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Democrat rolls Pombo but GOP prevails

Nah, this is not a prediction of the outcome of the November general election. This is about the annual congressional baseball game last night.

GOP Rep. Richard Pombo was playing the catcher’s position when Democrat Rep. Russ Carnahan of Missouri charged home plate after a foul ball and bowled him over. The Democrats in the crowd reportedly went nuts.

“No harm done,” says Pombo flack Lucas Frances, tongue firmly in cheek. “Pombo is accustomed to attacks from left field.”

The final score?

Republicans 12, Democrats 1.

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CD11 candidate McNerney wins on-line contest

Congressional District 11 Democratic candidate Jerry McNerney has prevailed in an on-line voting contest to determine which candidate would win a national fundraising campaign from Democracy for America.

Democracy for America is a grassroots liberal organization inspired by the presidential candidacy of Howard Dean and now run by his brother, Jim.

According to DFA’s web site, “here’s what your contributions to McNerney will mean:
$25 brings Jerry’s message to 50 voters via mail.
$50 buys 25 lawn signs for grassroots supporters.
$100 gets Jerry valuable time on a local radio station.
$250 helps Jerry compete with (incumbent Rep. Richard) Pombo (R-Tracy) on a local TV station.”

McNerney won the June primary on the strength of his grassroots campaigning but many folks remain skeptical about whether or not the technique will work in a conservative district against the seven-term incumbent Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy.

As one observer astutely noted, “Let’s not forget that Howard Dean lost.”

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Oil found under White House?

Testimony by Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, on the floor of the House of Representatives, in opposition to a bill that would lift a 25-year moratorium and allow states to drill offshore for oil and natural gas:

“First ANWR, now the Outer Continental Shelf. Republicans would put an oil well on the White House
lawn if they could get away with it.”

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Highway system turns 50: Does it need a facelift?

Fifty years ago today, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 and launched the interstate highway system.

Today, most of us babyboomers take for granted, gas prices notwithstanding, the ease in which we can zip in our cars from city to city or state to state. My 85-year-old mother-in-law remembers when it took all day to travel in the family car from her childhood home in Oakland over narrow roads into the countryside in Walnut Creek.

In an analysis of a national report released today, a California transportation advocacy group warns that the Golden State is going back to the future.

According to a Transportation California staff review of a national report by the Washington-based TRIP, a national transportation research group, the benefits of the highway system “are now eroding because California has been unable to keep up with the extreme wear and tear and growing traffic congestion on its complex system of Interstate routes and other highways. Travel is increasing at a rate five times faster than Interstate capacity has been added. Today, 75 percent of California‚Äôs urban Interstates are considered congested.”

Heck, and these folks probably haven’t driven on Highway 24 lately, either.

Watch for details of these two studies to appear in campaign materials for Proposition 1B, a November ballot measure that asks voters to authorize the sale of $19.9 billion in bonds for freeway and port improvements.

It’s a fraction of what transportation leaders estimate the state needs to spend in order to catch up with demand. But bonds are the most politically palatable option given the public’s well-known dislike of gas taxes, the traditional source of funds for road maintenance and improvements.

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What do you call an Assemblyman?

An inquisitive reader sent this email: ” ‘Will we finally get to call him ‘Ass. DeSaulnier?’ ‘The Honorable Ass. DeSaulnier?’ Hey, I like the guy, just wondering …”

He refers, of course, to Mark DeSaulnier, a Contra Costa County supervisor who won the Democratic primary in June for Assembly District 11 against three challengers, including Pittsburg School Board Trustee Laura Canciamilla. (Yes, she’s the wife of the termed-out incumbent, Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla of Pittsburg.)

The answer, however, will depend on the outcome of the Nov. 7 general election. It’s a heavily Democratic district but DeSaulnier does have a Republican opponent, Antioch Councilman Arne Simonsen. Libertarian Cory Nott is also on the ballot.

But even if DeSaulnier wins, you won’t find the above abbreviation in your newspaper: We have a list of approved truncations and this isn’t on it. While we write, “Sen. So and So” or “Rep. So and So,” we never write, “Ass. So and So,” for obvious reasons!

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Eminent domain initiative qualifes for California ballot

The “Protect Our Homes” initiative qualified today for the November general election ballot.

The measure is part of a nationwide property rights movement that gained momentum after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Kelo vs. City of New London that a city could legally seize private property for the purposes of economic development.

Unlike Connecticut, California law prohibits public agencies from using eminent domain unless the property has been declared blighted but critics say the process has been abused.

Government leaders and legislators, however, say eminent domain is the option of last resort and usually exercised in cases where private property owners are holding land hostage in the hopes of obtaining exorbitant prices at the taxpayers’ expense.

The initiative bars the taking of property for private use, as commonly occurs in redevelopment projects. It allows the use of eminent domain only in instances where the land is necessary for public projects, such as parks and roads. Click here to access the proponents’ web site.

It’s the 13th initiative to qualify for November, virtually guaranteeing a dense ballot and a massive infusion of campaign spending in the coming months. Contra Costa County election chief Steve Weir also says a big ballot adds cost and complexity to the election.

But an end is in sight. The deadline to make the November ballot is Thursday and while an additional 30 measures are in circulation, time is running short. For a full list on the Secretary of State web site, click here.

The deadline doesn’t apply to the Legislature, however, which is contemplating the addition of a redistricting reform measure. A constitutional amendment by Sen. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, would shift the drawing of political boundaries away from lawmakers and into the hands of an independent panel.