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Archive for April, 2012

Former FPPC exec becomes tribal administrator

California’s former chief political law and ethics watchdog has gone to work for one of the state’s most prominent gaming tribes, succeeding someone fired in connection with a fraud scandal.

Roman Porter, former executive director of the Fair Political Practices Commission, is now tribal administrator for the United Auburn Indian Community, where he’ll oversee a tribal government staff of 115 administering services for tribe members; the community’s elementary school; and cultural resources and environmental protection programs.

United Auburn owns Thunder Valley Casino Resort in Lincoln.

“Roman brings with him extensive experience in governmental ethics,” United Auburn Chairman David Keyser said in a news release. “We welcome Roman as a member of our team, where he will implement consistent ethical standards while ensuring that all aspects of our tribal programs continue to run smoothly.”

The Sacramento Bee last month reported United Auburn had fired tribal administrator Greg Baker, who was named in an IRS court affidavit as being involved in a construction-overbilling scheme that defrauded the tribe of $18.6 million; no charges have been filed.

Porter, 39, said in the tribe’s news release that he’s honored to take the new job. “I look forward to working with the dedicated staff of the UAIC to help ensure the continued economic prosperity of the Tribe and the delivery of high quality government services to its members.”

Porter rose rapidly through the FPPC’s ranks, starting as an intern in the early 2000s and later being promoted from communications director to executive director. He announced late last summer that he would leave to seek other opportunities; his LinkedIn profile indicates that since then he has worked with Mobile Commons to identify opportunities to expand that company’s text, cell and mobile web platforms into California, predominately focusing on the political and government arena.

Earlier in his career, Porter had worked at the California Medical Association and as a legislative aide to state Sen. Joe Dunn.

Posted on Monday, April 30th, 2012
Under: Indian gaming | 1 Comment »

Bloomberg on Boxer’s brisk, brusque behavior

Barbara Boxer in motionLast week’s Bloomberg Businessweek offered a somewhat light-hearted look at that most entertaining of animals, the U.S. legislator, in its natural habitat. The magazine spent two days in late March observing behavior on the House and Senate floors, and then turned to observers including the Hoover Institution’s Peter Schweizer; Daily Kos congressional expert David Waldman; and Wonkette editor/publisher Rebecca Schoenkopf for analysis.

Among the species observed were the “sustained touchers,” “power Blackberryers,” “iPad gamers,” “style mavens,” “peacemakers,” “primpers” and so on, but only one person got her very own category: U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. Here’s how the magazine described her:

The impassioned California senator virtually never stood still. She also popped small candies. Schweitzer: “She’s probably more feared than loved among staffers and colleagues.” Waldman: “She’s definitely high-energy. She’ll hit 10 to 15 people on her way to her Senate desk, then settle in.” Schoenkopf: “She has personally yelled at me twice.”

Posted on Sunday, April 29th, 2012
Under: Barbara Boxer, U.S. Senate | 6 Comments »

Chefs make last-ditch effort to avoid foie gras ban

More than 100 of California’s most prominent chefs – including a slew from here in the Bay Area – are fighting a state law set to take effect July 1 that would ban foie gras, asking that lawmakers instead enact new, strict laws regulating its production.

foie grasFoie gras (French for “fat liver”) is the liver of a duck or goose that has been specially fattened to produce a rich, buttery delicate flavor prized by gourmets. But the traditional method of producing it involves force-feeding the bird with corn, though it can also be produced with more natural feeding methods. The Coalition for Humane and Ethical Farming Standards (CHEFS) has created a charter calling for laws requiring the latter rather than the total ban that’s about to take effect.

“We want to create a humane market, not a black market,” said Rob Black of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, a member of the coalition. “Instead of a ban, chefs are urging lawmakers to pass new, strict regulations that will require humane and ethical production of foie gras and serve as an example to the rest of the world.”

“The ban would lead to the widespread production and sale of contraband foie gras,” he added. “Black-market foie gras would be dangerous to animal welfare, because smugglers and bootleggers willing to risk criminal prosecution are a far cry from farmers trained in humane and ethical production techniques.”

Former State Senator John Burton, now chairman of the California Democratic Party, authored the 2004 law implementing the ban, and isn’t thrilled with the chefs’ challenge. “I’d like to sit all 100 of them down and have duck and goose fat – better yet, dry oatmeal – shoved down their throats over and over and over again,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle.

The CHEFS charter calls for each farm to follow a set of specific humane protocols and submit to regular inspections by independently certified animal welfare experts to ensure compliance. Farmers would have to use industry optimum equipment to feed the ducks using methods that don’t harm the esophagus or beak, with periodic exams to confirm the procedures’ safety.

Muscovy duckFarms would have to schedule regular visits by an animal health care professional to assess the general health and living conditions of the birds, and each bird would have to be inspected for good health by a USDA approved officer at the time of slaughter. Caretakers would have to be properly trained, adequately supervised and “gentle and calm in their gestures and movement.” Birds would have to be raised in an environment that helps build and maintain strength in their legs and overall good health, and would have to be hand-fed in a manner adapted to their age and size; each bird would be checked before feeding to evaluate its capacity so the amount of feed could be kept only to what’s necessary.

And birds would have to be kept in comfortable conditions to minimize stress and maximize comfort at each stage, with appropriate lighting, access to clean water, anti-pest measures, and suitable temperatures consistent with local weather conditions. Starting in 2017, birds would have to be “cage free” – not be housed or fed at any time in cages that restrict theirs ability to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their wings.

For a list of chefs who’ve signed onto this charter, follow after the jump:
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Sunday, April 29th, 2012
Under: Uncategorized | 9 Comments »

Angry words over student loan interest bill

The House today voted 215-195 to pass HR 4628, which extends lower student-loan interest rates for a year by eliminating a preventative care fund created by President Obama’s health-care reform law.

The White House has threatened to veto the bill, but it won’t come to that: It’s dead on arrival in the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has advanced a plan to pay for extending the lower student-loan rates by levying taxes on those who make $250,000 or more per year from certain small “S corporations,” private businesses that don’t pay corporate taxes. House Democrats had wanted to pay for it by ending subsidies to oil and gas companies.

Here’s what Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, said on the House floor before today’s vote:

“Mr. Speaker, I’m here today to speak out against H.R. 4628, the so-called Interest Rate Reduction Act.

“It is clear to me that Republicans are not serious about addressing the student loan interest rate hikes, with this so-called Interest Rate Reduction Act. Their bill is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and would permanently end the Prevention and Public Health Fund, a key component of the Affordable Care Act that promotes wellness, prevents disease, and protects against public health emergencies.

“This prevention Fund is the first mandatory funding stream dedicated to improving public health – and it is extremely important in our fight to prevent chronic diseases, including HIV/AIDS, in Women’s health.

“This is such a sad and sinister ploy. Instead of pitting student loan relief for middle and low-income families against critical preventive services for middle and low-income families, we should be working toward real solutions. Instead of paying for subsidies to big oil, we should invest in our students, who are our future.

“This bill jeopardizes the health of our nation and it uses our students as pawns. And it is morally wrong. I hope we defeat this insincere proposal.”

After the vote, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio said:

“Students and families are struggling in President Obama’s economy. Nearly half of college graduates are unemployed or underemployed, and laws like ObamaCare have only made it harder for small businesses to hire them. That’s why House Republicans voted to extend current student loan rates and to pay for it by eliminating an ObamaCare slush fund President Obama himself proposed cutting from his budget. It’s time for the president and Democrats in Congress to stop exploiting the challenges facing young Americans for political gain, and start working with Republicans to create a better environment for private-sector job growth.”

But, from Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, the ranking Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee:

“Today’s vote shows that the Republicans are on very thin ice on this issue, barely being able to pass their bill, and by less than a majority of the House. They should join us now on a bill to lower the loan rates and pay for it in a way that does not harm middle class women and children.

“Republicans call the Prevention and Public Health Fund a ‘slush’ fund. That’s amazing. Breast and cervical cancer screenings are not things you pay for with a slush fund. You don’t immunize children from infectious disease with a slush fund. You want know what a slush fund is? A slush fund is the tax loophole Republicans are protecting for the five largest oil and gas companies making record profits. That’s a slush fund.”

Posted on Friday, April 27th, 2012
Under: Barbara Lee, education, George Miller, John Boehner, U.S. House | 5 Comments »

Poll: More back Brown’s tax plan than Munger’s

Almost two-thirds of California’s likely voters favor raising income taxes for the state’s wealthiest residents to pay for public schools, but most oppose increasing the state sales tax for the same purpose, according to a new Public Policy Institute of California poll.

Both are elements of Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed ballot measure for this November.

The PPIC poll found 65 percent of likely voters favor raising the top rate of state income tax paid by the wealthiest Californians, while 34 percent oppose it. But only 46 percent support raising the state sales tax while 52 percent oppose that.

When read the ballot title and a brief summary of Brown’s proposed measure, 54 percent of likely voters say they would vote for it while 39 percent would vote against it – about the same numbers as were found last month. Unsurprisingly, there’s a sharp partisan divide – 75 percent of Democrats support it, 65 percent of Republicans oppose it – but independents favor it 53 percent to 43 percent. Public school parents support it widely: 60 percent yes, 36 percent no.

Brown has said that if voters reject his measure, there’ll be automatic budget cuts for public schools; 78 percent of likely voters oppose such cuts.

Another proposed measure, bankrolled by Molly Munger, would raise income taxes on most Californians. The poll found 57 percent of likely voters oppose this, with 40 percent in support.

Brown’s own approval rating is holding steady, the poll shows: 47 percent of likely voters approve of his job performance, 40 percent disapprove and 12 percent don’t know, similar to one year ago (46 percent approval, 32 percent disapproval, 21 percent don’t know). And the Legislature remains unloved: Only 15 percent of likely voters approve of its job performance, while only 10 percent approve of its handling of K-12 education.

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

Posted on Wednesday, April 25th, 2012
Under: ballot measures, education, Jerry Brown, polls, taxes | 11 Comments »

Swalwell to Stark: ‘Apology’ NOT accepted

15th Congressional District candidate Eric Swalwell says he’s moving forward with plans to sue Rep. Pete Stark, who during a candidates’ forum several weeks ago accused Swalwell of having accepted “hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes.”

Stark, D-Fremont, last week issued a statement saying he “misspoke the other evening when I made allegations against my opponent for taking bribes and for that I apologize.” But Stark in that same statement voiced concerns that Swalwell – a Dublin city councilman, and a Democrat – has voted for projects “by developers who have been raided by the FBI, have plead guilty to destroying natural habitats, and has taken numerous contributions to fund his campaign which he consistently utilizes with negative attacks.”

Eric SwalwellSwalwell today said Stark “did not misspeak – he maliciously lied” not only about bribery but about Swalwell having a spotty voting record.

“Until he retracts those serious allegations, both that I never voted and that I took bribes, we will meet his intentional lies with legal remedies,” Swalwell said. “In the courtroom, a judge will tell the jury that if a witness deliberately lies you should consider not believing anything they say. The voters should treat Pete Stark no differently. They deserve better.”

Swalwell today provided us a copy of the letter that his lawyer – James Wagstaffe, a noted defamation attorney – sent last Thursday (the day after Stark’s semi-apologetic statement) to Stark’s Maryland home and his Washington and Fremont offices.

“The fact that you and our client are public figures in a political campaign does not insulate you from liability for your unlawful comments,” Wagstaffe wrote. “Furthermore, your purported and seemingly insincere apology for these statements, issued today by your campaign, is neither full nor fair. First, it is false and misleading to state that you ‘misspoke’ when you alleged that Councilmember Swalwell was taking bribes, when it is apparent that your statements were deliberate and premeditated. Second, you deliberately juxtaposed your supposed apology with words designed to further defame our client, which also exposes you to liability.”

Wagstaffe demanded “that you, to every extent possible, fully and publicly retract all defamatory statements you have made about Councilmember Swalwell. We also demand that you immediately cease making such false and disparaging statements. While such mitigating conduct is appropriate and necessary, it does not absolve you from the liability that has attached to the statements you have already made.”

I’ll update this item with a response from Alex Tourk, Stark’s campaign strategist, if and when I receive it.

UPDATE @ 4:37 P.M. THURSDAY: This response just in from Alex Tourk…

“As Congressman Stark said last week, he misspoke and apologized. He has committed to staying focused on the issues and that’s what he’s doing. This week he’s co-authored legislation to prevent student loan interest rates from doubling July 1st. On Friday he’ll co-lead a hearing on the Republican plans to convert Medicare to a voucher – where he’ll call them out on their desire to end Medicare as know it. He’s continuing to gather support for his legislation, the WORK Act, which would provide low-income moms with the option to stay home to raise their young children without being forced further into poverty. And today he called on the Administration to conduct a federal investigation of a debt collector that’s going after patients in hospital emergency rooms and at their bedsides. Congressman Stark is busy working on the issues he’s passionate about, and which are important to his constituents.”

Posted on Wednesday, April 25th, 2012
Under: 2012 Congressional Election, Pete Stark, U.S. House | 8 Comments »

Barbara Lee becomes Sudan Caucus co-chair

Rep. Barbara Lee is the newest of four co-chairs of the Congressional Sudan Caucus, which is still trying to draw more attention to the ongoing humanitarian disaster in that African nation.

Lee, D-Oakland, succeeds the late Rep. Donald Payne, D-N.J., as a co-chair; the other three co-chairs are Michael Capuano, D-Mass., Frank Wolf, R-Va., and Michael McCaul, R-Tex. The caucus was founded in 2005.

In her news release Tuesday, Lee noted ongoing strife in the Sudanese border areas of South Kordofan, Blue Nile, Abyei, and Darfur, and in Yida and other refugee camps in South Sudan. Civilians are subject to the Sudanese government’s indiscriminate bombing and denial of humanitarian aid, leaving nearly half a million at risk of starvation.

Lee said she’ll work with the other co-chairs “to bring Khartoum, Juba, and all stakeholders together to ensure that peace prevails in the region. At this critical time with Sudan and South Sudan on the brink of war, it is critical that Congress and the United States use all tools at its disposal to bring the two sides to the negotiating table for peace talks.”

Lee will take part in a subcommittee hearing on Sudan this Thursday and will host U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice for a special briefing with members of Congress on international efforts to reach a peaceful resolution.

Lee has been active on the issue for some time, sponsoring legislation recognizing acts of genocide in the region and urging China as well as the Arab League to step up efforts to stop the genocide in Darfur. Her bill to allow divestment from companies doing business in the region was enacted into law in 2007.

Posted on Tuesday, April 24th, 2012
Under: Barbara Lee, International politics, U.S. House | 6 Comments »

Ro Khanna helping to raise funds for Pete Stark

Ro Khanna – the former Obama Administration official who raised an eye-popping $1.2 million in 2011’s final quarter but vowed not to run against Rep. Pete Stark – is co-hosting a big fundraiser next week for Stark.

Khanna, of Fremont, along with Hayward Mayor Mike Sweeney and the International Association of Firefighters’ FirePAC, are holding the event next Monday evening, April 30, in the Hayward Firefighters Hall. Tickets range from $100 to $2,500.

The list of co-hosts indicates Khanna is leveraging his deep connections in the Indo-American community on Stark’s behalf, though some of these names have been avowed Stark supporters for some time: Rahul Roy, Dr. Romesh Japra, Yogi Chugh, Mike Nevens, Mahesh Pakala, Anil Yadav, Joe Johal, Dr. Raj Salwan, Inder Dosanjh, and Sunny Ghai.

Khanna has held to his contention that he wants Stark’s 15th Congressional District seat, but only when Stark, D-Fremont, chooses to retire from it. Of course, that plan requires Stark to hold on to that seat this year against two challengers who aren’t willing to wait for him to give it up.

Stark already has the clear money edge, though his numbers for the first three months of 2012 were a bit lackluster. He raised $60,255 and spent $90,299 in the first quarter, but had $551,341.79 cash on hand with no outstanding debts as of March 31.

Dublin City Councilman and Alameda County prosecutor Eric Swalwell, also a Democrat, raised $100,930.24 and spent $96,592.16 in the first quarter, and had $93,311.05 cash on hand with $8,572.50 in outstanding debts as of March 31. Hayward businessman Chris Pareja, a Tea Party conservative independent candidate, raised $12,572 and spent $12,680.79 in the first quarter, and had $64.81 cash on hand with no outstanding debts as of March 31.

Posted on Tuesday, April 24th, 2012
Under: 2012 Congressional Election, campaign finance, Pete Stark, U.S. House | 16 Comments »

CoCo supervisor forum to air May 7 and 9

An election forum featuring two candidates for Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors will air on public access television on May 7 and May 9.

The Contra Costa Council sponsored the lunchtime debate with candidates Tomi Van de Brooke, president of the Contra Costa Community College District Board of Trustees, and Danville Mayor Candace Andersen.

The pair answered questions earlier today in Lafayette about a wide range of topics including pension reform, water policy, tax initiatives and county budget trade-offs. And they sparred over campaign finances and whether positions on social issues matter in the local, nonpartisan race.

The third candidate, solar technology professor Sean White of Lafayette, was out of town on business and could not attend.

Held in Lafayette, the debate will air at 8 p.m. on May 7 and 10 a.m. on May 9 on Contra Costa Television. For Comcast customers, CCTV is on Channel 27; Astound, Channel 32; and AT&T U-verse, Channel 99.

For information, visit www.contracostatv.org.

 

 

Posted on Monday, April 23rd, 2012
Under: 2012 primary election, Contra Costa Board of Supervisors, Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics | 1 Comment »

Political analyst Gerston to speak in Lafayette

Political analyst and oft-quoted California expert Larry Gerston is the featured speaker at the May 2 meeting of the Commonwealth Club in Lafayette.

Gerston, a political-science professor at San Jose State University, is the author of “Not So Golden After All: The Rise and Fall of California.”

He will “take us step-by step through the economic, cultural and political factors contributing to California’s upsurge and historic fall from grace,” wrote the Commonwealth Club in a prepared release.

The event begins at 5:45 p.m. with registration followed by the program at 6:30 p.m.

It will be held at the Lafayette Library and Learning Center, at 3491 Mt. Diablo Blvd.

Tickets cost $22 for the general public or $12 for Commonwealth Club members. Students are free with valid student identification.

For more information, visit http://www.commonwealthclub.org/events/2012-05-02/larry-gerston-california-not-so-golden-state.

 

Posted on Monday, April 23rd, 2012
Under: Political calendar | No Comments »