New study shows pluses, minuses of open primaries

The nonpartisan Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles has released an excellent analysis of the impacts of Proposition 14, the open primary initiative on the June 8 ballot.

The authors’ chief conclusions support proponents’ arguments that open primaries could generate more competition, increase the number of moderates in elected office and boost the impact of nonpartisan, or decline to state voters.

But the experts also agree that it could hike the cost of campaigns and the role that money plays in elections.

Click here to read my news story.

Proposition 14, if voters pass it, will eliminate the party primary system in California. Voters could choose among all the candidates, regardless of party registration. The top two vote-getters would advance to the general election, also without regard for party affiliation.

A reluctant Legislature placed the measure on the ballot in exchange for then GOP state Sen. Abel Maldonado’s vote in favor of the 2009 California budget.

Predictably, the political parties hate it.

But proponents hail the measure as an essential governance reform that could lead to the election of more centrists and ease the political ideological polarization in Sacramento.

To read the 113-page report, visit www.cgs.org. The report contains a concise and very readable executive summary for the less wonky readers.


Bay Area firms land energy research grants

The U.S. Department of Energy today announced 10 California projects – including nine in the Bay Area – will get $34.5 million for research that could change how the nation uses and produces energy.

The grants are part of a total $106 million handed out to 37 projects in 17 states through the department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).

“Thanks to the Recovery Act, dozens of cutting-edge research projects with the potential to dramatically transform how we use energy in this country will now be able to get underway,” Vice President Joe Biden said in announcing the awards. “By investing in our top researchers, we’re not only continuing in the spirit of American innovation, but helping build a competitive American clean energy industry that will create secure jobs here at home for years to come.”

The California grants announced today include:

  • $4,996,311 to the PolyPlus Battery Company of Berkeley to develop rechargeable Lithium-Air batteries for electric vehicle use;
  • $4,657,045 to Codexis Inc. of Redwood City for research in using enzymes and certain techniques to capture more carbon dioxide from the discharges of coal-fired power plants;
  • $4,373,990 to Applied Materials Inc. of Santa Clara for development of a new, low-cost manufacturing process for ultra-high energy lithium-ion batteries;
  • $4 million to the University of California, Los Angeles to use synthetic biology and metabolic engineering techniques to let microorganisms use electricity instead of sunlight for converting carbon dioxide into alcohol fuels that can be high-octane gasoline substitutes;
  • $3,948,493 to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to engineer a common soil bacterium to produce butanol and hydrocarbons from carbon dioxide and hydrogen and produce its own hydrogen by splitting water in the presence of electricity;
  • $3,665,000 to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to develop synthetic small-molecule catalysts that greatly speed up the absorption of carbon dioxide, allowing for g advanced solvents that bind the gas less tightly and so reduce the energy needed to release the gas afterwards;
  • $3,663,696 to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to use robotic instrumentation tools and computational algorithms to speed development of metal organic framework materials to better capture carbon dioxide at coal-fired power plants;
  • $3,204,080 to Pellion Technologies Inc. of Menlo Park to develop a the world’s first cheap, rechargeable commercial magnesium-ion battery for electric and hybrid-electric cars;
  • $1,000,000 to Stanford University to develop an “All-Electron Battery,” a completely new class of electrical energy storage devices for electric cars; and
  • $1,000,000 to Recapping Inc. of Menlo Park to develop a novel energy storage device – a high energy density capacitor – based on a 3D nanocomposite structure.
  • A third round of ARPA-E funding opportunities was announced in March with project selections to be announced this summer.


    Contra Costa Council hosts water forum

    The Contra Costa Council hosted today a water panel, featuring some of the state’s foremost voices in California’s effort to implement sweeping water legislation adopted last year.

    Watch video of the hour-long discussion below. The panelists presented mostly a status report of where the implementation process sits and an outline of the key issues.

    Panelists include California Natural Resources Agency Secretary Lester Snow, Delta Stewardship Council Chairman Phil Isenberg, Delta Protection Commission Executive Director Linda Fiack and Contra Costa Supervisor and Delta Protection Commission member Mary Nejedly Piepho.


    TEA Party will boycott San Francisco

    Let’s get this straight.

    San Francisco is boycotting Arizona over its immigration crackdown. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has even put the kibosh on all those city employee golf, er, business, trips to Phoenix.

    Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg wants California to follow suit.

    And now, California TEA Party groups  are boycotting San Francisco with a protest march in …  San Francisco.

    President and founder of the Pleasanton/NorCal TEA Party, Dr. Bridget Melson, sent out an announcement of the May 1 event, which will start at 2 p.m. at the Civic Center at 24th and Mission streets.

    “I say spend your money anywhere else than in San Francisco, vacation elsewhere, dine elsewhere — if you protest (in San Francisco), bring your own food, coffee and water,” she said in her news release.

    I guess that means they won’t be stopping for a sourdough bread bowl at Fisherman’s Wharf?

    Read on for the full news release:

    Continue Reading


    Lee to host health care forum Friday in Oakland

    Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, will host a discussion on the health care reform bill from 1 to 3 p.m. this Friday, April 30, in Evergreen Missionary Baptist Church, 408 W. MacArthur Blvd. in Oakland.

    Lee’s office says she’ll be joined by “a diverse group of health care experts” speaking on how, and on what timeline, the new laws will affect people and families. Seating is limited, so please RSVP to HealthRSVP2010@mail.house.gov or (510) 763-0370.

    The event should be an interesting bookend to the one she held last June at the very same church, at which she had urged progressives to keep demanding a single-payer health care system to ensure that any reform package passed by Congress would at least have a robust public option. In the end, of course, it had neither.


    Chris Kelly pumps $4 million more into AG bid

    Former Facebook chief privacy officer Chris Kelly of Palo Alto announced today he’s putting another $4 million of his own money into his campaign for the Democratic nomination for state Attorney General, essentially doubling his previous investments that had totalled $4,006,500.

    Chris KellyThe $8 million total accounts for all but a small fraction of his campaign war chest, as major donors have flocked instead to San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris and former Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, the best-known names in the Democratic primary race. Also in the race are Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico, D-Newark; Assemblyman Ted Lieu, D-Torrance; Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara; and Emeryville attorney Mike Schmier.

    Kelly’s double-down comes a week after Harris floated results of a poll she had commissioned showing her in the lead at 25 percent, followed by Delgadillo at 9 percent; Lieu, Nava and Torrico each at 4 percent; and Kelly at 2 percent – Kelly’s number being down six percentage points from February despite his self-funding and an aggressive media campaign including efforts to tie Harris to the San Francisco Police crime-lab scandal. Some say that’s because he’s getting dragged down by the sinking reputation of Facebook, where he’d helped formulate some now-unpopular privacy policies.