CC Supervisor Gioia in line for CSAC presidency

John Gioia

Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia was elected today as second vice president of the California State Association of Counties’ board of directors, which puts him in line to serve as the statewide president in 2013-2014.

CSAC is meeting this week in San Francisco.

As always, Gioia has produced interesting historical tidbits about the job.

The last CSAC president from Contra Costa County was Sunne Wright McPeak in 1983-1984, he says. And other county supervisors who led the statewide organization were W.J. Buchanan in 1933-34 (of Buchanan field fame), J.D. Wightman in 1903-04. The first e3ver CSAC president, Marco Ivory in 1895-96, also came from Contra Costa County.

John Coleman

Also of note, East Bay Municipal Utility District Director John Coleman of Walnut Creek is expected to be selected later this month vice president of the Association of California Water Agencies. If the succession plan plays out as scheduled, Coleman would become statewide president from 2013-2015.

That would put two Contra Costa elected officials at the head of statewide associations in 2014.



Wash., R.I. govs seek marijuana rescheduling

The governors of Washington and Rhode Island announced today they’ve petitioned the federal government to move marijuana off its list of most-restricted drugs so that their states can implement their medical marijuana laws without conflict.

Sounds like good news for drug-reform advocates, right? Not exactly. Some of the nation’s most prominent drug reformers agree with the governors’ request, but not their motivation for making it; others caution there’s still much more to be done.

Rhode Island has a medical-marijuana law on the books since 2006 but Gov. Lincoln Chafee has balked at implementing a planned system of dispensaries. Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire earlier this year vetoed parts of her state’s medical marijuana bill dealing with establishment of dispensaries. Both governors cited federal prosecutors’ threats.

Drug Policy Alliance founder and executive director Ethan Nadelmann said the governors should be asserting their states’ rights and implementing their laws, not using federal law’s ban as a reason to punt.

“The governors’ call for re-scheduling marijuana so that it can be prescribed for medical purposes is an important step forward in challenging the federal government’s intransigence in this area,” he said. “But their call should not serve as an excuse for these two governors to fail to move forward on responsible regulation of medical marijuana in their own states. Governors in states ranging from New Jersey and Vermont to Colorado and New Mexico have not allowed the federal government’s ban on medical marijuana to prevent them from approving and implementing statewide regulation of medical marijuana. Governors Gregoire and Chafee should do likewise.”

Steph Sherer, executive director of the Oakland-based Americans for Safe Access, was somewhat more satisfied, “strongly applauding” the governors’ move.

“We look forward to a time when patients do not have to live in fear,” she said, but she also encouraged both governors to go ahead with medical marijuana production and distribution programs in the meantime.

Marijuana Policy Project executive director Rob Kampia agreed the two governors’ request is “a good first step, in that it shows that politicians are catching up with the scientific consensus, which is that marijuana has medical value.”

“Rescheduling marijuana, however, will not change the federal penalties for possessing, cultivating, or distributing medical marijuana. That is the change we really need,” Kampia said. “These governors should be insisting that the federal government allow them to run their medical marijuana operations the ways they see fit, which in these cases includes allowing regulated distribution centers to provide patients with safe access to their medicine and not force them to turn to illicit dealers.”

Only Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), issued a statement of unmitigated support – unmitigated even by adequate punctuation, creating the most awesome run-on sentence I’ve seen recently:

(T)o finally witness governors so frustrated with the absurdly mis-scheduled cannabis plant as being dangerous, addictive and possessing no medical utility (wrongly grouped with heroin and LSD) that they are reaching out to the president to fix this clear injustice and warping of science is a clear demonstration that the friction between the federal government’s recalcitrance on accepting medical cannabis (or for that matter ending Cannabis Prohibition in total) and state politicians who can no longer justify towing the fed’s ridiculous ban on physician-prescribed cannabis to sick, dying and sense-threatened medical patients is coming to a dramatic conclusion in a government showdown, one that may bode well for the larger Cannabis Prohibition reforms needed, festering just below the surface of the public’s mass acceptance of medical access to cannabis.

I ran out of breath just reading that.


Antioch: Freitas will run for mayor again

Don Freitas

Former Antioch mayor Don Freitas announced he will run for his old seat in 2012.

The contest sets up a possible fourth mayoral showdown with incumbent Mayor Jim Davis, who took the job from Freitas in 2008 but lost his prior two attempts.

Link here to colleague Paul Burgarino’s story but here are a few graphs:

Antioch’s former mayor plans to reclaim the position he lost three years ago.

Donald Freitas, two-term mayor of East Contra Costa’s largest city from 2000 to 2008, said he intends to run for the position next year.

“I love this community. Quite frankly, it’s been very disturbing to see what’s happened here the past four years,” Freitas said. “There are a lot of residents that have become frustrated and angry; I want to move Antioch back in the right direction.”

Freitas’ candidacy likely will set up a fourth mayoral election showdown with longtime foe Jim Davis, who claimed the job from Freitas in 2008 after losing to him in 2000 and 2004.

Freitas, 56, criticized city leadership during a recent interview, saying there is a “bunker mentality” at City Hall.

“Even as difficult as the financial situation has been, it shouldn’t paralyze you. Antioch cannot have an attitude where we’re waiting for things to happen,” Freitas said.

Among the concerns Freitas raised is Antioch’s dismantling of its code enforcement program, cuts to public safety and the vacant economic development director position.




Field Poll: Romney on top, but voters still tepid

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney remains on top while former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has surged to a strong second among GOP presidential candidates, but California’s Republican voters still aren’t thrilled with their options, according to a new Field Poll.

While candidates strive to solidify their support in the final months before the first caucuses, this poll also shows an increasing proportion of California Republicans – 26 percent, up from 16 percent two months ago – are undecided about who they want as the nominee. More than three in four who expressed a preference for one of the candidates say it’s still early and admit they’ve not made a final decision of who they’ll vote for.

Perhaps that’s because only 16 percent are very satisfied with the field of GOP candidates; 47 percent say they’re somewhat satisfied; and 33 percent are not too satisfied or not at all satisfied.

Romney has the support of 26 percent of California Republican voters; Gingrich has 23 percent; former Godfathers Pizza CEO Herman Cain has 9 percent; and Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, has 5 percent. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who’d entered the race amid much buzz – and 22 percent report in September – but fizzled in his debate performances, has plummeted and now is tied at 3 percent with Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. Bring up the rear are former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., at 2 percent and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman at 1 percent.

Gingrich’s strongest base of support is among the 26 percent of Republican voters who identify a lot with the Tea Party movement; in that group, he leads Romney 38 percent to 18 percent. But among all other Republican voters, Romney leads Gingrich 29 percent to 18 percent.

Among the slightly less than half of California Republicans who call themselves strongly conservative, 84 percent have picked a candidate while 16 percent are undecided; within this segment, Gingrich leads Romney 31 percent to 29 percent. But more than a third of Republican voters who consider themselves moderate remain undecided; in this segment, Romney leads Gingrich 24 percent to 17 percent.

GOP men are dividing almost evenly between Romney (28 percent) and Gingrich (27 percent), while women prefer Romney over Gingrich 25 percent to 19 percent. And Romney’s support skews younger: He leads Gingrich by 10 percentage points among Republican voters under 50, although 52 percent of that age group is still undecided; those 50 or older prefer Gingrich by three percentage points.

The Field Poll surveyed 330 California Republican voters from Nov. 15 through Nov. 27; the poll has a 5.7-percentage-point margin of error.


Butt: Put that horn where the sun don’t shine

Richmond Councilman Tom Butt

Richmond City Councilman Tom Butt is unimpressed with Federal Railway Administration staffer LeeAnn Dickson’s offer to host a community meeting about why trains use horns.

Richmond and train operators have been at war for years over horns and blocked crossings.

Dickson sent Butt an email asking which of two dates — mid-day on Jan. 11 or 12 — would work better and this is what he had to say:

Ms. Dickson,

 While I appreciate the offer of an informational meeting about train horns, I respectfully suggest that explaining horn use it is not what is really needed.

 I think people understand what a train horn is, and the City of Richmond probably knows more than any city in California how to establish Quiet Zones.

 If there is going to be a meeting, it should include the following:

  •  Why the FRA has never taken an enforcement action against a Quiet Zone violator in Richmond.
  •  Why the FRA has set up rules that require cities to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars just to silence horns at one grade crossing.
  •  Why the FRA allows railroads to use horn signals in yards at night when radios are clearly acceptable.
  •  Make the top managers from BNSF come and explain why their engineers continually lay on their horns when they don’t have to.
  •  Make the businesses along Canal Boulevard come and explain to the people of Richmond why their convenience is more important than people’s sleep.
  •  Make the CPUC come and explain why they exercise even less flexibility than the FRA with respect to train horns.
  •  Invite our state legislators to explain why they can’t rein in the CPUC with respect to train horns and protect public health.
  •  Invite our congressional delegation to explain why Congress doesn’t take action to protect people against the health impacts of nighttime train horn use.

 If we could get these people and these items on the agenda, it would have the possibility of being a really productive meeting. Otherwise, it would probably be a waste of time.

Tom Butt, Vice-Mayor, City of Richmond

Richmond City Councilman


DeSaulnier seeks criminal probe of Caltrans

An East Bay lawmaker asked Attorney General Kamala Harris today to open an criminal investigation into accusations of falsified inspections of the new span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge now under construction.

State Senate Transportation and Housing Committee Chairman Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, wants Harris to probe Caltrans’ Foundation Inspection Branch, which was the targeted in a committee hearing he chaired last week following a Sacramento Bee investigation that raised the allegations.

“The committee believes that failure to conduct reliable inspection tests on the foundations of bridges, freeway ramps, retaining walls, and other structures may erode the public’s confidence in Caltrans’ management of the state highway and bridge program,” DeSaulnier wrote in his letter to Harris. “State government cannot be a safe haven for employees who shirk their public safety duties and who steal state property for private purposes. To this end, I am requesting that your office investigate the allegations of professional and managerial improprieties in the Foundation Inspection Branch of Caltrans for any criminality.”

Specifically, DeSaulnier wants Harris to look into Caltrans employees’ alleged theft of state materials and use of state equipment as well as the use of employees on state time to transport the materials to a construction site on private property; alleged falsification of inspection data; Caltrans managers’ failure to fire anyone for these alleged offenses; Caltrans’ workers possible intimidation of the Foundation Inspection Branch’s manager; and the possibility that allegedly bogus inspection data was meant to benefit one or more contractors.

UPDATE @ 5:41 P.M.: Spokeswoman Lynda Gledhill says Harris’ office has received DeSaulnier’s letter and is reviewing the request.