Martinez mayor appointed to Bay Area water board



Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has appointed Martinez Mayor Rob Schroder to the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board.

He also reappointed to the board Lafayette resident Shalom Eliahu, 82, who has served on the board since 2000. Eliahu is president of Solo Engineer Consulting and has also worked in Israel for a construction solar evaporation plant.  He is a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Schroder, 56, has been Martinez mayor since 2002 and is president and chief financial officer of Schroder Insurance Services. Schroder also serves on the Contra Costa Local Agency Formation Commission, is an appointed director for the Contra Costa County Transit Authority and is a member of the Bay Area Council Economic Institute.

Both men are registered decline to state, although Schroder had been a Republican until late 2008.

The appointments require Senate confirmation.


Some recent political books for holiday reading

No, I’ve not read Palin’s book. Or Plouffe’s.

Intimate Lives of the Founding FathersBut I’ve very much enjoyed Thomas Fleming’s “The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers” (Smithsonian Books, $27.99), which examines the women behind the men who launched our nation. A young George Washington was head-over-heels for his half-brother’s wife’s hot, young, married sister-in-law long before he met the wealthy widow with whom he would share his life; Benjamin Franklin, while undeniably randy in his youth, was not nearly the elderly horndog his detractors made him out to be; John Adams, while constantly obsessing over perceived slights and his own historical legacy, couldn’t imagine being without Abigail yet endured years apart from her. We’re quick to deify these men, quick to forget they were real people with real lives that helped define the birth of our nation; this very engaging book offers a window into who they really were, and the vital roles their life partners played in making history.

O is for ObamaFar less exciting is “O is for Obama: An Irreverent A-to-Z Guide to Washington and Beltway Politics” (Triumph, $16.95), written by the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank and illustrated by Mark Anderson. “D is for Drudge, who, like Limbaugh and Hannity/Believes that Obama is causing calamity.” It’s just not as light and clever as it clearly had hoped to be, although the illustrations by Anderson – whose work has appeared in publications including Time, The New Yorker and the Wall Street journal – are undeniably delightful.

Among other titles that’ve crossed my desk lately:

California’s Golden Years: When Government Worked and Why” (Berkeley Public Policy Press) – William Bagley, a moderate Republican lawmaker (1960-74) from the North Bay who later served on the California Public Utilities Commission, the California Transportation Commission and the University of California Board of Regents, shares “an insider’s explanation for why politics seemed to work better then than now.”

The Insecure American: How We Got Here & What We Should Do About It” (University of California Press, $24.95) – George Mason University Anthropology Professor Hugh Gusterson and Colby College Anthropology Professor Catherine Besteman edit essays from 19 leading ethnographers “to create a unique portrait of an anxious country and to furnish valuable insights into the nation’s possible future,” touching upon issues including the economy, terrorism, the “war on drugs,” racial resentment, a fraying social safety net, immigration, health care and more. Features a forward by Barbara Ehrenreich.


Stimulus funds for local energy-storage projects

Bay Area companies have been awarded more than $49 million in economic-stimulus funds for energy storage projects aimed at improving the efficiency and reliability of the nation’s electrical grid, the U.S. Department of Energy announced this morning.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced $620 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money for 32 projects across the nation, leveraged with $1 billion in private-sector funds. California is getting about $175 million in ARRA funding to support more than $679 billion in projects.

“These demonstration projects will further our knowledge and understanding of what works best and delivers the best results for the Smart Grid, setting the course for a modern grid that is critical to achieving our energy goals,” Chu said in a news release. “This funding will be used to show how Smart Grid technologies can be applied to whole systems to promote energy savings for consumers, increase energy efficiency, and foster the growth of renewable energy sources like wind and solar power.”

Alameda-based Primus Power Corp. will get $14 million for a wind energy “farm” that will store energy for the Modesto Irrigation District, replacing a planned fossil fuel plant. The project’s total cost is $46.7 million.

Berkeley-based Seeo Inc. will get $6,196,060 to develop and deploy a prototype battery system based on the company’s proprietary nanostructured polymer electrolytes; this new class of advanced lithium-ion rechargeable battery is expected to show improvements in energy density, battery life, safety and cost, and would be targeted for use in utility-scale operations such as community energy storage projects. The project’s total cost is $12,392,120.

Fremont-based Amber Kinetics Inc. will get $4 million to develop and demonstrate a new flywheel technology for use in grid-connected, low-cost bulk energy storage; this effort, in partnership with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, is expected to improve on traditional flywheel systems to produce higher efficiency and lower costs competitive with pumped hyrdo technologies. The project’s total cost is $10 million.

And San Francisco-based Pacific Gas & Electric Co. will get $25 million to build and validate the design, performance and reliability of an advanced, underground compressed air energy storage plant using a saline porous rock formation near Bakersfield. The project’s total cost is $355,938,600.


Dem leader not hot on Maldonado

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg says he has “grave concerns” about Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s decision to nominate GOP Sen. Abel Maldonado as the next lieutenant governor.

“I congratulate Senator Maldonado upon his nomination by the governor,” Steinberg said in a release a few minutes ago. “Senator Maldonado is a fine colleague, but I have grave doubts about filling this position with any sitting elected official for two significant reasons.”

Steinberg questions the cost of holding a special election to replace Maldonado, estimated at $2 million.

“Rather than using taxpayer money to pay for an avoidable election, it may be wiser to use that $2 million to defray recent fee increases in our higher education system,” Steinberg said. “For example, $2 million would significantly reduce the Winter/Spring 2010 fee increases for UC students, or it would cover the recent $6 per unit increase for 333,000 course units for community college students.”

Besides, he added, voters in less than a year will select their own lieutenant governor.

“It may be both fiscally and politically prudent to permit the people to make their own selection for this statewide office next year and avoid the expense of a costly special election,” Steinberg said.

So much for rewarding Maldonado for his aye vote on the budget this year.

The nomination to fill out former Lt. Gov. John Garamendi’s term would be a serious leg up for Maldonado’s election prospects in 2010, where he could run as the incumbent.

UPDATE: Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear says the Legislature has the power to avoid the cost of a special election: If the Legislature confirms Maldonado by Feb. 16, the special election to fill his seat can be consolidated with the June 8 statewide election and pay nothing extra.

UPDATE NO. 2:  Rick Jacobs, chairman of the progressive Courage Campaign, released the following statement today on Maldonado.

“The best thing we can do right now is to remove Sen. Abel Maldonado from a position of importance where he can do great damage, the California State Senate, and place him in an irrelevant post, the Lt. Governor’s office. For once, we agree with the Governor — Abel Maldonado should be demoted to Lt. Governor.”

UPDATE NO. 3: From Steinberg’s office on the cost of special election. ”

“To fill the Maldonado seat, there will almost certainly be two elections: 1) a primary, and 2) a run-off. It is only possible to consolidate one of those two elections with the June primary. Thus, there will have to be at least one unconsolidated election for the 15th SD, which would involve 5 separate county election offices. The cost of administering one such election is estimated at $2 million. That number is based on the most recent Senate special election to fill SD 26 (Curren Price) and what we’ve been told by the Secretary of State’s office.”

UPDATE NO. 4:  Governor Schwarzenegger’s Communications Director Matt David today issued the following statement after Senator Steinberg’s comments on the Governor’s recent appointment of Senator Maldonado as California’s next Lieutenant Governor:

“If Senator Steinberg acts promptly and confirms Senator Maldonado as California’s next Lieutenant Governor within 84 days, the Governor will consolidate the 15th district’s special election with the statewide June election to save tax payer dollars. If Senator Steinberg is concerned about state revenues and college tuition hikes he should stop fighting his own pay cut.”

Senator Steinberg Announced Today That He Was Opposed To A Special Election, But He Had No Problem Earlier This Year Endorsing State Senator Gil Cedillo In The Special Election To Fill The 32nd Congressional District Seat. (Gil Cedillo For U.S. Congress, www.gilcedillo.com, Accessed 11/24/09)

In April, The Sacramento Bee Ran A Story Detailing The Problems The Democratic Leadership May Have As Legislators Leave The Senate And Assembly To Seek Higher Office. This Is What Senator Steinberg Said When Asked About The Vacancy Situation: “Steinberg said he will always ‘encourage my colleagues to seek higher office (and) achieve their goals. We’ll deal with it all as best we can.’ (Shane Goldmacher, “Vacancies To Plague Dem Leadership Throughout ’09,” Sacramento Bee, 4/3/09)

Senator Maldonado Has Had A Commitment To Ensure Fiscal Responsibility By Requesting Legislative Pay Cuts. “State Senator Abel Maldonado (R-Santa Maria) today testified before the Citizens Compensation Commission hearing in Los Angeles, which voted to reduce legislators’ salaries by eighteen percent. As part of his ongoing commitment to fiscal responsibility, Senator Maldonado immediately sent a letter to State Controller John Chiang asking that he be paid the new salary effective June 1, 2009. “Of all the cuts that are being discussed right now, one part of government remains immune-the Legislature. I have always said that this economic crisis is about shared pain and shared sacrifice. That is why I came to Los Angeles today to testify before the commission,” Maldonado stated immediately following the hearing.” (Press Release, Senator Abel Maldonado, 5/20/09)

The State Legislature Is Quietly Seeking Using The Courts To Block A Steep Cut In Lawmakers’ Salary And Perks. “Executives of the Assembly and Senate have asked the state attorney general to determine whether the scheduled 18% pay reduction and additional 18% cuts to living expenses and car allowances are illegal. The lowered benefits are due to kick in next month, while base pay is set to be slashed from $116,000 to $95,000, starting with lawmakers elected starting year.” (Patrick McGreevy, “Lawmakers try to block cuts in their pay, perks; Officials seek attorney general’s ruling on the legality of the trims,” Los Angeles Times, 11/6/09)

UPDATE NO. 5: This one came in Tuesday night from Steinberg’s office after I left:

Governor Schwarzenegger’s Communications Director, Matt David, today issued a statement criticizing Senator Steinberg’s statement expressing concern about the $2 million price tag for a special election that would be necessitated if Senator Maldonado is confirmed as Lieutenant Governor.

I don’t know Matt David, and I’m sure he’s an earnest public servant. But there are a few items within his statement that demand a response.

“[T]he Governor will consolidate the 15th district’s special election with the statewide June election to save tax payer dollars.” That’s great, but it fails to recognize that there will be two elections to fill the SD 15 vacancy if Senator Maldonado is confirmed, and only one of those elections can legally be consolidated with the regularly scheduled June statewide primary. The two elections for SD 15 would be a primary and a runoff election. According to state elections officials, either one of those elections, if unconsolidated, should cost at least $2 million. It is possible that Mr. David believes that there will only be one SD 15 election because some dream candidate will earn more than 50 percent of the vote in the primary, thus winning the seat outright. However, anyone with more than 15 minutes of political experience in California will tell you that will not happen in the 15th Senate District. Thus, even if the Governor consolidates the special election primary with the June election, there will be a runoff election that will cost taxpayers $2 million.

“If Senator Steinberg is concerned about state revenues and college tuition hikes he should stop fighting his own pay cut.” This would be ironic, if it weren’t false. Senator Steinberg is not fighting his own pay cut, and Mr. David presented no evidence in his statement establishing otherwise. As was accurately reported in the Los Angeles Times (and Sacramento Bee), “[e]xecutives of the Assembly and Senate” requested a legal opinion from the Attorney General regarding recent actions by the Citizen Compensation Commission. In other words, the request was made by Greg Schmidt and Jon Waldie, not Darrell Steinberg. Of course, whether lawmakers should be paid on a par with communications directors for the Governor is a separate story.

“Senator Steinberg Announced Today That He Was Opposed To A Special Election, But He Had No Problem Earlier This Year Endorsing State Senator Gil Cedillo In The Special Election To Fill The 32nd Congressional District Seat.” It is true that Senator Steinberg encourages his colleagues to pursue their goals. Indeed, if Senator Maldonado chooses to run for Lieutenant Governor in next year’s election, Senator Steinberg would be thrilled to see him pursue his electoral desires. But Mr. David’s argument that somehow Sen. Steinberg is applying a double-standard is a red-herring. The concerns over the cost of the potential special election have nothing to do with the political ambitions of Senator Maldonado. Instead, the concerns are based on the fact that the Governor could have avoided the problem simply by nominating anybody other than a sitting legislator. It may be that the Senate and the Assembly determine that it is worth $2 million to have Senator Maldonado serve out the remaining months left in Garamendi’s LG term, but it’s still a $2 million decision the Governor has forced on the legislature.


We have a new lieutenant governor

Abel MaldonadoGov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has named state Sen. Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria, to serve as Lieutenant Governor, now that Democrat John Garamendi has won election to the House in the 10th Congressional District.

“Senator Maldonado has proven he has the strength and courage it takes to reach across the partisan divide and put the interests of Californians first and he is absolutely the most qualified person to take on the role of Lieutenant Governor,” Schwarzenegger said in his news release. “Senator Maldonado shares my commitment to creating a transparent, accountable government that works for the people. He will be a true partner in solving the critical issues facing our state and building a stronger future for California.”

“Like the Governor, I learned the values of hard work, dedication and personal responsibility at a young age and place a high priority on reforming California’s broken government so that it is more responsive to and reflective of California’s diverse population,” Maldonado said in the same release. “I’m honored to take on the position of Lieutenant Governor and I look forward to working with the Governor to tackle important issues facing California and to ensure all Californians have the opportunity to realize their own American Dream.”

The appointment requires Senate and Assembly confirmation; the lieutenant governor is paid $159,134 per year.

Maldonado, 42, has represented the 15th State Senate District since 2004, and before that, the 33rd Assembly District from 1998 to 2004; he was Santa Maria’s youngest and first Latino mayor from 1996 to 1998 and a city council member for two years before that. He attended California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo where he completed coursework in crop science.

This year, he used his precious Republican vote on a budget agreement to exact a promise from the Democratic majority to put an “open primary” ballot measure before voters next year.

Maldonado in 2006 – after his bid for state Controller ended with a primary loss to the more conservative Tony Strickland – had knocked Schwarzenegger for not doing more to support his moderate candidacy.

“Our governor cares about one thing only, and that’s Arnold Schwarzenegger,” Maldonado told the Los Angeles Times, also knocking the governor’s track record on Latino issues. “When he needs Latinos, Latinos are always there for him. When Latinos need him, the answer’s been no.”

But Maldonado issued a public apology after that, and it surely seems they’ve patched things up.

Meanwhile, progressive Dems are already making plans for how to win the 15th State Senate District. And how are Republicans Sam Aanestad and Jeff Denham, already campaigning for the lieutenant governor’s office, feeling about the possibility of facing a Republican incumbent? Let’s wait and see…

UPDATE @ 6:02 P.M.: I spoke a few minutes ago with Sam Aanestad, R-Grass Valley, who said he has known Maldonado since the day they both entered the Legislature 11 years ago.

“I have to offer him my congratulations, but unfortunately it makes my resolve to win the Republican primary even more firm,” he told me. “I think people are very tired of business as usual, and this represents business as usual with this governor, who is rewarding someone who in my opinion has shown for 11 years a lack of political principles, he has wavered all over the place.”

Maldonado’s budget votes, raising taxes he’d pledged not to raise, will doom him in the GOP’s eyes, Aanestad predicted. “I welcome the debate but I will be running in the Republican primary and I expect the base of this party will reject Abel and his history and will not select him as their standard-bearer in the lieutenant governor’s race.”

Along the same lines, Denham’s camp just issued this statement:

“I anticipate a rigorous confirmation process for this appointment and potentially an even more rigorous Republican primary for Lt. Governor. It is difficult to see how a candidate who has voted for a massive tax increase could possibly win a statewide Republican primary.”

And, jeez, aren’t we all going to miss it when Schwarzenegger is no longer governor and major announcements on California’s highest elected offices are no longer made on “The Jay Leno Show?” Read the transcript of how it went down, after the jump…
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Senators, Governor urge high-speed rail funding

U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, joined by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, wrote to President Barack Obama today in support of California’s requests for high-speed and intercity rail funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Read the full text of the letter, after the jump…
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