Follow the money in Hercules

The two targets of the city council recall in Hercules are out-raising and out-spending their challengers as the incumbents strive to save their political careers.

Councilwoman Joann Ward topped the list with $8,269 in contributions although $8,000 came from her own bank account, according to the campaign finance reports filed late Thursday.  The bulk of the money was spent on campaign literature and postage.

The reports include expenses and funds collected as of May 21. It is the last report before the June 7 election, although candidates are required to post within 24 hours expenses and contributions of $1,000 or greater.

Councilman Don Kuehne loaned his campaign $3,000 and received $2,000 from IBEW 302 Community Candidates Political Action Committee of Sacramento.

Like Ward, most of his expenses were for literature and postage.

Those numbers will probably rise substantially to reflect the costs of campaign mailers sent out in the past couple of days and after the May 21 cut-off date.

Here is rundown of the dollars for all the candidates. You may also click on the link for each committee and view the report.


  • Mark Anthony JonesRaised $2,941. Spent $1,732. Reported $1,209 in the bank. No personal loans.
  • Sherry McCoyRaised $4,460. Spent $3,252. Reported $1,207 in the bank. No personal loans.
  • Dan RomeroRaised $2,397. Spent $3,461. Reported $1,334 in the bank. No personal loans.





Perata moves to Orinda

Don Perata

Don Perata

Former Democratic Senate President Pro Tem and would-be Oakland mayor Don Perata has a new home address: Orinda

He bought a single-family house valued at $998,000 and opened an office of his political consulting firm in the bucolic Orinda a few months ago.

Perata didn’t return my call, so only he and his confidants know why he moved to the sunny side of the Caldecott Tunnel just months after his high-profile loss in Oakland’s first ranked-choice mayoral election last November.

Whatever Perata’s reasons, Orinda Councilwoman Amy Worth says “we are thrilled to have someone of Don’s stature choose to live in Orinda. We welcome him.”

But will local electeds still smile if the savvy former politician gets a bee in his bonnet and runs for the Orinda City Council or perhaps the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors?

I’m just asking.


Chevron loses bid to dump appeals board member

The Contra Costa Assessment Appeals Board has upheld the appointment of attorney Arthur Walenta to the three-member panel that will rule on Chevron’s multi-million-dollar property value appeal. (Read the five-page decision below.)

Chevron sought Walenta’s disqualification, saying that as an ex-county attorney who relies on the public agency for his pension and benefits, he is inherently biased in favor of his former employer.

Fellow Appeals Board member Clark Wallace, who ruled on the request, rejected Chevron’s assertions on all counts.

The oil company failed to prove any real or perceived bias and “Any effect of the Assessment Appeals Board’s decision on Walenta’s pension is too remote, contingent and speculative to be a financial interest that requires his disqualification,” Wallace wrote in the five-page decision.

Contra Costa Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond, who appointed Walenta to the Appeals Board, concurred.

“Keeping a Harvard-educated lawyer with integrity and assessment appeals experience on the panel will serve the public interest in getting to a fair resolution of this issue,” Gioia said.

A successful appeal of Chevron’s 2007-2009 assessed value could result in the county and other property tax beneficiaries repaying the oil company up to $60 million.

The oil company successfully appealed its 2004-2006 valuation, which triggered a refund of $18 million from the county’s property tax beneficiaries including cities, schools, fire, water and other special districts. Chevron and the county are countersuing the appeals board decision in Superior Court.

Chevron has also appealed its 2010 assessed valuation, which won’t be heard until after the resolution of the 2007-2009 dispute. Hearings could start late this summer or early fall.

Chevron decision


Congress extends Patriot Act sections for 4 years

Congress voted yesterday to extend several controversial parts of the Patriot Act for four more years.

The Senate approved S.990 on a 72 to 23 vote, with both of California’s senators in support; the House passed it on a 250 to 153 vote, with no support from any Bay Area member. President Obama signed it into law minutes before the provisions would’ve expired.

The votes made strange bedfellows, with libertarian-leaning Republicans standing with some of Congress’ most liberal Democrats in opposition.

Extended were provisions that authorize roving wiretaps on surveillance targets; provisions that let the government access “any tangible items,” such as library records, as a part of surveillance; and a “lone wolf” provision that allows surveillance of those in the United States without citizenship, a green card or political asylum who are not connected to an identified terrorist group.

Civil liberties advocates and much of the Bay Area’s House delegation had believed — especially now that al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden is dead – this was the right time to reassess the nation’s balance of security measures and civil liberties.

But the fix was in a week ago, when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.; Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, struck a deal for an amendment-free extension until June 1, 2015.

In February, all Bay Area House members except Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, had voted against extending these provisions; McNerney had supported extending them until December, but ultimately they were extended for only 90 days and are set to expire at the end of the month. McNerney spokeswoman Sarah Hersh in February had said the congressman “has serious concerns with this legislation and believes that we must make substantial changes to the law in order to better preserve our country’s most fundamental civil liberties. However, in the meantime, allowing the policy to expire without warning and a comprehensive debate on our security policies would not be advisable.”

Earlier this month, Hersh said McNerney “continues to have major concerns about the Patriot Act. He believes there must be substantial changes made to the law in order to better preserve our civil liberties. A bill hasn’t been released yet, so Congressman McNerney wants to see the legislation before reaching a decision.”

On Thursday, McNerney joined the rest of the Bay Area delegation in opposing the extension. He issued a statement afterward reiterating his concern about freedoms and noting this extension continues the policies without reform. “That is simply not in our country’s best interest. Instead, we should pursue balanced policies that keep our country safe and protect our civil liberties.”

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, issued a statement saying the law doesn’t properly balance national security with protection of civil liberties.

“I opposed the extension of the PATRIOT Act because we cannot sacrifice fundamental freedoms, including the right to privacy, in our effort to manage the threat of terrorism. Our basic civil liberties, which include access to our library records, medical records, and personal information about private residences and businesses, are not safe from the PATRIOT Act,” she said. “I will continue to push for an end to invasive intelligence gathering tactics that come at the expense of vital civil liberties, many of which have been justified by the overly broad executive branch authorization I opposed in the wake of 9/11.”

American Civil Liberties Union legislative counsel Michelle Richardson said the extension means “Congress has missed yet another opportunity to make necessary changes to protect our privacy. It means we’re likely to see more abuse of Patriot Act powers by law enforcement. Next time it’s given the opportunity, Congress should consider prioritizing Americans’ civil liberties by passing actual Patriot Act reform.”

U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., had authored legislation to extend the provisions through the end of 2013. Her office earlier this month referred me to a February floor speech in which she said these provisions are used often and believes “that being able to have good intelligence is what prevents an attack against a New York subway or air cargo plane. It is what keeps this homeland safe, and it is what allows us to get ahead of a terrorist attack. Without them “… we put our nation in jeopardy.”

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., voted for the Patriot Act in 2001, and its reauthorizations in 2006 and in February, saying it gives law enforcement the tools it needs to keep Americans safe. She had expressed concern, however, over provisions such as seizure of library records, and wanted those areas tightened up.

Boxer had supported an amendment authored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and cosponsored by U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., which she said would’ve added some checks and balances. She was disappointed that it didn’t get a vote, but voted for the extension anyway because “any delays in providing law enforcement officials the tools they need to disrupt terrorist plots and to find those who would harm our country would be unacceptable.”


Stark co-hosts mental health meeting for Congress

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, and so Rep. Pete Stark – ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee and member of the Congressional Mental Health Caucus – joined today with caucus co-chair Grace Napolitano, D-Norwalk, to host a “Mental Health First-Aid” workshop for members of Congress and their staffs.

The comprehensive, four-hour session taught participants the warning signs of mental illness and gave them an overview of what those suffering from mental illness experience and how they can be helped.

“Education is the best weapon against stigma. One of the reasons mental health disorders can be so challenging to handle is because the illness often prevents the person from understanding they need help,” Stark, D-Fremont, said in a news release. “I know from dealing with situations in my own office how upsetting it can be, for my staff and my constituents both, when we don’t understand what someone needs or how we can help. Knowing how to recognize the signs of mental illness and how best to respond are critical to helping us provide the kind of service our constituents deserve.”

The workshop’s information was presented by the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare. President and CEO Linda Rosenberg and public education director Bryan Gibb explained how to recognize the most common mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, and psychosis, and how to direct those that need help to care if those issues are detected.

“People may know CPR or the Heimlich Maneuver, but the truth is they are more likely to come across someone in an emotional crisis than someone having a heart attack. Mental Health First Aid emphasizes that mental illnesses are real, common, and treatable, and that help is available,” Rosenberg said.

Despite the flurry of cheap shots about Stark, Democrats and mental illness that’s sure to ensue in this post’s comments, it’s no laughing matter. Stark’s office notes that one out of four Americans suffers from a mental health issue, according to a 2005 Harvard study; suicide is the third-leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 24, according to the National Institute of Health; and more than 90 percent of people who die by suicide have diagnosable mental disorders, often depression or a substance-abuse problem, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Yet while mental health disorders cost the U.S. economy $193 billion in lost earnings per year, according to the American Journal of Psychiatry, state mental health programs were cut nationally by 4 percent in 2009, by 5 percent in 2010, and are estimated to be cut by more than 8 percent this year, according to Stateline.org.