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Archive for October, 2011

House Democrats want water deal rescinded

Five Northern California House Democrats demanded answers Monday from the Interior Department on the Bay-Delta planning process, urging the department to rescind a “flawed” deal developed behind closed doors.

That memorandum of agreement, they say, gives water export agencies south of the Delta and in Southern California unprecedented influence over a public process affecting California’s fresh water supplies.

Reps. George Miller, D-Martinez; Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton; John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove; Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena; and Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, wrote a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar asking that the agreement his department made with the water agencies be withdrawn and the process be opened up to include other key stakeholders left out of the discussions, including Bay Area, Delta and coastal communities, farmers, businesses, and fishermen.

“Interior should immediately rescind this flawed MOA and work instead to establish a successful BDCP (Bay-Delta Conservation Plan) process that is transparent and based on parity, and that genuinely puts the restoration of the Bay-Delta and its fisheries, the needs of local communities, and the quality of local water resources on par with other water supply goals,” the lawmakers wrote.

They claim the agreement includes an unreasonable timeline and raises expectations of favorable treatment for the water agencies that signed it.

The agencies’ desired policies “have the potential to harm the Bay-Delta, fishing communities, local farmers, and our constituents more broadly,” the lawmakers wrote. “They compromise Interior’s ability to exercise its mandates to restore the Bay-Delta ecosystem and California’s fisheries, and to consider the interests of all stakeholder groups. And they were developed in closed-door negotiations with the water export contractors that excluded all other interests.”

The lawmakers met repeatedly recently with Interior Department and California officials to express their concerns about the agreement signed with water export agencies, and the department had told them to expect an answer to their inquiries early last week. None came, and today’s letter demands a written response from Salazar by next Monday.

Interior Department press secretary Adam Fetcher said the letter was received and the department will respond directly to the House members.

“Secretary Salazar has been clear that California’s complex water problems require science-based solutions developed as part of a close partnership between the federal and state government, as well as all key stakeholders,” he said. “Transparency and accessibility for all parties in this process is a key part of our efforts to move forward with the BDCP as quickly as possible in order to address the all-important goals of a healthy Bay Delta ecosystem and a reliable water supply for California.”

Posted on Monday, October 24th, 2011
Under: George Miller, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, U.S. House, water | No Comments »

RAND Corp. retracts pot dispensary crime study

The RAND Corporation today retracted the study it had released last month questioning the long-held law enforcement assertion that medical marijuana dispensaries contribute to neighborhood crime.

The study of 600 marijuana dispensaries – some of which shut down, some of which stayed open – over a three-week period in 2010 had indicated crime actually rises in surrounding neighborhoods when dispensaries close. “Overall crime increased almost 60 percent in the blocks surrounding closed clinics in the ten days following their closing,” the report had said.

It was immediately touted by medical marijuana advocates from coast to coast as evidence that police complaints of criminal activity at or near dispensaries were bogus. Law enforcement replied the study was too small a sample over too short a time.

RAND announced Monday that questions raised after the study’s publication prompted the prominent think tank “to undertake an unusual post-publication internal review of the study,” its press release said. “That review determined the crime data used in the analysis are insufficient to answer the questions targeted by the study.”

In fact, RAND said, the big problem with the study was that the data described as covering the city of Los Angeles and surrounding areas did not include crime data reported by the Los Angeles Police Department. RAND researchers will conduct a new analysis after gathering adequate crime data, a process that could take many more weeks.

“This was a rare failure of our peer review system,” said Debra Knopman, vice president of the RAND Infrastructure, Safety and Environment division. “We take our commitment to quality and objectivity seriously so we have retracted the study in order to correct it.”

We’ll have a full story on this later today: I’ll be talking to the RAND folks in about an hour, and have reached out to law enforcement and medical-marijuana advocates for comment.

UPDATE @ 3:10 P.M.: Click here to read the full story.

Posted on Monday, October 24th, 2011
Under: marijuana, Public safety | 5 Comments »

Alameda DA named to juvenile justice board

Gov. Jerry Brown today named Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley to the California State Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Protection.

O’Malley, 58, a Democrat from Alameda, has been the county’s top prosecutor since 2009, and has served in the office since 2004; she holds a law degree from Golden Gate University School of Law. The federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act requires each state to establish an advisory group in order to receive Title II Formula Grant funds. California’s committee, appointed by the governor, aims to promote policies that foster “a healthy and safe California where juveniles are held accountable for their actions and receive necessary support and services to become productive adults.” This position does not require Senate confirmation and there is no compensation.

Brown also named Dawood Khan, 19, a Democrat from Union City, to the committee today. Khan is a UPS supervisor and a San Jose City College student, studying human resources.

Also in the Bay Area, Brown nominated Charlton “Chuck” Bonham, 43, a Democrat from Albany, to the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission. Bonham directs the state Department of Fish and Game, and previously worked at Trout Unlimited from 2000 to 2011 in jobs including California director and senior attorney. The commission promotes policies and actions to conserve, develop, and manage fishery resources in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Alaska. This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $100 per diem.

Brown reappointed Barbara Emley, 69, a Democrat from San Francisco, to the fisheries commission as well. Brown had named Emley, a commercial fisherwoman since 1985, to the commission in August, but had to renominate her today because the state Senate didn’t confirm her before the end of its sessionbut that was for the final portion of a term that has just expired; this appointment will be for a full term.

And Brown nominated J. Keith Gilless, 55, a Democrat from San Francisco, to the Board of Forestry and Fire Protection. Gilless has been a University of California, Berkeley professor of forest economics since 1983 and dean of the College of Natural Resources since 2008; he holds a doctorate in forestry and agricultural economics from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. The board is responsible for developing the general forest policy of the state, for determining the guidance policies of the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, and for representing the state’s interest in federal forestland in California. This position requires Senate confirmation and compensation is $100 per diem.

Posted on Friday, October 21st, 2011
Under: Jerry Brown | 4 Comments »

What they’re saying about the Iraq withdrawal

President Obama has announced that all U.S. troops except about 150 will be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of this year; the few remaining troops will protect the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and serve as trainers.

From Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney:

“President Obama’s astonishing failure to secure an orderly transition in Iraq has unnecessarily put at risk the victories that were won through the blood and sacrifice of thousands of American men and women. The unavoidable question is whether this decision is the result of a naked political calculation or simply sheer ineptitude in negotiations with the Iraqi government. The American people deserve to hear the recommendations that were made by our military commanders in Iraq.”

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

“I applaud President Obama for a promise kept. Today is a day to honor our troops and our military families who have sacrificed so much over the last nine years to give the Iraqi people a chance at a better future. It is now up to the Iraqis to secure their country and provide opportunity for all their people.”

From House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio:

“The continued drawdown of American troops that began under the previous administration wouldn’t be possible if not for the hard work and sacrifice of our service members, diplomats and their families. While on a congressional visit to Iraq this year, several lawmakers and I saw firsthand the progress our men and women in uniform had made. American forces not only freed Iraq from a vicious tyrant, but – under the strategy developed and implemented by our generals, and the leadership of both President Bush and President Obama – ended a violent terrorist insurgency that threatened the Iraqi people, and provided an opportunity for the Iraqi government to build the capacity needed to effectively meet the needs of the country.

“We must never forget the sacrifice of those who’ve served and all who will soon be making the journey home. And we owe it to them to continue engaging with the Iraqi government in a way that ensures our hard-fought gains translate into long-term success. While I’m concerned that a full withdrawal could jeopardize those gains, I’m hopeful that both countries will work together to guarantee that a free and democratic Iraq remains a strong and stable partner for the United States in the Middle East.

“We must also keep working to ensure our veterans have our full support as they return home to a tough economy. That’s why the House recently passed a bipartisan veterans hiring bill that provides training and assistance to unemployed veterans, and breaks down barriers preventing them from finding work.”

From Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont:

“I am happy to hear President Obama’s announcement that our troops will be completely withdrawn from Iraq by the end of this year. This is significant progress in the right direction. However, I am still concerned about the thousands of contractors who will continue to work in Iraq, and whether their continued presence constitutes a real withdrawal from the nation. While I hope the transition to a self-governing Iraq is a smooth one, I also hope for a true withdrawal of U.S. involvement.”

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

Posted on Friday, October 21st, 2011
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, Iraq, Jackie Speier, John Boehner, John Garamendi, Lynn Woolsey, Mitt Romney, Obama presidency, Pete Stark, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 4 Comments »

Death penalty abolition measure cleared by AG

The state Attorney General’s office has cleared for petition circulation a proposed ballot initiative that would abolish California’s death penalty, replacing it with life imprisonment without possibility of parole.

Here’s the AG’s title and summary, released yesterday:

DEATH PENALTY REPEAL. INITIATIVE STATUTE. Repeals death penalty as maximum punishment for persons found guilty of murder and replaces it with life imprisonment without possibility of parole. Applies retroactively to persons already sentenced to death. Requires persons found guilty of murder to work while in prison, with their wages to be applied to any victim restitution fines or orders against them. Creates $100 million fund to be distributed to law enforcement agencies to help solve more homicide and rape cases. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Net savings to the state and counties that could amount to the high tens of millions of dollars annually on a statewide basis due to the elimination of the death penalty. One-time state costs totaling $100 million from 2012-13 through 2015-16 to provide funding to local law enforcement agencies. (11-0035.)

The proponents have until March 19 to gather the valid signatures of at least 504,760 registered California voters in order to put this initiative on the November 2012 ballot.

This is the measure that popped up after state Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, withdrew her similar bill in August, saying she couldn’t find the legislative votes to move it forward.

The California Taxpayers for Justice committee backing this “Savings, Accountability and Full Enforcement (SAFE) for California Act” will roll out its petition signature gathering drive next week with press conferences Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles and San Diego featuring “law enforcement leaders, murder victim family members, exonerated persons and notable campaign supporters.”

Among those speaking Tuesday in San Francisco will be 8th District Supervisor Scott Weiner; Jeanne Woodford, former warden of San Quentin State Prison and now Death Penalty Focus’s executive director and this initiative’s proponent; Maurice Caldwell, released in March after serving 21 years in prison for a crime he did not commit; Deldelp Medina, whose aunt was murdered by her first cousin; and Lorrain Taylor of Oakland, founder of 1,000 Mothers to Prevent Violence and mother of twins Albade and Obadiah who were gunned down in 2000 at age 22 in a still-unsolved case.

And speakers in San Jose on Thursday will include SAFE California statewide campaign manager Natasha Minsker, who directs the ACLU of Northern California’s death penalty policy; retired Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge LaDoris Cordell; John Starbuck, both the grandson and grandfather of murder victims, in separate cases; retired police officer Steven Fajardo; and Mary-Kay Raftery of San Jose, mother of a murdered law enforcement officer.

Hancock’s bill had been opposed by groups including Crime Victims United of California and the California District Attorneys Association; they and others almost certainly will oppose this proposed initiative, too.

A Field Poll released late last month found 68 percent of voters favor retaining the death penalty for serious crimes, 27 percent favor abolishing it, and 5 percent have no opinion. However, the poll also found more voters now prefer life in prison without the possibility of parole over the death penalty for someone convicted of first degree murder by a 48 percent to 40 percent margin. The poll had a 3.2-percentage-point margin of error.

Posted on Friday, October 21st, 2011
Under: ballot measures, Public safety, State Prisons | 4 Comments »

Kamala Harris reacts to feds’ marijuana blitz

California Attorney General Kamala Harris has now issued a brief statement about the recently announced federal crackdown on California’s medical marijuana dispensaries:

“Californians overwhelmingly support the compassionate use of medical marijuana for the ill. We should all be troubled, however, by the proliferation of gangs and criminal enterprises that seek to exploit this law by illegally cultivating and trafficking marijuana. While there are definite ambiguities in state law that must be resolved either by the state legislature or the courts, an overly broad federal enforcement campaign will make it more difficult for legitimate patients to access physician-recommended medicine in California. I urge the federal authorities in the state to adhere to the United States Department of Justice’s stated policy and focus their enforcement efforts on ‘significant traffickers of illegal drugs.”

Of course, that’s exactly what the feds say they’re doing, anyway.

Posted on Friday, October 21st, 2011
Under: Attorney General, Kamala Harris, marijuana | 14 Comments »

Prop 8 contributions must be public, judge rules

The identities of past, present and future contributors to committees that backed California’s Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot measure amending the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage, must remain publicly disclosed, a federal judge ruled today.

ProtectMarriage.com–Yes on 8 and the National Organization for Marriage-California had challenged the state Political Reform Act’s campaign disclosure requirements for contributions to ballot measure committees, arguing individual donors to this measure should be treated the same as members of groups such as the NAACP in the 1960’s and be exempt from disclosure.

Contributions to the Yes on 8 campaign already are public. The plaintiffs had wanted the court to permanently block future disclosure of all of contributors to such groups, expunge all records of past contributions, and invalidate as unconstitutional the state law’s $100 disclosure threshold for contributors to ballot measure committees.

But U.S. District Judge Morrison England Jr. of Sacramento ruled from the bench today in favor of the defendants including the Fair Political Practices Commission, the state attorney general and the California secretary of state.

The FPPC issued a news release saying the Yes on 8 committees’ arguments “attacking the Act’s disclosure laws that exist to serve and inform the People of the State of California were ultimately too weak to overcome this State’s important interest in, as Judge England stated, instilling sunshine into the initiative process.”

“They sought to permanently enjoin the future disclosure of all of plaintiffs’, and groups like plaintiffs, contributors, expunge the records of all of plaintiffs’ past contributors, and to invalidate as unconstitutional the Act’s $100 disclosure threshold for contributors to ballot measure committees, among other things,” the FPPC’s release continued. “The Commission vigorously and successfully defended all of the Act’s challenged provisions. The Judge’s decision denying plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment and granting the Defendants’ cross motion on all counts will be followed up with a written order.”

I’ve reached out to various Yes-on-8 spokespeople and attorneys, and will update this item if/when they respond.

UPDATE @ 6:29 P.M.: This just in via e-mail from ProtectMarriage.com Executive Director Ron Prentice:

“Campaign disclosure laws were enacted in order to give the public knowledge of a campaign’s primary financial sponsors. To think that donations of $100 represent major donors – in an $82 million battle – is ridiculous on its face. In addition, the evidence of using these public lists to intimidate and harass is plain. The court’s disregard of this fact will contribute to ongoing abuse of the initiative process.”

Posted on Thursday, October 20th, 2011
Under: ballot measures, campaign finance, same-sex marriage | 2 Comments »

What they’re saying about Gadhafi’s death

At her speech this afternoon in San Francisco, Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann said “the world is a better place” with the death of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi and she hopes the regime that replaces him will be a good partner to the United States, but she still believes U.S. involvement in the fighting there because there was “not a clearly stated national interest.”

Other politicians are weighing in on Gadhafi’s slaying, too.

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

“The Libyan people, with the support of the international community, have rid themselves of a brutal tyrant who was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans and thousands of his own citizens.

“We now look to the Libyan people to build a more democratic state that respects the rights of its citizens. I commend the President, the U.S. military and our allies for their efforts to help the Libyans bring an end to the oppression and horrific atrocities committed by Moammar Gaddafi’s regime.”

From GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney (as spoken on an Iowa talk radio show):

“I have seen those reports and if accurate I think the response is ‘About time.’ This was a tyrant who has been killing his own people and of course is responsible for the lives of American citizens lost in the Lockerbie attack. And I think people across the world recognize that the world is a better place without Muammar Qaddafi.”

From Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough:

“After four decades of iron fist, brutal dictatorship, the Libyan people finally have an opportunity to install a government that respects and represents the right of its citizens. As democratic movements are spreading across the world, I am hopeful that Libya will move towards becoming a peaceful and prosperous member of the global community.”

From Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove:

“For decades, Colonel Qaddafi led a brutal regime that murdered, maimed, tortured, intimidated, and imprisoned the Libyan people. Qaddafi also invaded neighboring countries and sponsored terrorism around the world – including the murder of 270 innocent people, among them 189 Americans, in the infamous Lockerbie airplane bombing. I am hopeful that Qaddafi’s demise marks a new, brighter chapter for the Libyan people.

“I commend President Obama’s administration for leading an international mission in Libya that prevented the massacre of thousands of innocent civilians with minimal risk to American lives. President Obama and his national security team have admirably focused on promoting a swift end to this conflict and on transitioning to a democratic government.

“The herculean struggle for a prosperous, peaceful, and democratic Libya continues, and it must be led by the Libyan people. As a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, I learned that Americans can support other countries on the road to democracy, but we cannot be the ones to bring about change. Our role now is to offer counsel and aid as the Libyan people turn a page in their history.

“I believe future historians will look back at our intervention to prevent genocide in Libya as a moment when America the country lived up to America the idea.”

Posted on Thursday, October 20th, 2011
Under: Barbara Boxer, Jackie Speier, John Garamendi, Mitt Romney, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 3 Comments »

Judge dismisses rape case against CC deputy DA

A Contra Costa County superior court judge dismissed Wednesday a 13-count indictment against former Contra Costa County deputy district attorney Michael Gressett for rape, ending an ugly chapter in the District Attorney’s Office.

Read the full order to dismiss here. (Beware: It contains very graphic descriptions.)

The judge concluded that the grand jury had sufficient cause to indict Gressett but said prosecutors failed, among other things, to disclose to the jury the fact that Contra Costa County had paid the alleged victim, also a former deputy district attorney, $450,000 in a separate settlement.

The attorney general’s office is prosecuting the case and could attempt to retry Gressett. The woman alleged that Gressett raped her during the lunch hour on May 6, 2008.

The case incited deep divisions within the District Attorney’s Office, particularly during the contentious 2010 campaign for the top seat between Dan O’Malley and Mark Peterson, who ultimately won.

Posted on Thursday, October 20th, 2011
Under: Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics | 1 Comment »

Supreme Court to hear redevelopment case Nov. 10

The California Supreme Court will hear arguments Nov. 10 on a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of state lawmakers’ decision to divert $1.7 billion in redevelopment dollars this fiscal year to help balance the budget.

The California Redevelopment Association and the League of California Cities is bringing the suit. It will be heard in San Francisco at 9 a.m.

The court agreed to fast-track its decision and beat a Jan. 15, 2012, deadline for redevelopment agencies to make their first payment to the state.

Read through for the full release from the California Redevelopment Association.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, October 19th, 2011
Under: California budget, redevelopment | No Comments »