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Archive for April, 2009

Contra Costa district attorney on the hot seat

Contra Costa District Attorney Robert Kochly

Contra Costa District Attorney Robert Kochly

Boy oh boy, is the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors mad at Contra Costa District Attorney Robert Kochly.

The board will hold a special meeting at 3 p.m. today to air their grievances over a memo (see the memo is at the bottom of this post) Kochly sent out to the county’s police chiefs and his staff, which advised them that due to budget cuts, his office will no longer prosecute certain misdemeanor crimes. (Click here to read Malaika Fraley’s CCT story.)

Late yesterday, Supervisor Federal Glover of Pittsburg announced that he will call for Attorney General Jerry Brown to investigate into how Kochly manages his office. (By way of background, the Board of Supervisors controls Kochly’s budget but the district attorney is a directly elected countywide official and the board has no jurisdiction over the management of his office.)

And prior to the board meeting this afternoon, unions representing 656 Contra Costa deputy sheriffs and 73 prosecutors in the District Attorney’s Office will hold a press conference outside the board chambers at 651 Pine Street in Martinez and call the on the board to restore the funding cuts to both the district attorney and the sheriff’s office.

This folks, to quote an old saying, is where the budget rubber starts to smell bad.

Budget cuts are no longer impacting impacting selected segments of the population, such as the poor woman without health care who needs the county hospital or that elderly man who needs an aide to care for him in his home. The budget axe has now struck the very core of what most taxpayers view as a critical government service for everyone: Public safety.

The debate over how government will pay for all the services the public demands at a time of serious financial restraints will continue, of course.

From a political perspective, this assault on Kochly, a Republican, comes at a time when he is still on the fence about whether he will seek re-election to a third term. A handful of people are reportedly chomping to run for the seat including Republican Concord Councilman Mark Peterson and a son of former District Attorney William O’Malley, Democrat, retired judge and attorney Dan O’Malley.

Alliance of Contra Costa Taxpayers chief Ken Hambrick, a vocal critic of the way the board has handled the county’s finances, has another theory.

“The board, in the form of Glover, is trying to lynch Bob Kochly as a cover-up for their own incompetence in handling the financial woes of the county,” Hambrick said. “As Charlie Brown said in one of the comic strips, ‘Find a scapegoat.’  This is a blatant attempt to move blame and responsibility from themselves to another and to smear Kochly’s name in the process.”

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Posted on Tuesday, April 28th, 2009
Under: Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics | No Comments »

Danville mayor will run for state Senate

Danville Mayor Newell Arnerich

Danville Mayor Newell Arnerich

Danville Mayor Newell Arnerich says he will run for the state Senate if Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, is elected to the 10th Congressional District.

The 14-year-veteran of the Danville Town Council and an owner of an architectural firm spent the weekend at the California Democratic Party convention in Sacramento talking with party leaders — Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, DeSaulnier and Assemblyman Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch — about his prospects and came away enthused.

It was his wife who told him he ought to run for the Legislature, he said. Janis teaches school in Orinda and she urged him to try and help fix a dysfunctional state budgeting process mired in partisan muck.

The Legislature’s failure to solve the state’s fiscal problems incrementally in prior years has led to massive and nearly unmanageable deficits that are pushing businesses out of California and hurting education, he said.

“I believe the opportunity for change is over the next 24 months and the voters are looking for it,” Arnerich said. ”

Arnerich is the first declared candidate for the District 7 Senate seat, should it become open.

Former Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla of Pittsburg is also looking at the race and Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, may well have an interest in the Senate post if she is unsuccessful in her 10th Congressional District campaign.

Posted on Monday, April 27th, 2009
Under: California Legislature, California Senate, Congressional District 10, Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics | No Comments »

DeSaulnier to launch congressional campaign

Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord

Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord

State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, officially launches his 10th Congressional District campaign this week in a trifecta of town hall meetings in Fairfield, Antioch and Concord.

DeSaulnier wants to succeed Rep. Ellen Tauscher, who has been nominated for a State Department post as Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security. The position requires U.S. Senate confirmation, which could take weeks or months.

Other declared Democratic candidates include Lt. Governor John Garamendi of Walnut Grove, Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, Dublin investigator Adriel Hampton and Fairfield native Anthony Woods.

Republicans who have expressed interest in the race include Contra Costa Sheriff Warren Rupf of Martinez; 2008 GOP nominee Nick Gerber of Moraga; California GOP Vice Chairman Tom Del Beccaro of Lafayette; Fairfield Councilwoman and executive director of Move America Forward Catherine Moy; and attorney David Harmer of Dougherty Valley.

DeSaulnier’s events will be held at the following dates and places:

Thursday, 5-7 p.m., Hilton Garden Inn, 2200 Gateway Court, Fairfield

Friday, 6-8 p.m., Antioch Historical Society, 1500 West 4th St., Antioch

Saturday, 5-7 p.m., UA 342 Hall, 935 Detroit Ave., Concord

Posted on Monday, April 27th, 2009
Under: Congressional District 10 | No Comments »

Hearing on Port of Oakland air quality worries

Assemblyman Jerry Hill said he’s temporarily shelving his bill to crack down on pollution at the Port of Oakland, at least until the Legislature’s Select Committee on Ports holds a hearing by the end of next month on pollution controls being implemented by the ports of Oakland, Long Beach and Los Angeles.

“One thing has remained the same since I served on the Bay Area Air Quality Management District: the Port of Oakland continues to drag its feet when it comes to cleaning up the air,” Hill, D-San Mateo, said in a news release today. “This hearing will review the steps California ports are taking to control pollution and highlight areas of improvement that need to be made.”

Hill said research has found truck pollution alone at the Port of Oakland brings health costs of $153 million as well as 18 early deaths per year; West Oakland residents are exposed to three times more diesel particulate matter than other Bay Area residents.

The Port of Oakland commissioners recently adopted a Maritime Air Quality Improvement Plan which Hill said didn’t include meaningful commitments to achieve clean air goals such as improvements recommended by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, California Air Resources Board, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, local environmental, labor and community groups.

Statewide, goods movement pollution already accounts for a quarter of the diesel pollution in the air. The Air Resources Board recently estimated that, if left unregulated, ports alone will constitute the largest source of pollution in the state by 2020—larger than the combined impact of every car on the road in California. Controlling pollution from ports and the rest of the goods movement system is vital to the state’s ability to attain federal and state health-based air quality standards.

“While the recession is putting new pressures on our ports, we still have to prepare for a future of greener operations,” said Ports Select Committee Chairwoman Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach.

Posted on Monday, April 27th, 2009
Under: Assembly, Environment, Jerry Hill, Oakland | 1 Comment »

Woolsey arrested at Darfur rally in DC

Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairwoman Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, was arrested this morning during a civil-disobedience protest organized by the Save Darfur Coalition outside the Sudanese Embassy in Washington, D.C.; other lawmakers arrested while protesting the deteriorating humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region included Jim McGovern, D-Mass.; John Lewis, D-Ga.; Donna Edwards, D-Md.; and Keith Ellison, D-Minn.

Here’s what Woolsey said just before her arrest:

“Thank you for being here today and for paying attention to the genocide occurring in Darfur as the world stands by and watches.

“After recognizing genocide in Darfur almost five years ago, it’s far past time for the international community to come together to end it.

“We’re here today to send a message to Khartoum, and to the world, that lawmakers in the United States Congress are making ending the genocide in Darfur a top priority. This isn’t a Democratic issue or a Republican issue – this is one of the moral issues of our time.

“I am also here on behalf of the activists in the Sixth Congressional District of California who have been working to bring and end to the crisis in Darfur from the very beginning. They created the group ‘Dear Darfur love Petaluma,’ which spread to ‘Dear Darfur love Marin, and then ‘Dear Darfur love Sonoma.’ They also created ‘Tents of Hope,’ which has brought together activists nationwide to highlight the genocide, and has provided relief to thousands of displaced people in Darfur.

“Under the leadership of Congressman Donald Payne, the Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, I know that this issue will be a top priority in Congress. I am also energized by steps taken by President Obama to reengage with the international community. But, it’s time to replace words with action.

“In particular, as China, already a permanent member of the UN Security Council, continues to emerge as a global power, they must use their influence over the Sudanese Government to hold it accountable for bringing this violence to an end.

“And to make sure that happens, the United States must not treat Darfur as just any other issue in our own bilateral relationship with China, but ensure that the Chinese follow through by putting this issue at the very top of our agenda in future negotiations.”

Posted on Monday, April 27th, 2009
Under: Lynn Woolsey, U.S. House | 3 Comments »

See, it’s OK to disagree.

Just yesterday, I saw San Francisco State University Assistant Professor Ramon Castellblanch angrily denouncing Proposition 1A, the spending-cap/rainy-day-fund measure on the May 19 special-election ballot, claiming it would be “devastating” to the future of public higher education in California.

Apparently state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, who helped broker the budget deal that put Proposition 1A before voters, doesn’t hold a grudge. Steinberg’s office today announced Castellblanch, a Democrat from Benicia, has been appointed to the California Board of Pharmacy.

The board adopts rules and regulation for the proper and effective enforcement and administration of the pharmacy profession including licensing and enforcement of state and federal laws. Castellblanch’s term will expire June 1, 2012.

Posted on Friday, April 24th, 2009
Under: California budget, California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, May 19 special election, May 2009 special election | No Comments »

Oakland’s Tony West sworn in for Justice post

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder swore in Oakland attorney Tony West today as Assistant U.S. Attorney General in charge of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Division.

President Barack Obama nominated West to the post Jan. 22; his confirmation hearing last month went off without a hitch; and the U.S. Senate confirmed him Monday on an 82-4 vote.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, attended the ceremony and had this to say afterward:

“Tony is an excellent addition to President Obama’s administration and has long been considered one of California’s rising stars in both legal and political circles.

“Tony brings a wealth of experience and knowledge as one of California’s most prominent litigators. He served in the U. S. Department of Justice and the California Department of Justice, as well as the Clinton Administration, during which he worked as an aide to Attorney General Janet Reno.

“I congratulate my friend on this well-deserved appointment, and I look forward to working with him in the future.”

Posted on Friday, April 24th, 2009
Under: Barack Obama, Barbara Lee, Oakland, U.S. House | No Comments »

A few upcoming political events

Saturday, April 25 – The Northern California chapter of American Political Items Collectors will host a political memorabilia show from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Finnish Brotherhood Hall, 1970 Chestnut St. in Berkeley. Aside from lots of dealers, there’ll be free appraisals, a special display of Obama campaign collectibles and a live mini-auction at noon. Admission is $4, but free for kids or students with valid ID.

Sunday, April 26 – Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, a Palestinian physician whose three daughters and niece were killed January 16 by Israeli shelling in Gaza, will speak about the reasons for his unwavering hope for peace between Israelis and Palestinians at 7 p.m. in Kehilla Community Synagogue, at 1300 Grand Ave. in Piedmont. The longtime peace advocate’s loss gained an international spotlight when he called into an Israeli television show during the attack. The event is co-sponsored by Kehilla, Americans for Peace Now, and the Bay Area chapter of Brit Tzedek v’Shalom. The suggested donation is $10 to $20, but nobody will be turned away for lack of funds.

Thursday, April 30 — American Civil Liberties Union executive director Anthony Romero will speak on “The Urgency of Action in the Age of Obama” at 6 p.m., preceded by a 5:30 p.m. reception, at the Commonwealth Club of California’s office on the second floor of 595 Market St. (at Second) in San Francisco. Romero says that while the first months of Obama’s presidency have been marked by considerable change, if the threats to civil liberties are not addressed, America’s future may be more imperiled than previously believed. Tickets cost $12 for club members, $18 for nonmembers and $7 for students with valid identification, and are available online.

Thursday, May 7 – Former Assembly Speaker and former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown will give his annual critique of state and national political trends at 6 p.m., preceded by a 5:30 p.m. reception, in the Commonwealth Club of California’s office on the second floor of 595 Market St. (at Second) in San Francisco. This event is open only to club members at $12 per ticket, each of whom can bring one guest at $18 per ticket; tickets are available online.

Posted on Friday, April 24th, 2009
Under: Berkeley, Calendar, General, Political events | No Comments »

Arnold: It’d be easier if you’d just do what I say.

Though building support for the special-election budget reform agenda was his main goal, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger touched on other topics in a Q&A session with the Bay Area Council on Thursday in San Francisco – and one of those topics is how hard it is when people disagree with him.

The governor went on a bit of a tirade against dissent, first talking smack about U.S. District Judge Oliver Wanger’s 2007 order reducing the operation of pumps in the Delta to protect the endangered Delta Smelt, then about a three-federal-judge panel’s moves toward ordering the release of certain inmates to reduce California’s chronic and unconstitutional prison overcrowding, and then about Clark Kelso, the receiver empowered by a federal judge to demand $8 billion from the state to correct unconstitutional, decades-long underfunding of prison health care.

“It’s not productive for the state to have so many chefs in the kitchen,” the governor grumped. “Those are the kinds of things that make it very difficult.”

But his ire wasn’t just directed at the federal courts. Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, he said, opposes him on fiscal policy at every turn, he said: “He’s running for Congress now, so that’s good.”

And he cited state Controller John Chiang’s and state Treasurer Bill Lockyer’s opposition to his plans to cut state salaries last year. “How does a coach win a basketball game when all of the players are running off in different directions?” Schwarzenegger asked.

Maybe that’s why he’s so hot for Proposition 1A, which would give the governor new authority to unilaterally reduce some spending for state operations and capital outlay and eliminate some cost-of-living increases, all without legislative approval – shoo, you pesky compromises; begone, consensus! Also, maybe he’s forgetting that these federal judges’ job is to hold California to its obligations under federal law and the U.S. Constitution, and that the Democratic statewide elected officials he’s knocking are with this state’s majority party while he’s in the minority.

More, after the jump…
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Posted on Thursday, April 23rd, 2009
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Barack Obama, Bill Lockyer, John Chiang, John Garamendi, Sacramento, state budget, State politics | No Comments »

Joan Buchanan enters CD10 race

So much for an “annointment” — Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, today announced she too is entering the prospective race to succeed Rep. Ellen Tauscher in the 10th Congressional District, should Tauscher be confirmed to the State Department post to which she has been nominated.

“We cannot be timid or formulaic. If we do what we’ve been doing in government, we will get more of the same. These times require leaders with solid financial skills, a willingness to be bold and the creativity to shape and select the right innovations,” Buchanan wrote in a letter e-mailed to to friends and supporters and posted on her campaign Web site. “Those are the qualities you told me were right for the times last November when you sent me to Sacramento. I am grateful for your support. Now, I have a rare chance to shape our nation’s future in ways we hadn’t anticipated.”

Buchanan has been eyeing the race since Tauscher’s nomination last month; her formal declaration of candidacy comes one day after that of Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, who has shifted his ambitions from the 2010 gubernatorial race to CD-10. Both have thrown their hats into the ring after state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, secured endorsements from Tauscher, Rep. George Miller and most of Contra Costa County’s labor groups.

UPDATE @ 2:15 P.M. THURSDAY: I just spoke with Buchanan.

“We actually made the decision the end of last week,” Buchanan said Thursday afternoon. “I’m running for Congress more than I’m running against Mark or against John or against anyone else who jumps into the race … because there are many issues I care deeply about.”

Foremost among those would be the sorry state of California’s education and health care, she said. “I believe the voters are entitled to a vigorous debate on these issues and the other issues that affect their lives on a daily basis, I look forward to a competitive race.”

Buchanan said she’s “prepared to put in the time and the effort it takes” to win.

“I’ve got a great campaign consultant in Mary Hughes – she’s the one who helped Ellen win the district in 1996 and again in 1998,” Buchanan said. “This will be my 17th campaign in 21 years, and I really believe in grassroots efforts … and we’re going to start releasing a list of our supporters over the next few weeks.”

“I recognize that in many ways I’m the new kid on the block – I’ve only been in state government for less than a year, but I also know what its like to be a parent – I’ve been a single parent of five children since 1992,” she noted. Combine that with her extensive education experience as a school board member, her expertise in business finance and operations and her strong work ethic, and she’s the right person for the job, she contended.

Read the full text of Buchanan’s letter, after the jump…
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Posted on Thursday, April 23rd, 2009
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Congressional District 10, Ellen Tauscher, Joan Buchanan, John Garamendi, Mark DeSaulnier, U.S. House | No Comments »