Part of the Bay Area News Group

SD7: See Susan Bonilla’s first television ad

By Josh Richman
Friday, April 17th, 2015 at 12:57 pm in California State Senate, Susan Bonilla

Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla is launching her first television ad in the 7th State Senate District special election.

The clip includes former Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, saying “Susan Bonilla is an effective legislator bringing people together to get things done.” Contra Costa County District Attoreny Mark Peterson and others then praise her record of balanced budgets, “fixing schools, creating jobs, fighting crime, passing historic pension reform, protecting the Delta and opposing the tunnels.” Miller then returns to say Bonilla “is true to her word and her actions,” hence her support by Democrats, Republicans, businesses, law enforcement and so on.

Bonilla campaign spokesman Patrick McGarrity said the ad started airing today and will keep running through the May 19 election on cable channels in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. The campaign’s TV budget “is in the low six figures,” he said.

Leave a comment

SD7: Would they extend Prop. 30 taxes?

By Josh Richman
Thursday, April 16th, 2015 at 6:05 pm in California State Senate, education, Susan Bonilla, taxes

Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer says Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla flip-flopped on extending Proposition 30’s tax hikes to fund California’s schools, but Bonilla’s campaign said she has been consistent all along: She doesn’t support extending those taxes, but would support imposing new ones in their place.

The two Democrats are facing off in the 7th State Senate District’s special election, scheduled for May 19.

A new Bonilla campaign mailer that attacks Glazer for distorting her positions says she opposes extending the Prop. 30 taxes: “Glazer and his billionaire mega donor Bill Bloomfield are lying about Bonilla because they want to hide the fact that Steve Glazer was the ‘mastermind’ behind Prop 30, the $13.1 billion tax increase.”

The mailer follows that with a direct quote from Bonilla: “Steve Glazer and I both oppose extending Prop. 30.”

Bonilla

Josh Pulliam, Bonilla’s campaign consultant, said late Thursday afternoon that Bonilla has never supported an extension – whether by legislative action or another ballot measure – of Proposition 30’s taxes, and on several occasions has publicly corrected those who said otherwise.

She does, however, support a new, different, voter-approved tax hike measure to fund education in place of Prop. 30, he said.

Many apparently have been confused by this – perhaps including me.

In January, I reported on a TriValley Democratic Club forum at which Bonilla and then-candidate Joan Buchanan (who was eliminated in March’s special primary election) made their pitches.

Unsurprisingly, both said they would work to extend the Prop. 30 sales taxes and income taxes on the rich – due to expire in 2016 and 2018, respectively – in order to keep bankrolling education.

“The governor has made it very clear that the word ‘temporary’ means temporary, but … we need to go out to the people, I believe we can make the case,” Bonilla said. “There’s no way that you can get education on the cheap, it just doesn’t work.”

Contra Costa Times columnist Tom Barnridge wrote this after asking questions at a televised candidates’ forum in February:

What to do when Proposition 30 expires, ending temporary increases in sales and income taxes? Buchanan, Bonilla and Kremin would put an extension before voters. Glazer would let it expire because a temporary tax, he said, is meant to be temporary.

And the Lamorinda Democratic Club’s March newsletter recounted a Feb. 4 candidates’ forum thusly:

Susan Bonilla and Joan Buchanan favored extending Proposition 30 taxes, and a oil severance tax to continue to improve California schools—especially for the less fortunate. Steve Glazer, meanwhile, was against any new taxes and instead believed the government would have to live with the revenues it already receives.

Glazer campaign spokesman Jason Bezis said “there are more flips and flops in the Bonilla tax position than an amusement park roller coaster.

“She blindly supported a Prop. 30 tax extension in the primary, even though the promise to voters in 2012 was that it would be temporary. Now, in the general election, she flops away from it because that broken promise hurts her,” he claimed. “After this duplicity is uncovered, she flips yet again and says she wants to raise billions in new taxes, but just not ‘Prop 30’ taxes. You can see why voters are dizzy with Sacramento politicians like Bonilla. They have had enough of the political doublespeak.”

Incidentally, the Lamorinda Democratic Club – Glazer’s home turf – was scheduled to take an endorsement vote last week, president Katie Ricklefs said Thursday. But the vote was scrapped when a Glazer campaign operative cited a club bylaw – not updated since before the top-two primary system took effect – that essentially precludes the club from picking one Democrat over another in a general election. “We did a straw poll that showed 100 percent support for Susan, though,” Ricklefs said.

Leave a comment

Obama honors Cal labor scholar at White House

By Josh Richman
Thursday, April 16th, 2015 at 2:10 pm in Barack Obama, Labor politics, Obama presidency

A Berkeley labor scholar and consultant was among those honored by President Obama at the White House on Thursday as “Champions of Change” for working families.

Netsy FiresteinNetsy Firestein, 62, is a senior fellow at UC-Berkeley’s Institute for Research on Labor and Employment and a consultant on work and family, child care, women and labor issues.

As founder and director of the Labor Project for Working Families, Firestein led a coalition that passed paid family leave in California, which covers almost every worker in the state. She also co-founded Family Values @ Work, a network of 21 states working to build a movement for family-friendly workplace policies such as family leave insurance and paid sick days.

Obama’s Champions of Change program lets the White House honor people who do extraordinary things to empower and inspire their communities. Thursday’s batch of 11 honorees were selected for having worked within their companies, communities or organizations for commonsense paid sick and paid leave policies, equal pay and an end to pregnancy discrimination to support families, businesses, and the economy.

The president singled out Firestein’s case as an example, citing her lead role in enacting California’s first-in-the-nation paid family leave law in 2002.

“People said it was a long shot,” Obama said. “And 13 years later, only two other states have done the same. But Netsy has proved that it’s possible – California is growing, businesses are being created. Not only is it possible, it’s the right thing to do. It’s patriotic. We should learn from her example and get those numbers up. We need more states to join in.”

Also speaking at Thursday’s ceremony were senior advisor Valerie Jarrett – chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls – and U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez. The honorees took part in two panel discussions on working families moderated by Tina Tchen, executive director of the White House Council on Women and Girls, and Roy Austin, deputy assistant to the president for the Office of Urban Affairs, Justice and Opportunity.

Leave a comment

Rep. Eric Swalwell is having a good week

By Josh Richman
Thursday, April 16th, 2015 at 11:48 am in Eric Swalwell, U.S. House

It’s a banner week for the East Bay’s Rep. Eric Swalwell.

On Tuesday, the life sciences and pharmaceutical industry held a fundraising reception for Swalwell, D-Dublin, at Washington, D.C.’s Sonoma Restaurant and Wine Bar; contributors gave $500, $1,000 or $2,000 each.

On Wednesday, it became apparent that he barely needed Tuesday’s fundraiser. The first-quarter campaign finance report he filed with the Federal Election Commission showed he raised $330,136 from Jan. 1 through March 30, bringing his cash on hand to $534,161.

Mind you, that’s what he has left after giving $50,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and smaller contributions (usually $500 each) to a bunch of California Democrats in tougher districts, including Ami Bera, Julia Brownley, Pete Aguilar and Scott Peters – the kind of party tithing that helps members of Congress build clout for leadership positions.

And speaking of leadership positions, Swalwell – already a regional Democratic whip – on Thursday announced he’ll chair a new “Future Forum” of 14 young Democratic House members focused on issues and opportunities for millennials.

Eric SwalwellAt a kickoff announcement in Washington, Swalwell and Democratic Policy and Communications Committee Chairman Steve Israel, D-N.Y., said forum members are starting a national listening tour with stops in New York, Boston and the Bay Area, with other cities to follow in coming months.

In the Bay Area, those events will include a town hall on rising student debt and college affordability from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. next Monday, April 20 in the event center at Chabot College, 25555 Hesperian Blvd. in Hayward. Swalwell and several other forum members also will hold a town hall on millennial entrepreneurship from 6 to 7 p.m. that night at the Impact Hub SF co-working space, 925 Mission St. in San Francisco.

“The issues of rising student loan debt, college affordability and declining millennial entrepreneurship do not just impact young Americans, they affect the health of our overall economy. Congress can’t afford to ignore these pressing challenges,” Swalwell said in a news release. “But we can’t just be talking about millennials; we need to be listening to millennials. To that end, we are crowdsourcing stories and ideas at events around the country and via social media and Medium to hear directly from our generation about how Congress can take action to better our future.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said in the release that the forum members “bring the energetic, innovative, forward-looking leadership needed to meet the 21st century challenges we face. This effort is about bringing young people to the table and harnessing their dynamism, optimism, and hope to create a future where equality of opportunity exists for all, not just the ultra-wealthy and well-connected.”

Other Future Forum include Aguilar, D-Redlands; Brendan Boyle, D-Pa.; Joaquin Castro, D-Texas; Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii; Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz.; Joe Kennedy, D-Mass.; Derek Kilmer, D-Wash.; Ted Lieu, D-Torrance; Grace Meng, D-N.Y.; Seth Moulton, D-Mass.; Patrick Murphy, D-Fla.; Jared Polis, D-Colo.; and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.

All this unfolds while there’s not yet anyone clearly preparing to challenge Swalwell in 2016.

At this time two years ago, then-state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett already had announced she would take him on. But her third-place finish in last June’s top-two primary has called into question whether a challenge on Swalwell’s left flank can be effective in a district where 22.7 percent of voters are nonpartisan and 21.5 percent are Republicans.

Now, without a potential rival breathing down his neck, watch for him to spend more of his second term focused not only on serving constituents but also on shoring up his bona fides within the party to assure himself a more prominent future.

Leave a comment

Warren & Frank to headline state Dem convention

By Josh Richman
Thursday, April 16th, 2015 at 10:49 am in Democratic Party, Democratic politics

Once again underscoring deep-blue California’s penchant for pulling the Democratic party leftward, the state party will have progressive favorites U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and retired Rep. Barney Frank headline its convention May 15 through 17 in Anaheim.

My Approved Portraits“Sen. Warren and retired Rep. Frank embody Democrats’ fight for fairness in our economy and financial reforms that reward Americans’ hard work and hope for the future,” California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton said in a news release.

“As California Democrats, we’re proud to count so many elected leaders who are in the same tradition and are showing leadership through action,” he said. “Democrats must redouble their efforts to combat growing income inequality so that the American dream is attainable for a new generation of Americans, and California Democrats must lead that charge.”

Barney FrankThe Massachusetts liberals represent much that some Democrats fear presidential candidate Hillary Clinton does not. Warren, who in 2012 became the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from Massachusetts, has been a leader on protecting workers and consumers. Frank, who served in the House from 1981 to 2013, was its first openly gay member and championed reforms to repair the U.S. economy with 2010’s Dodd-Frank Act.

Others scheduled to speak at the convention include House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco; Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who’s running for governor in 2018; Attorney. General Kamala Harris, who is running for the U.S. Senate in 2016; Controller Betty Yee; Treasurer John Chiang; Secretary of State Alex Padilla; Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones; state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles; and Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego.

Leave a comment

SD7: Bonilla v. Glazer on business support, taxes

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, April 15th, 2015 at 2:37 pm in California State Senate, Susan Bonilla

The battle between 7th State Senate District special election candidates Steve Glazer and Susan Bonilla to define themselves and each other roared on Wednesday, with Bonilla’s campaign simultaneously touting a significant business endorsement and faulting Glazer for supporting a parcel-tax hike that she supports, too.

Susan BonillaAs I reported in Sunday’s editions, the Democrat-on-Democrat race largely has pitted labor unions (supporting Bonilla, an Assemblywoman from Concord) against business interests (supporting Glazer, Orinda’s mayor).

But neither candidate fully embraces that division, and the lines do get blurry in places. Bonilla, who already had several corporate contributors and the support of the California Dental Association and California Medical Association, announced the California Small Business Association’s endorsement Wednesday.

“Susan Bonilla is a fiscally responsible leader with a strong record of partnering with small businesses, giving them tools to succeed and create good jobs,” CSBA President Betty Jo Toccoli said in Bonilla’s news release.

Bonilla may have some small businesses’ support, but Glazer has big businesses’ money on his side. JobsPAC, the California Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee, has independently spent at least $555,000 as of Wednesday on Glazer’s behalf.

Bonilla’s campaign also Wednesday issued a memo to reporters decrying Glazer’s support of the San Ramon Valley Unified School District’s Measure A, which would renew an existing $144-per-year-parcel tax.

Steve Glazer“The list of Steve Glazer’s proclamations that he is a ‘fiscal conservative’ and that he would ‘hold the line on taxes’ is longer than Pinocchio’s nose,” Bonilla campaign consultant Josh Pulliam wrote in the memo. “Susan Bonilla supports the Measure A Parcel Tax … but she doesn’t play political games like Glazer, who broke his own campaign promise on taxes by endorsing the Measure A Parcel Tax.”

But Glazer’s campaign says Pulliam played it fast and loose with the facts.

“First, it’s an extension not a new tax and is a local choice,” spokesman Jason Bezis said. “Second, Bonilla is playing politics with an important school measure and this is typical of a Sacramento politician. Her lack of support for local schools is not a surprise given her bad vote last year to cap local school district reserves.”

Leave a comment

Thompson co-authors ‘Crude-by-Rail Safety Act’

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, April 15th, 2015 at 1:59 pm in Mike Thompson, U.S. House

A Bay Area congressman is helping to lead the charge for new safety and security standards for transporting crude oil by rail.

Mike ThompsonRep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, co-authored and helped introduce Wednesday the Crude-by-Rail Safety Act, along with Reps. Jim McDermott, D-Wash.; Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento; Ron Kind, D-Wisc.; and Nita Lowey, D-N.Y.

“Public safety is priority number one when it comes to transporting highly volatile crude oil,” Thompson said in a news release. “Railcars transporting crude run through the heart of our communities, and as recent accidents have demonstrated, robust, comprehensive action is needed. The bill introduced today puts safety measures in place that will help make sure communities are secure, railcars are as strong as possible, and first responders are prepared in the event of an emergency.”

The recent, large growth in crude-by-rail transport has led to a rise in rail accidents. Four derailments in the United States and Canada in less than a month earlier this year underscored the need to review and improve safety rules, the lawmakers say.

Their bill sets a maximum volatility standard for crude oil and certain other potentially flammable and explosive substances moved by rail; prohibits use of DOT-111 tank cars, which would involve removing 37,700 from the rail network; sets strong new tank-car standards; requires comprehensive oil-spill response planning and studies; increases fines for violating standards; requires disclosure of train movement through communities; and requires railroads to create confidential close-call reporting systems.

Leave a comment

Clinton taps Kamala Harris’ sister as policy advisor

By Josh Richman
Tuesday, April 14th, 2015 at 4:38 pm in 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton, Kamala Harris

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has named California Attorney General Kamala Harris’ younger sister, civil rights attorney Maya Harris, to help lead her campaign’s policy team.

Maya HarrisMaya Harris – who also is the wife of former Associate Attorney General Tony West, who stepped down last year from his third-in-command post at the U.S. Justice Department – most recently was a senior fellow at the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress. Before that, she was vice president for democracy, rights and justice at the Ford Foundation; before that, she was executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, based in San Francisco.

Harris, 48, is one of three senior policy advisers Clinton named Tuesday to lead the development of her campaign’s agenda, Politico reported. The others are Ann O’Leary, a former legislative director to Clinton when she was in the Senate; and Jake Sullivan, a top aide to Clinton while she was Secretary of State and a former national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden.

Leave a comment

Bartender, a round of Cuba Libres for the House.

By Josh Richman
Tuesday, April 14th, 2015 at 3:30 pm in Barbara Lee, John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, Sam Farr, U.S. House

Bay Area House members are thrilled by President Obama’s decision today to remove Cuba from the government’s list of state sponsors of terrorism; Republicans, predictably less so.

From Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco:

Nancy Pelosi“Today, the President has taken an important step forward toward restored relations with Cuba. Taking Cuba off the state sponsors of terror list removes an outdated designation that no longer serves the security interests of the United States, nor the democratic aspirations of the Cuban people.

“This move continues the historic normalization of relations between our countries. It will facilitate the opening of new markets for American banks and businesses, and new opportunities for the people of Cuba.

“I hope we can continue to take our relations in a positive and constructive direction, and build on the historic progress we have made thus far.”

From Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio:

John Boehner“I am disappointed that the White House seems determined to reward the Castro regime, which has a clear record of repression at home and exporting violence throughout the region. Not even a week has passed since the brutal attacks on Cuban democracy protestors in Panama City during the Summit for the Americas. Those attacks – and the Castros’ long history of human rights violations – demonstrate the folly of revisiting diplomatic relations with this communist dictatorship and removing it from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terror.

“Cozying up to the oppressive regime in Cuba is a blow to all who long for liberty and dignity. And it’s just one more example of this administration focusing more on befriending our enemies than helping our allies. The United States has a responsibility to stand strong for all those who struggle for freedom, and the House of Representatives is committed to doing its part.”

From Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland:

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)“I am pleased that President Obama will be removing Cuba from the State Sponsor of Terrorism List. This action is long overdue and is an important step toward fully normalizing relations with Cuba.

“Along with many of my colleagues, I have long called for Cuba to be removed from this list. In December of 2013, I wrote a letter calling for de-list Cuba. I have reiterated that call in subsequent letters, including a December 2014 letter signed by 37 of my colleagues, which called for moves toward normalization ahead of the Summit of the Americas.

“The letter stated: ‘Over the years, reports by the State Department on the state sponsors of terrorism, have found no evidence or indication that Cuba provides weapons or training to terrorists. In fact, Cuba now meets global standards for fighting money-laundering and preventing terrorist finance, in addition to playing an active role in bringing Colombia’s civil war to an end.’

“By removing Cuba from the State Sponsor of Terrorism List, President Obama is signaling his strong commitment to building a more productive relationship with Cuba. As we continue to move forward, renewed ties will bring great benefits to the Cuban and American people. Given Cuba’s close proximity to the U.S., improved relations will open new trade opportunities that will allow U.S. businesses to expand and create jobs here at home. This will also expand existing education and cultural exchanges.

“Congress also has a critical role to play. It’s past time to end the failed embargo, lift the restrictive travel ban and formally normalize relations. I am glad to be co-leading The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act (H.R. 664) and Free Trade with Cuba Act (H.R. 403) to forge a new path between our two countries.”

From Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel:

Sam Farr“As Cuba moves to reintegrate itself into the international community, we must be willing to modernize our relations with them. This decision by the President moves us closer to normalized relations between our two countries. Decades of isolation have not worked so I am glad we are finally talking with our neighbor to push for new path forward in Cuba.

“I have been engaged in Latin American affairs since serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Colombia. At the 2012 Summit in Cartagena, it was clear our position towards Cuba alienated us from the rest of the hemisphere. We must join the rest of the world by engaging with the island to help build a more open and democratic Cuba.”

Leave a comment

Rep. Jackie Speier rips federal pipeline watchdog

By Josh Richman
Tuesday, April 14th, 2015 at 12:36 pm in Jackie Speier, U.S. House

Rep. Jackie Speier went medieval on the federal agency that oversees pipeline safety during a House hearing Tuesday, calling it “not only a toothless tiger, but one that has overdosed on Quaaludes and is passed out on the job.”

Speier, D-San Mateo, whose district includes the San Bruno neighborhood where eight people died and 38 homes were leveled in a 2010 Pacific Gas & Electric natural-gas pipeline explosion, uncorked her ire at a hearing of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee. She wants more accountability from the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).

“It is clear to me that PHMSA does not have the teeth—or the will—to enforce pipeline safety in this country,” said Speier. “As we’ve seen in California, it is often powerless over state regulators. Even when it has crystal-clear authority, it still refuses to act.”

The Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011 eliminated the “grandfather clause” that had given operators a pass on gas transmission pipelines installed before adequate testing was required. This law required PHMSA to close the loophole within 18 months, but instead the agency basically has disregarded the statute, Speier said.

Speier demanded that PHMSA increase its oversight over state pipeline inspection agencies – in our case, the California Public Utilities Commission – and enact the National Transportation Safety Board’s recommendations to overhaul its policies. She plans to introduce a bill to further tighten pipeline safety requirements and increase PHMSA’s ability to ensure that state pipeline safety agencies are held accountable for enforcing safety rules.

Leave a comment