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Archive for December, 2009

Canciamilla to seek judgeship

Joe Canciamilla

Joe Canciamilla

Former state Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla of Pittsburg will seek a seat on the judicial bench in 2010 or 2012.

Canciamilla filed a candidate intention statement to run for Superior Court judge in Contra Costa County. He has not designated which of the county’s 35 departments he will  seek but said he has no plans to challenge a sitting judge.

A moderate Democrat who often ran afoul of his party, Canciamilla had hoped to run for the state Senate. But he dropped out of the 2008 primary when Democratic leaders made it crystal clear they preferred Mark DeSaulnier, who was subsequently elected to the seat.

Canciamilla says the bitter partisanship in the Legislature helped open his eyes to the idea of running for judge.

“The nature of the partisanship in Sacramento right now is not a good fit for me,” said Canciamilla, who is a lawyer and co-owner of a Pittsburg funeral home.  “I have a unique set of skills with my legal background and having seen the process of lawmaking from the legislative perspective.  I want to find a place to use my talents where I can help people.”

The candidate intention statement was not intended to serve as a formal candidacy announcement, though.

It’s about the money.

Canciamilla had roughly $300,000 parked in a statewide attorney general campaign account, most of which came from his 2008 state Senate campaign fund. He never intended to run for attorney general but the law says candidates must segregate and account for every dime raised for campaigns. The new statement will allow him to transfer his state dollars into his judicial campaign.

Judicial candidates run countywide but must run for a specific department at the time they file for inclusion on the ballot.


Assessor: Earl “Bob” Brooks, incumbent Gus Kramer and John T. Nejedly

Auditor-Controller: Incumbent Steve Ybarra

Board of Supervisors, District 1: Mister Phillips and incumbent John Gioia

Board of Supervisors, District 4: Michael McGill and Karen Mitchoff

Clerk-Recorder: Incumbent Steve Weir

County Superintendent of Schools: Incumbent Joe Ovick

District Attorney: Mark Peterson, Elle Falahat and Dan O’Malley

Sheriff-Coroner: Brian Kalinowski and David Livingston

Treasurer-Tax Collector: Incumbent Bill Pollacek

State Assembly District 11: Democrats Emanuel Ogunleye and Susan Bonilla

State Assembly District 14: Democrat Nancy Skinner

State Assembly District 15: Republican Abram Wilson

Posted on Monday, December 21st, 2009
Under: 2010 election, Contra Costa County | 11 Comments »

Lawsuit’s end may not ease county GOP’s strife

The war within the Alameda County Republican Party is over – or is it?

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch this morning ended a nearly 18-month lawsuit by agreeing to sign an election challenge regarding the June 2008 election of seven GOP county committee members who hadn’t been affiliated with the Republican Party for at least three months before their candidacy filing dates, and/or had belonged to other parties within a year before filing, in violation of the state Elections Code.

“I guess the evidence is rather clear and stark,” Roesch said.

Which is partly a moot point now, because the seven committee members in question – Walter Stanley III of Livermore; Casey Fargo and his wife, Lea Smart, of Livermore; David Latour of Hayward; Deslar Patten of Hayward; Christopher Kuhn of Hayward; and John Bartlett of Livermore – resigned earlier this month.

“They never, from the beginning, presented any evidence that they were eligible,” attorney George Benetatos, representing plaintiff committee member Paul Cummings Jr. of Oakland, said after this morning’s hearing.

The subtext is that Stanley et al are “Constitutional Republicans” affiliated with the Republican Liberty Caucus, a libertarian-leaning group often associated with former presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas. Fargo also is a former president of the Golden Gate Minutemen, an anti-illegal-immigration activist group, and Latour is a former president of the Castro Valley Minutemen.

Cummings belongs to what many call the “neo-conservative” wing of the party, and the infighting between these factions kept the county GOP more focused inward over the past 18 months than on building the party and supporting candidates.

“I feel completely vindicated, we knew the evidence was there from the start,” Cummings said today. “The judge said exactly what I wanted to hear.”

The neocon faction already last month had recaptured the committee’s chairmanship. Now, Cummings said, the judge’s ruling “sets the clock back to January 2009,” so the remaining committee members at their Jan. 19 meeting can start reviewing the past year and determine whether to void any important votes the now-resigned members made.

They’ll also consider how to fill the vacancies – and that’s where things could get interesting.

Stanley told me this afternoon he and several others who resigned earlier this month intend to seek re-appointment to their old seats next month. They believe the state Election Code dictates that only the remaining committee members from a particular Assembly district get to choose someone to fill a vacancy from that district, not the entire county committee, and they believe they still have enough allies to get them re-seated.

“I’m expecting a little bit of a task to convince these people (the neocons) what is right,” Stanley said. “Maybe there will be another lawsuit – who knows?”

Maybe. But Election Code Section 7410 says, “In the event of the appointment or election to a committee of an ineligible person, or whenever any member of the committee dies, resigns or becomes incapacitated to act, or removes from the
jurisdiction of the committee, or ceases to be a member of this party, a vacancy exists which shall be filled by appointment by the committee in which the ineligibility or vacancy occurs.” So it’ll be interesting to see where, and how far, this goes.

He said he and the others resigned because they ran out of money to defend against Cummings’ lawsuit, which he said has been bankrolled by deep-pocketed neocon allies.

But he and LaTour remain California Republican Party delegates, he said, and are determined to “reorganize our group, we’re going to come back in 2010 and we’re going to run the tables on these people” with a well-oiled grassroots campaign that should have Constitutional Republicans holding a supermajority on the county GOP committee by this time next year. “We’re going to come back stronger than ever.”

Posted on Friday, December 18th, 2009
Under: Alameda County, Republican Party, Republican politics, Ron Paul | 13 Comments »

Rep. Miller calls in from Copenhagen

Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez

Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez

Congressman George Miller, telephoning from Copenhagen this morning, described what appears to be the failure of world leaders to come to an agreement at the global climate change summit as a disappointment but not waste of time.

“You would like to have a clear agreement, whether or not it is a partial agreement, but it is a bit of a setback,” said the Martinez congressman. “We’ll have to wait and see what happens in the next 24 to 48 hours, but the outcome is less than we would have liked to see.”

Miller attended the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Denmark as chairman of the House Democratic Policy Committee and at the request of his close ally, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Also in the House delegation were House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-MD., and authors of the House energy bill, Reps. Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles, and Edward Markey, D-Mass.

Miller is a veteran of global climate change summits. He was in Brazil, Johannesburg and Kyoto, the site of the 1997 emissions reduction pact. The U.S. has never ratified it.

In the whirlwind, two-day Copenhagen trip, where he spent considerable time navigating multiple layers of tight security, Miller  met with fellow parliamentarians from India and Europe. He said he found many of his foreign colleagues optimistic about the likelihood of stronger U.S. political and financial commitments to emission reductions.

“The European community is very encouraged by the fact that the House passed an energy bill earlier this year,” Miller said. “They have been monitoring emissions and working with a similar cap and trade legislation.”

The delegation also received a briefing from the scientific Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, who downplayed the significance of the recent flap over hacked e-mails from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit. Climate change critics say the emails prove the science that links human activity to the Earth’s warming is flawed.

Miller said he heard nothing in Copenhagen that changes his mind about the validity of the climate science.

“We were told that some of those emails were 13 years old, and a lot of the other allegations were untrue,” Miller said. “I don’t think it changes the body of science. So many people who were skeptics before have looked at these scientific papers and changed their minds.”

The specter of melting icecaps and rising seas struck Miller particularly hard, he said, as he stood in line for a Danish-style hot dog, which resembled a pup in a blanket and began chatting with a young woman with the Cook Islands delegation.

“She told me, ‘For the island nations, this summit is not going well. We are worried that what you agree to will still be too much greenhouse gases and much our islands will disappear,'” Miller said. “It’s very a concrete thing for a lot of people.”

Miller also met with top officials from Honeywell, Whirlpool and other U.S. energy companies in Denmark to promote green technology.

“Americans are the innovators,” he said. “To me, what was most interesting is that while we get attacked for passing the energy bill, the leading businesses in the energy field are American companies who tell us that it is fantastic that we have passed this bill. It will create huge investment in more efficient use of energy.”

Posted on Friday, December 18th, 2009
Under: energy, Environment, George Miller, Henry Waxman, Nancy Pelosi | 3 Comments »

Arnold loses one, wins one on furloughs

Hot on the heels of yesterday’s smackdown by an Alameda County Superior Court judge over salary cuts for correctional officers in the form of unpaid furlough time that many actually can’t take off, the Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today is crowing over his victory in another furlough-related case, this one filed in San Francisco on behalf of CalPERS workers.

“Government Code sections 19851 and 19849 give the Executive broad authority to control the work week,” the ruling says, adding there’s no showing that the governor’s executive orders on the furloughs exceeded his powers. “The Governor acted reasonably in furloughing all employees to save funds and preserve parity.”

“The governor’s authority to furlough state workers is clear, and this is another ruling in our favor,” Schwarzenegger spokeswoman Rachel Arrezola said a few minutes ago. “As California families and businesses are forced to cut back in today’s economy, the governor does not believe state workers should be shielded from the same economic realities.”

Posted on Friday, December 18th, 2009
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, state budget | 2 Comments »

Glover: No tutu, please

Black Diamond Ballet Theater

Black Diamond Ballet Theater

Contra Costa Supervisor Federal Glover is taking no cues from Brentwood Mayor Bob Taylor, who will appear Saturday in turkey costume this weekend.

The mayor agreed to wear the fowl suit if the community met a 300-turkey donation threshold, a level they nearly exceeded by double.

Glover, on the other hand, will make his debut theatrical appearance on Sunday in a local production of  “The Nutcracker Ballet.”

Sans tutu.

Absolutely no tutu, he says. And yes, he’s nervous.

“My grandchildren may be watching,” he said. “They’re a tough audience.”

No word on what he will be wearing. But we can only hope it doesn’t involve tights. No one wants to see their local politician in tights.

According to the supervisor’s office, Glover will be among several political celebrity cast members including Pittsburg Mayor Sal Evola, Pittsburg City Councilwoman Nancy Parent and Chamber of Commerce’s Meridith Laddich.

They will be participating in the opening scene of the Dec. 20 production of Peter Tchaikovski’s Nutcracker Ballet as performed by the Black Diamond Ballet Theatre at the Pittsburg Creative Arts Building.

The production is the premiere performance of East County’s professional dance troupe, the Black Diamond Ballet Theatre, which is making the 2,000-seat Creative Arts Building its home base.

The Sunday performance starts at 2 p.m.  For tickets, call 925-754-9833.

Posted on Thursday, December 17th, 2009
Under: Contra Costa County | No Comments »

Capitol Weekly releases ideology rankings

Capitol Weekly released its annual political ideological ranking of state legislators and while such lists are rarely definitive, they do offer a glimpse into lawmakers’ philosophical proclivities.

Click here to read the full report, but here are the results for some of the East Bay representatives.

The Weekly staff selected 19 bills to use in its ranking system and assigned or deducted points for yes, no and non-voting results. A score of 100 is a perfect liberal while a score of 0 is a perfect conservative.

Not surprisingly, the Bay Area lawmakers stick to the liberal side of the chart.

State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord: He scored a 91, missing a perfect score because of a yes vote for the Los Angeles football stadium bill and failing to vote one way or the other on the bill establishing Harvey Milk Day.

State sens. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, and Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, and Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley: All scored 100.

Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo: Scored 94, dinged for failing to vote on a payroll records bill and carbon offsets legislation.

Assemblymemembers Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch; Sandre Swanson, D-Oakland; and Mary Hayashi, D-Hayward: All scored 89, losing liberal points for voting in favor of the Los Angeles stadium deal and air pollution credits bill.

Posted on Thursday, December 17th, 2009
Under: California Legislature | 2 Comments »

Ammiano ready to advance pot legalization bill

Marijuana legalization is picking up public-policy steam in California, Washington state, and across the nation, reform advocates said on a conference call this morning.

Assembly Public Safety Committee Chairman Tom Ammiano, D-San Franicsco, said a re-vamped version of his AB 390, to decriminalize, regulate and tax marijuana, will be heard by his committee Jan. 12 before heading to the Health Committee “and we do expect very, very positive results.”

“We’re very excited about this issue, it has gained a lot of traction, the political will seems to be there and it does have a populist dimension as evidenced by our initiative process,” Ammiano said, citing proponents’ announcement earlier this week that they’d easily gathered more than enough petition signatures to put a legalization measure on next November’s ballot.

The initiative’s expected qualification “certainly gets the attention of the Legislature,” Ammiano said. “They’re thinking, ‘Well, if this initiative is going to pass… we’d better start paying attention, we’d better work with it.’ ”

And initiative or not, more lawmakers than ever before see it as a serious public policy issue of conserving scant law enforcement resources, reducing the prison population, using strict regulation to keep the drug out of children’s hands, and creating billions in new revenue for the cash-strapped state’s coffers, Ammiano said: “The Legislature itself is becoming more and more ‘user-friendly.’”

More on Washington State’s similar bill and the national scene, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, December 17th, 2009
Under: Assembly, ballot measures, marijuana, Tom Ammiano | 1 Comment »

Books for the already-convinced

Inside Obama's BrainTwo new titles crossed my desk this week: “Inside Obama’s Brain” (Portfolio, $24.95) by Sasha Abramsky, and “Going Rouge – Sarah Palin: An American Nightmare,” (Health Communications, $15.95) edited by Richard Kim and Betsy Reed. Both are likely to please the people who are likely to buy them.

Abramsky – a Sacramento-based freelance journalist and senior fellow at Demos who reports on political personalities and cultural trends for outlets such as the Atlantic Monthly, the Huffington Post, Mother Jones and the Nation, among others – interviewed almost 100 of President Obama’s current and former friends, colleagues, classmates, staff, fellow activists, neighbors and so on. He introduces his book thus:

In a very real way, we want answered the question, “what makes Obama tick?” That core question is what Inside Obama’s Brain sets out to answer. To do so, one has to ask a host of smaller questions: How does he approach problems? What ideas and intellectual theories make up his political credo? How does he communicate with friends and foes? How do his many skills play out in his chosen fields, the worlds of writing, organizing, law and politics? And why is it that so many people not just in the United States but around the world are so seduced – and so willing to be seduced – by his words and his presence?

The responses, provided by relatives, friends and colleagues from the many layers of Obama’s extraordinary life, and by his own words – put forth in his books and essays, in media interviews spanning more than a decade, and in numerous campaign speeches and political meetings – reveal the complexity of a man who has become something of a mythical figure in his own lifetime.

Although well-researched and generously footnoted, this book starts from the premise that President Obama is an inspirational figure, transformative for the better; it wraps up by calling him “a living legend.” Those who disagree with the President politically aren’t likely to think much of this book.

Going RougeSimilarly, “Going Rouge” – edited by two senior editors at the Nation – is meant as rebuttal to Palin’s bestselling memoir, “Going Rogue” (HarperCollins, $28.99) right down to the portrait on the cover: Instead of Palin wearing red in front of a cloud-dappled blue sky, it’s Palin wearing red in front of storm clouds and a lightning bolt.

And in this case you can judge a book by its cover. “Going Rouge” collects essays from liberal writers including Jim Hightower, Katha Pollitt, Gloria Steinem, Tom Frank and many others seeking to deconstruct Palin’s “maverick” political persona and policies, casting her as “a Christian fundamentalist opposed to the teaching of honest sex education in schools and in favor of teaching creationism alongside evolution, a climate-change-denier and government-basher alarmingly ignorant of the world and totally unprepared to be president.” It reviews all her gaffes and her conservative policy statements from last year and since, and contemplates “the nightmarish prospect of her continuing to dominate the nation’s political scene.”

Like Abramsky’s book, this one isn’t likely to change any minds, just to reassure those who’ve already made their minds up.

Posted on Thursday, December 17th, 2009
Under: Barack Obama, books, Sarah Palin | 6 Comments »

Big Pharma’s money talks in the U.S. Senate

The pharmaceutical industry’s political donations paid-off big time yesterday, according to the great data-crunchers at Berkeley-based

The U.S. Senate voted 51-48 yesterday on an health-care reform bill amendment – offered by U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-ND – which would’ve relaxed restrictions on drug imports from Canada and other developed nations, paving the way for the U.S. market’s access to cheaper prescription drugs. It failed, because under rules governing consideration of the overall reform bill the proposal required 60 votes.

The parties may differ on health-care reform, but this amendment’s defeat was startlingly bipartisan: 30 Democrats joined 17 Republicans and one independent to kill it.

The pharmaceutical industry opposed this amendment, claiming risks of counterfeit medicines and sub-standard regulations; Dorgan argued in the amendment’s text that “a prescription drug is neither safe nor effective to an individual who cannot afford it.” The amendment’s backers estimated it would save American consumers $100 billion over 10 years.

And, don’t’cha know, Senate Democrats who voted against this amendment had received an average of $73,729 from drug companies over the past six years – 70 percent more than Democrats who voted for the amendment, found. Among all Senators, those voting to block imports received an average of $85,812 each from drug companies over the past six years, which is 66 percent more than those who voted in favor of imports.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., was among the amendment’s 20 cosponsors; both she and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., voted in favor of it.’s averages for yesterday’s vote exclude U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., who didn’t vote, and recently elected or appointed senators Roland Burris, D-Ill.; Paul Kirk, D-Mass.; Herbert Kohl, D-Wisc.; and George LeMieux, R-Fla., for whom campaign finance records are not yet available.

Posted on Wednesday, December 16th, 2009
Under: healthcare reform, U.S. Senate | 8 Comments »

Campaign finance: Insurance, self-funding, Jerry

Three days before Californians for Fair Auto Insurance Rates announced it had collected and was submitting more than enough petition signatures to put the “Continuous Coverage Auto Insurance Discount Act” on next November’s ballot, insurance giant Mercury General Corp. – the measure’s sole benefactor – put another $1 million into it Friday, bringing its total ante so far to $3.5 million. Proponents claim the measure would make “continuous coverage discounts” portable so motorists can change insurance companies without losing their accrued time, something most other states already allow. Opponents say the measure 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 period.

Former NFL player turned Southern California businessman Damon Dunn on Monday put $19,932.11 into his own campaign for Secretary of State. He’s the only declared Republican candidate so far, itching to take on incumbent Democrat Debra Bowen next November.

Down south, former Assemblyman Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, last week self-funded his campaign for the 40th Senate District seat to the tune of $100,000. He’s opposed in next June’s Democratic primary by current Assemblywoman Mary Salas, D-Chula Vista, for the seat from which state Sen. Denise Ducheny, D-San Diego, will be term-limited out at next year’s end.

And on the gubernatorial front, the past week’s fundraising was practically all Jerry, all the time, heavy with corporate and casino contributions. Among the bigger-ticket offerings:

    $10,000 from Newport Equity Partners LLC of Las Vegas
    $10,000 from Deerfield, Ill.-based Walgreens
    $10,000 from Macy’s Corporate Services in Cincinnati
    $10,000 from KB Home in Los Angeles

Posted on Wednesday, December 16th, 2009
Under: 2010 governor's race, ballot measures, campaign finance, Jerry Brown | 3 Comments »