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Archive for October, 2009

Barbara Lee’s statement on Bay Bridge closure

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, just issued this statement on the Bay Bridge closure:

“First, I want to say I am relieved that no one was injured in the incident that forced authorities to shutdown the Bay Bridge. My office has been in constant contact with Caltrans, and I have been closely monitoring the circumstances surrounding the closure of the Bay Bridge and the work that is being done to repair the bridge.

“I have received assurances from Caltrans officials that crews are working as quickly as possible to make the necessary repairs and to be certain that the work is done properly. The Federal Highway Administration (FHA) provided funding for the initial repairs that were done during the Labor Day weekend closure of the bridge. The FHA has been contacted again by Caltrans to secure emergency funding for the repairs. These emergency federal funds will assure a speedy response to repair the bridge.

“The Bay Bridge is a vital transportation link between San Francisco and the East Bay, and it is imperative that we all work together to ensure the bridge repairs are done as quickly and safely as possible.”

Posted on Wednesday, October 28th, 2009
Under: Barbara Lee, Transportation, U.S. House | 6 Comments »

Brentwood recall effort resurrected

Brentwood Mayor Bob Taylor

Brentwood Mayor Bob Taylor

A Brentwood resident angry over the city’s decision to build a new civic center that will encroach on a downtown park served a second set of recall notices last night on Mayor Bob Taylor and councilmembers Chris Becnel and Bob Brockman.

Kathy Fredenberg’s first attempt fell victim to a missed deadline and she had to restart the process. Click here to see CCT reporter Rowena Coetsee’s story on the dispute.

Whether or not Fredenberg will gather sufficient signatures is an open question. She needs to collect 4,800 valid signatures of Brentwood registered voters in order to put the recalls on the ballot.

Becnel and Taylor don’t believe voters want to recall them over the civic center vote, and argue that the reconfigured park will actually be larger than the current park.

Posted on Wednesday, October 28th, 2009
Under: General | No Comments »

Ammiano responds to Arnold’s veto dig

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, seemed to accept Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s encoded upbraiding – hidden in an Oct. 12 veto message, responding to Ammiano’s Oct. 7 invitation to “kiss my gay ass” – with bemused resignation this morning.

He called it “a very creative way of exercising veto power,” and said he’ll reintroduce his bill – dealing with financing mechanisms for the Port of San Francisco – next year despite being “very disapponted” by this veto.

“I guess the governor is feeling his oats,” Ammiano said, discounting any possibility that the message was coincidental. “I feel there was a point to the way it was designed, yes.”

Ammiano took questions about the matter during a news conference before an informational hearing about marijuana legalization, on which he introduced a bill earlier this year. Asked whether he believed Schwarzenegger would sign such a bill, he quipped, “It would be an interesting veto message, wouldn’t it? Rich in potential.”

Posted on Wednesday, October 28th, 2009
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Assembly, General, Tom Ammiano | 1 Comment »

Fazio to speak about health care debate at UC-Berkeley

Victor Fazio

Victor Fazio

Former Congressman Victor Fazio will speak on lessons from the health care debate as part of the free 2009-2010 Matsui Lecture Series on Nov. 3 at 4 p.m.

Fazio represented the Sacramento area from 1979-1999.

The event will held in the Lipman Room at Barrows Hall on the UC-Berkeley campus.

A reception will follow.

Click here to register.

Read on for the press release with additional details about the event. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, October 28th, 2009
Under: Political events | No Comments »

Did the guv really do that?

Check out the San Francisco Bay Guardian blog on a possible not-so-hidden message from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to San Francisco Assemblyman Tom Ammiano in a veto letter.

As you may recall, Ammiano yelled “kiss my gay ass” when the governor showed up at a San Francisco event.

Posted on Tuesday, October 27th, 2009
Under: San Francisco politics, Schwarzenegger | 3 Comments »

FPPC clears Fabian Nunez of two complaints

California’s Fair Political Practices Commission has cleared former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles, of accusations that he illegally lived high on the hog using campaign funds and funneled contributions through a nonprofit organization.

One FPPC letter to Nunez dated Oct. 14 deals with a complaint the commission received two years ago alleging that his and his committee’s spending “appeared inappropriate and were in violation of the personal use provisions of the Political Reform Act.” That complaint had included detailed listings of more than $155,000 in spending between January 2005 and June 2007.

Several days before this complaint was filed, the Los Angeles Times had run an article detailing some of Nunez’ spending at high-end restaurants, hotels and boutiques around the world.

The letter says the FPPC reviewed the complaint’s information, and notes that the Franchise Tax Board had audited Nunez’ campaign statements for January 2004 through December 2006, making no findings of impropriety.

“Based on our review, it appeared likely that the expenditures identified in the complaint were legitimate and would not violate the personal use laws,” the letter says. “Expenditures for items such as florists, food, gifts, meetings, fundraising and travel are routinely made by many candidates and officeholders using campaign funds, and these expenditures are reasonably related to a political, legislative or governmental purpose. For expenditures that may have conferred a substantial personal benefit on you, we determined that it appeared likely or that you would be able to establish that these expenditures were directly related to a political, legislative or governmental purpose.”

Based on that, the letter says, the FPPC didn’t conduct an in-depth investigation and has now closed its file on the matter.

In another Oct. 14 letter, the FPPC said it also has closed its file on a 2008 complaint that Nunez violated the Political Reform Act’s contribution-limit provisions in 2005 and 2006 with payments made through a nonprofit called Collective Space Inc. The complaint claimed some contributors who’d already maxed out their legal contributions to Nunez gave more money through the nonprofit for charitable events featuring Nunez and benefiting him politically.

This letter says the FPPC’s review found payments were made to Collective Space at Nunez’ behest even while he and his staff were involved with its events, but “this is not prohibited, and the Speaker’s or his staff’s involvement in the event, or the inclusion of the Speaker’s name in a charity event or its advertising, would not violate the Act or cause the payments to Collective Space to qualify as contributions.”

Posted on Tuesday, October 27th, 2009
Under: Assembly, campaign finance, Fabian Nunez, General | 3 Comments »

Auto insurance ballot measure revs up

The Secretary of State’s campaign finance database shows insurance giant Mercury General Corp. on Friday put $1 million into Californians for Fair Auto Insurance Rates, the campaign committee it set up to back “The Continuous Coverage Auto Insurance Discount Act” for next year’s ballot. This doubles the company’s total previous contributions, made in June and September.

Today, the committee announced the state Attorney General’s office has released the measure’s title and summary, and gathering of petition signatures has begun; it needs 433,971 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot, so the committee will seek about 700,000.

Current law lets insurance companies offer a discount to their customers who maintain “continuous” coverage, but drivers can’t take their continuous coverage discount with them if they change insurance carriers. The proposed ballot measure would change this so the discount is portable even if motorists change insurance companies, something most other states already allow.

The official title and summary:

ALLOWS AUTO INSURANCE COMPANIES TO BASE THEIR PRICES IN PART ON A DRIVER’S HISTORY OF INSURANCE COVERAGE. INITIATIVE STATUTE. Changes current law to permit insurance companies to offer a discount to drivers who have continuously maintained their auto insurance coverage, even if they change their insurance company, and notwithstanding the ban on using the absence of prior insurance for purposes of pricing. Establishes that lapses in coverage due to nonpayment of premiums may prevent a driver from qualifying for the discount. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: This measure would probably have no significant fiscal effect on state and local governments.

“The continuous coverage discount will benefit all drivers who follow the law and maintain insurance coverage. This simple reform will provide lower rates for more California drivers by encouraging competition and will provide them with more options and choices in their insurance coverage,” campaign committee co-chair Jim Conran of Orinda, president of Consumers First and former director of the California Department of Consumer Affairs, said in a news release today. “It encourages California drivers to not only keep their coverage current, but to go out and find the best rate without being forced to lose a discount. Consumers should not be penalized and lose discounts for maintaining coverage just because they change their insurance company.”

UPDATE @ 6:15 P.M.: Consumer Watchdog executive director Doug Heller says Mercury does not have your best interests at heart in pushing this ballot measure.

He says the initiative is a repackaging of Mercury-sponsored legislation invalidated by a state appeals court in 2005 after the court determined the bill would illegally surcharge drivers who had a lapse in coverage; the court’s ruling explained that an alleged discount given to drivers who have had continuous insurance coverage must be offset by a surcharge on people with a lapse in their coverage.

So this initiative, Heller says, would let insurers penalize people who’ve missed just one payment, or who decided not to drive for a time and let their insurance lapse during that time.

“Mercury is using the initiative process to raise rates on struggling families in the middle of an economic crisis,” he said in a news release. “Auto insurers shouldn’t be allowed to jack up your premium because you stop driving for a time, missed one payment or are simply struggling after losing a job.”

As more and more people let their insurance lapse during this economic crisis, Mercury’s proposed to penalize those who’ve stopped and then want to restart coverage will force many drivers to remain uninsured, Heller says, thus raising the cost of uninsured motorist coverage for everyone else and leaving California’s roads less safe.

Posted on Tuesday, October 27th, 2009
Under: 2010 election, ballot measures | 2 Comments »

CD10: NRCC support for Harmer remains modest

David Harmer

David Harmer

Despite election countdown fervor from pro-GOP David Harmer forces, the National Republican Congressional Committee does not yet view him as a “contender” in his bid against Democratic Lt. Gov. John Garamendi in the 10th congressional district special election on Tuesday.

A Roll Call story today reports that the committee elevated nine candidates in its Young Guns program — its targeted candidate initiative — from “On the Radar” to “Contender.”Harmer was not among the nine selected for the second tier. No candidate has yet achieved the highest ranking of “Young Gun.”

NRCC spokeswoman Joanna Burgos insists Harmer’s status does not reflect a lack of support. The Young Guns program requires candidates to meet benchmarks for fundraising, campaign organization and develoment of a media plan. The higher the candidate climbs, in theory, the more resources the national party will throw in his or her direction.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., compared it in Roll Call to the Housekeeping Seal of Approval.

It’s unclear what Harmer lost when he failed to make the “contender” list other than bragging rights. The NRCC declined to say what kind of dollars are on the table.

But the NRCC is helping Harmer with get-out-the-vote activities and helped pay for a poll in early October, although I suspect the Harmer campaign was hoping for more tangible signs of the party’s enthusiasm … like a big fat independent expenditure.

Other than labor-sponsored mailers in the Sept. 1 primary for Garamendi, there have been no independent expenditures in this campaign. It yet another indication that special interests view this race as either unwinnable or in the bag, and have put their resources into more competitive seat.

Even most Republican political consultants view this seat as out of reach for a GOP candidate with its 18-point Democratic registration advantage coupled with Garamendi’s money and name identification.

Harmer hopes disgruntled voters and a strong volunteer ground campaign will lead to an upset but there is scant evidence at this point to reject conventional wisdom. on Monday tallied up the party registration of folks that have already voted by mail in the district’s four counties and found Democrats leading Republicans by 5,000 ballots.

It’s entirely possible that some of those Democrats voted for Harmer. But party registration is the single-most reliable indicator of an election’s outcome. Had a disportionate number of Republicans already voted, Garamendi might have something to worry about, California Target Book co-author Allan Hoffenblum told me last week.

Posted on Tuesday, October 27th, 2009
Under: 2009 CD10 special election, Congressional District 10 | 11 Comments »

Tea Party Express to stop in Walnut Creek

The national Tea Party Express II, a conservative protest movement will make a stop Wednesday in Walnut Creek.

It’s the ninth stop of its national bus tour. If you want to participate in the rally or protest the protesters, head on down to Civic Park 1375 Civic Drive at 5:30 p.m.

Be nice to each other. The Walnut Creek police have plenty of riot gear thanks to all those federal anti-terrorism grants. And if you’ve been watching the cable TV stations, you know all about the rowdy back-and-forth between liberal and conservative voices over the validity of the Tea Party movement.

I’ve heard that local Republicans plan to attend the rally dressed in costumes befitting the occasion, such as the “Grim Reaper.”

But one Republican, who shall remain nameless, has decided against dressing up as a hooker under the premise that she had to get a side job to pay her taxes. It’s just as well. She answers to a board of directors. There’s You Tube. It could all go bad.

Posted on Monday, October 26th, 2009
Under: Contra Costa County | 22 Comments »

CD10: Garamendi unveils anti-Harmer TV ad

Democratic 10th congressional candidate and Lt. Gov. John Garamendi appears to be ramping up his campaign assault on Republican opponent David Harmer.

Garamendi commissioned a robocall over the weekend about Social Security and this morning, he released a new television ad, “Two Cents,” that speaks largely to public schools. (See link below.)

Pro-Harmer forces say it’s a sign that Garamendi is desperate. It’s more likely that Garamendi wants to expand his lead in the Nov. 3 election and solidify his position heading into the June 2010 primary. Garamendi has an 18-point party registration advantage, major name identification and twice as much money as Harmer. Let’s put it this way: If Garamendi loses this election, Democrats are in big, big trouble.

The contents of the ad match Garamendi’s characterizations of Harmer’s positions in a mail piece a few weeks ago.

Like most campaign materials, the truth of its claims is all in the interpretation.

Garamendi’s chief point in this ad is that Harmer wrote a book calling for the end to public education.

It’s true that Harmer wrote a book in the early 1990s. “School Choice: Why You Need It, How You Get It” was published by the Cato Institute and contains an eloquent endorsement by then Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman, now an independent from Connecticut.

But Cato Institute Executive Vice President David Boaz and Harmer say the book never calls for the elimination of public schools. Instead, the men say the book promoted the concept that residents should be able to direct the tax dollars they pay for education into the schools of their choice, whether it’s a public, private, charter or religious facility. Let schools compete for students and schools and children will benefit, Harmer said.

The Harmers don’t act as though they want to end public schools. Harmer’s four young children attend public school in San Ramon. His wife, Elayne, is a substitute public school teacher. And Harmer has helped a public school in his neighborhood raise almost $200,000. Presumably Harmer, an attorney, could afford to send his children to a private school.

On the other hand, the Harmers live in Dougherty Valley, an affluent suburb where most view the public schools as excellent. And critics of school choice say adoption of such a program would severely undermine an already over-stressed public school system and unfairly dump tax dollars into private institutions that may not advance the broader goals of society.

Here’s the ad:

Posted on Monday, October 26th, 2009
Under: 2009 CD10 special election, Congressional District 10 | 7 Comments »