Jerry McNerney delivers Democratic Party message

Rep.-elect Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, was selected to deliver the Democratic radio address today. It’s the traditional response to President Bush’s weekly radio address.

McNerney focuses on the Democrats’ 100-hour agenda, incluing Iraq, energy policy and ethics.

The selection of McNerney to make the statement on behalf of the Democratic Party reflect party leaders’ efforts to provide him and other Democratic freshman opportunities for media exposure. McNerney is expected to face a very tough re-election fight in 2008 as Republicans move to retake his and other seats they lost in the mid-term elections.

Despite the Democrats’ intentions, few stations air the Democratic Party’s response.

So, we’ve posted the audio file here

Or read the text of his message below:

“Good morning and Happy New Year. This is Congressman-elect Jerry McNerney of Pleasanton, California, a new Member in the 110th Congress.

“As we move into the New Year and the new Congress, I am excited about what we can achieve for the American people. In this election, the American people clearly called for change: change in the way we do business in Washington, change in the way that we shape our energy policy, and most importantly, a change of direction in Iraq.

“As our first responsibility in fulfilling the mandate of this critical election, House Democrats will restore integrity and civility in Washington in order to earn the public trust.

“We will ban gifts from lobbyists and lobbyist-funded travel, prohibit the use of corporate jets, and shut down the revolving door between Capitol Hill and K Street Lobbyists. We will restore the House tradition of allowing a reasonable 15-minute voting period to prevent extended votes, and we will require that Congress put away the credit card and operate under a pay-as-you- go common sense budget rules. We will hold Members of Congress accountable to the people who voted them into office, not lobbyists and special interests.

“Our heavy dependence on foreign oil is putting our economy, our climate, and our national security at great risk. We are actually funding the very terrorists around the world who are trying to harm us. It’s our patriotic duty as citizens of this great nation to end our dependence on imported oil. Democrats will quickly and significantly reduce our consumption of foreign oil while creating jobs, prosperity, and a healthy environment with a new energy technology, including renewable energy and bio-fuels.

“Most of the technologies needed to reshape our energy future are already at hand; what has been lacking is the political will to develop and expand their use. Democrats have a vision of creating a new energy economy using good old-fashioned American ingenuity to achieve energy independence. New American jobs and a bright future will be the dividend.

“Democrats will also lead the way for a new direction in Iraq. My son was in the military when he convinced me to run for office, and we continue to keep our soldiers and their families in our prayers. But our troops need more than our well-wishes, and our veterans need more than lip service; we need a change in policy, as confirmed by the Iraq Study Group report released earlier this month.

“I share the concern of my Democratic colleagues that President Bush may use his same failed logic to increase our troop strength in Iraq by up to 30,000 soldiers. The incoming chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Ike Skelton, has said that an increase in troops at best won’t change a thing, and at worst could exacerbate the situation even further in Iraq.

“The Iraqis need to understand that the responsibility for the future of that country is theirs. Beginning the redeployment of American forces would send that message. We must also improve the training of Iraq security forces by ensuring that Iraqi units are not infiltrated by either militia members or insurgents. The consequences of not doing so are unacceptable. In my district there is a Gold Star mom whose son was killed in Iraq by the very Iraqis he was training. He and his mom are always in my thoughts. We simply can not ask our young men and women to train Iraqis without doing everything possible to make certain that the people they are training are not attacking our troops.

“Our troops have done everything asked of them in Iraq with great courage. Particularly at this time of the year, when families gather to celebrate the holiday season, we need to remember the huge sacrifices being made by the brave men and women in our military, and give thanks for their service.

“Thank you for listening. I wish everyone the very best 2007 and pray that God blesses you and your families for this holiday season. This is Congressman-elect Jerry McNerney.”


Sure, but can he sing?

Congressman-elect Jerry “Dragonslayer” McNerney, D-Pleasanton, will deliver the weekly Democratic radio address tomorrow, Saturday, Dec. 30; it’s at 8:06 a.m. Pacific Time on major radio networks including Associated Press, ABC, NPR, CBS Radio, CNN Radio, C-SPAN, Armed Forces Radio Network, American Urban Radio Network, Voice of America Radio Network, BBC Radio, CBC Radio and Australian Broadcasting Corporation. He’ll be talking about Democratic plans to break the link between lobbyists and legislation and the need for a new direction in Iraq.


Vorderbrueggen headed to the Capitol

Come Tuesday morning, you’ll find me in the security line at the airport waiting to board a flight to Washington, D.C., where I will have the opportunity to cover the first week of the 110th Congress.

The Contra Costa Times doesn’t customarily send me to Washington but this year, we have a rare event: A new congressman.

Rep.-elect Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, triumphed in November over Richard Pombo, a Republican from Tracy who held the seat for seven terms before losing in a nationwide, anti-GOP sweep.

McNerney’s first week in Congress will be a whirlwind for him and his family. His wife, Mary’ grown children, Michael, Windy and Greg; and several of his siblings — including twin brother John — will be with him to celebrate.

He’ll get the key Wednesday to his Washington, D.C., office at 312 Cannon Building.

On Thursday, he’ll take the oath of office and cast his first vote, which is expected to be on the House rules package. It spells out the House rules of engagement and will include ethics reforms, such as a ban on flying on corporate jets.

But the oath of office is more than just ceremonial event.

It marks McNerney’s official entry into Congress. Until he takes the oath, he can’t take any official actions. That includes seemingly minor but important things such as turning on the phones in his offices and obtaining official e-mail addresses. His core staff isn’t officially on the clock until he utters those words, either, although they’ve been working hard for days to prepare.

After the swearing-in on the floor of the House, McNerney will fly around the Capitol to a series of receptions and an opportunity for photos during a mock swearing-in with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco. (As you might imagine, Pelosi is under heavy demand for photos as the nation’s first woman Speaker of the House and the highest-ranking woman in U.S. government.)

In the evening, he and his family will attend one of the many events held for Pelosi, a concert-fundraiser sponsored by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee at the National Building Museum. The entertainment features Carole King, Wyclef Jean and Mickey Hart.

Watch my blog starting Tuesday for updates on the events in the Capitol.


Yes, that’s right — it’s 1979 all over again.

donna-summer.jpgThis just in from the Governor’s 2007 Inaugural Committee: Paul Anka, José Feliciano, David Foster, Jennifer Holliday, and Donna Summer will be joined by the 59th Army National Guard Band and local musicians and performers from Sacramento and Los Angeles to participate in the festivities surrounding Governor Schwarzenegger’s 2007 inauguration.

“The Governor is honored to have this group of talented musicians come together as part of his inaugural celebration,” said Carl Bendix, executive producer of the Governor’s 2007 Inaugural Committee. “Each one of these groups and entertainers represents the cultural, generational and musical diversity of our great state and together they embody the Governor’s vision to make the California dream a reality for every resident of this state.”

Well, kind of. None of these headlining artists are California natives, and only Foster — a renowned producer and songwriter who’s coordinating the inaugural’s musical festivities — even lives here, in Malibu.

Guitarist Feliciano will perform the National Anthem during the Governor’s swearing-in ceremony; Tony Award-winning artist and Broadway’s original “dream girl” Jennifer Holliday will sing “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going;” and the 59th Army National Guard band, “The Governor’s Own,” will serve as the house orchestra.

Anka and Summer will entertain guests at the “Celebrate the California Dream” black-tie gala: Anka, with a special rendition of “My Way” — including new lyrics written as a tribute to the Governor — and Summer, with a full set including disco hits “Hot Stuff” and “She Works Hard For The Money.”

Who’s paying for it all? See it here. Gold sponsorship reportedly cost at least $50,000; silver, at least $15,000.

He works hard for the money, indeed.


Few flags flying at half-mast for the late President Ford

An El Cerrito reader expressed angst in a note to my on-line Q&A last night about the failure of the El Cerrito Plaza shopping center (see his note at the bottom) to fly its American flag at half-mast as a sign of respect to former President Gerald Ford, who died this week.

President Bush, of course, immediately ordered flags to be flown at half-mast but he has legal jurisdiction only over flags at federal buildings. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered flags lowered at the Capitol.

But like most of us, I thought all organizations that fly American flags observe the death of an American president.

That’s not the case.

I did some driving around on my way to work this morning between my home in Martinez and Walnut Creek and out of the six flagpoles I saw with flags, only one flew at half-mast. (Kudos to the Countrywood Shopping Center on Bancroft Ave. in Walnut Creek.)

My own employer’s flagpole was still empty at 10 a.m. and no word yet on whether it will fly at half-mast.

Is it a sign of disrespect, as Sgt. F of El Cerrito asks? Is it laziness? Is it apathy? Is the person responsible for putting up the flag on vacation during the holidays? It could be one or all of these scenarios.

Let’s hope everyone observes the official day of mourning on Jan. 2, 2007, and shows the proper respect for the country’s top office.

Here’s what Sgt. F of El Cerrito sent me this morning:

Recently our country suffered the loss of President Ford.

As a sign of respect for the office he held, as well as the man himself, we lower the American flag to half mast.

Well, it would seem that once again the Plaza has no respect for our flag or the people that hold our country’s greatest trust … those that serve as President.

I can understand if someone else is tending to it for them. In the end it reflects badly on everyone, the stores and tenets of the Plaza, the Plaza itself, and the city that allows them to be so offensive.

I serve our country as my small part to defend our freedoms. Even if it is for a person I may disagree with.

Yet at some point a line has to be drawn. If the flag can not be lowered, then perhaps a streamer of black crepe 7 feet long and 1 foot wide will be attached to the staff immediately below the spearhead of the U.S. flag.

Why have the American people at large lost respect for what represents us?

SGT F, El Cerrito, CA 12/28/06

P.S. For the complete etiquette on how to display the American flag, visit www.usflag.org.


New chief at the big house by the bay

sq.jpgThe governor’s office today announced Robert Ayers, Jr., 59, of Cloverdale, has been appointed warden of San Quentin State Prison. The job doesn’t require Senate confirmation — as the big prisons overhaul package Schwarzenegger enacted last year removed wardens from that process — and pays $125,196 per year; Ayers is a Republican.

Ayers has been the acting warden there since June; and before that had been acting warden at Lancaster State Prison since last year, and from 2001 to 2005, was a correctional administrator at the Department of Corrections headquarters. He was Pelican Bay State Prison’s acting warden from 1998 to 2000; acting warden at California State Prison, Sacramento from 1997 to 1998; and Pelican Bay’s chief deputy warden from 1994 to 1997. All told, he’s had 38 years in California corrections.

Couple of things about Ayers:

The Corrections Department in 1996 gave Ayers and a prison guard captain Bronze Medals of Valor for their rescue of an elderly fisherman who’d become trapped between his boat and rocks in rough surf.

Former Gov. Pete Wilson had nominated Ayers to the warden’s job at Pelican Bay, but his successor, Gray Davis, withdrew the nomination amidst lawmakers’ concerns about Ayers’ leadership there. His name has come up in some of the federal litigation involving the “code of silence” among prison guards and management which persists to this day.

For example, in his capacity as Pelican Bay’s warden, he was the first named plaintiff in a former guard’s federal lawsuit, Freitag v. Ayers; the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in September ruled in that case that a state corrections department can be held liable for prison officials’ failure to correct a hostile work environment resulting from male prisoners’ sexual harassment of female guards. An investigation by state’s Office of the Inspector General concluded, among other things, that Ayers had taken “no definitive actions . . . to address exhibitionist masturbation directed at female correctional officers by male inmates.” Ayers did, however, launch several internal-affairs investigations of the complaining guard, and later approved her suspension and termination.

Meanwhile, it seems San Quentin goes through wardens faster than Spinal Tap goes through drummers:

  • Eddie Ylst, acting warden, March 2006-June 2006
  • Steve Ornoski, acting warden, Sept. 2005-March 2006, transferred to department’s headquarters in Sacramento
  • John Stokes, acting warden, July 2005-Sept. 2005, ???
  • Jill Brown, warden, May 2004- July 2005, fired amid investigation of poor communications between prison and medical staff
  • Jeanne Woodford, warden, 1999-February 2004, appointed director of the California Department of Corrections