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Archive for February, 2010

Contra Costa assessor race fires up

Bob Brooks

Bob Brooks

Bob Brooks, the Antioch Realtor challenging Contra Costa Assessor Gus Kramer, came out firing with both guns last night.

He assembled at the Concord Hilton a cast of Kramer’s public critics and announced their endorsements of his own candidacy. (See video link below.)

Joining Brooks’ campaign are:

Former Assessor John Biasotti, the man who campaigned for Daniel Hallisey, Kramer’s first opponent in 1994. Hallisey died before the election but Biasotti so disliked Kramer that he urged voters (unsuccessfully) to elect the deceased man anyway. One of Biasotti’s longtime deputies, Joe Swicegood, also joined the endorsement party.

Bernice Peoples, the woman who worked for Kramer for 23 years and sued him for retaliation after she filed racial discrimination and sexual harassment complaint against him. Kramer, the county and Peoples settled for $1 million.

Steve and Erica Kramer, Gus’ estranged son and daughter-in-law, have offered to put Brooks’ campaign signs on their lawn and business storefront. Erica refers to her father-in-law as the “snake in the Garden of Eden” who raised her property tax assessment as payback for prohibiting him from seeing his three grandchildren.

Clark Wallace, the Orinda-based developer and former California Department of Real Estate Commissioner who served as president of the national and California associations of Realtors. Wallace serves with Brooks on the Contra Costa Assessment Appeals Board. The two men, along with former member, Joe Fisher, who is also endorsing Brooks, ruled against Kramer’s assessment of the value of the Chevron refinery.

Gus Kramer

Gus Kramer

In response, Kramer said he respected everyone’s right to back the candidate of his or her choice.

“I have no ax to grind with any of these people, including my own son,” Kramer said. “I love him … He is still in the will.”

Kramer pointed to a September 2009 state Board of Equalization review of his office, which gave his department high marks.

“If you compare my record to that of the previous administration, you will a see a marked improvement in the office,” Kramer said. “I don’t have to stand up and tell people what a great job I have done. The Board of Equalization did it for me.”

Also in the audience was a man who is definitely not endorsing Brooks. Another assessor candidate, John T. Nejedly, a trustee of the Contra Costa Community College District, showed up out of curiosity, he said. (He didn’t crash the party; he called and asked Brooks if he could come.)

If you want to watch the video of Brooks’ remarks at the Hilton last night, click on the link below.

Posted on Friday, February 19th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics | 38 Comments »

Moraga woman appointed to CC judge post

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has appointed Rebecca Hardie of Moraga to a $179,000-a-year judgeship job in Contra Costa County Superior Court.

Here’s the information from the governor’s office on the appointment:

Hardie, 48, has been director and counsel for Pacific Gas and Electric Company since 2007. Previously, she worked for Pacific Gas and Electric Company as senior counsel from 2006 to 2007 and counsel from 2004 to 2006. Hardie served as an assistant U.S. attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice from 1996 to 2004 and a U.S. probation officer for the U.S. Probation Office from 1994 to 1996. Prior to that, she was an associate attorney for Pansky, Markle and Drapiewski from 1993 to 1994 and a deputy district attorney for the Marin County District Attorney’s Office from 1992 to 1993. Hardie earned a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of California, Hastings School of Law and a Bachelor of Science degree from Western Michigan University. She fills the vacancy created by the elevation of Judge Terence L. Bruiniers to the First District Court of Appeal. Hardie is a Democrat.

Posted on Thursday, February 18th, 2010
Under: Contra Costa County | No Comments »

Marijuana debate revived with bill, TV show

Even as Assemblyman Tom Ammiano today reintroduced his bill to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana for all uses, marijuana advocates are taking to television – but not with ads.

Cannabis PlanetCannabis Planet,” a 30-minute weekly television program is about to start a 26-week run on the Bay Area’s KOFY-TV (Channel 20/13) at midnight this Friday.

The show – focusing on the merits of the marijuana plant in medicine, industry and agriculture “and the benefits this plant brings to Planet Earth, mankind and the United States” – is already seen in the Los Angeles and San Diego markets, and will roll out in Sacramento in March and in Colorado later this spring.

Weekly topics will include cannabis news and information, profiles of medical marijuana collectives, cannabis cooking, patient testimonials, celebrity interviews, music, entertainment and more. It’s co-hosted by Ngaio Bealum, publisher of West Coast Cannabis Magazine, and Los Angeles medical marijuana activist Sarah Diesel; Oakland’s own Ed Rosenthal, the “guru of ganja” who’s world-renowned for his horticultural expertise in marijuana, will serve as a resident expert offering cultivation tips, while Chef Michael Delao will cook up some cannabis cuisine.

“We are very excited to be bringing this show into the Bay Area, where Prop. 215 was born” Brad Lane, the show’s creator and executive producer, said in a news release. “Our goal at Cannabis Planet is to inform and educate the masses about the merits of the Cannabis Sativa plant, and to fight for safe and legal access for medical cannabis patients.”

That’s a hell of a publicity blitz even as California ramps up the debate over Ammiano’s bill and a like-minded November ballot measure put forth by Oakland marijuana activists and businessmen Richard Lee and Jeffrey Jones. But when I talked to Lane this afternoon, he insisted it’s not a political show.

“Our political agenda is to legalize cannabis” for food, fuel, fiber and medicine “but we’re not a political-based show, if that makes sense – were just trying to educate and inform the masses about the merits of cannabis sativa,” he said, noting the show won’t depict or promote recreational use of marijuana. “Hemp, hemp hooray – we just want to get the message out there.”

The show originally ran in Los Angeles for 13 weeks, then was re-run. Lane said the producers have “re-mastered” the LA episodes with minor touches to make them geographically appropriate for other areas – San Diego and Bay Area backdrops, for example – and are now producing a second run of 13 new shows which will contain more local content.

Lane said the Berkeley Patients Group is the flagship Bay Area sponsor, with other support for the show coming from San Francisco’s Ketama Collective, Richmond’s Seven Stars Holistic Healing, and Berkeley-based KZee Novelty Products, maker of the “Lollipipe” edible candy smoking pipe. “We plan on bringing in more sponsors, we’ve just started dipping our toe in the water in the Bay Area,” he said.

Statewide sponsors include the MediCann medical-marijuana-evaluation clinics, as well as Canadian hydroponics companies Advanced Nutrients and BC Northern Lights.

Ammiano’s Marijuana Control, Regulation, and Education Act (AB 2254) would create a regulatory structure similar to that used for beer, wine and liquor, permitting taxed sales to adults while barring sales to or possession by those under 21. Its former incarnation, AB 390, was approved by the Assembly Public Safety Committee – which Ammiano chairs – last month, but died when the clock ran out on the last Legislative session. Re-introduced, it’ll probably make a quick pass back through Public Safety on its way to the Assembly Health Committee.

Posted on Thursday, February 18th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, Assembly, ballot measures, marijuana, Tom Ammiano | No Comments »

Labor/liberal IE committee aims at Fiorina

A self-described “national independent political organization” backed by labor and progressive money launched a Web site today aimed at exposing Republican U.S. Senate candidate Carly Fiorina’s “fibs, follies and dismal failures.”

The Lantern Project made a name for itself in 2005-06 by doing the same for incumbent U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa. “By the fall of 2006, was the most highly-trafficked political website in Pennsylvania,” the project’s news release claims. “Lantern also aired a series of TV and radio ads highlighting Santorum’s record.”

This year the project is maintaining its Pennsylvania effort by focusing on U.S. Senate candidate Pat Toomey, while also tackling the former Hewlett-Packard CEO vying for the GOP nomination in June to challenge incumbent U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., this November. Expect statewide television and radio ads here, too.

“The first aim of the Lantern Project’s work in California is to make sure as many voters as possible are exposed to the facts about Carly Fiorina,” said Julie Buckner, a political strategist working with the Lantern Project. “It is absolutely our goal to help Californians understand that Carly is nothing like the innovative, problem-solving high-tech whiz kid she portrays herself to be, and to blunt misleading information conveyed to voters by Carly’s slick and well-financed campaign committee.”

Buckner is working with Celia Fischer through their Los Angeles-based Laurel Canyon Media Group. A spokesperson told me this afternoon that the effort is being funded by “individuals who care about the 2010 US Senate race in CA.” No kiddin’.

FEC records don’t tell us a lot, with no contributions listed in the last few years, but a complaint filed against the Lantern Project in 2006 by campaign finance watchdog groups noted its funding at that time included “$250,000 from SEIU, a labor organization, $100,000 from Lewis Cullman, $100,000 from Bob Sillerman, $100,000 from Tim Gill, $100,000 from Peter Lewis, $50,000 from the law firm of Berger and Montague (as well as additional $25,000 contributions each from partners Daniel Berger and H. Laddie Montague Jr.), $35,000 from John Hunting, $25,000 from the Laborers Political League Education Fund, a labor organization, $50,000 (in two contributions) from Local 1776 United Food and Commercial Workers, a labor organization, and an additional $25,000 from United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.” The FEC found no violation and closed that complaint last year.

UPDATE @ 3:37 P.M.: This just in from Fiorina spokeswoman Julie Soderlund:

“On the occasion of Barbara Boxer formally getting into this race, it comes as no surprise that her public employee union allies would use a shady 527 organization to falsely attack Carly. Carly is clearly the candidate Boxer would least like to face in the general election because she knows Carly can beat her and will hold her accountable for her failed record. Carly is proud of her record of accomplishment at HP where she navigated the company through the worst technology recession in 25 years, outperforming the technology stock index by more than 20 percent, doubling revenue and putting the company on the path to becoming the first $100 billion information technology company in the world. Carly will put that record of success up against Boxer’s record of support for higher taxes, bigger government and deficit spending any day of the week.”

Posted on Thursday, February 18th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, Barbara Boxer, Carly Fiorina, U.S. Senate | 1 Comment »

Lee Rodgers is done at KSFO

Lee RodgersConservative activist Melanie Morgan – whose layoff from her long-running stint on KSFO talk radio was first reported here back in 2008 – reports today that her former co-host, morning show host Lee Rodgers, is now done, too.

Indeed, KSFO Programming Vice President Jack Swanson has a statement up on the station’s Web site welcoming Brian Sussman to the morning host’s chair in what he calls ” a very natural transition.”

“Although a lot of listeners were unaware, Lee had actually moved to Arizona many years ago and was broadcasting from his home,” Swanson wrote. “He later cut back his work schedule to only 4 days a week, which created the opportunity for Brian to become part of the show. We are grateful to Lee for his many contributions, and wish him many happy years in Arizona.”

Rodgers’ conservative diatribes often made him a target of liberal watchdog groups such as Media Matters.

Posted on Thursday, February 18th, 2010
Under: Media | 24 Comments »

Voters will ‘flush’ water bond, says pollster

Only one-third of voters would support the much-touted $11.1 billion water bond headed for the November ballot, according to a pollster.

Keep in mind pollster, Ben Tulchin, was commissioned by opponents.

But the paltry number does not bode well for the bond, which state legislators hammered out as part of a hard-fought deal. A successful bond usually polls high — 65 to 70 percent favorable — in the early stages. The higher figure acts as a buffer after opponents launch their campaign and voter support declines.

Not so fast, countered proponents of the bond a few minutes after I posted this entry.

“The poll results quoted by opponents in their press release are based on one question from a longer poll, with no information about prior questions which could have tainted the results. Their results are very different from our own internal polling,” said Jim Earp, Executive Director of the California Alliance for Jobs and co-chair of the Alliance for Clean Water and Jobs.  “Our polling shows we have a close race at the present time, that voters understand our state faces major water challenges, and that voters will support the bond once they hear the facts. We already have a very broad coalition behind the measure and we will wage a strong campaign over the next eight months to achieve victory in November.

We’ll see.

Read on for the full text of the opponents; press release:

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, February 18th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, water | 2 Comments »

House members blast DiFi on water plan

Four Bay Area House members are among 11 who wrote to U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., today to complain about her water proposal, which they say would lead to the extinction of Sacramento River salmon along with tens of thousands of jobs in California and along the Pacific Coast that depend on the fishery’s survival.

The lawmakers’ letter urges Feinstein to cancel her plan to introduce legislation to speed more water withdrawals out of the Sacramento River and San Francisco Bay-Delta ecosystem.

Chinook_Salmon“Salmon may not have high paid lobbyists like the corporate agricultural interests in the Central Valley, but they are critical to our coastal economy,” said Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, who was among the letter’s signatories. “The Feinstein plan will put thousands of families out of work from the fishing industry and local economies of the Pacific Coast.”

Salmon runs of the Sacramento River and other Northern California river systems have suffered in recent years, leading to unprecedented closures of the fishing season with significant effects on the fishing industry and related businesses across the West Coast, according to Miller’s release. Estimates of the job losses from the salmon fishery closure range as high as 23,000.

Feinstein proposes to override salmon protections, requiring the export pumps in the southern Bay-Delta to run at higher speed regardless of their effect on the salmon population.

The letter’s other signatories include Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove; Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma; and Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose.

In other water news, groups opposing the $11.1 billion water bond that the Legislature and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger have put on November’s ballot are touting poll results indicating most voters oppose it, too.

Pollsters from Jan. 20 through 25 posed this question to 600 likely voters across the state:

Now I would like to ask you about a ballot measure on November’s ballot. The measure is titled, “Safe, clean, and reliable drinking water supply act of 2010” and reads as follows: To protect water quality and ensure safe, clean drinking water; meet the water supply needs of California residents, farms, businesses, expand water conservation
and recycling; restore fish and wildlife habitat; reduce polluted runoff that contaminates rivers, streams, beaches, and bays; and protect the safety of water supplies threatened by earthquakes and other natural disasters; the State of California shall issue bonds totaling eleven billion one hundred forty million dollars ($11,140,000) paid from existing state funds subject to independent, annual audits, and citizen oversight. The fiscal impact would cost the state about 22 billion dollars over 30 years to pay off the 11 billion dollars in principal and 11 billion in interest costs of the bonds with payments of 800 million dollars a year.

Would you vote “Yes” in favor of the measure or “No” against it if the election were held today?

The poll found only about a third (34 percent) of likely voters support the measure, while 55 percent oppose it – a decidedly weak start for a ballot measure. The opposition crossed party lines and extended to all regions of the state. The poll has a four-percentage-point margin of error.

Among the environmental, consumer, and environmental justice groups opposing the bond are the Sierra Club, Clean Water Action, Planning and Conservation League, Friends of the River, Food & Water Watch, the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water, the Winnemem Wintu tribe, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, California Water Impact Network, Southern California Watershed Alliance, and Restore the Delta. They say it hands out billions to agribusiness corporations and other special interests at taxpayers’ expense.

“Voters recognize this bond as bad water policy and bad fiscal policy at a time when California is drowning in red ink,” Sierra Club Senior Advocate Jim Metropulos said in a news release. “We need clean water and we need a better water policy, but this bond is not going to get us there.”

Posted on Thursday, February 18th, 2010
Under: ballot measures, Dianne Feinstein, Environment, George Miller, John Garamendi, Lynn Woolsey, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, water, Zoe Lofgren | 3 Comments »

‘OK, guys, on the count of three…’

At a news conference this morning in Sacramento on the results of state-funded medical-marijuana research, former state Sen. John Vasconcellos, D-Santa Clara, recounted an interesting tale about how the legislation to fund that research was passed.

Vasconcellos started drafting such a bill after California voters had approved Proposition 215 in 1996 to enact the state’s medical-marijuana law; he said it was a bipartisan effort from the get-go, with his staff working alongside then-Attorney General and Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Lungren’s staff to come up with something that worked for everyone.

But when he eventually brought the legislation forward in 1999, it required a 2/3 vote because it involved an $8.7 million appropriation for the research, he said. He had 23 votes lined up in the state Senate, and four additional Republicans — Jim Brulte, John Lewis, Tim Leslie and someone else he couldn’t remember today (looks from the roll call as if it had to be David Kelley, Bruce McPherson or Cathie Wright) — willing to sign on, but none of them wanted to be the 27th and final vote that tipped the bill over into passage.

So, Vasconcellos said, the four Republican Senators agreed to all say “aye” in unison so that none of them (or, I suppose, all of them) would be the final vote.

Posted on Wednesday, February 17th, 2010
Under: California State Senate, marijuana | No Comments »

Campaign updates: To debate, or not to debate?

The Republican U.S. Senate primary campaign of Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, R-Irvine, advised reporters today that one of his rivals, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, “is trying to shut down a proposed candidate debate at the California Republican Party spring convention” while declining another debate invitation from Brandman University (although Fiorina did apparently accept an invitation from ABC News and the League of Women Voters for a primary debate on May 6 in Los Angeles).

Chuck DeVore“We’re assiduous about not making allegations we can’t source,” DeVore spokesman Joshua Trevino told me this evening – most of the time. “I can’t share how we know the Fiorina people are aggressively trying to quash the CRP debate, I can only assure you it is so.”

Well, a lot of California Republican Party insiders certainly seem to want the candidates to debate. FlashReport publisher and CRP Vice Chairman Jon Fleischman told me this evening that in his contacts with various campaigns and GOP insiders, “I have not sensed that Fiorina is not willing to debate, but I sensed a reticence on the part of her campaign to relinquish her keynote position at the convention luncheon in order to debate.”

California Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring said as of now, no debate is scheduled.

“If all of the candidates for Senate or governor came to me and said ‘we want to do a debate at the convention,’ then we would put one on, but absent that, I’ve got to hold a convention,” he said this evening. “At the end of the day, the show must go on.”

Carly FiorinaFiorina spokeswoman Julie Soderlund got back to me shortly after both the above conversations to note that Nehring had invited Fiorina to keynote the lunch back in December, and she had promptly accepted. “Carly looks forward to her speech and to a full compliment of convention activities over the weekend,” Soderlund said. “We have received no invitation to a debate at the convention.”

Of course, Nehring’s invitation for Fiorina to keynote happened before Tom Campbell switched from the GOP gubernatorial primary to this race, shaking up the contest’s dynamics considerably. And Campbell spokesman Jamie Fisfis told me tonight that “we are always open to debates. We have a zillion invites and this would be an important one.”

(UPDATE @ 8:06 P.M.: This just in from California Republican Party Chief Operating Officer Brent Lowder:
“A series of discussions on convention debates were held at the staff level with statewide campaigns in recent months; however, no formal invitations were extended. After recent internal discussion, the CRP has decided not to make any changes to the 2010 Spring Convention agenda involving debates.
“We look forward to an exciting convention that will showcase all of our major candidates and will be the staging ground for a united and energized California Republican Party to achieve important victories in the upcoming general election campaign.”)

(UPDATE @ 2:14 P.M. THURSDAY: Yet more from Lowder, just now: “Based on some confusion arising from my statement yesterday on potential convention debates, I would like to clarify the exact position of the California Republican Party. We are currently moving forward with a convention that has no planned debates in the GOP primaries for Governor or United States Senate because our discussions with the campaigns did not indicate that all candidates would participate. If we were to hear from all of the major candidates in either of those primaries that they would like the CRP to facilitate a debate at the convention, we would be pleased to do so.”)

Meanwhile, incumbent U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., announced she’ll file her candidacy documents in person Thursday at the Riverside County Registar of Voters – she has a home in Rancho Mirage – before lunching with supporters in Riverside. She owns a condo up here in Oakland, too, but making a media event out of filing in a red county seems to have more of a centrist “je ne sais quoi,” no?

Today’s minor happenings in the gubernatorial and state Attorney General races, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, February 17th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, 2010 governor's race, Attorney General, Barbara Boxer, Carly Fiorina, Chuck DeVore, Jerry Brown, Republican Party, Tom Campbell, U.S. Senate | 2 Comments »

The Recovery Act, one year later

Today is the one-year anniversary of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and the rhetoric is flying hot and heavy.

The President’s Council of Economic Advisers, chaired by former Cal professor Christina Romer, estimates 256,000 California jobs were created or saved by the Recovery Act in 2009; more than $34.8 billion in Recovery funds have been made available to the state, with more than $22.4 billion already spent.

That includes $3.5 billion for 1,041 transportation projects; 5,663 Recovery Act-backed small business loans supporting more than $3.4 billion in lending; about $6.4 billion in tax relief for 12.6 million California working families through the Making Work Pay credit; expanded unemployment benefits for more than 2.5 million Californians; more than $1.3 billion in one-time economic relief payments of $250 each to more than 5.2 million California seniors, veterans, and other high-need residents; funding of almost $50,000 education positions; and more than $6.5 billion available to stave off additional MediCal cuts.

California’s unemployment rate remains at 12.4 percent, well above the 10 percent national rate, and Republicans’ mantra has become “Where are the jobs?” To that, the Obama Administration replies:

(click graph to enlarge)

Real gross domestic product — the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States — grew at an annual 2.2 percent in 2009’s third quarter and 5.7 percent in the fourth quarter; compare that to minus 6.4 percent during the recession’s deepest point, 2009’s first quarter.

As Brad DeLong, a University of California, Berkeley economics professor and a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, put it on the stimulus’ six-month anniversary, “(j)ob losses are a lagging indicator and will be three or four months behind what’s happening to production. You’ve got to turn production around before you can turn employment around.”

In other words, employment trends don’t turn on a dime, and it’s going to be a long slow slog back to pre-recession levels as employers regain their confidence enough to hire.

Lots of spin from both sides of the aisle, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, February 17th, 2010
Under: Carly Fiorina, Dianne Feinstein, economy, George Miller, John Boehner, Obama presidency, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 1 Comment »