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Archive for October, 2011

Saint Mary’s not picked for presidential debate

Saint Mary’s College was not selected as a site for a 2012 presidential debate, reports colleague Jonathan Morales.

That’s too bad.



Posted on Monday, October 31st, 2011
Under: 2012 presidential election | 2 Comments »

Pensions, OccupyOakland & SF mayor on ‘TWINC’

Last night on KQED’s “This Week in Northern California,” we talked about Gov. Jerry Brown’s public pension reform plan; the Occupy Oakland situation; and San Francisco’s mayoral race.

Posted on Saturday, October 29th, 2011
Under: Jerry Brown, Oakland, pension reform, San Francisco politics, TWINC | 5 Comments »

Assemblywoman Hayashi charged with shoplifting

Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, D-Castro Valley

East Bay Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi has pled not guilty to a charge she shoplifted more than $2,400 in Neiman Marcus clothing on Sunday from the ritzy San Francisco department store, prosecutors say.

The Hayward Democrat has been charged with one count of felony grand theft.

Hayashi spokesman Sam Singer called the incident a “mistake and a misunderstanding.”

“The assemblywoman apologizes for the distraction this has caused,” Singer said. “She is a firm believer in the justice system and hopefully, it will be cleared up shortly.

“Mary has never been arrested for anything. The worst thing she ever got was a speeding ticket.”

Authorities say she was caught on video surveillance walking out of the Union Square retail outlet Sunday around 12:15 p.m. with leather pants and other assorted clothing, said Stephanie Ong Stillman, a San Francisco district attorney spokeswoman.

Neiman Marcus security staff apprehended Hayashi, whose husband is Alameda County Superior Court Judge Dennis Hayashi, outside the store with $2,445 worth of unpaid clothing items.

Prosecutors have video evidence, Stillman said.

Hayashi could face up to three years in jail for the charge, however she has no criminal history, Stillman said.

Hayashi, known for her fashion and style, is undoubtedly hoping for a swift and positive resolution.

The 45-year-old lawmaker will term out of the Assembly next year.

She has opened a committee to run for state Senate in 2014 in the newly configured District 10, whose incumbent, Elaine Alquist, D-Fremont, will term out in 2012.

She had raised nearly $200,000 for her bid as of June 30, according to state campaign finance records.

In 2009, Hayashi earned $115,000 for her state position and her husband made $165,000 on the bench.


Posted on Friday, October 28th, 2011
Under: California Assembly, Contra Costa politics | 15 Comments »

Study: Use red-light cameras for safety, not cash

Outsourcing traffic enforcement to red-light and speed camera vendors can spell trouble for municipalities, according to a new report from a consumer watchdog group.

The report by the California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG) finds that about half the states have enabled use of automated traffic cameras, letting local governments contract with private companies to install the equipment and issue citations. But citizens have often objected to privatized forms of traffic enforcement and many municipalities have found themselves in legal trouble when they attempt to change or update these contracts, the report says.

Engineering alternatives, such as lengthening yellow lights, are often the best way to reduce injuries from red-light running, the report says, but such solutions often get short shrift from ticket revenue-hungry contractors and municipalities.

“Automated traffic ticketing tends to be governed by contracts that focus more on profits than safety,” CALPIRG Legislative Director Pedro Morillas said. “Too often, local governments are taken for a ride by red-light camera vendors overly focused on their bottom line instead of public safety.”

State Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, authored a bill this year that would’ve reformed the use of traffic cameras by requiring local governments to post signs near where the cameras are installed; develop uniform guidelines for screening and issuing tickets from the cameras; make formal fact-findings to justify future installations; to ignore revenue, beyond the system’s own costs, when considering whether to install such systems; and so on.

SB 29 had overwhelming bipartisan support, approved by the Assembly on a 70-4 vote and by the state Senate on a 38-0 vote. Yet Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed the bill this month, writing that installation and maintenance of such camera systems “is something that can and should be overseen by local elected officials” without state interference.

But CALPIRG’s report recommends stronger guidelines to ensure that automated traffic enforcement programs focus on improving road safety, not ticket revenue. It says contracts between local governments should carefully compare cameras with alternatives, and their contracts with vendors should be scrutinized for conflicts of interest or any direct or indirect incentives for vendors based on the volume of tickets issued or fines collected. Public control over traffic policy and engineering decisions must be retained, the report says, and the contract process should be completely transparent and open, including public participation and information about finding online data on automated ticketing for each intersection.

“We’ve already run into controversy over the use of red-light cameras here in California,” Morillas said. “We need to learn from past mistakes to keep our roadways from becoming ATMs for private companies.”

Posted on Thursday, October 27th, 2011
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Jerry Brown, Joe Simitian, Public safety, Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

Jean Quan taking heat from Olbermann, MoveOn

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan is taking heat from liberal activists and commentators across the nation for the police crackdown on Occupy Oakland and resultant clashes that led to injuries including an Iraq war veteran’s cracked skull.

Current TV commentator Keith Olbermann castigated Quan on Wednesday night, demanding that she either fire Interim Police Chief Howard Jordan or resign her own office.

And, in a rapid response ad released Thursday morning, Civic Action urges people to demand that Quan take responsibility; the ad will run starting Friday in the Bay Area.

“A violent crackdown on peaceful protesters, like we saw in Oakland on Tuesday night, is something we expect to see under repressive regimes overseas–not here in America,” Executive Director Justin Ruben said in a release announcing the ad. “Mayor Quan has not done enough to take responsibility for this violent overreaction, nor has she promised that the protesters will be able to continue to exercise their First Amendment rights. The Occupy Movement that has taken off across the country is giving voice to a majority of Americans who are being left behind in this economy. Mayor Quan, and the few other mayors who’ve begun really cracking down on Occupy protests, need to stop doing Wall Street’s dirty work for them.”

Posted on Thursday, October 27th, 2011
Under: Jean Quan, Oakland | 14 Comments »

Garamendi urges calm for Oakland cops, occupiers

Several Bay Area House members expressed sympathy and support earlier this month for the Occupy Wall Street movement, but none have weighed in so far on Oakland’s decision to evict the Occupy Oakland encampment early yesterday morning or last night’s melees – until now.

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, is first out of the gate, having just released this statement:

“After reviewing footage from last night’s Occupy Oakland protests, I urge both the police and protesters to stay calm and show restraint as protests continue. Some protestors were throwing rocks at police officers, and there are reports of isolated civilian on civilian assaults at Frank Ogawa Plaza. This is unacceptable. There is also disturbing video of a tear gas canister being launched into a small crowd of protestors trying to escort an injured veteran with a skull fracture away from the protests – a dangerous action.

“Our cash-strapped local cities did not cause the Great Recession and the loss of millions of jobs, nor did regional police officers. Likewise, while there are some bad apples trying to hijack the movement with violence, the Occupy Wall Street protests have largely been a peaceful assembly of people sick and tired of watching the disappearance of good jobs and their chance at the American Dream.

“Neither our local communities nor the Occupy movement benefit when this situation gets out of hand; indeed that’s precisely what the Wall Street fat cats and their enablers in Washington want. I urge restraint by all involved. The world is watching.”

UPDATE @ 10:14 A.M. THURSDAY: From Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland:

“I shared my outrage and grave concern about the police brutality in Oakland directly with the Mayor. My thoughts go out to the injured and especially Scott Olsen. I strongly support the occupy movement and continue to stand with the peaceful protesters in this struggle for economic justice and equality.”

Posted on Wednesday, October 26th, 2011
Under: Barbara Lee, John Garamendi, Oakland, U.S. House | 8 Comments »

Supreme Court denies redistricting challenges

The California Supreme Court today unanimously denied two pending petitions challengeing the validity of the state Senate and congressional redistricting maps created and certified by the Citizens Redistricting Commission.

The court also denied petitioners’ requests for an emergency stay of the certified maps. All seven justices participated in the court’s action.

The Citizens Redistricting Commission on Aug. 15 certified to the Secretary of State all four required statewide electoral maps, covering the 40 State Senate and 80 Assembly districts, California’s 53 congressional districts, and the 4 districts of the California State Board of Equalization. The petitions for writs of mandate filed in the Supreme Court challenged only the state Senate and congressional districts.

Posted on Wednesday, October 26th, 2011
Under: California State Senate, redistricting, U.S. House | 6 Comments »

The full pool report from Obama’s SF fundraiser

Here’s the complete readout on President Obama’s remarks this afternoon at a fundraising luncheon in San Francisco’s W Hotel, as reported by the Wall Street Journal’s Laura Meckler (the White House travelling press corps’ designated pool reporter for the day, as no local press was allowed into the event):

Asked for notables at the San Fran funder, a Democratic official pointed to Shervin Pishevar, head of Menlo Ventures.

President Obama made a direct appeal for help in the upcoming election. “Whether you are an old grizzled veteran or new to the scene, I need your help,” he said. He said that the coming election was “more consequential, more important” to the future of nation and its kids than the last one.

He talked about the economic crisis facing the country and his vision for the nation.
“America should be a place where you can make it if you try… a country where everyone has a fair shake and everyone does their fair share.”

He talked about his jobs bill in familiar terms and referred to the tax increases by saying the bill was fully paid for “by asking those of us who’ve been most blessed in this society to do a little bit more.”

He said his jobs bill would “give the economy the jolt it needs right now.”

He pointed to the recent Senate bill that taxed those earning over $1 million per year to give state aid to retain teacher and other public sector jobs. He said that for someone making $1.1 million a year, “that’s an extra $500, 500 bucks.” The audience replied with some laughter. “That would save 400,000 jobs all across the country.” He said they were “not just any jobs but jobs that are vital” to the well being of our kids and communities. He said most people he knows “would make that contribution willingly,” and the audience applauded in agreement.

“So this is the fight we’re having right now. This is frankly what the next year is going to be about.”

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

Posted on Tuesday, October 25th, 2011
Under: Obama presidency | 6 Comments »

Obama urged to nix medical marijuana crackdown

Medical marijuana advocates gathered Tuesday morning in San Francisco to urge President Obama, arriving in the city later in the day, to call off federal prosecutors’ crackdown on dispensaries across the state.

“This is getting a little Kafkaesque for my blood,” said Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, said at a news conference a few blocks from where the president was scheduled to raise funds a few hours later. “They’re acing rather like thugs.”

“I’m an Obama fan, however I also believe in loyal opposition, and I’m very loyally opposed to what’s happening here,” he said. “We are asking that he intervene here.”

Ammiano said he has asked House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and other California House members to help set up a meeting with Justice Department and IRS officials to discuss their intentions; he said he also wants more input from Gov. Jerry Brown and state Attorney General Kamala Harris. “But right now, zip is happening, and it’s a slap in the face to all the people who voted for (Proposition) 215.”

San Francisco Supervisor David Campos said there’s “a great deal of disappointment that those of us who have supported and continue to support President Obama have about how this is being handled.” Such people now call upon him “to do what he promised, to do the right thing,” Campos said; he said he’ll introduce a resolution to the Board of Supervisors that takes a stand against the crackdown and asks the federal government to respect state law. “This is a states’ rights issue, and California voters have spoken on this.”

Stephen DeAngelo, whose Harborside Health Center in Oakland was recently hit with a multimillion-dollar tax bill after IRS auditors said it can’t use the same deductions as other small businesses, said a glance at who the federal prosecutors are targeting proves they’re not limiting themselves to profiteers and interstate bootleggers as they’d said they would.

Instead, he said, they’ve targeted places like his own dispensary, the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana and Northstone Organics in Mendocino County, all of which have been “100 percent compliant and have never diverted a single gram of marijuana out of state.” All the federal authorities are doing is threatening the security of tens of thousands of patients, denying local governments many millions in tax revenue, and putting thousands of people out of work, he said.

“They should either learn how to aim, or learn how to tell the truth,” DeAngelo said.

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

Posted on Tuesday, October 25th, 2011
Under: Assembly, marijuana, Obama presidency, Tom Ammiano | 11 Comments »

Lawmakers weigh in on new home refinance plan

Local members of Congress applauded President Obama ‘s announcement today of new policies meant to shore up the shaky housing market – a plan that could help a lot of Bay Area homeowners refinance “underwater” mortgages at historically low interest rates.

From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.:

“I am very pleased that the administration is taking these steps to help responsible homeowners refinance at historically low interest rates. Allowing these homeowners to refinance at today’s record low rates will keep families in their homes and boost the economy by putting thousands of dollars back in the pockets of borrowers. I urge FHFA to move swiftly to assure that these new policies will help as many homeowners as possible.”

From Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton:

“I am glad that a step has been taken in the right direction. I hope this has a positive effect, but if it does not deliver, I will continue to hold the Obama Administration accountable and demand relief for homeowners. We must do more to help the people of California who have been plagued by the foreclosure crisis from day one.

“For far too long, I have heard heartbreaking stories from people in our region: tales of people doing everything they can, and still being foreclosed upon. I will continue to fight for more real, commonsense solutions to the housing crisis and to keep the pressure on the folks in Washington to help our community.

“We need to relieve some of the financial burden for homeowners who are ‘underwater,’ not only to more foreclosures, but to generate more money that will go into our local businesses. Helping the people of our region stay in their homes is step one to restoring our economy.”

From Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto:

“The President took a positive first step today to help address the catastrophic housing situation in the country. It’s not enough though. Up to a million families nationally could be helped, but there are two million underwater homeowners in California alone.

“We need meaningful principal reductions on a large scale. It’s time to implement a Homeowner’s Bill of Rights that ends dual-tracking and creates a single point of contact for borrowers. The size and scope of this housing crisis requires us to think big. Our nation’s economy simply will not recover until the crisis of foreclosures is over.”

From Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough:

“Finally, relief for the middle class families of America! I applaud the FHFA for taking bold and needed action. I and many of my colleagues had appealed directly to Mr. DeMarco, the head of FHFA, to take these actions to refinance middle class America, and he has responded. In particular, the decision not to put a cap on the loan-to-value ratio that is eligible to be refinanced via a fixed rate mortgage will mean that potentially millions of homeowners will be eligible. Given that Fannie and Freddie are owned by taxpayers, this decision is a win for them as well. There are reduced odds of losses from the guarantees issued by these two agencies, and there is no cost to taxpayers because Fannie and Freddie will fund this refinancing activity through new bonds. If the wave materializes, it could also help to stabilize the housing market in neighborhoods where refinancing occurs frequently, and could potentially put thousands of dollars into the pockets of a strapped homeowner who refinances. All in all, I only wish that this process could begin immediately, but I understand that banks aren’t set up to handle a wave of applicants. Hopefully, competition between lenders will force them to participate in this new program and drive them to get set up rapidly.”

Posted on Monday, October 24th, 2011
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Boxer, housing, Jackie Speier, Jerry McNerney, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 8 Comments »