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Archive for July, 2011

Tauscher declares victory over cancer

U.S. Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher (Photo by Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group

U.S. Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher

I had breakfast with U.S. Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher earlier this week and the former East Bay congresswoman shared the compelling and inspiring story of her remarkable triumph over esophageal cancer.

Read the full story here.

I didn’t have space in the piece but I shared with Ellen that morning about how her experience had already helped me in a very personal way.

Last March, the Washington Post wrote a lovely story about her recovery and as I read through the text, I keyed in on Ellen’s description of the early symptoms: Trouble swallowing bulky foods, a sensation of something blocking her esophagus.

My husband had been experiencing the very same symptoms for months. He had recently suffered a painful episode while eating a salad at a restaurant.

I showed him the news story and he made an appointment.

The initial examination revealed a potential problem and his doctor scheduled an endoscopy. Fortunately, the scope found a highly treatable inflammation and not cancer.

But for all we knew at the time, the symptoms could have been associated with a far more serious health problem. And early detection is a good thing when it comes to the successful treatment of cancer.

So, take Ellen’s advice: Even if you think all you need is another roll of Tums, go see your doctor.  Do it for the people who love you.

Posted on Friday, July 29th, 2011
Under: Congress, Congressional District 10, Ellen Tauscher, national security | 2 Comments »

House passes Eshoo’s bill on religious minorities

The House today overwhelmingly approved a bill by Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., and Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, to create a special State Department envoy for religious minorities in the Middle East and South Central Asia.

The bill, HR 440, was introduced in January in the wake of increasing violence, targeted attacks and heightened discrimination against Christians in Iraq and Egypt, and persistent concerns in Afghanistan and Pakistan, among other nations. The House voted 402-20 today to approve it and send it on to the Senate.

Wolf co-chairs Congress’ bipartisan Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, named for the late congressman from San Mateo. Threats against religious minorities have been increasing in recent months, he said, and the United States has an obligation to speak out for the voiceless, to develop policies to protect and preserve these communities, and to prioritize these issues in broader U.S. foreign policy.

“The U.S. government needs an individual who can respond and focus on the critical situation of religious minorities in these countries whose basic human rights are increasingly under assault,” Wolf said in today’s news release. “If the international community fails to speak out, the prospects for religious pluralism and tolerance in the region are bleak.”

Eshoo, who co-founded and co-chairs the Religious Minorities in the Middle East Caucus with Wolf, has long pressed the State Department to develop a comprehensive policy to address the unique needs of small, indigenous faith communities in Iraq that are being targeted for violence.

“In a time of partisanship and polarization, it’s gratifying when members from both parties can come together to address the humanitarian crisis that’s been unfolding in the Middle East, and has not been given the attention it deserves,” she said. “As the daughter of Assyrian and Armenian immigrants who fled the slaughter of Christians in the Middle East, it’s terrifying to see history repeating itself in today’s Iraq. I’m hopeful that the special envoy created by this legislation will elevate the crisis of the Middle East’s religious minorities, giving them the diplomatic attention they so badly need and deserve.”

Reps. Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; and Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough – Lantos’ successor – are among the bill’s co-sponsors.

Posted on Friday, July 29th, 2011
Under: Afghanistan, Anna Eshoo, International politics, Iraq, Jackie Speier, Mike Honda, Tom Lantos, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | No Comments »

Amazon, other tax foes launch new committee

Opponents of the state’s new internet tax law rolled out their new committee Thursday that will work to put a repeal measure on next year’s ballot and get it passed.

The “More Jobs Not Taxes” committee actually filed its statement of organization July 20 and has not yet reported receiving any funding, but its website says it will have major funding from online retail giant Amazon, and you can bet it’ll be major indeed.

“With state unemployment over 11 percent and companies moving to business-friendly states like Arizona and Nevada, Californians have had it with Sacramento politicians passing new tax laws that hurt the state’s economy instead of focusing on creating jobs,” Marc Duerr, the California Business Alliance’s legislative services director, said in the new committee’s news release. “This new tax law will come at the expense of California taxpayers who will be forced to pay even more to fuel the politicians’ wasteful spending.”

Performance Marketing Association Executive Director Rebecca Madigan said her group “believes Californians should have a voice and a choice on the harmful new tax law that will cost the state jobs and investment. We are encouraged at the overwhelming response to the efforts of the More Jobs Not Taxes referendum campaign and remain confident that it will collect more than enough signatures to place this measure on the ballot.”

The committee has until Sept. 27 to gather valid signatures from at least 504,760 registered voters in order to put the repeal measure on the June 2012 ballot.

Federal law says states can tax sales only if the seller has a physical presence in the state. California sought to get past that issue by letting the state tax board collect from any retailer with a so-called business “nexus” or connection with an affiliate inside California. Supporters say it would make the tax code fairer, forcing Internet retailers to collect taxes just as brick-and-mortar stores already do. Several other states have enacted similar statutes.

Posted on Thursday, July 28th, 2011
Under: ballot measures, taxes | 31 Comments »

McNerney launches re-election campaign

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton

On the same day the independent “citizen” mapping commission released final congressional and legislative map boundaries, Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, launched his re-election campaign.

Under new boundaries set for adoption in August, McNerney will run in a seat that largely overlaps by two-thirds his current district. The new 9th District will include the bulk of San Joaquin County and stretch into eastern Contra Costa County communities of Oakley, Brentwood, Discovery Bay and portions of Antioch. He loses the Tri- and San Ramon valleys to neighboring districts.

McNerney doesn’t live in the new district but the law doesn’t require it.

Here’s what the congressman said:

MCNERNEY LAUNCHES RE-ELECTION CAMPAIGN FOR SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY/EAST CONTRA COSTA COUNTY DISTRICT

Stockton, CA – Congressman Jerry McNerney today launched his re-election campaign for the San Joaquin County and East Contra Costa County congressional district.  Congressman McNerney has represented San Joaquin County and East Contra Costa County for almost 5 years.

“I’m proud and honored to launch my re-election campaign for the San Joaquin County/East Contra Costa district,” said Rep. McNerney.  “This area has a resilient spirit, a strong sense of community and a great future ahead.  I’m deeply committed to this area and excited to continue working for San Joaquin and East Contra Costa Counties.”

Congressman McNerney currently represents a majority of the voters in the San Joaquin County/East Contra Costa County congressional district and is the incumbent Member of Congress for the area.

“After spending so much time in San Joaquin County, it truly is my home,” continued Rep. McNerney.  “That’s why I’m planning to move my residence to San Joaquin County and put down even more roots in this community.  I’m going to continue to fight for San Joaquin County and East Contra Costa County.”

During his time as the representative for this area, Congressman McNerney led the effort to bring a new veterans medical facility and nursing home to San Joaquin County, wrote a new law to improve treatment for service members suffering from traumatic brain injuries, and helped secure millions of dollars in funding for local infrastructure projects, including for the Port of Stockton and Highway 4 in Brentwood.

Congressman McNerney also held countless public meetings in cities throughout San Joaquin County and East Contra Costa County.  He has made accessibility to the people he represents a top priority and travels home to California from Washington D.C. nearly every weekend.

Posted on Thursday, July 28th, 2011
Under: Jerry McNerney, redistricting, Uncategorized | 15 Comments »

CoCo supes OK new district maps on 3-2 vote

Contra Costa supervisors narrowly adopted new electoral maps today that will shift half the county’s population into a new districts just in time for the 2012 election.

Click here to view the map. Or see it below.

On a contentious 3-2 vote, supervisors Federal Glover, John Gioia and Karen Mitchoff prevailed after months of discord and no map had the three votes it needed to pass.

Supervisors Mary Nejedly Piepho and Gayle Uilkema, whose four-year terms end in 2012, supported a configuration that would have left the existing boundaries largely intact and kept all cities within single district.

Glover and Gioia, of Pittsburg and Richmond, respectively, had unsuccessfully pushed their preferred map for weeks, one that would result in significant boundary shifts for four of the five supervisors.

The men finally secured a third vote after they agreed to push all of Concord into Mitchoff’s district. The former Pleasant Hill councilwoman had opposed a split of Concord between her and Glover, and she refused to budge.

As the divided vote suggests, the new map has winners and losers.

Walnut Creek, Antioch, Pinole and the San Ramon Valley will each have two supervisors, an outcome the cities opposed. It’s not all bad for Walnut Creek — it has three supervisors under the current map.

Here’s an overview:

The new map shifts Piepho, of Discovery Bay, out of the bulk of San Ramon Valley and into a large, East Contra Costa district that consists of Oakley, Brentwood, Byron, Knighten and most of Antioch.

Piepho retains Blackhawk and the Tassajara Valley, which worries environmentalists. A developer has proposed a housing and orchard project in the Tassajara Valley and opponents  lobbied to shift its representation away from Piepho, a Republican considered less likely to reject the development.

The slice of the San Ramon Valley remained in Piepho’s district because in order to keep Concord whole and make the numbers work, Piepho had to absorb additional population elsewhere.

Uilkema, of Lafayette, will lose Martinez, Rodeo and Hercules and shift into the San Ramon Valley towns of Danville, Alamo and San Ramon. She retains Rossmoor and Lamorinda.

Glover’s district shifts west, stretching from an industrial area in northern Antioch along the waterfront to Hercules and portions of Pinole. He will represent Martinez. His new map means he will have a large crop of new constituents. But may work in his favor as he is widely viewed as vulnerable in his 2012 re-election bid. The move allows him to start fresh with voters who don’t know him.

Mitchoff’s territory expands into Walnut Creek, which is split into two supervisor districts under the new map. It has three representatives under the current configuration. She will continue to represent Concord, Pleasant Hill and Clayton.

Gioia will see the least change – he gains half of Pinole but the rest of his district stays the same.

The supervisors must still adopt the official district line language, which it has scheduled for Aug. 9 at 10 a.m. But the lines are very unlikely to change.

The supervisors were visibly relieved to put redistricting behind them. They have quarreled both in public and behind-the-scenes over the divisive subject, raising questions about whether hard feelings might spill into other issues.

“The one thing I can say about the redistricting map is that I am glad it is done,” Uilkema said after the meeting.

To view all the maps produced for redistricting and to see the current boundaries, visit www.ccredistricting.org.

Contra Costa Board of Supervisors 2011 district map

Contra Costa Board of Supervisors 2011 district map

Posted on Tuesday, July 26th, 2011
Under: Contra Costa Board of Supervisors, Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics | 8 Comments »

More on Goodwin Liu’s Supreme Court nomination

I’ve filed a full story on Gov. Jerry Brown’s nomination of Cal law professor Goodwin Liu to the California Supreme Court, but space in the print editions is tight so there may not be room for all of the comments I’ve heard today.

Luis AlejoAssemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Salinas, was on KQED Radio’s “Forum” this morning, representing the California Latino Legislative Caucus in a segment about Gov. Jerry Brown’s relationship with Latinos. The discussion included the question of when the governor might get around to replacing retired state Supreme Court Associate Justice Carlos Moreno, who’d been the court’s only Latino until his retirement in February. Even as they mused about it, the governor was appointing Liu, and now some people are voicing disappointment that the court will lack a Latino perspective.

“Gov. Brown has been very engaged in this process of choosing this replacement for Carlos Moreno, and it’s a thoughtful appointment,” Alejo told me this afternoon. “But I think the disappointment comes that threre certainly was a lost opportunity, there’s this larger question of will Gov. Brown make a concerted effort to appoint a record number of Latinos to the bench.”

honda.jpgRep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, chairman emeritus of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, had staunchly supported President Obama’s 2010 nomination of Liu to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He issued a statement today saying this new nomination “positions California as a front runner in judicial diversity.”

“Goodwin is a personal friend and leader in my home state of California, and I have worked with him for many years, particularly in ensuring access and equity in our education system,” Honda said. “Not only has he been a leader in the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, he has proven himself in the legal profession as well, with support from renowned legal minds from a diversity of ideological backgrounds. Goodwin is an excellent pick for California and as an acclaimed education and constitutional law scholar, he will undoubtedly add immense value to the Court under the leadership of Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye.”

Maribel MedinaMaribel Medina – who chairs the judicial committee of La Raza Lawyers of California, the state’s Chicano/Latino bar association – said she has worked with Liu and knows he’s “an incredible scholar” with “a great commitment to civil rights.”

“But we are also very disappointed that our highest court will not reflect the diversity of this state. If you couple this action with the massive budget cuts the courts are suffering, it really jeopardizes the integrity of our judicial system,” she said. “This I think sends a very negative message to the people of California.”

Dan Schnur Dan Schnur, a longtime Republican political strategist who now directs the University of Southern California’s Unruh Institute of Politics, said nominating Liu is “a great way for Brown to play to his base without upsetting the center.”

“By 2014, most voters are going to judge Liu less by what he has said and done in the past than by what he says and does on the court,” Schnur said. “Reasonable people can disagree over whether he will be an effective justice or not, but unless he starts overturning death penalties, it’s a pretty safe pick from a political standpoint.”

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who had staunchly supported Liu’s federal nomination, kept it short and sweet today. “Goodwin Liu is one of our country’s most brilliant constitutional scholars and he will make a superb justice on the California Supreme Court,” she said.

Posted on Tuesday, July 26th, 2011
Under: Barbara Boxer, Jerry Brown, Mike Honda, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 6 Comments »

Brown signs one part of DREAM Act

Gov. Jerry Brown used an unconventional place to sign the California DREAM Act Monday: on Gil Cedillo’s back.

Cedillo, a Los Angeles Assemblyman, is the author of AB 130, which would allow children of undocumented residents to apply for private loans for college. The acronym stands for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors.

At the signing ceremony in Los Angeles, which was live-streamed online, Brown called the legislation “one piece of a very important mosaic, which is a California that works for everyone and a California who understands where our strength is.”

Another piece, Cedillo and his supporters might say, is AB 131, which would give the children of undocumented access to state grants.

Brown later told reporters he is “favorable” to the second part of the DREAM Act, but didn’t want to “scoop” himself by anticipating what he’d do on the same day he signed part one of he DREAM Act.

Cedillo said Brown added to his legacy with his signature.

“You’ve had some great days as a governor, but I think this is going to be one of those days that really sets a milestone because it’s so forward-looking,” Cedillo said.

Brown used the bill signing to make a larger point about the great debate going on over how to divide resources, especially in a bruising economic climate.

“We are facing many obstacles and adversaries,” Brown said. “The debate is very clear: shrivel public service, shrink back, retrench, retreat from higher education, from schools, from the investment in people; or make the investment. …

“It’s not just in having some extra money to go to a movie or to buy a flat screen television from China, it’s also being able to go to a community college or a state college and being able to pay for it.”

Republicans decried the legislation as unfair to legal residents.

“At a human level, I sympathize with the desire to obtain a higher education,” said Sen. Sharon Runner, R-Antelope Valley. “But this is about fairness — financial aid should be granted to citizens who are in need.

“The approximately $20 million incurred to administer financial aid to illegal immigrants is still state money, and will have to come out of the General Fund at a time when taxpayers can ill afford the additional cost,” added Runner, who is the ranking Republican member on the Senate Education committee.

“This means less money is available to educate our citizens and legal immigrants.”

The issue was made prominent during one of last year’s gubernatorial debates when GOP nominee Meg Whitman told a Fresno State student, the daughter of illegal immigrants, that she did not support the DREAM Act.

I’m glad you were able to get a good, free education in California’s K-12 public schools. Here is the challenge we face: Our resources are scarce. We are in terrible economic times and slots have been eliminated at the California State University system – I think they’re down by 40,000 students. Same is true at the … the University of California system. Programs have been cut, and California citizens have been denied admission to these universities and I don’t think it’s fair to bar and eliminate the ability of California citizens to attend higher universities and favor undocumenteds.

That response was seen by many to seal Whitman’s fate among Latino voters (along with her housekeeper issues).

*********************************

Brown announced the signing of 32 other bills, and two vetoes. He singled out one bill, SB 209, that would make it easier to install plug-in charging stations for electrical vehicles.

“Charging stations are part of the infrastructure that must be built to integrate electrical vehicles into our daily lives by allowing plug-in vehicles to be recharged faster and to minimize the impact to the electrical grid,” he wrote. “I enthusiastically support this bill.”

The legislation prohibits common interest developments, such as condominiums and homeowner associations, from preventing the installation of electric vehicle charging stations.

“This legislation ensures that people who live in condominiums and other common interest developments have the ability to charge electric cars,” said Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, the author of the bill. “By making electric vehicles a practical option for more consumers, we are helping California move toward cleaner, more fuel-efficient automobiles.”

Posted on Monday, July 25th, 2011
Under: Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

New video explains state’s spring storm disaster

Even as Gov. Jerry Brown tries to convince federal officials to provide aid and funding for California counties hit by severe storms in March, the California Emergency Management Agency today released a new video detailing those storms’ impact.

The nine-minute video describes “how a haunting low pressure system parked itself over the Pacific Ocean last March pushing relentless bursts of heavy rains, paralyzing snow and high winds throughout the state over a 12-day period,” CalEMA said in its news release.

The state calculated more than $50 million in damages and Brown declared a state of emergency in 17 counties. Capitola and other parts of Santa Cruz and Monterey counties were particularly hard-hit

“It’s difficult for people to appreciate the sheer magnitude of this disaster because of the wide spread affects in different parts of the state,” Acting CalEMA Secretary Mike Dayton said in the release. “We decided the best way to educate people about this disaster was to document the impacts on video and talk to experts who explain how unusual, and powerful, this storm system really was.”

Posted on Monday, July 25th, 2011
Under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

East Bay man becomes courts’ top administrator

A Danville man and former Alameda County Superior Court administrator is taking over as the California court system’s top bureaucrat, just as the courts face crippling budget cuts.

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye announced today that she and the Judicial Council approved the appointment of Ronald Overholt, 59, as interim Administrative Director of the California Courts, effective Sept. 10. He’ll succeed William Vickrey, who will retire Sept. 9 after doing that job for 19 years.

“As Chief Deputy Director of the AOC for the past 11 years and as a highly experienced former trial court executive, Ron is intimately familiar with the statewide budget process and many other aspects of court administration,” Cantil-Sakauye said in a news release. “I look forward to working with Ron and have confidence that he will continue the highest standards of leadership.”

Overholt has been the Administrative Office of the Court’s chief deputy director since 2000; before that, he had been the Executive Officer, Jury Commissioner, and Clerk of the Superior Court of Alameda County. He also had been a manager in the San Diego County courts from 1979 to 1988. In 2010, he received the National Center for State Courts‘ Distinguished Service Award, one of the highest honors bestowed by the national organization. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from National University in San Diego and a bachelor’s degree in sociology from San Diego State University. Overholt and his wife, PJ, have a daughter, Blaire.

Overholt, in the news release, said he’s honored by the promotion: “I could not be more proud to be a member of the staff of the AOC and to lead its work.”

Temporarily, at least. The Judicial Council also Friday authorized Cantil-Sakauye to appoint a committee to develop a process for selecting a permanent director.

It might be a largely thankless job. The Judicial Council on Friday voted unanimously to stand by its plan for apportioning out the $350 million in cuts necessitated by the Legislature’s 2011-2012 budget. The council rejected trial judges’ pleas for deeper bureaucratic cuts to protect their courtrooms – the system’s main interface with the public – from widespread closures that will make the wheels of civil justice grind even slower.

Posted on Monday, July 25th, 2011
Under: Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Bachmann to keynote California GOP

Michele Bachmann

Michele Bachmann

Republican presidential candidate and Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann will keynote the fall California Republican Party convention in Los Angeles, party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro announced today.

That ought to drive up dinner ticket sales. Bachmann is drawing crowds around the country as Republicans nationwide search for a nominee capable of taking on Democratic President Barack Obama next year.

Bachmann’s appearance in the blue state of California might confuse some folks. But it is a good deal for the party and Bachmann: The party attracts attention and attendees, while the candidate collects contributions. California is traditionally an ATM for candidates of both parties.

Read on for the email the California GOP sent out: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, July 25th, 2011
Under: 2012 presidential election, Republican Party | 18 Comments »