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Archive for November, 2011

Poll tries to unpack Occupy Oakland’s beliefs

A pair of Oakland pollsters say their firm’s survey of Occupy Oakland protesters shows a diverse movement united by a shared sense of frustration with the status quo and driving toward some improvement that’s not even clear to them yet.

“In six words, we would sum up their responses to our survey as follows: They want things to be better,” wrote David Metz and Greg Lewis of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz and Associates, a Democrat-oriented public opinion research and strategy firm.

Metz and Lewis wrote that they did their survey in the public interest, not for any third-party client.

“Our employees either live in Oakland or in neighboring East Bay cities; the Snow Park encampment is next door to the office we work out of every day; and the encampment in the Plaza was just a half mile down the street before the November 14 raid brought it to an end,” they wrote. “Our business is finding out what people think, and the Occupy Oakland movement is a subject we all wanted to know more about.”

They acknowledge they couldn’t capture a statistically representative sample of so fluid and self-defined a movement, so they sent professional interviewers out with the goal of talking to as diverse a selection of protestors as possible. The interviewers were out in Frank Ogawa Plaza on Wednesday, Nov. 9 and Saturday, Nov. 12, at various times between noon and 6 p.m., talking to campers and visitors.

“While we certainly can’t say that our results reveal the views of Occupy Oakland with statistical precision, we can say that over the course of 109 interviews, we were able to learn a lot about the Oakland movement and the opinions and attitudes of the people who identify with it,” they wrote.

Among other things, they found persistence: 64 percent of those interviewed identified themselves as “frequent” participants in Occupy Oakland events, while 21 percent said they were “occasional visitors.” About 74 percent said they were from the Bay Area, including 48 percent from Oakland, 12 percent from elsewhere in Alameda County and 14 percent from other Bay Area locales. And almost everyone said they would keep participating in the movement “indefinitely.”

The protestors were fed up with both political parties, seeing widespread corruption throughout the system, and were lukewarm about President Barack Obama. Still, there is a partisan leaning – while 43 percent view the Democratic Party unfavorably, 74 percent see the Republican Party unfavorably and 67 percent see the Tea Party movement unfavorably. Views of the president were split about evenly: 33 percent favorable, 30 percent unfavorable and 34 percent neutral.

But 70 percent said they’re registered to vote and intend to do so in the 2012 presidential election, and that subset was slightly more likely to have a favorable opinion of President Obama; those who said they would not vote were more likely to view him negatively.

Lots more, after the jump…
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Posted on Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011
Under: Oakland, polls | 9 Comments »

Slain kids’ dad starts circulating ballot measure

The father of two children who died in 2003 when mowed down by a nanny who was drunk and on prescription painkillers was cleared today to start circulating a proposed ballot measure that would put a temporary tax on prescription drugs sold in California, to fund the state’s prescription drug monitoring system.

Here’s the Attorney General’s official title and summary:

TAX ON CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES. INITIATIVE STATUTE. For three years beginning January 1, 2013, imposes a tax of $.0025 per pill upon drug manufacturers and importers that make initial sale of a Schedule II, III, or IV controlled substance in California. Provides revenue to fund California Department of Justice’s program to monitor prescription and dispensation of controlled substances, administration costs, outreach, education, and investigation of abuses. Requires any person that manufactures Schedule II, III, or IV controlled substances in California, or imports them into California, to register with the California Department of Justice for purposes of tax compliance. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Increased state revenues of approximately $7 million annually from a new tax on prescription drugs. The revenues would be used to increase spending on a prescription drug database maintained by DOJ. (11-0045)

Proponent Robert Pack, 56, of Danville, has until April 19 to collect valid signatures from at least 504,760 registered voters. Pack’s son Troy, 10, and daughter Alana, 7, were killed in October 2003 by Jimena Barreto, who was convicted in 2005 of two counts of second-degree murder.

Pack now is executive director of the nonprofit Troy and Alana Pack Foundation, which exists “to help educate the public about traffic safety and responsibility, to promulgate legislation for traffic safety, and to help implement enforcement of those laws,” according to its website. “This will be accomplished through the creation and passing of stricter DUI and DMV laws and enforcement through the California State Legislature. We are working to bring about new public policies on both the state and national levels.”

UPDATE @ 4:21 P.M.: Click here to read what Pack and the pharmaceutical industry have to say about it.

Posted on Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011
Under: ballot measures | 2 Comments »

State GOP continues to court Latinos

The California Republican Party, troubled by its failure to attract Latino voters, today touted a day-long media training workshop it held last week with Latino elected officials and candidates.

The state GOP says the event at Univision’s Los Angeles facility was “an important step” in its relationship with GROW Elect, a political action commitee created to recruit, endorse, train, and help fund California Latino Republicans and independents for elected office. There were question-and-answer sessions with CRP Chairman Tom Del Beccaro of Lafayette and former State Senate Republican Leader Dennis Hollingsworth of Murrieta; GROW Elect consultants Luis Alvarado and Moises Merino were also on hand for the training.

“This is part of keeping our promise to establish a stronger, more consistent Republican presence in the Latino community and to continue our support of GROW Elect and their impressive efforts,” Del Beccaro said in today’s news release. “We’re excited to partner with GROW Elect, not just with training but with other resources that will help promote their bottom-up approach to connect with Latino voters throughout California.”

The CRP and GROW Elect plan to offer more such workshops for Latino Republicans across the state, with two more sessions planned for Sacramento and Fresno before the year’s end.

The Pew Research Center found that Democratic candidates won the Latino vote, usually by wide margins, in last November’s elections across the nation. In California’s U.S. Senate race, Democrat Barbara Boxer won 66 percent of the Latino vote while Republican Carly Fiorina won 31 percent; for governor, Democrat Jerry Brown won 63 percent of the Latino vote while Republican Meg Whitman won 34 percent.

Veteran Republican pollster Bob Moore in March had said his latest survey showed there was an opportunity for the state GOP to gain ground with Latino voters despite its negative image – a nice way of saying the party had nowhere to go but upward.

The survey of 400 California Latino voters had found only 26 percent had a favorable impression of the GOP, while 47 percent felt unfavorably about it and 27 percent had no opinion. It also found the party wouldn’t win over many Latino voters by stressing conservatism; only 22 percent agreed Republicans should, “stick to core values and nominate true Conservatives.” Philosophically, only a third were self-described conservatives, with a third calling themselves moderate and a quarter calling themselves liberal.

Immigration policy remained a sore point, with only 25 percent approving and 71 percent disapproving of Arizona’s controversial law. But the poll found more than seven in 10 voters would consider a candidate who says, “secure the border first, stop illegal immigration, then find a way to address the status of people already here illegally.” And 69 percent of Latino voters said they’d consider voting for a Republican who talked about “ensuring all children had a chance at a first-rate education” even if they disagreed with that candidate on immigration policy.

Posted on Monday, November 21st, 2011
Under: Republican Party, Republican politics | 2 Comments »

Brown names two to college financial aid board

Gov. Jerry Brown today named two Bay Area students as student representatives to the California Student Aid Commission, a body charged with “making education beyond high school financially accessible to all Californians” by administering Cal Grants and other programs.

Ishan Shah, 19, a Democrat from Fremont, is pursuing a degree in political science at Ohlone College. Shah served as a commissioner on the Human Relations Commission in Alameda County from 2010 to 2011, and as a student senator for the California Community Colleges from 2010 to 2011.

Johnny Garcia Vasquez, 22, a Democrat from Berkeley, is pursuing a degree in ethnic studies at the University of California, Berkeley while working as a student assistant at Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice at Berkeley School of Law. He was a community outreach program assistant for the Health Initiative of the Americas in 2011.

These positions require Senate confirmation and the compensation is $100 per diem.

The Cal Grant program gave financial aid to more than 370,000 students last year. Brown last month signed into law the rest of the DREAM Act so that, starting in 2013, illegal immigrants accepted by California’s public universities will have the same access to Cal Grants as do legal citizens.

Posted on Monday, November 21st, 2011
Under: education, Jerry Brown | 1 Comment »

On the failure of the ‘Super Committee’

Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction co-chairs Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., acknowledged this afternoon that their “supercommittee” has failed, issuing this joint statement:

“After months of hard work and intense deliberations, we have come to the conclusion today that it will not be possible to make any bipartisan agreement available to the public before the committee’s deadline.

“Despite our inability to bridge the committee’s significant differences, we end this process united in our belief that the nation’s fiscal crisis must be addressed and that we cannot leave it for the next generation to solve. We remain hopeful that Congress can build on this committee’s work and can find a way to tackle this issue in a way that works for the American people and our economy.

“We are deeply disappointed that we have been unable to come to a bipartisan deficit reduction agreement, but as we approach the uniquely American holiday of Thanksgiving, we want to express our appreciation to every member of this committee, each of whom came into the process committed to achieving a solution that has eluded many groups before us. Most importantly, we want to thank the American people for sharing thoughts and ideas and for providing support and good will as we worked to accomplish this difficult task.

“We would also like to thank our committee staff, in particular Staff Director Mark Prater and Deputy Staff Director Sarah Kuehl, as well as each committee member’s staff for the tremendous work they contributed to this effort. We would also like to express our sincere gratitude to Dr. Douglas Elmendorf and Mr. Thomas Barthold and their teams at the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation, respectively, for the technical support they provided to the committee and its members.”

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, responded:

“While I am disappointed, the House will forge ahead with the commitments we have made to reducing government spending and removing barriers standing in the way of private-sector job creation. Doing otherwise is not an option. This process did not end in the desired outcome, but it did bring our enormous fiscal challenges into greater focus. I am confident the work done by this committee will play a role in the solution we must eventually find as a nation.

“I commend both of the panel’s leaders, Jeb Hensarling and Patty Murray, for the dignified and statesmanlike manner in which the committee carried out its difficult negotiations. I want to particularly thank Jeb for the principled leadership and love of country he consistently has demonstrated in leading Republicans on the Joint Select Committee, as well as Dave Camp and Fred Upton for the countless hours they invested in this process for a noble cause.”

Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, said today that President Obama had wanted a plan that was “big, bold and balanced” between spending cuts and revenue increases, but “from day one, (Senate Minority Leader) Mitch Mcconnell and the Republican leadership said they would not put new revenues on the table.”

Miller said he never had “a lot of confidence it would work, but it’s part of a process” and that process’ next part is sequestration – $1.2 trillion in automatically triggered cuts, about half in domestic spending and half in defense, to be implemented at the start of 2013. “Now the question is, are we going to keep our word?”

If anyone in Congress moves to diminish those cuts, he said, President Obama should veto the bill – exactly what the White House promised today. “This was a bargain we made with the public – not my favorite bargain, but it’s what we said we were going to do,” Miller said. “Now, I think the point is, we need to stand by that.”

Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, on KQED’s Forum this morning said Republican intransigence is to blame.

“(T)he sticking point from the very beginning was the announcement of Republicans saying that they had signed a pledge with Grover Norquist, and that revenues and increases of taxes for certain income brackets were off the table,” she said. “On the Democratic side, it’s not true that we didn’t support reform to the entitlements, to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. What the Democrats opposed was stripping away the guarantee and simply going to a voucher system. What I’m struck by is that the message that goes out, if the Committee doesn’t come up with anything today, is a pox on everyone’s house, and that the Congress can’t accomplish anything.”

“Here we are a can-do nation, respected around the world, and everyone really shaking their heads and saying what’s wrong with them. I think it sends a bad message not only to our constituents, but also the markets as well during a very tenuous time when our economy is as fragile as it is,” Eshoo said. “It seems to me that this Grover Norquist pledge is trumping the pledge that we take when we are sworn in as Members of Congress.”

More from the Bay Area’s voices in Congress, after the jump…
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Posted on Monday, November 21st, 2011
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Boxer, George Miller, John Boehner, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Honda, Pete Stark, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 3 Comments »

Perez, Steinberg urge review of pepper-spray use

California Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, just issued this statement amid the uproar over police’s use of pepper spray against nonviolent protesters Friday at the University of California, Davis:

“I was appalled at the apparent use of excessive force by the UC Davis police force at a peaceful student demonstration.

“All Americans deserve the right to peacefully express their opinions. Nowhere is that right more sacrosanct than in the university setting. I fully support the right of the students to continue to express their frustrations and aspirations, and I call on the University to assure the safety of their student body, not only from physical harm, but from limitations of their free expression.

“It is my expectation that the university will complete a thorough review of the incidents in question and adjust police procedures accordingly.”

Yesterday, state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, had said:

“On its face, this is an outrageous action for police to methodically pepper spray passive demonstrators who were exercising their right to peacefully protest at U.C. Davis. Chancellor Katehi needs to immediately investigate, publicly explain how this could happen and ensure that those responsible are held accountable.”

The Davis Enterprise reported this morning that UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza has been placed on administrative leave, along with two of the officers involved in the use of pepper spray, pending a review.

UPDATE @ 12:57 P.M.: Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, who as the state’s former lieutenant governor used to sit on the UC Board of Regents, is up in arms about the incident, too:

“I am appalled by the way in which students at UC Davis were treated. Campus police should know better than to cavalierly pepper spray peaceful protestors. The proud tradition of peaceful campus protests was shamelessly marred by these actions. I’m glad an investigation is underway, and I look forward to a full report on how they will avoid incidents like this in the future.

“At the same time, violent protests are never appropriate. From what I have seen, however, there was no violence on the part of the protesters at UC Davis. Indeed, by all accounts, Aggie students have shown remarkable restraint in the days following the pepper spraying. If and when protests become heated, they must be handled with the greatest discretion, so as to avoid and minimize injury to police and to demonstrators.

“Every incident of violence – no matter who the perpetrator – is a distraction from the legitimate issues that the 99% movement has raised. Our public universities have seen drastic cuts, harming our ability to stay competitive in a tough economy, and thousands of students have been priced out of an education or burdened with debts that they cannot repay. I hope the entire university community understands that we’re all in this together.”

UPDATE @ 4:48 P.M.: Lynda Gledhill, spokeswoman for California Attorney General Kamala Harris, noted the Yolo County Sheriff’s Department is investigating and will take what it finds to that county’s district attorney. The attorney general doesn’t usually get involved in such cases while that process under way unless asked to do so because local officials have a conflict of interests or a lack of resources.

Nonetheless, Gledhill said, “the attorney general is disturbed, she thought the incident was disturbing, and wants to follow the process and make sure the review is through. She will be monitoring that.”

Posted on Monday, November 21st, 2011
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Civil liberties, Darrell Steinberg, John Garamendi, John Perez, Kamala Harris, U.S. House | 18 Comments »

‘Personhood’ amendment cleared to circulate

The proponent of a proposed “personhood” constitutional amendment much like the one Mississippi voters rejected this month has been cleared to start collecting signatures in California.

California Secretary of State Debra Bowen said proponent Walter B. Hoye II, 55, of Union City, has until April 16 to collect valid signatures from at least 807,615 registered California voters in order to qualify the measure for next November’s ballot.

The Attorney General’s official title and summary for the measure is as follows:

CONSTITUTIONAL DEFINITION OF A PERSON. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT. Defines “person” as including all living human beings from the beginning of their biological development as human organisms, for purposes of state constitutional protections of due process and equal protection. Eliminates state constitutional protections of due process and equal protection for non-biological entities, such as corporations. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Costs from the establishment of due process and equal protection rights for zygotes, embryos, and fetuses, potentially in the tens of millions of dollars annually. (11-0041)

Hoye is founder and president of the Union City-based California Civil Rights Foundation, which opposes abortion rights. He fell short of collecting enough signatures for a similar measure in 2010.

Posted on Friday, November 18th, 2011
Under: ballot measures | 2 Comments »

CREW examines donor influence on committee chairs

Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez

Industry donations to House of Representative committee leaders who regulate them has skyrocketed, according to a new Washington, D.C., campaign finance watchdog analysis.

The report on the top two leaders in 10 House committees includes three California lawmakers: Education and Workforce Committee ranking member George Miller, D-Martinez; Energy and Committee ranking member Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles; and Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Santa Clarita.

Read the Citizens for Responsiblity and Ethics (CREW) analysis here.

CREW examined contributions made by the related industries to the leaders of 10 House committees in 1998 and 2010 and found a 600 percent increase during that period compared with the overall increase in contributions of 230 percent during the same time period.

“CREW also found that since 2007, many committee leaders voted in agreement with the industries they regulate a majority of the time,” the report reads. “… CREW’s findings raise new questions about how beholden House committee chairmen and ranking members are to the industries they oversee and whether they are independent enough to put public interest ahead of special interests.”

Here is an excerpt of the report’s findings on Miller, which reflect a similar rise in industry-related donations but not a commensurate voting pattern:

“Rep. Miller served as ranking member of the committee from 2001 to 2006 and served as chairman from 2007 to 2010. Over the past seven election cycles, as his seniority on the committee rose, contributions from education and workforce industries to Rep. Miller increased at a rate far outpacing his total contributions. Rep. Miller’s voting history, however, does not reflect the industries’ largess.”

“During the 2002 election cycle – the first election cycle after Rep. Miller assumed a leadership position on the committee – contributions from education and workforce industries to his campaign committee and PAC increased by 38% over the previous cycle, from $145,150 in 2000 to $199,863 in 2002. Total contributions increased by 65% during the same time period, from $417,748 to $687,741.”

“During the 2010 election cycle, education and workforce industries accounted for 30% of the $1,527,308 in total contributions received by Rep. Miller’s campaign committee and PAC.”

“During the 1998 election cycle, education and workforce industries accounted for 18% of the $346,025 in total contributions received by Rep. Miller’s campaign committee.”

“Campaign Contribution highlights from industries regulated by the Committee

  • The education industry regulated by the Education and Workforce Committee donated 90 times more money to Miller during the 2010 election cycle than it did in 1998, increasing contributions from $1,500 to $135,461.
  • The ‘Health Professionals’ industry donated more than five times more money to Rep. Miller during the 2010 election cycle than during the 1998 election cycle, increasing its contributions from $11,501 to $59,500.
  • The ‘Building Trade Unions’ donated nearly six times more money to Rep. Miller during the 2010 election cycle than during the 1998 election cycle, increasing its contributions from $18,000 to $107,650.”

“Votes on Education and Workforce Issues

  • From 2007-2008, Rep. Miller voted on average 88% in agreement with the industries regulated by the Education and Workforce Committee. The average Democrat voted in agreement with the industries 91% of the time.
  • From 2009-2010, Rep. Miller voted on average 82% in agreement with the industries regulated by the Education and Workforce Committee. The average Democrat voted in agreement with the industries 81% of the time.
  • Since January 2011, Rep. Miller has voted on average 77% in agreement with the industries regulated by the Education and Workforce Committee. The average Democrat has voted in agreement with the industries 79% of the time.”

Posted on Thursday, November 17th, 2011
Under: campaign finance, Congress | 3 Comments »

State Senate to probe Bay Bridge claims

State Senate Transportation and Housing Committee Chairman Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, will hold a public hearing at the State Capitol next Tuesday to take testimony from Caltrans officials on the agency’s quality assurance practices for bridge construction inspection.

The hearing follows up on the Sacramento Bee’s investigative report on falsified inspections of the new span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, now under construction. The Bee reported that a Caltrans inspector falsified reports and, “did not follow a Caltrans requirement to check that his testing gauge was working correctly to ensure its accuracy before testing portions of the bridge’s tower foundation.”

“These are serious allegations, and the Committee will be asking Caltrans about its inspection policies and safeguards,” said DeSaulnier. “We need to know that inspections are reliable and that our bridges are safe.”

The Bee’s new report is especially worrisome in light of an ANG Newspapers investigative series and resultant FBI probe in 2005 based on more than a dozen bridge workers’ claims that a hurried schedule had led to defective and inadequate welds.

The committee’s hearing will convene at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 22 in Room 112 at the State Capitol.

Posted on Thursday, November 17th, 2011
Under: California State Senate, Mark DeSaulnier, Transportation | 1 Comment »

Loni Hancock speaks in support of faculty strike

State Senator Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, joined striking faculty members, staff, students and California Faculty Association supporters at a rally this afternoon at California State University, East Bay in Hayward.

From her prepared remarks:

“This is a pivotal moment for California’s educational system. In times of economic fragility such as we are in now, we are faced with gut-wrenching choices. It is all too easy for high-level managers to shift a disproportionate burden of cutbacks and suffering to those who are the real heart of the university system – the faculty, staff and students.

“I am here to congratulate and support the faculty of this great university for having the courage to stand up for fairness and for making a stand against the destruction of our education system.

“You have been more than patient as you have watched the California university system diminished by drastic budget cuts, skyrocketing tuition and fee increases, reduced resources for faculty and staff and an intransigent administration refusing to compromise on contracts.

“You have been more than patient as you have watched students suffer the consequences. Every day, I hear from frustrated and angry Americans worried about being able to send their kids to college because their savings have been depleted thanks to Wall Street greed and mismanagement.

“I urge the university’s administration to listen to you – to heed the voices of the faculty, staff and students who are the heart and soul of this great university. You are the 99 percent, and your voice will be heard.”

Posted on Thursday, November 17th, 2011
Under: California State Senate, education, Loni Hancock, state budget | 6 Comments »