Bay Area lawmakers react to Brown’s budget

The rhetoric is flying hot and heavy in the hours since Gov. Jerry Brown issued his May budget revision. We’ve got an overall look at the situation in our main story, but here’s what some of your Bay Area lawmakers are saying…

From Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont:

“As we work through this shortfall, we should do all we can to protect education and access to our colleges and universities. I appreciate the Governor’s continuing commitment to demand more accountability from for-profit higher education institutions who are saddling our students with large amounts of loan debts. We can no longer accept such high levels of student loan defaults. By making more of these colleges ineligible for Cal grant funds, our students will be more likely to attend better institutions where their chances of success will be higher.”

From Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park:

“The Governor’s May Revise reveals the tough decisions that lie ahead. I agree with the Governor that it has taken years to create the fiscal calamity that we face, and it will take years to make the structural reforms to get out of it. However, with a now $16 billion budget deficit for this year, it is near impossible to balance the budget without cuts to services we value.

“This new budget prompts the question of how much government Californians’ truly want. We cannot provide services without adequate funding. At the moment, we are severely underfunded.

“As we continue to enter budget negotiations and talks, I hope the Governor and both parties will have honest conversations of how to balance the budget without compromising our safety net, public safety, or public education system.

“It is essential that we refrain from gimmicks and tactics of kicking the can down the road. This is a problem that we face now, and in turn, we must solve this immediate deficit now. As a member of the Assembly Budget Committee, I look forward to delving into the details of this revise in order to produce a balanced, on-time budget.”

From Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco:

“The challenging cuts that Governor Brown announced today in his revised budget proposal are temporary solutions until we are able to pass responsible tax measures this November. No one is happy about $8 billion in cuts but I applaud the Governor for understanding that cuts alone will not solve our budget crisis and that California will not be able to recover economically unless we have a balanced approach to the budget deficit.

“I strongly support the proposed November tax measures and I am committed to other common sense revenue ideas like closing the corporate loopholes in Proposition 13, taxing and legalizing marijuana and enacting an oil severance tax, all of which combined would bring in more than $2 billion in new revenue annually to the state. Only by creating new revenue will we restore California’s economic health and put people back to work.”

From Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda:

“Today’s May Revise makes it clear that it is more important than ever that we move forward with Governor Brown’s tax initiative proposal. California must honestly address our structural budget deficit and thoughtfully cultivate new revenue sources. We need more revenue to responsibly fund education and protect the safety net for our most vulnerable populations. The moral and social cost of more unproductive cuts and no new revenue will be felt well past the life of this budget.”


Sandre Swanson drops 2012 state Senate bid

Assemblyman Sandre Swanson has abandoned his challenge to fellow Democrat state Sen. Loni Hancock.

“I finally concluded that, setting all misunderstandings aside, that it’s the best interests of our community not to have a major Democrat-on-Democrat campaign when we’re trying to win a two-thirds majority in the Senate,” Swanson, D-Alameda, said a few minutes ago. “It’s much better for our meager resources to be used in trying to get a two-thirds majority.”

Swanson said this past weekend’s pre-endorsement conference, in which local Democrats overwhelmingly chose Hancock, D-Berkeley, over him, “really didn’t” affect his decision; incumbents who represent the party’s values almost always win such votes, he said. And he acknowledged, as he has in the past, that he and Hancock agree on most issues.

Swanson, who’ll be term-limited out of the Assembly at this year’s end, had jumped into the race after redistricting confirmed he would be eligible, even though he’d initially said he wouldn’t run against his longtime ally. Senate Democrats quickly rolled out their support for Hancock.

Now he’s endorsing her for 2012, and she – in a news release issued by Senate Democrats late this afternoon – is endorsing him to succeed her in 2016. Read that release in its entirety, after the jump…
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Democratic endorsements, or the lack thereof

There were some interesting Bay Area results from the California Democratic Party’s “pre-endorsing conferences” this past weekend, at which members of the party’s state central committee, county committees and local Democratic clubs got together to vote on who should get the nod for the June 6 primaries.

A candidate would’ve needed 70 percent of the vote at one of these meetings in order to secure a place on the consent calendar at the state Democratic convention, which will be held Feb. 10-12 in San Diego.

In some places, redistricting has pitted former friends and allies against each other; such is the challenge Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda, is mounting against state Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley. State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento had signaled his support of Hancock months ago, and – unsurprisingly – I hear she got 136 votes (86 percent) at the local conference while Swanson got only 21. However, I hear Swanson had enough local labor heavy-hitters behind him to guarantee he’ll have some boots on the ground in the run-up to the vote.

Swanson is term-limited out of what has become the new 18th Assembly District, where Democrats including Rob Bonta, Joel Young, Abel Guillen and Kathy Neal are vying to replace him. Bonta got the most votes but Young trailed just behind, with nobody anywhere close to the 70 percent threshold.

Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, D-Castro Valley, is term-limited out of the new 20th Assembly District, where Hayward City Councilman Bill Quirk got the pre-endorsement nod over fellow Democrats Jennifer Ong, an optometrist from Hayward, and New Haven Unified School District Sarabjit Cheema. (Union City Mark Green ditched his former Democratic affiliation and is running as an independent.)

The only vacant Bay Area House seat is the one created by the impending retirement of Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma. Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, fired off a news release noting he got 69 votes – more than all the other candidates combined – highlighting “the strong grassroots support of my campaign from throughout this entire district.” But his closest competitor, progressive activist Norm Solomon of Inverness, got 41 votes – enough to block any endorsement in this race.

And in the newly drawn 15th Congressional District, Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, was solidly endorsed over an upstart challenge by Dublin City Councilman Eric Swalwell. I hear that a staffer for state Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, cast her vote for Stark rather than for “no endorsement” – a sign that Corbett, who’d at first said she was raising funds to seek this seat in 2014 but later said she was re-assessing the option of jumping in now, perhaps has decided not to go for it this year. Corbett herself couldn’t cast a ballot, because she doesn’t live within the new district’s lines.


Hearing on improving life for boys & men of color

Lawmakers will gather in Oakland this Friday to take testimony on ways to improve the life chances for young men of color through successful education, employment and juvenile justice programs.

Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda, will chair a field hearing of the Assembly Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color from 1 to 4 p.m. Friday in the first-floor auditorium of the Elihu Harris State Office Building, 1515 Clay St. Other committee members include Luis Alejo, D-Salinas; Steven Bradford, D-Gardena; Nathan Fletcher, R-San Diego; Warren Furutani, D-Gardena; Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park; Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield; Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco; Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia; Henry Perea, D-Fresno; Manuel Perez, D-Coachella; and Anthony Portantino, D-La Canada Flintridge.

Among those testifying will be Alameda County Health Care Services Agency Director Alex Briscoe; Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth Executive Director Fania Davis; Alameda County Social Services Agency Director Lori Jones; East Bay Asian Youth Center Executive Director David Kakishiba; Alameda County Chief Probation Officer David Muhammad; and many others.

Research funded by the California Endowment has found African-American and Latino boys and young men are more likely to have poor heath outcomes than white boys and young men, with most of the differences directly related to their neighborhoods.

This will be the second in the committee’s year-long series of field hearings around the state.


Lawmakers support Occupy Oakland’s strike

Local lawmakers support the general strike that Occupy Oakland protesters have called for tomorrow.

“Occupy Oakland’s November 2nd day of action is aimed at bringing attention to the great inequalities that exist in the United States. I join in solidarity with Occupy Oakland to confront the greed of Wall Street and the major banks and demand that the 1 percent pay their fair share,” said Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland. “As the movement grows, we are likely to see more actions aimed at underscoring the inequalities faced by the 99 percent and we should support actions with these aims in mind. I continue to stand with the peaceful protesters in this struggle for economic justice and equality.”

“The decision to call for a general strike was made by the Occupy Oakland protesters,” said a spokeswoman for Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez. “It appears that it was made to amplify the main reason why they and others in cities across America began protesting in the first place, which is to further call attention to the unfairness of the American economy and the difficulties that the middle class faces every day. We will see how the residents and workers of Oakland respond to the call. More than anything, though, we hope that the day remains peaceful.”

Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda, said he supports tomorrow’s demonstrators “100 percent.”

“This is a campaign to save the middle class, and it’s long overdue. I’m encouraging everyone to demonstrate in a nonviolent way,” Swanson said, adding he’s a longtime supporter of civil disobedience tactics. “I think this is about changing the economics of our nation and increasing opportunity for people all over. … This is an opportunity to have a demonstration that will speak well of the way we feel about each other in this country.”

Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, D-Castro Valley, said, “I stand in full support of the peaceful protestors of Occupy Oakland and the Day of Action to achieve economic justice and jobs for the 99%.”

And, from state Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley:

“As a part of the 99%, I support the Occupy Oakland movement and the Occupy Movements across the country. And this week, I will be adding my voice in support of the General Strike that has been called in Oakland.

“The Occupy Movement is a national outcry against the strangling influence of money and corporate influence on our economy, our political system, and on our national soul and reputation. I am grateful to them for rallying Americans from all walks of life to speak up and speak out against the forces that show them such disrespect. I am grateful that they are demanding a return to the American Dream of a strong and stable middle class.

“Every day my office intervenes to help people who are losing their homes and their jobs, or struggling to pay for their children’s education. I hear from frustrated and angry Americans worried about their retirement savings because of Wall Street greed and mismanagement.

“Unfortunately, I also see many of the biggest and most profitable corporations demanding more concessions from government — more tax breaks, giveaways, and special treatment, no matter what the cost is to our society. Every bill I have introduced in the Senate to make our tax system more equitable or take money out of politics has faced their powerful opposition.

“Peaceful civil disobedience is a basic human right and has been used ethically and successfully throughout the world. The violent response to peaceful disobedience last week could have been avoided and should be condemned. Oakland is a dynamic place where diversity is usually encouraged. It is tragic that Oakland is now known as the first and only Occupied City where violence has erupted.

“I urge the City leadership to work with the Occupy Movement – and the Occupy Movement to work with the City – to ensure that effective and peaceful protest can continue. As a person who has lived most of my adult life in the East Bay, raised my family here, and as a State Senator fighting for quality education, a healthy environment and economic equity for all Californians, I am ready to help in any way I can.”

UPDATE @ 2:05 P.M.: “We now live in an America in which income disparity is winnowing away the middle class,” said Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont. “Workers are angry as they struggle to find jobs while the richest among us gain ever more wealth. We have a long history of civic engagement and protest movements in our country. I understand the frustration of the Occupy movement. I hope their peaceful activism will bring about change.”


Labor endorsement goes to Loni Hancock

As a battle for a state Senate seat between like-minded, labor-friendly Democrats takes off in the East Bay, a significant labor organization has cast its lot with the incumbent.

The Contra Costa Building and Construction Trades Council today announced its endorsement of state Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, for re-election in the 9th State Senate District. Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda, who’s term-limited out of the Assembly next year, has indicated he’s likely to challenge her.

“Senator Hancock is committed to putting people to work in the Bay Area and ensuring that these jobs are good union jobs with living wages, health benefits and a pension to retire on with dignity,” council director Greg Feere said. “Her leadership has been vital on important projects like the bay bridge reconstruction and the fourth bore of the Caldecott tunnel. These projects have produced thousands of local jobs and we look forward to continue working with her in the State Senate.”

The council, with 28 affiliated local unions, handles everything from worker safety and permit discussions to union meetings and other issues centered around the trades. Hancock said she appreciates the endorsement: “I have worked side-by-side with them throughout my years of services to keep jobs in the Bay Area and I look forward to our continued work together in the future.”

Hancock’s campaign received a $6,800 contribution in early August from the State Building and Contruction Trades Council of California’s PAC.

Hancock and Swanson have a lot in common policy-wise, and trade unions have been the biggest bloc of campaign contributors to both. They’re facing off under new conditions: The 9th State Senate District used to start with Albany and Berkeley at the north end, sweep down through Oakland and Alameda and then out through Castro Valley to grab Dublin and Livermore. Newly drawn in redistricting, it now starts in Rodeo and includes all the Western Contra Costa County cities as well as Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville, Oakland, Piedmont and San Leandro — a more compact, more urban district.

And next June’s will be California’s first regular primary election using the “top two” system, in which candidates of all parties compete on the same ballot and the top two vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation, advance to the general election. Given the district’s overwhelmingly Democratic registration, it’s easy to imagine two Democrats being the only options on the district’s November 2012 ballot.