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.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.