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Archive for February, 2013

Jerry Brown touts growing diversity among judges

Gov. Jerry Brown is touting the increased diversity he’s bringing to state courts.

Brown’s office announced today that he has made 90 judicial appointments since taking office, drawing from a pool of 1,168 applicants. Women accounted for about a third of the applicant pool and more than 34 percent of Brown’s appointments; about 34 percent of the applicants identified themselves as ethnic minorities, and 37 percent of Brown’s appointments came from among these.

Brown’s 2012 appointments included Halim Dhanidina, the first American-Muslim judge ever appointed in California; Jim Humes, the first openly gay justice to serve on the California Court of Appeal; Miguel Marquez, the first Latino justice to serve on the Sixth District Court of Appeal; Rosendo Peña, the first Latino justice to serve on the Fifth District Court of Appeal; Chris Doehle, the first female judge to serve on the Del Norte County Superior Court; Kimberly Colwell, the first openly lesbian judge to be appointed to the Alameda County Superior Court; and Mark Andrew Talamantes, the first Latino judge to serve on the Marin County Superior Court.

Brown’s office also noted this is the first time in the state’s history that a Latino or Latina is serving on all six state Courts of Appeal.

The state’s Administrative Office of the Courts reported that overall diversity on the California bench has been increasing gradually since 2006.

State laws require the governor to disclose judicial applicants’ demographic data every year by March 1.

Posted on Thursday, February 28th, 2013
Under: Jerry Brown | 9 Comments »

Just how bad would a town’s budget have to be?

A website that matches young people with wealthy benefactors for “romantic” relationships wants to pay a wealthy Bay Area enclave $11.65 million to change its official name to “SugarDaddie.com, U.S.A.”

The Florida-based company probably would be better off changing its own name to FatChance.com. It recently offered Sugar Land, Tex., $4.65 million for the same name change, but the Texans told it to go pound sand. Now the company has turned its attention to Woodside, offering more than twice as much as it did in Texas (take that, Rick Perry!) if the town will adopt its name for seven years.

“The CEO of SugarDaddie.com must receive a key to the town in a formal ceremony presented by local government officials (open to the media and the public) and the long list of celebrity-residents are invited to attend,” the company wrote in a letter to town officials. “SugarDaddie Community Council will replace Woodside Town Council for 10 years. Woodside Public Library must be changed to SugarDaddie Public Library for 5 years. All city websites must be made to reflect the city’s official new name and must be fully implemented within 6 months.”

The letter also demands “either a statue of Hugh Hefner near Town Hall or some other public figure that best represents the sugar daddy lifestyle (costs covered by SugarDaddie.com).”

Riiiiight. Amazingly, the company claims town officials have agreed to put the offer on the Town Council’s agenda for its next meeting, Tuesday, March 12; company representatives will be there to make a presentation in person. My e-mails to the town manager and mayor weren’t returned this afternoon.

Of course this can’t be taken seriously; perhaps the more-than-a-few billionaires who call Woodside home will think it’s funny. And with about 5,400 residents, a median home value of $1 million and a median household income almost four times that of California’s, Woodside must see $11.65 million as chump change.

“If we can’t get a favorable outcome with the folks in Woodside, California, we’re looking into other cities like Sugar City, Colorado and others. We are hell-bent on creating the first dating site-sponsored city in America,” company CEO Steven Pasternack said in a news release.

Pasternak is clearly from the “any press is good press” school of public relations and advertising – probably wise for someone whose industry involves hooking boy- or girl-toys up with rich people.

Posted on Wednesday, February 27th, 2013
Under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Potential House rivals to share podium at dinner

Butter the popcorn and get ready for some interesting viewing: Potential rivals for an East Bay House seat will share the podium at a Democratic Party event next month in Hayward.

Eric SwalwellState Treasurer Bill Lockyer – who’s had a tough year of his own – is scheduled to keynote the Eden Area United Democratic Campaign’s annual St. Patrick’s Day dinner, but Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton, and state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, are among the other speakers.

Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, was among the speakers at last year’s dinner, and he had the Eden Area UDC’s support in last year’s 15th Congressional District election; his campaign manager even worked out of the UDC’s office in Hayward for a while. Swalwell succeeded in unseating Stark, after Corbett – along with former Obama administration official Ro Khanna – declined to challenge Stark.

Ellen CorbettKhanna is now considering a 2014 run for the 17th Congressional District seat now held by Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose. But Corbett – who is term-limited out of the state Senate in 2014 – has left open the possibility that she’ll challenge Swalwell: “I would be honored to serve in Congress, but it’s too early to discuss 2014,” she said in November.

So Swalwell will be addressing a room full of people who just months ago were working hard to defeat him, and he’ll share the podium with someone who might challenge him next year. Fun for everyone!

The event is scheduled for 5:30 to 9 p.m. Thursday, March 21 in the Carpenters’ union hall on Mattox Road in Hayward; tickets are available online.

Posted on Wednesday, February 27th, 2013
Under: 2012 Congressional Election, California State Senate, Ellen Corbett, Eric Swalwell, U.S. House | 12 Comments »

Eric Swalwell to hold first town-hall meetings

The East Bay’s freshman congressman is coming back to town for his first report card.

Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton, will hold his first town hall meetings with his 15th Congressional District constituents this Saturday, March 2. The first meeting is scheduled for 10 to 11:30 a.m. at Harvest Park Middle School, 4900 Valley Ave. in Pleasanton; the second is scheduled for 2 to 3:30 p.m. in the Hayward Firefighters’ Union Hall, 22734 Main St.

It’s not the first time Swalwell has met with constituents; he held a “Ride With Your Rep” event last month, inviting people to ride their bicycles with him from Dublin to Pleasanton. Saturday’s meetings should be less likely to leave people out of breath – perhaps.

Swalwell’s predecessor, Pete Stark, had a hot temper and so had become the target of tea-party activists at his town halls, leading to some now-notorious verbal showdowns. In a mailer sent to constituents this week, Swalwell invites people to “make your voice and opinions heard in a respectful public forum” as well as to meet his staff, learn about the services his office provides and hear his views and agenda for 2013.

And with his meetings scheduled a day after the federal budget sequester is set to begin, constituents might have many questions.

Posted on Tuesday, February 26th, 2013
Under: Eric Swalwell, U.S. House | 9 Comments »

Lawmakers joust as budget sequester looms

As the federal budget sequester looms with potentially dire consequences for California and the Bay Area, local House members are continuing to sound the alarm.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, today cited the White House’s assessment of the sequester’s impact on California:

“The report today details the harm that these automatic cuts pose to our fragile economy and to the safety and security of families here in California. There is no need for these painful and indiscriminate cuts. That is why I have joined with my colleagues to call on the House Republican leadership to do what is right for our nation by averting these damaging and mindless spending cuts.

“With every passing day, thousands of jobs are at risk, the security of poor, working poor, and middle class families hang in the balance. Our nation’s economy cannot afford any further uncertainty, obstruction, and delay. Too much is at stake.”

From Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez:

“We are witnessing the result of an abject failure in leadership by Republican Speaker Boehner and his Tea Party team in Washington. Let’s not forget, they brought us to this point by fabricating a financial crisis and refusing to raise the debt ceiling in 2011, which resulted in the first U.S. credit downgrade in our history. Now, by refusing to ask the wealthiest individuals and corporations to pay a little more and by blocking any alternative to the sequester, they are bringing down a meat cleaver on American jobs and the economy.

“They’ve wasted months by not coming to the table with balanced plan to reduce the deficit and grow the economy while avoiding these indiscriminate cuts. Congressional Republicans would rather gamble — again — on inaction and blame the President than do what’s right for our economy, our country’s safety and the security of working and middle class families. This is not leadership befitting the party that controls the U.S. House of Representatives. We can and should pass a balanced approach to reduce the deficit and grow the economy this week rather than create another avoidable crisis that will hurt millions of families across the country.”

But House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, had this to say at a news conference today:

“You know, the president proposed the sequester, yet he’s far more interested in holding campaign rallies than he is in urging his Senate Democrats to actually pass a plan.

“Listen, we know there are smarter ways to cut spending and to continue to grow our economy. That’s why Republicans have acted twice, as Cathy said, to replace the sequester with what we would argue are smarter cuts.

“Listen, the president says we have to have another tax increase in order to avoid the sequester. Well, Mr. President, you got your tax increase. It’s time to cut spending here in Washington.

“Instead of using our military men and women as campaign props, if the president was serious he’d sit down with Harry Reid and begin to address our problems. The House has acted twice, we shouldn’t have to act a third time before the Senate begins to do their work.”

UPDATE @ 5:07 P.M.: Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton, weighed in with these remarks on the House floor today:

“Mr. Speaker, I rise today to express my strong disappointment that the House Republican Leadership is committing such legislative malpractice by failing to do anything about the automatic spending cuts that will happen this Friday.

“Here we are, on the brink of another economic crisis manufactured by Washington. And, just as before, this crisis will have real consequences, to real people.

“In my district alone, schools will lose $11 million in federal funding. California will be losing $87.6 million in funding for primary and secondary schools. That means fewer students learning and more teachers out of work.

“There’s a rational way to approach balancing the people’s budget, and this is not it. And, we can cut foolish spending without foolishly cutting spending.

“H.R. 699, of which I’m a cosponsor, would replace this method of budgeting with a balanced approach. It would include additional revenue from multimillionaires and smart cuts to reduce unnecessary spending.

“We may not agree on the right way to cut spending, but almost everyone agrees using broad, indiscriminate cuts is the wrong way to cut spending. Let’s come together to pass legislation to avert these cuts.”

Posted on Monday, February 25th, 2013
Under: Barbara Lee, Eric Swalwell, George Miller, John Boehner, U.S. House | 59 Comments »

Bay Area gun control events this weekend

With Organizing for Action (the revamped Obama campaign) having held its “day of action” today – a grassroots push urging Congress to enact universal background checks for firearm purchases – the Bay Area still has a few gun-control events on tap over the next few days.

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, will speak at a gun violence prevention rally at Palo Alto City Hall’s plaza, 250 Hamilton Ave., at 11 a.m. tomorrow, Saturday, Feb. 23. Also scheduled to speak are Vic Spicer of Silicon Valley Community Against Gun Violence; East Palo Alto Mayor Ruben Abrica; shooting survivor Mindy Finkelstein from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence; and a representative from the Protect Our Children Initiative.

The rally will draw attention to a gun buyback being held by the police departments of East Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Palo Alto from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday in the parking lot at East Palo Alto City Hall, 2415 University Ave.

On Monday, Feb. 25, the Brady Campaign’s Contra Costa chapter will hold a candlelight vigil and bell-ringing for victims of the Newtown massacre and others killed with firearms, starting at 6:30 p.m. at Pleasant Hill City Hall, 100 Gregory Lane. Some local MoveOn.org chapters are participating as well, and Pleasant Hill Mayor Michael Harris is expected to attend.

Organizers say the event is in support of President Obama’s gun violence prevention proposals, including background checks on all gun sales, new laws to prevent anyone from buying guns for resale to criminals, and banning assault weapons and large-capacity magazines.

Posted on Friday, February 22nd, 2013
Under: gun control, Jackie Speier, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

East Bay lawmaker offers two gun control bills

California handguns would have to have owner-authorized safety mechanisms such as biometric readers, and stolen firearms would have to be reported within two days, under new bills from an East Bay lawmaker.

“Senseless violence occurs far too often when guns fall into the wrong hands,” state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, said in a news release today. “I introduced these bills to improve gun safety and help law enforcement better keep firearms out of the hands of criminals or illicit gun traffickers.”

SB 293 would require that handguns have an owner authorized safety mechanism, such as biometric readers or other technologies.

SB 299 would require that anyone whose firearm is lost or stolen must notify local law enforcement within 48 hours of the time they knew, or reasonably should have known, of the loss or theft. If the firearm is later recovered, local law enforcement would have to be notified within 48 hours of the recovery.

DeSaulnier said his bills also take aim at reducing gun-related suicides, by decreasing illicit guns on the streets and preventing unauthorized users from operating handguns. About about 19,000 of the nation’s more than 31,000 gun-related deaths each year are due to suicide, he said, and firearms are the nation’s leading method of suicide.

DeSaulnier last year had authored SB 1366 requiring lost or stolen firearms to be reported to local law enforcement. Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed the bill in September, writing that “(f)or the most part, responsible people report the loss or theft of a firearm and irresponsible people do not,” and he was “skeptical that this bill would change those behaviors.”

Posted on Friday, February 22nd, 2013
Under: California State Senate, gun control, Mark DeSaulnier | 7 Comments »

Rep. Mike Honda unveils 2014 campaign team

Rep. Mike Honda on Friday continued his mega-early campaign publicity blitz – clearly aimed at convincing an ambitious fellow Democrat from challenging him next year – by announcing his campaign staff.

Honda, D-San Jose, in recent weeks has rolled out endorsements from President Barack Obama, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean and many others in order to scare off, or at least undercut, a potential challenge from former Obama administration official Ro Khanna of Fremont. Honda issued a release Friday announcing his top-shelf campaign team.

honda.jpg“The people of the 17th District get my absolute best 24/7. Our community also deserves a campaign team that reflects my commitment to the families of Silicon Valley,” he said. “Together, we will listen and engage this community to create good jobs, improve our schools and grow Silicon Valley’s influence around the world.”

Honda has hired San Francisco-based Terris, Barnes and Walters for campaign management and media consulting. The firm in 2012 ran Rep. Mike Thompson’s re-election campaign, as well as state Sen. Jim Beall’s campaign in the South Bay and state Sen. Bill Monning’s campaign for his Central Coast seat. Honda team will be led by partner Barry Barnes.

For polling, Honda picked Washington, D.C.-based Lake Research Partners, which has run numbers for all four of Rep. Jerry McNerney’s campaigns as well as for Rep. Raul Ruiz’s victory over Mary Bono Mack last year. The firm also advises Pelosi; Honda’s team will be led by Berkeley-based partner David Mermin.

Oakland-based Full Court Press Communications will handle the Honda campaign’s communications and social media. The firm recently managed communications for Proposition 35, and designed social media campaigns for five local races around the state. The team will be led by founder Dan Cohen and Sarah Hersh, a former McNerney spokeswoman.

And former Davis City Councilman Lamar Heystek will serve as Honda’s field director, as he did last year.

Khanna, who served as a deputy assistant secretary in the Commerce Department from 2009 through 2011, sat out last year’s election after raising a record-breaking $1.2 million in the final quarter of 2011 but choosing not to challenge veteran-but-vulnerable Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont. Democrat Eric Swalwell took down Stark in November, and now there’s talk that Khanna might see Honda as a similar target in 2014.

Khanna’s campaign papers never specified the district or year in which he would run, and he has said he’s still mulling where and when to make his bid. “My decision on whether to run will not be based on Washington politics, it will be based on conversations in the local community,” he said early this month. “I want to determine where I can best help in aiding the community and improving our economy.”

Posted on Friday, February 22nd, 2013
Under: Mike Honda, U.S. House | 9 Comments »

State Senator resigns, takes job with Chevron

Cue the feeding frenzy: A California State Senate seat just became available.

State Sen. Michael Rubio, D-Shafter, announced today he’s resigning effective immediately and has accepted a job as manager of California government affairs for San Ramon-based oil giant Chevron Corp.

“As many of you know, a little over a year ago I decided not to run for the United States Congress to meet the needs of my growing family,” Rubio said in a statement issued today. “My time serving since then has been a blessing, but it has also been a challenge. I have missed too many family dinners, bedtime stories and parent-teacher conferences. My wife and I have been blessed with two beautiful daughters, from whom we have learned a great deal.”

“Our youngest child, who has special needs, has given me great perspective as to life’s priorities and our eldest has reminded me that the most critical decisions are made at home and not under the Capitol dome,” he continued. “I have realized that my current professional path has left little opportunity to be home for those who are most important to me, which is why I am making a change.”

Rubio said his job with Chevron means working for a respected company “with deep roots in Kern County near the very oil fields where I was born. I am truly grateful for the rare opportunity to serve and the support I have been given. Thank you to everyone who made it possible. In my absence, Senate staff will remain in the district and Capitol offices to respond to the needs of residents of the 16th State Senate District – as they have always done.”

Rubio was elected to the 16th District in November 2010, representing all or portions of Fresno, Kern, Kings and Tulare Counties; at 35, he has been the state Senate’s youngest member. Earlier, he was a Kern County supervisor.

Posted on Friday, February 22nd, 2013
Under: California State Senate | 2 Comments »

Activists react to bill to revoke Scouts’ tax breaks

A new California bill that would end tax breaks for youth groups that discriminate based on sexual orientation, including the Boy Scouts of America, is stirring both grassroots support and opposition.

Some California organizations, defined in a similar way to non-profit organizations under federal law, get exemptions from state corporate taxes and taxes on items they sell, such as the popcorn Scouts often sell to raise funds. SB 323 by state Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Long Beach, would end this exemption for youth groups that discriminate by treating their sales to the same extent as any other retailers; it also would require organizations with discriminatory policies to pay corporate taxes on donations and other forms of income.

BSA“Our state values the important role that youth groups play in the empowerment of our next generation; this is demonstrated by rewarding organizations with tax exemptions supported financially by all Californians,” Lara said Tuesday in a news release announcing the bill. “SB 323 seeks to end the unfortunate discriminatory and outdated practices by certain youth groups by revoking their tax exemption privilege should they not comply with our non-discrimination laws.”

An online petition launched by an activist and former Boy Scout to urge this bill’s passage already has more than 8,300 signatures. Petitioner Eddie Kurtz, who works with the Courage Campaign, said he joined as a Cub Scout and finished at the rank of Life Scout, one short of the Eagle Scout award.

“Scouting stands for the finest qualities of humanity: self-reliance, creativity, and an appreciation of nature. Most of all, we were taught how to act as responsible, respectful citizens,” Kurtz said in a news release Thursday. “This is why the Boy Scouts’ continued policy of excluding members based on their sexual orientation is so upsetting to me. It flies in the face of the very values that the scouting tradition professes to teach. As a straight ally, I can’t sit idle while the current leaders of the Boy Scouts disgrace this once-proud American institution with their personal bigotry.”

But the conservative Pacific Justice Institute will be working to oppose the bill; the group’s website refers to SB 323 as “forced lifestyle acceptance.”

“From the plain text of this bill, it is clear to us that SB 323 is one of the most outrageous bills we have seen in California — and that’s saying a lot,” PJI President Brad Dacus said in a news release Thursday. “We have been warning for years that the gay lobby would eventually use tax exemptions to force non-profits to capitulate to their demands, but it’s still shocking to see it actually in print and on its way to becoming law.”

Because SB 323 would essentially raise taxes on some organizations, it will require a 2/3 vote in each legislative chamber in order to pass – a majority Democrats attained in last November’s election.

The Boy Scouts of America’s executive board this month delayed a decision on whether to change its long-standing policy of excluding LGBT youths and adults; the organization’s full national council is expected to revisit the issue in May.

(Full disclosure: I’m an Eagle Scout, and a registered committee member in my son’s troop.)

Posted on Thursday, February 21st, 2013
Under: California State Senate | 12 Comments »