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Archive for February, 2010

Van Jones receives new gig, accolades

Van Jones – the Oakland social- and environmental-justice activist and author who went to Washington last year as President Barack Obama’s “green jobs czar,” only to be let go in the face of conservative criticism – has joined a White House-friendly think tank in a similar capacity.

Jones, 41, rejoins the Center for American Progress as a senior fellow to lead its new Green Opportunity Initiative.

“We are thrilled that Van Jones is joining us to spearhead a ‘green opportunity’ agenda to develop the policies and strategies that will ensure the clean-energy future brings not just climate stability and energy security, but also broadly shared economic prosperity,” Kate Gordon, CAP’s Vice President for Energy Policy, said in a news release today.

Jones will work with CAP’s existing Energy Opportunity team to develop an agenda for expanding investment, innovation, and opportunity through clean energy and environmental restoration – especially for low-income and minority communities. That’s exactly what he was doing as founder of Oakland-based Green For All, as author of the 2008 New York Times bestseller “The Green Collar Economy;” and then from March through September 2009 as special advisor for green jobs at the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

CAP President and CEO John Podesta called Jones “a pioneer in the effort to promote a clean, sustainable economy that works for all Americans. I’m proud that he’s coming back to CAP to focus on creating economic opportunity in distressed communities through the Green Opportunity Initiative and that he will be giving voice to those issues once again.”

Jones resigned his White House post after conservatives targeted him for past political activities including his 1990s association with a Marxist group and a public comment disparaging congressional Republicans.

In his first interview since his resignation, Jones told the Washington Post he has no “bitterness or anger” about what transpired last year. “The good thing about being an American is you’re free to think whatever you want, and you’re also free to change your mind. That’s my story. . . . God willing, I’ve got 10 or 20 years, 30 years, three decades more work to do. And it’s my hope and belief that people will judge me based on that work.”

And in a column today on the Huffington Post, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People President Benjamin Jealous – a former Alameda resident – wrote he’s proud to be presenting Jones with the NAACP President’s Award at the organization’s 41st Image Awards this Friday.

“Far from the divisive caricature painted by some cable news outlets, Van has been one of America’s most effective and inspiring bridge-builders,” Jealous wrote. “He has successfully brought together labor leaders, business executives, civil rights champions, students and environmentalists to find creative solutions to the ecological and economic crises.”

The Center for American Progress was launched in 2003 and has been supported since with funding from a pair of East Bay billionaire banking moguls. Herb and Marion Sandler made their fortune by building Oakland-based Golden West Financial Corp. — parent company of World Savings Bank — into one of the nation’s largest savings and loans, before selling it to Wachovia Bank in 2006 for $24.2 billion.

The think tank has had close ties to the Obama Administration from the get-go. Podesta, a former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, went on leave from CAP for a while to serve as one of three co-chairs of Obama’s transition team. Several CAP fellows and trustees were appointed to Obama Administration posts, and CAP consistently has helped shape the message on Obama Administration initiatives including health care reform, economic stimulus and national security.

UPDATE @ 11:07 A.M.: Looks as if Jones also has been appointed distinguished visiting fellow in the Center for African American Studies and in the Program in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.

Posted on Wednesday, February 24th, 2010
Under: economy, Environment, Obama presidency | 6 Comments »

More budget woes on Contra Costa’s horizon

Contra Costa County Administrator David Twa delivered today what has become a standard litany of bad news: More cuts, more pain, more layoffs, more of the same.

In particular, he reminded the Board of Supervisors that the Contra Costa Fire Department will burn through its reserves by July 1, 2011, and run out of money. There’s talk of closing as many as four fire stations.

And Contra Costa Chief Probation Officer Lionel Chatman told the board he was perilously close to sending a letter to the courts and advising them that he no longer had enough money to deliver his department’s mandated services.

But the comment that perked up the ears of the other department heads came from Local Firefighters Union 1230 President Vince Wells, who urged the board to consider using funds that would be set aside to reduce the county’s unfunded post-retirement benefits, or OPEB, liability.

Supervisor Susan Bonilla, who is running for state Assembly in the Democratic primary, brought the subject up again later, and said she wanted that option on the table.

If the board taps into the OPEB set-aside as a source of emergency cash, it will represent a 180-degree turnaround from its previous commitment to reducing the liability. It will also generate a political backlash among critics who say the county needs to put aside more and not less money to pay down its retiree health care obligations.

The county administrator will present his budget on April 20 and the board is scheduled to adopt a final spending plan on May 11. Layoffs as a result of the new budget — Twa says they are inevitable — will occur after May 11.

View video clips of budget-related comments below:

Vince Wells, president of Contra Costa Firefighters Local 1230

Local One business agent Rollie Katz:

Contra Costa Sheriff Warren Rupf

Contra Costa District Attorney Robert Kochly

Contra Costa Chief Probation Officer Lionel Chatman

Posted on Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010
Under: Contra Costa Board of Supervisors, Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics | 7 Comments »

Supes say ‘no’ to change in Mt. Diablo’s name

The stationery lobby is furious but it is official: The Contra Costa Board of Supervisors rejected this morning requests to support changing Mount Diablo to Mount Reagan or Mount John Muir.

Save Mount Diablo, the Mount Diablo School District and the dozens of businesses that use “Mount Diablo” in their monikers can rest easy. The board will send a letter to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, the arbiter of these things, expressing the county’s support of keeping the longstanding name.

Watch video clips below of the chief proponent of the name change, Art Mijares, and an opponent, Mount Diablo State Park Superintendent Craig Mattson.

I’m with Supervisor Mary Nejedly Piepho on this one: Enough already. The county has a lot bigger problems, like a nearly bankrupt fire department and cuts in almost every one of its services.

Everyone appreciates that Mr. Mijares has the right, along with any citizen, to submit a name-change application. Which he has done. Several times.

With each application, he generates another round of news coverage. That’s good for Mijares; he wants to make his point that “diablo” is “devil” in Spanish, and the devil is bad and no one ought to name a major hunk of rock after evil.

But the community is clear: It’s just a name. It’s a name we’re used to. It’s a name that’s been around a long time. It’s name that reflects an aspect of historical interpretation. The devil is not a chunk of rock and dirt and trees and in fact, most devilish behavior comes in human form.

And what would Save Mount Diablo call itself? I suspect its members wouldn’t be too excited about Save Mount Reagan. And Mount Vorderbrueggen? Well, modestly speaking, of course, it’s just way too many letters.

“It’s not as though we’re waiting for the right name to come along,” added Supervisor John Gioia. “The community likes Mount Diablo.”

Perhaps the county can put a couple of extra copies of the letter in the file, just in case more applications come its way.

Here is Mount Diablo State Park Superintendent Craig Mattson:

Here is name-change proponent Art Mijares:

Posted on Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010
Under: Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics | 2 Comments »

Garamendi signs on to insurance anti-trust bill



Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, has signed on as a co-author of legislation that would require the the health insurance industry to follow the same anti-trust laws imposed on other businesses.

The legislation comes on the heels of outcry over Anthem Blue Cross’ announcement that it would raise premiums as much as 39 percent for some customers.

“When almost every other industry colludes at the expense of consumers, we call it a crime,” Garamendi said in a prepared statement. “When the health insurance industry colludes, we call it business as usual. This legislation removes one of the most damaging weapons in the insurance industry’s arsenal: the ability to manipulate the market together behind closed doors.”

Garamendi is the former California insurance commissioner.

The Health Insurance Industry Fair Competition Act, H.R. 4626 was introduced by reps. Tom Perriello of Virginia and Betsy Markey of Colorado. According to Garamendi’s office, it will “restore competition and transparency to the health insurance market.”

Among its provisions, Garamendi said it removes the health insurance industry’s blanket antitrust exemption and allow federal agencies to investigate allegations of collusion.

“Anthem Blue Cross’s recent decision to increase rates on customers nearly 100 percent in the past two years, despite earning $2.4 billion in profits in the final three months of 2009, is Exhibit A of what happens when we let insurance companies operate behind a veil of legalized secrecy,” Garamendi said. “Removing the anti-trust exemption and including a robust public option are two of the most important tools available to us to improve public health and hold the insurance industry accountable for its actions.”

Posted on Monday, February 22nd, 2010
Under: Congressional District 10 | 1 Comment »

Facebook poaching or smart campaigning?

Mary Nejedly Piepho

Mary Nejedly Piepho

John T. Nejedly

John T. Nejedly

Contra Costa Supervisor Mary Nejedly Piepho says her estranged brother and county assessor candidate John T. Nejedly is hijacking her Facebook friends list.

John T. has also tried to friend the friends of her husband and Discovery Bay Community Services District member David Piepho along with two of her staff members including chief of staff Tomi Van de Brooke.

It gets even weirder. Van de Brooke and John T. are both elected trustees on the Contra Costa Community College District.

John T. sued his sister and brother, James Nejedly, after their late father, the Sen. John A. Nejedly, wrote him out of the family will. John T. eventually backed down.

He said he wouldn’t “waste his timing looking at their Facebook pages,” never sent a friend request for van de Brooke and doesn’t recall making the friend requests of the others in question.

The friending of friends’ friends is part of Facebook’s viral appeal: Your friends can friend your friends who can friend their friends and so on. The recipient of a friend request can always say no, of course.

And the definition of “friend” varies widely depending on the use of Facebook. It’s not just a social networking site for 20-somethings. Many candidates and various political causes have Facebook pages and use the site as a low-cost means broadcast to their messages.

I use my Facebook page largely for work purposes, although I do make personal posts to family and some actual, real friends. The crossover occasionally creates a perception problem, and I have fielded a few questions from readers who have incorrectly interpreted my status as  ‘friend” of this candidate or that cause as a statement of personal opinion. In every case, I agreed to the friend request only to gain access to the information.

Whether or not the Nejedly dispute is a case of poaching or paranoia, it serves as a worthy reminder: Facebook is a very public site.

Posted on Monday, February 22nd, 2010
Under: 2010 election, Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics | 7 Comments »

Scott Brown helps Dems move jobs bill


That’s the sound of tea-partiers’ heads exploding from coast to coast as they discover that U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass. – whose special election to the seat long held by the late Ted Kennedy supposedly heralded the end of the Democratic/Obama agenda – this afternoon joined all Senate Democrats but one and four fellow Republicans to invoke cloture and bring the jobs bill to a vote.

Let’s go to the Twitterverse!

lovesliberty: Seriously. What a FRAUD.RT @the_funhouse: Scott Brown goes RINO on the 1st vote, really? I mean, come on man!!!

MarkAHorne: Stupid, pork-loving, corrupt politician. Scott Brown was a symbolic victory and no more.

armywife299: Scott brown…white BO…says he is against spending …get elected…votes for more spending…White BO…make BO promices not to be kept!

BO – and by that I mean President Barack Obama – said:

The American people want to see Washington put aside partisan differences and make progress on jobs, and today the Senate took one important step forward in doing that. I’m grateful to the Democratic and Republican Senators who voted to support these investments in infrastructure and small businesses. This is one of many efforts we need to tackle our economic challenges, and we will continue to work with Congress on additional job creation measures. Jobs remain our top priority, and I look forward to working with members from both parties to get legislation signed, and the American people back to work.

UPDATE @ 5:03 P.M.: From U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.:

“The successful vote to end the filibuster on the Senate jobs bill was a breakthrough that should send a signal of hope to the families of America. I hope this is the start of a new day and that we will continue to put jobs and economic recovery over politics. I want to thank the organizations that helped make this vote possible tonight, including the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, the Associated General Contractors of America, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Laborers International Union, the International Union of Operating Engineers, the American Public Transportation Association, AAA, the Americans for Transportation Mobility, the American Highway Users Alliance, the American Concrete Pavement Association, the National Asphalt Pavement Association, the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association, the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association and the Portland Cement Association.”

Posted on Monday, February 22nd, 2010
Under: economy, Obama presidency, U.S. Senate | 5 Comments »

More on KSFO letting Lee Rodgers go

Melanie Morgan, Lee Rodgers’ former co-host on KSFO’s morning show, posted his parting missive to her Web site Saturday, two days after the station let Rodgers go.

Basically, he says Citadel Broadcasting (which owns ABC Radio, which owns KSFO) is bankrupt, mismanaged, cruel and engaging in censorship. I tried to reach KSFO/Citadel management for a reply, but got no response to an e-mail and a voice-mail.

(UPDATE @ 11:22 A.M. TUESDAY: KSFO Marketing Director Anthony Licciardi got back to me this morning. “We really don’t have much of a comment about this,” he said. “We can’t control what ex-employees say about the company once they leave.” He referred me back to the original statement posted last week to the station’s Web site.)

Read Rodgers’ letter in its entirety after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, February 22nd, 2010
Under: Media | 13 Comments »

Did Fiorina copyright her ‘Demon Sheep?’

Because if she did, Republican Attorney General candidate Tom Harman could be in a world of hurt. The state Senator from Huntington Beach used the evil ovine, that mutton of Mephistopheles, in his new Web video attacking GOP primary rival and Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley:

I assume we’ve not seen the end of that sheep. (Boy, THAT didn’t sound right.)

Posted on Monday, February 22nd, 2010
Under: 2010 election, Attorney General | 1 Comment »

Hypocrisy on reconciliation for health reform?

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tom Campbell today blasted U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., for supporting use of “reconciliation” to pass health-care reform legislation because that’s a tactic Republicans certainly would never use, even on an issue they felt was terribly important.

Oh, wait, scratch that. They did it too.

For the jargon-challenged, reconciliation is a Senate process intended to allow consideration of certain controversial, budget-related bills by limiting debate and amendment. Basically, it’s a way to get a bill passed without needing the 60 votes to overcome a filibuster, in which a minority delays or entirely obstructs a vote on something by extending debate indefinitely.

“When Senator Barbara Boxer and her Democratic colleagues were in the minority in the US Senate, they would routinely block bills they opposed by using the 60-vote requirement to invoke cloture,” Campbell said in a statement issued today. “Now they’re complaining that the Republicans are doing the same thing, so they’re proposing an end run around the 60-vote requirement using ‘reconciliation’ – a process that’s reserved for bills legitimately and intimately related to the budget process. It was never intended for major policy bills.”

“Whether you like or dislike the Democrats’ health care bill, there’s no doubt it is a major policy proposal. If ‘reconciliation’ is used to jam this unpopular proposal through, it can be used for any purpose, essentially killing the 60-vote requirement,” he said.

Senate Republicans had no problem using reconciliation to jam through the Bush tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, the Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005, and the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005.

And does anyone really think bringing health-care costs under control while extending coverage to tens of millions of currently-uninsured Americans isn’t “legitimately and intimately related to the budget process?” If so, the Congressional Budget Office has some news for you:

The nation’s long-term fiscal balance will be determined primarily by the future rate of health care cost growth. If health care costs continued growing at the same rate over the next four decades as they did over the past four decades, federal spending on Medicare andMedicaid alone would rise to about 20 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2050 — roughly the share of the economy now accounted for by the entire federal budget.

And that’s from three years ago. Still, Campbell continues:

“The 60-vote requirement is an important protection against major policy changes being adopted by the thinnest of majorities. While it’s not found in the Constitution itself, the bi-cameral nature of legislation indicates a desire to obtain broad consensus, not just a popular majority, before legislation is enacted.

“In the present context, that necessity is made even clearer by the resounding voice of the American people against what the Democrats attempted to push through as health care reform prior to the Massachusetts Senate election. The American people were particularly repulsed at the abuses of majority power by the special deals worked out for Nebraska and union members. They thought it truly unfair to tax those who have health care insurance packages more generous than what the Democrats’ bill considered ‘good enough,’ and then exempting union members from that tax.

“If Senator Barbara Boxer and her colleagues use ‘reconciliation’ to force their plan on the American people, they will have broken faith with the majority of those they represent, and further tarnished, if that were possible, the reputation of the Congress under Democratic rule.”

This isn’t a question of health-care policy; this is a question of political process, and how things do and don’t get done in Washington. Did the founding fathers intend for every big policy debate to be decided only by supermajority rule, rather than majority rule? Does bipartisanship extend to letting the minority party to stymie anything it disagrees with, and if so, what does “minority party” even mean?

Whatever party is in the minority will always have a big beef with reconciliation, no matter what the issue – nobody likes being told to be quiet and sit down, be they Democrats or Republicans. But who realistically expects one side to refrain from a tactic the other side has used so recently?

Posted on Monday, February 22nd, 2010
Under: Barbara Boxer, healthcare reform, Tom Campbell, U.S. Senate | 2 Comments »

Political events round-up

Here are a few upcoming political events:


Laurie Firestone, former White House Social Secretary for President George H.W. Bush, is the featured lunchtime speaker at the Feb. 23 meeting of the San Ramon Valley Republican Women.

Firestone is a renowned expert and consultant in business event planning, international protocol, etiquette and fundraising. Her book, “An Affair to Remember: State Dinners for Home Entertaining,” will be available for sale

San Ramon Mayor H. Abram Wilson, a Republican primary candidate for the 15th Assembly District, will also speak.

The event will be held at the Crow Canyon Country Club, 711 Silver Lake Drive in Danville.

The cost is $23 for person. For reservations, call 925-833-8771, e-mail for visit

El Cerrito

Dale Sorenson with the Marin Interfaith Task Force on the Americas will at the Feb. 23 evening meeting of the El Cerrito Democratic Club.

Sorenson’s talk is titled, “The Coup in Honduras: What Happened, Why, and What Role did the United States Play?”

The event begins at 6:30 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall of the El Cerrito United Methodist Church, 6830 Stockton Ave. in El Cerrito.

The cost is $4 per person and includes light refreshments and pizza.

For information, call 510-527-5953 or e-mail

Posted on Friday, February 19th, 2010
Under: Political calendar, Political events | 6 Comments »