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Archive for June, 2011

Hancock to introduce death-penalty bill today

As she promised a week ago, state Sen. Loni Hancock today will introduce a bill to abolish California’s death penalty.

The bill would replace capital punishment with life without possibility of parole. Hancock, D-Berkeley, who chairs both the Senate Public Safety Committee and the Budget subcommittee overseeing prison spending, will gut and amend her SB 490 to carry the language. It’s expected to have its first hearing at 9:30 a.m. next Tuesday, July 5, in the Assembly Public Safety Committee.

If passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor, the bill would still require voters’ approval as a Legislature-sponsored initiative in November 2012. That coincide with the high-turnout presidential general election; the state’s significant Democratic voter registration edge means a somewhat more liberal electorate would decide the issue.

Hancock will discuss the bill in a live interview with host Jeffrey Callison on Capitol Public Radio’s “Insight” at 10 a.m. this morning.

“Capital punishment is an expensive failure and an example of the dysfunction of our prisons,” Hancock said in a news release issued late last night. “California’s death row is the largest and most costly in the United States. It is not helping to protect our state; it is helping to bankrupt us.”

Hancock announced her legislation after the Los Angeles Times reported last week on a new study highlighting capital punishment’s high cost in California: $4 billion since the death penalty was reinstated in 1978, although only 13 executions have occurred since then while the number of condemned inmates has swelled to 714. The report, “Executing the Will of the Voters: A Roadmap to Mend or End the California Legislature’s Multi-Billion-Dollar Death Penalty Debacle,” was written by U.S. 9th Circuit Judge Arthur Alarcon, a former prosecutor, and Loyola Law School professor Paula Mitchell. It will be published this week in the Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review.

Posted on Monday, June 27th, 2011
Under: California State Senate, Loni Hancock, Public safety, State Prisons | 2 Comments »

Lockyers hosting Assembly fundraiser tonight

State Treasurer Bill Lockyer and his wife, Alameda County Supervisor Nadia Lockyer, are hosting a fundraiser tonight for Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, with some other Assembly candidates on the guest list as well.

Tickets to the wine reception at Wieckowski’s home start at $50 with sponsorships ranging up to $3,900, the maximum personal contribution to a legislative committee allowed by law.

Wieckowski, a freshman and former Fremont City Councilman, won the 20th District seat in November with 73 percent of the vote to Republican nominee Adnan Shahab’s 27 percent; Shahab has formed a committee to run again in 2012.

It won’t be nearly the same race, however. A first-draft map issued recently by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission shows the district in which both Wieckowski and Shahab reside would be markedly different from the 20th District’s existing lines.

Bill Lockyer’s fundraising prowess is legendary. His own Lockyer for Treasurer 2010 committee finished 2010 with just under $3 million in the bank, after both repelling a challenge from Republican nominee Mimi Walters and giving his wife’s supervisorial campaign more than $1.5 million. He has formed a committee to run for state controller in 2014.

Among those scheduled to attend tonight’s event, according to Facebook, is Peralta Community College District Trustee Abel Guillen of Oakland, who has formed his own committee to run for Assembly next year. Guillen lives in the 16th Assembly District, where Sandre Swanson will be term-limited out.

Also scheduled to attend tonight is Dr. Jennifer Ong, a Hayward optometrist who has formed a committee to run next year in the 18th Assembly District, where Mary Hayashi is term-limited out.

Posted on Friday, June 24th, 2011
Under: Assembly, Bill Lockyer, Bob Wieckowski, campaign finance, Mary Hayashi, Sandre Swanson | 5 Comments »

Libya vote splits foes of Obama’s policy

The House voted against a bill today that would’ve limited how the U.S. can spend money on the NATO action against Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, handing President Obama a surprise win apparently because his opponents disagreed on whether the bill was tough enough.

The vote on HR 2278 was 180 for, 238 against. As the Washington Post put it, the bill “would not have ended the U.S. mission in Libya, but it would have cut off funding for American forces that are not engaged in support missions within the NATO-led coalition, like aerial refueling, reconnaissance, and planning. That would have meant an end to strikes on Libyan targets by unmanned U.S. drones.”

From the Bay Area, only Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Pete Stark, D-Fremont; and Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, supported the bill.

honda.jpgRep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose – who just yesterday joined Lee, Woolsey and Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., in issuing a statement calling upon Congress and the President to immediately halt all action in Libya – voted against today’s bill.

“It provides funding and legal authority for everything we’re currently doing. It was back-door authorization. Honda is against the invasion entirely,” spokesman Michael Shank said. “HR 2278 legitimized continued involvement. The exemptions were problematic and in conflict with his position on Libya.”

Congress also voted today on H.Res.68, which would’ve provided Congressional authorization of U.S. action in Libya; that one failed 123-295.

Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, opposed both bills, saying neither was serious or deserving of his support.

“One resolution offered far too broad of an authorization for U.S. military action, and the other prescribed far too limited a role.

“I believe President Obama was correct to have American forces join with NATO in its effort to stop a humanitarian crisis in Libya, and I believe NATO continues to have a strong rationale for preventing a substantial loss of life in Libya, as Qadafi and his forces have made clear their intent to indiscriminately kill opponents of his dictatorship.

“But I also I believe his actions, beginning in March, triggered the War Powers Act and required him to seek an authorization from Congress. At that time I said that I believed Congress most likely would have granted him the authority to participate in the NATO operation. But he never asked for authorization. And last week he made a spurious argument that U.S. actions in Libya did not trigger the War Powers Act. He has few supporters for this claim.

“It is incumbent on the President to make a clear and convincing case to Congress about the U.S. mission in Libya and to ask for a narrow and carefully drawn resolution authorizing a limited action. He has not done that and a proper resolution has not been brought before Congress for our careful consideration and debate. As a result, I voted against the sloppily drafted resolution to provide a one-year authorization for U.S. military actions in Libya.”

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, issued a statement explaining his votes for authorization and against the funding cut:

John Garamendi“President Obama stopped genocide, and in his rush to prevent mass slaughter, his consultation with Congress was limited. Today I voted to grant President Obama the one-year authority he requested to continue our limited operation in Libya.

“To my friends on the left and the right opposed to our action in Libya, I say this: in terms of the human toll, financial burden, and impact on our relations with allies and adversaries throughout the world, Libya pales in comparison to the war in Afghanistan. In Libya, the United States is engaged in a humanitarian mission that received broad international support – with the Arab League supporting for the first time ever an intervention in an Arab country. This conflict has yet to cost us a single American life, and god willing it will stay that way.

“Meanwhile, the conflict in Afghanistan continues to cost America more than $2 billion a week, and this spring was the deadliest spring for American troops since we entered that country nearly a decade ago. Let’s focus on the big picture: targeting Al Qaeda wherever they take root, keeping our troops safe, and where and when we can, preventing genocide and assisting our fellow world citizens as they aspire to form governments that are more representative and more just. I have my disagreements with President Obama on the war in Afghanistan, but I stand with him in the prevention of the massacre of a Libyan people yearning to breathe free.”

Posted on Friday, June 24th, 2011
Under: Barbara Lee, George Miller, John Garamendi, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Honda, Pete Stark, U.S. House | 2 Comments »

“Jerry the Barbarian?”

Gov. Jerry Brown, speaking to the Pacific Coast Builders’ Conference today at San Francisco’s Moscone Center, sounded a distinctly aggressive note at one point as he talked about how his stint as Oakland’s mayor prepared him to get back into the governor’s office.

California BudgetAt first he was a bit lighthearted. He said he learned a lot about development not only as a mayor but as an apartment dweller. “I enjoyed calling the landlord when things didn’t work right,” he told the audience of several hundred residential builders, developers, architects, engineers and so forth.

Later on, Brown said his mayoral work reinforced the need to identify your assets – in Oakland’s case, its proximity to the Bay, San Francisco and Silicon Valley – and focus on achieving a few most vital goals – such as packing more disposable-income toting residents into the downtown area – rather than working scattershot and accomplishing little.

“I learned that every project is opposed by somebody,” he said. “I never had such an experience of mindless resistance.”

As an example of ideology over practicality, he cited anti-military activists who took issue with his founding of the Oakland Military Institute college prep academy charter school. Ultimately, you have to be steadfast in your pursuit of policy goals and “crush the opposition,” he said.

“Crush,” huh? Kind of sounds like something Arnold would’ve said. Oh wait – he did.

“Crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentations of their women!” A budget-crisis battle cry if I ever heard one…

Posted on Thursday, June 23rd, 2011
Under: Jerry Brown, Oakland | No Comments »

California GOP lawmakers endorse Mitt Romney

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, on a fundraising trip through California this week, has rolled out endorsements from a bunch of GOP lawmakers.

The former Massachusetts governor issued a statement this morning saying he looks forward to working with them in his campaign “to promote job growth and reverse President Obama’s failed policies.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, said in Romney’s news release that President Obama’s policies have failed California and the nation, while Romney “has a proven record of job creation in both the private sector and as a governor.”

Similarly, state Senate Republican Leader Bob Dutton, R-Rancho Cucamonga, said Romney’s record as governor “speaks for itself.”

“He created jobs, balanced budgets, and cut taxes,” Dutton said. “Mitt Romney knows how the economy works and he has the much-needed experience to lead the country out of the economic downturn.”

Also endorsing Romney are Rep. Mary Bono Mack, R-Palm Springs; state Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Moorpark; state Sen. Sharon Runner, R-Lancaster; state Sen. Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar; state Sen. Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo; state Sen. Mark Wyland, R-Del Mar; Assemblyman Paul Cook, R-Yucca Valley; and Assemblyman Jim Silva, R-Huntington Beach.

Posted on Thursday, June 23rd, 2011
Under: 2012 presidential election, Assembly, California State Senate, Mitt Romney, U.S. House | No Comments »

Prize-winning journalist drops bombshell

(This is a guest post from Matt O’Brien, who covers immigration issues for Bay Area News Group – East Bay.)

A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who grew up in the Bay Area dropped a media bombshell this morning that took off with a brief post on his Twitter account.

“I am an undocumented immigrant,” announced Jose Antonio Vargas, a graduate of SF State and Mountain View High School who won the Pulitzer for his coverage of the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre for the Washington Post. Read about his saga, he added, in a gripping 4,600-word essay posted online this morning and to be printed in this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine.

Vargas told of how his mother sent him from the Philippines to live with his grandparents in Mountain View when he was a 12-year-old in 1993. It wasn’t until years later that he found out he was living in the United States illegally:

One day when I was 16, I rode my bike to the nearby D.M.V. office to get my driver’s permit. Some of my friends already had their licenses, so I figured it was time. But when I handed the clerk my green card as proof of U.S. residency, she flipped it around, examining it. “This is fake,” she whispered. “Don’t come back here again.”

Vargas also went public with his story in an emotional TV interview that will broadcast on ABC News tomorrow:

Another video on his newly launched “Define American” website ( shows that this disclosure is designed to make a powerful statement in the country’s ongoing debate over illegal immigration:

Vargas isn’t the only journalist, or Pulitzer winner, for that matter, to have lived in the U.S. as an unauthorized immigrant. Orange Coast magazine reported earlier this year on the story of LA Times reporter Ruben Vives, part of the team that uncovered the Bell city government scandal and the son of a Guatemalan nanny who brought him across the border when he was a child.

But the Vargas story has caused more of a stir because the journalist is still at risk of deportation and has been in this situation throughout his career, which included early internships at The Mountain View Voice (which was unpaid) and the San Francisco Chronicle. The Seattle Times denied Vargas an internship because of his lack of proper documents, and he kept his status a secret from top managers at the Washington Post.

It was the Post that planned to publish the Vargas account first, but as Chris Suellentrop, an editor at the New York Times Magazine, explained in a blog post this afternoon, the DC paper killed the story days before it was due to run.

Posted on Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011
Under: Immigration | No Comments »

Meet the East Bay’s veterans of the year

Each of the East Bay’s Assembly members named a Veteran of the Year this week, to be recognized at the Assembly Veterans Affairs Committee’s annual luncheon today in Sacramento.

Read all about these inspirational vets, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011
Under: Assembly, Bob Wieckowski, Joan Buchanan, Mary Hayashi, Nancy Skinner, Sandre Swanson, Susan Bonilla, veterans | No Comments »

Obama names East Bay judge to national council

President Barack Obama announced today he’s appointing Alameda County Superior Court Judge Trina Thompson, who presides over the county’s Juvenile Court, to serve on the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

An independent body within the executive branch, the council coordinates federal juvenile delinquency prevention programs, federal programs and activities that detain or care for unaccompanied juveniles, and federal programs relating to missing and exploited children. It consists of nine ex officio members and nine non-federal members chaired by the U.S. Attorney General, and meets quarterly or at the chair’s call.

Trina ThompsonThompson, 50, first was elected to the bench in November 2002 – the first African American woman ever elected to the county’s Superior Court – and was sworn into office in January 2003. Before taking over the Juvenile Court last year, she presided over felony jury trials, adult truancy court, and was responsible along with one of her colleagues for managing the court’s domestic violence calendar.

Thompson in 2001 had been appointed as a Juvenile Court Commissioner, responsible for hearing juvenile delinquency and dependency matters; she also chaired of the Alameda County Educational Task Force for the juvenile court to ensure the education of state-raised children.

Earlier, Thompson managed a private criminal defense practice from 1991 to 2000, focusing on juvenile, misdemeanor, felony and capital defense trials, and was a public defender in Alameda County from 1987 to 1991. The mother of two, who grew up in Oakland and Vallejo, holds a Bachelor’s degree in Legal Studies from the University of California, Berkeley and a law degree from Cal’s Boalt Hall School of Law.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, praised the appointment.

“Judge Thompson has earned tremendous respect for her insight and sensitivity in dealing with juvenile justice issues,” Lee said, and “will bring a wealth of experience as we examine how federal programs can be more effectively coordinated among federal, state and local government to better serve our at-risk youth.”

Posted on Tuesday, June 21st, 2011
Under: Uncategorized | 6 Comments »

Lee, Garamendi muster pressure on Obama

Reps. Barbara Lee and John Garamendi joined with two Republicans to lead dozens of House members in writing to President Obama today to urge him to announce a significant, sizeable withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan when he addresses the nation tomorrow.

“We urge a significant and sizable reduction of U.S. military forces in Afghanistan beginning July 2011,” the lawmakers wrote. “With Osama bin Laden killed and Al Qaeda largely driven from Afghanistan, it is time to accelerate the transfer of security responsibilities to the Government of Afghanistan and to reduce the U.S. military footprint there.”

Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, said Congress must send a strong message that a token withdrawal is unacceptable.

“Maintaining anywhere near 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, at a cost of $10 billion per month, is an ineffective strategy for fighting terrorism and an unjustified drain on our budget,” he said. “Our brave troops have largely succeeded in driving out Al Qaeda from Afghanistan. Our troops in Afghanistan continue to fight valiantly, but they are now on the wrong mission.”

Lee, D-Oakland, said almost three out of four Americans want to bring our troops home from Afghanistan, and the nation no longer can afford to spend over $100 billion a year on a war without a military solution.

“That why I believe a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan should begin immediately,” she said. “A modest reduction of 30,000 troops should not be considered significant since it would merely return us to 2009 and pre-escalation troop levels. A more ‘significant’ and reasonable goal would be the withdrawal of 50,000 combat troops by the end of this year which is only half of the roughly 100,000 troops currently on the ground.”

Lee and Garamendi joined with Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., and Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., in leading the letter effort. Other Bay Area members signing the letter include George Miller, D-Martinez; Pete Stark, D-Fremont; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; and Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma.

Read the full text of the letter, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, June 21st, 2011
Under: Afghanistan, Barbara Lee, George Miller, John Garamendi, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Honda, Obama presidency, Pete Stark, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

Will East Bay lawmakers feel the money pinch?

With state Controller John Chiang telling lawmakers they won’t get paid because they haven’t passed a balanced budget, it seemed like a good time to see which of our East Bay electeds are most likely to feel the pinch. The Form 700 Statement of Economic Interests filed by public officials each year sheds some light on who has a financial cushion and who doesn’t.

State Senate Marjority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, reported no investments, real property or other income besides gifts and travel costs.

State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, reported a 10-percent-or-greater share in the ownership of TR’s Bar and Grill worth somewhere between $10,000 and $100,000, but reported receiving less than $500 in income from it last year.

State Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, reported no investments, real property or other income besides gifts and travel costs.

Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, reported more than $100,000 in income from her husband’s job as a systems architect at OSI in San Leandro.

Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, reported holding more than $1 million in stock in AON Corp., as well as up to $100,000 in JP Morgan Chase stock, up to $10,000 in Bank of America stock, and up to $10,000 in Motorola stock. Buchanan also reported some venture capital participation: she’s a limited partner in Blackrock Global, with up to $100,000 invested, and in the Halo Fund, with up to $10,000 invested. And she has up to $10,000 in a First Eagle mutual fund.

Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, D-Castro Valley, reported owning a rental property in Castro Valley worth between $100,000 and $1 million, from which she derived between $10,000 and $100,000 in income last year.

Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, reported no investments, real property or other income besides gifts and travel costs.

Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda, reported sole proprietorship of his SRS Associates public relations consulting firm worth up to $10,000, and had somewhere between $1,000 and $10,000 in income from it last year. He also reported sharing in the ownership of the California Legislative Black Caucus Policy Institute, from which he received less than $500 last year, and of the East Bay Conversion and Reinvestment Commission, from which he received less than $500 last year.

Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, reported a share in the ownership of Crusader LLC financial management group worth between $10,000 and $100,000, as well as his role as president of his legal practice, which he valued between $100,000 and $1 million; he received more than $100,000 from the law practice last year.

Posted on Tuesday, June 21st, 2011
Under: Uncategorized | 10 Comments »