Senator pitches $80m quake early warning system

A Southern California lawmaker has introduced a bill to create a statewide earthquake early warning system costing at least $80 million.

Padilla at CaltechIn a news conference this morning at the California Institute of Technology, state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Van Nuys, noted Caltech and the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology recently published a study concluding that a statewide California earthquake – affecting both the Bay Area and Los Angeles – may be possible.

“California is going to have an earthquake early warning system, the question is whether we have one before or after the next big quake,” Padilla said, joined at his news conference by seismologists from Caltech, UC Berkeley and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Building upon the California Integrated Seismic Network, seismologists envision a system that would process data from an array of sensors throughout the state to detect the strength and the progression of earthquakes, alert the public within seconds and provide up to 60 seconds advanced warning before potentially damaging ground shaking is felt.

“A fully developed earthquake early warning system would provide Californians critical seconds to take cover, assist loved ones, pull to the side of the road, or exit a building. It could allow time to stop a train or power down other critical infrastructure,” Padilla said. “The earthquake warning would not only alert the public, it would also speed the response of police and fire personnel by quickly identifying areas hardest hit by the quake.”

Michael Gurnis, a geophysics professor who directs the Caltech Seismological Laboratory, said earthquake early warning is a ripe area for development that “would save lives and help California in many ways if it is rolled out as a fully operational system.”

Padilla said that with the magnitude 6.7 Northridge Earthquake having claimed 60 lives and caused at least $13 billion in damage, spending $80 million for such a system is a smart investment.

“About 90 percent of the world’s earthquakes and over 80 percent of the world’s strongest quakes occur along the Pacific Ring of Fire. The Ring of Fire includes the very active San Andreas Fault zone here in California,” he said. “We all know a big quake will hit again in the future. We should be smart and use our advanced science and technology to detect seismic activity and alert people in advance of an approaching quake.”

The Uniform California Earthquake Rupture Forecast released in 2008 predicted a 99.7 percent likelihood of a magnitude 6.7 earthquake in California in the next 30 years and a 94 percent chance of a magnitude 7.0. Japan, Taiwan, Mexico, Turkey, Romania, Italy and China either already have or are working on earthquake early warning systems.


California, Maryland senators lay Super Bowl bet

California’s U.S. Senators have laid their bet with Maryland’s over the outcome of Super Bowl XLVII between the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens this coming Sunday, Feb. 3 in New Orleans.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., fired the first shot with a trash-talking letter promising the Ravens will “stomp” the 49ers.

Faidley's crab cakes“You can be sure we’ll be cheering on Ray Lewis and the whole team in his last game as the Ravens fly high to victory!” the Maryland senators wrote. “In fact, we’re so confident in our Ravens that we’re willing to wager a world-class feast: some delicious Faidley’s crab cakes, Berger cookies and a cold bottle of Heavy Seas beer to wash down the delicious taste of defeat. And so they won’t look ruffled after the Ravens prevail, Senator Barb will even throw in a can of one of Baltimore’s favorite hair sprays.”

“We’re looking forward to a great game,” Mikulski and Cardin concluded. “While the 49ers may come in red and gold, they’ll be seeing nothing but purple when they leave!”

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., swiftly took up the challenge, expressing “full confidence that the San Francisco 49ers will strike gold – and the Baltimore Ravens will flutter away in defeat – as we claim our sixth Super Bowl title.”

Feinstein and Boxer noted the 49ers continues a “tradition of excellence under reigning NFL Coach of the Year Jim Harbaugh and talented athletes who play with grit and heart, from our explosive young quarterback Colin Kaepernick and powerhouse running back Frank Gore to a hard-nosed defensive unit that is the envy of the entire league.”

”Of course, San Francisco sports fans have had many opportunities to cheer on our teams in championship games in recent years. In fact, after the San Francisco Giants swept the Detroit Tigers in the World Series in October, we enjoyed celebrating with Michigan chocolates and wine courtesy of Senators Levin and Stabenow, who were kind enough to make a similar wager,” Feinstein and Boxer wrote. “Now we look forward to once again enjoying the spoils of victory, and we can’t wait to sample savory Maryland crab cakes, Baltimore beer and Berger Cookies after the 49ers complete their quest for a sixth title.”

“In return, we are proud to bet some delicious Dungeness crab, Napa Valley wine, San Francisco’s finest sourdough bread and a selection of Northern California cheeses,” they wrote. “We feel that it is only fitting that crab is on the menu since you are likely to be feeling very crabby after a tough loss by your Ravens.”


President Obama endorses Mike Honda for 2014

If former Commerce Department official Ro Khanna does decide to run against Rep. Mike Honda in 2014, it looks like he’ll be doing it without the support of his former boss, the President of the United States.

Honda’s staff issued a release early this morning announcing that President Obama has endorsed him for re-election in the 17th Congressional District, certainly one of the earliest endorsements of the 2014 congressional campaign cycle.

Obama and Honda“Congressman Mike Honda is the right leader for the 17th district. Together, we’ve worked hard these last four years to bring meaningful, positive change to our nation, but there is much more to do,” Obama said. “As we continue rebuilding our economy from the middle out, we know expanding educational opportunities is critical. Congressman Honda’s lifelong commitment to education and fierce advocacy for innovation and technology is exactly what this nation needs as we continue to move America forward.

“We need Congressman Mike Honda in the United States Congress, and I urge you to vote to keep him there.”

In response, Honda said he’s honored by the president’s endorsement.

“Over the past four years, I’ve worked closely with President Obama and his administration to keep Silicon Valley equipped to lead in the areas of manufacturing, education and high-tech innovation,” Honda said. “California’s 17th is one of the most dynamic and diverse districts in America, sitting at the epicenter of ideas, innovation, and technological leadership. I look forward to continuing to work with the President and his administration, bringing my real life experience, my record of accomplishments, and vision for America’s road ahead, to the lives of my constituents.”

I’d reported a week ago today that Khanna, 36 – who had raised a record-breaking $1.2 million in the last quarter of 2011, but chose not to run against Rep. Pete Stark in 2012 – was considering taking on Honda, D-San Jose, instead of Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, who beat Stark last year. Khanna had said last Monday only that he’s still considering all his options.

Honda last Tuesday was replaced as vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee, but while I’d heard he’d wanted to keep that job yet was ousted, a DNC spokesman went out of his way Friday to say Honda, 71, had the party’s and president’s deep gratitude for his service, which wouldn’t go unrecognized in the future.

Apparently the future is now. Honda’s speed in getting and publicizing this endorsement is testament both to his deep ties within the party and to his desire to nip Khanna’s nascent challenge in the bud as soon as possible. Nobody wants a challenger with almost $1.3 million in the bank AND momentum.

UPDATE @ 1:19 P.M.: Khanna declined to comment.


DNC: Honda’s replacement was ‘amicable’

Rep. Mike Honda’s replacement as vice chair of the Democratic National Committee this week was “all amicable,” a DNC spokesman told me today, hinting the South Bay Congressman can expect support even as a well-funded Democratic challenger might be emerging.

“His service to the president and the party won’t go unrecognized in the future,” DNC Communications Director Brad Woodhouse said.

I’d written an item Tuesday about the DNC’s officer elections, linked to an article about contention over who would serve as secretary. DNC sources had told me that day that Honda, D-San Jose, had hoped to continue on as one of the party’s vice chairs, but that he withdrew from contention when he saw the writing on the wall; freshman Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii – whom Honda was helping raise campaign funds just months ago – now holds the post instead.

But Woodhouse said today that whether or not Honda initially had hoped to stay on, “by everything I’ve been told and everything I’ve observed … he was amenable, he was supportive” of the change.

“He was so terrific in this role, he was so terrific as a vice chair and representing the AAPI (Asian American/Pacific Islander) community,” Woodhouse said. “That’s going to be recognized. … He’s a key ally of the party and of the president.”

Such recognition and support could become crucial if Honda seeks another term. As I’d reported Monday, rumors abound that Ro Khanna – the former Obama Administration Commerce Department official who raised an eye-popping $1.2 million in the last quarter of 2011, but chose not to challenge Rep. Pete Stark in 2012 – may choose to run against Honda in the 17th District in 2014.

Khanna wouldn’t confirm this Monday, saying he’s still considering all his options, but the allure of running in the continental United States’ first majority AAPI district – from which Khanna derived much of his campaign war chest – must be significant. Khanna’s donor list also included some notable national Democratic donors, a sign of the strong network he has built over the past several years, but given Woodhouse’s words today it’ll be interesting to see how and whether the DNC brings pressure to bear should he challenge Honda.


Jackie Speier to co-host gun buyback tomorrow

A Bay Area Congresswoman serving on House Democrats’ gun-violence task force is co-sponsoring an anonymous gun buyback tomorrow.

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo; San Mateo County Supervisor Adrienne Tissier and San Mateo County Sheriff Greg Munks will host the event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26 in the San Mateo County Event Center, 2495 S. Delaware St. in San Mateo. Anyone can surrender weapons, no questions asked, and receive up to $100 cash for a handgun, shotgun or rifle, or up to $200 cash for an assault weapon.

“Gun buybacks are a powerful tool to make our streets and schools safer,” Speier said in a news release. “There is no reason we need 90 weapons per 100 Americans, making the U.S. the most heavily armed society in the world. Buybacks are convenient opportunities for responsible gun owners to get rid of guns they no longer want. Fewer guns also mean fewer accidents and fewer chances for guns to fall into the wrong hands.”

Speier – who attended a gun-violence task force hearing Wednesday on Capitol Hill chaired by Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa – will also hold a town hall meeting with constituents from 1 to 2:30 p.m. tomorrow at Temple United Methodist Church, 63 Beverly St. in San Francisco.


Eric Swalwell offers a ‘Ride With Your Rep’

Rep. Eric Swalwell has a new twist on the “Congress on Your Corner” meetings that many lawmakers hold with constituents.

Swalwell, D-Dublin, will hold his first “Ride With Your Rep” event tomorrow morning, Saturday, Jan. 26, in which constituents can chat up the freshman lawmaker while taking a bike ride through part of the district.

“I look forward to hosting my first Ridewith Your Rep event tomorrow and talking with East Bay residents as we bike through the community,” said Swalwell.

“This will give everyone a chance to discuss important issues while getting exercise, having fun, and experiencing the wonderful environment we are lucky to have in the Tri-Valley,” Swalwell said in a news release.

Constituents are invited to meet Swalwell at 9:30 a.m. at the Dublin Cyclery, 7001 Dublin Blvd. in Dublin; the ride will start at 10:00 a.m., bound for downtown Pleasanton, where the group can lunch at the Main Street Café, 401 Main St. For more information, call Swalwell’s district office at 925-460-5100.

Swalwell, 32, defeated 20-term incumbent Pete Stark in November to represent the 15th Congressional District.