Part of the Bay Area News Group

Archive for July, 2012

Joe Biden: ‘Most Americans got nailed’

Vice President Joe Biden came out swinging today in advance of tomorrow’s U.S. Senate vote on President Obama’s tax proposal.

“It’s a simple proposition – we’re proposing to extend the middle-class tax cut for 98 percent of the American people” – those making up to $250,000 per year, Biden told reporters on a conference call.

If the tax cuts aren’t extended, 114 million people will see their taxes increase by thousands of dollars, he said. Biden was citing figures from a new report from the National Economic Council.

“This shouldn’t be a partisan issue,” he said. “But the Republicans have fixed on extending all the cuts… They’re holding the middle-class tax cut hostage.”

Republicans propose continuing the Bush-era tax cuts for all Americans, regardless of income. Biden said extending the cuts for those making more than $250,000 per year would cost $1 trillion over next decade, almost 80 percent of which would go to those making more than $1 million a year (who would continue enjoying an average tax cut of $160,000 per year). “What’s happening here is the very wealthy are getting the vast bulk of all of what the Republicans want to extend,” he said.

“The other side claims this is the best way to grow the economy,” Biden said – a continuation of “trickle down” economic policies. “The problem is, we’ve seen that movie before, and we know how it ends. It didn’t work before. In the beginning of the decade, congress passed trillions of dollars in tax cuts that benefited the wealthiest Americans more than anybody else.”

“What happened? The rich got richer… but most Americans got nailed. We had the slowest job growth in half a century after 2000, the typical family actually saw their income fall.”

In fact, Biden said, the Republicans’ tax proposal actually would hit millions of poor and middle-class Americans with higher taxes while protecting the wealthy.

He said that under the GOP plan, 11 million people will take a $1,100 tax hike because the American Opportunity Tax Credit for college expenses won’t be extended; 12 million will take an $800 tax hike due to elimination of recent child tax credit improvements; and 6 million will take a $500 tax hike due to elimination of marriage and large-family provisions under the Earned Income Tax Credit program.

Posted on Tuesday, July 24th, 2012
Under: Joe Biden, Obama presidency, taxes | 10 Comments »

Fourth POTUS pool report: The Fox Theater event

Motorcade departed Piedmont residence at 6:21 p.m. en route to the Fox Theater on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland’s “Uptown” district; arrived there 6:37 p.m.; among supporters nearby was someone with a Ron Paul banner. Visible in a window on Telegraph Avenue was a “Free Beer for Obama” sign.

Press was placed in holding room while POTUS did photo reception; tickets to that cost $7,500, plus $2,500 per additional person in the photo. Other tickets for Fox event cost $100, $250 and $1,000. About 2,000 people attended.

Press was brought into theater at 7:40 p.m. PT in time to hear Obama campaign California political director Peggy Moore introduce Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif. “What a difference three and a half years makes,” Lee said, during her seven minutes of remarks. The nation has seen 28 consecutive months of private-sector job growth on the president’s watch, she noted: “America prospers when we’re all in it together.”

POTUS took the stage at 7:56 p.m. to a deafening, standing ovation. Though he’d worn a jacket at the Piedmont dinner, he appeared here in a white shirt, sleeves rolled to just below the elbow, and dark tie. After two minutes of cheering from the crowd, POTUS joked, “Alright, thank you!” and took a few steps away from the podium as if to leave.

MUCH more, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, July 23rd, 2012
Under: 2012 presidential election, Barack Obama, Oakland, Obama presidency | 4 Comments »

Third POTUS pool report: At the Piedmont dinner

Co-host Wayne Jordan thanked the guests for committing so much to the campaign, and spoke briefly about how POTUS’ decisions are fundamentally affecting and improving the lives of all Americans. Co-host Quinn Delaney presented POTUS with an “I Hella (heart) Oakland” t-shirt, saying, “We’re so glad you’re here in the East Bay.”

POTUS began speaking at 5:30 p.m. PT, noting that “because this is a more intimate setting, I’m not going to make a long speech.” He said that while in Aurora, Colo., yesterday, he’d “spent time with the families, the medical staff, the first responders,” and while it’s “easy for us to slip into despair” at such times, they showed strength and grace that “would make you extraordinarily optimistic about America.”

“Americans are strong and they’re resilient and they’re optimistic about their futures and their kids’ futures,” he said, although they know of and are concerned about dysfunction in Washington, D.C., and a sluggish economy. “All they want to see is that their leadership shows the same decency and common sense that they try to apply every day in their own lives.”

With jobs added and even the housing market starting to rebound, “we are in a much better position now, in part because of the work my administration has done,” he said. “The bad news is, we still have some headwinds.”

Too many people remain out of work or underwater on their mortgages, POTUS said, and the middle class still needs help.

“Right now we’ve got as clear a choice as we’ve seen in our lifetimes,” he said.

He said the GOP platform calls for tax cuts for the rich and stripping away regulations from Wall Street and corporate polluters. “It’s a theory we’ve tested for a decade and it didn’t work.”

“This debate plays itself out across the board, on almost every issue,” he said, noting that California isn’t a battleground state so many in the audience haven’t seen the attack ads that are flying back and forth elsewhere in the country. “I’m comfortable that the American people will make the right choice.”

“This is going to be a close race … but I’m as invigorated and determined as ever to win,” he said. He finished his remarks at 5:39 p.m. PT, and reporters were ushered out before a Q&A session began.

Renowned chef Alice Waters prepared a meal of grilled jumbo prawns over heirloom tomatoes, avocados and basil; dry-aged beef tenderloin with demi-glace, sweet-pea risotto and carrots; and a chocolate-cherry bombe. Prawns accompanied by Keenan 2010 Chardonnay, beef by Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon, both from Napa Valley.

Among those in the dinner crowd: Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif.; prominent Bay Area attorneys Bob Van Nest and Steve Kazan; Ask.com founder and Alta Partners Garrett Gruener; philanthropists and clean-tech investors Jim and Gretchen Sandler; and real estate investment manager Dorine Streeter.

Posted on Monday, July 23rd, 2012
Under: 2012 presidential election, Barack Obama, Oakland, Obama presidency | 16 Comments »

Second POTUS pool report: Oakland to Piedmont

Motorcade left Oakland’s Scottish Rite temple at 4:56 p.m. PT en route to Piedmont home of attorney/activist Quinn Delaney and real estate developer Wayne Jordan (the latter, among POTUS’ foremost bundlers) for a dinner with about 60 supporters who paid $35,800 per person.

Supporters lined Madison Street, cheering and taking photos; no protest signs in sight. Motorcade went via I-880 to I-980 to Highway 24 to Highway 13. Again, lots of supporters lining the surface streets in Piedmont, although one woman held aloft a handmade “Elect Romney” sign.

POTUS arrived at Piedmont event at 5:11 p.m. PT. He stopped to do a small rope-line – about 15 people, mostly kids – at the intersection of Mountain Avenue and Bellevue Avenue. “Keep up the good work,” someone shouted as he walked away up the block toward the Delaney/Jordan residence. As press was being escorted around the back, we saw former state controller and major Obama supporter Steve Westly juggling lemons, entertaining a boy waiting down by the swimming pool.

Press is now holding in a basement room; will be escorted upstairs later to hear POTUS’ remarks.

Posted on Monday, July 23rd, 2012
Under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

First pool report: Obama arrives at OAK

Air Force One touched down at Oakland International Airport at 2:34 p.m. Pacific Time; POTUS exited the plane at about 2:43 p.m.. First in the greeting line was Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., followed by Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson.

Also in the greeting line were retired AT&T worker Evelyn Moses; Alameda Labor Council executive secretary-treasurer Josie Camacho; salon owner Pamela Thomson; retiree Dezie Woods-Jones; CREDO Action new media director Andrew Cully; Association of Bay Area Governments communications director Janet Cox; self-employed caregiver Cathye Leonard; and fitness trainer Sue Mittleman.

POTUS then moved to greet a small crowd of campaign supporters with a hearty “How are you doin’ today?” One woman responded, “We’ve got your back.” After working the rope line there, he entered the car and motorcade departed via Airport Drive, 98th Avenue and Interstate 880, bound for the Scottish Rite temple near Oakland’s Lake Merritt, where he’ll do a closed-press roundtable with tech leaders for which tickets cost $35,800 per head.

Arrived at Scottish Rite temple at 3:12 p.m.

Posted on Monday, July 23rd, 2012
Under: 2012 presidential election, Barack Obama, Oakland, Obama presidency | 2 Comments »

California GOP to pursue a voter ID initiative

The California Republican Party is rolling out a push for a voter ID initiative in California, chairman Tom Del Beccaro announced this morning.

To kick off that push for the next election cycle, the party has added a new speaker to the schedule for its upcoming fall convention, Aug. 10-12 in Burbank: conservative columnist John Fund, co-author of the forthcoming book, “Who’s Counting? How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote at Risk.”

California is one of 20 states without any law requiring voters to show identification at polling places, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. There’s a hot national debate afoot about whether there’s any significant fraud to merit enacting such laws, or whether the laws are intended to make it harder to vote and so suppress voter turnout – usually to Republican advantage.

Fund – national affairs columnist for the National Review, senior editor for the American Spectator, and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal and Fox News – worked as a research analyst for the California Legislature in Sacramento before beginning his journalism career.

Del Beccaro said Fund’s new book “focuses on the problems that weaken our election processes, from voter fraud to a slipshod system of vote counting … And it proposes solutions.”

“While Americans frequently demand fair play in other countries’ elections, we often are blind to the need to scrutinize our own,” Del Beccaro said. “We may pay the consequences in November, if a close race leads to pitched partisan battles, and court fights that could dwarf the Bush-Gore recount wars.”

Posted on Monday, July 23rd, 2012
Under: ballot measures, Republican Party, Republican politics, voter registration | 14 Comments »

The report from Mitt Romney’s SF fundraiser

I’ve just filed my pool report from San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel. Here it is, verbatim:

Romney entered the Fairmont Hotel’s Gold room at 5:32 p.m. to a cheering, standing ovation. About 250 attendees had been sipping drinks and noshing on shrimp cocktails.

Boyd Smith of Palo Alto – real estate development and investment mogul, a former Mormon stake president, and finance chairman for Romney’s campaign in
California – before introducing Romney called for a moment of silence in honor of the victims of the Aurora, Colo., massacre and their families. He said America is at one of its most important moments, in “a war of ideas, a war of philosophy – it’s a war that can be won however, by using that analogy, if Mitt Romney is our general. … I consider myself, and am proud to be a foot-soldier. I ask you to join me.”

Romney began speaking at 5:38 p.m.

“Our hearts are with the many people who’ve lost loved ones in Colorado,” he said, adding President Obama’s visit to Aurora was entirely appropriate and promising to deliver less partisan remarks today given the nation’s mourning.

“We turn to a power greater than our own to understand purpose and if not to understand at least to be able to soothe the wounds of those who have been so seriously hurt,” he said.

Romney noted a gathering in the audience of Gold Star and Blue Star families – those who’ve lost relatives in military service, and those who have relatives currently serving, respectively. He had them stand, and they were given applause. Romney noted “the great sense of unity that comes in this country as we recognize those who serve our country.”

Romney told a story from his time as governor, of going to Boston’s airport to meet a servicemember’s casket as it was returned from a battlefield; people lined up several deep at the airport’s windows. “Every single person had a hand on their heart” and expressions of appreciation on their faces, he said.

Turning to the economy, Romney said “these are tough times and even people working are having real tough times trying to make ends meet.” Consumer confidence is down, and economic growth is sluggish, he said.

Why run for president when things are so tough? “The answer is: I think I can fix it.”

“I’ve had the unusual experience in my life of working in places that were troubled,” he said, from a struggling company to a floundering Salt Lake City Olympics, to a troubled state as governor.

“Boy, somebody’s got to do something for California,” he said, earning laughter and applause. “California’s got to make a couple of tough decisions; the right leadership would make a difference here.”

“We are a hard working energetic patriotic risk-taking entrepreneurial people,” he said, praising those who strive to work or seek more education to get better jobs; he told several anecdotes about people who’ve built their own business in lawn-mowing, upholstery and other fields. “There is that entrepreneurialism in the American spirit which if tapped will allow us to reboot our economy, and soon.”

To do so, Romney said he would “take advantage of our energy resources … this is our ace in the hole.” America has “massive new resources, both in oil and gas” which must be tapped, he said. “We have energy in massive amounts,” he said, citing an article he saw that said “America can be the largest energy producer in the world.”

Second, Romney said, he would pursue more foreign trade, which he said “puts more Americans to work in higher-paying jobs.”

“Number three, you’ve got to finally balance our budget, you can’t keep spending more money than you take it,” Romney said, adding “real leadership” in Congress and the White House would immediately end any talk of America being in decline.

He said former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has spoken of building human capital as well as financial capital in order to strengthen the economy, but that can’t be accomplished if schools are underperforming. Romney singled out Hewlett Packard CEO Meg Whitman, California’s 2010 GOP gubernatorial nominee – who got a brief standing ovation – to report from the back of the room that California ranks toward the bottom of the nation in academic performance.

“That’s got to change, and that’s number four in my plan to get America working again,” he said.

And fifth, he said, “We have restore economic freedom in this country.” The founding fathers knew freedom comes from God, not government, and that freedom includes life and liberty – protected by our servicemembers – as well as the pursuit of happiness, the opportunity to pursue our own dreams. “This is a free land.”

Romney said he was with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. – rumored to be on his short list of potential vice presidential running mates – the other day, discussing what it was like to be an immigrant family in Florida, an embrace of the American dream of working hard and taking risks to attain one’s dreams.

“I love this country, I love America, I love the principles on which America was founded, I want to restore those principles,” he said, noting 23 million people are out of work or have stopped looking. “These are real human beings, our fellow citizens. … We need to put them back to work.”

“I’m going to get the job done. I’m going to do it. We’re going to do it together,” he said, as the crowd rose to its feet in applause.

He said former British prime minister Tony Blair told him that what the world fears most is a weak America. “American strength is the best ally peace has ever known,” Romney said.

America has a duty to hold aloft a torch of freedom and opportunity, he said, and as the “Greatest Generation” of World War II fades away, it’s up to use to take up that torch.

“This is the time for us to step forward and take that torch,” he said.

Romney concluded his remarks at 6:07 p.m.

Posted on Sunday, July 22nd, 2012
Under: 2012 presidential election, campaign finance, Mitt Romney | 5 Comments »

Five West County youths to attend Obama event

Five youths from two Boys & Girls Clubs in West Contra Costa County have been picked to attend President Obama’s fundraising rally on Monday evening at Oakland’s Fox Theater.

Boys & Girls Club of El Sobrante executive director Billy Zeier, who will act as the kids’ chaperone, called it “a great opportunity … a once in a lifetime chance for these kids.”

“This is a game changer for them … that will be emblazoned and imprinted in their minds for the rest of their lives,” he said.

Zeier said Friday afternoon that five youths ages 10 to 18 are being selected from his club and from the West Contra Costa Salesian Boys & Girls Club in Richmond. A staffer from Rep. George Miller’s office called earlier Friday to notify him that the clubs had been awarded the tickets; Miller himself is a Boys & Girls Club alum, Zeier noted.

As of late Friday afternoon, he hadn’t received information about where in the theater they’ll be sitting or whether they’ll have any access to the president, and he said he was still locking down exactly which youths would attend.

“It’s going to show them they can get to the highest level of our world,” he said. “It’s going to show them their lives are limitless.”

As of late Friday, the $100 balcony seats, $250 general admission seats and $1,000 VIP seats for Monday night’s event are all sold out. Event-sponsor tickets costing $7,500 still remains; that gets you into a photo reception with the president as well, to which you can bring additional people for $2,500 each.

The president earlier Monday will attend a $35,800-per-person roundtable with tech leaders somewhere in the East Bay, and a $35,800-per-plate fundraising dinner at the Piedmont home of progressive activist/attorney Quinn Delaney and real estate developer Wayne Jordan. Jordan is among Obama’s leading “bundlers.”

Posted on Friday, July 20th, 2012
Under: 2012 presidential election, Barack Obama, campaign finance, Obama presidency | 32 Comments »

Richmond Mayor McLaughlin vows to crack down on Corky Booze

Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin has run out of patience with colleague and Councilman Corky Booze, the man she says is responsible for inciting routine dysfunction and chaos at Richmond City Council meetings.

The mayor sent out an email letter this week (see below) castigating Booze — she doesn’t mention him by name but everybody knows who she is talking about — for what described as an unacceptable “battering situation.”

Her missive comes after Tuesday night’s huge blow-up some six hours into another marathon session, where the mayor sat as a referee between Councilwoman Jovanka Beckles who was calling Booze a “bald-faced liar” and “evil” while he repeatedly demanded the mayor shut her up when he has the floor. (Read my colleague Robert Rogers’ story on the meeting here.)

For his part, Booze calls the mayor’s email a blatant “political hit piece” intended to promote the Richmond Progressive Alliance’s slate of candidates running for the city council in November. He says the mayor, Beckles, councilmembers Tom Butt and Jeff Ritterman repeatedly interrupt him.

“This email is over the top,” Booze said. “I’ve never heard of a mayor doing something like this. But I’ve been hitting the Richmond Progressive Alliance every Tuesday.”

Councilman Nat Bates, who is also on the outs with the mayor, blames McLaughlin for the council meeting chaos.

“In most organizations, be it church, community group, business or governmental, the success or failure of the meetings almost always rest in the leadership quality of the chairperson,” he said. “A chairperson must be fair, impartial and lead by example while displaying respect for their colleagues and the public. Unfortunately, this mayor does neither and thus is the result of a dysfunctional Richmond city council.”

Here’s the mayor’s email:

Dear friends,

I am compelled to make a statement about the current state of affairs at Richmond City Council meetings.

Those of you who follow City Council meetings know how much chaos and discord exists. I want to share my feelings about this.

 There is dysfunction on this Council, but the dysfunction does not come from the Council as a whole. This dysfunction comes from one councilmember. It is truly a shame that this councilmember disrupts time and time again the needed business under discussion at the Council meeting. He forces us to deal with chaos, disruptions, and vitriolic speech that bring harm to the entire city of Richmond.

 It is the people of Richmond who suffer from all of this. It is the people of Richmond who are being held hostage because this councilmember refuses to adhere to the rules of the City Council. As chair, my job is to keep the meeting moving forward. When discussion becomes unproductive, I necessarily need to move us on. Discussion not only becomes unproductive, but as I said, it becomes chaotic, disruptive and vitriolic in its content….and it is this one councilmember who will not adhere to my role as chair. He feels that once “he has the floor” he has it until he has fully finished attacking and insulting me, other councilmembers, members of the City staff, and/or certain members of the audience. Then when the frustration level of other councilmembers has reached a limit and they intervene (after I have intervened unsuccessfully with him talking over me and talking over the gavel – as I call him out of order), we have even more chaos on the Council. I have called and will continue to call recesses of the Council meeting when such situations occur.

One of our others councilmembers, who has suffered his insults incessantly, conveys the situation in an explanatory way like this: “You have one councilmember beating up on another. The first councilmember attacks and attacks with the other councilmember not fighting back, recognizing that the public can see the despicable behavior exhibited and judge for themselves. Yet the beating continues until the councilmember under attack, now on the floor suffering more jabs, decides she has had enough and stands up and pushes back. The first councilmember and his supporters in the audience call out: How dare you push back? You are being “unprofessional.”

 This, my friends, is where the current state of affairs on the Richmond City Council is at. One councilmember is managing to hold a city hostage.

This MUST not continue. Many of us have looked toward changing the composition of the City Council in order to shift toward a better Richmond, and we will continue to do that. We have made so many gains with good councilmembers being elected in recent years. We will make more gains in November, and in subsequent elections. But we are currently dealing with something that is immediate in nature.

We are dealing with a battering situation, the result of which, if allowed to go on, will be highly destructive for our city. As a result, I will be more strictly enforcing the rules of the City Council, as per my role as chairperson, provided to me by the Charter of the City of Richmond in accordance with the Constitution of the State of California. Disagreement on issues is expected and can be productive, but where we are at right now is something altogether different.

I call on all members of the City Council and members of the audience to adhere to my call for order during meetings when I put out such a call. The disruptive nature of our Council meetings MUST be reversed.

I will not relinquish my parliamentary procedure duties. I will not let one councilmember hold the city hostage.

Thank you for your support at this critical time. We shall prevail, even among setbacks, to bring forward a political culture whereby the people’s business can be addressed in a healthy and productive way.

 Sincerely,

 Gayle McLaughlin

 Mayor, City of Richmond

Posted on Friday, July 20th, 2012
Under: Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics, Richmond | 3 Comments »

Contra Costa County office building is weedy and seedy

Lord knows, Contra Costa County is short on cash like every other public agency but the state of the landscaping at its offices on Arnold Drive in Martinez is disgraceful.

The grass is dead. Weeds abound. Shrubs and trees are dying. When I drove through the parking lot other evening after a county worker called and complained about it, the grounds were downright ghetto. (See pictures below.)

If my yard in Martinez resembled this one, the city would be on my doorstep and rightfully demanding I clean it up.

Public Works Director Julie Bueren says the original private building owner installed way too much lawn and when budget constraints hit the county a few years ago along with water useage standards imposed by the Contra Costa Water District, the county stopped watering the grass.

“When funding allows, the plan is to re-landscape some of these areas with drought resistant plants and landscape materials that will be less costly to maintain,” Bueren wrote to me in an email.

OK, I get the grass part. It uses a lot of water. At the very least, though, the county could put down some mulch. Replacing existing landscaping with drought resistant plants and shrubs over time is a good idea, too.

But to let those valuable trees and large shrubs die in the interim seems like a terrible waste.

As for the weeds, Bueren says abatement is scheduled for next week.  Thank goodness. Dry vegetation is a fire hazard and the fire district that protects this area has its own financial problems.

 

 

 

Posted on Friday, July 20th, 2012
Under: Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics | 4 Comments »