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Archive for December, 2011

For-profit college VP named to student aid panel

Gov. Jerry Brown this week named an East Bay woman to the California Student Aid Commission, but an article I read recently makes me wonder whether he’s appointed a fox to guard the henhouse.

Brown appointed Terri Bishop, 58, of Lafayette, to the California Student Aid Commission, the stated mission of which is “making education beyond high school financially accessible to all Californians. The appointment requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $100 per diem. Bishop is a Democrat.

According to its website, the commission is “the principal state agency responsible for administering financial aid programs for students attending public and private universities, colleges, and vocational schools in California” and “provides financial aid policy analysis and leadership, in partnership with California’s colleges, universities, financial institutions, and financial aid associations.” It administers the Cal Grant program, which provides public money to students for use at colleges and universities within the state; the program has suffered grievous cuts in recent budgets, even as public university and community college tuitions have increased.

Bishop has worked at the Apollo Group – parent company of the University of Phoenix, a for-profit system of more than 200 campuses plus online learning – since 1997, including serving most recently as executive vice president of academic strategy and senior advisor to the chief executive officer. From 1989 to 1997, she was senior vice president of the Online Campus at the University of Phoenix.

Now, I don’t know Bishop, and I have no reason to doubt her or her motivations on an individual, personal or professional basis. But the hair on the back of my neck rose a bit when I read about this appointment, as I recalled an article in the October issue of Harper’s which cast the University of Phoenix and schools like it in a not-so-favorable light.

From that article:

Currently, proprietary institutions educate about one in ten American college students while taking in nearly a quarter of all Title IV funding – $4 billion in Pell Grants and $20 billion in guaranteed loans in 2009.

All this government funding is notable because enrolling at for-profit colleges turns out to be a terrible deal for most students. Almost three fifths drop out without a degree within a year, and virtually all take on debt to help pay for their education. They default on their loans at about twice the rate of students at public colleges and universities and three times the rate of students at private ones. Those who graduate often wind up in low-paying jobs, doing tasks with minimal connection to their degrees.

The article also notes that University of Phoenix gets about 88 percent of its revenue from federal funding.

Those one or two who get degrees and otherwise would have been shut out of the system may justify the cost of letting schools like Phoenix occupy such a prominent place in our educational landscape. What isn’t clear is how many Americans understand that this is the bargain we’ve signed up for: throwing enormous resources at places like Phoenix so that they can graduate one or two out of every twenty entering freshmen.

Posted on Thursday, December 29th, 2011
Under: education, Jerry Brown | 6 Comments »

Court allows state redevelopment money grab

The Supreme Court found that state lawmakers had a legal right to seize $1.7 billion in redevelopment money and at the same time, struck down a separate law that would allow the agencies to stay in business if they agreed to make large payments to the state.

The decision could kill the state’s 400 redevelopment agencies.

Read the full story by Howard Mintz at the Mercury News here.

 

Posted on Thursday, December 29th, 2011
Under: redevelopment | 2 Comments »

Stark’s challenger steps up the campaign pace

Gotta say this for Eric Swalwell, the Dublin councilman taking on fellow Democrat and longtime incumbent Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, in 2012: He’s managing to get his message out.

Stark, 80, may have the advantages of better campaign funding and the bully pulpit of incumbency, but Swalwell, 31, is proving tenacious both locally and nationally. For example, the University of Maryland grad scored some complimentary ink in the Washington Post’s local section yesterday.

And he’s continuing to be creative in how he canvasses the newly drawn 15th Congressional District. He already did a “listening tour” of all of the district’s downtowns, and he went out and served coffee all night to Black Friday holiday shoppers. Now he’s kicking off a new campaign initiative – running, and I don’t just mean “running for office.” He and campaign volunteers going to participate in six local runs over the next six months, starting New Year’s Day with a 5k at the Lake Chabot Marina in Castro Valley – a none-to-subtle way of juxtaposing his youth with Stark’s, er, elder statesmanship.

But this is still going to be a very, very tough race for Swalwell, as it would be for anyone taking on a 40-year incumbent. Swalwell raised about $75,000 in the third quarter of this year, his debut; he told the Post this week that he’s raised about $100,000 so far, which means his fourth-quarter fundraising might’ve stalled. Stark, meanwhile, had about $544,000 in the bank as of Sept. 30.

And there’s a lot going on in the backfield, as former Obama Administration official Ro Khanna of Fremont has been raising tremendous money in this fourth quarter (though he swears he won’t run against Stark, and is merely building a nest egg for when Stark retires – more on him very soon). Khanna’s massive fundraising for 2014 could help explain why Ellen Corbett reportedly is considering running in 2012 rather than first finishing out her state Senate term, as she told me she would two months ago.

Posted on Thursday, December 29th, 2011
Under: 2012 Congressional Election, Pete Stark, U.S. House | 6 Comments »

Pushback on ProPublica redistricting story

As the California Republican Party continues to tout this week’s ProPublica article about Democrats influencing the Citizens Redistricting Commission’s work, there’s some pushback today from some of the state’s prominent political opinion writers.

CalBuzz, the site run by Phil Trounstine – a former Mercury News editor, communications director for Gov. Gray Davis and San Jose State University pollster –and longtime San Francisco Chronicle and Santa Barbara News-Press editor Jerry Roberts, called the study “misleading at best, dishonest at worst and fatally flawed in any case.” From that article:

In the course of their reporting, Calbuzz has learned, Pierce interviewed Eric McGhee of the Public Policy Institute of California, one of the state’s top non-partisan reapportionment experts, who explained to her that the gains forecast for Democrats represent a logical and expected result given a) demographic changes in the last decade and b) the criteria the commission was charged with using.

McGhee even emailed Pierce an advance copy of a 45-page analysis of the commission plan he co-authored with Vladimir Kogan of UC San Diego, which is scheduled to be published in the California Journal of Politics and Policy in a few months. Among its conclusions: given the gerrymandered districts used for the last decade, “it seems unlikely that it is possible to draw any plan that increases competition among congressional seats without also advantaging the Democrats.”

But when the ProPublica report published Wednesday – claiming that Democratic operatives had “managed to replicate the results of the smoke-filled rooms of old” (yes, they actually wrote that) – there was no mention of the detailed and comprehensive McGhee-Kogan research, nor even a reference to the facts, background and context on which it is based.

The Sacramento Bee’s Dan Walters wrote that Democrats did play politics in trying to influence the commission, but that’s to be expected and Republicans merely are upset at having fallen asleep at the switch:

While they concentrate on a couple of Democrats whose seats were protected by intervention of some clandestine front groups and, perhaps, the gullibility of commission members, they don’t mention the plan’s adverse effects on other Democrats, such as forcing a high-octane shootout looming between Reps. Howard Berman and Brad Sherman in Los Angeles County.

More importantly, the article doesn’t mention that the Democrats’ creation of “community of interest” front groups could be effective only because the 14-member commission, as chosen by a convoluted process, was hypersensitive to that approach.

The Democratic members of the commission tended to be partisans, its Republicans tended to be of the go-along variety, and the supposed independents turned out to be mostly liberals inclined to draw districts that favor ethnic and cultural enclaves.

That tendency – coupled with underlying demographic and voter registration trends – had the combined effect of not only protecting most incumbent Democrats but giving them a chance to make congressional gains.

Posted on Friday, December 23rd, 2011
Under: redistricting | 9 Comments »

See who’s on Newt’s California finance team

Former House Speaker and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich today announced members of his California finance leadership team.

“Job creation is job one in America and I am honored to have such a diverse team of business men and women join my campaign in California,” he said in his news release. “With the first votes being cast in less than two weeks, we will continue to build the necessary infrastructure to win in the golden state.”

Campaign manager Michael Krull said Gingrich’s California leadership “continues to grow and is a sign of the momentum of the campaign.”

Newt 2012 previously had named Eric Beach, 34, of Costa Mesa, as the state finance chairman. Added to the team today were:

  • John B. Kilroy Jr., 63, of Malibu, President & CEO of Kilroy Realty Corp.
  • Bill Mundell, 51, of Los Angeles, Chairman of IKM
  • Yuri Vanetik, 41, of Santa Ana, Principal in Vanetik International
  • Terry Donahue, 67, of Balboa Island, former GM San Francisco 49ers & former UCLA head football coach
  • John Cox, 56, Founder of Equity Property Management (though I thought he’s in Chicago?)
  • Charles Horace, 87, of Bakersfield, President of Trio Petroleum
  • Paul Bruno, 47, of Monterey, Principal in Monterey Peninsula Engineering
  • DJ Burke, 33, of Trabuco Canyon, Managing Director of Clarity Capital Partners
  • Steven Capozza, 44, of Del Mar, Managing Partner of Capstone Investments
  • Michael Castle, 43, of South San Francisco, Manager, Life Sciences, Agilent Technologies
  • Tamara Colbert, 33, of Altadena, co-founder of American Women Media & Tea Party activist
  • Dr. Robert W. Dubois, 55, of Beverly Hills, Chief Science Officer of the National Pharmaceutical Council
  • Rick Fallahee, 49, of San Francisco, CEO of NovelASpect.com
  • Andy Fetko, Chairman of Tread More Energy
  • Matt Gunderson, 48, of Ladera Ranch, Owner & Managing Member of GSM Auto Group LLC
  • Victor Hester, 42, of El Cajon, Chief Operating Officer of JVD Investments
  • Chris Lane, Managing Director of KRG Capital Partners (based in Colorado)
  • Angelo Mazzone, 61, of Los Angeles, businessman & former UCLA associate athletic director
  • Kevin Murphy, Chief Operating Officer of Electronic Transaction Clearing
  • Dick Paulsen, 63, of San Juan Capistrano, CEO of Pargen LLC
  • John Robison, 48, of Studio City, Chairman & CEO of Big PlayAR Inc.
  • Michael Schrock, 46, of Newport Beach, Principal at Urban Arena
  • Posted on Thursday, December 22nd, 2011
    Under: 2012 presidential election, campaign finance | 1 Comment »

    U.S. border chief to step down Dec. 30

    The Obama Administration’s commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection – a former California Secretary of Education – is stepping down.

    Alan BersinAlan Bersin, 65, has been the Homeland Security Department’s point man on illegal immigration and drug smuggling over the southwest border. He announced today he’s resigning effective Dec. 30, the day before his recess appointment expires.

    He already was Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for International Affairs and Special Representative for Border Affairs – the “border czar” – when Obama nominated him for CBP commissioner in September 2009, and then later appointed him in March 2010 after the Senate failed to hold a confirmation vote.

    Bersin from 1995 to 1998 was a federal prosecutor serving as the U.S. Attorney General’s Southwest Border Representative, coordinating law enforcement on the border between the U.S. and Mexico. From there he detoured into education, appointed in 1998 as San Diego’s superintendent of public education. He was still in that post when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger tapped him to serve as the state’s Education Secretary in 2005-06.

    In his statement today, Bersin called his time as CBP’s chief “one of the most rewarding experiences of my public life.”

    “I am immensely proud of the significant and meaningful achievements we have made on our borders and at our nation’s ports of entry over nearly two years,” he said. “These extraordinary accomplishments are the result of the unstinting dedication, professionalism and sacrifice of the men and women of CBP. It has been my honor to serve with them and I depart with full confidence that they will continue to secure our borders and foster the lawful exchange of people and goods with vigilance, service and integrity.”

    Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano thanked Bersin for his service.

    “During his tenure, CBP has taken historic steps to secure our borders while facilitating legal travel and trade,” she said in a news release. “Commissioner Bersin has also been instrumental in facilitating new international agreements and public-private partnerships as well as developing new paradigms throughout the world in combating terrorism and international crime. Commissioner Bersin has helped set CBP on a path to continuously adapt and seek new and innovative ways of keeping our country – and our communities – safe.”

    Posted on Thursday, December 22nd, 2011
    Under: Immigration, Obama presidency | No Comments »

    ProPublica Report: Dems ran covert mapping plan

    California’s congressional Democrats ran a secret effort earlier this year to manipulate the work of the independent citizen’s panel that drew the state’s new political districts, foiling the intent of reformers who sought to remove the redistricting process from the control of party bosses.

    As ProPublica reported today, Democrats met behind closed doors at the party’s Washington, D.C. headquarters, hired consultants, drew their ideal districts and presented maps to the panel through proxies who never disclosed their party ties or “public interest” groups created specifically for the purpose. In many cases, the panel responded by doing just what the Democrats wanted.

    The New York-based investigative journalism foundation ProPublica released its findings today from a months-long reconstruction of the Democrats’ stealth redistricting strategy, relying on internal memos, emails, interviews and map analysis.

    The success of the strategy has Democrats projecting they may pick up as many as seven congressional seats in 2012 under new district boundaries adopted last summer, far more than had been expected originally.

    Read ProPublica’s full report here.

    Read BANG news story on the report here.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 21st, 2011
    Under: redistricting | 24 Comments »

    St. Mary’s announces January speaker series

    The death penalty, community responses during disaster and white privilege are among the topics of speakers scheduled for St. Mary’s annual January speaker series.

    All lectures are free and open to the public. All start at 7 p.m. in the Soda Activity Center at St. Mary’s College in Moraga.

    Jan. 10: Former California Director of Corrections and Rehabilitation Jeanne Woodford, who carried out four executions during her tenure, speaks about her national organization opposing the death penalty. The group is gathering signatures for a California ballot measure that would replace capital punishment with prison without parole.

    Jan. 17: Cultural historian Rebecca Solnit will speak on “Crossing the Public/Private Divide,” exploring the boundaries between public and private life and how they are policed during natural disasters and times of dissent such as the Occupy movement.

    Jan. 24: Actor, hip hop poet and playwright Ariel Luckey speaks on “Free Land: Race and Land in the United States” and expands on his one-man hip hop0 theater production. The descendant of white homesteaders from Wyoming, Luckey looks at the dark side of free government land grant program of the 1800s.

    In addition to the nighttime lectures, the speakers will visit classes during the day and participate in roundtable discussions.

    For more information, visit http://www.stmarys-ca.edu/saint-mary%E2%80%99s-announces-2012-jan-term-speaker-series-0

     

     

    Posted on Wednesday, December 21st, 2011
    Under: Political calendar, Political events | No Comments »

    Perata opts out of Contra Costa supervisor race

    Don Perata

    After weeks of discussions with local leaders and reviewing the results of an internal public opinion poll, former Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata says he will not run for Contra Costa County supervisor.

    Perata sent a note to supporters, which said, “Thank you for your interest in my ambition to run for county supervisor but upon further consideration, I’ve concluded that my health and my family would be better served if I remain a civilian.”

    That leaves two women in the race to succeed retiring Supervisor Gayle Uilkema — Contra Costa Community College District Trustee Tomi Van de Brooke and Danville Mayor Candace Andersen.

    Sources say Perata, who moved to Orinda earlier this year after losing the Oakland mayor’s race, was deeply interested in the supervisor post.  He saw it as a way to put his vast legislative experience to use.

    But Perata also feared his opponents would make the most of the now-closed FBI investigation into allegations that he participated in campaign kickbacks. Poll results reportedly showed high negatives for Perata in this area, along with his recent loss in Oakland and recent relocation to Orinda. Any campaign consultant worth her fee would run with these openings.

    I won’t lie, I’m disappointed. Perata’s presence would have made this campaign incredibly interesting.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 21st, 2011
    Under: Contra Costa Board of Supervisors, Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics | 11 Comments »

    New law cracks down on ‘robotripping’

    California on New Year’s Day becomes the first state to bar the sale of over-the-counter cold and cough medications containing dextromethorphan (DXM) to minors.

    Senate Bill 514 by state Senator Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, requires store clerks to check ID so no one under 18 buys these medications, which cause a potentially life-threatening high when consumed in high doses. A violation of the new law will be an infraction, punishable only by a fine; the law provides an exception for sale to minors with a prescription.

    The Senate approved the bill 38-0 in May and the Assembly approved it 49-23 in August; Gov. Jerry Brown signed it into law later that month.

    DXM is known by the street names robo, skittles, Triple C, Vitamin C, dex, red paint, and tussin. Because abusers commonly use Robitussin to get high, the act of abusing is often called “robotripping” or “robodosing.”

    Taken in high doses, DXM causes intoxication, hallucinations, seizures, loss of motor control, and “out of body” sensations similar to PCP and LSD. Simitian’s office says that, according to WebMD and the Consumer Healthcare Productions Association, one in 10 teenagers say they’ve used DXM to get high, making it more popular than LSD, cocaine, ecstasy or meth. The California Poison Control System reports that DXM abuse calls for children under age 17 have increased 850 percent in the past decade, making DXM abuse the most commonly reported type of abuse in this age group.

    Seizures and liver failure can occur from drinking just one package of over-the-counter cough medication, and DXM becomes more dangerous when mixed with alcohol or other drugs.

    Joe Simitian“Until now, these drugs have been easy for young people to obtain,” Simitian said in a news release. “By putting age limitations on these drugs, we’re communicating to kids and their parents that, when used inappropriately, these are dangerous drugs with serious consequences.”

    The idea from the law was a winner from Simitian’s 2004 “There Oughta Be a Law” contest, submitted by Wayne Benitez and Ron Lawrence, both with the Palo Alto Police Department at the time; Lawrence is now the Rocklin’s police chief. A similar bill had died in 2004. “Today the extent and seriousness of the problem is better understood,” Simitian said.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 20th, 2011
    Under: California State Senate, Joe Simitian | 4 Comments »