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East Bay legislators dubious about state water deal

State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord

State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord

I talked with three Contra Costa state lawmakers via telephone this morning about their views on the Big Five water talks under way in Sacramento today. I did not hear much optimism about a the chances of a deal by tonight’s deadline.

Sen. Mark DeSaulnier and assemblymembers Joan Buchanan and Tom Torlakson view the closed-door talks on the controversial and complex subject as unlikely to produce a package that will attain either legislative or public support, and urged the resumption of public hearings.

DeSaulnier of Concord, who scuttled his planned trip to Spain this week in order to participate in the California water negotiations, called Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s move to hold hostage 700 bills on his desk pending a water deal counter-productive.

“The governor’s unique talents are unsuits for this time right now in Sacramento,” DeSaulnier said. “He just not very good at negotiation.”

“What’s the rush?” he added. “Are they worried it will start raining and with the drought over, the pressure will be off to pass reforms? I think we can get a deal but we need to do it with continued public hearings and public discussion, not artificial deadlines.”

Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo

Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo

Assemblyman Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch

Assemblyman Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch

Even if the Big Five emerge today or Saturday arm-in-arm with a package, the East Bay legislators say the question of how to pay for it remains a huge sticking point.

All three say they oppose financing the estimated $8 billion to $12 billion package through general obligation bonds. Repayment of general obligation bonds comes right of the top of the state’s general fund, which means the money cannot be used elsewhere.

They favor the use of revenue bonds, which are repaid by water users including residents, businesses and farmers.

“It the midst of these horrible deficits, and we’re facing additional horrendous challenges next year, do we want to cut more from schools or higher education?” said Torlakson, D-Antioch.

“The payment on a $12 billion bond is $700 million a year,” said Buchanan, D-Alamo. “If we are going to pass legislation and ask voters to pass a bond, we need to ask how we’re going to pay for it.”

Buchanan also says that she and other Delta area lawmakers will demand sufficient time to evaluate any proposal and talk with their constituents.

“A half a million people live in the Delta and the impacts of new policies could last decades,” Buchanan said. “You can bet that I and my staff will be reading every word.”

Postscript: DeSaulnier’s trip to Spain was, ironically, a Senate-sponsored event to study the country’s national water system. “I learned more about water by staying home,” DeSaulnier said.

Posted on Friday, October 9th, 2009
Under: California Assembly, California Legislature, California Senate, Environment, State politics, water | No Comments »

San Ramon mayor featured in National Review

San Ramon Mayor and Assembly GOP candidate Abram Wilson

San Ramon Mayor and Assembly GOP candidate Abram Wilson

San Ramon Mayor and GOP Assembly candidate Abram Wilson is featured in National Review, the well-known conservative publication.

National Review senior editor Jay Nordlinger captured Wilson’s personality in the piece, titled “The Making of a Mayor,” through family stories and anecdotes. The author used a unique bullet-style format, which I liked (and may well borrow) for its simplicity.

Wilson says he has received numerous responses to the story, including emails from all over the country.

Check it out.

So far, Wilson is the only declared Republican candidate in Assembly District 15. If he remains the only GOP name on the June 2010 primary ballot, he will mostly likely face incumbent Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo.

UPDATE: So what did Wilson do? He turned it into a fundraiser. What else? Read on for his email solicitation:

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009
Under: 2010 election, California Assembly, Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics | No Comments »

OC blogger speculates on Duvall tape leak

Check out Orange Register blogger Brian Joseph’s juicy blog posting about the rampant speculation going on in the halls of Sacramento about who brought the video of the disgusting comments of Southern California Assemblyman Mike Duvall to the attention of the press.

I doubt most folks outside Sacramento bubble care will spend much time worrying about who alerted the television stations that broke this story unless it is to say thanks for lifting the rock and letting the light shine in.

On the other hand, I talked with a handful of folks today who work or have worked in Sacramento and they tell me that multiple and extramarital sexual encounters between lawmakers, lobbyists and staffers occur far more frequently than the public (or the offenders’ spouses) know.It’s part of the legislative culture, said one source.

Oh. Is that what happened to the budget?

Just asking.

Posted on Thursday, September 10th, 2009
Under: California Assembly | No Comments »

Willie Brown Jr. wows Contra Costa mayors

Willie Brown Jr.

Willie Brown Jr.

Iconic California politician Willie Brown Jr. offered Contra Costa mayors last night a surefire formula to fix California’s problems: Ditch term limits and end the two-thirds voting requirement in the Legislature to pass a budget. (Watch the full speech below.)

Brown was the keynote speaker at the Contra Costa Mayors Conference meeting in San Ramon.

Term limits have robbed the Legislature of experienced lawmakers and the valuable relationships that produce solutions, he said. And the two-thirds rule has allowed a minority to hold the budget and the entire state of California hostage, something he says he never allowed when he was the Speaker of the Assembly.

Brown also opposed the idea of calling a Constitutional Convention unless California can somehow persuade John Adams and Thomas Jefferson to attend. Such a convention, he said, would open up the process to loud minorities who will outlast reasonable people and lead to disaster for the people of California.

Instead, he said the state activate a Constitutional Revision Committee comprised of smart people with proven expertise and require lawmakers to vote their recommendations up or down.

Oh, and if Willie Brown were still in Sacramento, he modestly suggested, things would not be in such a mess.

Watch the full speech below. He is a fantastic public speaker.

Posted on Friday, September 4th, 2009
Under: California Assembly, California Legislature, Contra Costa County | No Comments »

GOP moves swiftly against Joan Buchanan

Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo

Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo

Less than two days after Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan lost her primary bid for the 10th Congressional District, the California Republican Party signaled its intent to target her 2010 re-election campaign in a strongly worded press release.

The party criticized her on a variety of fronts including her yes vote on last week’s prison reform bill, and said her fourth-place finish in the Congressional race among the 14 candidates means she is vulnerable. She garnered only 12 percent of the vote despite loaning her campaign $850,000 of her own money.

The Republicans desperately want to reclaim Assembly District 15. Until Buchanan beat Republican and San Ramon Mayor Abram Wilson in 2008, it was the party’s sole claim to a partisan elected seat in the nine-county Bay Area.

On the other hand, the high-profile Congressional primary has increased Buchanan’s name identification and her visibility. That won’t hurt her in 2010. And while she lost, she wasn’t alone. State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier of Concord went down to defeat, too.

Read on for the full press release: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, September 3rd, 2009
Under: 2010 election, California Assembly | 21 Comments »

San Ramon mayor to run again for Assembly

Abram Wilson

Abram Wilson

San Ramon Mayor Abram Wilson officially declared himself a second-time candidate for Assembly in District 15.

Wilson lost to Democrat Joan Buchanan in November by 4.6 percentage points after a bruising, expensive battle to replace termed-out Republican Assemblyman Guy Houston. District 15 is one of the few competitive seats in the state and Democrats were eager to strip the only remaining GOP-held Bay Area seat from Republican hands.

It’s unclear at this point whether Wilson will have a rematch against Buchanan. She is running for the soon-to-be-open 10th Congressional District in a special election expected to take place later this year. Buchanan could also decided to run for the state Senate if Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, who is also running for Congress, were to prevail.

It may prove downright interesting if Buchanan has to fend off attacks from a Republican Assembly opponent at the same time she campaigns for a federal seat.

District 15 includes the San Ramon Valley, portions of the Tri-Valley, far east Contra Costa County, western San Joaquin County and a smaller piece of Sacramento County.

Read on for Wilson’s statement: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009
Under: 2010 election, California Assembly | 5 Comments »

Assemblywoman Buchanan will host town hall meetings

Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo

Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo

Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, will host town hall meetings throughout her district this month June to discuss state legislative issues.

Buchanan is also a candidate for congressional District 10, although these events are not billed as part of her federal campaign. Save your whining, though. It’s one of the advantages of running for office while already occupying a public office.

Besides, she’ll have plenty to talk about at the state level given the California’s financial problems.

Buchanan’s town halls will be held from 7-9 p.m. on the following dates:

June 11 — Dorris-Eaton School, 1847 Newell Drive, Walnut Creek

June 22 — Oakley Town Hall, 3231 Main St., Oakley

June 17 — Rancho Las Positas School, multipurpose room, 401 East Jack London Blvd., Livermore

June 30 — El Grove City Hall, 8400 Laguna Palms Way, Elk Grove

For more information, visit her web site here.

Posted on Monday, June 1st, 2009
Under: California Assembly | No Comments »

Bass and Steinberg vow to tackle water policy logjam

In a joint statement issued this afternoon, Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento vowed to begin seriously addressing California’s water woes, particularly the Delta crisis:

Here is the statement:

Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) and Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) made the following joint statement today regarding legislative progress on legislation to aid California’s water infrastructure:

“We are working together with the Governor to make 2009 the year that we get a major series of water agreements done in California. We have already convened bipartisan and bicameral legislative meetings with the goal of having a comprehensive fix to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta on the table this legislative session, along with funding for water supply reliability and infrastructure investments.

The Governor has sounded the siren on this issue for a number of years and we’re prepared to work together to get it done. We have legislative engagement from Democrats and Republicans, from Senators and Assembly Members alike. And we will break the logjam on water resources in this state and solve the issues once and for all.”

Posted on Friday, April 17th, 2009
Under: California Assembly, California Senate, Environment | No Comments »

Torlakson to lead Assembly schools committee

Assemblyman Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch

Assemblyman Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch

Assemblyman Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch, has been appointed chairman of a new Assembly Select Committee on Schools and Community.

Assembly Speaker Karen Bass made the appointment today.

The committee assignment fits conveniently with Torlakson’s statewide campaign for superintendent of public instruction, a post currently held by soon-to-be-termed-out Jack O’Connell. (Torlakson terms out of the Assembly next year after having previously served two terms in the Assembly and two terms in the state Senate.)

The committee’s first hearing is set for Antioch on April 17, where panelists will discuss strategies to improve the lives of foster children. (The forum will take place at 1:30 p.m. at the Nick Rodriguez Community Center, 213 F St. in Antioch.)

Click through to read the full press releases on the appointment and the hearing. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, April 7th, 2009
Under: California Assembly, Contra Costa County, education | No Comments »

Pittsburg councilman mulls Assembly race

Pittsburg Councilman Ben Johnson

Pittsburg Councilman Ben Johnson

Two-term Pittsburg City Councilman Ben Johnson is seriously looking at running for the 11th Assembly District in 2010, a seat held by soon-to-be-termed-out incumbent Tom Torlakson.

Johnson’s candidacy faces several serious obstacles.

To start, he plans to file as an independent. Very few independents have been elected to state office.

Second, he was a Republican for years until he recently re-registered as a decline to state or independent. Democrats have a 32-point registration advantage in District 11.

And finally, Johnson describes himself as a centrist who evaluates the merits of all sides of an issue rather than as an ideologue married to one extreme or the other. But moderates are one thing party loyalists of both sides agree on: Keep ‘em out.

“I have had a lot of people tell me not to run, that I can be more effective as a councilman and perhaps run for county supervisor in 2012,” Johnson said via telephone this afternoon. “But I’ve been thinking about running for Assembly for about a year now.”

Johnson accurately points out that he was initially elected as a Republican in a heavily Democratic city and had no opposition in 2008.

“I’m clearly doing something that the voters in this city like,” he said.

Johnson would also face a formidable opponent in the only declared candidate for the seat, Contra Costa County Supervisor Susan Bonilla, a Democrat with close ties to Torlakson and the party.

Other names being discussed are also all Democrats: Martinez Councilman Mark Ross, former Antioch Mayor Don Freitas, Antioch Councilman Brian Kalinowski and Mike McGill, an elected director of the Central Contra Costa Sanitary District.

Johnson says he hasn’t made up his mind yet. As part of his deliberations, he plans to have lunch next week with the most successful independent to have served in the California Legislature, Quentin L. Kopp of San Francisco.

“I’m going to see what Quentin thinks about it,” Johnson said.”I’ve already talked to my wife and she says it’s my choice.”

Posted on Tuesday, April 7th, 2009
Under: 2010 election, California Assembly, Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics | No Comments »