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Archive for December, 2010

Schwarzenegger taps 70 in what could be last round of appointments

Assuming Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (or at least his appointments chief) is done for the year, here is a statistical accounting of his last round of appointments:

70 appointments to 18 different boards and commissions;
40 Republicans, 29 Democrats and 1 American Independent
30 are reappointments
25 were to the California Partnership, 10 to the California Film Commission, 5 to the Hoover Commission, 5 to the Mental Health Services Oversight & Accountability Commission (all unpaid)
58 will receive no salary and won’t require Senate confirmation
8 will receive $100 per diems but won’t require Senate confirmation
1 will receive a $50 per diem but won’t require Senate confirmation
3 are salaried and will require Senate confirmation:

William Fox to the State Personnel Board for a salary of $40,669. Fox, a Republican, had served as deputy chief of staff for Schwarzenegger since 2006.

Kari Miner to the Public Employer Relations Board for a salary of $128,109. Miner, a Republican, is a consultant to small businesses on image and efficiency.

John Peck to the Board of Parole Hearings for a salary of $111,845. Peck, a Democrat, has served on the board since 2009.

Another appointee of note: Aaron McLear, Schwarzenegger’s press secretary, to the unpaid California Film Commission.

Posted on Friday, December 31st, 2010
Under: Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Regular folks invited to free inaugural hot dog party

One benefit of Gov.-elect Jerry Brown’s union ties: Free hot dogs.

That’s what one union — the Orange County Employees Association — will be serving, along with chips and water, at an inauguration party Jan. 3, open free to regular folks on the Capitol grounds on the North or L street side of the building.

And apparently, the OCEA is know for its “legendary” hot dogs, though if anyone has ever tried the Dodger Dog against its vaunted reputation, you may want to keep expectations lowered.

The event, co-hosted by Sen. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, will go from noon to 2 p.m., after Brown takes his oath of office at 11 a.m. at Memorial Auditorium, and just prior to Brown’s private reception at the California Railroad Museum, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

They’re calling it a celebration of the “people’s governor,” and it’s being carried out in the same low-budget spirit as Brown’s inaugural festivities. Brown’s newly formed inaugural committee is hoping to keep its costs to around $100,000, compared to the multi-million dollar affairs being held across the country for other incoming governors.

The inaugural committee for Rick Scott, Florida’s governor-elect, has raised more than $2.5 million for his events, which include a statewide “appreciation tour” to tout his de-regulation agenda, features concerts, ticketed luncheons in addition to a big parade and inaugural ball.

No word on whether Brown will make an appearance at the people’s party.

Posted on Monday, December 27th, 2010
Under: Uncategorized | 7 Comments »

Let the LAFCO games begin

Four elected officials will seek a Contra Costa Mayors Conference appointment to the powerful Local Agency Formation Commission in a smackdown set for Jan. 6.

Richmond Councilman Tom Butt, Oakley Mayor Jim Frazier, Lafayette City Councilman Don Tatzin and Brentwood Mayor Bob Taylor have submitted their names for a vote. To win, a nominee must receive a majority vote of the members of the conference, which consists of the mayors of the county’s 19 cities. It may take several elimination rounds until one of the nominees secures the required majority.  (Click here for the agenda, nomination letters and other information about meeting, which is open to the public.)

To start, what is the Local Agency Formation Commission? It oversees orderly growth and governs public agency jurisdiction issues including annexations and determines which entity is the most appropriate to deliver services such as water and sewer. It also conducts periodic reviews of the efficiency of services such as fire, law enforcement and water.

Every California county has one and its membership is comprised of appointees from the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors, Mayors Conference, Special Districts Association and the public at-large. The conference seat opened after former Concord Councilwoman Helen Allen chose not to seek re-election.  (Click here for LAFCO’s Web site.)

A Special Districts Association Seat has also opened after former Discovery Bay Community Services District member David Piepho chose not to run for re-election. His seat will be filled at the association’s quarterly Jan. 24 meeting. The Special Districts Association’s appointed alternate, George Schmidt, a director at the West County Wastewater District, is seeking the full voting LAFCO position. Others have been nominated for the opening including Contra Costa Central Sanitary District member Mike McGill, who ran unsuccessfully for the Board of Supervisors in June; Elmer “Al” J. Schaal with Mt. View Sanitary District; Danny Hamby, Byron Sanitary District; and Richard Olsen, Moraga-Orinda Fire District. The nomination deadline is Jan. 5, so there may be more.

LAFCO is a powerful agency. Competing interests within the county, particularly developers and environmentalists, are always jockeying for influence on its board. Geography also plays a role as representatives from the western, eastern and central portions of the county seek a voice on LAFCO’s board.

Among the Mayors Conference candidates, Tatzin has the strongest argument for the appointment. An attorney, he has been a LAFCO alternate for 12 years and has arguably the most knowledge and investment into the agency.

Taylor, a retired liquor distributor, has been lobbying his Mayors Conference colleagues for months. He has been the Mayors Conference chairman and he is hoping those relationships will count during the vote.

Butt hasn’t been active in the Mayors Conference but as the only nominee from the western half of the county, he could rally votes from West Contra Costa. Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin wrote a glowing nomination letter. He is an architect and more than intellectually capable of deciphering LAFCO’s arcane regulatory environment.

Frazier is a general contractor, which may put him in the crosshairs of the environmental community. And he is a new mayor (Oakley rotates mayors each year) and relatively unknown among the Mayors Conference members. But if some of the better-known nominees split the vote and force elimination rounds, Frazier could survive.

Posted on Thursday, December 23rd, 2010
Under: Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics, Landuse and development | 3 Comments »

Santa visits Tauscher early

Tauscher

Tauscher

Christmas has come a little early for former East Bay Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher, now Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security in the U.S. State Department.

The U.S. Senate today in a vote of 71 to 26 ratified a new arms control treaty with Russia that will cap nuclear warheads and restart on-site weapons inspections. As the undersecretary over arms control who reports directly to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Tauscher played a key role in the treaty negotiations.

And earlier today, President Barack Obama signed legislation that ends a ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the U.S. military. Tauscher was the original cosponsor of the bill; she turned it over to Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Pa., before she left Congress in 2009 for her new job.

Tauscher cannot, in her new position, comment on the military legislation she wrote, but sources say Murphy called her Saturday, and in a touching conversation, told the former legislator that the bill “wouldn’t have happened without her.”

Tauscher is under no such prohibition on the subject of the START treaty, although she made her statement as she recovers from esophageal cancer surgery performed earlier this month.

“I want to congratulate the United States Senate for providing its advice and consent to ratification of the new START Treaty,” she said in a statement issued by her office. “I want to commend the senators from both parties who worked to achieve this positive outcome for our country.”

She added, “The new START Treaty is another step that will help move the United States and Russia toward a world of mutual assured stability. This treaty will enhance cooperation with Russia and reinforce the global nuclear nonproliferation regime.”

Tauscher went on to praise a variety of leaders, saying  “The leadership of President (Barack) Obama, Vice President (Joe) Biden, Secretary (of State Hillary) Clinton, Secretary (Robert) Gates, Admiral (Mike) Mullen, and the Director of National Intelligence were indispensable. Once again, I want to thank the Senate for putting U.S. security first and voting for the new START Treaty.”

Posted on Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010
Under: Ellen Tauscher | 9 Comments »

A Merry Christmas for President Obama?

He signed into law landmark health care and financial reforms; the economy continued to grow, albeit slowly; and the last U.S. combat troops were withdrawn from Iraq. Yet President Barack Obama reaches his term’s halfway point under considerable fire, his party having been KOed in the midterm elections; his opponents say he went too far; some among his base say he balked at going far enough.

Obama signs DADT repeal 12-22-10 (AP photo)Has his agenda been neutralized? Hardly. In what’s probably been the least lame lame-duck session of Congress in a long time, the President saw success on his $858 billion Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010; the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal; the New START treaty’s ratification; the medical benefits for 9/11 responders bill, though cut considerably to satisfy Republicans; a food-safety bill; the Defense Authorization spending bill; and a $250 billion stopgap spending bill that keeps the federal government open for business through early March, among other things.

Did all these things make everyone happy? Of course not. Much of the Democratic party’s liberal base is still angry that the richest Americans saw their tax breaks continued and a jacking up of the estate tax exemption; conservatives are stung by letting gays and lesbians serve openly in the military; and so on.

And did he get everything done? Of course not. Senate Republicans succeeded in killing the DREAM Act, a bipartisan bill which would’ve created a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants earning college degrees or serving in the Armed Forces, and a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill.

Is something better than nothing? It depends on who’s asking, who’s answering, and what the “something” is, I suppose. But all in all, it’s hard to see how the weeks since Election Day can be seen as anything but a series of policy and political victories for the President, in large part due to some moderate Republicans who – now freed from having to toe the pre-election GOP line – crossed the aisle to vote for cloture and passage on many of these bills.

So, as 2010 draws to a close, do you think President Obama looks back on the year as a bad one or a good one?

Posted on Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010
Under: Obama presidency | 13 Comments »

AP: Cal prof’s judicial appointment doomed

It looks as if President Barack Obama’s nomination of a Cal law professor to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is dead, and will stay that way. (ed. note: Or not; see the update below.)

Goodwin LiuThe Associated Press reports today that the nomination of Goodwin Liu, associate dean and professor at the University of California, Berkeley Boalt Hall Law School, is one of four on which Senate Democrats have committed not to seek a vote in return for Senate Republicans lifting a blockade on at least 19 other judicial nominees.

The President nominated Liu in February, and although there was GOP opposition right out of the gate, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a confirmation hearing in April and voted 12-7 along party lines in May to send Liu to the full Senate for confirmation. But amid threats of a filibuster, the Senate sent the nomination back to the President in August, refusing to debate and vote before adjourning for its month-long recess. The president resubmitted his nomination in September, and the Judiciary Committee once again voted 12-7 that month to send the nomination to a floor vote.

The GOP didn’t care for Liu’s liberal credentials – he chairs the progressive American Constitution Society’s board of directors; he’s a former member of the boards of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and Chinese for Affirmative Action; and he served on the Obama-Biden Presidential Transition’s education policy and agency review teams – or for his belief that judges should interpret the Constitution not according to “how its general principles would have been applied in 1789 or 1868, but rather how those principles should be applied today in order to preserve their power and meaning in light of the concerns, conditions, and evolving norms of our society.”

UPDATE @ 3:03 P.M.: Not dead yet, apparently.

“Professor Liu is an outstanding nominee and it is most unfortunate that my Republican colleagues are blocking an up-or-down vote on his nomination,” U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said this afternoon. “I will keep fighting until he is confirmed.”

That jibes with Senate buzz that Liu is likely to be re-nominated in 2011, and Democrats – though lesser in number, still in the majority – will strive to get him confirmed. Liu reportedly has had some good meetings on Capitol Hill in the past two months, making some ground with rank-and-file Republicans who might be more inclined to confirm him next year, when the clock hasn’t run down so far.

Richard Painter, who was President George W. Bush’s chief ethics lawyer and now is a University of Minnesota law professor supporting Liu’s confirmation, blogged last month that Liu – and all other judicial nominees – deserved an up-or-down vote rather than obstructionism, a stance many Republican Senators have taken in the past.

Richard Painter“I think it’s just crazy,” Painter said today. “He’s not an activist or an extremist at all, he’s quite mainstream, he’s more liberal than the Republicans might prefer… but I don’t think he’s at all outside the mainstream. I think this is very disappointing.”

“If this doesn’t work this time, what we need to do is have people read what Goodwin Liu has actually written and focus on who he really is, not just what people are saying about him,” Painter added. “I think if people do that they will reach the same conclusion that I did, that he’s well within the mainstream.”

Painter believes Senate Republicans, er, painted Liu as an arch-liberal activist mainly because he’d spoken out against the confirmations of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Alito. Painter worked on Alito’s confirmation on the Bush White House’s behalf, and said Liu “wasn’t even on the radar screen, nobody sweated what he was saying at the time,” but times have changed.

“This whole thing is a tit-for-tat … It’s, ‘If you came after our guys, we’re coming after your guys,’” Painter said. “I think that might’ve made him a lightning rod … but it’s all politics, it has nothing to do with whether he’s an extremist or not.”

Painter also blogged just last week about Associate Justice Antonin Scalia meeting privately with the Congressional Tea Party Caucus.

“There is a danger of over-politicization of the judiciary. Certainly the politicization of the confirmation process, politicization of the selection process has gotten worse over the past 20 or 30 years, and I think judges have gotten more political – not all judges but some,” Painter said today, noting Scalia flirted with an appearance of partisanship before by going hunting with Vice President Dick Cheney even as the court prepared to hear a case involving Cheney. “We do have a problem with a politicized judiciary, but I don’t think you’re going to get it from Goodwin Liu.”

UPDATE @ 9:16 P.M.: The office of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., sent her statement about an hour ago. “There has been a full scale attack by the opposition on Professor Liu and I very much regret it is a one-sided review that does not take into consideration the exemplary qualities that this man would offer to the federal judiciary as an Appellate Court judge on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.”

UPDATE @ 8:46 A.M. WEDNESDAY: Asian American law groups are angry, and blame both parties.

Paul Hirose, president of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, says Liu and U.S. Magistrate Edward Chen of San Francisco – whom the President nominated to the trial-court bench, and who’s now in the same boat as Liu – “are both eminently qualified to serve, and the Senate has done both nominees and the Asian Pacific American community a grave disservice in failing to give them a long overdue floor vote in the Senate.”

Karen Narasaki, president and executive director of the Asian American Justice Center, said her organization is “deeply disappointed in the Senate and its failure to act with fairness towards these two well-qualified Asian Pacific American judicial nominees. Senator Reid should have brought both of these candidates up for a vote much earlier this year and Senator McConnell and his Republican colleagues should stop preventing the rest of the Senate from voting. The Republican leadership should stop blocking women and minority candidates and slowing down progress in increasing the diversity of the federal judiciary.”

Posted on Tuesday, December 21st, 2010
Under: Obama presidency, U.S. Senate | 8 Comments »

California to keep its 53 congressional seats

California failed for the first time in 80 years to gain at least one seat in the House of Representatives following the release of the U.S. Census Bureau decennial results.

Click here to see the information posted by the Census a few minutes ago.

Posted on Tuesday, December 21st, 2010
Under: Congress, U.S. Census | 34 Comments »

Bittersweet day for California’s Senators

California’s U.S. Senators are overjoyed that the U.S. Senate voted 65-31 to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy limiting gays’ and lesbians’ participation in the U.S. Armed Forces. It now goes to President Barack Obama to be signed into law.

For the record, Senators Richard Burr, R-N.C., and John Ensign, R-Nev., voted against cloture on the DADT repeal, but then voted in favor of the repeal itself – perhaps having their political cake and eating it, too?

From U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., after the cloture vote:

“The first vote today to move forward with the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was 63-33 to end discrimination against gay men and women in the United States military. Seventeen years ago, the vote was exactly the opposite, 33-63. One-third of support has changed to two-thirds of the United States Senate supporting the repeal of Don’t ask, Don’t Tell over the past seventeen years.

“I strongly believe that is emblematic of the change of thinking in the United States. Over these last years, gay Americans have established themselves as heroes, as professionals, as academicians, and as brave warriors for our country.

“There are millions of stories that demonstrate this, but I will share just a few that stand out. In 1975, I was there in San Francisco when a woman carrying a gun attempted to assassinate President Gerald Ford. It was a gay man who grabbed her gun which deflected the shot aimed at our President.

“In 1982, I remember when a plane crashed on the 14th Street Bridge in Washington and passengers were on the verge of drowning in the ice-covered Potomac River. It was a gay man who jumped in the freezing water to save them.

“It was a gay woman serving as an Army medic in Iraq who saved the lives of innocent civilians who were critically wounded after a car bomb exploded in their midst. I can go on and on.

“Gays and lesbians are not the first group of Americans to be denied their civil rights. And they are not the first group to fight in service for the cherished freedom and equality which they have been denied.

“They have struggled long and hard to see this day. They have fought and died for their country, and they are out there on the battlefield today as we stand here debating whether they deserve their rights. I am proud to see this vote for them today.”

And from U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.:

“This is a historic vote for equality, civil rights and a stronger America. This vote is a continuation of our nation’s march toward full equality for all.”

But both are disappointed that the DREAM Act – which would have provided a pathway to citizenship for undocumented students who go to college or serve in the military – fell five votes short of the 60 it needed in order for cloture to be invoked, debate to end and a final vote to be called.

Said Feinstein:

“I am deeply disappointed. I looked up in the galleries which were filled with bright young faces of young people whose only desire was to be good Americans – to better themselves, to become educated, to earn a living, to be willing to fight for this country, and be proud of the fact that they are American. They have no hope of becoming American without the DREAM Act.

“The DREAM Act is important to the United States. I have no doubt that this legislation will be debated on the Senate floor again. To the young people who watched this vote today and feel deep despair- keep fighting.

“For those that did not support this legislation, I ask that you think about the years that these bright young people will spend in limbo. These young people could be putting their education to good use but instead will be unable to realize their potential and give back to the country they consider home. I look forward to when I can cast my vote in favor of the DREAM Act again.”

And, from Boxer:

“It is a sad day for our country when we turn our backs on some of our best and brightest young people who grew up in America, love America and want to serve America.

“I commend the brave young men and women who have stepped forward at great personal risk to call America’s attention to this injustice, and I will not rest until the DREAM Act is the law of the land.”

Posted on Saturday, December 18th, 2010
Under: Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Immigration, U.S. Senate | 11 Comments »

Woodward will headline Contra Costa event

Bob Woodward

Bob Woodward

Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and author Bob Woodward is the keynote speaker at Contra Costa USA 2011, an annual daylong conference sponsored by the Contra Costa Counncil.

Woodward’s speech is titled, “Inside the Obama White House,” and follows the release of his latest book, “Obama’s Wars.”

The conference, set for Jan. 27, also features former San Francisco Mayor and Assembly Speaker Willie Brown Jr., economic forecaster Christopher Thornberg and Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters.

Walters and Thornberg will speak during the morning session. Brown Jr. is the luncheon featured speaker. Woodward will deliver the evening presentation.

Contra Costa USA opens at 8 a.m. at the Concord Hilton, followed by presentations and lunch. The evening’s activities begin at 5:30 p.m. with a reception and dinner at 7 p.m.

The council is a nonpartisan, econoimc devleopment and public policy advocacy organization supported by members’ dues.

Ticket information will be available after Jan. 3 at www.contracostacouncil.com, 925-246-1880 or info@contracostacouncil.com.

Posted on Friday, December 17th, 2010
Under: Contra Costa County | No Comments »

East Bay delegation speaks on tax bill

Every single Bay Area member of Congress, except one, voted against the compromise tax cuts and unemployment extension legislation passed by the House of Representatives just before midnight Thursday.

McNerney

McNerney

Only Jerry McNerney, the Pleasanton Democrat who narrowly avoided defeat in November, supported the $858 billion bill negotiated chiefly between President Barack Obama and the Republicans.

“The economy is struggling and any shock or uncertainty will almost certainly cost jobs,” McNerney said via email. “Moreover, it is absolutely essential to extend unemployment benefits for the families put out of work by the recession. I am also proud of some of the renewable energy provisions. On the whole I believe this bill will help the economy recover.”

McNerney’s vote is consistent. In early December, McNerney was one of 20 House Democrats nationwide who sided with Republicans in favor of extending Bush-era tax cuts to everyone and not just the middle class. The bill failed.

Politically, McNerney’s stance makes sense. Thanks to the 11th District’s jurisdictional strategy of the Altamont Pass, McNerney has one foot in the Central Valley and another in the Bay Area.  Unlike his Bay Area colleagues, who handily won re-election their safe Democratic seats, McNerney is in the most competitive district in California and among the most competitive in the nation.

Rep. George Miller, D-Pleasanton, in a phone conversation from Washington, D.C., said he opposed the bill on a several fronts. One, he said, it hiked the already sky-high federal deficit through tax breaks for the nation’s wealthiest residents that will yield no national economic benefit.

And second, Miller said, when the one-year, 2 percentage point reduction in the Social Security wage tax, expires at the end of 2011, Congress will come under tremendous public pressure to extend it.

“If Congress doesn’t extend it, we’ll be accused to increasing taxes on working families,” Miller said. “But at that point, if you extend the reduction, it will begin to undermine Social Security and fuel talk about privatization.”

Here’s a run down of what East Bay members of Congress had to say about their votes on the bill:

Garamendi

Garamendi

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove: “Public policy is about choices, and there were better choices than this bill. I fought for a bill that would have worked for the American people.  Our alternative proposal called for a $250 rebate for seniors. Instead of draining the Social Security trust fund, it called for a reduction in the income tax rate for working and middle class Americans. And instead of borrowing from China and our children to pay for tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, we offered a compromise that would have made sure every American earning up to $1,000,000 would not see a tax increase over the next two years. With the money saved, we would have invested in infrastructure and paid down the deficit. This plan would have created hundreds of thousands of jobs and been more fiscally responsible.”

Stark

Stark

Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont: “Santa Claus is arriving early for a handful of wealthy individuals and industries this year. Wall Street should be throwing a parade today.  They can certainly afford one after the President failed to uphold one of his signature campaign promises of letting tax breaks for the rich expire as planned.”

Miller

Miller

Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez: “The bill was going to pass. I did not pretend otherwise. But at some point, you have to say no. If we increase the deficit, is it really worth it? For many things contained in this bill, like unemployment extension, the answer is yes. But to cut taxes for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans and change the estate tax, my answer is no.”

Lee

Lee

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland: “We should let the Bush tax breaks for the rich expire. Period. They are a big part of the current deficit in the first place. Extending them for another two years digs us deeper into this deficit hole – and we know who will end up paying for it. It won’t be the rich – it will be the poor, low income communities, and communities of color, who lack well paid lobbyists to look out for their interests on Capitol Hill.”

Read through for Miller’s op-ed piece on the subject.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, December 17th, 2010
Under: Congress | 8 Comments »