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State government transparency at a mouse-click

A new website combining legislative hearing videos and transcripts, information on bills, and data on contributions and gifts to lawmakers in an easy-to-use way was rolled out Wednesday by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, former state Sen. Sam Blakeslee and a passel of good-government advocates.

Digital Democracy not only makes all of this information more accessible and searchable and easier to cross-reference, but also interfaces with social media so users can easily share what they find. The site was created by students at Cal Poly’s Institute for Advanced Technology and Public Policy – of which Blakeslee, a Republican from San Luis Obispo, is founding director – so not only advocates and journalists but all Californians can get a clearer picture of what government does and why.

“Technology has radically changed the way society interacts but government is on the cutting edge of 1973. All of this only increases the gap between people and government,” Newsom, who is running for governor in 2018, said in a news release. “Digital Democracy gives citizens the keys to unlock capitol corridors and assess facts in a way that they can be part of the process of governing again.”

Blakeslee said in the release that his institute developed this “to open up government.

“Right now it is a very closed place and the public is largely not able to see what happens, unless they are attending legislative committee hearings in person,” he said. “The California State Legislature does not produce transcripts or minutes from these hearings. There is no list of who was in the room, influencing decisions that were made. With this powerful new platform, Californians will be able to see exactly what people are saying as state laws are being written.”

Newsom serves on the institute’s advisory board member and is author of the 2013 book Citizenville, which explores civic participation in the digital age.

The institute released a poll last week that found overwhelming support for requiring that all state documents, including the budget, be available online with a Google-like search engine. It also found that nearly all Californians want the Legislature’s public hearings to be captured by video and made available to the public on the Internet within 24 hours.

California’s legislature currently does not produce minutes or transcripts of legislative committee hearings. A recent report from the Public Interest Research Group graded every state on government-spending transparency; California received an “F,” coming in dead last.

Posted on Wednesday, May 6th, 2015
Under: campaign finance, Gavin Newsom, governance reform, Lt. Governor | No Comments »

Gavin Newsom in DC for SCOTUS marriage cases

California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom will attend Tuesday’s oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court in cases challenging state laws that prohibit same-sex partners from exercising the same rights as opposite-sex partners.

Newsom’s February 2004 decision to direct San Francisco’s City Hall to issue same-sex marriage licenses catapulted him onto the national stage, even if some marriage-rights activists believe it was premature and galvanized a backlash. He announced in February that he’ll run for governor in 2018.

“Rulings upon rulings have rendered discrimination against same-sex partners unjustly unconstitutional, and I hope a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court Justices will rule in favor of equality once again,” Newsom said in a news release Monday. “But I caution against complacency in this battle against bigotry, especially where states are turning to so-called religious exemptions. Even in California, a vanguard for tolerance, there are those who continue their hateful crusade against love.”

While in Washington this week, Newsom is scheduled to address the California State Society, and to meet with members of California’s congressional delegation to discuss criminal justice reforms, economic development, and higher education. And, apparently, to find a decent lunch.

Posted on Monday, April 27th, 2015
Under: Gavin Newsom, Lt. Governor, same-sex marriage | 6 Comments »

Nehring ad: Newsom’s policies encourage addiction

Ron Nehring, the Republican challenger to Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, has launched his first video ad, claiming Newsom’s policies will lead to more drug addiction.

Nehring spokeswoman Nyna Armstrong said the ad will run online only, at least for now. “Then, we’ll decide what our ad buy will be based on the response that we get.”

Newsom campaign spokesman Sean Clegg seemed angry that a reporter had contacted him seeking comment.

“This is not an ad,” he replied by email. “This is a video produced to hoodwink journalists into writing that he has an ad. There is no real TV buy. If I send you the video my eight-year-old son made will you post that too?”

Nehring’s ad features a series of women speaking to the camera. “In America, one baby is born addicted to drugs every hour. More lives destroyed. If Gavin Newsom gets his way, drug abuse in California will skyrocket. More women addicted to drugs.”

“These are our daughters. Mothers. Sisters. Friends,” it continues. “You can’t be pro-woman, and be pro-more women addicted to drugs. There’s nothing Democratic. Nothing progressive. About addiction.”

Yet Nehring’s ad never mentions how Newsom’s policies would further drug addiction.

Newsom last year was tapped to head the American Civil Liberties Union’s panel studying marijuana legalization in California, with an eye toward drafting a measure for 2016’s presidential-year ballot. He said at the time, and has reiterated since, that he can’t support a status quo of high prison and police costs associated with marijuana enforcement that disproportionately affects minority communities. He recently said the same on KQED’s “Forum” radio show, saying he favors taxing and regulating marijuana to keep it out of children’s hands.

The jury is still out on whether recent recreational legalization in Colorado and Washington state have led to increased use or abuse, with organizations and agencies on both side offering conflicting reports.

Nehring, a former state GOP chairman from El Cajon, offered a 2010 RAND Corp. study to bolster his claim that “drug abuse in California will skyrocket;” the study actually projected “consumption will increase, but it is unclear how much.”

Nehring issued a statement saying California faces big challenges with poverty, unemployment and failing schools, and “we don’t solve them by swinging wide open the doors for more drug abuse and dependency. That’s a distraction that takes our state in exactly the wrong direction.”

Nehring said he supports reforming drug policy by focusing on treatment instead of imprisonment, as the Project SAM organization advocates. “Gavin Newsom will claim that there are only two choices: the status quo or his legalization idea. Yet, there is a third and better way that puts the emphasis on treatment while avoiding creating the conditions that will lead to skyrocketing addiction in California.”

Newsom differs from several prominent fellow Democrats such as Gov. Jerry Brown and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who oppose legalization. Attorney General Kamala Harris has said California should wait and learn from Colorado and Washington, while her Republican challenger, Ron Gold, is more forthright in his support of legalization.

Posted on Monday, October 20th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Gavin Newsom, Lt. Governor, marijuana | No Comments »

Bay Area campaign calendar heats up

The general-election season is in full swing, with a full calendar of campaign and fundraising events for Bay Area candidates. Here’s a sampling of what’s going on out there in the next week or so:

11th Congressional District: Tue Phan – the Republican retired immigration judge from Danville who’s facing off against state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, for the seat from which George Miller is retiring – is having a fundraiser tonight at La Veranda Café in Clayton. Tickets cost $150 per person or $275 per couple; it’s hosted by Roger Petersen, who ran against Miller in 2008 and 2010.

16th Assembly District: California Republican Party Chairman Jim Brulte will be in the East Bay this weekend to stump and raise money for Catharine Baker, the Dublin attorney who’s facing off against Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti for the 16th Assembly District seat. Brulte and Assembly Minority Leader Kristin Olsen will join Baker for a fundraiser Saturday evening at a Danville home, with tickets ranging from $100 to $4,100, and Brulte plus GOP volunteers from across the state will be out walking precincts for Baker on Saturday and Sunday. Meanwhile, Sbranti and Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, will kick off the Tri-Valley area’s United Democratic Campaign with a rally, phone bank and precinct walk on Saturday, and then wine scion Phil Wente will host a fundraiser for Sbranti on Sunday in Livermore with tickets ranging from $500 to $4,100.

15th Assembly District: Elizabeth Echols of Berkeley, one of two Democrats vying for the 15th Assembly District seat, has a fundraiser set for next Tuesday evening, Sept. 16 at the Piedmont home of Steve Schiller and Kristine Kaiser; tickets cost from $100 to $1,000. The other Democrat hoping to succeed the term-limited Nancy Skinner is Tony Thurmond of Richmond, who’s opening his campaign HQ this Saturday, Sept. 13 on San Pablo Avenue in El Cerrito; walking in the Solano Stroll on Sunday; and holding house parties next Wednesday and Thursday in Berkeley and El Cerrito, respectively.

Lieutenant Governor: Ron Nehring, the Republican challenger to Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, will hold a meet-and-greet next Monday evening, Sept. 15 at a San Rafael home; will address the Novato Republican Women Federated at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 16 at the Marin Country Club; and will appear with 10th State Senate District candidate Peter Kuo at a dinner Tuesday night in Fremont.

State Controller: Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, the Republican candidate for state controller, will speak at a Nob Hill Republican Women’s Club dinner next Wednesday, Sept. 17 at San Francisco’s L’Olivier restaurant. Swearengin’s opponent is Democrat Betty Yee, a Board of Equalization member from Alameda, who has evening receptions scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 11 in Fresno; Friday, Sept. 12 in Folsom; Monday, Sept. 15 in Santa Cruz; and Friday, Sept. 19 in San Francisco.

Posted on Tuesday, September 9th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Assembly, California State Senate, Gavin Newsom, Lt. Governor, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

‘Happy Fracking Day’ with Brown & Newsom

An El Dorado Hills artist who has a sort of personal history with Gov. Jerry Brown has once again immortalized him in sculpture – this time, taking him to task for letting oil and gas “fracking” proceed in the Golden State.

Laura Harling’s “Happy Fracking Day” sculpture won an Award of Merit in fine art at the California State Fair, where it’s on display.

(Click to enlarge)
Happy Fracking Day

The sculpture, 15¼” high and wide, 10½” deep, is described thusly on the artist’s website: “California Governor Jerry Brown and Lt Gov Gaven Newsom celebrate fracking. Only the 1% were invited to the party.”

Fracking Cake

Harling, 67, a Green Party member, said Monday she always been interested in politics and “the long history of environmental destruction by industry is impossible to overlook.

“When I first learned about fracking, it reminded me of the damage caused by hydraulic mining and gold dredging in my neighborhood,” she said. “I believe that fracking will be considered an even worse mistake in the future. I seem to find no end of ideas for my satiric sculptures by following the money.”

Harling – whom the Chronicle reported had worked way back in the day as a state janitor tasked with cleaning a much younger Gov. Jerry Brown’s apartment – has drawn inspiration from Brown and Newsom for past works as well.

It takes two to tango

Posted on Monday, July 14th, 2014
Under: Environment, Gavin Newsom, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown, Lt. Governor | 1 Comment »

CAGOP14: Nehring calls for Newsom to debate pot

Ron Nehring, a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, said incumbent Democrat Gavin Newsom is dead wrong to be supporting marijuana legalization.

Ron Nehring“California has been a leader in fighting Big Tobacco… now we’re seeing the rise of Big Marijuana,” Nehring, a former state GOP chairman from El Cajon, said in a news conference Saturday morning at the California Republican Party convention in Burlingame.

Newsom last October became chairman of a committee convened by the American Civil Liberties Union to explore legalization and taxation, as voters in Colorado and Washington already have voted to embrace. He also gave a speech supporting legalization at the California Democratic Party’s convention last week in Los Angeles.

But Nehring said Saturday that legalization would bring down marijuana’s price and lead to a dramatic expansion in use of a drug that affects reaction time, memory and other brain functions for weeks, and is particularly harmful to still-developing adolescent brains. The medical community opposes legalization, he said, while the public costs would far exceed the tax revenues and job creation.

And, Nehring noted, Latinos oppose legalization by about a two-to-one margin, so this is an issue on which the GOP can connect with those voters.

Nehring said he supports the mission of Project SAM, an anti-legalization group that favors changing laws to favor treatment over punishment for those who use marijuana.

Nehring stood next to a poster displaying a photo of Gov. Jerry Brown and his recent quote that, “All of a sudden, if there’s advertising and legitimacy, how many people can get stoned and still have a great state or a great nation?”

“We should have a debate about this issue,” Nehring said. “If Gavin Newsom is not willing to debate me, perhaps he’d be willing to debate Gov. Brown, and they could also debate high-speed rail while they’re at it.”

Nehring acknowledged this will be a tough campaign.

“We completely understand that we are the underdog in this race,” Nehring said, given Democratic incumbents in all statewide offices, a big Democratic voter registration advantage, and robust Democratic fundraising. “Every financial report that comes out will show that Gavin Newsom has raised more money than Ron Nehring.”

As a down-ticket race, “this campaign needs to be about big ideas,” he said – a good prescription for all GOP candidates.

“Republicans need to be the party of bold reform” in order to inspire voters, Nehring said, not just “the party of tweaks and cuts.”

Meanwhile, he said, “Gavin Newsom is treating the office like a taxpayer funded gubernatorial exploratory committee for 2018.”

Posted on Saturday, March 15th, 2014
Under: Gavin Newsom, Lt. Governor, marijuana, Republican Party, Republican politics | No Comments »

Former GOP chair Ron Nehring to take on Newsom

Former California Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring will seek to unseat Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom in this year’s election.

Ron NehringNehring, 43, of El Cajon, issued a statement Tuesday noting California is world-renowned for its people’s innovation, creativity and hard work.

“But today we have a government that is failing in too many ways: sky-high unemployment, more poverty than any state in the nation, failing schools and a toxic environment for job creation. We can do better,” he said. “At a time of serious economic problems, California needs leaders who will be relentless in putting forward the bold reforms needed to make our state competitive again.”

“The policies of Jerry Brown, Gavin Newsom, and the Democrats in Sacramento have produced high taxes and high poverty together with shrinking economic opportunity and troubled schools,” he added. “There is a better way, and as a candidate for Lt. Governor I plan to offer a better vision and leadership.”

Nehring chaired the state GOP 2007 to 2011; earlier, he chaired the San Diego GOP for six years. He also worked for five years as national campaigns director of Americans for Tax Reform, the conservative anti-tax group founded by Grover Norquist. More recently, he has run his own political strategy and speaking firm.

Newsom, first elected in 2010, is seeking a second four-year term. His campaign had about $1.7 million in the bank with about $33,000 in outstanding debt as of the start of this year.

“It’s hard to imagine someone basing a campaign for statewide office on leading a major political party to near extinction,” Sean Clegg, Newsom’s campaign consultant, said Tuesday.

Former Rep. Ernie Konnyu, who last Wednesday announced he was no longer considering a run against Newsom, sent an email Sunday indicating a “major, trusted and successful Republican” was entering the race, and has his support and endorsement.

Posted on Tuesday, February 18th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Gavin Newsom, Lt. Governor | 1 Comment »

Former Rep. Ernie Konnyu won’t take on Newsom

Republican former Rep. Ernie Konnyu has decided not to challenge Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom for his seat this year – mainly because nobody in his party would bankroll him.

Konnyu, 76, of San Jose, had said last Friday he was considering such a run, but he sent an e-mail Wednesday saying he has decided against it.

Though he still believes Newsom to be vulnerable, “the only problem with my election formula was that I could not find a producer to finance this fun show,” Konnyu wrote Wednesday. “The Republican State Chairman, former Senator Jim Brulte, showed no interest in fielding anybody against Newsom. That was especially true with me since he disrespected me in 2004 and we haven’t talked since.”

Santa Clara County Republican Party Chairman Charles Munger Jr., who has bankrolled a few campaigns from his own pocket, didn’t want to meet with him about such a candidacy, Konnyu wrote: “Same with the state’s Lincoln Club leaders, a traditional source of Republican campaign dollars.”

And his wife wasn’t happy with the idea of him sinking their money into it either, he wrote. “Yep! She put her foot down even though I would not have put in an amount close to the minimum $1.7 million I needed.”

“So my friends, NO CAMPAIGN FOR ME,” he wrote.

Posted on Wednesday, February 12th, 2014
Under: Gavin Newsom, Lt. Governor, Republican Party, Republican politics | 1 Comment »

Former Rep. Ernie Konnyu might take on Newsom

Republican former South Bay Congressman Ernie Konnyu said Friday he’s considering a run against Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom because Newsom is “fundamentally untrustworthy.”

Newsom as San Francisco’s mayor violated state law by authorizing marriage licenses for same-sex couples in 2004, Konnyu said, and violated his own Catholic beliefs both by having an affair with his campaign manager’s wife in 2007 and by remarrying in 2008 without having his first marriage annulled.

Ernie Konnyu“The analysis I did – just Internet research – on the lieutenant governor found him, in my opinion, vulnerable despite the Democratic nature of California,” Konnyu, 76, of San Jose, said Friday afternoon. (He might want to step up that research a bit, given that he misspelled Newsom’s name – putting an “e” at the end – in emails he sent Wednesday and Friday.)

That analysis has led him to reconsider his earlier decision not to run. “I’ve been discussing this with some of my friends for several months but it never got past the discussion stage – I had actually said this was a crazy idea, and I had dropped it.”

With the candidacy filing deadline coming up March 7, “I have to make up my mind probably in a week, two weeks at the most.”

No well-known Republican challengers have materialized to take on Newsom as he seeks a second four-year term as lieutenant governor. Newsom raised about $511,000 in campaign contributions from July through December, finishing the year with about $1.7 million in ready cash, according to a campaign finance report filed last week.

Konnyu represented California’s 12th Congressional District from 1987 to 1989; he spent much of that term embroiled in controversy over accusations of sexual harassment, and was defeated in his bid for a second term by a more moderate Republican, Tom Campbell. Earlier, Konnyu represented western and southern Santa Clara County in the Assembly from 1980 to 1986.

Both in the Legislature and Congress, he worked well with Republicans and Democrats alike, he said Friday.

Asked whether he has the money and other support to mount a statewide campaign, he replied, “that’s the reason I didn’t say I’m running yet – that’s the big fly in the ointment.”

The state’s GOP leaders “don’t have the money to support this campaign. They’re targeting re-capturing more than a third of the Assembly and the state Senate … so most of the money they have is going to be spent there, and not on statewide offices.”

He said he’s hoping to “capture enough Lincoln Club types… and see if I can finance the race that way;” he said he also has talked with Santa Clara County Republican Party Chairman Charles Munger Jr.

Konnyu said as lieutenant governor he would push for California to emulate some of the tax breaks for businesses that have been proposed or enacted by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “If I bring that as lieutenant governor to the Legislature, we have something positive to talk about because it’s a Democratic law created in New York.”

Asked why he described Newsom as “fundamentally untrustworthy” in his email, Konnyu replied “this guy promised as mayor to uphold the laws of the state of California, and the U.S. Constitution and of course the California Constitution. Also, he’s a self-declared practicing Catholic, and he also promised to the church and to the Catholic community that he would abide by the laws of the Catholic church.”

“He doesn’t give a damn when he feels differently,” Konnyu said, citing both Newsom’s support of same-sex marriage rights in violation of what then was state law as well as his personal history.

Newsom probably isn’t too fearful of a potential Konnyu candidacy.

“Democracy is a wonderful thing, and as candidates from Gary Coleman to Arnold Schwarzenegger have shown, anyone can run for office in California,” Dan Newman, Newsom’s campaign consultant, said Friday.

Posted on Friday, February 7th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Gavin Newsom, Lt. Governor | 2 Comments »

Pols react to America’s Cup win

Some California politicians are over the moon about Oracle Team USA’s come-from-behind win in the America’s Cup, and are expressing their joy via social media.

pelosi-cup

(Someone get the Minority Leader a chair, fer cryin’ out loud!)

Newsom-cup

Lofgren-cup

eshoo-cup

Posted on Wednesday, September 25th, 2013
Under: Anna Eshoo, Gavin Newsom, Lt. Governor, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | No Comments »