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Archive for May, 2011

Anti-nuclear ballot measure starts circulating

California’s nuclear power plants would be shut down under a proposed ballot measure that Secretary of State Debra Bowen cleared today for collection of petition signatures.

Here’s the Attorney General’s official title and summary for the measure:

NUCLEAR POWER. INITIATIVE STATUTE. Extends statutory preconditions, currently applicable to new operation of any nuclear power plant, to existing Diablo Canyon and San Onofre operations. Before further electricity production at these plants, requires California Energy Commission to find federal government has approved technology for permanent disposal of high-level nuclear waste. For nuclear power plants requiring reprocessing of fuel rods, requires Commission to find federal government has approved technology for nuclear fuel rod reprocessing plants. Both findings are subject to Legislature’s rejection. Further requires Commission to find on case-by-case basis facilities will be available with adequate capacity to reprocess or store power plant’s fuel rods. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Likely major impacts on state and local finances in the form of decreased revenues and increased costs, at least in the billions of dollars annually, due to disruptions in the state’s electricity system and electricity price increases. Potential major state costs to compensate utilities for investment losses resulting from the mandated shutdown of their nuclear power plants. Potential avoidance of future state and local government costs and lost revenues resulting from the unlikely event of a major nuclear plant incident. (11-0008.)

Proponent Ben Davis Jr. of Santa Cruz County has until Oct. 20 to collect valid signatures from at least 504,760 registered voters in order to qualify the measure for the ballot.

Davis has taken on this industry before: He apparently drafted what became a successful 1989 ballot referendum that shut down the Rancho Seco Nuclear Generating Station near Sacramento.

Davis’ request for a title and summary for his “Nuclear Waste Act of 2011” was filed March 30, a few weeks after the 9.0 earthquake and resultant tsunami that devastated Japan and triggered a crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Posted on Monday, May 23rd, 2011
Under: ballot measures, energy | 9 Comments »

AG Harris launches mortgage fraud strike force

California Attorney General Kamala Harris today announced she’s creating a Mortgage Fraud Strike Force staffed by state Department of Justice attorneys and investigators charged with the duty of “protecting innocent homeowners and bringing to justice those who defraud them,” according to her news release.

Kamala Harris“Californians in search of the American dream all too often found a protracted personal and legal nightmare. Families are losing their homes, while those who perpetrated crimes and frauds against them walk free,” Harris said. “We will work to safeguard the homeowner at every step of the process – from origination of a loan to its securitization, and we will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law those who take advantage of trusting California families. We are setting a high bar for other states and we insist that homeowners be protected, respected, and informed.”

Harris rolled out the new initiative in Los Angeles this afternoon, accompanied by LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and representatives from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Center for Responsible Lending.

Harris’ news release says the strike force will work out of state Justice Department offices in San Francisco, Fresno, Los Angeles and Sacramento, with 25 attorneys and investigators broken into three teams. A consumer enforcement team will target scams in the consumer arena, including predatory lending, unfair business practices in originating loans, deceptive marketing, and loan modification and foreclosure consultant scams. A criminal enforcement team will prosecute criminal frauds associated with the epidemic of mortgage scams, including fraudulent investment and money laundering schemes related to mortgage lending or foreclosure relief. And corporate fraud team will target misconduct involving investments and securities tied to subprime mortgages, as well as false or fraudulent claims made to the state with respect to these securities.

There were foreclosure filings against 546,669 California homes in 2010; an estimated 2 million California homes will enter the foreclosure process from 2009 through 2012. The state Justice Department reports it has received thousands of complaints related to foreclosure scams, mortgage fraud, and mortgage servicing practices in the past year.

“The fingerprints of illegal activity are all over the foreclosure crisis,” said Paul Leonard, director of the Center for Responsible Lending’s California office. “The Attorney General’s effort marries the need to punish bad actors for the practices that brought our economy to the brink with the need to eliminate the scam artists who have since attempted to profit from it. Given the economic damage wreaked by foreclosures in California, this initiative is very welcome news.”

Homeowners who believe they’ve been scammed can file complaints through the Attorney General’s website.

Posted on Monday, May 23rd, 2011
Under: Attorney General, housing, Kamala Harris | 4 Comments »

Advocates sue for ruling on medical marijuana

A coalition of marijuana advocates sued the federal government today for failing to act on their nine-year-old request to “reschedule” the drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act to recognize its medicinal uses.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, accuses the government of unreasonable delay in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act, and asks the court to force the Drug Enforcement Administration to answer the rescheduling petition – filed in 2002 – within 60 days.

“The federal government’s strategy has been delay, delay, delay,” said Joe Elford, chief counsel of Oakland-based Americans for Safe Access and the lead attorney in today’s action. “It is far past time for the government to answer our rescheduling petition, but unfortunately we’ve been forced to go to court in order to get resolution.”

A previous cannabis marijuana rescheduling petition filed in 1972 went unanswered for 22 years before being denied.

Marijuana is listed among the most-restricted drugs under federal law; drugs on this list are deemed to have a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in the United States, and a lack of accepted safety under medical supervision.

The coalition argues scientific studies around the world have provided ample evidence of marijuana’s therapeutic value. The lawsuit also knocks the DEA for railing to answer the petition despite an interagency advisory issued by the Food and Drug Administration in 2006 and a 41-page memo from the Department of Health and Human Services later that year.

The DEA’s formal rejection of the petition would let the coalition go to court to directly challenge the federal government’s claim that marijuana has no medical value.

The American Medical Association and the American College of Physicians have urged the government to review marijuana’s scheduling, and the National Cancer Institute (part of the National Institutes of Health) earlier this year added marijuana to its website as a “complementary alternative medicine.”

Medical marijuana has been decriminalized in 16 states including California plus the
District of Columbia, and poll show high public support for it.

“It is unacceptable for seriously ill Americans to wait a decade for their government to even respond to their petition for legal access to medicine to relieve their pain and suffering,” said Dale Gieringer, who directs the California branch of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). “The government’s unreasonable delay seriously impugns its competence to oversee Americans’ health care. The administration should act promptly to address its obsolete and bankrupt policy in accordance with President Obama’s pledge to put science above politics.”

Posted on Monday, May 23rd, 2011
Under: marijuana | 3 Comments »

Reactions to SCOTUS ruling on state prisons

California is abuzz about the U.S. Supreme Court’s order this morning that the state must shed tens of thousands of inmates from its unconstitutionally overcrowded prison system.

From Gov. Jerry Brown:

Jerry Brown“The Supreme Court has upheld a lower court’s decision that California must reduce its prison population. In its ruling, the Supreme Court recognized that the enactment of AB 109 is key to meeting this obligation. We must now secure full and constitutionally guaranteed funding to put into effect all the realignment provisions contained in AB 109. As we work to carry out the Court’s ruling, I will take all steps necessary to protect public safety.”

From California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro:

Tom Del Beccaro“The reason for this unfortunate Supreme Court decision lies with those in charge of the California legislature for the last two decades. While the Democrat leadership has wasted $23,000 per Assembly and Senate bill on thousands of unnecessary bills each year, not to mention wasteful programs, they have failed in their most basic obligation to keep Californians safe by building adequate prisons. Now that neglect is taking the form of the forced release of 46,000 prisoners. It is a dereliction beyond shameful.”

From ACLU of Northern California Executive Director Abdi Soltani:

Abdi Soltani“Reduction of prison populations is necessary not only to meet the Constitutional standards required by the Supreme Court, but also to balance prison spending with other priorities as we solve the remaining $10 billion state budget deficit. Felony sentences should be for people who have committed serious crimes – not simple drug possession or writing $450 worth of bad checks.”

From Asemblyman Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber:

Jim Nielsen“The court’s decision is an egregious travesty of justice. I agree with Justice Scalia who called the decision ‘perhaps the most radical injunction issued by a court in our nation’s history’ This decision will result in hundreds of thousands of crimes being committed against our citizens as criminals are released who will then face lesser to no consequences for their continued criminality.

“California citizens must now be more concerned with the safety of their families. Their government and courts are offering less concern.”

Lots more, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, May 23rd, 2011
Under: Darrell Steinberg, Jerry Brown, Public safety, State Prisons | 2 Comments »

Brown names two to community college posts

Gov. Jerry Brown today announced the appointments of two Bay Area women to posts in the state’s community college system.

Natalie BergNatalie Berg, 75, of San Francisco, has been appointed to the Community Colleges Board of Governors. She has served as an elected member on the board of trustees for the City College of San Francisco since 1997; she also has worked as an independent consultant with her own firm, NKB Strategies. Earlier, Berg served with the City College of San Francisco in a variety of instruction and administrative positions from 1967 to 1997, retiring as dean of the School of Health on the John Adams Campus. Berg is a member of the Bay Area Council, and current president of Jewish Vocational Services. This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $100 per diem. Berg is a Democrat.

Van Ton QuinlivanVan Ton-Quinlivan, 42, of Burlingame, has been appointed as the Community College Vice Chancellor of Economic and Workforce Development. Ton-Quinlivan has been serving as the director of workforce development for PG&E since 2006; earlier, she served as an adjunct faculty member for De Anza Community College from 2002 to 2004, as vice president for internet marketing at Knowledge Universe from 1999 to 2001, and as director for strategic marketing at Digital Island. Ton-Quinlivan also served as a corporate strategist for Pacific Bell from 1995 to 1997. This position does not require Senate confirmation and the compensation is $116,508. Ton-Quinlivan is a Democrat.

Posted on Friday, May 20th, 2011
Under: education, Jerry Brown | No Comments »

More on the filibuster of Goodwin Liu

I’ve filed an article on the U.S. Senate’s vote against cloture today on the nomination to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals of Cal law professor Goodwin Liu; there’s an avalanche of additional rhetoric for which I had no room, but which might prove illuminating.

First, more stuff from Professor Steve Smith of Washington University in St. Louis, an expert Congress who specializes in filibusters. Beyond what I’ve quoted him saying in my article, he also said it was clear to see well in advance, based on comments from crucial GOP senators, it was “highly unlikely that there was anything the White House could do to change their minds” and so cloture wasn’t going to happen.

“I don’t think anyone in the White House thought they would win on this,” Smith said, an opinion furthered by news reports that the President didn’t personally bring pressure to bear this week on potential GOP votes.

Senate Democratic leaders meanwhile might have been thinking both of giving Liu a chance to get on with the rest of his life as well as of marking another point on their tally of perceived Republican obstructionism, he said.

“The average voter out there doesn’t give a hoot about this, this is not going to make a big difference politically, and the White House knows that and it wasn’t going to invest much in what it knew was a losing cause,” Smith said. “But I could see (Majority Leader Harry) Reid thinking this’ll add one to the scoreboard.”

Now, onward to the complaints and crowing.

From American Constitution Society Executive Director Caroline Fredrickson:

“With today’s failed cloture vote, some senators have signaled that they are willing to abrogate their duty to advise and consent on judicial nominees for the sake of petty partisanship. Goodwin Liu was nominated more than a year ago to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit considered a ‘judicial emergency.’ And for more than a year, senators have let this seat and countless others sit empty, choosing to hold our justice system hostage and subject Liu to an unnecessarily grueling confirmation process. Majority Leader Harry Reid challenged these senators to, at long last, make their opposition known by casting an up-or-down vote and moving the confirmation process forward. Those senators who voted against cloture are ushering in an era of unprecedented obstructionism, and threaten to bring our system of justice to a grinding halt. Nothing short of an immediate vote on every pending nominee is necessary to forestall a crisis on our courts.”

From Americans for Limited Government President Bill Wilson:

“Goodwin Liu was the most radical nominee to the federal bench in a generation, who openly wrote of the role of courts in adjudicating and distributing so-called welfare ‘rights.’ His was a philosophy, not of the text and meaning of the Constitution, but of the ever-evolving consensus of ‘how a society understands its obligations of mutual provision.’ It was an ideology that threatens the elected branches of government, whose powers of the purse would have been seized by any court on which Liu was allowed to sit.

“Senate Republicans deserve the thanks of the American people for defeating Goodwin Liu for the Ninth Circuit, and for standing up to this radical, disrespectful nomination by Barack Obama. So far outside the mainstream was he, no other nominee in recent memory has more clearly articulated a judicial philosophy that so thoroughly rejects the tenants of constitutional limited government, the separation of powers, and the rule of law.”

More, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, May 19th, 2011
Under: Obama presidency, U.S. Senate | 3 Comments »

Richmond real estate ad? Not!

The couple with the cheapest house in the Bay Area have produced a catchy real estate ad for Richmond.

But the city probably won’t be using it in its promotional material!

Jason Myers produced this cheeky little ditty (see below) in response to his longstanding fight with City Hall over its inability to fix the repeated flooding in his neighborhood. His house was recently assessed at an astonishingly low $4,000.

“I was smitten by the muse for this song about two weeks ago,” Jason emailed me. “During its writing, I met many outside distractions that threatened to thwart my ability to finish it, but I was determined with my nose to the grindstone, come Hell or high wa …Well, you get the idea. This is the first installment of a larger work entitled ‘The Ballad Of The Bungled Bureaucracy.’ Stay tuned ’cause there’s more to come!  (Signed) Swimmingly,  Jason”

Posted on Thursday, May 19th, 2011
Under: Richmond | No Comments »

GOP fret in 11th District premature

Republicans worry too many candidates will flood the Congressional District 11 primary in 2012 and lead to repeat of the party’s narrow November loss in the 11th Congressional District, reports The Hill, a Washington, D.C., politics publication.

GOP nominee David Harmer prevailed in a hard-fought, expensive four-way primary before falling short against incumbent Democrat Jerry McNerney in the general election.

The Hill also writes that the GOP’s predicament could be exacerbated by the new voter-approved open primary system under which the top two finishers in congressional and legislative races in June will compete in the November general election regardless of party affiliation.

Undoubtedly, the party is fielding plenty of calls from would-be congressional candidates who remember the GOP’s high hopes for win this district last year. And we’ve seen the GOP spent a few bucks lately on robocalls targeting McNerney, which suggests the party intends to again focus on the seat.

One 24-year-old San Joaquin County Republican, Ricky Gill, a UC-Berkeley law student, has declared his candidacy, The Hill says. And Elizabeth Emken, one of four Republicans who ran in the 2010 primary, may re-enter.  My sources say Harmer, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress twice in California, is moving on to other pursuits.

But it is premature to start losing sleep over the 11th District from either political camp.

For one, this district appears likely to experience major boundary changes under redistricting. It’s a heavily gerrymandered district split by the Altamont Pass and spread across four counties. Mapping experts believe the independent map-making process now under way will produce a more compact 11th District whose party registration balance could look very different — it’s almost dead even at the moment — when it’s over. The state redistricting panel is redrawing the maps and will release drafts in early June.

A party registration gap of 5 or 6 points one way or the other in a newly constituted 11th District would make a huge difference in the predictive success — and ability to attract contributions — of any Republican challenger. And while members of Congress are not legally required to live in the districts they represent, it’s a big advantage.

Second, the top-two primary could encourage other Democrats to run against McNerney. Granted, Democrats will work hard behind the scenes to avoid such a scenario.

But the whole point of the top two primary was to provide voters a choice between the two most viable candidates by allowing them to advance to the general election even if they hail from the same party.

Posted on Thursday, May 19th, 2011
Under: congressional district 11 | No Comments »

A slew of East Bay Congressional events

Several of the East Bay’s voices in Congress will be out and about in their districts this week.

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, will host a Jobs and Career Expo from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. this Friday at the Laney College Gymnasium, 900 Fallon St. in Oakland. Produced in collaboration with the Peralta Community College District, Laney College and partner organizations, the expo will feature employers from a wide range of industries that have jobs to fill right now. Participating employers from federal agencies, high-tech firms, green industries, transportation, banking, health care and construction trades will be on site to conduct job interviews and provide career information for constituents seeking work.

Workshops will offer job-seeking strategies with a focus on green jobs opportunities, social media techniques, tips for workers 50 and older, and emerging industries. Volunteers from the Oakland Private Industry Council and East Bay Professional Experience Network will provide coach job seekers on their resumes.

“In Congress, my colleague Congressman Bobby Scott and I have worked tirelessly to pass HR 589, which extends emergency benefits to long-term unemployed workers by providing 14 weeks of emergency unemployment benefits to job-seekers who have exhausted all their benefits yet are still unemployed,” Lee said in a news release. “With this event, I hope to provide another form of assistance by bringing my constituents together with companies and agencies that are actively hiring, while spreading awareness of services available to help those who are seeking employment.”

Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, has a bunch of events coming up.

On Wednesday, he’ll visit in the morning with seniors at Vallejo’s Florence Douglas Senior Center to discuss Medicare, Medicaid and prescription drug costs, and then offer congratulatory remarks at the afternoon ribbon-cutting for the new JFK University mental health counseling services facility in Concord. On Thursday morning, he’ll help kick off the West Contra Costa Unified School District’s Nutrition and Health Festival at Richmond’s Nystrom Elementary School, chatting with the kids about healthy meals; that evening, he’ll be at the Contra Costa College’s Puente Project Celebration, congratulating high school students and their mentors from this program designed to encourage students to pursue four-year college educations.

On Friday, he’ll be in Richmond at the monthly meeting of El Concilio Latino for a closed-door discussion of issues of interest to the Latin community, and also will join Contra Costa County officials at the groundbreaking for a new $45 million, 53,000-square-foot health center in San Pablo, paid for in part by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act economic stimulus legislation; it’s meant to replace the existing Richmond Health Center and is expected to be done by July 2012.

And then he’ll meet with you, his constituents, in a town hall meeting at 9:30 a.m. 10 a.m. Saturday in Grace Lutheran Church, 2369 Barrett Ave. in Richmond; issues likely to arise include Medicare, the war in Afghanistan, efforts to create jobs and other issues before Congress.

Finally, Miller will join veterans at noon Saturday for the annual walk across the Al Zampa Bridge, to raise funds for the Vietnam Veterans of the Diablo Valley and the Crockett Community Services District. The VNVDN provides support services to veterans in need and hosts the East Bay Stand Down; CCSD is raising funds to restore the Crockett Veterans Memorial Hall.

Jerry McNerneyRep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, will tour Tracy’s Vinewood Center for Children & Families at 11 a.m. Wednesday, hearing from the counselors about the services they provide and touring a classroom. The center provides mental health services for children, adolescents, families and individuals, including school-based counseling and parenting classes on teen gang prevention and substance abuse issues; it serves 400 children and 200 adults each year.

John GaramendiRep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, is holding his annual Basque BBQ from 4 to 8 p.m. this Saturday at the Touch the Earth Ranch in Paloma, near Mokekumne Hill. It’s music, BBQ dinner, barn dancing, petting farm, pony rides and gold panning, at a cost of $35 per ticket, free for kids 12 and under; proceeds go to his Garamendi for Congress committee. Tickets are available online or by calling 916-863-6881.

Posted on Tuesday, May 17th, 2011
Under: Barbara Lee, George Miller, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, U.S. House | No Comments »

State redistricting comes to Oakland

Don’t miss your chance to tell the new independent members of the California Citizens Redistricting Task Force how you want to redraw congressional and legislative lines.

As part of the commission’s statewide tour, it will make a stop in Oakland on Saturday.

Here are the details as provided by the commission:

California’s Citizens Redistricting Commission Calls On The Public To Submit Testimony For The First Draft of District Maps

Public Hearing To Be Held in Oakland May 21st

Public Can Submit Testimony Online, By Fax, Mail Or At A Public Hearing

The California Citizens Redistricting Commission is calling for the public to submit their testimony on the drawing of district boundaries no later than May 23rd in order to be considered by the Commission for the first draft of district maps. The Commission was created by California voters to draw state Congressional, Assembly, State Senate and Board of Equalization Districts. The public can submit their testimony online, by fax, mail or at a public hearing.

The Commission will be holding a public input hearing in Oakland, Saturday, May 21, 2:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m., Oakland City Council Chamber, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza.

The public is encouraged to present testimony about the community they live in, describing the kind of people who live there, important issues, community centers and community history. Speaking up about their community is critical to ensuring district lines are drawn to keep their community whole and grouped with nearby communities with similar interests. The Commission would also like to know about communitieswhich do not share common interests which could be placed in another district.

The maximum time for each speaker is 2 minutes. Speakers should provide copies for the 14 members of the Commission of documents they are submitting as testimony. Speaker numbers may be obtained one hour prior to the posted time of the hearing. The posted meeting time may not extend more than 2 hours beyond the original closing, subject to venue limitations and speaker demand. No speaker numbers will be given out after the end of the posted meeting time. Due to high speaker demand, it is possible that not all people who have been given numbers will have the opportunity to speak.

Along with census data, publicly submitted comments will be used to assist the Commission when it begins drawing district boundaries.

The Commission encourages the public to submit written testimony bye-mail at votersfirstact@crc.ca.gov, fax at 916-322-0904 or by mail to the Citizens Redistricting Commission, 1130 K Street, Suite 101, Sacramento, CA 95814. Once the testimony is received it is posted online, given to each of the Commissioners and catalogued by area by the Commission’s line drawers.

Please visit the Commission’s website at www.wedrawthelines.ca.gov for complete information on the hearings and to access a guide to help you prepare your testimony.

Posted on Tuesday, May 17th, 2011
Under: redistricting | No Comments »