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.


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.


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?


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.


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.


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