Presidential candidates reach out to Latino voters

Contra Costa Times reporter Matt O’Brien wrote a fascinating story today about how the presidential campaigns and candidates are reaching out to Latinos. But the candidates don’t necessarily do the best job speaking Spanish.

Click here for the story.

And below, you’ll find some extra notes that Matt could not fit into the published story as well as some links to the candidates as well as President Bush and Jackie Kennedy speaking in Spanish.


But impressions among fluent speakers was that whether or not he can actually speak the language in a non-scripted setting, Obama’s accent is better than that of President Bush, who has been known to sprinkle Spanish words into his speeches since his time as governor of Texas.

“It’s nice and short and correct,” said college Spanish instructor and Hayward City Councilman Francisco Zermeno. “It’s got a good use of the subjunctive. Good diction, he’s almost natively speaking, almost fluently, a couple little problems here and there. Not as fluid as it could be, but of course, he’s monolingual.” Continue Reading


Ron Dellums to stump for Obama in Florida

We all knew Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is headed to the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, today for a campaign rally with Republican presidential nominee John McCain.

But, look out — Oakland’s getting into the swing-state blitz, too. Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums departs Saturday morning for Tampa, Fla., where he’s to do some early-voting and get-out-the-vote appearances Sunday on behalf of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama.

Dellums, you’ll recall, had endorsed Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary; she named him chairman of her campaign’s urban policy committee. It’s not surprising he’s giving his all to make sure any Democrat wins the White House, though some might find it surprising that he’s jetting out of Oakland for the weekend before city residents vote on Measure NN — a parcel tax to pay for hiring more police officers — which he helped put on the ballot…


Isn’t this the Legislature’s job?

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed an executive order today creating a bipartisan “Commission on the 21st Century Economy” to “re-examine and modernize California’s out-of-date revenue laws that contribute to our feast-or-famine state budget cycles.”

The 12-member panel — six appointed by the governor, three each by the Assembly Speaker and State Senate President Pro Tem — is supposed to report by April 15 on “changes that will result in a revenue stream that is more stable and reflective of our economy,” according to the news release from the governor’s office.

“Unlike our diverse economy, our state’s revenue system is the epitome of boom or bust and right now we are paying the price,” Schwarzenegger said in this release. “That is why I have worked with the legislative leaders to find a long-term solution to our revenue problem. And today, I am signing an executive order creating a bipartisan Commission on the 21st Century Economy to study our revenue system and help California achieve the long-term fiscal stability our state needs and our people deserve.”

Said soon-to-be-gone Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland: “California’s tax system is antiquated and long overdue for an overhaul. Our state is one of the most advanced economies of the 21st century, but it relies upon an outdated and volatile tax model that no longer makes sense. This commission will examine how to best capture revenue in California’s dynamic economy and put the state’s finances on the stable and sound footing needed to remain a global leader.”

And Senate Republican Leader Dave Cogdill, R-Modesto, said, “Keeping California competitive in a global economy is the key to a strong and healthy state budget. I applaud the Governor for working with legislative leaders to address California’s broken budget system and I look forward to reviewing revenue-neutral recommendations from the commission, not just on fixing our revenue system, but also on how the state can adjust its spending levels to come into alignment with revenues.”

But isn’t it the Legislature’s job to be the stewards of California’s long-term fiscal well-being? We wouldn’t need a blue-ribbon commission if our lawmakers weren’t so intransigent, so apt to put ideology over reality. It’s abundantly clear that California doesn’t take in enough money to meet its needs for schools, prisons, health care and the like; we can’t keep cutting our way out of the problem, and claiming that we can is ludicrously irresponsible.

Yet even after the absurd standoff this summer and the resultant massive crap-heap that’s now masquerading as a state budget, it seems lawmakers still aren’t willing or able to do what must be done on their own.

Maybe this commission is meant to give some political cover to lawmakers who still feel their careers are endangered by doing the right thing for California. If so, whatever; just get it done.

But if this turns out to be (to borrow from the words of REM) “a way to talk around the problem,” and we’re still having the same tired ideological debate after this commission’s report has come and gone, it oughta be clobberin’ time for this Legislature. It’ll be a pretty compelling argument for doing away with the constitutional requirement that budget and tax bills need a two-thirds majority in each legislative chamber, a requirement so awesomely effective at bollixing up the works that it exists only in California, Arkansas and Rhode Island.


Dogs and their humans unite for Obama in Richmond

Metro Dog co-owner Diane Livoti with Bark for Barack poster (Photo by Kristopher Skinner/Contra Costa Times)

Metro Dog co-owner Diane Livoti with "Bark for Barack" poster (Photo by Kristopher Skinner/Contra Costa Times)

Your pooch cannot vote for president. Not legally, anyway.

But the humans at Metro Dog, a Richmond doggie daycare and boarding center also known as “Disneyland for Dogs,” found a way to get out the bark for Barack Obama.

Get it? “Get out the bark!” instead of “Get out the vote!”

Okay, it’s a stinky joke.

But this is a really cool poster.

Emily Jan of Timbuktu Designs styled the vivid artwork titled “Bark for Barack” after an early 1900s Alexander Rodchenko Russian literacy poster.

The poster features a regal greyhound, which probably wasn’t Metro Dog regular and Burmese Mountain Dog Tomas’ first choice. (His human, after all, coined the phrase “Bark for Barack” for the poster.)

Pet lovers are displaying it all over the East Bay, including the Oakland Zoo.

Bark for Barack poster

"Bark for Barack" poster

Hundreds of copies of the image have been downloaded from all over the nation at their web site, www.ObamaDogsUnite.com.

Metro Dog co-owners Diane Livoti and Alison Smith have raised more than $2,000 for Obama’s campaign through sales of the poster although they long ago exhausted their one and only order of 500 prints.

The only place to obtain it now is a download from their web site, where they ask for a $5 campaign donation in return for use of the image.

In the interest of fairness, I asked Livoti to arrange a paw-wow with the Republican pups in her fine establishment.

Surely, there must be some toothy growling over this flagrant bias against their candidate John McCain?


There are no Republican dogs here.


Get Alameda County election results on your cell

Before long, election officials will beam results directly into implants embedded into our foreheads.

In the meantime, sign up for Alameda County’s email blast service of the results of a select group of races to your cell phone. Click here to sign up.

Races include Alameda County results for: President, Pleasanton Mayor, Berkeley Mayor, Oakland City Council at Large, Berkeley City Council District 4, San Leandro City Council District 2 and Measure V V.

If it works well, Registrar Dave Macdonald says he will expand the service in future elections.

For those who are counting, the score in the East Bay contest to possess the most high-tech election gadgets in the East Bay is:

Contra Costa County: 1

Alameda County: 2.

Both counties launched GIS-based mapping results in the last election but Alameda County is the first to send emails to your Blackberry.


The Barbara Boxer Building Blitz, Day 2

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., followed up her news conference Wednesday in San Francisco with a luncheon address to the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce today, hammering home a theme that America should build its way out of this recession.

“We can and we will move this great city forward,” she told the crowd of local politicos and businesspeople, noting she has an apartment just a few blocks away and comes to them “not only as your Senator but as your neighbor.”

She blasted President Bush for forcing Congress to strip out earmarks which included $300,000 for the city’s green-jobs initiative; $300,000 for the city’s “Grow Our Own” police recruiting initiative; $500,000 for the city’s police equipment and technology; $20 million to continue the Port of Oakland’s dredging project.

“There’s nothing in there that’s nefarious. They’re all legislative priorities that I’m very proud of,” she said, later adding “it isn’t pork when you’ve got a ship coming into Oakland’s port and it gets stuck — that’s beef.”

But as Democrats feel more and more optimistic about taking not only the White House but also a filibuster-proof 60-seat majority in the Senate, she said, “we could be on the verge of some changes here.”

Meanwhile, as the economy continues to trudge through recession, government should be looking to highway, water and other badly needed infrastructure projects to create jobs, she said, as well as to clean-energy “green jobs.”

“We worry about jobs going overseas, but you can’t put a solar panel on that house down the street from India — unless you have very long arms,” she quipped.

Chairing the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which has dominion over these sorts of projects, “is everything I’ve always dreamed about… and I can’t blow this opportunity,” she said, praising local leaders such as Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, Rep. Barbara Lee and Green for All founder/president Van Jones for being “committed to fighting economic hardship and global warming at the same time.”

Boxer once again defended her vote in favor of the $700 billion bailout of the financial markets, but once again said she would have preferred it if the government used its shareholder status with the bailed-out banks to take an active role in their lending policy. Any small business owners who are still having trouble regaining their lines of credit should call her office or Lee’s immediately, she invited.

Though she had referred to the presidential campaign somewhat obliquely during her remarks, she spoke more directly about it while taking questions from the audience. Asked what can be done to help the 37 million Americans living below the federal poverty line, Boxer told the audience to look at the candidates’ tax-break plans: with John McCain “it’s more of the same, we know that,” she said, while Barack Obama “says he’s going to give it to people who work.”

Also, she noted, “it took us 10 years — the biggest disgrace — to raise the minimum wage;” McCain has voted against such increases 19 times. “If he had his way, it would still be $3 – he has voted against it since then.”

She wrapped up the session by offering some rather fawning anecdotes about Obama, including how she herself hadn’t believed Dick Durbin — the senior U.S. Senator from Illinois — when he’d raved to her years ago what a marvelous Senator Obama would make. After seeing Obama in action in the Senate, she said, she was forced to admit to him that she’d initially doubted how good he would be, confessing “I was wrong — you’re better.”

And now, my confession. In my article yesterday, I wrote:

The crisis is all too real, Boxer noted: Almost 190,000 Californians lost their homes to foreclosure in the first nine months of the year, atop about 85,000 in 2007. “We’re talking about probably the number of people who live in Delaware. We are talking about a massive displacement in our communities.”

Delaware’s estimated 2007 population was 863,904. But the problem is still massive, and she said it will only get worse if California’s unemployment rate, now at 7.7 percent, keeps rising.

Boxer had indeed said almost 275,000 California homes have been lost to foreclosure from January 2007 through last month, but I’d missed the part where she said she was assuming several residents per home in making her Delaware analogy. Mea culpa, and thanks to the Senator for being kind when we discussed it today.