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Archive for December, 2006

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.”

Posted on Saturday, December 30th, 2006
Under: Congress | No Comments »

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.

Posted on Friday, December 29th, 2006
Under: General, Jerry McNerney, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

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.

Posted on Friday, December 29th, 2006
Under: Congress | No Comments »

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.

Posted on Friday, December 29th, 2006
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, General | No Comments »

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

Posted on Friday, December 29th, 2006
Under: Obituaries | No Comments »

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
  • Posted on Thursday, December 28th, 2006
    Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, General | No Comments »

    Limping into his second term

    News release from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger:

    “Today I woke up feeling great and I am back at work. From the hospital I am preparing for my State of the State address, meeting with members of my staff and working on the state budget. I am also looking forward to my inauguration to a second term as your Governor — even if it means I have to walk into my swearing-in ceremony on crutches. Over the past few days I have received so many phone calls and notes wishing me a speedy recovery. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers.”

    Doctors at St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica say he’ll be on crutches for about eight weeks but won’t need a cast.


    Posted on Thursday, December 28th, 2006
    Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, General | No Comments »

    Arnold: Just a regular guy

    Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has officially proclaimed January 2007 as “California Dried Plum Digestive Health Month,” and wants all Californians to incorporate the fruits into their daily diet. Dried plums, as you might recall, used to be called “prunes” until growers decided they needed a name that doesn’t evoke jokes like those we’re making here.

    A press release from the California Dried Plum Board — representing 1,000 dried-plum growers and 21 dried-plum packers under the authority of the California Secretary of Food and Agriculture, and certainly not to be confused with the California Plum Marketing Program — says the governor knows that by “combining dried plums’ health benefits with a conscientious diet, Californians will be protecting their health, as well as strengthening the state’s flourishing agricultural economy.”

    Board executive director Rich Peterson notes California proudly produces 99 percent of the United States’ dried-plum supply, and 60 percent of the world’s. The fruits are chock full of nutrients and anti-oxidants, the board notes, and also help clear up digestive problems because they have fiber.

    Lots and lots of fiber.

    So, let no one say the governor has been lax in his duties this holiday season. And let’s hope many of our public servants in Sacramento will ring in the new year with a tall glass of prune juice, for they so often seem to be full of… something.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 27th, 2006
    Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, General | No Comments »

    Meet “Team McNerney”

    mcnerneyportrait.jpgRep.-elect Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, the Bay Area’s newest Congressman, has rolled out his staff.

    McNerney’s chief of staff will be Erich Pfuehler, who as Clean Water Action‘s California Director helped bring that organization’s grassroots oomph to bear in McNerney’s campaign to unseat Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy; earlier, Pfuehler was chief of staff to former Rep. David Bonior, D-Mich., who was a House Democratic Whip.

    His DC chief of staff will be Angela Kouters, a staffer at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and earlier, an aide to former U.S. Sen. Fritz Hollings, D-S.C. This is interesting because McNerney wasn’t the DCCC’s pick for the 11th District: It supported Danville airline pilot Steve Filson in the Democratic primary, and took some heat from McNerney’s grassroots supporters for giving too little, too late to his campaign.

    McNerney’s legislative director will be Nick Holder, who has been a senior legislative assistant handling military, agriculture, environment, transportation and budget issues for Rep. Tim Bishop, D-NY. Bishop sits on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, to which McNerney has just been named.

    Andy Stone will be McNerney’s communications director. Stone most recently was a communications strategist at M+R Strategic Services, where he consulted on Democrat Phil Angelides’ gubernatorial campaign. He specializes in working with nonprofits and political campaigns to create effective online advocacy campaigns; McNerney’s online organizing — through “netroots” bloggers, his own Web site and other avenues — proved crucial to his victory.

    And McNerney’s district director in Stockton will be Angel Picon, a field organizer with SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West as well as past president of the Stockton chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens. He also has hired Livermore native and recent Santa Clara University School of Law graduate Tobin Dietrich as a legislative assistant; Linden resident Teresa Frison, who’d been McNerney’s San Joaquin campaign field director, as a scheduler; and Kensington resident Andreas Mueller, another campaign staffer, as a staff assistant, all in the Washington office.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 27th, 2006
    Under: General, Jerry McNerney, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

    Ford campaigned in Walnut Creek

    The death of former President Gerald Ford reminded several readers of his visit to Walnut Creek on May 25, 1976, during his presidential primary campaign against then-Gov. Ronald Reagan.

    Jason Beziz of Lafayette found this link to photo on the Ford Library and Museum web site taken during the event.

    Ford’s comments during that event can be found on-line at the American Presidency Project. Beziz notes that a plaque about Ford’s appearance and his dedication of an American bicentennial bell remains in the Liberty Bell Plaza at the northwest corner of Mt. Diablo and Broadway streets.

    Former Martinez councilman Tim Farley has fond memories of that day. He was just 16 years old, the proud possessor of a new driver’s license.

    “I remember driving to Walnut Creek to see (Ford),” Farley wrote in an e-mail. “The drive itself was memorable as it was my first solo trip ‘All the way to Walnut Creek.’ ”

    If you attended that Ford rally and especially if you are pictured in the photo, I would love to hear from you. Use the comment feature on the blog or e-mail me at

    Posted on Wednesday, December 27th, 2006
    Under: Obituaries | No Comments »