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Archive for July, 2010

National Dems will buy airtime for McNerney

David Harmer

David Harmer, CD11 GOP nominee

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has selected Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, as one of 40 members of Congress whose districts will see a share of the $28 million worth of television airtime it has reserved leading up to the November election, according to the New York Times Caucus Blog.

The NYT described the inclusion of McNerney, among others, as a sign of worry from Democratic leaders. Democrats hope to stem an expected loss of seats in the mid-term election and retain majority control.

The GOP equivalent, the National Republican Congressional Committee, quickly declared the move as evidence that McNerney (and the other 39 Democrats) is in political trouble despite national analysts’ ratings that place the CD11 race in the Democrat’s court.

As one might expect, the campaign of McNerney’s challenger, Republican attorney David Harmer of Dougherty Valley, wholeheartedly concurred.

“It’s not unexpected that McNerney will receive help from (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi’s leadership,” said Harmer campaign spokesman Tim Clark. “(McNerney) has been a lockstep vote for her big-spending legislation time and again.  The Democrats are simply acknowledging that McNerney is in real trouble because of his votes for bigger government and more deficit spending.”

The New York Times blog says that the party selected the 40 districts “based on polling, candidate fund-raising and the strength of Republican opposition.”

Posted on Thursday, July 22nd, 2010
Under: 2010 election, congressional district 11 | 5 Comments »

Bay Area Dems push ‘public option’ health bill

Two Bay Area House members have helped introduce a bill to create a public health insurance option that would compete with private insurers in the Health Insurance Exchanges created by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act health care reform signed into law by President Barack Obama earlier this year.

Reps. Pete Stark, D-Fremont; Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma; and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., say the Congressional Budget Office estimates H.R. 5808 would save $68 billion from 2014 to 2020, and that the public option would have, on average, premiums 5 to 7 percent lower than private plans in the Exchanges.

“Today, Consumers Union reported that Blue Cross Blue Shield plans amassed billions in surpluses as they raised rates for millions of Americans,” Stark, who chairs the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, said in a news release issued as the lawmakers held a Capitol Hill news conference today. “This is a good example of why we need a public option – to create an insurance plan that competes based on delivering quality, efficient care, not on delivering profits to shareholders. The result is more competition, better coverage, and lower premiums for millions of Americans.”

Woolsey, who co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said that as the deficit keeps growing, “so does the need for a program that can save billions of dollars and improve health care while doing it. The robust public option offers lower-cost competition to private insurance companies. This will make insurance more affordable for those who do not have it and keep insurance affordable for those who do.”

Among the bill’s 128 original co-sponsors are Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; George Miller, D-Martinez; John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove; Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; and Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose.

Absent from that list, for those keeping count, is Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, who’s generally thought to be the only Bay Area Democratic incumbent in a tough re-election race this November. However, McNerney serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which will be this bill’s first stop, so perhaps we’ll see where he stands on this soon enough.

Posted on Thursday, July 22nd, 2010
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, George Miller, healthcare reform, Jackie Speier, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Honda, Pete Stark, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 6 Comments »

Another conservative seeks to take on Pete Stark

Is there a TEA Party fly in the Republican ointment in the 13th Congressional District, or vice versa?

Most of the local “TEA Party” conservatives had seemed to gravitate toward “Coach” Luis Garcia, 49, of Fremont, an information technology worker at Cisco Systems, in last month’s GOP primary as their man to challenge Rep. Pete Stark in November.

Forest BakerBut business executive Forest Baker, 62, won the GOP primary with almost 55 percent of the vote to Garcia’s 45 percent. Baker as of last October was registered to vote at an address in Mountain View, which lies in Rep. Anna Eshoo’s 14th Congressional District; Congressional candidates are not, however, required to live within the bounds of the district in which they seek election, only within the same state.

Now information is circulating on at least one local conservative mailing list urging people to take a look at Chris Pareja, who apparently is working to get on November’s ballot as an independent. From the message I received:

He is an excellent conservative candidate – the only conservative in the race. Forest Baker is the Republican candidate, but is a RINO who believes the Constitution is a living document and does not need to be strictly adhered to. He has no chance to beat Stark, but Pareja can get votes from independents and Democrats, as well as Republicans if he can get enough signatures on his petition to get on the ballot.

Chris ParejaPareja, 38, of Hayward, runs the Pleasanton-based B2B Power Exchange, a business networking outfit. On his website, he describes himself as a “Tea Party Independent” galvanized into political activity by last year’s health-care reform debate.

“I am sick and tired of the ‘Democrat’ versus ‘Republican’ bickering. In fact, I find that when I remove the labels, Americans agree on issues 70% of the time!” he wrote. “Democrats, Independents and Republicans have all told me they feel America has been hijacked by career politicians that believe they can dictate what is best for the people. But every day, citizens – many of whom have never watched politics very closely – are starting to wake up to what is happening in Washington DC (and Sacramento), and they want to put their country back on track.”

Posted on Wednesday, July 21st, 2010
Under: 2010 election, Pete Stark, U.S. House | 6 Comments »

Trouble brewing for Whitman among conservatives?

Meg Whitman could have a conservative revolt on her hands over her shifting positions on illegal immigration. Just listen in on the John and Ken show that aired earlier this week.

The two popular conservative talk show hosts, John Kobyit and Ken Chiampou, for Los Angeles radio station, KFI, were apoplectic over what they considered to be Whitman’s “pandering” to Latino voters by reversing herself on a number of issues, including workplace raids. They bashed her new Spanish-language ad, and are urging listeners on their Web site to “call Meg Whitman and tell her not to take your vote for granted and to stop pandering to the open borders crowd.”

They also urge listeners to “bombard” her Facebook page. “We are catching wind they are removing any and all criticisms of her immigration pandering.”

Ken Chiampou complained of the two “completely different campaigns” Whitman’s running — “one where she’s making it clear to illegal aliens that they’re welcome in California and nothing bad will happen to them while she’s governor.

“And the other version of her campaign, where she’s talking to whites, blacks, Asians and other Hispanics who hate illegal immigration. She’s trying to give us signals like, ‘don’t worry, I’m not going to put up with this crap anymore and we’re going to get a handle on whatever we can do.’

“You can’t have it both ways! We’re going to keep the pressure on her on her until she explains these contradictory messages.

“She’s definitely got two distinct messages and they’re incompatible with one another other. And you people in the Whitman war room, don’t even try to spin it, ok?

“I can see you’re trying to spin this, you’re trying to square the circle with this, but you can’t do it. It’s not possible. The more you do it, the more bad coverage you’re going to get.”

Whitman is beginning to emphasize more heavily her opposition to the Arizona illegal immigration law now that she’s appealing to Latino voters, Ken Chiampou said.

“Now, why is she so anti the Arizona law? Because she doesn’t want to piss off Latino voters. I want her to admit that. Because there’s no reason to be against the Arizona law,” Chiampou said. “There can’t be any real reason for it other than she doesn’t want to piss off Hispanic voters. … Why wouldn’t she push for an Arizona-type law? If it’s needed in Arizona, it’s certainly needed here. … I’m trying to find out where her heart and mind is.”

“We’ll talk about this every day until Nov. 2. We definitely can cost her more than a few points” in the polls, Chiampou said.

They couldn’t believe that Whitman wouldn’t appear on their show to face questions.

“We reached out to her for her to appear on our show and she ‘s not available!” said John Kobyit.

“She should be available,” Ken said. “She’s he’s got a cellphone She should call now and explain herself. And you know what? I’d like to have her explain herself and not have to run through 16 filters with her stupid campaign consultants. These campaign consultants, they’re an ugly, stupid bunch of people.”

They then ran through a handful of emails from conservative listeners who threatened to sit out the election if Whitman doesn’t buckle down on illegal immigration.

One, from Peggy, went like this: “I can’t tell you how offended I was last night when you played the 30-second commercial that talked about Latino children being the future. B.S.! My son is the future. We sent him to a private school because of the threat of bilingual education.”


Posted on Wednesday, July 21st, 2010
Under: Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

Was the state collecting all the rent it was due?

A state lawmaker used an East Bay example today to illustrate his request an investigation into whether the State Lands Commission has failed to collect fair market value in rent for publicly-owned lands held in trust, even during the height of the real-estate boom.

Dave CogdillState Sen. Dave Cogdill, R-Modesto, sent a letter asking that the Joint Legislative Audit Committee (of which he’s a member) authorize the State Auditor to examine the issue.

“The State Lands Commission, effectively the state’s landlord for publicly-owned properties, may have been shortchanging California taxpayers for decades by charging tenants rock-bottom rent for prime properties, even during the height of the real estate boom,” Cogdill, who chairs the Senate Select Committee on Surplus Property, said in a news release.

A 1984 state audit recommended that the Commission change how it collects rent and appraises properties, yet there has been no follow-up to verify that those changes were made, he said.

As an example he cited USS-POSCO, a steel company that continued to occupy 490 acres of state-owned land in Pittsburg for 12 years after the lease expired. The property originally was leased at $235,137 per year, but the Commission only collected a total of $66,784 in back rent during the 12 year period even as California’s land prices peaked.

Cogdill, who formerly owned a real-estate appraisal business, also says a formula the Commission uses to calculate lease rates hasn’t been updated since 1980.

“Considering these are just a few examples of mismanagement out of the 4.5 million acres of public land managed by the State Lands Commission, potentially millions in taxpayer dollars have been lost,” he said. “Ensuring the state collects fair market value in rent for our taxpayer-owned properties plays a vital and timely role in easing our state’s continued budget crisis.”

The Joint Legislative Audit Committee will vote at its Aug. 4 hearing on whether to approve Cogdill’s audit request.

Posted on Wednesday, July 21st, 2010
Under: California State Senate, Dave Cogdill | No Comments »

LAO releases proposition analyses

The independent Legislative Analyst’s Office has released its reports on the ballot propositions on the Nov. 2 general election.

These reports are invaluable for folks who want unbiased information.

Click here for the reports.

Posted on Wednesday, July 21st, 2010
Under: ballot measures | 1 Comment »

State names I-680 for Boatwright

Daniel E. Boatwright

Daniel E. Boatwright

Caltrans unveiled this morning near Martinez a sign denoting Interstate 680 between the Benicia Bridge and the Highway 24 interchange the “Senator Daniel E. Boatwright Highway.”

The former Concord mayor and retired state senator led the quest for state money to expand Interstate 680 and build the Highway 24 interchange, construction that dramatically improved the commute through the heart of Contra Costa County about 15 years ago.

Click here to read my story of the ceremony and the luncheon.

I also captured some of the event on video, including portions of short ceremony on the shoulder of Interstate 680 near Martinez. At the luncheon in Concord, I recorded comments by state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, author of the naming bill, and those of the funny and charismatic 80-year-old Boatwright.

About two dozen people attended the dedication, including four former Concord mayors — Michael Pastrick, Bill McManigal, DeSaulnier and Steve Weir, the county’s election chief and a former Boatwright staffer.

In the first two videos, Boatwright is flanked by DeSaulnier, former congressman and state legislator Bill Baker and Caltrans Director Bijan Sartipi. The third video features DeSaulnier’s comments, followed by Boatwright’s comments in the fourth and final segment.

Posted on Tuesday, July 20th, 2010
Under: Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics | 4 Comments »

California’s Pet Rock, Part III

First I wrote last week about SB 624, legislation to revoke the status of serpentine, which can contain asbestos, as California’s official state rock on the basis that it’s a symbol conveying a deadly legacy. Then I wrote about an industrial anti-lawsuit group’s opposition to the bill, on the basis that it’s a stalking horse for expanded asbestos litigation.

Now comes a statement from the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), which is working with the John McNamara Foundation and the Pacific Heart, Lung and Blood Institute on a “Drop the Rock” campaign.

“What is abundantly clear from what began as a City of Manhattan Beach resolution over the past three weeks, is that the United States needs to embrace education to prevent occupational and non-occupational exposure to asbestos,” ADAO CEO and co-founder Linda Reinstein said.

“This issue is not about litigation, but education through awareness,” she continued. “Patients and physicians from around the world have applauded our efforts. ADAO respects and understands the geological debate, but this is not about geology; it is about promoting public health through education concerning a rock that contains a known carcinogen among many of its forms. It is not about what serpentine is or is not; it is a question of removing a state-wide symbol that represents a substance, that can, in one of its forms, cause irreversible disease and death as it has to thousands of its victims.”

BBC News picked up on the debate over the weekend, so now it’s truly international news (though we probably crossed that bridge with the New York Times last week).

Still awaiting that Assembly floor vote…

Posted on Tuesday, July 20th, 2010
Under: California State Senate, Gloria Romero | 2 Comments »

Pete Stark offers currency transaction tax bill

A tax on currency transactions could both stablize our finanical system and pay for investments in global health, climate change mitigation and affordable child care, according to Rep. Pete Stark.

“Every day, there are $4 trillion worth of currency transactions,” Stark, D-Fremont, said in a news release. “The vast majority of these are speculative – banks trying to make a buck by out-guessing the system. This speculation contributed to the last Wall Street crisis and makes our financial system less stable.”

“The proceeds of a new tax on currency speculation will be used to provide billions in new funding for important global and domestic priorities. At home, this bill will give more money to affordable child care programs. Globally, it will contribute billions to climate change and world health programs,” added Stark, chairman of the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee.

It’s not a new idea; the late Nobel Laureate economist James Tobin was talking about something like this almost 40 years ago.

Stark’s H.R. 5783, the Investing In Our Future Act, would impose a 0.005 percent fee on the buying and selling of world currencies and on currency derivative transactions by a U.S. person, including domestic corporations, partnerships, subsidiaries of foreign corporations, and individual citizens and residents. Transactions under $10,000 are exempted from the tax. Stark says studies estimate that a worldwide 0.005 percent tax on dollar transactions would raise $28 billion a year and reduce speculative currency trading by 14 percent.

Among groups supporting the bill are ActionAid, Friends of the Earth, RESULTS, Health GAP (Global Access Project), Sustainable Energy and Economy Network at the Institute for Policy Studies, and Africa Action.

UPDATE @ 4:10 P.M.: Forest Baker, the Republican nominee to challenge Stark in November’s election, calls the idea “pretty crazy.” Though the .005 percent rate seems tiny, he said, it would be constantly compounding to ultimately cost currency traders a tremendous slice of their funds.

“That would never be tolerated by any of those entities, they would simply close those accounts, and that would then cripple the global financial capitalism mechanism of currency trading,” he said. “That would never happen, and Pete Stark has to know that. … It’s astounding to me that such a thing would even be proposed.”

The tax would be “astoundingly burdensome” both upon those on whom its imposed and for those administering it, Baker continued. “He can’t be that stupid, he’s got to be kidding us or playing politics. It’s possible one of his interns wrote that and he said, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, submit it.’ ”

Posted on Tuesday, July 20th, 2010
Under: Pete Stark, U.S. House | 12 Comments »

Young Dems, GOP Liberty Caucus back Prop. 19

Despite Chairman John Burton urging an endorsement, the California Democratic Party’s Executive Board chose this weekend to remain neutral on Proposition 19, the marijuana-legalization initiative on November’s ballot, and don’t hold your breath waiting for a California Republican Party endorsement.

But that doesn’t mean some Democratic and GOP blocs aren’t solidly behind it. The California Young Democrats, for example, endorsed it this weekend.

“A major part of our campaign strategy will be engaging young and first-time voters who are excited to come to the polls to support our initiative, and we think the Democratic Party will really benefit from the extra turnout that our campaign will provide,” said Yes on Proposition 19 Field Director James Rigdon.

The Young Dems tout the law-enforcement cost savings as well as the potential local tax revenue legalization and taxation could bring in. Far over on the other side of the aisle, the Republican Liberty Caucus of California – the Ron Paul-loving “Constitutional Republicans” – endorsed the measure this weekend, too, but in a legalzization-without-taxation stance.

“Clearly the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle free men and women living on free soil to grow and smoke marijuana,” said RLCCA Secretary Parke Bostrom. “Prop. 19 respects this right, while at the same time highlighting that under our Constitution, the federal government does not have authority to control the sale and possession of marijuana.”

RLCCA Chairman Matt Heath noted that although Prop. 19 would allow regulation and taxation of the drug, it doesn’t require it. “The RLCCA recommends voting ‘YES’ on Prop. 19, while at the same time strongly opposing any taxes and regulations that local governments may try to impose.”

John Dennis, the Republican nominee to challenge House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the 8th Congressional District, said Prop. 18 would help “restore freedom to adults over what they choose to consume. In addition, it will help reduce violence between rival drug gangs and law enforcement along the U.S./Mexico border. While not perfect, Prop. 19 is a big step in the right direction.”

More on a new, well-known endorser of Prop. 19, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, July 20th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, ballot measures, Democratic Party, Democratic politics, marijuana, Republican Party, Republican politics | 5 Comments »