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Archive for August, 2007

Tauscher leads co-del to Iraq

Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, chairwoman of the House Armed Forces Strategic Forces Subcommittee, departed today for Iraq as the head of a bipartisan congressional delegation which will meet with U.S troops and commanders, U.S. and Iraqi officials, and members of the Iraqi Parliament. Before taking off, she issued this statement:

tauscher2.jpg“In less than a month General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker will report to Congress on what if any progress has been made by the Bush administration’s troop surge policy. I am traveling to Iraq ahead of this report so that my colleagues and I can get a first-hand view of our troop status as well as the political environment in Iraq. Anyone familiar with the bravery and efficiency of the United States military could predict that a surge of twenty thousand troops would increase security for a period of time; a military strategy alone isn’t a wise or sustainable policy. I’m going to Iraq to look for any signs of a political surge — signs that the Iraqi Parliament and military are ready to take control of their own future. Only when we see these signs can we be fully confident that any real and lasting progress has been made toward stabilizing Iraq.”

Tauscher is being accompanied on the trip by Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., who serves on the Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, and Rep. Jon Porter, R-Nev., who serves on the Ways and Means and Budget committees.

Posted on Thursday, August 23rd, 2007
Under: Ellen Tauscher, Iraq, U.S. House | No Comments »

19 people to seek Concord appointment

Nineteen people will compete for an appointment to a vacancy on the Concord City Council including Vikki Chavez, the widow of Councilman Michael Chavez.

Michael Chavez died unexpected on Aug. 4 of a heart attack, leaving an opening on the council after serving just seven months of his first term in office.

The applicant list also includes three City Council candidates who came up short in the 2006 election — Chuck Carpenter, Ron Leone and Harmon West.

Concord Planning Commissioner Guy Bjerke has put his name up for consideration along with a Ursula Luna-Reynosa, a member of the city’s advisory committee for the Concord Naval Weapons Station planning process.

The others who have put in their names are apparently political unknowns who have little or no experience in Concord politics:
Edi Birsan
Keith Brown
Robert Bruce
David Current
Robert Hoag
David Kahler
Robert Kosloff
Roy Larkin
Michael Pelosi
William Seaver
Chris Tang
Susan Walls
La Shawn Wells

The big question is which of these candidates can get three votes from the four sitting councilmembers?

And perhaps the bigger question is, how many rounds of votes is going to take to narrow the field to to one?

With 19 people to interview, this is going to take a while.

The interviews are set for Monday at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall, 1950 Parkside Drive in Concord. Come early for a seat. It looks like the place is going to be really crowded.

Posted on Thursday, August 23rd, 2007
Under: Contra Costa politics | No Comments »

DiFi calls for al-Maliki to resign

Answering a question at a press conference today at a Northrop Grumman plant in Palmdale, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., called for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to resign as head of the Iraqi government.

“My own view is that he should resign. The problem is who would replace him, what does that mean, and what are the implications?
“I think Maliki has been a failure. Parliament doesn’t show up for work. The ministers walk out. And he can’t meet the benchmarks he set for himself. There are Shia against Shia, and Shia against Sunni.
“Iraq has become very destabilized and the leadership is not adequate. So, my view is that he should resign.”

Feinstein’s statement comes the same day that a new, unclassified summary of a National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq notes “measurable but uneven improvements” regarding the security situation in Iraq, but questions al-Maliki’s ability to effect political reconciliation and unify Iraq.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, issued this statement:

“In today’s National Intelligence Estimate, the American people were presented with yet more evidence that the Iraqi government has failed to take the necessary steps to reach political reconciliation. Our military has performed their duties excellently, but the purpose of the escalation in Iraq was to create a secure environment in which political change could occur, and it is clear that the Iraqi leaders have failed to make progress.

“We need a New Direction to bring our troops home from Iraq so that America can refocus its efforts against terrorism worldwide.”

Posted on Thursday, August 23rd, 2007
Under: Dianne Feinstein, Iraq, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | No Comments »

Pelosi protesters plan civil disobedience in SF

Anti-war hunger strikers who’ve been fasting since Aug. 12 outside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi‘s San Francisco office and home say they intend to risk arrest at 1 p.m. Thursday by staging a “symbolic shutdown of the federal building” at 450 Golden Gate Ave.

The fasting activists presented a letter to the Speaker asking for a meeting; the letter reportedly was signed by 30 prominent peace and justice groups including Iraq Veterans Against the War, the San Francisco Labor Council, Jewish Voice for Peace, American Muslim Voice and MoveOn. A news release issued this evening by CODEPINK says Pelosi District Director Dan Bernal informed them “that the Speaker does not have time to meet with them or any of the peace groups in her diestrict anytime during the August recess,” hence their impending sit-in.

CODEPINK fasters and activists also had staked out the home and office of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., but DiFi met with them Tuesday and so they agreed to decamp.

“The Speaker has plenty of time for fundraisers and luncheons with donors. She even made a surprise appearance at a Democrats and Donuts coffee klatch gathering in Ahwatukee, Arizona, and the organizers gushed about how much time Pelosi gave them,” says CODEPINK founder Medea Benjamin. “It’s outrageous that she has time for everyone but her constituents who want to talk about the most pressing issue facing this nation.”

UPDATE @ 3:35 P.M. THURSDAY 8/23: Five CODEPINK hunger strikers and peace activists were arrested this afternoon — Toby Blome, Jody Paulson, Pamela Stephens, Nancy Mancias and Pamela Bennett — under Code of Federal Regulations 102-74.385, failing to comply with official signs or a federal police officer’s lawful directions. One activist, Rae Abileah, claims to have been injured after a federal police agent allegedly pushed a door into Abileah’s body.

Posted on Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007
Under: Iraq, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House | No Comments »

Marathon man: Sen. Tom Torlakson

Sen. Tom Torlakson, chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, is a very busy man this week.

Now that the deadlock on the state budget has been resolved, Torlakson’s committee has only a few weeks to hear more than 300 appropriations bills before the Legislature adjourns next month.

The legislator from Antioch has been so busy running the committee that staff is bringing him his meals at the dais and he takes very few breaks.

Of course, that might also have something to do with the fact that Torlakson probably doesn’t want to hand over the gavel to the committee’s vice chairman, the conservative GOP Sen. Dave Cox, R-Fair Oaks.

Who know what the committee might vote on while Torlakson is in the bathroom?

Posted on Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007
Under: State politics | No Comments »

Ex-San Quentin spokesman may run for supervisor

Vernell Crittendon, the retired spokesman for San Quentin State Prison featured in a lengthy recent New Yorker profile, says he might run for Contra Costa County supervisor next year.

If he does, the Pinole resident would come up against incumbent Gayle Uilkema of Lafayette, who has vowed to seek re-election.

Crittendon has no complaints about Uilkema but says regards himself as a public servant and believes skills he gained in his professional lend themselves to public office.

“I believe I have something to offer to the citizens in Contra Costa that could make a difference in their lives,” Crittendon said. “My passions are family, our next generation of youth and getting a handle on crime and violence.”

Posted on Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007
Under: Contra Costa politics | No Comments »

Bill naming bridge after Miller goes to governor

The state Senate has passed ACR 62, which names the new Benicia-Martinez span after Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez. The old span is named after Miller’s late father.

The bill has already passed the Assembly, which means it’s now headed for the desk of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger where it will await his signature.

Let’s hope Schwarzenegger doesn’t dilly-dally.

The bridge officially opens to traffic this weekend and the ceremony might sound funny if the emcee has to keep calling it “The Bridge We Think Will Be Named The George Miller Bridge Unless Gov. Schwarzenegger Thumbs His Nose At the Idea.”

Here are details about Saturday’s opening ceremonies provided by Caltrans’ public affairs office.

Opening ceremony, drive-through procession and community celebration marking the completion of the new span of the $1.2 billion Benicia-Martinez Bridge. Includes unveiling of a plaque dedicating the bridge in honor of Congressman George Miller (Martinez), who will speak at ceremonies in both Martinez and Benicia, and will lead the inaugural drive across the bridge. We are expecting this to be a festive, colorful event with a number of classic vehicles participating. This is also a chance to see FasTrak® open-road electronic tolling in action (though no tolls will be collected during the inaugural drive). Due to safety and security concerns, participation in the inaugural drive-through is limited to dignitaries, the media and members of the public who registered in advance and received a special placard.

WHEN: Saturday, Aug. 25, 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Schedule of Events:
9:30 a.m. Public/dignitaries gather at Martinez Waterfront Park
10 a.m. Congressman George Miller delivers keynote at opening ceremony
10:15 a.m. Begin procession to the new bridge for first drive
11:15 a.m. Concluding remarks at the Benicia Overlook by
Congressman George Miller and others
12 p.m. Festivities continue on Benicia side with refreshments

Note: The new northbound span is scheduled to be partially open for regular traffic beginning in the early hours of Sunday, Aug. 27.

WHERE: The new bridge will carry northbound traffic across the Carquinez Strait along Interstate 680, and sits just east of the original Benicia-Martinez Bridge, which will now carry southbound traffic. The second span effectively doubles bridge capacity in this corridor. The event begins on the Martinez side of the bridge, and wraps up at the Benicia Overlook, which offers views of the new span (see directions provided on next page).

WHO: Confirmed speakers include:

· Congressman George Miller· Former State Senator and FormerU.S. Representative John Burton· State Senator Tom Torlakson · State Senator Patricia Wiggins· Assemblyman Mark DeSaulnier· Assemblywoman Lois Wolk· Solano County Supervisor & MTC Commissioner Jim Spering · Benicia Mayor Steve Messina· Martinez Mayor Rob Schroder· James Ghielmetti, Chair, California Transportation Commission· Will Kempton, Director, Caltrans· Michael Phelps, Senior Vice President and Division Manager, Kiewit Corporation

Martinez Waterfront Park Site
(7 North Court Street, Martinez)

Directions from Sacramento: Take Interstate 680 South. Exit Marina Vista Avenue. Turn left onto Marina Vista Avenue. Continue approximately 1.5 miles. Turn right onto Ferry Street. Cross train tracks. Turn right onto Joe DiMaggio Drive. Turn left onto North Court Street to end of road. Follow event signs.

Directions from Walnut Creek: Take Interstate 680 North. Exit Marina Vista Avenue. Turn left onto Marina Vista Avenue. Continue approximately 1.5 miles. Turn right onto Ferry Street. Cross train tracks. Turn right onto Joe DiMaggio Drive. Turn left onto North Court Street to end of road. Follow event signs.

For those arriving after 10 a.m., go directly on the old bridge to the concluding ceremonies at Benicia Overlook site.
Benicia Overlook Site
(2055 Park Road, Benicia)

Directions from Sacramento: Take Interstate 680 South. Exit at Industrial Park. Turn right onto Industrial Way. Turn left onto Park Road. Continue approximately 1.1 miles. Follow event signs.
Directions from Walnut Creek or Vallejo: Take Interstate 680 North. Exit at Bayshore Road. Turn left onto Bayshore Road. Turn left onto Park Road. Continue approximately 0.8 miles. Follow event signs.

Directions from Martinez: (The Marina Vista Boulevard onramp to Interstate 680 North will be closed.) Take Interstate 680 North from Arthur Road. Exit at Bayshore Road. Turn left onto Bayshore Road. Turn left onto Park Road. Continue approximately 0.8 miles. Follow event signs.

Posted on Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007
Under: State politics | No Comments »

Canciamilla donates week in Kauai

Save Mount Diablo holds its annual “Moonlight on the Mountain” fundraiser Sunday and one of the auction items sounds especially attractive: A week in a two-bedroom Kauai condo, donated by former Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla and his wife, Pittsburg School Board Trustee Laura Canciamilla.

The website list of auction items reads: “One Week Kauai Condo – One week (7 days, 6 nights) in two bedroom/two bath oceanfront condo at the Makahuena at Poipu Resort, within walking distance of beautiful beaches and outstanding dining.”

With Joe Canciamilla’s state Senate campaign coming up next year, he probably figures he won’t have time for a Hawaii vacation.

I suppose that rules out a generous bid on the item from his opponent, Assemblyman Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord.

Posted on Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007
Under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Perata pitches budget reform panel

perata.jpgState Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, sent a letter today to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposing the creation of a bipartisan panel to study the state budget’s structural problems and how to fix them over the long term.

Perata contends the state’s budget is “fatally broken,” controlled by conflicting ballot-box mandates, dedicated funding streams and other constraints that limit what lawmakers can do, the letter said; he says this summer’s budget impasse is the latest example of a flawed and unbalanced fiscal structure.

Long story short: The state still generally spends more than it takes in, and efforts to close that gap are usally predicated on very volatile revenue streams while Republicans steadfastly oppose any adjustments to income taxes for the wealthy or property taxes for commercial land owners.

Perata proposes convening a Budget Revision Panel consisting of the state Senate’s and Assembly’s four leaders, the Governor’s director of finance and the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst.

Is this a meaningful desire for real reform, or just more of the Sacramento kabuki which has precluded real change for years? Time will tell. But at least someone apparently is trying to have the conversation.

Read the text of the letter, after the jump: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Assembly, California State Senate, Don Perata, General, Sacramento | No Comments »

Contra Costa suspends Human Relations Commission

Contra Costa County’s top administrator has ordered a halt to all meetings and activities of the county’s Human Relations Commission, citing a high number of vacancies, questions about how the board spends money, a resignation of a staffer and a discrimination complaint.

Three members of the commission have resigned, according to a letter from County Administrator John Cullen including the vice chair, plus the chairman is on a three-month leave of absence.

A complaint regarding a commission member and a staff member has been filed with the county’s Affirmative Action Officer, according to Cullen’s letter.

And further reports of dissension have been filed with Cullen and members of the Board of Supervisors.

Download letter here.

Posted on Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007
Under: Contra Costa politics | No Comments »