Will Gerber go green on Earth Day?

Presumed GOP congressional nominee Nick Gerber of Moraga, a considerable underdog in the race against six-term Democratic incumbent Ellen Tauscher in a heavily Democratic district, is making up for what he lacks in cash with excessive creativity.

Gerber will host the free goGerber.org Earth Day Event on April 19, 11am – 3 p.m., in Civic Park in Walnut Creek.

Bring the kids, he says, for bead making, face painting, paper airplane contests, crafts and games, a raffle and a giveaway of 500 reusable grocery store bags.

He doesn’t mention it but I’m pretty sure Gerber wants you to bring along your checkbook, too.

This is the same guy who is raising money for charity at the same time he collects for his own campaign.

This is the same guy who also offered to shave his beard if his supporters raised $100,000 for his campaign.

But the last time I saw Gerber, he still sported quite a bit of facial hair. If he expects to get his face painted — a nice shade of green in honor of the day, perhaps? — he’ll have to step up that fund-raising.


Write your own state budget

If you’re fed up with the partisan budget gridlock in Sacramento, here’s your chance to write a new state budget with your priorities and send it on to state lawmakers.

The California Legislature must close an $8 billion remaining budget gap before July 1 and the two major political parties are deeply divided over how to solve the state’s poor, long-term financial outlook.

Next 10, a nonpartisan Palo Alto-based group that “focuses on innovation and the intersection between the economy, the environment, and quality of life issues for all Californians” has unveiled its online 2008 California Budget Challenge.

The group calls its project an “online game that provides an annual examination of the state’s most pressing budget policy choices. Challenge users build their own state budget, selecting or rejecting many of the same policies that California’s state leaders are now considering. Since its launch in 2005, more than 50,000 Californians have taken the Challenge at www.Next10.org.

I haven’t had time to go through the exercise yet but if you do, let me know how you do and what you think of the end result.

Here’s what Next10 said in its press release:

This year with the deficits we are facing, the state of California will likely have to make some very tough decisions when it comes to the budget. Our goal with the Budget Challenge is to educate and engage the people of California. We all have a huge stake in the outcome of the budget, so it is important that we not only understand the process and the policies, but that we also affect the process and help shape the future of our state,” said F. Noel Perry, the founder of Next 10.

As a part of this year’s Budget Challenge launch, Next 10 is taking the Challenge on the road across the state to various organizations as well as government, economics, and general studies classrooms. Through this outreach effort, Californians are learning about the budget process as well as the current policy options being considered in Sacramento. To build their own budget, students are presented with policy options that they vote to accept or reject using instant-response clickers. Once all the policy options are considered, the votes are tallied and students are presented with a complete state budget based on their priorities.

“By working through the process and making some tough decisions about which programs to keep and which programs to cut, as well as deciding different ways to generate the necessary revenues to pay for these programs, students come to understand that the budget is not just a collection of numbers. The final product is a value statement by the students that reflects their priorities for the state’s future. They now know that budget decisions made in Sacramento impact their high school, their options for college, our taxes, the criminal justice system, and so much more,” said Dawna Linsdell, economics teacher at Gunn High School in Palo Alto.

The 2008 Budget Challenge contains 17 updated policy options, with 65 choices, many of which are new this year. The Challenge includes such topical choices as:

· The level of funding for K-12 schools and how quickly student fees should grow for students at state colleges and universities.

· Whether the state should reduce Medi-Cal provider payments by 10 percent as proposed by the Governor in this year’s budget.

· Whether cost-of-living adjustments for the aged and disabled who receive SSI/SSP benefits should be suspended in order to help close the budget gap.

· Whether California should establish a system of surcharges or rebates on new cars based on their greenhouse gas emissions.

· Whether the state should transfer responsibility for supervision of low-level parolees to county probation departments, as recommended by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst, as an alternative to the Governor’s proposal to reduce state prison spending by releasing non-violent, non-serious offenders from prison early.

· Whether the state should reduce certain tax credits, such as the dependent credit, or restructure other tax benefits, such as the mortgage interest deduction, to help close the budget deficit.

· Whether California should institute a carbon tax as part of the state’s effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“The California Budget Challenge confronts users with some of the same choices policymakers in Sacramento are faced with. It helps them to appreciate the tradeoffs involved in putting together the state’s budget,” said Tim Gage, the former Director of the California Department of Finance and consultant to Next 10. Challenge users not only educate themselves about the budget, they also give state leaders feedback about the policies Californians think are important to the state’s future. With the click of a button, Challenge users can take action and email policymakers about their budget priorities.

The 2008 California Budget Challenge can be accessed through Next 10’s website at www.Next10.org.

About Next 10: Next 10 is an independent, nonpartisan organization that educates, engages, and empowers Californians to improve the state’s future. Recognizing the complexity of issues confronting California today, Next 10 is focused on improving the state over the next ten years, and the ten years after that. Next 10 was founded by F. Noel Perry, a venture capitalist and philanthropist concerned about California today and the California our children will inherit. www.Next10.org.


Win a seat on McCain’s bus

Here’s an interesting prize for a lucky contributor to the campaign of presumed GOP presidential nominee John McCain: A seat on the “Straight Talk Express.”

It’s a bus, folks. And the prize comes with commemorative ticket, too. (Photo on the right appeared on Blogs 4 Brownback blog.)

I just hope it’s a good seat and not one of those at the back behind the boxes full of campaign brochures.

Here’s what McCain’s campaign sent out:

My Friends,

Next week, I will embark on a “Service to America” tour visiting numerous locations that have played a significant role in shaping who I am today; places where I have had the honor of serving our nation. This tour will take me through Mississippi, Virginia, Florida and my home state of Arizona. I look forward to visiting sites that have left an imprint on my life aboard my campaign bus, the Straight Talk Express.

My campaign has come up with an opportunity for a supporter to join me on the Straight Talk Express for a day of conversation and campaigning. As a token of my appreciation for your financial support, you will be entered to win this seat aboard the Straight Talk Express if you make a contribution before midnight on March 31st. I hope you’ll consider joining me by making a donation today. If you can give $50 or more, not only will you be entered to win a ride on the Straight Talk Express, but you’ll receive a commemorative Straight Talk Express ticket.

March 31, 2008 marks an important deadline for our campaign. We will file a report with the FEC outlining the amount of money we have raised during the past three months. I’m reaching out to you to ask for your support by following this link to make a donation of $50, $100, $250, $500, $1,000 – anything you can contribute up to the legal limit of $2,300.

I have said many times before that this campaign will be the most expensive campaign in our history, and I have no doubt that both Senators Clinton and Obama will continue to report historic, record-breaking fundraising numbers. With your support today, my campaign will have the resources necessary to compete with either Senator Clinton or Obama in what will be a great contest come November.

I’m looking forward to traveling on the Straight Talk Express again next week, visiting directly with voters, hearing their concerns, offering my vision for the future and highlighting those among us who are serving our country and communities, dedicating themselves to causes greater than their own self interest. Your support makes this possible, and I am grateful for any assistance you are able to give.



New ad blasts GOP for yacht-tax loophole

Here’s the Courage Campaign‘s new television ad “re-branding California Republicans as the ‘Yacht Party’ for refusing to close a ‘yacht tax’ loophole despite an initial $16 billion state budget deficit.”

United Healthcare Workers-West and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles, are joining with more than 550 small donors to air the ads in Sacramento and San Francisco today and Thursday, and in Walnut Creek, Palm Springs, and other areas at times not yet determined.

The “Yacht Party” concept began on Calitics, a state politics blog. Netroots activists there came up with the term and then produced a one-minute YouTube video, created by blogger David Dayen; that video inspired this ad.

UPDATE @ 3:20 P.M. WEDNESDAY: Man, they make it TOO easy. This just in from the California Democratic Party:

Perhaps the fumes from the engines on their power yachts finally got to them. That’s the only logical explanation we can think of as to why the Assembly Republicans, breaking their own record for political tone-deafness, would have chosen the swanky new boutique hotel Le Rivage as the location for their caucus retreat.

Nestled into the banks of the Sacramento River, Le Rivage offers “elegant surroundings, select accommodations, impeccable service, and unique amenities combine to create the finest luxury hotel in California’s capital.” What unique amenities, you ask?

How about – you guessed it — “luxury yacht parking, long term and short term.”

According to the hotel’s website: Le Rivage Hotel proudly hosts Sacramento’s premier yacht parking. Conveniently located adjacent to the luxury hotel and on The Sacramento River. Le Rivage Marina includes

  • 25 permanent slips from 36-100ft vessels
  • Dual 50 amp service
  • Pump-out station
  • Boat catering
  • Short-term parking
  • Yacht sales
  • Use of hotel pool, whirlpool, and fitness center with berth rental

  • What better way for Assembly Republicans to celebrate their crowning legislative accomplishment of the new session thus far – their killing of the bill to close the “sloophole”?


    Crackdown on signature-gathering proposed

    Here’s a good idea: A bill authored by Assemblyman Al Torrico, D-Newark, calls for holding ballot initiative sponsors responsible for the lies and misstatements of those paid pesky signature-gatherers lurking outside your local grocery stores.

    AB 1914 passed out of the Assembly Election and Redistricting Committee today on a 5-0-2 vote. It’s now headed to the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

    “This bill will bring more accountability and integrity to the signature gathering process by also holding the petition’s proponents responsible for the actions of their circulators,” Torrico said.It’s a misdemeanor, according to Torrico’s office, for a petition circulator to use false statements or to misrepresent a petition’s contents in order to receive that voter’s signature on the petition. But there are no penalties against the initiative proponents who hire the signature-gatherers, most of whom are paid by the signature.

    Under Torrico’s bill, initiative proponents of the petition could be held civilly liable if they knew about the circulator’s actions but failed to act, according to his office.

    “Individuals who signed a petition handled by a circulator who is subsequently convicted of misleading voters, must be contacted by the proponent to determine if they still want their names on the petition,” the press release said.

    Unfortunately, the old days seem to be gone, the times where passionate citizens eager to put a measure on the ballot mustered volunteers up and down the state and gathered the requisite signatures.

    But the high numbers of signatures required in a state with 33 million people has led to the use of paid signature-gatherers who work essentially on commission: The more signatures, the bigger the paycheck. It’s a thankless job, requiring workers to stand for hours on end outside grocery stores and discount outlets and try to persuade residents to sign often complicated proposed legislation. Many signature-gatherers know little about the initiatives nor do most of them care whether they pass or not.

    Californians love their initiatives; 58 are in various stages of the process at the Secretary of State’s office.

    But beware of what you sign on your way into Target. That proposal on the clipboard may not reflect a grassroots movement but only the will of a handful people with money to hire signature-gatherers who have nothing to gain but a few bucks in their pockets.

    These days very few campaigns attempt to qualify initiative petitions with volunteer signature gatherers. The vast majority use professionals, who are paid anywhere from $1 to $3 per signature.


    CNA and SEIU tussle over nurses in Ohio

    It seems the Oakland-based, politically active California Nurses Association and its national arm, the National Nurses Organizing Committee, have gotten into a nasty tussle with the Service Employees International Union out in Ohio.

    From a Huffington Post blog:

    There are 8,000 hospital workers in Ohio who should have joined the union last week but did not — because of the union-busting tactics of the California Nurses Association. I used to work for SEIU District 1199 in Ohio, working for years on this very campaign to unionize nurses, and I don’t even know how to start talking about this. Jane asked me a week ago for my thoughts, but it’s been painfully hard to put into words.

    Here’s the bare bones summary of what happened, from the New York Times. But of course it is much, much more complicated than this:

    The Service Employees International Union was brimming with confidence about unionizing 8,300 workers at nine Ohio hospitals through elections that were scheduled for this Wednesday and Friday. But then organizers from a rival union, the California Nurses Association, swept into town, buttonholing workers and maneuvering their way into hospital wards, to press the workers to vote not to join the S.E.I.U.

    The blog goes on to describe a nine-year organizing battle that led to a “neutrality agreement from CHP (Catholic Healthcare Partners) for free and fair union elections — a vote free of interference, harassment or intimidation from their supervisors.”

    Eight thousand workers, about to join the union–and then outsiders from a rival union, the California Nurses Association (CNA), started leafleting and harassing workers in the week before their vote, telling them to vote “no,” creating such mass confusion and hysteria that SEIU was finally forced to cancel the elections altogether.
    What is particularly unbelievable is the fact that the CNA tried to paint the neutrality agreement between the hospital and the workers — an agreement the workers spent years fighting for — as some sort of “sweetheart deal…”

    Now SEIU is gathering signatures on a petition to the CNA that “Silencing Nurses Voices Is Not a Victory.”

    I contacted CNA Communications Director Charles Idelson for a rebuttal, and here it is:

    SEIU International cut a back room deal with a big hospital chain, Catholic Healthcare Partners, setting up a rigged election.

    The first point they have failed to answer is this — It was SEIU and CHP that called off the election, not us. The first question to ask is if there was so much support among the RNs and other employees to join SEIU, why not just go ahead? The reason, once their undemocratic scam was exposed, it was evident there was not majority support for SEIU.

    Allowing a company to hand-pick a union for its employees without their consent while stifling dissent and even discussion is not democratic, and it certainly is not the way to build a labor movement that has the trust and confidence of working people.

    How did they do it?

  • 1- The employer filed for the election, not the union, without a single signed union card, an unpleasant reminder of the bad old days of company unions when companies imposed hand-picked unions without the consent of their employees.
  • 2- SEIU and CHP manipulated labor law to prevent any other union from being able to participate on the ballot. Similar underhanded behavior did not create a democratic election in Michigan, and it didn’t at CHP either.
  • 3- RNs and other employees were specifically forbidden from talking about the union or the election — not only a violation of their free speech rights, but a cynical repudiation of what it takes to build genuine collective, union power in the workplace.
  • 4- SEIU and CHP also conspired to gag dissent outside the hospitals as well. When NNOC/CNA RNs arrived to hand out flyers to RNs, they were stalked and harassed by SEIU staff, slapped with a court order by CHP, and two people were arrested.
  • This is the Andy Stern model of organizing, pressure employers or sweet talk employers to hand him workers. In this case, we’ve heard a lot of talk about how SEIU waged a corporate campaign, how SEIU filed a lawsuit, ad nauseam. The workers are not chattel, SEIU is not entitled to them no matter how much money they spent.

    And while SEIU is on their high horse, perhaps they would care to explain their behavior in Puerto Rico where Dennis Rivera, head of SEIU Healthcare, is collaborating with the anti-union governor of the island to destroy a militant teachers union. The governor wants to get rid of the teachers have had the temerity of challenging bad working conditions and an undemocratic no strike law. So the governor held secret meetings with Rivera, who has banded together with an association of school principals and managers to create a “new” teachers union affiliated with SEIU to replace the militant one.

    UPDATE @ 7:50 A.M. THURSDAY: Here are a few other media accounts of what went down, from the Chicago Tribune, the Springfield (Ohio) News-Sun, the Cincinnati Enquirer, and the Associated Press via the Akron Beacon Journal.