Part of the Bay Area News Group

Taking sides: This week’s endorsement roundup

By Josh Richman
Friday, January 30th, 2015 at 2:48 pm in California State Senate, Joan Buchanan, Kamala Harris, Susan Bonilla, U.S. Senate

We’ve got a few hot races to watch even though it’s January of an off year (as if we have any off years anymore), and the endorsements have been coming hot and heavy this week.

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U.S. Senate 2016

Kamala Harris (D) – Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson (1/26); Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael (1/27); Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey (1/27); San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee (1/28); Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf (1/29); Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia (1/30)

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7th State Senate District special election

Susan Bonilla (D) – AFSCME Council 57 and Local 2700 (1/26); International Brotherhood of Boilermakers (1/27); California Professional Firefighters (1/28); Concord Democratic Club (1/29)

Joan Buchanan (D) – California Teachers Association (1/27)

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Follow after the jump for a few thoughts on these…
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Jerry Brown proclaims today ‘Fred Korematsu Day’

By Josh Richman
Friday, January 30th, 2015 at 11:40 am in Civil liberties, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown

Gov. Jerry Brown has issued a proclamation deeming Friday a day for celebration of an East Bay hero:

When Fred T. Korematsu received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998, President Clinton said that “in the long history of our country’s constant search for justice, some names of ordinary citizens stand for millions of souls — Plessy, Brown, Parks. To that distinguished list today we add the name of Fred Korematsu.”

Fred Korematsu was, in the best sense of both words, an ordinary hero. A native Californian, born and raised in Oakland and a welder by trade, he simply refused to accept his government’s order to relocate under the brutal and misguided policy of Japanese-American internment during World War II. Korematsu’s staunch determination to be treated like the loyal American citizen he was came to define his life story, in both his decades-long legal battle against internment and his later recognition as a leader in the cause of civil rights. On this 96th anniversary of his birth, we remember him as one who resisted injustice during a dark chapter in our nation’s history, and later worked tirelessly to prevent its repetition.

NOW THEREFORE I, EDMUND G. BROWN JR., Governor of the State of California, do hereby proclaim January 30th 2015, as “Fred Korematsu Day.”

IN WITNESS WHEREOF I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Great Seal of the State of California to be affixed this 30th day of January 2015.

Actor, activist and social-media phenomenon George Takei – who as a child was interned with his family in a relocation camp – will keynote the 5th Annual Fred Korematsu Day Celebration at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the City Arts and Lectures-Nourse Theatre in San Francisco.

Some Bay Area folks were tweeting on Korematsu today:

Also, California isn’t the only state to mark this day, and some would like to see this made a national holiday.

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Bill would raise California’s smoking age to 21

By Josh Richman
Thursday, January 29th, 2015 at 3:15 pm in California State Senate

California’s legal minimum age for smoking would rise from 18 to 21 under a newly introduced state Senate Bill.

“Tobacco companies know that people are more likely to become addicted to smoking if they start at a young age,” state Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina, said in a news release issued Thursday. “We can no longer afford to sit on the sidelines while big tobacco markets to our kids and gets another generation of young people hooked on a product that will ultimately kill them. That is why I believe we need legislation like SB 151.”

“We need to wake up and stop making it so easy for tobacco companies to poison generation after generation of Californians,” said Hernandez, who chairs the Senate Health Committee.

Though smoking generally is on the decline, tobacco remains the leading cause of preventable death in the United States with 480,000 people dying each year, including 40,000 from effects of secondhand smoke, Hernandez noted. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports tobacco use kills more people per year than alcohol, murders, illegal drugs, AIDS, and motor vehicle accidents combined.

California would be the first state to raise the minimum age so high. The legal minimum age to buy tobacco products is 18 in 46 states; Alabama, Alaska, New Jersey and Utah have raised it to 19, as have New York’s Onondaga and Nassau counties and some Massachusetts towns. The minimum age is 21 in New York City; New York’s Suffolk County; Evanston, Ill.; Columbia, Mo.; Englewood, N.J., Hawaii County, Hawaii; and several Massachusetts towns.

Tim Gibbs, senior director of government relations for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, said raising the legal age to 21 “will help get tobacco out of the hands of teenagers when they are young and most vulnerable to the tobacco industry’s predatory model of recruiting lifetime addicts.”

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San Jose’s Ash Kalra to launch Assembly bid

By Josh Richman
Thursday, January 29th, 2015 at 2:36 pm in Assembly, Nora Campos

It’s never too early to start that 2016 campaign, folks.

Perhaps taking a page from California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who already is pumping out endorsements of her 2016 campaign to succeed U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, San Jose City Councilman Ash Kalra this Saturday will launch his Democratic campaign to succeed Assemblywoman Nora Campos as she’s term-limited out of her 27th District seat in 2016.

Ash KalraIf elected, Kalra, 43, would be the first Indian-American ever to serve in the California Legislature.

Kalra says he’ll be joined for the rollout – set for 2 p.m. Saturday at the Friendship Hall on East Santa Clara Street in San Jose – by California State Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, California Board of Equalization Member Fiona Ma, state Sen. Jim Beall, Assemblyman Kansen Chu, Santa Clara County Supervisors Dave Cortese and Cindy Chavez, San Jose Councilmembers Raul Peralez and Donald Rocha, and more than 200 community members.

The 27th Assembly District encompasses much of San Jose, from downtown to the East Side, Evergreen, Silver Creek, Little Saigon, Alum Rock, Edenvale, Seven Trees, Communication Hill, Japantown, and the Monterey Corridor.

Kalra, first elected to the city council in 2002, represents District 2, the city’s southern region. He’s a professor at Lincoln Law School of San José, and earlier was an instructor at San José State University. Before his election, he worked for 11 years as an attorney for the Santa Clara County Public Defender’s Office representing indigent clients in Drug Treatment Court.

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Obama’s AG nominee opposes pot legalization

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 at 5:39 pm in Attorney General, marijuana, Obama presidency

Loretta Lynch, President Obama’s nominee to become U.S. Attorney General, told senators at her confirmation hearing Wednesday that she opposes legalization of marijuana.

Questioned by U.S. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., Lynch – currently the top federal prosecutor for part of New York City and all of Long Island – said she doesn’t agree with President Obama’s comments comparing marijuana to alcohol.

“I certainly think that the president was speaking from his personal experience and personal opinion, neither of which I’m able to share,” she said. “But I can tell you that not only do I not support legalization of marijuana, it is not the position of the Department of Justice currently to support the legalization, nor would it be the position should I become confirmed as attorney general.”

The federal Controlled Substances Act deems marijuana to have no valid medical use and a high risk of addiction, and so bans its cultivation, sale, possession and use. Obama in early 2014 told the New Yorker that he believes marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol, a comment that brought criticism from anti-drug activists.

Current U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in August 2013 told the governors of Washington and Colorado – states which had voted in 2012 to legalize recreational marijuana, in conflict with federal law – that the Justice Department will let them implement their laws. At the same time, Deputy Attorney General James Cole issued a memo to U.S. attorneys across the country outlining priorities for federal prosecutors enforcing marijuana laws – including those in the 20 states including California that have legalized marijuana for medical use. California activists hope to put a recreational legalization measure on the November 2016 ballot.

Legalization opponents hailed Lynch’s testimony Wednesday.

“Loretta Lynch could have skirted the issue of legalization by simply repeating DOJ’s policy of select intervention, but she tackled it head on. We are breathing a sigh of relief,” said Kevin Sabet, who used to work in the White House drug czar’s office and now is president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana. “Ms. Lynch is a knowledgeable, experienced, justice-minded individual, and for her to come out so adamantly against legalization is extremely encouraging. It will give our efforts a shot in the arm. We look forward to working with her on these important matters if she is confirmed by the Senate.”

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Barbara Boxer praises BART’s plan to ban e-cigs

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 at 2:33 pm in Barbara Boxer, California State Senate, Mark Leno, Transportation, U.S. Senate

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer is thanking BART for its plan to ban use of e-cigarettes on trains and in stations.

Barbara Boxer“Research has raised major concerns about secondhand exposure to e-cigarette vapor,” Boxer, D-Calif., wrote in a letter sent Wednesday to Bay Area Rapid Transit Board President Thomas Blalock. “This is particularly relevant in small, enclosed spaces such as trains and stations, leading the World Health Organization to recommend that steps be taken to end the use of e-cigarettes indoors in public and work places.”

The BART Board of Directors will hold a final vote to approve the ban on Feb. 12. Boxer last June wrote to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx asking him to ban the use of such devices on airplanes.

State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, introduced a bill this week that would ban use of e-cigarettes in all public spaces.

For the full text of Boxer’s letter to BART, read after the jump…
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Jackie Speier gets new military oversight role

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 at 10:55 am in Jackie Speier, U.S. House

Rep. Jackie Speier, an outspoken critic of how the military handles sexual assaults, has been chosen as ranking member of the House Armed Services Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee.

Jackie Speier“The Department of Defense keeps us safe every day, but there has been a litany of projects exposing weaknesses in acquisition and procurement. I will use this position to root out waste, fraud, and inefficiency at the Pentagon, so that taxpayers can be sure they are getting the value they deserve for their money,” Speier, D-San Mateo, said in a news release.

“From the ill-conceived Littoral Combat Ship, to excessive prices for spare parts, to wasteful practices with ammunition, I have worked eliminate unnecessary military programs,” she added. “We have to make smart investments to keep our nation and our troops safe, not race to spend the most and get the least in return. We also need to be sure our military secrets, like plans for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, cannot be stolen by hackers and foreign governments.”

And last but most certainly not least, the appointment “will also be a powerful tool in our ongoing fight to protect whistleblowers and prevent sexual assault in the military,” she said. “I am eager to work with Chairman Thornberry and Chairwoman Hartzler on all of these issues.”

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New bill would bar drones over private property

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 at 10:38 am in California State Senate

Drone aircraft would be prohibited from trespassing over private property in California, under a bill introduced this week.

SB 142 by state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, would clarify the state’s existing language on trespassing – which forbids people from entering someone’s private property, and from taking photos or recordings there – to specify that it also applies to remotely operated aerial vehicles.

Hannah-Beth Jackson“Drones have a lot of potentially useful and extremely innovative uses. But invading our privacy and property without permission shouldn’t be among them. When we’re in our backyards, with our families, we have an expectation that we have a right to privacy,” Jackson said in a news release. “This bill would extend these long-established definitions of trespassing and privacy, and bring them into the 21st century, by applying them also to drones.”

The bill wouldn’t affect drone use in public areas or in airspace above about 400 feet, which is under federal regulation. Jackson introduced her bill Monday, hours after a drone crashed on the White House lawn.

Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose, introduced a bill in December that would require warrants for human surveillance collected by airborne drones; destruction of drone-collected data within one year; and limits on sharing that data. Law enforcement agencies wouldn’t have to get a warrant before using a drone in response to exigent circumstances, traffic accidents, fires, environmental disasters, and searching for illegal marijuana grows in wilderness areas. Gov. Jerry Brown in September vetoed another bill on this subject.

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Kamala Harris endorsed by LA’s Herb Wesson

By Josh Richman
Monday, January 26th, 2015 at 11:37 am in Kamala Harris, U.S. Senate

California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced Monday that Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson has endorsed her candidacy for the U.S. Senate in 2016 – perhaps a shot across the bow of another prominent Los Angeles political figure who’s considering getting into the race, too.

“She took on the Wall Street banks and delivered for Californians,” Wesson said in Harris’ news release. “She’s fought elementary school truancy and for the right of children to receive a first-class education. And she’ll continue to be a champion for working and middle class families across California and the nation.”

This endorsement seems aimed at highlighting Harris’ connections and popularity in Los Angeles, where former Assembly Speaker and former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is mulling whether to run against her to succeed U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer in 2016.

LA’s huge cache of votes is key to winning any statewide election, and Harris – a Bay Area native – worked hard to build relationships down there when running for attorney general in 2010 against then-Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley.

Harris on Monday said Wesson – also a former Assembly speaker – “has served his city, county and state so effectively for more than two decades, and I look forward to continuing our work together in the years to come.”

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Bill Clinton speaking in Bay Area early next month

By Josh Richman
Sunday, January 25th, 2015 at 9:15 am in Bill Clinton

Former President Bill Clinton will deliver four lectures around the Bay Area in the first week of February.

Bill ClintonClinton comes as part of the MPSF Speakers Series, the nation’s largest community speaker series in the United States, averaging over 8800 subscribers annually. Previous speakers in the 2014-2015 season have included former FBI Director Robert Mueller; former President’s Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Austan Goolsbee; former U.S. Ambassador to China, presidential candidate and Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.; and former U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

Clinton will speak Monday, Feb. 2 at the Marin Veterans Memorial Auditorium in San Rafael; Tuesday, Feb. 3 at the Paramount Theater in Oakland; Wednesday, Feb. 4 at the San Mateo Performing Arts Center; and Thursday, Feb. 5 again at the Marin Veterans Memorial Auditorium. Tickets are sold only for the entire season of speakers, not for a single event, and are sold out for Oakland and San Mateo.

The former president visits the region as speculation heats up about whether and when his wife, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, will declare her candidacy for president in 2016’s election. She’ll be in the Bay Area later in February, delivering a keynote address at the Watermark Silicon Valley Conference for Women at the Santa Clara Convention Center.

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