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Archive for November, 2006

Reps. Miller, Tauscher featured in national press

The New York Times published an illuminating article Nov. 25 by writer Kate Zernike that details the close relationship between Reps. George Miller of Martinez and House Speaker-Elect Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco.

And last week, Newsweek magazine wrote about Miller and Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, as examples of the liberal and moderate, respectively, factions of the Democratic Party. (You have to be a subscriber to access Newsweek’s archives, so the link will only take to you its main page.)

Here are the opening paragraphs of the New York Times piece, but the whole story is well-worth reading:

In a friendship stretching over 30 years and many plane trips to Washington from their neighboring California districts, Representatives Nancy Pelosi and George Miller have become so close that, as colleagues say, they finish each others’ sentences.

So it was not surprising that, when Mrs. Pelosi faced the first test of her role as speaker-elect of the House of Representatives, Mr. Miller was in the background, pushing her to back Representative John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania to replace her as Democratic leader over the more centrist candidate, Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, who had been her No. 2 for four years.

Posted on Thursday, November 30th, 2006
Under: Congress | No Comments »

Should woman in Lafayette cross hubbub face arrest?

At two recent speaking engagements before Contra Costa Democratic clubs, folks repeatedly asked me why the Times had not written about the legal fate of the woman who kicked down a Lafayette Iraq war memorial sign.

By way of background, area peace activists obtained the permission of landowners Johnson and Louise Clark to install more than 300 white crosses and a sign detailing the Iraq war costs in human lives on a parcel along Deer Hill Road.

On Nov. 14, Jean Bonodio, in front of a news photographer, “kicked the wood sign until it fell in pieces to the ground,” according to the Contra Costa Times story.

Granted, Democrats at the gatherings where I spoke are highly sympathetic to the anti-war message.

But regardless of one’s political views of the war, Bonodio walked onto private property and took down a sign that did not belong to her. (Bonodio later told the Lafayette City Council and news reporters that she didn’t know it was private property.)

So, why hasn’t she been charged with a crime?

Lafayette Police Chief Mike Fisher has been asked the same question, too. He says he can’t do anything unless someone files a formal complaint against Bonodio.

“If a victim came forward and said, ‘We want a report,’ then we would write a report and submit it to the District Attorney’s Office,” Fisher said. “As of Nov. 30, I don’t have a report … Without a victim, it’s difficult to proceed on these matters.”

Yes, Bonodio may have trespassed and vandalized private property, and perhaps more importantly, she also trampled on her fellow citizens’ right to free speech.

But we should forgive her passionate, albeit excessive, impulse just as we forgive the millions of U.S. citizens who have been arrested in acts of civil disobedience throughout our history.

No permanent harm was done and if nothing else, her actions brought national publicity to this little hillside of crosses in Lafayette.

Posted on Thursday, November 30th, 2006
Under: Contra Costa politics | No Comments »

Contra Costa tops state’s turn-out list, again

The final numbers won’t come in until Monday but it’s highly likely that Contra Costa County will once again top the state in voter turn-out among the 15 counties with 250,000 or more registered voters.

Here’s the turn-out as of the Secretary of State web site:
1. Contra Costa County: 61.5 percent
2. Alameda County: 61.2 percent
3. San Francisco: 60.5 percent
4. Santa Clara: 58.8 percent
5. Sacramento: 57.9 percent
6. San Diego: 57 percent
7. Ventura: 56.4 percent
8. San Mateo: 56.2 percent
9. Fresno: 54 percent
10. Kern: 51.9 percent
11. Los Angeles: 51.4 percent
12. Orange: 50.5 percent
13. San Joaquin: 50.1
14. Riverside: 49.4
15. San Bernardino: 45 percent

Contra Costa County party organizers on both sides of the political aisle will credit their get-out-the-vote efforts and that’s certainly a part of the picture.

Or perhaps, it was the Contra Costa Times’ excellent election section of Oct. 9 that motivated voters.

But Bay Area counties almost always top the state turn-out list. Political experts cite their residents’ relatively high incomes and education levels.

My question, though, is about Sonoma County, which logged the highest turn-out in the state at 75.5 percent. What was on the county’s ballot that drew such a crowd?

Posted on Wednesday, November 29th, 2006
Under: election 2006 | No Comments »

McNerney goes to Harvard

Congressman-elect Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, will join 35 incoming congressional freshmen at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics today through Friday where they will discuss exercising leadership being effective lawmakers in Washington, D.C.

“I am pleased to participate in this important program, which has helped prepare new
members of Congress for legislative effectiveness for over three decades,” McNerney said. “This program will give me the tools to represent the great people of the 11th Congressional district in Washington, D.C.”

The 17th biennial forum will take place at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

The new members will participate in a variety of sessions, led by academics, practitioners, and current and former members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Topics include the federal budget and briefings on energy and national security and terrorism.

Posted on Tuesday, November 28th, 2006
Under: congressional district 11 | No Comments »

Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla leaves office

Termed-out Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla must finish moving out of his offices in Martinez and Sacramento by Thursday.

Be sure and pick up tomorrow’s Contra Costa Times, or look on-line, for my story about a few of his reflections and views on the state of California politics. And you’ll learn about his plans for the next two years, which do not involve, he tells me, behaving in any way like a hermit!

The print edition lacked space for some of my fond recollections of Joe’s Assembly tenure.

Who can forget the furor over his decision bleach the top of his head blonde and that youthful, spiky do? Give credit to Concord’s hairdresser to the stars, Michael Chavez, for that style leap. (Question: Who does Chavez’ hair now that he’s been elected to the City Council?)

During my interview with Joe last week at his Martinez office, I finally confirmed what I had heard a few months ago.

Yep, there it was, hanging in the bathroom, a framed 2005 crab-feed fund-raiser invite returned by lobbiest and former county supervisor Tom Powers. Across the top of the letter, Powers wrote somethng to the effect of, “You’ve got to be kidding!”

There’s no love between these two. Canciamilla and Powers have been on the opposite side of the county’s urban limit battle for years.

Canciamilla may be leaving the Legislature but he’s unlikely to sink into obscurity, as you’ll read tomorrow.

Posted on Monday, November 27th, 2006
Under: California Legislature | No Comments »

Richmond NAACP requests poll investigation

Ken Nelson, president-Elect and executive committee member of the NAACP Richmond branch, has requested an investigation into polling place problems in several Richmond neighborhoods where a high percentage of African-Americans live.

The matter has particular significance in Richmond where only 279 votes separate the apparent winner of the city’s mayor race, Gayle McLaughlin, and its African-American incumbent, Irma Anderson.

Here is the text of Nelson’s letter to Contra Costa County Clerk-Recorder Steve Weir:

Dear Mr. Weir,

The Richmond Branch of the NAACP has received numerous complaints regarding Precincts 394, 388, and 387 at Wilson Elementary School in Richmond, California. We are concerned that misinformation provided by poll workers and an apparent lack of training and support for poll workers at this location resulted in voter disenfranchisement and prevented many residents from casting their votes. We are particularly concerned that this disenfranchisement occurred in precincts with high numbers of African-American voters.

We have received reports that poll workers at this location refused to provide voters with provisional ballots and improperly turned voters away from the polls. Furthermore, neither poll workers nor voters were able reach the county elections office when they sought information on voting procedures. We have also received complaints that poll workers at this location did not have adequate training and that this lack of training resulted in general mismanagement of the precincts and voter frustration, in some cases leaving voters with no alternative but to leave without casting their vote.

We request that you launch a formal investigation into this matter and meet with the Richmond NAACP to discuss the complaints our office has received. We also request that you provide the Richmond NAACP with a copy of all training materials provided to poll workers and specifically all information provided to poll workers at the Wilson Elementary School location.

We look forward to receiving your prompt response. You can reach me directly at 510-776-7518.


Ken Nelson
President-Elect and Executive Committee Member
NAACP Richmond Branch

Posted on Tuesday, November 21st, 2006
Under: election 2006 | No Comments »

Elected official on your Christmas list?

Read Sacramento Bee columnist Steve Wiegand’s helpful holiday advice if you happen to feel like buying a nice present for your favorite elected official. Here’s a bit of his column:

With the holiday season breathing down our necks, it’s appropriate that the Fair Political Practices Commission has ratcheted up the value of gifts you can give public officials.

At its meeting last week, the commission raised the annual limit from the current $360 to $390 per official, an 8.3 percent boost. With the increase alone, you could get your favorite senator a copy of the “Reservoir Dogs” computer game, two boxes of Winchester 30-06 rifle ammunition, or 10 pounds of bacon. No rush — the changes don’t go into effect until Jan. 1.

The FPPC also raised per-person campaign contribution limits. For legislative hopefuls, the limit goes from $3,300 to $3,600 per election. Max totals to would-be governors go from $22,300 per election to $24,100, and for other statewide office wannabes, from $5,600 to $6,000.

Posted on Monday, November 20th, 2006
Under: campaign finance | No Comments »

McNerney appointed to selection steering committee

This just in from Congressman-elect Jerry McNerney’s office:

Rep. Elect Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, was named today to the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee. The committee, of which Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, will serve as chairwoman, will determine individual committee assignments for Democratic members, as well as to provide policy recommendations to the party leadership.

“I am honored to be nominated to this committee,” McNerney said, “I look forward to bringing a strong voice and fresh leadership to this important role. This is an opportunity for me to work with my colleagues in tackling some of the important issues that face our constituents, like energy independence, while helping my party lead our country in a new direction.”

McNerney was appointed to the committee after a unanimous vote by the Northern California delegation.

“Jerry McNerney brings a wealth of knowledge and an innovative outlook to Congress and I am pleased to welcome him as the thirty-forth member of the California Democratic Congressional Delegation,” said delegation leader Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose. “I also am proud to have him represent Northern California in the ‘Committee on Committees’ and think this choice shows the high regard California members have towards him.”

Posted on Thursday, November 16th, 2006
Under: congressional district 11 | No Comments »

Contra Costa/Alameda election results updated

The leaders in all the close Alameda and Contra County races remain ahead after election officials completed counting the bulk of the remaining absentee ballots this afternoon.

The counties have until Dec. 5 to certify and release the final vote results.

But the chance of a shift this late in tallying process has dropped substantially now that only a small percentage of ballots remain uncounted.

“Most of these races are no longer close,” Contra Costa County Clerk-Recorder Steve Weir.

Races to watch Contra Costa include:

Antioch: Reggie Moore slightly widened his lead over Manny Soliz by 92 votes for the second slot on the City Council.

Concord: Incumbent Helen Allen slightly increased her lead over Ron Leone to 341 votes for the third opening on the City Council.

John Swett Unified School District: William Concannon widened his lead over Jim Delgadillo from 2 to 58 votes in the competition for the second of two open seats on the board.

Pinole: Mary Horton’s lead over Betty Boyle dropped to 53 votes in the battle for the third opening on the City Council.

Richmond mayor: Gayle McLaughlin’s lead over incumbent Irma Anderson widened to 279 votes.

Richmond: Myrna Lopez’s lead over Corky Booze widened substantially — 416 votes — in the competition for the third opening on the City Council.

West Contra Costa County Unified School Board: Incumbent Charles Ramsey’s lead over Antonio Medrano narrowed to 118 votes for the third seat on the board.

In Alameda County, the races to watch are:

AC Transit, Ward 3: Elsa Ortiz’ lead narrowed to 76 votes over Tony Daysog for a seat on the Board of Directors.

Albany: Joanne Wile holds a 226-vote lead over Caryl O’Keefe for the second opening on the City Council.

Pleasanton: Incumbent Mayor Jennifer Hosterman widened her lead to 175 votes over challenger Steve Brozosky.

Posted on Thursday, November 16th, 2006
Under: election 2006 | No Comments »

Contra Costa election results update at 4 p.m.

The Contra Costa County Elections Department will update the results of last week’s election today at 4 p.m. I will post as quickly as possible an update of the close races on this blog and the Times’ home page.

Check the county web site here.

A half-dozen races or more remain very close and this update will include the bulk of the uncounted absentee ballots.

Posted on Thursday, November 16th, 2006
Under: election 2006 | No Comments »