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Archive for December, 2007

Pinole to have recall debate

Stephen TiltonMaria AlegriaUPDATE 1/2/07: The Pinole Chamber of Commerce is not and never was a sponsor of this event. It was mistakenly listed when someone used as a template a prior version of an invitation to an event in which the chamber was a sponsor but failed to take its name off the new letter. As many of you know, the chamber’s former executive director, Yvette Ricco, is a candidate for the vacant seat on the Pinole council.

I have revised the blog entry below to reflect the accurate list of sponsors.

A debate and candidates’ forum on the contentious Pinole recall election has been set for 6-9 p.m. on Jan. 10 at the city’s senior center.

Sponsored by the Contra Costa Times, Common Cause and the West Contra Costa chapter of the League of Women Voters, the event is a chance for the city’s 9,000 registered voters to hear from all sides prior to making their decision on Feb. 5.

I will moderate both the debate and the candidates’ forum.

The public may attend the event in person at the Pinole Senior Center at 2500 Charles Ave., Pinole, or watch it later on television. The event will be taped and aired on Channel 26, Pinole’s government access station. (Check the station’s web site for times and dates.)

Here’s how it will work.

In the first hour, sponsored by the Times and Common Cause, Pinole Councilwoman Maria Alegria and Mayor Pro Tem Stephen Tilton, the targets of the recall, have been invited to debate recall proponents Jeff Rubin and Cindy Trego.

The participants will deliver opening statements. I will follow with a series of questions that both sides will have the opportunity to answer and rebut. (Neither side will see the questions in advance.) The debate will conclude with closing statements from each participant.

Tilton, Trego and Rubin have all accepted the invitation to participate. Alegria, in an interview late Friday, said she is considering it.

During the candidates’ forum segment from 7-9 p.m., the Times and the League will invite Alegria, Tilton, the candidates who seek to replace them and two people running for a vacant seat to participate in a moderated discussion about citywide issues.

Running for Alegria’s seat, if she is recalled, are Roy Swearingen and Steve Denlis. John Bender withdrew but he took action too late for election officials to remove his name from the ballot. Running for Tilton’s post, if he should be recalled, is Virginia Fujita.

The candidates running for the vacant seat are Debbie Long and Ivette Ricco. (The seat opened earlier this year after David Cole resigned in order to serve in the U.S. Army.)

The participants will be asked to deliver opening statements. I will follow with a series of questions designed to illuminate the candidates’ views on various citywide issues. (No one will be provided with the questions in advance.) The audience will also be permitted to submit questions in writing during the forum. The evening will conclude with closing statements from the targeted elected officials and the candidates.

The league is in the process of sending invitations, so it’s unknown at this time who will agree to participate.

But I am hopeful that Alegria, Tilton and all the candidates will show up and make their cases to the voters. It has been a hotly contested campaign that will only escalate in the coming weeks before the election and the voters deserve to hear directly from the opponents and the proponents.

On a related note, some of you will have noticed that the recall debate and the candidates’ forum have a common moderator but different sponsors.

This came about because the good volunteers of the West Contra Costa chapter League of Women of Voters feared becoming involved with a too-controversial ballot question, given the high level of passion associated with the campaign on both sides. I can’t say as I agree with their decision — the more contentious, the more we need voter education — but it was their decision to make.

Fortunately, Common Cause stepped forward and will co-sponsor the recall debate segment and provide voters with the opportunity to see and hear both sides in a moderated discussion.

Speaking of heightened emotions, folks who plan to attend on Jan. 10 should be aware that this is a voter education event and not a political rally. That means no banners. No buttons. No T-shirts declaring support or opposition for any candidate. No catcalls or booing or otherwise disruptive behavior will be permitted.

Note: Photos are of Pinole Mayor Maria Alegria and Mayor Pro-Tem Stephen Tilton as they appear on the City of Pinole’s website,

Posted on Wednesday, December 26th, 2007
Under: Contra Costa politics | No Comments »

Report warns of race card in 2008 elections

History shows race-baiting — both implied and overt — may loom large over the 2008 elections, according to a new report by the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law and Goldman School of Public Policy.

Race-Bait ’08: Lessons Learned from the Political Dirty Dozen” reviews 24 years of campaigning and examines 12 campaigns in which the use of race made the difference; candidates who played the race card to mobilize or drive away voters soundly defeated their opponents, often coming from behind to win.

“It’s not only Barack Obama who will have to combat race-based tactics,” said Berkeley Law School Dean Chris Edley, an Obama supporter who co-sponsored a Piedmont fundraiser for the candidate in June. “Any politician who backs positions that appeal to minorities is vulnerable.”

In coming to grips with this political tactic, Edley — who was among Obama’s teachers at Harvard Law School — says it is vital to understand how appeals to racial bigotry, both subtle and unsubtle, have been used in the past. And it’s critical to assess how—with new media, new messages and new messengers—the race card may be used in the 2008 campaign.

Posted on Wednesday, December 26th, 2007
Under: Barack Obama, Elections | No Comments »

Schwarzenegger video of the week

Disturbing, but seasonal, from the boys at JibJab.

Previous SVOTWs: December 18, December 11, December 4, November 27, November 20, November 13, November 6, October 30, 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.

Posted on Tuesday, December 25th, 2007
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger | No Comments »

Presidential campaign Christmas ad roundup

Republican Mike Huckabee:

Democrat John Edwards:

Two from Republican Rudy Giuliani:

Democrat Barack Obama:

Republican Ron Paul:

Democrat Hillary Clinton:

Republican John McCain:

Posted on Monday, December 24th, 2007
Under: Barack Obama, Elections, General, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, John McCain, Mike Huckabee, Ron Paul, Rudy Giuliani | No Comments »

Bill Strauss: An appreciation

strauss.jpgBill Strauss, a Congressional lawyer who became one of America’s leading political satirists, died this past week at age 60; though born in Chicago, he grew up here in the Bay Area, in Burlingame.

He was working for a Senate subcommittee in 1981 when he co-founded the Capitol Steps, a political parody troupe which cleverly makes light of Presidents, lawmakers and justices; Democrats, Republicans and independents; and everyone in between with scathing wit and wild abandon.

Take for example a Capitol Steps performance in the late ’80s on the White House’s southern portico, for an audience of 300 including much of Congress, much of the Cabinet, and President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan. The President had instructed them to make fun not of Democrats, Senators, or Congressmen, only of him. And so the show opened the show with a parody of the Dolly Parton song “9 to 5,” featuring Bill Strauss as Reagan:

Nine a.m., my blood’s not pumpin’
Wonder which staffers Nancy’s been dumpin’
Check the watch, thank God I’m almost done

Workin’ 9 to 10, puttin’ total effort in it
That’s my regimen, sixty solid workin’ minutes
As your president, I won’t cut that any smaller
‘Cause I get free rent and two hundred thousand dollars…

The First Lady reportedly wan’t amused, but the President roared with laughter.

Strauss was a true renaissance man: a Harvard-educated lawyer; the co-author of ten books and three musicals; the co-founder of an international high-school theater program; the co-founder of a publishing, speaking, and consulting company; and a father of four.

When dealing with government, sometimes you don’t know whether to laugh or to cry. Strauss knew it’s always better to laugh.

Posted on Saturday, December 22nd, 2007
Under: General | No Comments »

What Gov. Schwarzenegger said in Union City

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was in the East Bay on Thursday afternoon, visiting a Union City company to discuss “how spiraling health care costs put California companies at a competitive disadvantage and the need for comprehensive health care reform.” Here’s what he said:

Posted on Friday, December 21st, 2007
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger | No Comments »

Berkeley doctor named to state air board

balmes.jpgGov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced today that Dr. John Balmes, 57, of Berkeley, has been appointed to the California Air Resources Board: the panel charged with maintaining the Golden State’s air quality, and now vowing to go to war with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over the latter’s refusal to issue a waiver letting California regulate greenhouse gas emissions from cars.

A hot-seat appointment, it would seem.

Balmes since 1986 he has been a University of California, San Franaicso professor of medicine; he also has been a professor of environmental health sciences at Cal Berkeley’s School of Public Health since 2002. Earlier, he was an assistant professor of medicine for the University of Southern California from 1982 to 1986. This part-time position requires Senate confirmation and pays $39,332 per year; Balmes is a Democrat.

Posted on Thursday, December 20th, 2007
Under: General | No Comments »

Sparks still fly over Casino San Pablo

casino_front_sm.jpgJust because the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians backed off its hopes to install Nevada-style slot machines at its San Pablo Lytton Casino (formerly the Casino San Pablo card room) doesn’t mean its opponents have stopped taking potshots.

A spokesman for the East Bay Coalition Against Urban Casinos — a group of concerned citizens whose effort has been bankrolled by local card rooms who don’t want an Indian casino’s competition — sent out this release yesterday:

Casino San Pablo’s numbers are in: Estimated at $132 million for 2007. These numbers are unreleased but we expect them to be released formally in a few weeks. Tack these onto $140 million in 2006…

Did you hear that sucking sound? That was over a quarter of a billion dollars being drained out of the East Bay community in two years!

If it is true that the population within a five and 10 mile radius provides a casino with its most frequent player pool, then Casino San Pablo is winning on the backs of the East Bay.

At $33,192,867 for the quarter (Confirmed with Bradley Ward, Finance Director of the City of San Pablo), or $132,770,000 on an annual basis, Casino San Pablo is celebrating their most prosperous holiday season ever. This is representative of the enormous amount of income they have generated since installing the slot machines in August 2005. They win!

It is common knowledge that gambling rates go up during the holidays. The increased financial challenges of holiday gift giving and celebrations lead many to turn to gambling to help pay off debts (From Michigan Dept. of Health). People also gamble more when they are under stress, some do it as an escape, but more than often, it is an attempt to take a little bit of money and win a lot.

The trouble is, in order for a casino like Casino San Pablo, which attracts mostly lower-income clientele who live in the area, to make a lot of money, many people have to repeatedly lose lots of money.

Despite what the Prop 94-97 TV ads in favor of the casino propositions are spinning, most people would honestly say that the people who are losing their money this Christmas at Casino San Pablo probably need it a whole lot more than the already-rich Lyttons do.

Replied Doug Elmets, spokesman for the Lytton Band:

Of course, the Card Clubs don’t mention the hundreds of new living wage, full benefit jobs that the Casino has created; the millions that the Casino contributes to the City of San Pablo which keeps the City from spiraling into bankruptcy; the millions that are pumped into the local economy through vendors that service the casino; the millions that go to public safety to make San Pablo a more protected community; the hundreds of local non-profits and disadvantaged citizens who benefit from the Lytton Tribe’s generosity; and the members of the Lytton tribe who now have housing, health care and educational opportunities, something that has eluded them for generations.

Posted on Thursday, December 20th, 2007
Under: General | 2 Comments »

Kucinich cancels SF, Oakland events

Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich today cancelled campaign events scheduled for Friday in San Francisco and Saturday in Oakland and other California cities; he’ll be spending time with family and friends through Christmas, in the wake of his younger brother’s death yesterday.

“Dennis was extremely close to his brother, and this is a very sad time for him, his other brothers and sisters, and the entire family,” said a campaign spokesman. “The outpouring of support, expressions of sympathy, and prayers from people all across the country has been inspiring. We know that our friends in California, New Hampshire, Iowa, and everywhere across the country will understand why Dennis and Elizabeth can’t be with them at this time.”

Funeral services for Perry Kucinich will be held Saturday in Cleveland’s Slavic Village neighborhood; Dennis Kucinich said he plans to assemble his late brother’s artistic works for a memorial showing and tribute sometime in the spring.

UPDATE @ 9 P.M. THURSDAY: Apparently the show must go on; the whistle-stop tour — starting at about 7:30 a.m. Saturday morning at Oakland’s Jack London Square Amtrak station (the train leaves at 8:50 a.m.) and ending Sunday evening in Oceanside — will continue without the Kuciniches, with key campaign aide Amy Vossbrinck standing in to rally the troops. And the Friday-night event in San Francisco remains in effect too, also Kucinichless; the campaign tells me it’ll confirm other speakers sometime tomorrow.

Posted on Thursday, December 20th, 2007
Under: Dennis Kucinich, Elections | No Comments »

Perata: No rift with Nunez over health care

perata.jpgState Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, had nothing nice to say about today’s San Francisco Chronicle editorial on health-care reform legislation (“It’s too bad that Nunez and Perata can’t get along, but it’s also time for them to put their personal issues aside.”) when asked about it before a news conference this morning in Oakland.

There is no rift between him and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, he insisted, and he has no problem with the legislation — he’s a cosponsor, he noted. But with Gov. Arnold Schwarznegger predicting a $14 billion budget shortfall, now’s not the time to hurry forward with a new potential encumbrance; if taxes don’t cover the new plan’s cost, the already-in-the-red general fund could end up taking the brunt of it. Better to wait a few weeks until the budget picture is clearer, he said.

“I want to see how badly damaged we are,” Perata said, adding he’s confident the plan can still be put on the November 2008 ballot. “A good idea is not going to be stopped by two weeks (delay).”

Posted on Thursday, December 20th, 2007
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Assembly, California State Senate, Don Perata, Fabian Nunez | No Comments »