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Alameda County registrar messes up

The Alameda County Registrar of Voters mistakenly sent letters to 234,000 permanent absentee registered Republicans, Democrats and members of other parties advising them that they had failed to select a qualified political party for the Feb. 5 presidential primary election.

The county meant to send the letter to about 60,000 voters permanent absentee voters registered as “decline to state” but a staffer sent the wrong mailing list to the out-of-state printing company.

In this climate of suspicion about the integrity of voting equipment and systems, hundreds of voters have deluged the registrar’s office with angry phone calls and complaints.

But no voter has been stripped of his or her party registration, nor has there been any nefarious activities on the part of any county employee, said Alameda County spokesman Guy Ashley.

“It was a mistake that we regret and we are doing everything we can to clear up the confusion,” Ashley said.

Next week, the election department will send out a follow-up letter of explanation to those who received the letter in error and it will send the original letter to the correct list of “decline to state” voters.

Why did the letter go out in the first place?

It was intended to let “decline to state” voters know that they cannot vote in the presidential primary for the candidates of registered parties except for the Democrats and the American Independents. In contrast, the California Republican Party restricts voting in its primary to members of its party.

This means that a “decline to state” permanent absentee voter may request a nonpartisan, Democratic or American Independent ballot for the Feb. 5 presidential primary. He or she may not ask for a Republican ballot.

But the letter did not mention the GOP or spell out the Republican Party’s rules. It simply said, “We are sending you this notice because you did not choose a qualified party when you registered to vote.”

“People are confused and angry,” said Ryan Hatcher, executive director of the Alameda County Republican Party. “We don’t think there was any voter fraud here. It was an honest mistake. But people are vigilant these days about the voting system and a lot of Republicans think this is a move against them.”

The wording of the letter also bolsters critics of the GOP’s decision to exclude “decline to state” voters who say the party’s policy will push the growing numbers of independent voters into the arms of the Democratic Party.

Hatcher plans to meet with the county election staff this afternoon to discuss the wording in both the apology letter and the notice “decline to state” voters.

For a link to today’s story on the issue in the Oakland Tribune, click here.

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Schwarzenegger video of the week

This week, “It’s all good news!”

A couple of thoughts:
(1.) Nobody who has been ordered to flee for his or her life, and is left wondering whether his or her home is burning to the ground, is “happy.” Calm, perhaps, but not “happy.”
(2.) Call me old-fashioned, but to me, the governor grabbing this reporter’s hand looks like a sexist lack of professional respect. Answer the question, keep your hands to yourself.

Previous SVOTWs: October 23, October 16, October 9, October 2, September 25, September 18, September 11, September 4, August 28, August 21, August 7, July 31, July 24, July 17, July 10, July 3, June 26, 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.

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Spooky horse can swap ends in a heartbeat

Perhaps politicians can learn a few things from cowboys, especially during these times of unproductive special legislative sessions on health care and water issues. A new book says, for instance, “Don’t think a spooky horse can’t swap ends in a heartbeat.” Many horse riders–and maybe too few politicians–have learned that one the hard way.

Or how about this? “Don’t start a fire you’re not big enough to put out.”

Author Paul Bianco thinks people running our government talk a lot but maybe should listen more to normal, rural folks. To people like his Sierra Nevada neighbors. Voters there, as elsewhere, are casting ballots more and more for politicians who make sense to them – and less because of political party affiliation. And Bianco tells the public, in general, that folks in his Plumas County town have had to soak up some wisdom and efficiency, not as a hobby out of a self-help book, but as a matter of survival.

In Graeagle, for instance, every winter is pretty much a disaster. But there’s no screaming for help. No politicians drop by, with an entourage of reporters. There’s no emergency declarations — just residents who have learned to quietly, and efficiently, deal with a whole lot of snow.

Bianco, who’s had his own ups and downs, has captured mountain folks’ mind-set in his entertaining book, “Finding the `Why’ in Graeagle.’’ (Why didn’t they include a `y’ in the name? It would have been inefficient.) The book is a unique collection of sad, romantic, inspiring, funny and sentimental western-country tales, as people learn life’s hard lessons doing everyday stuff — eating in cafes, camping, hunting, ranching, and partying on holidays in the lovable, tough, homey little town. Woven throughout is a list of hard-learned wisdom, called “Mountain Ranch Rules.’’

The book has caught the eye of some at the Capitol. And they’ve seen the suggestions for an easier life, not only in general, but also as it applies to politics.

Samplings:
–Don’t think it takes that long for the cows to come home.
–Don’t start a pack trip with anyone who thinks nothing is going to go wrong.
–Don’t think your words are near worth your actions.
–Don’t hang your hat on a loose rack.
–Don’ give yourself more than half-credit for having out-smarted a half-wit.
–Don’t fix the fence without knowing what side the bull’s on.
–Don’t lean off the side of a horse to open another man’s gate if you’re not sure which way the owner’s attitude swings.
–Don’t count on a spooky horse and a nervous rider to work things out.
–Don’t fault the horse because you fell off.

Paul Bianco can be reached at P.O. Box 1001, Graeagle, CA, 96103; phone, 530-836-0539; or http://www.ecprinting.com/Graeagle%20Book.html

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Stark to discuss war accountability at local meetings

pete-stark.jpgHot on the heels of unreeling some scathing rhetoric as Congress failed to override the Preisdent’s veto of the original SCHIP bill, Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, is preparing to bring some cutting commentary back to the district at a series of town meetings this Saturday, Nov. 3, and again on Saturday, Dec. 1.

In a flier that went out to consituents recently, Stark noted companies “such as Blackwater and Halliburton that contract to provide services to our troops in war zones ought to be accountable under U.S. law. If they violate human rights, kill innocent civilians, or overcharge taxpayers, they should be prosecuted and punished.” Current law doesn’t do so, he said, and so the House this month passed H.R. 2740, the Holding Security Contractors in War Zones Accountable Act.

Similarly, Stark wrote, there is no federal statute aimed at preventing contracting fraud during times of war, even as Halliburton stnads accused of billing more than $2.5 billion in unsupported costs relating to Iraq reconstruction and troop-support contracts, about a quarter of the total suspected fraud. To fill this gap, the House recently passed H.R. 400, the War Profiteering Prevention Act.

As both bills pend in the Senate, Stark invites constituents to discuss military contracting and other subjects at his upcoming town halls. This Saturday, they’ll be 9 to 10 a.m. in Union City’s city council chambers, 34009 Alvarado-Niles Road; 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. in the San Lorenzo Adult School auditorium, 820 Bockman Road; and noon to 1 p.m. in Earhart Elementary School, 400 Packet Landing Road on Alameda’s Bay Farm Island. The Dec. 1 meetings will be from 9 to 10 a.m. in the Fremont Senior Center, 40086 Paseo Padre Parkway; 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. in the San Leandro Library’s Estudillo Room, 300 Estudillo Ave.; and noon to 1 p.m. in Alameda’s city council chambers, 2263 Santa Clara Ave.

Stark’s 13th Congressional District includes all of Alameda, Fremont, Hayward, Newark, San Leandro, San Lorenzo and Union City, and parts of Cherryland, Sunol and Pleasanton.

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Fred Thompson visits the Bay Area this week

fred-thompson.jpgFred Thompson, some Republicans’ favorite Law & Order star will be raking in the bucks Wednesday at three Northern California fundraisers: an 8:30 a.m. at the Los Gatos home of Creative Brands Group Chairman and CEO Ken Raasch; an 11:30 a.m. lunch at the Four Seasons Hotel on Market Street in San Francisco; and a 4 p.m. reception at the Carmichael home of Gene Raper, a political consultant to Indian tribes and Republican candidates including 2002 gubernatorial nominee Bill Simon.

All are $250 per ticket, $1,000 with a photo opportunity, $2,300 with a private greeting; yes, it’s Halloween, so maybe everyone will wear masks in addition to the “business attire” requested on the invitation. I’d like to think so, at least. I’d wear a Rudy Giuliani mask… ooooooh, scaaaaarrry… considering the latest poll numbers, which show Giuliani still leading the pack.

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Contra Costa top manager to retire

Contra Costa County Administrator John Cullen will retire in September 2008, Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Mary Nejedly Piepho told the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association at a breakfast meeting this morning in Walnut Creek.

The news is not entirely unexpected although the conservative taxpayers’ group collectively groaned when they heard of Cullen’s decision. They like Cullen, particularly after their tense relationship with his predecessor, John Sweeten, over the county’s budget, pension and retiree benefit woes.

Cullen also won widespread praise and respect from county employees, other county elected officials and the Board of Supervisors as that rare breed of manager who could both make the hard decisions and inspire a teamwork atmosphere.

But Cullen, a veteran county employee promoted in 2006 to the top job from his role as the director of employment and human services, has never suggested that he would remain in the post for an extended period.

For an in-depth look at Cullen’s decision and his career with the county, check on-line or pick up a copy of the Sunday edition of the Contra Costa Times and look for a story on Cullen by reporter Ryan Huff. He met with Cullen earlier this week.