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Archive for February, 2007

A whole generation of trust-fund babies

State Senators Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and Robert Dutton, R-Riverside, introduced a bill last week called the California Kids Investment and Development Savings (KIDS) Account Act which would create a $500 state-sponsored savings account for every baby born in California on or after Jan. 1, 2008.

As the national savings rate is at its lowest point since the Great Depression and Americans are carrying record levels of debt, “KIDS Accounts will serve as the springboard for building a culture of savings and financial literacy for all young Californians” says Anne Stuhldreher, a fellow at the New America Foundation, which sponsored SB 752. “First, it will create a platform for lifelong savings for every Californian. Second, it will provide a powerful financial education tool that families can use to teach their children the power and importance of saving.”

The state would open each account with $500, and the children’s families could then contribute throughout childhood. No withdrawals could be made until the child turns 18, when the money could be used to pay for a two- or four-year college, technical, or trade school; for a down payment on a home; or for a retirement savings account. Take it out earlier or for any other purpose, and you’d have to pay $500 back to the state.

Great Britain launch a similar Child Trust Fund program in September 2002 for each of the 700,000 children born there each year. Since then, the percentage of those who electronically deposit monthly savings in bank accounts for children has since doubled, from 20 percent to 40 percent. A similar bill to implement such a program across the United States, the ASPIRE Act, was introduced in Congress in 2005; alas, neither of the lawmakers who carried it — U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., and Rep. Harold Ford Jr., D-Tenn. — are still in office.

California’s bill puts the price tag for taxpayers at $270,000,000 per year; it notes that this is less than half of 1 percent of the state’s $100 billion annual budget. But it ain’t chicken feed, either. It’s hard to say whether lawmakers — especially Republicans — will be pleased by the idea of giving taxpayer money back to taxpayers’ kids, or irate at a $270 million-per-year budget hit. And at least a few are sure to have a problem with children of illegal immigrants getting the money.

On the plus side, having the next generation of Californians learn the importance of savings would be great; perhaps some of them will grow up, be elected to public office and get the state out of the fiscal bind we’ve put them in with budget deficits, bond debt and unfunded pension liabilities.

Posted on Wednesday, February 28th, 2007
Under: California State Senate, General, Sacramento, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 2 Comments »

Mayor Dellums’ first crisis

In a development that surprised no one, the police union today declared that contract negotiations with city officials had reached an impasse. The city hasn’t responded yet, but the dispute isn’t expected to be resolved for at least a year after arbitration.

That could put a serious crimp in Police Chief Wayne Tucker’s plan to radically reorganize the department in accordance with Mayor Ron Dellums’ demand for real community policing.

Posted on Wednesday, February 28th, 2007
Under: General, Oakland, Oakland City Council, Ron Dellums | No Comments »

Assessor scores interview with Kitty Dukakis

Contra Costa County Assessor Gus Kramer, also the host of a local public access television show called “Friendly Fire,” has interviewed Kitty Dukakis, the wife of former Massachusetts governor and presidential candidate Michael Dukakis.

Dukakis is Kramer’s most famous guest to date on his monthly cable show. He usually rounds up local officials or community leaders for the program. Heck, I’ve even been on his show.

Known for her candid nature, Dukakis talked with Kramer in the 30-minute program about the experiences that led her to write her 2006 book, “Shock: The Healing Power of Electroconvulsive Therapy.”

“She was very honest and open about what she goes through and what it’s like to have depression,” Kramer said. “Her message is that people shouldn’t be ashamed of depression. It’s an illness.”

No, “Friendly Fire” hasn’t become a stop on the national book tour.

Kramer scored the interview with the help of former Martinez City Councilman Tim Farley, a close friend of the Dukakis family.She did the interview on Feb. 21 while in the Bay Area to visit her daughter in San Francisco.

The show will air on April 12 and April 19 at 10 a.m. on Comcast Channel 26 in central Contra Costa County, which stretches from Martinez to San Ramon along the I-680 corridor.

In East Contra Costa County, the show will air on Comcast Channel 26 on April 23 and April 30 at 7 p.m.

Posted on Wednesday, February 28th, 2007
Under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Coming and going on global warming

nunez.jpgEven as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wraps up his trip to Washington, D.C., today, state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles, are on their way there.

They’ll testify Thursday before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works — chaired by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. — about what California is doing to combat global warming. Perata’s office says he’ll talk about the state’s progress; how the federal government can help lead the way in ending our addiction to fossil fuels; and why reducing greenhouses gases is good for the economy.

perata.jpgPerata yesterday had issued a statement applauding the govenor’s signing of a memorandum of understanding with four other Western states to create the Western Regional Climate Action Initiative, a joint strategy to fight global warming.

“The Governor, Assembly Speaker and I are all in agreement that reducing greenhouse gas emissions and countering climate change must continue to be top priorities for the state of California,” Perata had said. “Treaties, MOUs, market mechanisms and long-range targets are all part of the equation, as AB 32 allows. But we must also take immediate steps in our own backyard to clean up our air, reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles, and push renewable energy and alternative fuels.”

“I hope the governor will consider Senate Democrats’ package of greenhouse gas reduction bills with the same open-mindedness and enthusiasm he has treaties with other states and countries. The challenge of climate change is so big it requires a full range of solutions.”

But as of last week, it didn’t sound as if the governor was feeling warmly about the Democrat’s proposed bills: Press Secretary Aaron McLear issued a statement saying California’s AB 32 “serves a model that other states are looking to replicate. We cannot abandon AB 32 just seven weeks after it became law. We should work together to reduce climate change by implementing AB 32, not undermining it.”

Posted on Tuesday, February 27th, 2007
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Assembly, Barbara Boxer, California State Senate, Don Perata, Fabian Nunez, General, Sacramento, U.S. Senate | No Comments »

Schwarzenegger video of the week

This week, we have fun little parody — a mashup of movie clips to create a trailer for our governor’s starring role as Hamlet. It’s a bit long, but satisfying nonetheless:

As Polonius said, “This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” Words for any politician to live by, eh?

Previous SVOTWs: February 20, February 13, February 6, January 30.

Posted on Tuesday, February 27th, 2007
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, General | No Comments »

Watchdog group calls for Doolittle probe

Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer sent a letter today to the House Ethics Committee asking again that its members investigate alleged ethics violations by Rep. John Doolittle, R-Auburn.

To read the full letter, click here:Download file

Democracy 21, an ethics watchdog group based in Washington, D.C., made a similar request last year prior to the Democratic takeover of Congress.

Doolittle has adamently denied all allegations of ethics violations although the issues dogged him throughout the 2006 election and don’t appear to be going away anytime soon.

Democracy 21 seeks a broad probe into a variety of issues including allegations that commission payments made to Doolittle’s wife or his wife’s company were actually contributions raised by Doolittle.

They also asked for an investigation into whether “commission fees paid to Julie Doolittle’s company on contributions made to Doolittle’s political committees by defense contractor Brent Wilkes and his associates were linked to, or appeared to be linked to, official action taken by Doolittle to help Wilkes’ company obtain millions of dollars in government earmarks.”

Wilkes has been indicted in connection with the bribery case that resulted in the conviction of former California congressman Duke Cunningham.

If the ethics drumbeat continues, Doolittle could face another tough re-election campaign in 2008.

Doolittle squeaked out a win by 3 percentage points in 2006 against a relatively unknown Democrat in a district where Republicans enjoy a 17 percentage point registration advantage.

Posted on Tuesday, February 27th, 2007
Under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Wanna be a political blogger?

Brainband Technology Services has launched, a nationwide presidential blog-a-thon. Make commments, read or start your own blog about the presidential race on this free, group blogging site geared toward the 2008 election.

“The site is hosting a nationwide presidential blog-a-thon through the end of the race as a public service to give Americans a blog community that is open and multi-partisan where they can discuss this wide open and unique race,” according to Brainband Technology’s press release. “There are literally millions of political bloggers and bloggers-in-waiting on the Web, and this site provides them with a free opportunity to gain more exposure for their views as well as an excellent opportunity for Brainband to showcase the benefits of having a blog in a large community built around a central theme rather than out on an island.”

Posted on Tuesday, February 27th, 2007
Under: Election 2008 | No Comments »

Is he in or is he out? He’s in.

Yesterday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s office and the office of Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, chairwoman of the California Democratic Congressional Delegation, had issued press releases saying he and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle would hold a news conference at 6:15 p.m. EST today in the U.S. Capitol’s Hall of Columns right after their closed meeting on the funding priorities for California.

Then, early this morning, the governor’s office announced he wouldn’t make it to the news conference.

Then, just a few minutes ago, the governor’s office announced he’d be at the news conference after all.

Why the confusion?

“We were able to move his flight back a few minutes so we could participate,” said press secretary Aaron McLear.

Hope he’s not flying JetBlue.


UPDATE @ 5 P.M. PST: This just in from Lofgren:

“I am hopeful that today’s meeting represents the start of a successful partnership with the Governor and within California’s Congressional Delegation to work together on funding issues that benefit our state.

“In the meeting, Governor Schwarzenegger encouraged Members to work in a bipartisan manner in order to ensure that California gets its fair share of federal funds for current programs and is able to move forward on issues like the state’s innovative health care proposal. I also commend the Governor for his proactive comments on achieving an immigration program that works for our state.

“Rep. McNerney, whose professional background is as an alternative energy scientist, offered an insightful question for the Governor on his climate change proposal. It is apparent that the Governor is committed to effective action in this arena.

“When all Members of the largest Congressional Delegation in Congress work together, we are a strong, solid voice for California’s interests. This is just the beginning. I hope that we will see progress in the way our full Congressional Delegation works with each other and with the Governor for the benefit of all Californians.”

Posted on Tuesday, February 27th, 2007
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, General, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | No Comments »

SF’s Whitehurst spins off campaign firm

whitehurst.jpgSan Francisco-based Barnes Mosher Whitehurst Lauter and Partners — one of California’s foremost political consulting and lobbying firms — will spin off a separate, new company to deal only with managing ballot measure, Democratic candidate and independent expenditure campaigns. BMWL will continue focusing on lobbying, public affairs and issues management, while founding partner John Whitehurst launches the new firm, Whitehurst Campaigns.

“The partners have spent more than a year discussing the most effective way to organize the firm for the future to best serve the needs of our clients and also grow our business,” BMWL principal Sam Lauter said in a news release. “Creating a separate firm with largely separate disciplines will really allow us to do those two things.”

This is sort of a back-to-basics move for Whitehurst, who’d founded a firm called Whitehurst Campaigns in 1990 before forming BMWL in 2000. He got his start back in 1983 working on U.S. Sen. Gary Hart’s first presidential campaign in Iowa, Pennsylvania and California. After that, he became executive director of the Democratic Foundation of Orange County, managing fundraising and voter registration drives. Then he went to work for Clinton Reilly Campaigns in San Francisco, gaining experience in overall management, advertising and other areas for statewide campaigns.

In all, Whitehurst has run more than 100 campaigns and racked up an impressive record of wins; he’s particularly into public finance issues such as bond and tax measures for schools, transportation and hospitals. Among politicians he has helped elect are state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland; former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown; former Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown; and Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco.

Posted on Tuesday, February 27th, 2007
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Don Perata, Elections, General, Jerry Brown, Mark Leno, Willie Brown | No Comments »

Local House members grok the “series of tubes”

honda.jpgThe Congressional Management Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan consulting and research outfit Washington, D.C., has singled out a few Bay Area lawmakers for having some of the best Web sites in Congress.

The 2006 Gold Mouse Report: Recognizing the Best Web Sites on Capitol Hill evaluated the sites of 538 Senate and House Members, 64 committees, and 13 legislative leaders. Only 85 Web sites were singled out for recognition — 18 won Gold, 27 won Silver and 40 won Bronze Mouse Awards. Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, earned Gold; Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, earned Silver; and Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, earned Bronze.

Not winning any awards: U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, who famously likened the Internet to “a series of tubes.”

The report and awards are part of the foundation’s broader research project, “Connecting to Congress,” funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation. CMF partnered with researchers from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University; the University of California, Riverside; and Ohio State University to study how members of Congress can use the Internet to improve communications with their constituents and to promote greater participation in the legislative process. Web sites were graded on how well they incorporate five basic building blocks that extensive research has identified as critical for effectiveness: audience, content, usability, interactivity, and innovation. Read the full report here.

Posted on Monday, February 26th, 2007
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, General, Mike Honda, U.S. House | No Comments »