Part of the Bay Area News Group

Archive for November, 2009

More on the tobacco tax/cancer research measure

A few choice tidbits from today’s rollout of a proposed ballot measure to hike the state’s cigarette tax by a dollar per pack to fund cancer research, for which I didn’t have room in the article I wrote for tomorrow’s editions

Don Perata, who said he conceived of the measure while still in the state Senate and well before being diagnosed with and treated for prostate cancer earlier this year, said he’s not sure he wants to become the “face” of this campaign, a task better left to allies such as the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association. “Whatever I am, I’m still a politician. If you’re an old Catholic, it’s kind of like original sin.”

Nor will he serve on the “Californians for a Cure” campaign committee’s steering board, which will be made up of representatives from the health advocacy groups. “None of these people have vested self interests, none of these people are going to make a dime.”

Perata noted own cancer treatment seems to have been successful. “Some might question my mental health, but my physical condition is really good.”

And, from the nascent measure’s likely opponents…

From Bill Phelps, spokesman for Altria, the parent company of tobacco giant Phillip Morris USA:

“It’s important to remember that the Legislature just passed a budget a few months ago that includes more than $12 billion in tax increases, and this latest idea would raise taxes by almost a billion dollars. Given the state of the economy, we don’t think this is the time to be raising taxes again.”

From California Taxpayers’ Association communications director David Kline:

“We have not yet taken a position, but I anticipate that the California Taxpayers’ Association will oppose the measure based on our view that Californians already have been hit with major tax increases this year, and another tax increase would hurt the economy. With unemployment over 12 percent in California, we need to be looking for ways to improve the economy, not hold it back. Also, the tobacco tax is a declining revenue source, and we have historically opposed initiatives that base ongoing spending on declining revenue sources, because this is a recipe for more budget problems in the future.”

From Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association President Jon Coupal:

“We have opposed tobacco tax hikes in the past and will almost certainly oppose this one as well.”

Posted on Monday, November 16th, 2009
Under: 2010 election, ballot measures, Don Perata, taxes | 3 Comments »

Two-thirds voting initiative hits the streets

UC Berkeley cognitive linguistics professor George Lakoff’s ballot initiative calling for the reversal of the two-thirds voting requirement for a state budget and tax increases has been cleared for the signature-gathering process.

Lakoff describes the initiative as the restoration of democracy in California, a return to majority rule and end to tyranny of the minority.

According to the Secretary of State, Lakoff will need 695,000 signatures ofregistered voters in order to qualify the initiative for the November 2010 ballot.

Read on for the full press release.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, November 16th, 2009
Under: 2010 election, ballot measures | 16 Comments »

Viewpoints on trying the 9/11 detainees

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced this morning that five alleged terrorists believed to have taken part in planning the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks will be brought from the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to New York City, where they’ll be tried in federal court.

From House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio:

“The Obama Administration’s irresponsible decision to prosecute the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks in New York City puts the interests of liberal special interest groups before the safety and security of the American people. The possibility that Khalid Sheik Mohammed and his co-conspirators could be found ‘not guilty’ due to some legal technicality just blocks from Ground Zero should give every American pause.

“These men are part of a global terrorist network dedicated to attacking America and civilization itself, and on that awful day nine years ago, they succeeded in killing nearly 3,000 men, women, and children. These terrorists were already being tried by military commissions, which were specifically designed to prosecute such heinous acts.

“This decision is further evidence that the White House is reverting to a dangerous pre-9/11 mentality – treating terrorism as a law enforcement issue and hoping for the best. We need a real strategy for fighting and winning the war on America’s terrorist enemies that includes an effective, credible, and consistent plan for all terrorist detainees.”

From Iraq War veteran and chairman Jon Soltz:

“Finally, after years and years, those responsible for the worst terror attack on America will start to face American justice.

“Showing the world that we operate on a higher moral plane than fiefdoms, theocracies and dictatorships when it comes to justice will be a dagger in the heart of al Qaeda recruiting, as Guantanamo Bay has been one of the terror group’s most effective recruiting posters. That helps our troops, and protects America.

“Additionally, this will prove that Liz and Dick Cheney, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner and their cohorts have been engaging in pure politics. Contrary to what they’ve said, transferring detainees to the U.S. to face justice and punishment will be secure, safe, and strong, as it has been for nearly 200 other terrorists. Once that becomes evident, it will be clear that their only interest in opposing real justice was to take down President Obama — American security be damned.”

Read Holder’s remarks at this morning’s news conference in their entirety, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, November 13th, 2009
Under: Civil liberties, General, War on Terror | 8 Comments »

Rep. Miller visits Pakistan



Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, has been in Pakistan the last few days and he sent this report this morning:

With the excitement of passing the health care reform bill still echoing in my ears, I left Washington on Monday night for Pakistan — my third trip in a year to this region that is so important to American security interests.

Along with three other members of Congress, we came here to review the effort against the Taliban, who continue to attack our troops in Afghanistan, to look into the extent to which the Pakistani government is willing to be helpful to the United States, and to check on the effectiveness of restrictions that Congress put on the use of American military aid by the Pakistan military.  The previous Administration was letting Pakistani generals use our money like their personal piggybank. It appears now that there are better controls and the money is being used to train the military and fight the Taliban.

We arrived in Pakistan at 2:00 am Wednesday (local time). We started our meetings with the U.S. Ambassador and American intelligence officials for a briefing on efforts to find and destroy the Taliban in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. We also met with the Pakistani Prime Minister and Foreign Minister to discuss the impact of American efforts in Afghanistan and the impact on Pakistan. There seems to be a split in the government about the likelihood of the success of our efforts.  We finished by having dinner with a friend from the lawyers’ movement that took to the streets earlier this year to save democracy in Pakistan from a corrupt Supreme Court and a military dictator. As you may know, they were successful in getting rid the corrupt judges and the dictator.  New elections were held, at great personal risk to those involved.

Thursday morning we took a helicopter for an hour north of Islamabad to Peshawar to visit a displaced persons camp. Since the fighting began last year almost 2.5 million Pakistanis have been forced to leave their homes due to the violence. We met with refugees and humanitarian workers.

It was very hard to see so many families and children forced to live in such distress. The international aid community does an unbelievable job to help these people.  We were fortunate to be able to deliver over $400,000 in medical supplies from the people of the United States for the displaced Pakistanis. We were also able to deliver invaluable medical pressure packs that have been remarkable in savings the lives of our troops and civilians injured by roadside bombs and other explosives. Our delivery came none too soon; as we were doing this, a bomb killed 3 people while we were in Peshawar, a grim reminder of the daily threat to civilians’ lives here.

With additional security we continued our meetings with government officials and then flew back to Islamabad to meet with USAID representatives to discuss building schools for girls and training teachers so young people will have an alternative to the Madrassas (schools) set up by the Jihadists.  It was a very long day but we learned a lot and I think we did some good in a tough part of the world with a lot of violence and suffering.  Leaving Pakistan at 2:00 am local time to return to the States.

Posted on Friday, November 13th, 2009
Under: Congress | 3 Comments »

Legislature source of most costly ballot measures

Legislators love to complain about how the ballot initiative process costs the state money and ties their hands on the budget.

But a new analysis from the nonprofit Center for Governmental Studies revealed today in Oakland shows that of the $11.85 billion worth of ballot measures voters approved between 1988 and 2009, 83 percent were placed on the ballot by the Legislature.

“Most of the ballot-box budgeting has come from you,” Center for Governmental Studies President Bob Stern told members today of the Senate and Assembly Select Committees on Improving State Government co-chaired by state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord.

The center found that of the 68 ballot measures requiring additional funding passed by voters between 1988-2009, 51 originated with the Legislature while 17 were placed on the ballot by proponents who successfully gathered the requisite number of signatures.

Of the 68 measures, 52 were bond measures.

The legislative measures required $9.8 billion in additional government funding, or 83 percent, while the balance totaled $2.05 billion.

The most expensive legislative measure came in 2004, when voters approved a $15 billion plan to close the budget deficit.

The highest price tag among the 17 initiatives that passed was the $500 million annual after-school program.

Posted on Thursday, November 12th, 2009
Under: governance reform | 9 Comments »

Schwarzenegger’s chief of staff to jump ship?

(This post comes courtesy of Steve Harmon, our man in Sacramento…)

The administration is knocking down rumors that Susan Kennedy, the all-powerful and influential chief of staff for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, is preparing to leave the administration for a job with Mercury Public Affairs to shepherd the water bond campaign.

“No,” said Aaron McLear, spokesman for Schwarzenegger. “It’s not happening.”

But sources say it makes sense that she would head to a political firm with close ties to Schwarzenegger. With Schwarzenegger heading into his final year, many of his cabinet members and staffers are likely to bail on him seeking stable employment.

With Finance Director Mike Genest having announced his departure last week, Kennedy is likely to stay on at least until the administration assembles the budget in January, sources said. At that point, one source said, she would take her water expertise to Mercury, which is expected to be a prominent player in the bond campaign – if not the main campaign committee for it. Mercury most recently ran Schwarzenegger’s ballot measure campaign on redistricting.

“I was told by a good source – a very senior person from inside the horseshoe – six, seven weeks ago that once she got water done, she’d go to Mercury to make some money off the campaign,” one source said, asking not to be identified.

Credited as a central figure in ushering the water deal through the Legislature, Kennedy would be a perfect addition to Mercury. Steve Schmidt, who ran the governor’s re-election campaign in 2006 is a partner, as is Adam Mendelsohn, ex-Schwarzenegger communications director and deputy chief of staff under Kennedy.

Fabian Nunez, the former Democratic Assembly Speaker, is also a partner, and would welcome another Democrat in the Republican-leaning firm. Kennedy previously served as deputy chief of staff for Schwarzenegger’s predecessor, Gray Davis, and was a central player in water politics then, too.

One source familiar with the dynamics of the water bond pooh-poohed the speculation, saying it may have grown out of a lunch meeting that Kennedy had with stakeholders discussing a potential water bond campaign.

“Coming out of that, someone got the wrong idea,” said the source, who asked not to be identified because the source was not authorized to talk.

Posted on Thursday, November 12th, 2009
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, General, Schwarzenegger, water | 10 Comments »

Rep. Garamendi holds debut town hall

A week after he took the oath of office. Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, held his first congressional town hall.

More than 100 people packed the Livermore City Council chambers through the lunch hour today. It was, for the most part, a friendly crowd although opponents of his favorable vote on the House’s health care legislation on Saturday made themselves heard.

Garamendi initially listened to an unconventional welcome from the always unconventional Livermore Mayor Marshall Kamena. (Kamena joking offered to get Garamendi tickets to a football game at UC-Berkeley, the college where the congressman played football. Garamendi remined the mayor of the $10 gift limit. “Given the Bears’ record, I don’t think the tickets will be worth $10!” Kamena retorted.)

The congressman then heard presentations about the Livermore Valley Open Campus, a city collaborative with the national laboratories to foster the creation of high-tech jobs in the area.

But the audience was there to ask questions. Members of Congress have increasingly turned to the use of telephone-based town halls, ostensibly to reach a wider audience but also to avoid confrontational voters angry about Democratic policies.

Garamendi answered queries about his desire to see an increase in federal funding for education and his outlook on the future of the national laboratories.

He told them he opposed an increase in U.S. troops in Afghanistan and said he had read the vast majority of the 2,000-page health care bill including all the summaries of key sections.

He declined to state a preferred location of the planned BART extension into Livermore — on the freeway or downtown — and said it was the community’s decision.

The tensest moments, as expected, during the questions about health care legislation as residents decried the move as a government take-over of medical care that will hurt the national economy and contribute to unemployment rates.

Garamendi vigorously and unapologetically defended his support of the bill and the public option as a few audience members shouted “Shame on you!” He called medical insurance companies “sharks” whose sole purpose is to hike profits through the denial of coverage to sick people.

He may be a new congressman but the former lieutenant governor of California and 35-year veteran of public office easily handled his outspoken critics. He mildly admonished both sides and urged them to refrain from clapping and yelling in the interests of avoiding a deterioration of civil discourse.

Garamendi will hold several more town halls in District 10 before the end of the year. The dates and places have not been finalized.

I recorded Garamendi’s opening statements and portions of his comments on health care, which you will find linked below.

Posted on Thursday, November 12th, 2009
Under: Congressional District 10 | 9 Comments »

Hollywood coughs it up for Jerry Brown

Television producer (“Alias,” “Lost”) and movie director (“Cloverfield,” “Star Trek”) J.J. Abrams of Pacific Palisades gave $25,000 Tuesday to state Attorney General Jerry Brown’s gubernatorial exploratory committee. His wife, actress Katie McGrath, gave another $25,000.

A day earlier, producer Kathleen Kennedy – who with director Steven Spielberg and her husband Frank Marshall has made films such as the “Jurassic Park” series and “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial” – gave Brown’s campaign $5,000.

And former Warner Bros. and CBS executive Robert Daly, now president of investment consulting firm Rulemaker Inc., gave $25,000 to Brown’s campaign, also Monday.

Other big-ticket, non-Hollywood contributions to Brown’s campaign in the past week include $50,000 on Monday from Los Angeles billionaire businessman Stewart Resnick and his wife, Lynda; $38,000 last Friday from Los Angeles real estate development mogul Curtis Tamkin, plus $5,000 on Monday from his son, Comerica Entertainment Group corporate banker Curtis Tamkin Jr.; and $25,000 on Monday from designer Diane Von Furstenberg plus $10,000 the same day from her son, Arrow Capital Management chief investment officer Alex Von Furstenberg.

Posted on Thursday, November 12th, 2009
Under: 2010 governor's race, campaign finance, Jerry Brown | 6 Comments »

Brown pelican off the endangered list

This subject is not exactly politics but I found it interesting.

President Obama and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced today that the brown pelican population has sufficiently recovered and has been removed from the endangered species list.

On Sunday, I had the opportunity to photograph brown pelicans as they sat on the breakwater of the South Beach marina in San Francisco. We were motoring through the marina on a 34-foot sailboat, and these spectacular birds lined the wall with the San Francisco Bay Bridge in the background. I am a big fan of pelicans of all kinds.

Brown pelican in South Beach marina, San Francisco. Photo by Lisa Vorderbrueggen

Brown pelican in South Beach marina, San Francisco. November 2009. Photo by Lisa Vorderbrueggen

Read on for the full press release. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, November 11th, 2009
Under: Environment | 1 Comment »

Guv gets ‘transpartisan’ award

A national organization opposed to new restrictions on the citizen’s initiative process today gave Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger kudos for vetoing four bills that would have, among other things, banned the use of paid signature-gatherers.

The Virginia-based Citizens in Charge Foundation awarded the governor with the November 2009 John Lilburne Award, so-named after a 17th Century pamphleteer and political activist.

Schwarzenegger helped coin the term post-partisanship. But Citizens in Charge describes itself as a transpartisan organization.

Uh, what’s a transpartisan?

I asked and the organization directed me to the Transpartisan Alliance’s Web site, where it says:

Transpartisanship acknowledges the validity of truths across a range of political perspectives and seeks to synthesize them into an inclusive, pragmatic whole beyond typical political dualities. In practice, transpartisan solutions emerge out of a new kind of public conversation that moves beyond polarization by applying proven methods of facilitated dialogue, deliberation and conflict resolution. In this way it is possible to achieve the ideal of a democratic republic by integrating the values of a democracy — freedom, equality, and a regard for the common good, with the values of a republic — order, responsibility and security.

Okay. That all sounds good, although I’m still trying to get my mind around the fact that there is such a thing as a Transpartisan Alliance.

Read on for the full press release.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, November 11th, 2009
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, constitutional reform | 2 Comments »