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Archive for August, 2006

Concord Councilwoman Helen Allen leaves race

Feisty three-term Concord City Councilwoman and former mayor Helen Allen has pulled out of the race for re-election, citing the ongoing controversy over whether or not she lives in the city.

“I want the focus to be on the issues,” Allen said, “not on me. I don’t need that.”

Despite having served 13 years on the City Council and six years on the Planning Commission, Helen’s commitment to Concord came under fire after she and her husband, Bill, bought a house in Sacramento last year. At the time, she said they wanted to be closer to their grandchildren.

But Allen, a 66-year-old retired kindergarten teacher and Contra Costa native, continued to spend much of the week in Concord in order to conduct her official duties, splitting her time between Sacramento and the Concord condo she and her sister own.

Allen consulted with District Attorney Bob Kochly, who had no issue with the councilwoman’s residency. He defined residency as a place where people intend to regularly return, where they receive mail and phone calls, and keep clothing.

Yet, questions about Allen’s address continued to surface, both at council meetings and in letters to the editor.

Allen is an outspoken politician known both for her straight talk and love of fashionable and occasionally flashy clothing. She is also a conservative Republican who publicly champions property rights and has had the consistent support of developers, views that have drawn the ire of liberal Democrats.

In attempt to put an end to the residency question several months ago, the Allens put their Sacramento house on the market and announced plans to buy another home in Concord.

But the housing market has softened and she said she has been unable to sell her Sacramento house, located in a gated, senior community on the outskirts of town.

“I decided it was time for me to move on,” Allen said.

That doesn’t mean Allen is leaving town.

She says she and her husband of 40 years still intend to sell the Sacramento house and move full-time to Concord. She also continues to substitute teach in area schools.

“I’ll find something to do, believe me,” Allen said. “But whatever it is, it’s going to be something positive that contributes to the community.”

Prior to her moving to Concord, she served on the Clayton Planning Commission from 1974 to 1980 and was elected to the Clayton City Council in 1980, serving as Clayton’s mayor for two years.

Allen’s departure leaves one incumbent, Laura Hoffmeister, in the competition for three seats.

Other candidates qualified as of Wednesday morning were Michael Chavez and Harmesh Kumar. Tom Evans had qualified but has also pulled out of the race.

Two residents’ candidate paperwork were pending, including Ron Leone and Harmon West.

Posted on Wednesday, August 16th, 2006
Under: election 2006 | No Comments »

Redistricting dead, for now

California legislative leaders have abandoned efforts to reform this year the way the state draws its political boundaries or propose changes to term limits.

In a press release issued a few minutes ago from the office of Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, a joint panel appointed to craft a proposal has called it a day.

Here’s the joint panel’s statement:

“There is no question about the need to reform the redistricting process and our current system of term limits in California. But given the tremendous impact any proposal crafted by the Legislature this year could have on politics and policymaking in our state, we feel it is the best course not to pursue a sweeping reform package in the waning hours of the legislative session. Make no mistake, our caution in crafting a reform package this year does not in any way diminish our determination to fix a broken system. We stand committed to revisiting redistricting and term limits reform in the next legislative session – to once and for all craft responsible, bipartisan political reforms for the people of California.”

The concession will disappoint reform advocates who sought to link SCA 3, which would have stripped from state lawmakers the task of drawing political boundaries and assigned the job to an independent panel, to less restrictive term limits.

But as one lawmaker said about the endeavor, “It’s like asking a pig to butcher itself.”

Posted on Tuesday, August 15th, 2006
Under: Election reform | No Comments »

New poll shows Southern California GOP voters conflicted

Republicans in Congressional District 50 in Southern California are divided over how President George Bush has conducted the Iraq War, according to a poll released today by Courage Campaign, a liberal 527 group based in Los Angeles, and MyDD, a political blog. (527’s are organizations named after the section in the U.S. tax code that governs groups formed to conduct political actitivies.)

The poll was conducted from August 2-3 with a total of 308 respondents. Wright Consulting Services of Phoenix surveyed Democratic, Republican and Independent voters in the June 6 run-off between Republican Brian Bilbray and Democrat Francine Busby as well as non-voters who participated in either the 2003 recall election or the 2004 presidential election. Complete poll results are available at (Bilbray won the run-off but faces Busby in the general election in November.)

Among poll findings:

63 percent of Republicans say that the president has made a lot or some mistakes in conducting the war in

34 percent of Republicans believe that Bush was not truthful about the war

34 percent of Republican voters believe that Bush should probably or definitely be held accountable for the situation in Iraq

40 percent of Republicans surveyed feel the Democrats are most likely to hold Bush accountable, versus only 11 percent who feel Republicans will.

This rift, Matt Stoller of MyDD said in a press release, “parallels the Vietnam-era split in the Democratic Party base.”

According Chris Bowers, also of MyDD, the poll “shows that communicating a message to hold the Bush administration accountable for mistakes in Iraq should find wide-ranging appeal.”

“The message is very clear,” said Rick Jacobs Chair of The Courage Campaign in the same release. “People do not trust George Bush on his conduct of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. They believe that a strong opposition party, the Democrats, is the only viable means by which true oversight and thereby accountability can be injected into a bloated government run amok.”

Jacobs is the founder and chairman of the Courage Campaign. He led Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean’s presidential campaign in California and serves as senior advisor to Democracy for America, a liberal grassroots organization.

Chris Bowers is a blogger and an internet consultant based in Philadelphia.

Posted on Monday, August 14th, 2006
Under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

McCloskey responds to Pombo/McNerney column

Former congressman Pete McCloskey, a defeated Republican candidate for Congressional District 11 in the June primary, has responded to my column of Sunday, Aug. 13, about the missteps of Democratic nominee Jerry McNerney as he seeks to unseat incumbent Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy.

I thought readers would be interested in the letter, although the text probably doesn’t do justice to McCloskey’s subtle and clever use of sarcasm! And the posting of this letter should not imply that I concur with all of the esteemed retired congressman’s observations about Pombo. But here is it:

Title: The Unusual Race in California’s 11th Congressional District

Dear Ms. Political Editor:

I enjoyed your penetrating analysis of one of the two candidates for Congress in the 11th District.

You properly described Mr. McNerney as a bit of a novice office seeker, too dumb to decline to answer a detailed questionaire a year ago that no experienced politician would have dared answer. You were scrupulously fair in making it clear that Mr. McNerney was equally dumb in going back to change 55 of those answers, thereby indicating that he didn’t know what he was talking about a year ago or that he has suddenly become a typical politician, tailoring his positions to those the pollsters tell him his constituency wants to hear.

But why not ask Mr. Pombo what HIS answers would be to those same 55 questions? To my knowledge, Mr. Pombo has successfully evaded answering ANY tough questions on the numerous issues you cite. Can you remember, in all his years of representing Contra Costa County, when Mr. Pombo has held a public meeting to answer yes-or-no questions from the public? Or when he has debated an opponent, no matter how old or unworthy?

Why not ask Mr. Pombo to defend his positions on privatizing Social Security, reducing taxes on the wealthiest Americans, putting a development on the Farallone Islands, selling off 15 National Parks, turning millions of acres of lands over to mining companies for development, promoting his famous “road to nowhere” which would substantially increase the value of his family’s landholdings? Why not ask him why he lied to the Senate in 1994, testifying falsely that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service had diminished the value of his farm by designating it as habitat for the endangered kit fox, only to admit a year later on public radio that this was untrue?

In fairness to the bumbling Mr. McNerney, wouldn’t it have been fair for you to inquire of Mr. Pombo why he too has reneged on a number of his promises of the famous Contract With America which brought Republicans to power in 1994, say, for example, his promise if in the majority, to work for balanced budgets, and that no congressman would serve over six terms?

In addition to your proper conclusion that Mr. McNerney’s missteps could lead to a long vacation, might it not have been fair to add that Mr. Pombo’s artful dodging might lead to another two years of enriching his wife from campaign funds, a few more votes to increase his own salary, getting another $250,000 from oil companies, $500,000 from Indian tribes, and another $40,000 from the likes of Jack Abramoff and his associates? Why not ask him why he has refused to hold investigative hearings into two matters that are in the jurisdiction of his Committee, Mr. Abramoff’s primary clients, those famous clothing manufacturers of the Marianas Islands and those Indian tribes seeking to preserve or prevent competing gambling casinos? Since the McNerney position on gas taxes is so bad, why not ask Mr. Pombo why, on the day that gas taxes neared $3.90 per gallon, Mr. Pombo found himself down in
Houston, Texas, raising money from Shell Oil Executives in a private meeting? Or maybe even asking him what he said and what the Shell people said at that meeting? Why not ask him why he gave $5,000 to the indicted Tom DeLay’s legal defense fund?

To his credit, might you not note that Mr. Pombo has been successful in earmarking more money for the Marianas Islands with its prostitution and forced abortions as noted in Ms. Magazine than he has for Contra Costa County.

Let’s be fair, Ms. Political Editor.

We have to face the fact that Contra Costa County voters have a unique choice: Should it be the bumbling but honest novice, or the evasive charlatan, master of the misuse of the frank and named as one of the 13 Most Corrupt Members of Congress by one non-partisan Washington watchdog organization?

This may not be an easy choice, but having served 15 years in the House, and observed it with interest for 24 more years, my wife and I, as voters in the 11th District, will accept a little inexperience and naivete and go for honesty and the chance to return the House to being an honored institution led by honest Members like George Miller and Ellen Tauscher, rather than by the Tom DeLays, Duke Cunninghams and Bob Neys we have seen so disgrace the House in the year just past.

Your Obedient Servant,
Pete McCloskey, defeated candidate for Congress in the 11th District

Posted on Monday, August 14th, 2006
Under: congressional district 11, election 2006 | No Comments »

Pombo up for adoption?

Here’s a laugh-out-loud column written by Daryl Lease in Sarasota, New York.

He’s written a spoof involving a telemarketing call where BP — the oil company — seeks folks willing to shell out $100 a month and adopt a pig, a smart pig, one of those remote devices that inspects the insides of pipes. Corrosion recently forced BP to close portions of its Prudhoe Bay pipeline.

One of the pigs is named after, you guessed it, Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, an open dig on the congressman’s view that relying on on a few pipelines helps drive up prices and the public should allow oil companies to expand their operations.

Posted on Monday, August 14th, 2006
Under: congressional district 11 | No Comments »

Election 2006 candidate list

A few folks have called this morning looking for the list of candidates that have qualified for local races in Contra Costa and Alameda counties. The filing deadline was Friday at 5 p.m.

It’s coming, I promise!

We’ll publish the list in the Sunday newspaper and it will be available on-line. I’ll link to it as soon as it has been posted. HERE’S THE LINK:

I worked until nearly midnight Friday night and again much of the morning on the election round-up, but the process is fraught with numerous details. Many cities handle their own filings, which means there is a lag time between when the candidate files in a city clerk’s office and the county election offices receive the information. Some prospective candidates have only partially completed the process, which leaves their status in limbo.

In addition, the filing deadline for races where the incumbents failed to file for re-election is automatically extended to Aug. 16 at 5 p.m. That turns our candidate list into a moving target because the final list won’t be known until later in the week.

But we’re are working to bring our readers as complete a list as soon as possible.

Posted on Saturday, August 12th, 2006
Under: election 2006 | No Comments »

Analysis of Lieberman loss

Slate, the national online magazine, featured a very interesting analysis today about how a widespread shift to th eleft in the wake of Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman’s loss to anti-war challenger Ned Lamont could backfire on Democrats.

Here’s an excerpt of writer Jacob Weisberg’s conclusion:

“Whether Democrats can avoid playing their Vietnam video to the end depends on their ability to project military and diplomatic toughness in place of the elitism and anti-war purity represented in 2004 by Howard Dean and now by Ned Lamont. Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front-runner for 2008, is trying to walk this difficult line, continuing to express support for the war in principle while becoming increasingly strident in her criticism of its execution. As the congressional elections approach, many Republican candidates are fleeing Bush’s embrace because of his Iraq-induced unpopularity. But Lamont’s victory points to a way in which Bush’s disastrous war could turn into an even bigger liability for the Democrats.”

Posted on Thursday, August 10th, 2006
Under: election 2006 | 1 Comment »

Rep. George Miller’s appearances to air on local TV

Town hall meetings held in July with Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, in addition to the congressman’s speech to local organizations, will air on local television channels this month.

Miller spoke to residents in Pinole and Clayton about the Middle East, gas prices and energy independence. He also introduced the Democrats’ “New Direction for America,” the party’s list of priorities for Americans.

The Pinole town meeting will air on Pinole Community Television Channel 26 on Aug. 12 at 6 p.m.

The Clayton town meeting will air on Comcast’s CCTV Channel 27 on Aug. 24 at 8 p.m. and against on Aug. 29 and noon.

Miller’s Aug. 3 update from Washington to the Contra Costa Council and Contra Costa Child Care Council will air on Comcast’s CCTV Channel 27 on two dates: Aug. 22 at 9 p.m., and Aug. 23 at noon.

Posted on Thursday, August 10th, 2006
Under: Congress | No Comments »

Term limits poll show strong support

A poll commissioned by US Term Limits, a national group promoting term limits, found that Californians remain deeply attached to term limits. No big surprise here.

An Aug. 3 poll conducted by Pulse Opinion Research found that 69 percent of those questioned would be less likley to support a politician who tries to weaken term limits. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

Interestingly, the poll also found that 67 percent supported cut-backs on the perks that state politicans earn.

California has had term limits since 1990, when voters enthusiastically endorsed the concept in a ballot initiative.

Recently, some lawmakers have proposed tinkering with term limits as part of redistricting reform. The idea is to allow politicians to serve a total of 12 years in the state Legislature in one or both of its bodies, the Senate and the Assembly.

Today, lawmakers may serve no more than three terms in the Assembly and two terms in the Senate, a condition that has produced an annual rotation of politicians jockeying for position to run for the next seat when they are termed out.

But respondents in the poll overwhelmingly opposed it — 63 percent said no while 27 percent supported the idea.

In other poll findings:

40 percent believe lawmakers’ annual salary of $110,800 is too high while half say it’s about right

33 percent oppose cutting lawmakers’ wages by 20 percent, while 52 percent favor it.

66 percent oppose the per diem lawmakers receive in addition to their salaries, roughly $30,000 a year, and the same number of folks would vote to eliminate it.

Posted on Wednesday, August 9th, 2006
Under: polls | No Comments »