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Archive for September, 2011

President Obama to do town hall in Mountain View

President Obama will take part in a town-hall meeting on job creation Monday at the Mountain View headquarters of professional networking site LinkedIn, the White House announced today.

The President will answer questions about job creation and the economy from a live audience made up of LinkedIn members and employees, as well as questions that have been submitted from LinkedIn members across the country.

In conjunction with this event, LinkedIn has launched an online community focused on job creation and the economy; people are invited to join the conversation with President Obama by submitting questions for the town hall, contributing comments, and sharing content with their own network.

This group also will serve as a platform for LinkedIn users to continue the discussion on putting America back to work and let members engage with the White House and Administration officials even after the town hall. LinkedIn has more than 120 million members worldwide.

The town hall will occur the day after the President’s previously scheduled, big-ticket Silicon Valley fundraisers.

The President is scheduled to attend a fundraising reception at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Woodside home of John Thompson, chairman of Symantec and among those the President reportedly had considered for the job of Secretary of Commerce; the cost is $2,500 per ticket, or $7,500 to have a photo taken with the president. Then President Obama will attend a 6:30 p.m. dinner fundraiser at the Atherton home of Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg; that’s event costs $35,800 per plate, and it reportedly will include a question-and-answer period after the president’s remarks.

Posted on Tuesday, September 20th, 2011
Under: economy, Obama presidency | 11 Comments »

TWINC: Polls, the President, the GOP & Solyndra

On Friday night’s edition of “This Week in Northern California,” we talked about what recent California polls mean for the President, Congress and Republicans, as well as about the state GOP convention, plus the Solyndra bankruptcy debacle. Also, Belva Davis’ interview with U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood.

Posted on Sunday, September 18th, 2011
Under: Obama presidency, polls, Republican Party, Republican politics, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 5 Comments »

UC Regents endorse Perata’s tobacco tax measure

The Regents of the University of California have endorsed the tobacco-tax-for-cancer-research ballot measure co-chaired by former state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, perhaps seeing a windfall of research dollars in their future.

In a public hearing Wednesday, Perata – a 2010 Oakland mayoral candidate who now lives in Orinda – had told the Regents’ Committee on Educational Policy how the idea for the California Cancer Research Act was born at the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences based at UC San Francisco’s Mission Bay Campus.

Perata said that with adequate investment, groundbreaking advances in the battle against cancer would be discovered and patented in Californian laboratories like QB3, placing California at the forefront of bioscience globally while benefiting from economic production stimulated by biomedical research.

The ballot measure will appear on the June 5 presidential primary ballot. The Legislative Analysts’ Office calculates it could save more than 100,000 Californians’ lives from smoking-related deaths as well as generating over $855 million annually for medical research into cancers and heart disease, smoking education programs, and tobacco law enforcement through a $1 excise on tobacco sales, a tax that hasn’t been adjusted in California since 1998. A separate study by the University of California projects that the CCRA could save California up to $28.2 billion in healthcare costs between 2012 and 2016.

The tobacco industry is ponying up big bucks to oppose the measure.

“We know that Big Tobacco will spend gobs of cash opposing this campaign because they want to keep California cigarettes cheap in order to recruit new smokers,” Perata said in a news release today. “But as this endorsement proves, Californians understand this initiative will make our state stronger, save lives, save billions of dollars in avoidable healthcare costs, and keep California as THE place for groundbreaking medical research.”

The ballot measure’s campaign committee noted UC’s five academic medical centers and 16 health professional schools generate about 117,000 jobs in the state, $12.5 billion in contribution to gross state product and $16.7 billion in economic activity.

“With 10 National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers, California is well positioned to accelerate the state’s legacy of innovative cancer research with the infusion of new biomedical research investments,” serial Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong, Perata’s fellow campaign chairman, said in the release. “According to Families USA, each National Institutes of Health biomedical research dollar invested in California generates $2.40 in new state business activity.”

Posted on Friday, September 16th, 2011
Under: ballot measures, Don Perata | 5 Comments »

Barbara Lee to co-chair new HIV/AIDS caucus

Rep. Barbara Lee is one of three co-chairs of a new Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus.

Thirty years after the first discovery of AIDS in the United States, it remains a humanitarian crisis: An estimated 33.4 million people worldwide live with HIV/AIDS and more than 25 million people have died since 1981.

The caucus’ aim is to examine methods by which the nation can maintain global leadership in the response to the epidemic here and around the world, and to “galvanize new leadership” in preparation for the International AIDS Conference to be held in Washington, D.C. next July.

“In reflecting on the past three decades, I am amazed by how much has changed, especially in light of the remarkable accomplishments in recent years,” Lee, D-Oakland, said in a news release.

“We declared a state of emergency in Alameda County in my district, set up a trust fund at the World Bank for the AIDS Marshall Plan for Africa, helped build the framework for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, worked to create PEPFAR, and managed to get the travel ban repealed in order to secure the International AIDS Conference on U.S. soil,” she said. “With the commitment of so many dedicated to eradicate AIDS, we are positioned to recommit ourselves to achieving universal access and standing up to demand human rights for all.”

The other two co-chairs of the caucus, which has 59 members, are Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., and Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz. Franks called HIV “a monstrous international epidemic and a destructive force on humanity.”

“Today, millions of children in the developing world are born to mothers living with HIV, but with the right investments, we can witness the virtual elimination of mother-to-child transmission,” he said. “My two top priorities as co-chair of the HIV/AIDS Caucus are to better enable faith-based organizations to implement life-saving medical services and to make significant strides so no child is born with HIV after 2015, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to bring attention to this important humanitarian issue.”

Michel Sidibé, Executive Director at UNAIDS, said the United States’ leadership and generosity have “made a profound and positive difference” in the epidemic, “and I am counting on the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus to continue to play a critical role in shaping the future of the AIDS response.”

Ronald Johnson, Vice President of Policy and Advocacy at AIDS United, said the caucus’ formation “signals a determination to move forward to end the epidemic domestically and globally.”

“Release and implementation of the U.S. National HIV/AIDS Strategy, progress achieved through PEPFAR and the Global Fund, and recent HIV research advances show that increasingly we have the knowledge, skills, and tools to reduce new infections, increase access to care, and eliminate disparities and inequities,” Johnson said. “This is a unique moment of opportunity. This is not the time for U.S. leadership to weaken; indeed it must grow and strengthen.”

Posted on Friday, September 16th, 2011
Under: Barbara Lee, U.S. House | 7 Comments »

Barbara Lee, Pete Stark in districts this weekend

Some of the East Bay voices of Congress will be pounding their districts’ pavements in coming days.

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, will be joined by Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md., on a Friday afternoon tour of four Oakland health centers, part of a weekend of events focusing on healthcare disparities. They’re planning to visit the AIDS Project of the East Bay on Webster Street, Asian Health Services on Webster Street, La Clínica de la Raza on East 12th Street, and the Native American Health Center on International Blvd.

Friday’s tour is a prelude a summit meeting on “The Affordable Care Act and Beyond: Opportunities for Achieving Health Equity,” uniting providers and policy makers Saturday at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center. (Registration for the summit appears to be sold out already, but you can see the agenda here.)

Pete StarkRep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, is holding his customary round of town hall meetings this Saturday; his office said likely topics of discussion will include President Obama’s American Jobs Act bill and the Congressional “super committee” charged with cutting trillions from the deficit, but any topic is fair game. The meetings are from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. in the Ruggieri Senior Center, 33997 Alvarado Niles Road in Union City, and 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the council chambers at Hayward City Hall, 777 B St.

UPDATE @ 2:40 P.M. FRIDAY: Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, will hold a town-hall meeting from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. this Monday, Sept. 19, in the San Pablo Senior Center, 1943 Church Lane, “to discuss efforts in Congress to create jobs and strengthen our economy.”

Posted on Thursday, September 15th, 2011
Under: Barbara Lee, economy, George Miller, healthcare reform, Pete Stark, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

NLRB: Dems say toMAYto, Boehner says toMAHto

Ah, where would we be without all the glorious political rhetoric in Congress? What’s that, you say… “making actual progress?” Oh, but that would take all the fun out of it.

Today’s case in point: The House today voted 238-186 to pass HR 2587, the “Protecting Jobs From Government Interference Act.” The bill would limit the National Labor Relations Board’s authority by preventing the board from “ordering any employer to close, relocate, or transfer employment under any circumstance.” As the Washington Post puts it:

At the heart of the House measure is a months-long dispute over whether Boeing unlawfully retaliated against its union employees in Washington state by transferring a production facility to South Carolina after a series of strikes. The NLRB in April ruled that by moving the facility to a right-to-work state, Boeing was in violation of federal labor laws.

Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, the Education and the Workforce Committee’s ranking Democrat, issued a news release saying the bill would remove the only meaningful legal remedy available to workers if a company illegally moves operations or eliminates work because workers engage in protected activities like forming a union or collective bargaining.

“The Republican bill sends a message to employers to retaliate against employees who may demand a piece of the American dream,” Miller said. “We should be working to create jobs, not send American jobs overseas. We should be working to strengthen the middle class, not tear it down. We should be working together to send the message that, during these most difficult economic times, Congress is on the side of the middle class.”

Miller said that under this bill, if a company closes an entire U.S. plant or part of a U.S. plant and moved the work to China because the U.S. employees organized a union, the NLRB no longer would have the power to order the work to be kept in or returned to the U.S. Republicans voted down an amendment that would have let the NLRB return jobs to America that were illegally sent overseas.

Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, spoke against the bill today on the House floor:

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, says… toMAHto!

“Today the House voted to remove another obstacle to private-sector job creation and long-term economic growth. This bill blocks the federal government’s National Labor Relations Board from telling businesses where they can and can’t create new jobs,” Boehner said. “It’s absurd that the federal government would stop American employers from creating new jobs here at home when millions are out of work and the unemployment rate exceeds nine percent. Under this Administration, American companies are free to create jobs in China but they aren’t free to create them in South Carolina. I’m hopeful that the Senate will join us in taking swift action, and help give American job creators the certainty they need to plan and put Americans back to work.”

Despite Boehner’s “hopeful” demeanor, the Democrat-dominated Senate is likely to kill the bill deader than a doornail.

Posted on Thursday, September 15th, 2011
Under: economy, George Miller, John Boehner, Labor politics, Lynn Woolsey, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 7 Comments »

President takes pounding in new Field Poll

As the Associated Press reports, “a Field Poll released Wednesday shows support for President Barack Obama is falling even in reliably Democratic California, where the shaky economy and persistently high unemployment have created pessimism about the future.”

As Field put it, the current proportion approving of his performance (46 percent) is now only slightly greater than the proportion disapproving (44 percent), which is a big change from three months ago when Californians approved of the job he was doing 54 percent to 37 percent. Also, those who are inclined to re-elect President Obama outnumber those not inclined by just five points (49 percent to 44 percent).

Although the overall personal regard that Californians have of the President remains quite positive – with 55 percent viewing him in a generally favorable light and 41 percent holding a negative impression – that’s an extremely partisan number. Democrats view him positively by a five-to-one margin, while Republicans see him negatively four-to-one; independent voters tend to see him favorably by a five-to-three margin.

Given the state’s current voter registration – 44 percent Democratic, almost 31 percent Republican and 20.4 percent decline-to-state – this doesn’t exactly make California a prime battleground state in next year’s general election. The numbers beg the question of whether more Californians upset with Obama are angry about what he has done, or about what he hasn’t; that in turn begs the question of how hard it’ll be to mobilize voters in 2012, and what it’ll mean for newly redistricted Democrats trying to ride the President’s coattails.

Note that this poll didn’t pit Obama against any of the potential Republican challengers; I’ll be curious to see such a survey of Californians.

Still, California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro sees blood in the water.

“The drop in Obama’s polls numbers in California is a direct result of the poor economic performance of Obama’s and Jerry Brown’s policies,” he said in a statement e-mailed late this afternoon. “Rather than funding more government programs, both need to restore confidence and incentives to the private sector. It’s a simple formula for success that neither seems to appreciate.”

This Field Poll was conducted Sept. 1-12 among a random sample of 1,001 registered voters in California; it has a 3.2-percentage-point margin of error.

Posted on Wednesday, September 14th, 2011
Under: Obama presidency, polls | 41 Comments »

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan touts Obama’s jobs plan

Adding to the barrage of American Jobs Act messaging from congressional Democrats, Cabinet members and the President himself, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan told reporters today that the bill is a must for her recession-ravaged city.

Quan, along with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Arizona State Senator Kyrsten Sinema, was on a White House-orchestrated conference call touting what the bill will do for California and Arizona. Seeing as how I outlined the California impact here yesterday, I won’t do it again in detail today.

Quan said a lot of Oakland’s problems “are pretty typical of American cities” including budget woes affecting teachers and first responders, crumbling public infrastructure, joblessness, and street violence. “I think we we’re very lucky not to have had more violence this summer” even as homicides trended upward whiles summer jobs and other employment opportunities dwindled, she said.

The city’s minority neighborhoods are seeing unemployment rates of up to twice the state’s 14 percent rate, Quan said.

Oakland also has the nation’s fifth-largest port, and the only U.S. port that exports more than it imports, she said, so finishing its intermodal transportation modernization is vital to maintaining and growing the economy. And with Oakland hard-hit by the housing bubble’s burst, revitalizing neighborhoods and refinancing homes could prevent a second wave of foreclosures.

“It’s our job to put pressure on anyone who’s standing in the way of doing these common-sense things to make investments in America,” she said.

Villaraigosa, who also is president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, noted that 89 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product is from 363 metro economies; New York, Los Angeles and Chicago alone have a combined economy about the size of France’s, and the nation’s top 10 cities would amount to the world’s third-largest economy.

“We like to say that as American cities go, so goes the nation,” he said. “Putting our unemployed in America’s cities back to work is the best way to put America back to work.”

He said Obama’s plan is comprised of proposals that have won bipartisan support in the past and should again now. “The time is now to put the nation’s priorities ahead of partisan interests.”

Posted on Wednesday, September 14th, 2011
Under: economy, Jean Quan, Oakland, Obama presidency | No Comments »

The AB 144 ‘open carry’ ban update

I guess this isn’t much of an update, in that nobody knows what’s going to happen.

AB 144 by Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Canada Flintridge, would make it a crime to openly carry an unloaded handgun in any public place or street. Violations are a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1000. Law enforcement personnel are exempt as are security guards, hunters and others carrying unloaded weapons under specified licensed circumstances.

The Assembly passed the bill in May on a 46-29 vote, and after gun-rights activists spent the summer leaning on state Senators to oppose the bill, the Senate approved it on a 21-18 vote last Thursday; the Assembly then concurred in the Senate’s amendments last Friday with a 48-30 vote last Friday, sending the bill to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk.

And there it sits, fate unknown. Someone in Brown’s office told me today he’s not sure what the governor will do; the Sacramento Bee is reporting that Brown says he’s going to be vetoing a slew of bills in the next few weeks, believing many of them just aren’t necessary. I’d talked with Portantino’s office yesterday, where they said they’re “cautiously optimistic” but unsure where the governor stands.

Meanwhile, the bill’s opponents keep working the social media, trying to get people to call Brown’s office to urge a veto.

“And if Governor Brown does decide to sign AB 144, it is almost certain that the law will be challenged in court,” Adnan Shahab of Fremont, president of Responsible Citizens of California and a Republican candidate in the 20th Assembly District, said in an e-mail he sent me late last week. “There are constitutional issues that must addressed, as well as how this law relates to the recent court ruling that the highly discriminatory shall-issue concealed weapons permitting process in California is legal partly because open carry is also available to residents as an alternate means of carry in this state.”

Gun-rights activists have seized upon open-carry laws in states across the nation as a means of expressing their political beliefs, acting individually, or gathering to carry their weapons both as an exercise of constitutional rights and for self-protection. They say they’re both protecting their rights under current law as well as advocating for changes so that more people can get permits to carry concealed weapons, something that’s sharply limited under current law.

Supporters of this bill, including the California Police Chiefs Association, Peace Officers Research Association of California and various gun-control groups, say open-carry practices should be banned for the sake of public safety, and to protect the safety and conserve the resources of police officers checking to ensure the guns aren’t loaded, in accordance with state law.

Posted on Wednesday, September 14th, 2011
Under: Anthony Portantino, Assembly, California State Senate, gun control, Jerry Brown, Public safety | 17 Comments »

Four Cabinet members in Bay Area this week

Wow, it’s Cabinet week in the Bay Area.

I just covered U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood (accompanied by Federal Aviation Administration chief Randy Babbitt) talking about FAA, surface transportation and job creation bills out at the Oakland International Airport control tower construction site.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson will be in the Bay Area for two days this week meeting with local businesses and organizations to highlight job creation and green technology. On Wednesday afternoon, she’ll be touring Recycle Central, Recology’s recycling station at San Francisco’s Pier 96.

On Friday, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki will join Reps. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, and Mike Honda, D-San Jose, to break ground at the new Defenders Lodge, a facility for veterans seeking treatment at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System that will have 53 beds in a two-story, 28,000-square-foot building.

And also Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be keynoting Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation’s Women and the Economy Summit at the Westin St. Francis hotel on San Francisco’s Union Square, speaking about how “Some Leaders Are Born Women.” I’ll be covering that one.

UPDATE @ 11:30 A.M. WEDNESDAY: AND… U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar will be speaking at 9 a.m. next Monday, Sept. 19 at the Commonwealth Club of California, on the second floor of 595 Market St. in San Francisco; tickets cost $20 but are free for club members or $7 for students with valid ID, and are available online. Salazar “will share his views on fresh water, fishing and farming, along with other resource concerns in California and the American West,” the club says. “With projected changes in the Sierra snowpack and precipitation patterns, as well as an ever-increasing population, California’s water system remains in crisis, and the state’s ability to hydrate its citizens and its economy faces an uncertain future. Salazar will discuss how the federal government plans to help California secure future water supplies by aiding ambitious projects, including the restorations of the California Bay Delta and the San Joaquin River, while maintaining a balance between human needs and healthy ecosystems.”

UPDATE @ 1 P.M. WEDNESDAY: After his Monday morning address at the Commonwealth Club, Salazar will join Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Michael Connor at the Contra Costa Water District’s fish screen project dedication ceremony at the Rock Slough project site, about four miles southeast of Oakley. Completed through a partnership between Reclamation and the Contra Costa Water District, the project – funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 – advances the Interim Federal Action Plan for the San Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta by helping to keep Delta fish from entering the Contra Costa Canal through the Rock Slough intake.

Posted on Tuesday, September 13th, 2011
Under: Anna Eshoo, Environment, Mike Honda, Obama presidency, Transportation, U.S. House, veterans | No Comments »