Tauscher wins commuter advocacy award

The Association for Commuter Transportation has named Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, as its its 2008 “Legislator of the Year.”

The Washington, D.C.-based transportation advocacy organization said Tauscher has supported legislative initiatives that help commuters escape the high price of gasoline, including a law that would make it easier for local communities to use federal resources to start and expand vanpool programs.

They also say Tauscher championed legislation that would increase the cap on the monthly transit benefits and help transit riders with the most expensive trips eligible to utilize the transportation fringe benefit offered by local transit agencies in accordance with federal tax laws.

“It’ an honor to receive this award and to be recognized on behalf of the commuters both in my district and across the country,” Tauscher said in a prepared release. “Commuting isn’t just about getting to and from work; it’s about how much time you spend with your family instead of on the roads, how much money you can save versus the cost of daily travel, and how much our daily routines are affecting the air quality of our communities. Good commuter policy is about finding safe, cost effective, and environmentally sound options for all types of commuters and I am committed to developing these strategies to make everyone’s life a little easier.”

Tauscher’s “commitment to expanding options for her constituent’s and her dedication to improving the nation’s transportation system should be recognized” said ACT President Jon Martz. “The price of getting to and from work is making it tough for many Americans to make ends meet. One way Congress can provide immediate assistance is by promoting alternative transportation options such as carpooling, vanpooling, telework, and transit.”


Contra Costa GOP elects new chairman

The Contra Costa County Republican Party on Tuesday night elected a new chairman.

Greg Poulos will take over the post from Tom Del Beccaro, who is very busy as the state party vice chairman raising money for the cash-strapped group.

Interestingly, to keep the job, Poulos will have to win re-election to the Republican Central Committee on June 3. He’s one of 15 people running for eight seats in District 3. Four of the five GOP districts have contested elections this year, an unusual phenomenon as most voters know little about these committees and less about who serves on them. (The central committees of each political party have five districts, which match the county’s five supervisorial district boundaries.)

Here’s the press release the party sent out:

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McCain plans major California offensive


Presumptive GOP presidential nominee John McCain told the Arizona Republic, his homestate paper, that he will aggressively campaign for California’s vote despite the state’s 20-year track record of voting for Democrats.

Click here to read today’s full story but here’s what reporter Dan Nowicki wrote in his first few paragraphs:

John McCain is boldly promising to mount the most serious Republican presidential campaign for California in years as part of a strategy that targets the entire Democratic-leaning West Coast.

California, the state with 55 prized electoral votes, once upon a time was the home base of President Reagan, one of McCain’s GOP heroes. But Republicans haven’t carried the state in a presidential race or won a Senate seat since 1988.

And, with an increasingly influential Latino population, California is central to any Democratic plan to capture 270 electoral votes and retake the White House.

We’ll see. So far, McCain has appeared chiefly in the Golden State to restock his campaign coffers.

In fact, he’ll be in Atherton on May 22 at the home of former E Bay CEO Meg Whitman for a fund-raiser luncheon.

To join McCain’s elite California Victory Advisory Team, you’ll need to raise $100,000 for McCain, which comes with six tickets to the host committee reception prior to the lunch, three photos and a table of 10 plus two seats at the head table.



Big May Day rallies planned for tomorrow

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union’s West Coast dock workers — including those at the ports of Oakland and San Francisco — have voted to stop work tomorrow, Thursday, May 1, to protest the U.S. war and occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan. Joined by other labor organizations and community groups, they’ll be rallying against the war and for workers’ and immigrants’ rights.

In Oakland, there’ll be a rally and cultural performances from 3 to 4 p.m. at the Fruitvale BART Plaza; a 4 to 6 p.m. march from there along International Boulevard to City Hall; and then another rally and set of performances at Frank Ogawa Plaza from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Among the confirmed speakers are Green Party presidential candidate and former Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney; ILWU Local 10 executive board member Clarence Thomas; Alameda County Central Labor Council Executive Secretary-Treasurer Sharon Cornu; Oakland Education Association President Betty Olson-Jones; Bay Area Immigrant Rights Coalition advocacy coordinator Evelyn Sanchez; and Mujeres Unidas y Activas program director Maria Jimenez.

There’ll be major happenings in San Francisco too, including a noontime rally at Justin Herman Plaza with McKinney, Cindy Sheehan, Alexander Cockburn, Danny Glover and other speakers.


Woolsey co-sponsors Iraqi reconciliation funding

Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, and Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., today introduced a bill which would provide four consecutive years of funding to strengthen existing programs already underway to foster reconciliation among Iraq’s societal factions.

woolsey.jpg“So long as Iraq remains divided based along ethnic and sectarian lines the situation on the ground will remain chaotic and violent, giving Iraq little chance of rebuilding itself, or of delivering a better life for the Iraqi people,” Woolsey — a House Foreign Relations Committee member; Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairwoman; and Out of Iraq Caucus co-founder — said in her news release.

“The Iraqi people know this to be true, so we must support their efforts if we are welcome. Reconciliation lies at the heart of this endeavor, and the United States Institute for Peace has a strong track record of effectively creating programs that bring neighbors and one-time adversaries together, with positive results.”

Shays said H.R. 5925, based on a recommendation of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, would allocate $20 million annually for four years to the USIP, which since 2004 has been working to prevent sectarian violence at the local level; develop leaders in schools, universities, government, and civil society; promote the rule of law; engage women in public life; and increase regional stability.

And — by various estimates of current spending levels — the entire annual cost of the effort would be equal to about two hours of combat operations in Iraq.

UPDATE @ 2:25 P.M. WEDNESDAY: It seems this post has become part of a debate on partisanship, bi-partisanship and post-partisanship over at Open Left. Is Woolsey wrong to co-sponsor a bill with a vulnerable Republican, even if the bill is something most Democrats can get behind? Personally, I’d say that if a bill is good policy and bi-partisan co-authorship gives it a better chance of passing, then go for the gusto. (And for all you watching for a bias, I’m not talking about this particular bill; I’m speaking generally, and I think this cuts both ways.)


Events Wednesday, Saturday on budget crisis

Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Oakland, will host a regional town hall on California’s budget crisis from 10 a.m. to noon this Saturday, May 3 at Alameda’s Encinal High School, 210 Central Ave.

Assembly Budget Committee Chairman John Laird, D-Santa Cruz, will make a presentation on the budget, while assemblywomen Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, and Mary Hayashi, D-Castro Valley, also will take part.

Swanson says there’s “an incredible outcry” against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s plan to cut all government services by 10 percent across the board, as this would cripple schools, social services and other vital public functions. “In these incredibly difficult budget times, and with so many vital services at stake, it is important that we have a conversation about what our priorities in this state really are. That discussion has to begin in our communities.”

So this Saturday’s meeting will include discussions of the education and health care budget-cut proposals, as well as other areas; Swanson said attendees — of which he expects hundreds — will direct the conversation in a question-and-answer session with elected officials present. He said he wants people to leave “informed and energized.”

“We will provide specific and effective ways for individuals to make their priorities heard in Sacramento,” he said. “At the end of the day, that is what is going to sway the conversation. It will take ordinary people standing up and telling their elected officials, including the Governor, that they will not accept a budget balanced on the backs of our children and our most vulnerable.”

Indeed, expect more and more meetings and events such as this as spring warms toward summer, as lawmakers have said all along that this year’s budget battle will be won or lost based on the public’s outcry.

In fact, elected officials are joining the Oakland school officials, teachers, students, parents, businesspeople and community leaders for a demonstration against education budget cuts at 4 p.m. tomorrow, Wednesday, April 30, in Oakland’s school administration building, 1025 Second Ave. They say they’ll offer “specific proposals for addressing California’s budget crisis without gutting the state’s education system and invite Maria Shriver, a longtime advocate of children’s rights and educational issues, to come to Oakland and discuss alternatives to cuts in school funding.” (Hmm, good luck with that one.)

Perhaps most importantly, attendees at tomorrow’s event will visit “action stations” to contact residents of Republican-held legislative districts, asking those voters to pressure their lawmakers to oppose school funding cuts and find alternative revenue to help close the budget deficit. So this won’t just be a rally for the cameras; they’ll be taking the battle right to the ballot boxes, turning up the heat on GOP lawmakers to back off their adamant “no tax hikes” pledge.

Those expected to attend include Swanson; Hancock; Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums; Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland; Alameda County Office of Education Superitendent Sheila Jordan; and representatives from the Oakland Board of Education; the Oakland Education Association; the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; United Administrators of Oakland Schools; Oakland Community Organizations (OCO); Oakland Parents Together and other community organizations.