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Archive for January, 2009

Wanna send Obama a text message on his Blackberry?

If you do, the California First Amendment Coalition has a (tongue-in-cheek) deal for you. Read on.

Psst: Wanna buy Barack Obama’s new email address?

By Peter Scheer

What would you pay to have President Obama’s new private (and secure) email address?

Two weeks ago I wrote in this space about efforts by Barack Obama’s aides to get him to surrender his Blackberry, on which Obama had relied to escape the bubble that descends on leading presidential contenders, not to mention elected presidents. I argued that the aides’ concerns about legal and security constraints were overblown and urged Obama to keep the Blackberry—and to use it, while President, to stay in touch with ordinary citizens.

I am not at liberty to reveal how I know that President Obama read my article, which was reprinted in several publications.  Suffice it to say that I am now in possession of the Chief Executive’s new, private email address, the one reserved for family members and close personal friends. (Two additional email addresses have been created for use by, respectively, Cabinet level officials and campaign supporters who contributed $200,000 and above.)

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t betray a confidence, especially a presidential confidence. But these are, as we know, “challenging” times, not least for the California First Amendment Coalition (“CFAC”), a cash-strapped nonprofit working overtime to defend freedom of speech and the public’s right to know about its government.  Besides, President Obama is a big proponent of open government, as shown by his recent pronunciamento on the Freedom of Information Act.  He will, I’m sure, understand that extreme measures in the defense of government accountability are no vice (to paraphrase a rather less successful presidential candidate).

Accordingly, I have decided to divulge Obama’s private friends-and-family email address, the one that reaches him on his belt-mounted Blackberry, to …(click here to go to First Amendment site.)

Posted on Friday, January 30th, 2009
Under: political humor | No Comments »

Both sides still paying Prop 11 debts

Amid other campaign finance news emerging today (Jerry Brown has scads of cash with which to run for governor in 2010! Jack O’Connell doesn’t!), it seems both sides are still paying down their bills from the battle over Proposition 11, the redistricting reform ballot measure approved by 51 percent of voters in November.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s California Dream Team laid a cool quarter million dollars on the Yes on 11 campaign’s account and Stanford University physicist Charles Munger Jr. — son of Berkshire Hathaway billionaire Charles T. Munger — gave $117,000 yesterday; earlier this month, former laundry service magnate William Bloomfield Jr. of Manhattan Beach anted up $33,000 on Jan. 15, and Cypress Land Company president Brian Harvey of Los Angeles gave $50,000 on Jan. 12.

Meanwhile, the Voter Education and Research Fund – a independent committee backed by former state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland – put $38,000 into the No on 11 campaign’s coffers Tuesday, atop $12,500 it had chipped in back on Jan. 9. Nice to see Perata and his friends at VERF didn’t skip out on the bills entirely, given Perata moving $1.9 million in November and December from his Leadership California committee – which ostensibly had been raising money to help combat Proposition 11 – into his own legal defense fund for use in fending off a years-long federal corruption probe.

Posted on Friday, January 30th, 2009
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Don Perata, Election 2008, Jack O'Connell, Jerry Brown, Propositions | No Comments »

Assembly Dems: More public transit in stimulus

Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico, D-Newark, said today he got 19 other Assemblymembers to sign onto a letter he wrote this week to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, asking her to seek greater investment in public transit as part of the economic stimulus package.

The letter went out Thursday, a day after the House voted 244-188 to pass its $819 billion version of the package, which has $43 billion for transportation projects including $12 billion targeted for mass transit. The U.S. Senate will vote on a stimulus package next week, and then the House and Senate versions will have to be reconciled in a conference committee before it goes to President Barack Obama’s desk to be signed into law.

“This is the right moment for a meaningful investment in transit that will help America reduce its dependence on foreign oil and improve our environment at the same time,” Torrico said in a news release. “More people are relying on transit systems to meet their transportation needs.”

The letter says more and more people “depend on mass transit in their everyday lives to get to their places of employment, to take their children to school or childcare, and to shop for food and other necessities. Additionally, expanding public transit represents a crucial step for addressing global warming and improves mobility without sacrificing air quality.”

The letter also cites a U.S. Department of Transportation estimate that a $47.8 billion investment in public transportation could support more than 1.3 million green jobs in the next two years, and a California Transit Association estimate that every $1 billion invested in new transit capital projects creates 34,000 jobs and more than $3 billion in local economic activity.

Other Bay Area signatories to the letter included Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo; Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco; and Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco.

Posted on Friday, January 30th, 2009
Under: Nancy Pelosi, Transportation, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | No Comments »

Contra Costa assessor interviewed on NPR

Contra Costa County Assessor Gus Kramer was featured on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” talking about the impacts of budget cuts on county health and human services. Click here to listen:

Kramer is undoubtedly grateful to be in the news for something other than a lawsuit.

Posted on Friday, January 30th, 2009
Under: California budget, Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics | No Comments »

Watch Oil-drilling lease vote on-line

Catch live video streaming of the California Lands Commission hearing today at noon when it is scheduled to vote on the first new oil drilling lease in California waters in 40 years.

Click on the right for the video stream: or

An archive of the video will also be available:

The meeting begins at noon.

Posted on Friday, January 30th, 2009
Under: Environment | No Comments »

George Will speaks in Concord

Pulitzer Prize winner, author and journalist George Will delivered a fact-filled, provocative and entertaining speech in Concord tonight to several hundred people at the Contra Costa Councl’s annual CCUSA conference.

I’ve posted below a short video of his introductory comments.

Posted on Thursday, January 29th, 2009
Under: General | No Comments »

What does California need? Reform, reform, reform

Sunne Wright McPeak

Sunne Wright McPeak

California’s increasingly precarious financial predicament will require major reforms of a wide variety, agreed  state leaders and former elected officials who spoke to the Contra Costa Council this morning during its annual CCUSA conference in Concord.

They blamed — not in equal parts — term limits, the two-thirds voting threshhold for budgets and taxes, campaign finance reform, partisan primaries, polemic politics in Sacramento and the Legislature’s inability to focus on solutions that work.

Ex=Business, Transportatoin and Housing Secretary Sunne Wright McPeak even went so far as to diss her former boss, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, calling his decision to roll back the vehicle license fee a terrible one that has helped contribute to at least $6 billion of the state’s structural deficit. McPeak has in the past been very circumspect in her comments about the governor and the three years she worked for him.

Asked how she woudl fix the $41 billion state budget gap, McPeak told the audience she would take three years in order to avoid irreparable damage to schools and social services. But she would hike the sales tax for two or three years and reinstate the vehicle license fee and permanently dedicate it to city and county governments.

McPeak called it a distraction to focus on the two-thirds requirement in the legislature to pass a budget or a tax hike.

“I don’t want ot get to a bad budget faster,” she said.

Instead, McPeak said she would shift the state’s full attention to growing the economy as a means to restore public funds in conjunction with a full analysis of existing state programs’ effectiveness.

Willie Brown

Willie Brown

Former Assembly Speaker and San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown’s reform ideas included an end to term limits and called it absurd that the two-thirds voting requirements have been imposed by a majority vote given the fact that these rules would never receive a two-thirds vote.

As for campaign finance, he called for a repeal of much of what he referred to as “so-called” reforms.

“In my time in public office, there were no such things as independent expenditures, he said. ” I was the independent expenditure. The public is entitled ot know who gave money and how much and how it was spent. These modern campaign reforms are bullshit. It conceals what is really happening and never really know the source of the money.”

Click through to next page for recommendations offered by anothe speaker, former Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla of Pittsburg.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, January 29th, 2009
Under: California budget, California Legislature, campaign finance, Election reform, General | No Comments »


The grassroots progressive Democratic Courage Campaign is launching a new effort to call attention to California’s fiscal crisis and impending cash outage, which could have you — yes, you — getting IOUs in the mail next month instead of financial aid checks or tax refunds:

Click to enlarge:

Chuckle-worthy, right down to the serial number. I’m guessing this isn’t the way Schwarzenegger might’ve dreamed of seeing his face on currency…

Posted on Thursday, January 29th, 2009
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger | No Comments »

Local lawmakers at the Ledbetter Act’s signing

Several Bay Area House members were among those at the White House this morning as President Barack Obama signed his first bill into law — the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which would clarify that every paycheck or other compensation resulting from an earlier discriminatory pay decision constitutes a Civil Rights Act violation. (More on the bill here.)

Lotsa photos, courtesy of the office of Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, after the jump… Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, January 29th, 2009
Under: Barack Obama, Barbara Lee, General, George Miller, Joe Biden, Lynn Woolsey, Nancy Pelosi | No Comments »

Comedian Will Durst kicks off annual CCUSA

Will Durst

Will Durst

Political comedian Will Durst, the self-described “thinking man’s comic,” opened today’s annual CCUSA conference in Concord with a round of early-morning bipartisan humor.

The conference is the Contra Costa County’s yearly public issues symposium. This year’s event features a panel on the budget, a look ahead in politics with former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown and a lunchtime address by former Contra Costa County Supervisor Sunne Wright McPeak. The day will end with a keynote address by Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and author George Will.

(It’s a little weird because Will Durst is standing about 10 feet from me as I write this.)

Durst bemoaned the loss of George W. Bush, a president he said delivered material “you just can’t make up.” President Obama, onthe other hand, is tough.

“You can’t mock hop:e. It’ s like kicking a small fuzzy thing with big eyes.”

Click through to read some of Durst’s lines: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, January 29th, 2009
Under: Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics | No Comments »