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Archive for June, 2007

Oakland groups get job-training $$$

The U.S. Department of Labor will provide $150,000 in grants to three Oakland groups as part of a $3.8 million commitment to faith-based and community organizations helping hard-to-serve populations prepare for and succeed in finding work, Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, announced today.

“These programs are helping people who are most in need of employment to get the skills and assistance that they need to find and keep a job,” Lee said in her news release. “We all have a stake in making sure that everyone, and especially people in vulnerable communities, has access to employment opportunities. These grants for these programs are helping us to do that and should be seen as an important investment in the health of our community.”

Two new grantees, the Centro Legal de la Raza and Computer Applications Training Schools, will get $60,000 apiece, while Pivotal Point Youth Services, Inc., a previous grantee, will get $30,000.

The Labor Department says projects receiving these awards serve welfare recipients, high-school dropouts, ex-offenders, and others who facing challenges in finding work. Grantees will provide career counseling, life-coaching, mentoring, links to their local One-Stop Career Center, and other services designed to prepare people to enter the workforce. Out of 348 applicants, 59 new awardees were chosen to receive funding of up to $60,000 each, and 14 previous recipients successfully competed to expand their work with grants of $30,000 each. Grassroots faith-based and community organizations with annual social services budgets under $500,000 were eligible to apply.

Posted on Wednesday, June 27th, 2007
Under: Barbara Lee, U.S. House | No Comments »

Hillary adds Northern California campaign staff

Ace Smith, the Bay Area-based director of Hillary Clinton‘s Democratic presidential campaign in California, this week announced Maisha Everhart as his Northern California director and Mather Martin as deputy field director, both working out of San Francisco.

Everhart has worked with local and state government officials including Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums; Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Oakland; former San Francisco District Attorney Terrence Hallinan; and Georgia State Senator Horacena Tate. A Web search also reveals that she was a legal intern in the Drug Policy Alliance‘s Office of Legal Affairs in Berkeley, and is a 2004 graduate of Rutgers School of Law in New Jersey. She’ll be working with local and state government officials to build support for Clinton.

Martin has served in the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and as an associate at the Breast Cancer Fund, a national organization founded by her mother, the late Andrea Ravinett Martin. She’ll be working to recruit supporters and mobilize voters on primary election day, Feb. 5.

Posted on Wednesday, June 27th, 2007
Under: Assembly, Elections, Hillary Clinton, Ron Dellums, Sandre Swanson | No Comments »

Rep. George Miller launches video virtual town hall

Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, was among the first of his colleagues to make use a personal avatar on Second Life earlier this year in the debut of a virtual Capitol.

Now, Miller has launched an on-line initiative called “Ask George,” where citizens can ask Miller questions about the Iraq War via a video-sharing site or blog entry posts. (Click here for a link to the YouTube video that explains how it works.)

Miller has also started a Facebook discussion group called “Ask George,” which accepts questions with “Ask George” in the subject line. The congressman’s office worked with SplashCast to develop the first congressional Facebook application, called the “MillerTV” video player, where Facebook members may add their profiles and view all of the latest “Ask George” videos. (Click here for link to the Facebook video application.)

Each week, Miller was answer questions and make comments about what actions Democrats have taken with respect to their opposition to the Iraq War.

The idea, says his office, to talk with people wherever they like to discuss issues on-line rather than require them to visit Miller’s official web site.

“The impasse on Iraq has led to many questions and some confusion about why Democrats, who are now in the majority in the House and the Senate, have not been able to do more about the war,” Miller said in a message from his office today. “I’d like to have a dialogue with yhou about this, to answer your questions and let you know what the next steps are in this critical battle to bring our troops home safely.”

Of course, we all know that Miller himself is not sitting down and figuring this technology out. He has very smart staff who manage his on-line endeavors.

But there’s no question that Miller embraces technology and has been eager to learn new tricks.

Posted on Wednesday, June 27th, 2007
Under: Congress | No Comments »

Barbara Lee gets tested.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, was among House members who held a Capitol Hill news conference before going to get tested for HIV today, in an effort to call attention to National HIV Testing Day.

lee-testing-6-26-07.JPG

Debra McCrae, from Unity Health Care Inc.‘s Project Orion, at left, watches as Lee places an oral HIV Test swab in its receptacle; rapid tests provide accurate results in about 20 minutes. Lee’s staff confirms that she has her results, and that they’re completely confidential.

Lee has been an outspoken advocate of efforts to reduce HIV infections both here in her district — where Alameda County in 1998 became the nation’s first municipality to declare a state of emergency over the disproportionate number of AIDS cases in its African-American community — and abroad, particularly in Africa.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that the number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States today is as high as 1.2 million, and more than a quarter of those infected don’t know it. Increasing test availability and encouraging people to seek out counseling and testing can significantly reduce the disease’s spread, but the stigma around HIV/AIDS and anxiety involving the test itself have proved to be barriers. So the National Association of People with AIDS works with the CDC to produce National HIV Testing Day; this year’s theme is “Take the test, take control,” emphasizing that just getting tested can change behavior regardless of the diagnosis. For more information on National HIV Testing Day, or to find a local testing site in your area, visit the CDC’s website at http://hivtest.org/

Posted on Tuesday, June 26th, 2007
Under: Barbara Lee, U.S. House | No Comments »

Houston lawsuit set for hearing this week

UPDATED: A judge has decided to allow a trial to go forward on allegations that Assemblyman Guy Houston, R-San Ramon, helped his father defraud senior citizens out of $340,000 in investments.

The tentative ruling was released late Tuesday evening. Attorneys in the case will have an opportunity to contest the ruling by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Winifred Smith at a hearing Thursday.

Click here for full story.

Posted on Tuesday, June 26th, 2007
Under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

McNerney bares all.

mcnerneyportrait.jpgAll his earmarks, that is.

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, apparently unwilling to give Republicans any ammunition for their claims that House Democrats are packing pork into the budget, yesterday released a list of all earmark requests he has made on his district’s behalf.

“I came to Washington committed to being open and accountable to Californians – and to change the way business is done here,” he said in a news release. “For too long, the earmark process has been shrouded in secrecy, allowing lawmakers to fund expensive boondoggle projects that benefit the special interests, as opposed to the public interest.”

These are only requests; many might go unfunded. And anyway, McNerney claimed, he’s not spending irresponsibly: “I am fully committed to fiscal discipline and responsibility. I am proud to have voted to restore the important principle of Pay-As-You-Go budgeting, which helped lead to the economic surpluses of the 1990s. And in the past few weeks, since the House began considering appropriations bills for the next fiscal year, I voted against nearly $3.5 billion in federal spending because of my commitment to reign in the federal deficit.”

Posted on Tuesday, June 26th, 2007
Under: Jerry McNerney, U.S. House | No Comments »

Schwarzenegger video of the week

Dunno how I missed this one at the time that it happened, but we’ll put it up today in honor of Paris Hilton’s release from jail. It’s from May 23, when the governor appeared on the Tonight Show and was asked by Jay Leno about whether he would pardon Paris…

This clip cuts off just a moment too early to catch Schwarzenegger’s pithy follow-up: “Obviously we both do action movies.”

Heh.

Previous SVOTWs: June 19, June 12, June 5, May 29, May 22, May 15, May 8, May 1, April 24, April 17, April 10, April 3, March 27, March 20, March 13, March 6, February 27, February 20, February 13, February 6, January 30.

Posted on Tuesday, June 26th, 2007
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger | No Comments »

SJ State posts polls on term limits and primary

Two new polls by the Survey and Policy Research Institute at San Jose State University offer insight into the state of voters’ minds on the presidential primary, term limits, residency for illegal immigrants and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s job performance.

A poll on the presidential primary candidates finds Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani leading in their respective party primary contests.

A second poll shows that a majority of voters favor a measure headed for the February ballot that would alter state legislative term limits. It is more popular among Republicans and Independents than among Democrats.

“The partisan and ideological breakdowns suggest that the ballot language, written by Secretary of State Jerry Brown, emphasizing the overall reduction in years a legislator may serve,” said survey director Melinda Jackson, a political science professor at San Jose State University, “is persuasive to voters who otherwise would be likely to oppose the measure because it also increases the amount of time a legislator may spend in either house.”

The California Term Limits Defense Fund, which opposes the measure through U.S. Term Limits, quickly seized upon the results to say it “confirms both the deception at the heart of the efforts by (Senate President Pro Tem) Don Perata and (Assembly Speaker) Fabian Nunez to fool the voters into weakening term limits and the fundamental flaw of their initiative.”

UPDATE: The proponents of the term limit measure sent out a statement in response to U.S. Term Limits:

“The San Jose State poll is the 4th independent, statewide poll that shows this initiative passing with a clear majority,” said Gale Kaufman, chief strategist for the measure. “This confirms what our own polling indicates and shows a clear and continuous pattern of support for this initiative. With every poll that shows us well ahead, the opposition finds itself grasping at straws to explain to their out-of-state paymasters why the voters of California support our initiative.”

In other issues, a majority of Californians support the formation of a legal path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. They also give Schwarzenegger high marks, with 61 percent of California voters saying they approve of his job performance.

For the full poll data, margin of error and methodology, click on the links above to each poll.

Posted on Tuesday, June 26th, 2007
Under: 2008 presidential primary, polls | No Comments »

McNerney to release earmark list

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, has released a list of $66.4 million in earmark requests he will make in upcoming appropriations bills.

Critics call earmarks by “pork,” and say members have abuse the process in order to win votes back home and appease special interests groups and lobbyists.

But local government officials view the competition for federal dollars as part of the democratic process, largely because those federal dollars originate with local taxpayers who want to see some of their money returned home.

McNerney says he released his list because “I came to Washington committed to being open and accountable to Californians, and to change the way business is done here. For too long, the earmark process has been shrouded in secrecy, allowing lawmakers to fund expensive boondoggle projects that benefit the special interests as opposed to the public interest.”

The House of Representatives passed ethics reforms in January that require earmarks to carry the sponsoring member’s name within appropriations bills, but the rule does not mandate the individual release of the projects’ requesters.

Critics have called for individual disclosure, rightfully noting that it’s all but impossible for average citizens to wade through voluminous appropriations bills in search of names.

But some members fear such a list will raise local expectations when many earmarks fail to make it through the process. In other words, just because a member asks for money doesn’t mean he or she will get it.

Martinez Congressman George Miller’s office says they release earmarks after the projects have been approved by the sub-committee with jurisdiction. They also release at that time the list of projects that were not funded. (Miller’s press release of June 21 listed two projects that have been included by the relevant subcommittee: $650,000 for sewer and storm drain improvements on Mare Island and $100,000 for a interpretive “Rosie, the Riveter” center in Richmond.

The staff of Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, has a list of her funding requests along with an on-line earmark tutorial on her web site designed to help constituents understand the lengthy, uncertain and bureaucratic process.

It does appear as though the Democrats’ earmark reform, despite critics’ arguments that it doesn’t go far enough, has had an impact. The Interior Department appropriations bill, for example, contains about half the number of earmarks that last year’s under a Republican-led Congress.

Posted on Monday, June 25th, 2007
Under: congressional district 11 | No Comments »

Antioch pays eight years for mystery phone line

After Antioch stopped paying directly for its councilmembers’ phone lines and switched to a flat-rate stipend, Antioch Councilman Arne Simonsen wanted to know why a telephone charge continued to show up on the City Council’s budget.

After a bit of research, Antioch staff figured out that it was a phone line installed in a city building downtown at least eight years ago, possibly for a former Antioch elected official. The building is shared by the city, staff for Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, and state Sen. Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch.

The phone line had escaped detection until it showed up as the only phone line being charged to the city council’s budget.

Thankfully, there’s been no long-distance calls to China, although that might have triggered someone’s attention far earlier.

But phones aren’t free, either. The cost was about $14 a month or $168 a year for roughly eight years. That adds up to $1,344.

On the other hand, let’s not blow it out of proportion: That’s a tiny fraction of the city’s $148.5 million budget this year.

Posted on Monday, June 25th, 2007
Under: Contra Costa politics | No Comments »