Bay Area House members out and about Friday

Bay Area House members have a bunch of events planned for Friday.

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, will take part in a discussion with employers of the benefits of hiring trained ex-convicts at 9 a.m. Friday in the student lounge in Building R of Merritt College, 12500 Campus Dr. in Oakland. Others expected to take part include California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Secretary Jeff Beard; California Prison Industry Authority General Manager Charles Pattillo; Alameda County Supervisor Richard Valle; Alameda County Assistant Sheriff Brett Keteles; and PWC Development President Prophet Walker, himself a former offender.

Mark DeSaulnierReps. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord; Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; and John Sarbanes, D-Md., will take part in a roundtable discussion on the problem of big money in politics, at 11 a.m. Friday in Blum Hall B100 at UC-Berkeley. The event, hosted by the California Public Interest Research Group, will address local and federal efforts to curb big money’s influence by amplifying small donors’ voices, as well as the recent push for President Obama to issue an executive order requiring government contractors to disclose their political spending. State Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, the Sierra Club’s Bay Area chapter, the Berkeley Forum and others also will take part.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, will hold a forum to update the community about President Obama’s executive actions on immigration at 4 p.m. Friday at the School of Arts and Culture in Mexican Heritage Plaza, 1700 Alum Rock Ave. in San Jose. The event also offers eligibility workshops to prepare families to apply for relief from deportation pending availability of applications this year. Lofgren, Lofgren, the Immigration and Border Security subcommittee’s ranking Democrat, will be joined by Rep. Luiz Gutiérrez, D-Ill.; Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose; San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo; Santa Clara County supervisors Dave Cortese and Cindy Chavez; and Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen.


Campos’ office in disarray; chief of staff blamed

Assemblywoman Nora Campos’ office has continued to see tremendous staff turnover in recent years, and several former staffers say it’s due to a hostile work environment created by her chief of staff.

Nora CamposRecords obtained from the Assembly Rules Committee show that since Campos, D-San Jose, took office at the end of 2010, 46 staffers have started work for her.

About two dozen have left since Chief of Staff Sailaja Rajappan joined the office in November 2012. Former staffers say Rajappan was unduly antagonistic, dressing down aides in front of their peers for failing to meet her often-shifting demands and standards.

“It was stifling and humorless, people always looking over their shoulder, a culture fostered by the chief of staff who actively sowed dissention and division between her own staffers,” said Steven Harmon, a former reporter for this newspaper who served as Campos’ press aide from June 2013 through his firing by Rajappan last month. Harmon said he was given no specific reason for his firing.

“People leave generally to escape the punishing atmosphere, a culture of fear and oppressive management,” he said.

Rajappan said she and Campos would not answer questions by phone or email this week, and unless this story was delayed to accommodate a face-to-face interview with Campos next week, “we don’t have a comment on this situation.”

It’s not the first time Campos’ office has seemed to be in disarray; allegations about her being tough on staff date back to her days on San Jose City Council.

But these new claims come as Campos finds herself somewhat marginalized in the Assembly. Formerly the speaker pro tem – appointed by the speaker to preside over floor sessions – Campos found herself without any leadership post or committee chair as Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, reorganized in November. Atkins late last month named Campos as “assistant Democratic leader – external relations,” a title that didn’t exist previously.

And the turnover has consequences for the 27th Assembly District’s constituents, particular when it comes to the skeleton-crewed district office. Each assembly district has approximately 466,000 constituents; Campos’ district office as of last month had two employees, while other Bay Area assembly members have from four to seven district staffers each.

Campos’ Capitol and district staff combined now numbers six or seven.

Three other staffers who left Campos’ office of their own accord in the past two years spoke on condition of anonymity, lest their comments hurt their Capitol or other public-policy careers. One described the office’s atmosphere as “pretty toxic.”

Lots more, after the jump…
Continue Reading


San Jose’s Ash Kalra to launch Assembly bid

It’s never too early to start that 2016 campaign, folks.

Perhaps taking a page from California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who already is pumping out endorsements of her 2016 campaign to succeed U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, San Jose City Councilman Ash Kalra this Saturday will launch his Democratic campaign to succeed Assemblywoman Nora Campos as she’s term-limited out of her 27th District seat in 2016.

Ash KalraIf elected, Kalra, 43, would be the first Indian-American ever to serve in the California Legislature.

Kalra says he’ll be joined for the rollout – set for 2 p.m. Saturday at the Friendship Hall on East Santa Clara Street in San Jose – by California State Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, California Board of Equalization Member Fiona Ma, state Sen. Jim Beall, Assemblyman Kansen Chu, Santa Clara County Supervisors Dave Cortese and Cindy Chavez, San Jose Councilmembers Raul Peralez and Donald Rocha, and more than 200 community members.

The 27th Assembly District encompasses much of San Jose, from downtown to the East Side, Evergreen, Silver Creek, Little Saigon, Alum Rock, Edenvale, Seven Trees, Communication Hill, Japantown, and the Monterey Corridor.

Kalra, first elected to the city council in 2002, represents District 2, the city’s southern region. He’s a professor at Lincoln Law School of San José, and earlier was an instructor at San José State University. Before his election, he worked for 11 years as an attorney for the Santa Clara County Public Defender’s Office representing indigent clients in Drug Treatment Court.


No leadership post or committee chair for Campos

Notably missing from the lists of Assembly leadership and committee-chair assignments sent out in recent weeks was Assemblywoman Nora Campos.

Campos wields the gavel in January 2013Campos, D-San Jose, who has just been sworn in for her third term, had served from August 2012 through this month as the Assembly’s speaker pro tempore, a leadership position in which she presided over floor sessions on the speaker’s behalf.

But when new Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, rolled out her leadership team Nov. 25, she named Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, as speaker pro tempore and freshman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, as assistant speaker pro tempore. And when Atkins named committee chairs Dec. 3, Campos’ name wasn’t on that list, either.

Campos’ tenure hasn’t been without blemishes. San Jose Inside reported earlier this year that she has developed a reputation as being abusive toward her staff, which allegedly has made it hard for her to recruit and retain aides.

Atkins’ office declined to comment Monday. But an Assembly staffer familiar with the situation said the decision had nothing to do with Campos’ office, which apparently has stabilized significantly this year.

“It’s more about what the Speaker wanted, and I think there were some members that were not that happy with her (Campos) presiding – they didn’t think she was the best spokesperson for the Assembly,” the staffer said, adding that once the decision had been made to replace Campos with Mullin, “there really wasn’t anyplace else to put her.”

Campos most likely will get some new, better committee assignments so that she can pursue some issues in which she has shown special interest, the staffer added.

Campos spokesman Steve Harmon said she’s happy with her lot.

“To her, it’s never been about being the face of the Assembly or a big-shot title. It has always been about her doing work. And, although it was an honor, she was far less concerned with titles and focused on the work and the legacy she leaves behind,” Harmon said Monday. “She enjoyed serving as Speaker pro Tem, but wanted to move forward to meet new challenges. She’s taken up an important role on the Assembly Rules committee, and is now using the freedom and flexibility of building relationships with her colleagues to champion issues that are important to her.”


Campos aims to curb police militarization, drones

Local police forces’ militarization would be curtailed on the ground and in the air, under bills introduced Monday by a South Bay lawmaker.

Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose, introduced a bill that would forbid local law enforcement agencies from buying surplus military equipment without public input and approval from their local elected governing body, like a city council or a county board of supervisors.

Nora Campos“My bill is intended to help California communities and local law enforcement find the balance that is right for them. We are not a military state and our neighborhood streets shouldn’t be turned into warzones,” Campos said in a news release.

“Excessively militarizing the police isn’t necessarily in the best interest of a community,” she continued. “It does nothing to improve community relations when routine police actions, including crowd control, center on heavy military weaponry. Obviously, there are situations that require a strong law enforcement response and I will always support efforts to keep our law enforcement officers safe.”

Campos introduced another bill Monday that would require warrants for human surveillance collected by airborne drones; destruction of drone-collected data within one year; and limits on sharing that data.

“We must ensure that information collected by drones is not used against law-abiding people, and that people’s civil rights remain intact,” Campos said. “This is a common sense bill that stands on our tradition of fair treatment and justice under the law.”

The bill provides exceptions. For example, law enforcement agencies wouldn’t have to get a warrant before using a drone in response to exigent circumstances, traffic accidents, fires, environmental disasters, and searching for illegal vegetation in wilderness areas.

Gov. Jerry Brown in September vetoed another bill on this subject, AB 1327 by Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo, Campos noted, but “drones are here to stay and my bill will be a vehicle for finding the right balance. I look forward to working with all the interested parties.”


Brown signs Campos’ three domestic-violence bills

Three bills authored by a South Bay assemblywoman to protect domestic-violence victims were signed into law Monday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Nora CamposAB 157 will make false impersonation via social media like Facebook and Twitter a trigger for restraining orders. Abusers have been known to take over their victims’ online identities to humiliate and harass their victims all over again, often isolating victims and and damaging their relationships with friends and families.

AB 161 lets courts include in restraining orders a prohibition on domestic violence abusers dropping spouses from their joint health, auto, life and disability insurance policies – something abusers often use as an intimidation tactic.

And AB 176 provides domestic violence victims the highest level of protection possible by ensuring that police enforce no-contact restraining orders even if other orders have been issued more recently.

The Assembly and state Senate both passed all three bills unanimously.

“As much as we’ve done to help women escape the horror of domestic violence, much work needs to be done,” Assemblywoman Nora Campos, the bills’ author, said in her news release. “Too many women continue to get beaten by their partners, and they suffer even further pain when their abuser exploits social media to target their victims or cancels joint insurance policies.”

“These bills will add protections to women who face abuse in their homes and hopefully begin to turn the tide around on domestic violence,” said Campos, D-San Jose.