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Archive for December, 2009

Mayor Bob “Turkey” Taylor in fowl fettle

Brentwood Mayor Bob Taylor

Brentwood Mayor Bob Taylor

You just can’t make this stuff up.

On the right is Brentwood Mayor Bob Taylor, who sent me this preview picture today of him in his turkey suit.

He promised to wear this costume in public if folks donated enough cash — $8 each — to the Community Chest for 300 turkeys.

Eager to see the good-natured Taylor make a fool out of himself for a cause, the good citizens of Brentwood and elsewhere are still sending in their money. Due, in large part, to the specter of a feathered Taylor, the chest will hand out nearly double that many birds this week.

Hey, most folks think politicians are turkeys anyway. He might as well leverage it for the growing numbers of needy residents.

You can have your picture taken with a real turkey politician from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday at The Streets of Brentwood’s Community Boutique, located next to the Rave Motion Pictures Brentwood 14.

Posted on Tuesday, December 15th, 2009
Under: Contra Costa County | 4 Comments »

Tax-loophole rollback measure hits the streets

Backers of a proposed ballot measure that would plug up $1.7 billion worth of corporate tax loopholes written into the 2008 and 2009 budget deals have been cleared to start gathering petition signatures, Secretary of State Debra Bowen announced today.

The Attorney General’s official title and summary for the measure is as follows:

REPEALS RECENT LEGISLATION THAT WOULD ALLOW BUSINESSES TO CARRY BACK LOSSES, SHARE TAX CREDITS, AND USE A SALES-BASED INCOME CALCULATION TO LOWER TAXABLE INCOME. INITIATIVE STATUTE. Repeals recent legislation that would allow businesses to shift operating losses to prior tax years and that would extend the period permitted to shift operating losses to future tax years. Repeals recent legislation that would allow corporations to share tax credits with affiliated corporations. Repeals recent legislation that would allow multistate businesses to use a sales-based income calculation, rather than a combination property-, payroll- and sales-based income calculation. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Annual state revenue increase from business taxes of about $1.7 billion when fully phased in, beginning in 2011-12. (09-0058.)

For those who’ve forgotten, one of the corporate tax breaks enacted while all this budget slashing went on has let companies apply losses in bad years retroactively, so they can receive refunds on taxes paid in previous, better years. Another has let companies shift tax credits earned by one subsidiary to another subsidiary. And a third has let multistate companies pay state taxes based only on total California sales, rather than a prior formula that also included their workforces’ size and the amount of property they own.

The California Budget Project, which studies fiscal policies’ effect on the poor, blasted these breaks in a report last summer. As CBP Executive Director Jean Ross told my colleague Steve Harmon at the time, “The problem with dark-of-night deals is that you never get a chance to get a debate over value choices. These three tax breaks represent a reduction of one-third the income taxes paid by California corporations…. They really represent a stark contrast in values and what kind of future we want to see for Californians.”

The California Chamber of Commerce yesterday announced its opposition to this and four other proposed ballot measures on tax reform, saying they would “discourage investment here, killing more jobs and damaging recovery.”

Bowen’s news release lists San Leandro attorneys Robin Johansen and Karen Getman as the measure’s proponents, but they’re actually representing the Burlingame-based California Teachers Association. The proponents have until May 13, 2010 to gather valid signatures from at least 433,971 voters in order to put this on next November’s ballot. A similar measure put forth by the California Tax Reform Association went into circulation in September, with a February deadline.

Posted on Tuesday, December 15th, 2009
Under: 2010 election, ballot measures, state budget, taxes | 2 Comments »

Schwarzenegger’s speech in Copenhagen

Here’s the entirety of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s speech at the United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen.

From The Guardian (UK): “Until today, Copenhagen’s most famous citizen was a girl with a fishy tail sitting on a rock. No more. The day saw the big beasts of the green jungle arrive — what ecologists would term the ‘charismatic megafauna,’ intent on adding their weight and lustre to the struggling climate negotiation.”

From Politico: “California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger – who once drove Hummers but now files commercial – was the star of the show Tuesday at the U.N. climate conference, where he swooped in to say that small is beautiful.

But… “I’ll be back!” Still with the movie taglines? [sigh]

Posted on Tuesday, December 15th, 2009
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Global warming | 2 Comments »

Torlakson wins teachers’ endorsement



The California Federation of Teachers AFL-CIO has endorsed Assemblyman Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch, as its choice for state superintendent of schools.

Incumbent Superintendent Jack O’Connell terms out next year.

Read on for the full press release:

CONCORD—The California Federation of Teachers has announced its endorsement of Tom Torlakson for State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Torlakson is running to succeed Jack O’Connell after he is termed out of office in 2010.

“Of all the candidates for this office, the California Federation of Teachers believes Tom Torlakson is the one who has the integrity, intelligence, and experience to be an outstanding Superintendent of Public Instruction,” said California Federation of Teachers Political Director Kenneth Burt. “We look forward to working with you on issues pertaining to California’s education system and protecting the interest of working families.” Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, December 15th, 2009
Under: 2010 election | 3 Comments »

Ruminations on Steve Poizner’s investment

Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner’s announcement that he’s putting another $15 million of his personal fortune into his campaign for the Republican gubernatorial nomination got me thinking about all the money he’s shelled out in recent years.

Poizner in 1995 founded SnapTrack Inc., which pioneered technology putting global positioning system receivers into cell phones; he was the privately held company’s CEO until he sold it to Qualcomm in 2000 for a reported $1 billion. The current size of his fortune isn’t known, but he says he’s not a billionaire.

By my count, he spent $14,855,086.55 on his 2006 race for Insurance Commissioner, and $5,750,731.63 in his unsuccessful race for the 21st Assembly District seat in 2004. He also put $2.25 million into 2005’s unsuccessful Proposition 77, a redistricting measure, and $3.3 million into the campaign against the unsuccessful Proposition 93 of 2008, which would’ve tinkered with term limits.

That’s $26,155,818.18. Add in the $19.2 million so far for the gubernatorial race – $4.2 million earlier, and then yesterday’s commitment – and that’s $45,355,818.18 that Poizner has spent out of his own pocket on California politics since the start of 2003.

Does that make him a record-setter? Nope.

Real estate heir/movie mogul Stephen Bing has spent $56,158,544.14 on California campaigns since 2003, the lion’s share of which – $49,558,000 – was in support of the unsuccessful Proposition 87 of 2006, which would’ve imposed a tax on oil produced in the state to fund alternative energy research and development.

As for candidates, Democrat Al Checchi, defeated by Gray Davis in the 1998 gubernatorial primary, spent more than $40 million out of his own pocket in that race alone. And Steve Westly put $35.2 million of his own money into his losing battle for the 2006 Democratic gubernatorial nomination, four years after he’d spent $5,193,000 into winning the state Controller’s office.

So Poizner’s spending isn’t unprecedented — yet. Neither Checchi nor Westly nor Poizner in previous campaigns faced a candidate more affluent, more able to self-fund than himself, as Poizner now faces in Meg Whitman.

Whitman was President and CEO of eBay from March 1998, when it had 30 employees and annual revenue of about $4 million, to March 2008, when it had about 15,000 employees and annual revenue of about $8 billion. Her net worth has been estimated at about $1.3 billion. She has put $19.02 million into her own campaign so far, and says she’s ready and willing to spend $50 million.

Money talks; as Checchi, Westly and Bing will tell you, it doesn’t always win. But if Poizner and Whitman actually match their self-funding pace through June’s primary, it could be a one-on-one clash of the moneyed titans unlike California has ever seen – with the winner then pivoting to show down against one of the most well-known and prolific fund raisers that Democrats could possibly field.

Posted on Tuesday, December 15th, 2009
Under: 2010 governor's race, campaign finance, Meg Whitman, Steve Poizner | 4 Comments »

Garamendi hires chief of staff

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, has hired as his chief of staff Scott Fay, former senior adviser to the late U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass.

According to Garamendi’s office, Fay held various positions during his nine years on Kennedy’s staff including constituent outreach advisor, scheduler, operations director and most recently as his senior adviser and national political director. As political director, Faw oversaw outreach to various national organizations to promote Kennedy’s  national agenda across the country and at home in Massachusetts.

“I’m thrilled to announce that Scott Fay will be joining my team,” Garamendi said in a prepared release. ” Because of his many years of service to Senator Kennedy, Scott comes with a wealth of political experience and a deep understanding of how Congress and government works.”

Fay holds a bachelor of arts degree in political science from Boston University and a master’s degree in public communication from American University in Washington, D.C. He will start his new post in January.

Posted on Tuesday, December 15th, 2009
Under: Congressional District 10, U.S. House | No Comments »

Local Iranians fret over opposition group’s fate

As my colleague Matt O’Brien wrote back in August, Iranian-Americans in the Bay Area continue to worry about the fate of an Iranian opposition group that has been living in Iraq for decades, but may now be in danger from the new U.S.-supported Iraqi regime.

Hamid Azimi of Albany, a spokesman for the Iranian-American Community of Northern California, said today the U.S. government isn’t doing enough to ensure members of the People’s Mujahedeen Organization of Iran – a group of Iranian dissidents who oppose the Islamic government that has ruled Iran since 1979 – won’t be put in harm’s way as Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki follows through with a plan to relocate them this week from “Camp Ashraf,” the group’s settlement since the mid-1980s. All Washington has done so far is “urge caution.”

U.S.-led coalition forces disarmed the group in 2003, and protected the settlement until turning authority over to Iraqi security forces at the start of this year – a move that struck fear into the group’s supporters’ hearts, as they believe the Iranian government has considerable influence over the new Iraqi regime. Indeed, a July skirmish between Iraqi security forces and camp residents claimed 11 residents’ lives, leaving hundreds wounded. (See some video here.)

But despite high-visibility tactics such as hunger-strikes, Iranian-Americans have found it hard to build a lot of concern and sympathy for the PMOI, as the U.S. government has designated it as a foreign terrorist organization since 1997 (a move some said was meant as an olive branch to the somewhat reformist regime then in power in Iran).

Rep. Bob Filner’s H.Res.704, “deploring the ongoing violence by Iraqi security forces against the residents of Camp Ashraf in Iraq,” has amassed bipartisan support from 115 cosponsors since the San Diego Democrat introduced it at the end of July. Among those co-sponsors are Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont; Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove; Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma; and Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose.

As advocates for and relatives of Camp Ashraf residents prepare for an event tomorrow in Washington, Azimi – whose wife’s cousin lives at Ashraf – wants the public to turn up the pressure on members of Congress who haven’t already signed onto Filner’s legislation, in order to create pressure in turn on the State Department to intervene. So far, Azimi says, “The State Department is very interested in making sure there is not democracy in Iran, they are very adamant about it.”

Posted on Monday, December 14th, 2009
Under: Iran, Iraq, Uncategorized | No Comments »

CD11: McNerney will host telephone town hall

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, will host a telephone town hall on Wednesday at 6:10 p.m., one of those electronic events where constituents can participate via the phone lines.

A computer-generated program will put out a call blast to McNerney’s constituents prior to the hour-long call but residents may also sign up in advance to receive an invitation-to-participate call.

To sign up, contact McNerney’s  Stockton office can be reached at 209-476-8552 or Pleasanton office at 925-737-0727. The deadline is Wednesday at 5 p.m.

McNerney will take and answer questions on the call. But keep in mind that hundreds of people often seek to ask questions and his staff will decide who gets to ask the questions.

Posted on Monday, December 14th, 2009
Under: congressional district 11 | 8 Comments »

Poizner antes up $15 million for gov race

In what’s turning out to be a self-funded showdown for the GOP gubernatorial nomination, former eBay CEO Meg Whitman this year has put $19.02 million into her campaign and already is airing an ad blitz to raise her name recognition.

Meanwhile, state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner had anted up only – only! – $4.2 million, leading some to wonder when he was going to pull out the stops and take to the airwaves in a meaningful way.

Well, wonder no longer. Poizner announced this morning that he’ll be contributing $15 million to his campaign, and that as governor he’ll slash California’s welfare spending by more than half. Nice symmetry, no?

His e-mailed statement:

“California is in deep trouble and I truly believe there could be no better time to run for Governor. We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to really fix and reform our state. As we look towards 2010, I know the Republican primary will be won based on which candidate presents clear, specific, and conservative solutions for solving California’s economic problems. I will communicate my message of bold 10 percent tax cuts, a 10 percent reduction in state spending, creating a $10 billion rainy day fund, and I will cut our welfare spending so that it is in line with the national average or better. We have 30 percent of the nation’s welfare recipients and only 12 percent of the population. That’s change for the better and a message that I am confident will resonate with Republican voters.”

Meanwhile, the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza says the third GOP gubernatorial contender, Tom Campbell, may be considering switching over to the GOP primary for U.S. Senate, where he would face former HP CEO Carly Fiorina and Assemblyman Chuck DeVore.

Posted on Monday, December 14th, 2009
Under: 2010 governor's race, campaign finance, Meg Whitman, Steve Poizner, Tom Campbell | 1 Comment »

Harmer may take a run at CD11

David Harmer

David Harmer

The Mormon Times, published by the Utah-based Deseret News, reports that Republican congressional candidate David Harmer may run again but  for a neighboring seat.

Harmer ran unsuccessfully in District 10 earlier this year, losing to then-sitting Democratic California Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi.

District 11 is a far more GOP-friendly district with almost dead-even registration between the two major parties.

But Harmer doesn’t live in District 11, a detail that no longer seems to matter to many voters.

They elected Garamendi, who doesn’t live in District 10. His Walnut Grove home is just across the river from the district boundary.

Harmer lives in Dougherty Valley, not far from the line between the 10th and 11th districts.

Harmer would have a far more difficult primary in the 11th District, however. A half-dozen Republicans have already announced their candidacies and are raising money.

Here are the first few paragraphs of the Mormon Times story:

Former congressional candidate may run again

By Jeffrey R. Unalp

For Mormon Times

Friday, Dec. 11, 2009

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. — Former California 10th Congressional District candidate David J. Harmer said he may run again, but this time it would be for the 11th Congressional District seat.

He believes it is his obligation and calling as a free American Mormon.

Harmer spoke to the East Bay BYU Management Society on Tuesday, Dec. 8.

Introduced as a candidate who ran the race with integrity that was “unbecoming of a politician,” Harmer then detailed the difficulties he faced in his bid for the 10th District seat.

Harmer said he ran because he was prompted by the Spirit. He said his family is currently studying Captain Moroni, and like Captain Moroni, American Mormons must hoist the Title of Liberty. “Freedom is a pre-condition of everything else God has in his plan,” he said.

He said running again is a bit like being asked to play the organ at stake conference; if he declined he would feel bad as he believes it is his calling.

Posted on Monday, December 14th, 2009
Under: Congressional District 10, congressional district 11 | 1 Comment »