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Archive for May, 2009

A few upcoming political events

The first few weeks of June offer a plethora of political punditry…

Friday, June 5: Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright speaks to the Commonwealth Club of California on her book, “Memo to the President: How We Can Restore America’s Reputation and Leadership,” at noon in the Peacock Court at the InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel, at 1 Nob Hill in San Francisco. Tickets cost $15 for club members and $25 non-members while premium seating in the first few rows costs $45 for members, $65 for non-members, all available through the club’s Web site.

Monday, June 8: Christina Romer, chairwoman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, will address the Commonwealth Club of California on “The Great Credit Freeze and the U.S. Economy” at noon in the club’s offices on the second floor of 595 Market St. in San Francisco. Tickets cost $12 for club members and $18 non-members while premium seating in the first few rows costs $45 for members, $65 for non-members, all available through the club’s Web site.

Wednesday, June 10: Chevron Chairman and CEO Dave O’Reilly and Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope will discuss balancing energy and the environment in a forum moderated by Wall Street Journal Deputy Managing Editor Alan Murray before the Commonwealth Club of California, at 6:30 p.m. in the Hotel Nikko, 222 Mason St. in San Francisco. Tickets cost $15 for club members and $30 non-members while premium seating in the first few rows costs $45 for members, $65 for non-members, all available through the club’s Web site.

Wednesday, June 10: The Blackhawk Republican Women, Federated will welcome APL Ltd. Vice President of Security Earl Agron, recently appointed to the National Maritime Security Advisory Committee of the Department of Homeland Security, speaking on “Security of Global Trade on the High Seas.” (Yes, pirates.) It’s a 5:30 p.m. social and sign-in and a 6:15 p.m. program in the Blackhawk Country Club, 599 Blackhawk Club Dr. Tickets cost $25 per person; per the hostesses, “all welcome, tie not required, no denim please.” Please make reservations and payment (payable to “Blackhawk Republican Women, Federated”) by noon Monday, June 8th; contact for a mailing address.

Wednesday, June 17: It’s a big double-bill at the Contra Costa Republican Party meeting: Assemblyman Chuck Devore, R-Irvine, who’s challenging U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., next year; and state Sen. Jeff Denham, R-Merced, who’ll be running for lieutenant governor. It all starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Contra Costa Country Club, 801 Golf Club Road in Pleasant Hill; tickets cost $25 per person, RSVP to or (925) 948 5141. It’s cosponsored by and KSFO radio.

Posted on Saturday, May 30th, 2009
Under: Calendar | No Comments »

Another notable contribution for Gavin Newsom

The prize for most interesting campaign contribution of the week once again goes to Democratic gubernatorial candidate and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.

Real estate investor Thomas J. Coates of San Francisco, a principal in Jackson Square Properties, on Tuesday gave Newsom’s campaign $25,000. Coates is a Republican who put up almost $1 million — $223,400 in contributions and $750,000 in loans — for last June’s Proposition 98, the ballot measure that would’ve phased out rent control in California and curtailed government’s right to seize private property by eminent domain.

I can’t immediately find any reference to where Newsom stood on Prop. 98, but among those who opposed it were Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, former Gov. Pete Wilson, the AARP, the League of California Cities, the California League of Conservation Voters, the California Teachers Association, the SEIU, the California Chamber of Commerce — and, ultimately, 62 percent of voters.

Two weeks ago, I was first to report that Newsom’s campaign had received $25,000 from Rockstar energy drink CEO Russell Weiner, who also is the son of right-wing radio host Michael Savage and a former Republican Assembly candidate; the campaign last week announced it would give that money back, claiming “the confusion caused by the conflicts between the views expressed by Mr. Weiner in his campaign for State Assembly and the views and values of Mayor Newsom are best adressed this way.”

Will Newsom have any issues with Coates’ views and values?

Posted on Friday, May 29th, 2009
Under: 2010 governor's race, campaign finance, Gavin Newsom | 1 Comment »

Tauscher’s confirmation hearing set for June 9

We’re hearing that Rep. Ellen Tauscher, who was nominated earlier this month by President Barack Obama to serve as Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, will have a confirmation hearing Tuesday, June 9 before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee. There hasn’t been much talk of opposition to her taking the post, and so confirmation would probably follow within a few weeks.

CD-10 candidates… start your engines.

As Lisa has reported, the first of the potentially two-part special election to replace Tauscher, D-Alamo, in Congress will take place about two months after she resigns from the seat. If a candidate receives 50 percent plus one vote, he or she will win the seat outright; if not, the top voter-getter in each party will compete in a runoff about two months later.

Posted on Friday, May 29th, 2009
Under: Congress, Congressional District 10, Ellen Tauscher, General, U.S. House | No Comments »

Big East Bay fundraiser planned for Jerry Brown

Some East Bay development, political and labor hoi polloi will be hosting a big-ticket fundraiser for Jerry Brown’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign on Sunday, June 14 in Concord; the requested contribution is at least $5,000 per person, and that ain’t chicken feed.

The hosts are developer and former Oakland A’s co-owner Ken Hoffman; United Association of Journeyman and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry international representative Jim Kellogg; developer Al Seeno; developer Ken Behring; lobbyist and former state lawmaker Dan Boatwright; attorney Jerry Hallisey; real estate and garbage hauling magnate Sil Garaventa; State Building and Construction Trades Council of California President Bob Balgenorth; Contra Costa County Building and Construction Trades Council Executive Officer Greg Ferre; and developer Phil Tagami.

The Secretary of State’s database shows Brown’s campaign has banked at least $1.2 million since the start of 2009, atop the $4.1 million it had in the bank at the end of 2008. Say what you will about his politics, but the man looks like a fundraising powerhouse.

Posted on Friday, May 29th, 2009
Under: 2010 governor's race, campaign finance, Jerry Brown | No Comments »

Prop. 8-related events this weekend

Tuesday’s California Supreme Court decision upholding Proposition 8, the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, continues to resonate through this weekend.

Peace Lutheran Church (at 3201 Camino Tassajara in Danville) in partnership with the Bay Area Coalition of Welcoming Congregations and California Faith for Equality will host an interfaith gathering at 7 p.m. Friday as an opportunity “for GLBTQ people, friends and allies to express our collective grief and anger, and then through prayer and healing ritual begin to transform our pain to hopeful determination, re-committing ourselves to the work that lies ahead.”

Although the event isn’t about the Supreme Court ruling per se, it’s sure to be a top topic of conversation as the National Center for Lesbian Rights – which had argued on behalf of plaintiffs seeking to overturn Proposition 8 – holds a fundraiser to mark its 32nd anniversary at 8 p.m. Saturday in the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 700 Howard St. This is a costly one, with tickets ranging from $90 to $1,500; RSVP through NCLR’s Web site.

Of course, the biggest to-do this weekend will be the “Meet in the Middle 4 Equality” march and rally Saturday in Fresno, at which activists from all over the state will gather; Bay Area folks will be riding the “Equality Train” – a.k.a. Amtrak – or doing rideshares or hopping buses to get there.

If anyone knows of any other pro- or anti-Proposition 8 events this weekend, please share them in the comments section.

Posted on Thursday, May 28th, 2009
Under: same-sex marriage | No Comments »

A quick housekeeping note

Several comments have been posted here in recent days having little or nothing to do with the items to which they’re attached. While we welcome any and all opinions on the items we post, please refrain from posting unrelated, random comments (which in the future, depending on how far afield they range, could be deleted); if you’d like to launch a discussion on a topic other than what we’ve posted here, feel free to start a thread in our discussion forums. Thanks!

Posted on Thursday, May 28th, 2009
Under: General | No Comments »

Crack/powder disparity must end, panel hears

Congress must eliminate the disparity between federal criminal sentences for crack cocaine and powder cocaine, the American Civil Liberties Union told the U.S. Sentencing Commission during a hearing today at the Stanford Law School.

The commission held the second in a series of regional public hearings on federal sentencing policy, marking the 25th anniversary of the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984, yesterday and today. The commission sets federal sentencing guidelines that are meant to balance goals such as punishment, deterrence and rehabilitation while providing some certainty and fairness across all of the nation’s federal judicial districts.

But Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office, testified that the cocaine disparity – in which a first-time simple possession of five grams of crack cocaine requires the same five-year mandatory minimum prison sentence as possession of 500 grams of powder cocaine – is inherently unfair.

That’s a 100-to-one disparity that disproportionately impacts blacks, she testified; ACLU criminal justice lobbyist Jennifer Bellamy explained to me later today that law enforcement resources are more concentrated in minority communities, so although studies estimate that two-thirds of crack users are white or Latino, 80 percent of federal inmates imprisoned for crack offenses are black.

“The creation of crack cocaine mandatory minimum sentences, developed in the wake of a flood of misinformation, illustrates the need for the Commission and Congress to base sentences on facts not fear,” Fredrickson testified. “Only when sentences reflect a review of the best pharmacological and social science evidence will the perception and reality of racial bias be eliminated.”

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Tex., has introduced H.R. 265, the Drug Sentencing Reform and Cocaine Kingpin Trafficking Act of 2009, which aims to equalize the crack and powder sentencing laws. Among the bill’s 35 cosponsors are Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont; and Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose.

“We hope that in recommending its passage to Congress, the Commission will emphasize that the Jackson Lee bill is a first step towards an end that will only be achieved when mandatory minimums are also eliminated,” Fredrickson testified.

UPDATE @ 10:57 A.M. TUESDAY 6/9: U.S. Sentencing Commission spokesman Michael Courlander notes that although the commission has made known its position on the crack-powder cocaine disparity, it has taken no position on any specific legislation to address the disparity.

Posted on Thursday, May 28th, 2009
Under: Barbara Lee, General, Mike Honda, Pete Stark, Public safety, U.S. House | 9 Comments »

David Harmer in, Tom Del Beccaro out in CD-10

Lisa had reported the possibility in April, but now it’s official: Republican attorney David Harmer – son of former California lieutenant governor and Southern California state legislator John Harmer – says he’ll be a candidate in the 10th Congressional District should Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, be confirmed to the State Department post to which she is nominated.

“Now more than ever, we need Congress to practice prudent fiscal management,” he said in his news release. “Instead, Congress is mortgaging our children’s future with trillions of dollars in new debt. It’s the opposite of the American dream. We’re living beyond our means and leaving the bill for our kids.”

Harmer, of San Ramon, said he believes the district’s voters share his commitment to fiscal responsibility. “The 2008 elections offered a great opportunity for change, but a doubling of the national debt within four years and massive corporate bailouts is not the change we had in mind I am running for Congress to work toward common-sense solutions.”

And although this will be an uphill battle for him – the district has an 18-percentage-point Democratic registration edge – Harmer said he already has raised more than $150,000 for this race. Spokesman Michael Caporusso said if this early support is any indication, “we’re well on our way to raising over $1 million for this election.”

California Republican Party Vice Chairman Tom Del Beccaro of Lafayette told me this morning he won’t be a candidate – “It’s just not the right time for me,” he said – and we’re hearing that Contra Costa Sheriff Warren Rupf probably won’t seek the seat either (although I couldn’t immediately reach him this morning to confirm).

Other potential GOP candidates include Fairfield City Councilwoman Catherine Moy, who has set up an exploratory committee Web site; 2008 10th District nominee Nicholas Gerber of Moraga; and CBS News Radio National Business Correspondent and former KTVU Channel 2 Business Editor Brian Banmiller.

Posted on Thursday, May 28th, 2009
Under: Congressional District 10, Elections, Ellen Tauscher, U.S. House | 7 Comments »

Local businesses honored by Assembly members

Chicken and waffles with a good book, food for body (and soul) and mind – these are a few of my favorite things. And local Assembly members singled out purveyors of these delights as businesses from each district around the state were honored this week by the California Small Business Association in Sacramento.

Assemblyman Sandré Swanson, D-Alameda, picked Derrick Johnson of the Home of Chicken and Waffles in Oakland’s Jack London Square as his district’s honoree, praising Johnson’s practice of hiring and training local workers including many at-risk youth.

Although originally from Oakland, Johnson’s father and uncles opened a small chain of Los Angeles restaurants called Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles. In the late 1990s, his cousins invited Johnson – then living in Florida – to invest in the first Roscoe’s restaurant in Oakland; that investment eventually turned into ownership, with Johnson eventually moving, renaming and reopening the Jack London Square eatery.

“As a small businessman, Derrick Johnson has created an enterprise that is not simply a financial success, but a community achievement as well,” Swanson said. “By hiring local residents, particularly those who often have difficulty finding work, Home of Chicken and Waffles contributes to our economy while creating a better quality of life for many people. I was very pleased to nominate such a deserving business.”

Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, honored Michael Barnard, owner of Rakestraw Books, as the 15th District’s winner. Rakestraw hosts a regular program of author appearances and events with local Schools, and has created community partnership events with other local businesses and non-profits; Barnard has served on the Danville Area Chamber of Commerce board and is now president of the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association.

“Through his hard work, Rakestraw Books – ‘The Bookstore in Danville’ – continues to be a community institution,” Buchanan said. “Small businesses make significant contributions to the California economy. They are the heart and soul of our communities, and Rakestraw books is just that,” Buchanan said.

More local Bay Area honorees, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, May 27th, 2009
Under: Alberto Torrico, Assembly, General, Jerry Hill, Joan Buchanan, Sandre Swanson | 2 Comments »

Rally for ‘Social Security fairness for teachers’

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley; and Assemblyman Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch, are expected to join President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s niece, union officials and others Saturday for a rally “for Social Security fairness for teachers.”

Organizers say as many as 3,000 teachers might gather for the event from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. this Saturday, May 30 in the Berkeley Community Theater at Berkeley High School, 1930 Allston Way, to demand the repeal of legislation which currently keeps teachers and other public-service employees in California and 14 other states from receiving the earned Social Security benefits they’ve paid for and believe they’re entitled to.

Bills are pending in Congress – H.R. 235 by Rep. Howard Berman, D-Los Angeles, and S.484 by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. – that would repeal the Windfall Elimination Provision and the Government Pension Offset.

The WEP requires that someone’s Social Security retirement or disability benefit be reduced when they’re also entitled to a pension from a job in which he or she didn’t pay Social Security tax; the GPO can reduce or eliminate the Social Security benefit for spouses, divorced spouses, and surviving spouses who also receive a pension based on their own work for federal, state or local government that was not covered by Social Security. Both became law in 1983.

The activists behind this rally say these provisions “have financially disadvantaged teachers for decades” by requiring that teachers who worked in the private sector before or during their teaching careers can’t collect full Social Security from deceased spouses or get the same Social Security payouts as other workers even if they paid in the same amounts. These provisions affect not only teachers but many other public-service workers including police, firefighters, and government service workers, they say.

The Assembly earlier this month voted 62-13 in favor of Torlakson’s Assembly Joint Resolution 10, urging Congress and President Barack Obama to repeal the provisions; the resolution is now pending before the state Senate.

Saturday’s rally is being organized by The Grassroots Committee For Social Security Fairness; co-sponsored by the California Retired Teacher Association; and supported by labor groups including the California Teachers Association and the National Education Association.

Posted on Wednesday, May 27th, 2009
Under: Assembly, Barbara Lee, General, Nancy Skinner, Tom Torlakson, U.S. House | 29 Comments »