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Archive for September, 2009

Arnold spies on his kids while they shower

But that’s actually not as creepy as it sounds. (I think.)

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger addressed the Commonwealth Club of California at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco today to mark three years since he signed into law AB 32, which set ambitious goals for the state to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in coming decades. Among the hundreds in attendance was a class of fourth-graders, one of whom sent up a question about what the governor tells his own children about global warming and climate change.

The governor responded by describing his childhood without indoor plumbing in postwar Europe, and how it inculcated in him a lifelong passion for conserving water and energy in his own home.

He said that as a father of four – Katherine, 19; Christina, 18; Patrick, 16; and Christopher, who’ll turn 12 on Sunday – he has been unrelenting, taking umbrage when his kids sat on a stool soaking in the shower for up to 15 minutes at a time. He said he has been known to walk in, open the shower door and shut off the hot water without warning – evoking screams as the water went ice-cold – but more recently has taken to enforcing a five-minute limit on showers, with violations leading to a loss of recreational privileges.

And Schwarzenegger said he’s been known to enforce the policy by lurking outside the bathroom door, timing his kids.

He also said he encourages them to do only full washer-loads of laundry and to take an active roll in recycling, even as he has installed solar panels to heat his pool and trading in his gas-guzzling Hummer for a hydrogen-fueled model. “How we teach our kids is extremely important.”

At the very least, he’s teaching his kids to keep the bathroom door locked.

UPDATE @ 5:10 P.M.: We’ve got the audio now, so listen to it here; the fourth-grader’s question is addressed right at the one-hour mark.

“I’m standing outside and I’m timing it now and saying, ‘This is now 15 minutes that this kid is taking a shower,’ so I open up the shower door and I turn off the hot water and then all of sudden, y’know, he starts screaming because now the water is cold. So I finally had to implement rules at home and tell them that if they take showers that are longer than five minutes that there will be consequences, like they will not be able to go out or they will not be able to bring friends over … I will sometimes spy on them when they come for the showers and time them.”

Posted on Thursday, September 24th, 2009
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Global warming | 5 Comments »

San Ramon mayor featured in National Review

San Ramon Mayor and Assembly GOP candidate Abram Wilson

San Ramon Mayor and Assembly GOP candidate Abram Wilson

San Ramon Mayor and GOP Assembly candidate Abram Wilson is featured in National Review, the well-known conservative publication.

National Review senior editor Jay Nordlinger captured Wilson’s personality in the piece, titled “The Making of a Mayor,” through family stories and anecdotes. The author used a unique bullet-style format, which I liked (and may well borrow) for its simplicity.

Wilson says he has received numerous responses to the story, including emails from all over the country.

Check it out.

So far, Wilson is the only declared Republican candidate in Assembly District 15. If he remains the only GOP name on the June 2010 primary ballot, he will mostly likely face incumbent Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo.

UPDATE: So what did Wilson do? He turned it into a fundraiser. What else? Read on for his email solicitation:

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009
Under: 2010 election, California Assembly, Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics | No Comments »

No drugs down the drain, please

State Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley; Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley; and various water and law enforcement officials are scheduled to cut the ribbon tomorrow morning on a new drop-off station for unwanted medicines.

The station – in the lobby of the Elihu Harris State Office Building at 1515 Clay St. in Oakland – aims to collect unwanted over-the-counter and prescription pharmaceuticals to prevent them from being flushed down toilets, washed down sinks or sent to landfills, from which they can end up polluting local watersheds and the Bay.

Studies have found at least trace amounts of various drugs in surface water across the nation, and scientists fear this contributes both to increased bacterial resistance to antibiotics as well as to interference with normal growth and reproduction in aquatic wildlife such as fish and frogs.

Tomorrow’s event is part of California’s No Drugs Down the Drain week; last year, the week’s observance led to collection of about 30,000 pounds of unwanted medicines across the state.

Posted on Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Environment, Loni Hancock, Nancy Skinner | 4 Comments »

Cops’ endorsements, money flow Torrico’s way

Assembly Majority Leader and Democratic candidate for state Attorney General Alberto Torrico of Newark announced today that the Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORAC) voted Saturday to endorse him.

PORAC, a federation of local, state and federal law enforcement associations, claims about 62,000 members statewide. In Torrico’s news release, PORAC President Ron Cottingham said Torrico “has made protecting the public his top priority. He is the best choice for California’s top law enforcement official.” Said Torrico: “I can think of no more important backing than the support of front-line law enforcement personnel.”

I don’t usually spend much time noting endorsements here — and I hear Torrico has hit PORAC chapter meetings around the state in the run-up to this endorsement, so it’s not so surprising — but this one might indicate a trend in the race between Torrico and another Bay Area Democrat who wants to be state Attorney General, San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris. In money and endorsements, law enforcement seems to be gravitating more toward Torrico – a labor lawyer turned elected politico – than toward Harris, a career prosecutor.

Torrico reported raising almost $992,000 in the year’s first half – including $610,000 transferred from his other campaign committees – and having more than $910,000 on hand as of June 30; it doesn’t look as if he’s done much big-ticket ($5,000 and up) fundraising since then. Torrico’s money seems to come from a wide array of business, labor and gaming – both Indian and non-Indian – gaming interests, as well as at least $28,000 from at least 10 California law enforcement PACs. Besides PORAC, a few law enforcement organizations are listed on his Web site as endorsements, too.

Harris – tapping into some of the same donors she’d helped wrangle last year for Barack Obama (note the Obama-esque logo at the top of her home page) – reported raising $1.2 million in the year’s first half and having almost $752,000 on hand as of June 30; it looks as if she has banked $142,500 in big-ticket donations since then, including some from Hollywood notables such as Steven Spielberg and Rob Reiner. Harris’ contributions seem heavy on well-heeled individuals, as opposed to businesses or unions, but I see no contributions from law enforcement organizations (though I notice her former boss, now-former Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff, anted up $500). I also see no law enforcement organizations among the endorsements listed on her Web site.

Harris has taken heat from law enforcement in her own back yard for her refusal to seek the death penalty in cases including a cop killer in 2004 to – earlier this month – an illegal immigrant gang member accused of killing three.

But Harris campaign manager Brian Brokaw didn’t seem worried this afternoon, noting his candidate “is proud to have earned the support of law enforcement leaders across the state, from San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne in the south to the San Francisco Sheriff Michael Hennsessey, East Palo Alto Chief Ron Davis, and the San Francisco Officers for Justice POA here in her own backyard. When California voters go to the polls to elect our next Attorney General, they’ll favor a career prosecutor who has spent her entire professional life in a courtroom.”

Do law enforcement endorsements and contributions have much impact on how people vote, even in the race to be California’s “top cop?” Time will tell.

More on how law enforcement is or isn’t backing four other Democrats in the AG’s race, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009
Under: 2010 election, Alberto Torrico, Attorney General, campaign finance, General, Kamala Harris | Comments Off on Cops’ endorsements, money flow Torrico’s way

Ex state ed official to run U.S. border security

Alan Bersin – the former federal prosecutor turned education administrator who did a stint as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Secretary of Education – will be nominated to serve as U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said today.

Bersin, 63, already has been serving in the Obama Administration as Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for International Affairs and Special Representative for Border Affairs — what some have called the “Border Czar.”

“Under Alan’s leadership over the past several months, we have forged new international and domestic partnerships along our borders to strengthen security,” Napolitano said in a news release. “I look forward to continuing to work with Alan in his new position, where he will lead the Department’s efforts to implement practical, innovative solutions to protect our country from threats to our national and economic security and facilitate legitimate travel and trade.”

As CBP Commissioner, Bersin will lead the Department of Homeland Security’s efforts to secure America’s borders while overseeing enforcement of immigration, customs and drug laws. CBP has more than 57,000 employees working to secure U.S. land and maritime borders.

Before joining the Obama Administration in April, Bersin — a Democrat and a Brooklyn native — was chairman of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, appointed in December 2006. Earlier, he was Schwarzenegger’s Secretary of Education in 2005-06; superintendent of the nation’s eighth largest urban school district, in San Diego, from 1998 through 2005; and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California from 1993 to 1998. While U.S. Attorney, he was appointed as Special Representative for the Southwest Border in 1995 by former Attorney General Janet Reno, overseeing coordination of border law enforcement along the U.S.-Mexico border for three years.

Schwarzenegger back in April said President Obama “could not have selected a more qualified, more experienced person to join his administration – especially when it comes to issues along our southwest border. Alan was a tremendous asset to my Administration, I’m grateful for his service to California, and I look forward to working with him on border issues that, as he knows well, significantly affect California.”

Posted on Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, General, Immigration, national security, Obama presidency | Comments Off on Ex state ed official to run U.S. border security

CoCo Sheriff Warren Rupf will retire

Sheriff Warren Rupf

Sheriff Warren Rupf

Veteran Contra Costa County Sheriff Warren Rupf informed his top management team a few minutes ago that he will not seek re-election next year.

The announcement is not unexpected although it would not have been out of character for him to change his mind.

A 45-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office, where he started as a deputy and was appointed to the top job in 1992, Rupf has been talking about retiring for months. He has even recruited and publicly supported his potential replacement, Concord Police Chief Dave Livingston. (Livingston even has a campaign web site:

The 66-year-old lawman had intended to announce his retirement several weeks ago but held off until after the fervor had died down over one of the biggest crime stories to hit Contra Costa County, the appearance of kidnapped victim Jaycee Dugard in a house near Antioch and the arrests of her alleged kidnappers, Phillip and Nancy Garrido.

Rupf tells me that he would have retired as soon as six years ago but felt he was in the best political position to hammer the Board of Supervisors on questions of funding and resources for the Sheriff’s Office.

The prospect of an open seat will likely attract other candidates although Livingston has some obvious advantages: Rupf has been singing Livingston’s praises for several years and as a result, he has had ample advance notice in order to put together a campaign.

Rupf was appointed sheriff in 1992 after then-Sheriff Dick Rainey was elected to the California Assembly. The sheriff was elected in his own right in 1994 and has never had a serious opponent.

The sheriff’s term ends when his replacement takes the oath of office in January 2011. The sheriff’s candidates will run in the June 2010 primary. If no candidate receives a majority of the vote in the primary, the top two vote-getters will compete in a runoff in the November 2010 general election.

Posted on Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009
Under: Contra Costa County | 10 Comments »

$9.4 mil in stimulus funds for local green energy

U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Energy Secretary Steven Chu, hosting a group of clean energy developers and manufacturers at the White House this morning, announced $550 million in new awards through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s 1603 program, bringing to more than $1 billion the total awarded so far to companies investing in domestic renewable energy production.

Among today’s big winners was Massachusetts-based Ameresco, producing green electricity from landfill gases at sites Half Moon Bay and Pittsburg.

The Ox Mountain landfill site in Half Moon Bay, in operation since July, was awarded $6,641,747 in stimulus funds, while the Keller Canyon landfill site in Pittsburg – for which a ribbon-cutting will be held next Thursday – was was awarded $2,796,377. Both sites sell electricity to Alameda Power & Telecom, the City of Alameda’s municipal utility company, and to the City of Palo Alto.

“This Recovery Act program is an example of a true federal partnership with the private sector,” Geithner said in a news release. “Not only are our Recovery dollars meeting an immediate funding need among innovative companies, they are also jumpstarting private sector investment in communities across the country – with benefits for the renewable energy industry and our economy alike.”

Chu, formerly the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s director, called the investments “crucial to ensuring America can compete and win in the race for the clean energy jobs of the future. With American workers and American innovation, we can and must lead the world when it comes to the new Industrial Revolution in clean energy.”

Section 1603 of the Recovery Act provides cash to energy producers to improve project viability so companies can create and retain jobs while expanding and speeding up renewable energy projects. The government provides a cash payment in lieu of a tax credit totaling 30 percent of the qualifying cost of the project; for each federal dollar spent in payments, more than two dollars are spent in private sector investments. This second round of awards will be made in half the 60-day turnaround time required by law, the news release said; an earlier round was announced Sept. 1.

In other Recovery Act news today, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced $42.7 million in stimulus funds awarded through the federal Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program to 31 California agencies and local governments to fight homelessness. The recipients include:

  • Samaritan House, San Mateo: $1.6 million
  • Sacred Heart Community Service, San Jose: $1.6 million
  • Cornerstone Community Development Corp., San Leandro: $1.5 million
  • Shelter Inc. of Contra Costa County, Martinez: $1.5 million
  • City of Livermore: $900,000
  • City of Union City, $500,000
  • The funding is meant to provide short and medium-term rental assistance to people and families now in housing but at risk of becoming homeless, as well as to people and families already homeless.

    Posted on Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009
    Under: economy, energy, General | 1 Comment »

    Lee to chair UN forum on minority participation

    Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, has been named chairperson of the second session of the United Nations Forum on Minority Issues, to be held November 12-13 in Geneva, Switzerland, focusing on “Minorities and Effective Political Participation.”

    “I am extremely honored to be appointed to this prestigious position and to participate in a formal capacity at the UN Forum on Minority Issues,” Lee said in a news release. “I look forward to working in this capacity to promote dialogue and cooperation on issues pertaining to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities around the globe.”

    “This Forum represents a unique opportunity engage in discussion on opportunities to increase and strengthen the participation of minorities in the decision-making processes of their governments–a subject of deep personal interest throughout my life and career.”

    As the forum’s chair, Lee will lead a global discussion of ways to build greater involvement of minorities in countries around the world in political activities. The forum will bring together over 400 participants, including government delegations, UN officials, political parties and minorities from around the world to produce a set of recommendations that will be made publicly available.

    Posted on Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009
    Under: Barbara Lee, General, U.S. House | 3 Comments »

    Hearing on bill to ban LGBT work discrimination

    House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Martinez, on Wednesday morning will hold the first full House committee hearing on a bill that would bar employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

    H.R. 3017, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, authored by Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., would prohibit employment discrimination, preferential treatment, and retaliation on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity by employers with 15 or more employees. For now, it’s legal to discriminate in the workplace based on sexual orientation in 29 states, and in 38 states based on gender identity.

    Those scheduled to speak at Wednesday’s hearing include:

  • U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc.
  • U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass.
  • Stuart Ishimaru, Acting Chairman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
  • William Eskridge Jr., John A. Garver Professor of Jurisprudence, Yale Law School
  • Vandy Beth Glenn, fired from her Georgia state legislative job when she told her supervisor she was transitioning from male to female
  • Camille Olson, partner at Seyfarth Shaw LLP
  • Craig Parshall, senior vice president and general counsel, National Religious Broadcasters
  • Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center
  • Brad Sears, executive director of the Charles R. Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy, UCLA School of Law
  • The bill’s 159 co-sponsors include the entire Bay Area delegation but for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco; the Speaker customarily refrains from cosponsoring, debating or voting on all but the most vital legislation.

    Posted on Monday, September 21st, 2009
    Under: Civil liberties, General, George Miller, U.S. House | 6 Comments »

    Notable new books for the policy-minded

    Sometimes an interesting new public-policy title crosses my desk, and from now on I’ll be making more of an effort to share them with you…

    The Road to Yucca Mountain: The Development of Radioactive Waste Policy in the United States,” by J. Samuel Walker (University of California Press, $34.95) – Walker, the historian of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, chronicles the technical, environmental and political problems with storing the byproducts of nuclear energy. Some of it’s pretty technical, but it’s worth wading through his account of the underlying science, the newest research and the politics and policy behind the issue.

    Dispatches from Juvenile Hall: Fixing a Failing System,” by John Aarons, Lisa Smith and Linda Wagner (Penguin Books, $15) – The authors, all with the Lane County, Ore., Department of Youth Services, delve into how “tough on crime” just doesn’t cut it when it comes to juvenile justice. Some of the real stories are harrowing, and their suggestions for a mix of punitive action, rehabilitation and family intervention is a good template for discussion of reform.

    Louis D. Brandeis: A Life,” by Melvin I. Urofsky (Pantheon, $40) – Urofsky, a Virginia Commonwealth University professor of law and public policy and professor emeritus of history, offers up 756 pages (not counting 142 more of notes and citations!) on progressive reformer and crusading attorney turned U.S. Supreme Court justice. It might be a tad heavy for the casual reader, but it’s a well-written and detailed (definitive?) account of the man who perhaps did more than anyone else in developing the right to privacy and mounted key defenses of the freedom of speech.

    Posted on Monday, September 21st, 2009
    Under: books, General | Comments Off on Notable new books for the policy-minded