oaks Academy.

This photo was sent to us by Judy Block, of Palo Alto, who spent some time in line on behalf of a grandchild.

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The Mirabella blues

By Aaron Kinney
Monday, February 9th, 2009 at 4:35 pm in Aaron Kinney, Activism, City Council, Foster City, Planning

You get the feeling Foster City officials wish that critics of Mirabella San Francisco Bay Parkview Plaza, a major development planned for 15 acres next to City Hall, would just kind of fade away.

But that seems unlikely, especially now that Foster City parents are clamoring for the construction of a fourth elementary school on city land. Some of these parents are well aware that four acres of the 15-acre Mirabella site remain available, since plans for a public charter high school there fell through last summer.

The Foster City Council was never particularly fond of the charter school idea and its backer, the Foster City High School Foundation, so it’ll be interesting to see how it reacts if and when parents of children in the San Mateo-Foster City School District suggest the eastern corner of the Mirabella property as a possible school site.

Regardless, the small but committed group of residents who oppose Mirabella is not going anywhere. In fact, they may be about to amplify their message.

Let’s put aside the questions of the moment — those pertaining to traffic and construction noise and other issues covered by an environmental impact report that the city is currently reviewing — and step back for a look at the bigger picture.

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Front-row seats to history

By Aaron Kinney
Monday, January 26th, 2009 at 2:16 pm in Aaron Kinney, Anna Eshoo, Democratic Party, Elections Office, San Mateo County, Warren Slocum

Unlike Warren Slocum, who was eaten up and spit out on Tuesday by the Purple Tunnel of Doom, Anna Eshoo had seats for President Barack Obama’s inauguration that were just fine, thank you very much. (Slocum’s experience was the subject of Saturday’s print edition of The Insider.)

The congresswoman was seated up on the rostrum, right along the aisle by the door from which Obama and everyone else emerged from the Capitol. We asked her Friday for her impressions from that day.

“For me, I was overwhelmed by standing so close to history,” Eshoo said.

She said the “excitement was palpable,” whether you were up on rostrum, watching on television or standing among the millions of people gathered on the Mall. She was also struck by the absolute silence that seemed to prevail during Obama’s speech.

She said she was impressed by the speech itself, as was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“I think it was a very important speech,” she said. “The Speaker told all of us the following day that everyone should have a copy of the speech and read it and reread it.”

On Thursday, Eshoo and her colleagues on the Energy and Commerce Committee spent more than 12 hours writing up its portion of the $825 billion stimulus package, writing out the language for provisions having to do with health care, energy and telecommunications.

She said she’s confident that, despite Republican opposition to the bill, there “will be bipartisan support for it when the vote is finally taken.” She said numerous Republican amendments were incorporated into the bill and pointed to the $275 million in tax cuts included in the package.

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Speier to hold Saturday office hours

By Aaron Kinney
Thursday, January 22nd, 2009 at 1:32 pm in Aaron Kinney, Democratic Party, Jackie Speier, San Mateo, San Mateo County

If you want to chat with Rep. Jackie Speier, just show up Saturday at her district office.

Speier will be holding walk-in office hours from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Unless there is a massive crowd, you should be able to get a few minutes to air your concerns or say hello. It’ll be first-come, first-served.

Speier’s office is located at 400 South El Camino Real, No. 410, in San Mateo. For more information, call the district office at (650) 342-0300.

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