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.

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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…


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… Continue Reading


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: Continue Reading


Bay Area House members urge action on Gaza

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland — along with Rep. John Olver, D-Mass., and Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara — helped lead the effort to send a letter yesterday urging U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to pursue immediate action by the United States to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

“Given the extent of the suffering, destruction, and deprivation in Gaza, it is imperative that the United States lead the effort to ameliorate the growing humanitarian crisis,” Lee said in a news release. “I am optimistic that under the leadership of our new President and Secretary of State, concrete steps will be taken to bring much needed relief to the people of Gaza.”

In their letter, the Representatives noted the need for the opening of border crossings into Israel so supplies can enter Gaza, and for the critically ill to be transported out of Gaza for medical treatment. They also reminded the Administration that rebuilding Gaza will depend on the international community making significant financial contributions.

The lawmakers also asked that Clinton or her staff share with them the actions taken to date and the strategy that will be pursued to address the humanitarian crisis; they want this information before Congress recesses on Feb. 13.

The three co-authors were joined by 57 co-signers, including much of the Bay Area’s delegation: House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Martinez; Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont; Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough; Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma; Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; and Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose.

Read the letter’s full text and list of signatories, after the jump… Continue Reading


‘Barbara Boxer… is soooo cool!’

In all of last week’s inaugural flurry, I missed this snippet from The Daily Show, wherein Wyatt Cenac reports from the Youth Inaugural Ball on the excitement over our first cool president… and in the clip’s final few seconds, the coolness of California’s own U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer