Perata’s tobacco tax qualfied for 2012 primary

The California Cancer Research Act, a tobacco-tax-for-cancer-research ballot measure that Oakland mayoral candidate and former state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata helped launch and fund, was certified yesterday by Secretary of State Debra Bowen for the Feb. 7, 2012 presidential primary election ballot.

As I’d reported when they submitted the petition signatures at the end of June, Perata and his allies – including the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, American Lung Association and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids – hope the high voter turnout of a presidential election year will help the measure, even as it’s attacked by the tobacco industry and anti-tax groups.

But the way I see it, the 2012 Democratic presidential primary isn’t likely to be heavily contested, as incumbent President Barack Obama presumably will seek a second term; the Republican presidential primary is much likelier to be a hot fight, with more press, advertising and voter turnout. And Republicans are far less likely than Democrats to vote for taxes of any kind.

The Attorney General’s official title and summary of the initiative is as follows:

IMPOSES ADDITIONAL TAX ON CIGARETTES FOR CANCER RESEARCH. INITIATIVE STATUTE. Imposes additional five cent tax on each cigarette distributed ($1.00 per pack), and an equivalent tax increase on other tobacco products, to fund cancer research and other specified purposes. Requires tax revenues be deposited into a special fund to finance research and research facilities focused on detecting, preventing, treating, and curing cancer, heart disease, emphysema, and other tobacco-related diseases, and to finance prevention programs. Creates nine-member committee charged with administering the fund. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Increase in new cigarette tax revenues of about $855 million annually by 2011-12, declining slightly annually thereafter, for various health research and tobacco-related programs. Increase of about $45 million annually to existing health, natural resources, and research programs funded by existing tobacco taxes. Increase in state and local sales taxes of about $32 million annually. (09-0097.)

To qualify, it needed 433,971 valid petition signatures, which is 5 percent of the total votes cast for governor in the November 2006 general election. But an initiative can qualify via random sampling, without further verification, if the sampling projects a number of valid signatures greater than 110 percent of the required number; this initiative needed at least 477,369 projected valid signatures to qualify by random sampling, and it did so.


Marriage bill: religious freedom or ‘Trojan horse?’

My article in yesterday’s editions reported upon a Presbyterian minister who’s been put on trial this week by her church for having solemnized same-sex marriages during the five months in 2008 when it was legal in California to do so, but still forbidden by the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s constitution.

Meanwhile, a pending bill would ensure that clergy members whose faiths oppose same-sex marriage are never forced into solemnizing such relationships, no matter what state law says about civil marriage. But SB 906 by state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, faces some opposition from some sections of the religious community.

William May, chairman of the San Francisco-based Catholics for the Common Good, last month called the bill “a Trojan horse sponsored by the opponents of Prop 8. It is another slap at the 7 million voters who passed it.”

“The sponsor, Equality California, is trying to manufacture on their own a ‘civil’ class of marriage that is independent of marriage as a reality of nature,” he wrote. “It is clear this bill will be used to fool the voters into thinking there is a difference between religious and civil marriage and that same-sex ‘marriage’ will have no impact on churches and people of faith.”

The California Family Council opposes SB 906 for the same reason, as does Concerned Women for America of California.

I understand what they’re saying about Proposition 8’s ban on marriage being the will of the electorate, but there is an effective difference between religious marriage and civil marriage: If you don’t get a civil marriage certificate, your marriage isn’t recognized in California, and you don’t need a clergy member to sign that certificate. Read a deconstruction of May’s arguments here.

Said Leno, back in May: “This bill simply affirms that California is a diverse state and that we can all co-exist and make space for each others’ beliefs without compromising the beliefs of any religious group or individual. With the Civil Marriage Religious Freedom Act, churches and clergy members who fear their religious views are threatened by marriage equality will have clear and solid protections under state law. In addition, churches that welcome same-sex couples will continue to fully recognize those families within their faith.”

The Assembly approved SB 906 last Thursday on a 51-26 vote; Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, and Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, R-San Diego, joined with Democrats to support it. It now goes back to the state Senate – which approved it 23-11 in May – briefly for concurrence with a technical change, and then it’s headed for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s desk.


CoCo election previews set for taping

The tapings of the traditional election previews of Contra Costa County races will be held Tuesday through Thursday.

Is it tape anymore? Probably not. I’m sure it’s all digital.

But I digress. Here is an FAQ about the round-table election forums, which the Contra Costa Times has helped produce for more than a decade.

What races will be included?

Antioch City Council, Antioch Unified School District, Assembly District 11, Assembly District 15, Brentwood City Council, Clayton City Council, Concord City Council, Congressional District 10, Congressional District 11, Congressional District 7, District Attorney, Hercules City Council, Lafayette City Council, Liberty Union High School District (Brentwood), Martinez City Council, Martinez Mayor, Moraga Town Council, Mt. Diablo Unified School District, Oakley City Council, Orinda City Council, Pleasant Hill City Council, San Pablo City Council, San Ramon Valley Unified School District, Walnut Creek City Council, Walnut Creek School District

Who pays for the production?

The largest financial contributor continues to be the Lesher Foundation of Walnut Creek. The other backers, in money or staffing or both, are the Contra Costa Times, Contra Costa Council, Contra Costa TV, Contra Costa Elections Department and Scholar-Olli from Cal-State East Bay. Unlike prior years,  Comcast no longer staffs a public access television studio and cannot provide valuable crew for the show. Instead, the cities Walnut Creek, Richmond and Concord have generously allowed us the use of their talented staff.

A lot of races are not on this list. How are the races selected?

Unfortunately, there are far more races than we have money.

Several months ago, we established a priority list: Federal, state, county, city, school boards and special districts. After the filing deadline passed and we knew which races would be contested, we started from the top of the list and worked our way down until we had filled 25 slots.

It is not how I would have selected the races. I would have preferred we focus on the most competitive races rather than spend time on the races where the incumbent is overwhelmingly favored to win. But that involves a judgment call about what constitutes “competitive” and the other sponsors wanted to use a more objective selection process.

Will all the candidates participate?

The vast majority of the candidates have agreed to participate. But unfortunately, it is not possible to craft a three-day schedule that meshes with everyone’s schedule. In the case of a few school teacher candidates, we did run up against the first week of school and those candidates will be permitted to send someone to make a statement on their behalf.

The only candidate to outright decline is Assembly District 15 GOP nominee and San Ramon Abram Wilson. His campaign says he is “too busy” to appear on any of the three days of recording.

That would be unfortunate. We do not cancel a segment for any reason other than a legitimate excuse, i.e., illness or a job demand. If Wilson doesn’t show, we will move ahead with Democratic Assemblywoamn Joan Buchanan, who will have the entire 30 minutes to herself. We are still hoping he will change his mind.

What about the cities of Richmond and Pinole, Assembly District 14 and the West Contra Costa Unified School District? Why aren’t they are on the list?

The West Contra Costa League of Women voters chose to conduct the candidate forums in these races in a different venue rather than collaborate with the Diablo Valley League of Women voters.  I’ll keep you posted when I receive information about their plans.

Who wrote the questions?

I compiled the questions with the help of the beat reporters. I have spent the past week going through the clips and working to understand the major issues of each of the 25 jurisdictions that will rotate through the television studio in the next three days.

No one outside the Contra Costa Times will see the questions, including the other sponsors.

A few candidates or their campaign managers have called and asked about the questions. Here is what I told them: “If you know the issues in your community, none of the questions will surprise you.”

What is the format?

As the moderator, I will conduct a round-table style discussion with the candidates about the major issues in the race. It is my job to make sure that each candidate has equal opportunity to address each of the issues. The candidates will end with a closing statement of 1 to 2 minutes, depending on the number of candidates in the race.

Most of the segments are 30 minutes. We expanded the time on several races, including Antioch and Concord, due to the large number of candidates.

When and where will the segments air?

Contra Costa TV is coordinating the air dates with Comcast, the cities and other providers of public access television. The county’s channel, for example, is Channel 26. We will publish a complete air date schedule next week and stories, complete with the airing schedule, will start appearing in the newspaper next week.

I don’t have cable. Will the round-tables be available online?

Yes, at www.contracostatimes.com. Give us a week or so for post-production. I’ll post their availability on the blog as soon as they go up.

Are the tapings open to the public?

No. The Contra Costa TV studio is very small and we simply don’t have room to accommodate a live audience.

The election is not until Nov. 2. Why are you recording the previews so early?

We moved the recording sessions up a few weeks from our typical schedule due to the growing numbers of people who vote by mail. The vote-by-mail ballots go out the first week of October and if we wait until after Labor Day to conduct the preview recordings, it doesn’t provide as much time for the public to watch the segments prior to the arrival of their ballots.

Granted, many voters wait until the last week to mail those ballots but we want to provide more voter education. That is, after all, the reason why we produce the previews.


Some cheers, some boos; mostly indifference to the bobblehead battle between Whitman and Brown

Meg Whitman fans grabbed up bobbleheads faster than Jerry Brown fans at Friday night’s Sacramento River Cats game, which brought to mind Brown campaign manager Steve Glazer’s prediction that Whitman would likely buy out all the dolls ahead of time.

Not that that happened, though there were quite a few well-dressed folks who walked through the VIP glass doors, where Whitman dolls went like wildfire.

Perhaps if Roger Salazar, director of the labor-backed independent expenditure group, California Working Families for Brown for Governor 2010, had taken things more seriously and showed up earlier to the game, things would have been different.

“I’m just here for the game,” he said, having arrived a good half hour after the last of the 2,500 bobbleheads were given out.

When the River Cats announced Whitman had won, there were some cheers, some boos, but mostly indifference from a crowd that was there for the game with the Iowa Cubs, to see in person Hall of Famer and would-be Chicago Cubs manager Ryne Sandberg, and, especially, for the $1 hot dogs and ice cream bars.

The loudest cheers came as fans clamored for free t-shirts being launched into the stands.

Young Republicans were definitely better at the between-innings competitions, winning the chad-punching relay race and the fish-pole “vote casting,” though the public address announcer accused Republicans of cheating on the latter.

Some fans took the bobblehead competition seriously. Take for instance Ellen Frosch of Sacramento. “I wanted a Meg Whitman and they were out. they said ‘we have Jerry Browns,’ and I said no thank you.”

Fairfield teacher Monica Brown, wearing a Tom Torlakson for State Superintendent t-shirt, told a story of having dispatched her son on the Capitol Corridor train early to make sure she would get a Brown doll. She was worried that they’d be out by the time she arrived at 6 p.m.

“He got there at 3 p.m. and was the first in line, and it turned out I got there in time, too,” said Brown, not related to the Democratic candidate, though a Solano County Democratic official. “I’ll keep mine and take his and when we have a crab feed next year, we’ll put it out for a fund-raising gift. I think we’ll get $100 for it, easy, especially after Brown wins.”

R.J. Mann and his wife Rayma, of Ione, lounged at a picnic table outside the gates prior to the game without much interest in getting in line for the bobbleheads.

“It’s not the vote that counts tonight,” R.J. said playfully. “I don’t know if you know.”

Chuck Gardner of Sacramento said it didn’t matter which doll he got.

“You can have both of them. I don’t care for either one of them. I’d use them in target practice as far as I’m concerned. Why not? I have an Arnold Schwarzenegger one. I’ll just line ’em all up.”

Brenda Dawson and Zac Jereb of Davis got one of each.

“We agreed to do that so they could duke it out,” Dawson said. “It’s not representative of how we’re voting.”


Rep. Miller will keynote business lunch

Rep. George Miller

Rep. George Miller

Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, will keynote the luncheon meeting of the Contra Costa Council and its Small Business Task Force from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. on Aug. 25 at the Holiday Inn in Concord.

Miller will speak on small business issues and provide an update from the Capitol.

Reservations are due by noon on Aug. 23. The event is open to the public.

The cost is $35 for members and elected officials and $45 for nonmembers. Contact the council at 925-246-1880  or www.contracostacouncil.com.


Richmond councilman weds

Jim Rogers and Kristin Rosekrans

Jim Rogers and Kristin Rosekrans

Richmond Councilman Jim Rogers, 54, wed Kristin Rosekrans, 40, on Saturday in Pt. Richmond, confirmed the honeymooning elected official from a cruise ship off the coast of Alaska.

Rogers included the photo when he responded to my email inquiry about acquiring copies of some of his campaign finance reports. (And yes, he had the reports sent to me.)

Here is what fellow Richmond Councilman Tom Butt posted on his email forum:

Jim Rogers and Kristin Rosekrans were married at Keller’s Beach in Point Richmond, followed by a celebration at their new home nearby. Kristin is originally from Berkeley but has spent much of the last ten years abroad, teaching in Ghana and El Salvador. In Ghana, she was Associate Director for Literacy Programs at the Education Development Center in Accra, Ghana. More recently, she has been the Senior Education Advisor for USAID in San Salvador, EL Salvador.

She earned a Master of Education in International Education Policy at Harvard and is working on her PhD at Cal Berkeley while continuing to teach. She is published in education journals, including “Influencing Education Policy Using Participatory Research and Informed Dialogue: Lessons from El Salvador.”

Kristin’s father presided at the ceremony.

Jim and Kristin met the modern way, on line. Jim joked that it’s a good thing she has been out of the country so long because she had never seen a People’s Lawyer commercial. They are off to Alaska for a honeymoon and presumably will be back in time for resumption of City Council business in September.