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Archive for April, 2011

The lowdown on the President’s visit tomorrow

I’ll be following President Barack Obama through the fundraisers he has scheduled for tomorrow evening in San Francisco.

The President’s Bay Area visit is both in support of the budget and deficit plan he released last week as well as part of his 2012 re-election campaign kickoff. He arrives in the Bay Area early tomorrow afternoon to hold a “Shared Responsibility and Shared Prosperity” online town hall at the Palo Alto headquarters of Facebook; my colleague Mike Swift at the Mercury News will be all over that.

Then, tomorrow evening, I’ll cover his appearance first at an exclusive fundraising dinner at the Presidio Heights home of billionaire Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff and his wife, Lynne. At $35,800 per person for each of 60 attendees, this probably will be the most expensive dinner most of this very well-heeled crowd has ever consumed.

From each contributor, $30,800 will go to the Democratic National Committee while $5,000 will go to Obama’s re-election campaign: $2,500 for the primary, $2,500 for the general election.

Marc Benioff, 46, founded, a cloud computing company, in 1999; earlier, he worked at Oracle Corp. Former President George W. Bush appointed him co-chairman of the President’s Information Technology Advisory Committee, on which he served from 2003 to 2005, overseeing publication of critical reports on health care information technology, cybersecurity, and computational sciences.

Of about $183,000 in federal political contributions Marc Benioff has made since 1996, roughly 70 percent has been to Democratic candidates and committees, according to the Center for Responsive Politics’ database. His voter registration shows he has declined to state a party affiliation.

Forbes last month estimated his net worth at $2.1 billion. Barron’s in December named him and Lynne, 36, among the top 25 most effective philanthropists.

After the Benioff dinner, I’ll follow the President to his fundraiser at the Masonic Auditorium on Nob Hill. Tickets went for $25 for Gen44 activists; $250 for general admission; $1,000 for premium seating; $2,500 for VIP seating in the first three rows; and $10,000 for a photo reception.

On Thursday morning, he’s scheduled to attend a fundraising breakfast with about 100 guests – tickets reportedly cost $5,000 to $35,000 – at the St. Regis Hotel in San Francisco; I believe the Chronicle’s Carla Marinucci will be the local media’s eyes and ears for that one. After that he’s headed to Los Angeles; he’ll return to Washington, D.C., on Friday.

Posted on Tuesday, April 19th, 2011
Under: campaign finance, Obama presidency | No Comments »

Ex-Legis Analyst named to health nonprofit board

The California HealthCare Foundation has picked Elizabeth Hill, California’s former Legislative Analyst, to serve a three-year term on its board of directors.

The Oakland-based foundation is a nonprofit grant-making philanthropy. Founded in 1996, its staff of about 50 people issues around $40 million in grants each year from an endowment of about $700 million with the goals of improving clinical outcomes and quality of life for Californians with chronic disease; reducing barriers to efficient, affordable health care for the underserved; promoting greater transparency and accountability in California’s health care system; and supporting the implementation of health reform and advancing the effectiveness of California’s public coverage programs. The foundation does no lobbying or fundraising.

Elizabeth Hill in 2008 (AP Photo)Hill, 61, of Sacramento, for 22 years led the Legislative Analyst’s Office, which provides nonpartisan fiscal and policy analysis to the Legislature including reviews of the governor’s annual budget, advice to lawmakers on policy issues and preparing impartial analyses for all ballot measures. She retired in 2008

Foundation President and CEO Dr. Mark Smith issued a statement calling Hill “a perfect fit” for the board. “Her encyclopedic knowledge of state government, budgets, and programs, along with her understanding of health policy issues, will help guide CHCF to make the most effective use of its resources to help improve quality, boost efficiency, and lower the cost of health care in California.”

Hill holds a bachelor’s degree in human biology from Stanford University and a master’s of public policy from the University of California, Berkeley. After a Fulbright Scholarship to study transportation policy in Sweden, she began her career at the LAO in 1976 as one of the few female analysts at that time; a decade later, she was the boss. Her voter registration shows she has declined to state a party affiliation.

Posted on Tuesday, April 19th, 2011
Under: healthcare reform | No Comments »

$2.1 bil loan guarantee for Calif. solar project

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu this morning announced his department is offering a conditional commitment for a $2.1 billion loan guarantee to support the first two phases of a gigantic solar energy project in Southern California.

This first half of the Blythe Solar Power Project, sponsored by Solar Trust of America LLC, is a two-unit concentrating solar thermal power plant that will produce 484 megawatts of power; Solar Trust Chairman and CEO Uwe Schmidt told reporters today that site preparation in Riverside County started last fall, and full-scale construction is likely to start late this spring or in early summer. A second phase – two more units capable of producing just as much energy as the first two – will be built a few years from now. All told, this will be the world’s largest solar facility, producing enough electricity to power more than 300,000 single-family homes each year.

This project is part of the company’s mission to “revolutionize the way we generate energy here in the United States,” Schmidt said, noting this will be the first solar facility on a scale and output capacity equal to the largest coal-fired and nuclear plants operating today.

Chu said the Obama Administration recognizes “we’re in a global race to develop and deploy clean energy technology,” and this project not only will create about 1,000 local construction jobs but also will avoid dumping more than 700,000 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year.

Schmidt said the job creation actually will be much more considering the supply chain necessary for such a project, stretching from the job site to Midwestern steel mills.

Gov. Jerry Brown told reporters California appreciates the confidence and investment put into this project, and while the state has been at the forefront of alternative energy for more than 30 years, “you’ve got to have a long-term perspective and you’ve got to keep at it.”

Chu had joined Brown last week as he signed into law the state’s new renewable portfolio standard, increasing California’s current 20 percent target in 2010 to a 33 percent standard by December 31, 2020. Brown said today he’d like to see 20,000 megawatts of solar output by then.

This first half of the Blythe project include HelioTrough collectors, which the company says is a larger-yet-simpler design that’s less expensive to build and install but more efficient than earlier parabolic trough technology.

According to the project’s website, the technology uses hundreds of trough-shaped mirrors to focus the sun’s light and heat onto a pipe that runs along the collector’s focal line. This causes a heat-transfer fluid in the pipe to get hot, which generates steam in the power block through heat exchangers. Then, as with conventional power plants, that steam will be directed into a turbine to generate power.

This will be the first concentrating solar power parabolic trough plant to use an air-cooled condenser unit, which will decrease water use by nearly 90 percent compared with a water-cooled CSP facility. It will sell all of its electricity output to Southern California Edison and will deliver power into the California Independent System Operator power grid.

The Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office has issued loan guarantees or offered conditional commitments for loan guarantees totaling over $21 billion to support 22 clean energy projects across 14 states. The program’s 11 generation projects will produce nearly 25 million megawatt-hours annually, enough to power over two million homes.

Posted on Monday, April 18th, 2011
Under: energy, Jerry Brown | 8 Comments »

Get your questions ready for President Obama

Part of the President’s trip to the Bay Area this week could involve you.

Posted on Monday, April 18th, 2011
Under: Obama presidency | 5 Comments »

Feinstein to appear at Commonwealth Club



U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., will speak at the April 27 meeting of the Commonwealth Club of California on the subject of promoting democracy in countries whose residents are trying to remove authoritarian regimes.

The event begins at 5 p.m. with check-in, followed by the program at 6 p.m., at the Mark Hopkins Hotel, Peacock Court, 999 California St., in San Francisco.

The cost is $15 for members, $30 for non-members and $7 for students with valid student identifications. Premium seats are also available for purchase at higher rates.

To purchase tickets, 415-597-6705 or register at

Read on for the Commonwealth Club’s press release. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, April 14th, 2011
Under: Dianne Feinstein, U.S. Senate, Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

East Bay political events round-up

Here is a round-up of upcoming East Bay political events:


The Pleasanton TEA Party and the Tri-Valley Patriots, conservative political action groups,  will officially merge during a Saturday event featuring California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro, of Lafayette, among other speakers.

The group will also host a tax day protest on Friday from 1-4 p.m. in Pleasanton at the corner of Santa Rita and Black streets.

Pleasanton TEA Party founder and Dr. Bridget Melson said the merger came about after she moved to Southern California and needed new partners to help keep the local group moving ahead. Melson remains on its board and also serves on the California Republican Party’s strategy committee as a TEA Party representative.

The combined Tri-Valley TEA Party has 15,000 members, Melson said.

The Saturday event is in Hayward and open to the public, but those interested in attending must RSVP and obtain the location and address from Melson at

Other speakers include NAACP and TEA Party member Antoine Miller and  Frederick Douglass Foundation President Kevin McGary.


Steve Chessin, president of Californians for Electoral Reform, is the featured speaker at the Thursday evening meeting of the Lamorinda Democratic Club.

The meeting will be held at the Lafayette Library and Learning Center, 3491 Mt. Diablo Blvd, in Lafayette.

Chessin will discuss ranked-choice voting and instant runoff voting, alternatives to the traditional winner-takes-all election method used in most communities.

The club’s social hour will begin at 6:30 p.m., with a business meeting at 7:15 p.m., and Chessin’s presentation to begin at 8 p.m. The cost is $5.

During the club’s business meeting, Contra Costa Local Agency Formation Commission Chairman Chair Mike McGill will speak about the agency’s purpose.

Walnut Creek

Technology expert Tom Mahon is the featured speaker at a noon potluck session on Saturday at the Mt. Diablo Peace and Justice Center.

Mahon, a Walnut Creek resident who has written about technology in Silicon Valley for over 30 years as a publicist, journalist, novelist, dramatist and activist, has “spoken and written widely on the need to reconnect technical capability with social responsibility; to re-integrate technical knowledge with self-knowledge,” according to the center.

Mahon is currently completing an eBook titled “Reconnecting Calm: Reclaiming our Humanity in a Silicon Civilization.”

The center is located at 55 Eckley Lane in Walnut Creek. For more information, call 925-933-7850 or visit

The event is free but bring a potluck item to share plus something for Monument Crisis Center such as cereal, canned or dry goods; toddler-size diapers; shampoo, soap, toothbrush or toothpaste.

Walnut Creek

California High-Speed Rail Authority Planning Manager Will Gimpel will discuss the project at the April 20 evening meeting of the Diablo Valley Democratic Club.

Using a video and slide show, Gimpel will explain the cost of the project and how Diablo Valley residents will access the trains.

The event is free and open to the public. It begins at 7 p.m. at the Ygnacio Valley Library, 2661 Oak Grove Road, Walnut Creek.

For more information, visit or call 946-0469.

Posted on Wednesday, April 13th, 2011
Under: Political calendar, Political events, tea party | 3 Comments »

Buzz about the government shutdown

The Bay Area’s voices in Congress are abuzz a federal government shutdown looms at midnight tonight, unless Congress can agree on or pass a budget for the remaining 2011 fiscal year before then.

From Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, who cancelled his town meetings scheduled for tomorrow in Union City and Alameda:

“Republicans are continuing to pursue their extreme social agenda at the expense of keeping our government operating. Negotiations are ongoing, but given the uncertainty, I must stay in Washington, DC for pending votes,” said Stark. “My staff will attend the town meetings and will be available to assist constituents with any casework needs and collect questions for me. I will respond in writing to all questions submitted.”

From House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, after a meeting of the House Republican Conference:

“We just met with all of our Members to try to bring them as up to speed as we can, considering that we’re still in discussions. And I might add that these discussions continue to be respectful, we continue to work together. Most of the policy issues have been dealt with and the big fight is over the spending. You’ve heard me say time and time again that we’ve got to cut spending if we’re serious about creating an environment for job creators in America to do what they do best – and that’s to create jobs.

“It’s been a difficult several weeks. Our intention has been to keep the government open. We have no interest in shutting down the government. That’s why we sent the troop funding bill over to the Senate yesterday and attached to it was a seven day agreement to keep the government open while continuing to cut spending. And I’m hopeful the Senate will take this up.

“I’m also hopeful that we’ll be able to come to some agreement. But we’re not going to roll over and sell out the American people like it’s been done time and time again here in Washington. When we say we’re serious about cutting spending, we’re damn serious about it.”

From Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto:

“On the eve of a possible shutdown of the federal government, I want all my constituents to know that our offices in Palo Alto and Washington, D.C. will remain open to serve the people of our Congressional District. My staff will remain on duty without pay if there is a shutdown. Any constituent who has questions or needs can continue to contact us at our District office at (650) 323-2984 or our Washington, D.C. office at (202) 225-8104.

“There are many costs to a federal government shutdown, including putting some 800,000 federal employees out of work — 26,000 of whom reside in our Congressional District. A shutdown will prevent the IRS from issuing refund checks, freeze federal environmental clean-up projects, delay pay for our soldiers fighting overseas, stall new applications for Social Security, Medicare, passports, and visas, and halt Small Business Administration and Federal Housing Authority loans. A shutdown will close 25 National Park sites in California, and veterans who receive disability benefits may also see their payments delayed.

“Depending on how long the shutdown lasts, the ripple effects could impact everyone from families who won’t be able to get a housing loan to the thousands of companies that ship supplies to government agencies. When the government closed for 20 days in the 1990’s, the nation’s economic growth slowed by as much as a full percentage point in that quarter, according to leading economists. As we struggle to recover from the deepest recession in our history, a government shutdown with its job losses and other negative effects could damage our fragile economic situation.

“Constituents can access additional information about the affects of a government shutdown through resources available on my website.”

Lots more – with video! – after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, April 8th, 2011
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Jackie Speier, Lynn Woolsey, Pete Stark, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 12 Comments »

An Election Day holiday in California?

I talked this morning with Roy Benson, the Bay Area man whom Secretary of State Debra Bowen cleared this week to start circulating for petition signatures his ballot measure to make Election Day a state holiday every other year.

“I’ve been working on this for many years, and its time to get the word out,” said Benson. “It’s very important especially during these times, these are critical times.”

The Election Day Holiday initiative, according to the Attorney General’s summary, “establishes an Election Day state holiday as the Tuesday following the first Monday in November during even-numbered years.” The summary of the Legislative Analyst’s and state Finance Director’s estimate of fiscal impact is that it would cost the state less than $20 million every two years.

Benson said that’s a small price to pay for increased voter turnout and a deeper pool of polling volunteers, which would make the electoral process more transparent.

“It’s not about changing the landscape of voting, it doesn’t benefit any party, it doesn’t favor this issue or that issue, it doesn’t benefit anybody except the voter, and what’s wrong with that?,” he said.

I asked whether he thought business groups might oppose such a thing because it would mean another paid holiday for which they have to foot the bill. “Do they say that about other holidays?” Benson responded, noting this holiday would be a worthwhile celebration of “one of the most dynamic, inspirational constitutions the world has ever seen.” That’s the kind of democratic ideal the United States tries to promote around the world, he added, and we should be a role model.

Benson has until Sept. 1 to collect signatures of 504,760 registered voters – the number equal to five percent of the total votes cast for governor in the 2010 gubernatorial election – in order to qualify his initiative for the ballot.

So far, he said, he has no financial backing or volunteer force. “We’re just getting the word out … “I guess you would say it’s a grassroots type of situation at this point.”

This is Benson’s second bite at the apple; he circulated a similar initiative in 2008, but didn’t get enough signatures.

Posted on Thursday, April 7th, 2011
Under: ballot measures, Elections | 2 Comments »

Lee & Honda to fast for anti-hunger funding

Representatives Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, and Mike Honda, D-San Jose, are among House members who’ll take part in a day-long fast to raise awareness about protecting programs that benefit the poor and the hungry from federal budget cuts.

This Hunger Fast was organized by Sojourners President and CEO Rev. Jim Wallis, Ambassador Tony Hall, and coalition of groups representing more than 30,000 Americans. Lee will be the first member of Congress to take part; more than two dozen others are expected to take part through Easter Sunday.

The fast’s organizers say budget cuts proposed by House Republicans represent a 2.6 percent cut in total spending, including a 26 percent cut in spending on poverty-focused foreign aid; many of the programs at stake once held bipartisan support. And they say the extension of Bush era-tax cuts last December will cost $6.7 billion through estate planning loopholes alone, even as Congress now considers $7.6 billion cuts to domestic programs for low-income women, infants and children.

“I have always believed that budgets reflect who we are and what we believe in and the budget that was unveiled this week an attack on low- and middle-income people,” Lee, who founded the Congressional Out of Poverty Caucus, said in a news release. “This is about the choices that we face in crafting our budget. Do we stand for unpaid-for tax cuts for millionaires or protecting the most vulnerable populations so that no one in our country goes to bed hungry? Do we stand for more subsidies for oil companies or job training to help put people back to work? I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join me and take part in this hunger fast to bring awareness to these important issues.”

Posted on Thursday, April 7th, 2011
Under: Barbara Lee, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 4 Comments »

Jerry Brown seeks tsunami disaster declaration

Gov. Jerry Brown today wrote to President Barack Obama to request a Presidential major disaster declaration for California following the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami off the coast of Japan, which generated a water surge that caused over $48 million in damage to California ports, harbors, boats, businesses and infrastructure.

Brown’s letter asks for additional federal resources to supplement state and local repair and recovery efforts. The governor earlier had issued emergency proclamations for Del Norte, Humboldt, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Mendocino and San Luis Obispo counties, as well as an executive order to waive the waiting period for victims to apply for unemployment insurance, expedite the hiring of emergency and cleanup personnel and request state tax officials to accommodate those affected by the water surge.

Read Brown’s letter to President Obama, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, April 6th, 2011
Under: Jerry Brown, Obama presidency | No Comments »