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The Barbara Boxer Building Blitz, Day 2

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., followed up her news conference Wednesday in San Francisco with a luncheon address to the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce today, hammering home a theme that America should build its way out of this recession.

“We can and we will move this great city forward,” she told the crowd of local politicos and businesspeople, noting she has an apartment just a few blocks away and comes to them “not only as your Senator but as your neighbor.”

She blasted President Bush for forcing Congress to strip out earmarks which included $300,000 for the city’s green-jobs initiative; $300,000 for the city’s “Grow Our Own” police recruiting initiative; $500,000 for the city’s police equipment and technology; $20 million to continue the Port of Oakland’s dredging project.

“There’s nothing in there that’s nefarious. They’re all legislative priorities that I’m very proud of,” she said, later adding “it isn’t pork when you’ve got a ship coming into Oakland’s port and it gets stuck — that’s beef.”

But as Democrats feel more and more optimistic about taking not only the White House but also a filibuster-proof 60-seat majority in the Senate, she said, “we could be on the verge of some changes here.”

Meanwhile, as the economy continues to trudge through recession, government should be looking to highway, water and other badly needed infrastructure projects to create jobs, she said, as well as to clean-energy “green jobs.”

“We worry about jobs going overseas, but you can’t put a solar panel on that house down the street from India — unless you have very long arms,” she quipped.

Chairing the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which has dominion over these sorts of projects, “is everything I’ve always dreamed about… and I can’t blow this opportunity,” she said, praising local leaders such as Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, Rep. Barbara Lee and Green for All founder/president Van Jones for being “committed to fighting economic hardship and global warming at the same time.”

Boxer once again defended her vote in favor of the $700 billion bailout of the financial markets, but once again said she would have preferred it if the government used its shareholder status with the bailed-out banks to take an active role in their lending policy. Any small business owners who are still having trouble regaining their lines of credit should call her office or Lee’s immediately, she invited.

Though she had referred to the presidential campaign somewhat obliquely during her remarks, she spoke more directly about it while taking questions from the audience. Asked what can be done to help the 37 million Americans living below the federal poverty line, Boxer told the audience to look at the candidates’ tax-break plans: with John McCain “it’s more of the same, we know that,” she said, while Barack Obama “says he’s going to give it to people who work.”

Also, she noted, “it took us 10 years — the biggest disgrace — to raise the minimum wage;” McCain has voted against such increases 19 times. “If he had his way, it would still be $3 – he has voted against it since then.”

She wrapped up the session by offering some rather fawning anecdotes about Obama, including how she herself hadn’t believed Dick Durbin — the senior U.S. Senator from Illinois — when he’d raved to her years ago what a marvelous Senator Obama would make. After seeing Obama in action in the Senate, she said, she was forced to admit to him that she’d initially doubted how good he would be, confessing “I was wrong — you’re better.”

And now, my confession. In my article yesterday, I wrote:

The crisis is all too real, Boxer noted: Almost 190,000 Californians lost their homes to foreclosure in the first nine months of the year, atop about 85,000 in 2007. “We’re talking about probably the number of people who live in Delaware. We are talking about a massive displacement in our communities.”

Delaware’s estimated 2007 population was 863,904. But the problem is still massive, and she said it will only get worse if California’s unemployment rate, now at 7.7 percent, keeps rising.

Boxer had indeed said almost 275,000 California homes have been lost to foreclosure from January 2007 through last month, but I’d missed the part where she said she was assuming several residents per home in making her Delaware analogy. Mea culpa, and thanks to the Senator for being kind when we discussed it today.

Posted on Thursday, October 30th, 2008
Under: Barack Obama, Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, John McCain, Oakland, Ron Dellums, U.S. Senate | No Comments »

Barbara Lee: We’re not getting enough HUD help

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has released a formula that determines funding levels for communities decimated by the foreclosure crisis, with an estimated $10.3 million directed to Alameda County and $8.2 million of that reserved for Oakland.

And Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, isn’t happy.

“Though I am pleased we were able to secure this much needed funding for our communities being devastated by the foreclosure crisis, I remain concerned about the overall California allocation,” she said in a release issued this afternoon. “Several of my colleagues and I have written a letter to HUD Secretary Steve Preston calling for a review of the formula and asking that it be adjusted to recognize the devastating impact of the foreclosure crisis in the state of California.”

Under H.R. 3221, the Foreclosure Prevention Act signed into law July 30, HUD will disperse $3.92 billion in CDBG funding nationwide with $145 million in funding going to California; the money is to be used to buy and rehabilitate foreclosed properties that have been vacant for more than 90 days, as a means of restoring home values and reducing blight and crime in hard-hit neighborhoods.

Yet, Lee notes, California is slated to receive $12 million less of this CDBG funding than Florida.

Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, Assemblymember Sandré Swanson and Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson are on board with Lee’s call for a re-examination of the funding formula. (It’s not surprising to see all of them on the same page, as Lee, Swanson and Carson all worked for Dellums when he held the 9th Congressional District seat Lee now occupies.)

“With regards to the issue of foreclosures, anyone familiar with this crisis knows that the city of Oakland and the county of Alameda have been hit extremely hard,” Dellums said in Lee’s release. “Many of Oakland’s neighborhoods have been devastated by this crisis, and I join my colleagues in expressing our disappointment in what appears to be a fundamentally flawed and unfair formula.”

Said Carson: “California has the second highest foreclosure rate in the country, second only to Nevada. The HUD allocation of $2 million does not adequately address the needs of working families in our communities who are struggling to hold onto their property.”

And Swanson agreed time is of the essence “in dealing with long-vacant foreclosed properties. Increasing blight attracts crime, bringing down property values, and straining local police services that are often stretched too thin already. Given the incredibly high rate of foreclosures in the State, it is imperative that HUD reexamines its funding formula to ensure that California receives the funds it needs to properly address this crisis.”

Posted on Tuesday, September 30th, 2008
Under: Alameda County, Assembly, Barbara Lee, Oakland, Ron Dellums, Sandre Swanson, U.S. House | No Comments »

A journey of a thousand miles…

…begins with a single step, Lao-tzu said.

California will start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples at 5 p.m. today. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom will officiate his city and county’s first legal same-sex wedding (civil rights leaders Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, together for 55 years) at that hour at San Francisco City Hall, while Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums will preside over Alameda County’s first ceremony at 6 p.m. in Oakland City Hall; Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, and other elected officials will witness the latter.

But lest we forget, Newsom and Dellums endorsed Hillary Clinton for president this year while Lee endorsed Barack Obama, and neither of those Democratic presidential candidates stood in support of same-sex marriage, only civil unions. This may be the dawning of a new day in California — a very happy, blessed day for many — but the national debate rages on.

The step that so many couples will take to the altar in coming weeks isn’t the first step of their thousand-mile journey — this voyage has been underway for decades — but it’s not the finish line, either, and the road ahead remains long and rocky for those on both sides of this issue.

Posted on Monday, June 16th, 2008
Under: Barack Obama, Barbara Lee, Gavin Newsom, Hillary Clinton, Oakland, Ron Dellums | No Comments »

Oh, Ron Dellums, what big biceps you have…

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was in Oakland today for another installment of the budget-reform roadshow he has taken all over California. Mayor Ron Dellums introduced the governor at the Oakland City Hall event, and the governor proceeded to fawn over Dellums’ physique.

Yes, you read that correctly.

dellums-arm.jpgIt seems that back in the day, when Schwarzenegger was serving on the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports from 1990 to 1993 — a political career little more than a glint in the bodybuilder-cum-movie star’s eye — he would go over to Capitol Hill once a year to do a fitness event with members of Congress. Lo and behold, there was a t-shirt-clad Rep. Ron Dellums, D-Oakland, doing arm curls with 55-pound weights and bench-pressing 200 pounds; Schwarzenegger recalled wondering who the white-haired guy was pumping so much iron, discovering only later that Dellums was a longtime fitness buff.

Later in today’s program, when Dellums asked if he would take one more question from the audience, Schwarzenegger replied that he would, “and after this we go to your office and do a few curls.”

Meanwhile, a staffer insists Dellums really did show some spontaneity in asking Schwarzenegger to extend last August’s deployment of California Highway Patrol officers to quell Oakland’s street crime.

It seemed as if Dellums had caught the governor flat-footed; he made the request while introducing the governor today, before handing him the microphone. “I hate to do it in public, but…”

“Very nice move, mayor,” Schwarzenegger replied as local officials tittered. “Let me look at it this afternoon and I will have an answer for you tomorrow.”

The answer came only about 40 minutes later; as the program was winding up, Schwarzenegger said an aide had informed him the deployment could and would be extended.

The consensus among several reporters was that:
(1.) It’s not Dellums’ style to try to embarass/coerce a governor publicly, and;
(2.) The answer came awfully quick, so;
(3.) They must’ve planned it this way.

Listen for yourself, see what you think.

The governor’s office this afternoon couldn’t immediately confirm whether Dellums’ question was the first time Oakland had broached the topic with the state, or if there’d been some other, lower-level contact and cooperation on this earlier.

But Dellums spokesman Paul Rose told my colleague Kelly Rayburn a few minutes ago that it truly was all spur-of-the-moment, based on the mayor’s meeting last week with Police Chief Wayne Tucker.

“What happened was last week the chief met with the mayor and said this program is coming to an end and, basically, that the mayor should ask the governor to extend it,” Rose said. “The mayor said, `The governor will be in town Monday and I’ll ask him then.’ And that’s what happened today.”

The CHP program in Oakland began in August after a string of homicides, including the shooting death of Oakland Post editor Chauncey Bailey. Since Feb. 21, CHP officers working in Oakland have made 2,000 traffic stops, issued 1,800 citations and detained 98 people on suspicion of driving under the influence, according to statistics from Dellums’ office.

UPDATE @ 4:25 P.M. MONDAY: Whoops! We have a contradiction.

“No, that was not the first time someone had inquired about it,” Camille Anderson of the governor’s press office told me just now, speaking about the CHP deployment but refusing to say when or by whom the previous query had been made. “It had been inquired about before.”

UPDATE @ 5:15 P.M. MONDAY: Aaron McLear, Schwarzenegger’s press secretary, just called to clear the air.

“Every 90 days we’ve extended this thing… and ongoing ever since this program started with Oakland and CHP, they’ve had regular meetings” — a constant dialogue on how well it’s going, McLear said. “There had never been a request until today for this latest extension, but there have been extensions in the past… We probably were not taken by surprise because there is this dialogue between us, between our guys and Oakland’s police chief.”

Posted on Monday, June 2nd, 2008
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, General, Oakland, Ron Dellums | No Comments »

Political Haiku, Vol. 2

Perata can’t pick
between successors, backs both.
Vote Lonma Chancock!

DNC decides
to seat delegates in half.
Clinton’s goose is cooked.

Still McNerney waits,
his superdelegate vote
so soon safely moot.

Schwarzenegger comes
to Oakland to flog budget.
Dellums begs for cops.

Posted on Monday, June 2nd, 2008
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, California State Senate, Don Perata, Elections, haiku, Hillary Clinton, Jerry McNerney, Loni Hancock, Oakland, Ron Dellums, Wilma Chan | No Comments »

Perata, Lee peeved by immigration enforcement

Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents were on the move in the East Bay earlier today. From our story:

OAKLAND — Ongoing enforcement tactics by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel caused panic to erupt at several East Bay school districts Tuesday, although ICE officials said that many of the rumors that swirled among parents and school staff were false or overblown.

“This whole experience is so terrifying that it really brought out the greatest fear in everybody,” said Mark Coplan, a spokesman for the Berkeley Unified School District, where the schools superintendent issued a recorded phone message to parents Tuesday promising that he “will not allow any child to be taken away from the school.”

Some of the rumors — for example, that Berkeley middle school students were being carted off in vans — turned out to be false. But others — for example, that ICE agents were conducting surveillance near an East Oakland elementary school — were true and prompted Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums and others to rally outside the school in protest.

“We were not at a school,” ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said. “We were at residences. There may be a situation where a residence is near to a school.”

Local elected officials are seriously peeved.

“I find today’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement presence at our schools reprehensible. The Bush Administration espouses the virtues of No Child Left Behind and yet they provide no funding. If the President wants to help our nation’s children he should send funding — not federal agents to our schools,” said state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland. “It is clear that ICE raids jeopardize the stability of our communities and families. There should be an immediate freeze on ICE raids directed at school children while legislation aiming to fix immigration is considered.”

And Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, said she’s “deeply troubled and concerned about the tactics employed by ICE. Conducting an operation of this nature in Oakland is a direct violation of the spirit of the city’s sanctuary resolution.”

“Although ICE officials assured my district office that they did not physically enter public school property, the presence of the ICE van near or parked in front of the Esperanza Academy and Fred T. Korematsu Discovery Academy is of grave concern to me,” Lee said. “In an effort to address the controversial tactics that have been used by ICE, my district office has been in contact with them to convey my concerns. I will be working with my colleagues to oppose the use of this troubling approach, and I am personally committed to reviewing any ICE policies that may create a culture of fear and intimidation, especially near a school or place of worship.

“To conduct such an operation near or around a public school campus is a violation of the sanctity of the education process, and is intentionally meant to intimidate those who live in the community,” Lee continued. “I do not support these intimidation policies and I am planning a district outreach event in the future to hear directly from my constituents about their experiences with agency officials.”

Posted on Tuesday, May 6th, 2008
Under: Barbara Lee, Berkeley, California State Senate, Don Perata, Immigration, Oakland, Ron Dellums, U.S. House | No Comments »

Events Wednesday, Saturday on budget crisis

Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Oakland, will host a regional town hall on California’s budget crisis from 10 a.m. to noon this Saturday, May 3 at Alameda’s Encinal High School, 210 Central Ave.

Assembly Budget Committee Chairman John Laird, D-Santa Cruz, will make a presentation on the budget, while assemblywomen Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, and Mary Hayashi, D-Castro Valley, also will take part.

Swanson says there’s “an incredible outcry” against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s plan to cut all government services by 10 percent across the board, as this would cripple schools, social services and other vital public functions. “In these incredibly difficult budget times, and with so many vital services at stake, it is important that we have a conversation about what our priorities in this state really are. That discussion has to begin in our communities.”

So this Saturday’s meeting will include discussions of the education and health care budget-cut proposals, as well as other areas; Swanson said attendees — of which he expects hundreds — will direct the conversation in a question-and-answer session with elected officials present. He said he wants people to leave “informed and energized.”

“We will provide specific and effective ways for individuals to make their priorities heard in Sacramento,” he said. “At the end of the day, that is what is going to sway the conversation. It will take ordinary people standing up and telling their elected officials, including the Governor, that they will not accept a budget balanced on the backs of our children and our most vulnerable.”

Indeed, expect more and more meetings and events such as this as spring warms toward summer, as lawmakers have said all along that this year’s budget battle will be won or lost based on the public’s outcry.

In fact, elected officials are joining the Oakland school officials, teachers, students, parents, businesspeople and community leaders for a demonstration against education budget cuts at 4 p.m. tomorrow, Wednesday, April 30, in Oakland’s school administration building, 1025 Second Ave. They say they’ll offer “specific proposals for addressing California’s budget crisis without gutting the state’s education system and invite Maria Shriver, a longtime advocate of children’s rights and educational issues, to come to Oakland and discuss alternatives to cuts in school funding.” (Hmm, good luck with that one.)

Perhaps most importantly, attendees at tomorrow’s event will visit “action stations” to contact residents of Republican-held legislative districts, asking those voters to pressure their lawmakers to oppose school funding cuts and find alternative revenue to help close the budget deficit. So this won’t just be a rally for the cameras; they’ll be taking the battle right to the ballot boxes, turning up the heat on GOP lawmakers to back off their adamant “no tax hikes” pledge.

Those expected to attend include Swanson; Hancock; Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums; Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland; Alameda County Office of Education Superitendent Sheila Jordan; and representatives from the Oakland Board of Education; the Oakland Education Association; the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; United Administrators of Oakland Schools; Oakland Community Organizations (OCO); Oakland Parents Together and other community organizations.

Posted on Tuesday, April 29th, 2008
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Assembly, Barbara Lee, California State Senate, Don Perata, John Laird, Loni Hancock, Mary Hayashi, Ron Dellums, Sandre Swanson | No Comments »

Edwards fans should flock to Clinton, Dellums says

Supporters of John Edwards seeking a new candidate following his withdrawal from the presidential race today should look to Hillary Clinton “based on substance and merit,” Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums said this morning.

Dellums, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Fullerton Mayor Sharon Quirk spent Thursday barnstorming Oakland, Sacramento and Los Angeles on Clinton’s behalf. They started the day at Merritt College, where they were briefed on a green jobs training program before addressing the press.

dellums.jpgDellums said he was impressed in 2004 by Edwards’ “courageous” and “articulate” focus on narrowing the divide between America’s haves and have-nots, “and it is my view that Senator Clinton has done exactly the same thing.” By embracing the ideas and recognizing the needs of America’s mayors, as well as by deeming “untenable, unconscionable and un-American” the continued racial disparities in education, ecomomic opportunity and other areas, Clinton has distinguished herself “based on merit, based on substance, based on clear ideas,” he said.

“Too much of this campaign has been about issues that are not issues,” he said.

Newsom said the mayors chose to highlight the green jobs training program Monday because it’s working to better working families’ lives, protect the environment and conserve energy, and “that’s the spirit of the Clinton campaign… She understands the importance of taking these ideals and working together to make progress.”

Dellums chimed in that “jobs are the byproduct of a society’s commitment to solve other problems,” be it environmental protection and energy conservation, or crumbling infrastructure, or inadequate health care, or affordable housing. “And guess what: You can’t export these jobs. They all have to be done in the United States.”

Clinton in October named Dellums chairman of her campaign’s urban policy committee.

Villaraigosa was asked why Latinos should support Clinton when only Obama has expressed support for granting driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. He replied that Clinton “has a strong record in support of immigration reform” which would include a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, but that Latinos “don’t define ourselves by just one issue… We make decisions based on the totality of issues and experiences.”

Posted on Wednesday, January 30th, 2008
Under: Barack Obama, Elections, Gavin Newsom, General, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Oakland, Ron Dellums | 20 Comments »

Oakland, SF mayors hit the road for Hillary

Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will barnstorm three cities tomorrow, Wednesday, Jan. 30, to hold press events promoting Hillary Clinton’s economic stimulus package. They’re bound for Oakland’s Merritt College in the morning, Sacramento’s Quinn Cottages at midday and Clinton’s East Los Angeles campaign headquarters in the late afternoon, talking on themes including the foreclosure crisis and the needs of working families.

Posted on Tuesday, January 29th, 2008
Under: Elections, Gavin Newsom, Hillary Clinton, Oakland, Ron Dellums, Sacramento | No Comments »

They’re doing it all for you.

Some of your local electeds are holding free public events tomorrow and Saturday to help you out with one thing or another:

  • In observance of January being National Glaucoma Awareness Month, Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, D-Hayward, and ophthalmologists from the California Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons will host a Free Vision Screening Clinic for Seniors on Friday, Jan, 11th from 10 a.m. – to noon in the Marina Community Center, at 15301 Wicks Blvd. in San Leandro. Reservations are required, and can be made by calling Hayashi’s district office at 510-583-8818.
  • Assembly Natural Resources Committee Chairwoman Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, in collaboration with the Alameda County Green Business Program, will host an informational session about the process for becoming a Certified Green Business in Alameda County from noon to 1:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 11 on the third floor of the Student Center at Laney College, 900 Fallon St. in Oakland. Businesses will have an opportunity to learn about the required steps for certification, hear from businesses that have already been through the process and learn about funding opportunities available to assist with the “greening” process.
  • Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, and a slew of other local and state officials will co-host a consumer mortgage town hall and resource fair from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 12 on the third floor of Oakland City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza, to provide information and support services to residents having trouble with their mortgage payments. The State and Consumer Services Agency, the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency, the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development, the City of Oakland and the Economic Development Agency-Housing and Community Development will be there to help. For more information or to pre-register, call 510-444-2489.
  • Posted on Thursday, January 10th, 2008
    Under: Assembly, Barbara Lee, General, Loni Hancock, Mary Hayashi, Oakland, Ron Dellums | No Comments »