Emerge Calif. hosts Wisconsin senator

Democratic Wisconsin State Sen. Lena Taylor will be the keynote speaker at the Emerge California fundraiser set for May 9 in San Francisco.

Emerge California trains Democratic women to run for local, state and federal office.

Elected in November, Taylor is the second African-American woman to serve in Wisconsin’s Senate. She is the chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Corrections, and is in her second term on the budget-writing Joint Committee on Finance. Wisconsin has been ground zero in the fight between labor groups and conservatives seeking to reduce public employee benefits and pensions.

The Emerge California event begins with a reception at 5:30 p.m. followed by Taylor’s speech at 6:35 p.m. It will be held at the Delancey Street Foundation Town Hall Room, 600 Embarcadero St., San Francisco.

Ticket costs start at $100. To RSVP, visit www.emergeca.org.


Bay Area redistricting hearing set for May 21

Bay Area residents and organizations with something to say about the shape of California’s political districts may speak at a local hearing on May 21 in Oakland.

The Citizens Redistricting Commission will take public input from 2-5 p.m. at Oakland City Council Chambers, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza in Oakland.

It’s part of a statewide series of redistricting hearings prior to the scheduled June 1 release of the commission’s draft maps. Residents may attend any or all the meetings, of course, but it’s nice to find one a little closer to home.  Click here to access the full schedule.

Voters created the independent, 14-member Citizens Redistricting Commission and charged with the decennial drawing of California’s congressional, legislative and Board of Equalization districts. By statute, it must adopt final maps by Aug. 15.


Presidential debate team makes 2nd visit to Saint Mary’s

Representatives of the Commission on Presidential Debates made a second visit this week to the campus of Saint Mary’s College, one of a dozen universities nationwide competing for the opportunity to host a 2012 presidential or vice presidential candidate debate.

Three event producer-types with clipboards and pencil scoped out the Moraga university’s grounds and facilities, “opening closets, checking out the attic,” said a college source.

Whether or not a second visit is reason for optimism — the college would love to attract the high-profile event — is unclear.  But it sounds good.

The commission is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that stages debates for presidential and vice presidential candidates.


Gavin Newsom has a book deal

The Penguin Press, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA), today announced the acquisition of North American rights to a forthcoming book by California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, with publication planned for Winter 2013 – shortly before Newsom will be seeking re-election (or some other office?) in 2014.

Asked how much this book deal is worth, Newsom’s office referred me to longtime Newsom political consultant Peter Ragone. “Basically, we’re not disclosing terms at this time, but we will make appropriate disclosures on our form 700 for this calendar year,” Ragone replied in an e-mail.

The book, the publisher says, “will show how citizens can use social media, technology and available government data to cut through the bureaucratic red tape and redesign government in their own image. This solution-driven book suggests that we are at the dawn of a revolutionary change in the way government and the people interact.”

Penguin Press President and Publisher Ann Godoff, in the news release, said Newsom is “employing what America does best – innovation – and using it to call for many local revolutions that will overcome the epidemic gridlock in our government bureaucracy.”

Said Newsom, in the same release: “Just as Apple’s app store succeeded by tapping into the ingenuity of ordinary Americans, so can government harness the collective intelligence of citizens to help solve our greatest challenges.”

The Chronicle late last month had reported Newsom already “is prepping to run for governor again,” having asked a political insider to help him start raising money. But Newsom a few days later told me there was “nothing unusual” about the request.

“I’m doing what everybody else does, paying down a little debt on the LG’s (lieutenant governor’s campaign) account,” he said. “I’m never going to run against Jerry Brown.”

UPDATE @ 2:27 P.M. FRIDAY: Newsom, at an event this morning in Fremont, reiterated that the public will know how much he’s being paid for the book when he files his next statement of economic interests. “I was blessed,” he said. “I can’t believe it, I didn’t know they do advances. That means it had better be good – they’ve got to earn their money back.”


Obama fundraising breakfast disrupted by protest

Here’s the pool report filed this morning by the Chronicle’s Carla Marinucci from President Obama’s fundraiser at the St. Regis Hotel in San Francisco:

A crowd of half a dozen protesters concerned with the Wikileaks story disrupted the Obama event at the St. Regis Hotel, with Oakland activist Naomi Pitcairn organizing the event for the group which calls itself freshjuiceparty.com; she personally paid $76,000 total for tickets for the group to gain entry to the high priced fundraiser, she told us.

The progressive group protested what they called the inhumane treatment of Pvt. Bradley Manning in the Wikileaks case. Their protest song — which included lyrics: “We paid our dues..where’s our change?” — was sung in its entirety for Obama, who thanked them at the end of the a capella performance.

Outside, the group said that they were progressives who had worked for Obama and voted for him in 2008, but who were disappointed not only with Manning’s treatment, but with Obama’s policies on war as well.

The protest began when Pitcairn stood up about 5 minutes into the president’s speech as said, “We wrote a song for you, Mr. President.” When he tried to suggest she wait, the group launched into the ditty, and kept singing for several minutes.

Pitcairn took off her outer shirt to reveal a tee shirt in support of Manning.

The president appeared a little set back by the lengthy song, but he thanked the group — and complimented their voices — at the close. “Where was I?” he said, launching back into his stump speech.

Pitcairn was escorted out, but was not arrested or cited by San Francisco police.

Protesters including UC Santa Cruz art professor Elizabeth Stephens, songwriter Craig Casey, activist Jane Sullivan of Santa Cruz, writer Greg Archer, and David Schiller of Berkeley, as well as organizers from Tony’s Circus, all Bay Area locals. Pitcairn said she was happy to pay the tickets for all of them to enter so they could personally address with president with their concerns.

Diners at the breakfast were assembled around tables of 10 in and upstairs dining room, with stage flanked by a backdrop of California and American flags.

Among the 200 guests at the sold out event: U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelsoi, California Attorney General Kamala Harris, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, former San Francsico Mayor Willie Brown, and Governor Jerry Brown.

High end tickets to the Obama Victory Fund breakfast event started at $5,000 and go up to $35,800.

That higher price ticket involves a split between the Organizing for America and the Democratic National Committee. Breakdown of tickets: $5,000 of the cost goes to Organizing for America and represents the maximum legal donation to primary and general election presidential campaign; $30,800 goes to DNC.

DNC would not estimate total raised in the event.


Is a soda tax a good idea?

The California Center for Public Health Advocacy released a county-by-county analysis today showing that a 1-cent per ounce tax on sugary drinks would raise millions of dollars for local schools and pay for anti-obesity initiatives. Contra Costa alone would see $39 million, while Alameda County would collect $51 million.

That sounds mighty sweet for schools and agencies that have watched their budgets drain faster than an ice-cold Coke on a hot summer day.

Read my full story here.

As Americans gain girth and contract costly obesity-related health problems, a good deal of blame has been heaped upon our unending demand for sweetened sodas, vitamin waters, sports drinks and teas. Scientists have found that our bodies don’t register drink-born calories in the place in our brain that tells us we are full at the same rate as solid food, so we drink our calories.

But a soda tax irks some consumers as excessive government nannyism. After all, lots of things are bad for us. Bacon. Red meat. Sourdough bread bowls in downtown San Francisco. Pretty much everything sold at those cinnamon bun stalls at the mall.

Cigarette and booze taxes are tolerated as “sin taxes” but is it sinful to drink a Pepsi?

Soda tax proponents know they face considerable challenges, both in the legislature and with the public. But most social changes take time and they say they aren’t giving up.