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Local businesses honored by Assembly members

Chicken and waffles with a good book, food for body (and soul) and mind – these are a few of my favorite things. And local Assembly members singled out purveyors of these delights as businesses from each district around the state were honored this week by the California Small Business Association in Sacramento.

Assemblyman Sandré Swanson, D-Alameda, picked Derrick Johnson of the Home of Chicken and Waffles in Oakland’s Jack London Square as his district’s honoree, praising Johnson’s practice of hiring and training local workers including many at-risk youth.

Although originally from Oakland, Johnson’s father and uncles opened a small chain of Los Angeles restaurants called Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles. In the late 1990s, his cousins invited Johnson – then living in Florida – to invest in the first Roscoe’s restaurant in Oakland; that investment eventually turned into ownership, with Johnson eventually moving, renaming and reopening the Jack London Square eatery.

“As a small businessman, Derrick Johnson has created an enterprise that is not simply a financial success, but a community achievement as well,” Swanson said. “By hiring local residents, particularly those who often have difficulty finding work, Home of Chicken and Waffles contributes to our economy while creating a better quality of life for many people. I was very pleased to nominate such a deserving business.”

Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, honored Michael Barnard, owner of Rakestraw Books, as the 15th District’s winner. Rakestraw hosts a regular program of author appearances and events with local Schools, and has created community partnership events with other local businesses and non-profits; Barnard has served on the Danville Area Chamber of Commerce board and is now president of the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association.

“Through his hard work, Rakestraw Books – ‘The Bookstore in Danville’ – continues to be a community institution,” Buchanan said. “Small businesses make significant contributions to the California economy. They are the heart and soul of our communities, and Rakestraw books is just that,” Buchanan said.

More local Bay Area honorees, after the jump…
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Posted on Wednesday, May 27th, 2009
Under: Alberto Torrico, Assembly, General, Jerry Hill, Joan Buchanan, Sandre Swanson | 2 Comments »

Assembly adjourns in honor of Mother Wright

Assemblyman Sandré Swanson, D-Alameda, asked that the California State Assembly adjourn today in the memory of Oakland’s Mary Ann Wright, known to most as Mother Wright. Said Swanson:

“It is with a heavy heart that I adjourn in memory of Mary Ann Wright, known as Mother Wright. For nearly 30 years, whether distributing food at a shelter, or beneath an overpass, Mother Wright always delivered it ‘with dignity,’ sometimes spreading out a table cloth, or simply wrapping the forks in napkins. Through these small acts of consideration, Mother Wright always acknowledged and respected the fundamental humanity that she shared with those she helped.

“Throughout her work, Mother Wright has been recognized locally and nationally. In 2005, she was inducted into the Hall of Fame for Caring Americans in Washington, DC. She came into contact with famous individuals, and was invited to numerous presidential inaugurations. And yet, she always remained modest, focusing on all of the work that still lay ahead of her.

“Her passing is a difficult loss for our community and indeed our entire nation. However, her work and her example ensures that she will continue to live on, both through those she has helped, and through those she has inspired to the same noble calling.”

Posted on Monday, May 11th, 2009
Under: Assembly, Oakland, Sandre Swanson | No Comments »

Local Assembly members react to GOP shakeup

So Mike Villines, R-Clovis, has stepped down as Assembly Republican Leader, making way for Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo. How do the Bay Area’s Assembly members feel about that?

“I have the utmost respect for Mike Villines and think he did a tremendous job in some difficult times,” Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico, D-Newark, told me this morning, noting even tougher times are ahead.

“We are headed into some very difficult economic times here in Sacramento over the next few months, no matter what happens with the initiatives,” he said, facing one of the worst cash crises in California history, even worse than the one we narrowly escaped a few months ago.

Blakeslee, he said, is “a great choice because he’s a problem-solver and he understands, as many of us do, that the solutions aren’t Democratic or Republican, the decisions have to be tough choices that move California forward, that are largely bipartisan or nonpartisan. I think Mr. Blakeslee brings that to the job.”

Torrico said he has watched Blakeslee’s work as the Assembly Republican Floor Manager and credits his “demeanor and thoughtfulness in running a very smooth operation over the last year and a half.”

Conservatives had blasted Villines for agreeing to $12 billion in new taxes as part of the budget deal legislative leaders hammered out in February, but Torrico insists he believes Villines stepped down voluntarily “because he didn’t want to be a distraction for this initiative vote;” to spend more time with his family; and to give Blakeslee a head-start on leadership before budget negotiations start in earnest later this month.

More (or less) from the Bay Area Assembly delegation, after the jump…
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Posted on Friday, May 8th, 2009
Under: Alberto Torrico, Assembly, Mike Villines, Nancy Skinner, Republican Party, Republican politics, Sam Blakeslee, Sandre Swanson | 4 Comments »

Assembly adjourns in honor of slain Oakland cops

At the request of several members, the California State Assembly today adjourned in memory of the four police officers slain in Oakland over the weekend.

From Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley:

“I am shocked and saddened by the horrific deaths of four Oakland police officers. My deepest condolences go out to the families of the officers and the Oakland Police Department. I will remember their service and sacrifice. I also want to express my support and gratitude for all of the law enforcement officials who protect our communities on a daily basis.”

From Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, D-Castro Valley:

“While we are aware of the risks that our officers go through, we never imagine a loss of this magnitude, and it does not make grieving any easier.

“This violent tragedy that began with a routine traffic stop reminds us how real these risks are, and how much courage is shown by all those who serve in law enforcement.

“This is a terrible loss for so many, not just for the community of Oakland, but for all of us across this state.”

UPDATE @ 7:07 P.M.: From Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda:

“This was one of the most horrific acts in Oakland’s history. These officers made an historic sacrifice, and I have deep appreciation for how neighbors responded to the shooting and led police to the perpetrator. I also believe it is necessary for the entire community to come together to support these officers’ families, as well as the men and women of the police department who continue to put their lives on the line every day for the safety of our community.”


“Such a shocking tragedy is a wake-up call to the terrible shortcomings of our criminal justice system. Not only did it utterly fail to rehabilitate this individual, it also released him back into our community without sufficient oversight to keep us safe and keep him from returning to a life of crime. We need to acknowledge these failings, and reform our system so that it truly protects the public and ensures that those who serve their time are rehabilitated and do not re-offend.”

“Most importantly, the State Legislature needs to revisit its regulations and supervision of the sale of assault weapons. These guns have a deadly purpose that far exceeds any recreational use. In the hands of criminals, they expose our police officers to unacceptable risk and further endanger our community.”

Posted on Monday, March 23rd, 2009
Under: Assembly, Mary Hayashi, Nancy Skinner, Oakland, Sandre Swanson | No Comments »

A few upcoming political events

Thursday, Feb. 19 – Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Oakland, and Oakland City Council President Jane Brunner will host a “Progressive Economic Roundtable Discussion” from 7 to 9 p.m. tonight in the City Council Chambers at Oakland City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza. Among those scheduled to talk about the economic crisis’ effects on Oakland residents as well as local job-creation and economic-growth strategies are Victor Rubin of PolicyLink; Professor Steven Raphael of the University of California, Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy; Shirley Burnell of ACORN; and Alameda County Central Labor Council Executive Secretary-Treasurer Sharon Cornu.

Sunday, Feb. 22 – Fresh from a fracas at his speaking engagement last month at St. Mary’s College in Moraga, education professor ’60s radical Bill Ayers – joined this time by his wife, fellow former radical Bernardine Dohrn – will speak on “Building a Movement for Peace in Our Time” at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 22 in the King Middle School auditorium, 1781 Rose St. in Berkeley. They’re also plugging their new book, “Race Course: Against White Supremacy” and the re-issue of Ayers’ memoir “Fugitive Days: Memoirs of an Anti-War Activist.” The event is a benefit for the Berkeley-based Middle East Children’s Alliance; tickets cost $15 for general admission, $10 for students, and are available online.

Tuesday, Feb. 24 – Conservative activist and author Phyllis Schlafly will speak about “radical feminism’s effect on America” and other issues at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 24 in 110 Barrows Hall at the University of California, Berkeley, sponsored by the Berkeley College Republicans and the Young America’s Foundation. The Berkeley College Republicans’ news release say her visit “is particularly relevant given the scrutiny and support that both Governor Sarah Palin and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton received during last year’s presidential election, the current state of American culture, particularly in regards to women, women’s values, and family values, and the urgent nature of the problems affecting our country today.”

Wednesday, Feb. 25David Sanger, the New York Times’ chief Washington correspondent and author of the recent book, “The Inheritance,” will speak on the complex and perhaps unprecedented national security challenges faced by President Barack Obama at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 25, in the Commonwealth Club of California’s offices on the second floor of 595 Market St. in San Francisco. A wine-and-cheese reception begins at 5:30 p.m. Tickets cost $12 for members, $18 for non-members and $7 for students with valid ID, and are available online.

Posted on Thursday, February 19th, 2009
Under: Barack Obama, Jane Brunner, Oakland, Political events, Sandre Swanson | No Comments »

Assembly chairs move to shore up EDD

The chairs of several Assembly committees said today they’re providing $2 million in new aid – freed up by a 10 percent cut in the Assembly’s operating budget – to California’s beleaguered Employment Development Department, which is being swamped by an average of two million calls per day during peak times.

“These tough economic times require shared sacrifice,” said Assembly Labor and Employment Committee chairman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda. “We are committed to doing all we can to help Californians in need.”

“Our job is to help people maintain in between their employment, become gainfully employed and contribute to the economy by being consumers and then supporting business and the growth of the economy.”

With California’s unemployment rate at 9.3 percent — and apparently climbing — EDD will use the money to conduct unemployment-insurance seminars in major rural and urban areas; provide personal computers to One-Stop partners; buy remote-access equipment; and support a public information campaign with new outreach technologies.

“When people are out of work in these trying economic times, we need to be responsible by funding programs that create jobs and help Californians find jobs,” said Assembly Insurance Committee chairman Joe Coto, D-San Jose, whose panel oversees unemployment compensation. “This new funding will be critical in getting people the benefits they earned.”

Meanwhile, the state’s coffers continue to ring hollow. More on that, after the jump…
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Posted on Tuesday, February 10th, 2009
Under: Assembly, Joe Coto, John Chiang, Sandre Swanson, state budget | No Comments »

Does Schwarzenegger’s veto rationale hold up?

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is holding a news conference in Fresno right now “to highlight the economic ramifications of the legislature’s failure to pass a real budget solution that would create jobs and provide mortgage relief.” Yesterday, he vowed to veto bills sent to him by the Legislature which would’ve narrowed the state’s staggering budget gap by about 18 billion.

“By exploiting a legal loophole over the definition of taxes vs. fees, Democrats had hoped to sidestep the state’s two-thirds majority hurdle for raising taxes,” my colleague Mike Zapler put it in his article today. “But the part of the package that offended the governor most did not involve the end-run on taxes; instead, Schwarzenegger said the proposal did not go far enough to trim spending and stimulate the economy.”

The governor yesterday accused the Legislature of “playing games.” Hmmm.

“I think the governor is sort of disrespecting the difficulty that both the Senate Pro Tem and the Speaker have had within their caucuses holding together a coalition of agreement over some very difficult choices,” Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda, told me this morning.

Like many Democrats, he said, he wasn’t entirely comfortable with provisions to expedite California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) reviews to speed up infrastructure construction projects, or with the $2.5 billion in education cuts (though it’s better than the Republicans “draconian $10 billion cut,” he noted).

So this plan “was extremely difficult to put together,” Swanson said, and the governor has some nerve trying to “push this package further to his liking and still have confidence that leadership can still hold its caucuses together without the governor bringing any votes to the table.”

And this wasn’t meant to be a complete fix, Swanson noted – only a stop-gap measure to keep the state’s cash flow moving, with negotiations to continue over the remaining $28 billion gap. If Schwarzenegger vetoes this, he said, the governor will just have to come back not only with a timely counterproposal, but also with a larger package that addresses the whole problem plus three Republican Assembly votes and two Republican state Senate votes.

“He’s playing Russian roulette with the lives of so many working people in the state of California and California’s economy itself,” Swanson warned. “I really think this is a legacy moment from the governor.”

Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, noted in a statement the bills sent to the governor “did $3 billion worth of bond acceleration to get job-creating infrastructure projects moving for transportation, drought relief, park restoration and green technologies;” Swanson had noted to me that every billion in infrastructure spending creates an estimated 18,000 jobs.

But California’s Pooled Money Investment Board has just pulled the plug on 2,000 transportation projects in the state because of the state’s cash crisis, which can’t be solved without a balanced budget in place.

“California’s Treasurer warned today that there would be further dire consequences from Wall Street if Governor Schwarzenegger threw away the solutions passed by the legislature. I am surprised that warning alone didn’t give the governor pause enough to thoughtfully consider bills that haven’t even reached his desk yet,” Bass said. “The governor’s haste is a waste of $18 billion in solutions that could have helped with our cash crisis and our budget deficit. The governor claims he wants to negotiate but then says things must be exactly as he wants. That is astonishing given the crisis we face. We are now waiting anxiously to see what the next step will be from a governor who has consistently been unable to produce even a single vote for a single budget solution.”

And state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said Democrats acted responsibly when nobody else has been willing to do so, and while “it would be easy to fire back at the Governor for his insults,” he remains “damn proud of what the Legislature did today.”

The California Employment Development Department this morning announced that the state’s unemployment rate rose to 8.4 percent in November, up from 8.2 percent in October and well above November’s national rate of 6.7 percent. Schwarzenegger quickly issued a statement saying this “reinforces the need for the state legislature to pass a real budget solution that includes aggressive economic stimulus — because we must do everything in our power to help Californians affected by the economic downturn get back to work. I’ve said countless times that any budget plan sent to my desk must include real stimulus that creates jobs, keeps Californians in their homes and provides strong, long-term recovery solutions for our state’s diverse economy.”

Yet it seems part of a solution was sent to him yesterday, and he turned his back on it. So who’s playing games?

UPDATE @ 12:02 P.M. FRIDAY: “It would be absolutely impossible to create jobs in 2009 from infrastructure projects with what they sent us,” Schwarzenegger spokesman Matt David insisted to me just now. “What they replaced CEQA with was more stringent and more burdensome than CEQA.”

“On public-private partnerships, the same thing – they added a line that would’ve led to countless, endless lawsuits over public-private partnerships and made it impossible to expedite any of these state projects,” he added. “They absolutely refused to eliminate any state holidays, even though state workers have 14 holidays – which is, I would guess, more than any private citizen in California gets. They left $300 million in CalWORKs cuts that the governor asked for on the table. They left about $800 million in cuts on the table when it comes to dealing with state workforce, and over $100 million in IHSS (In-Home Supportive Services) cuts.”

I asked him about the fact that Legislative Democrats already agreed to deep cuts to break this summer’s budget deadlock in September, and have agreed to more since, without any meaningful movement from Republicans. He maintained that “a fair package from the Democrats can’t be to increase the amount of revenues in taxes and fees, reduce the amount of cuts and water down the economic stimulus the governor is asking for and do nothing for mortgage relief. That’s unacceptable to the governor.”

Posted on Friday, December 19th, 2008
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Assembly, California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, General, Karen Bass, Sandre Swanson | No Comments »

The deficit that stole Christmas

Apparently Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, is considering imposing an around-the clock Christmas week lockdown until lawmakers can come up with a plan to close the state’s staggering budget deficit. The plan, first floated by the Bay Area’s own Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico, D-Newark, is OK with Assemblyman Sandré Swanson, D-Alameda, he said today.

“I am in strong support of the Speaker’s plan for a lock down. Our current budget short fall is at $14.8 billion and is growing each day. Frankly, we need to act like adults and take full responsibility in this time of crisis,” Swanson said. “Many working families in California will not have a Christmas at all. I have my red pajamas and am ready to be locked in until we get the budget done for the people of California.”

Whoa. Is that what we’ve come to — legislators in their jammies? STOP THE MADNESS!!!

(P.S. — Please send photos.)

Posted on Friday, December 12th, 2008
Under: Alberto Torrico, Assembly, Karen Bass, Sandre Swanson | No Comments »

Happy Birthday, Sandre Swanson

Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda, will turn 60 this Friday, and how better to celebrate this momentous birthday than with… a fundraiser.

Yes, Swanson’s holding a black-tie cash bash Saturday night at Scott’s Seafood Restaurant in Oakland’s Jack London Square; it’s $100 a head, or from $1,000 to $3,900 for various levels of table sponsorship. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, for whom Swanson used to be chief of staff; Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles; and Assemblywoman and state Senator-elect Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, will be there.

The invitation bills the event — “Bring your dancing shoes!” — as a birthday and re-election victory celebration. Now, there’s certainly nothing wrong with celebrating re-election, but keep in mind that Swanson won this month with almost 88 percent of the vote to Republican Jim Faison‘s 12 percent — little wonder, considering his 16th Assembly District is registered about 65 percent Democrat to about 8 percent Republican. Neither did much strenuous campaigning, yet Swanson appears to have raised at least about $421,000 and spent at least about $395,000 in the 2007-08 election cycle.

The biggest single chunk of that spending went to… raising more money! His campaign spent $145,280.80 on fundraising events. Another $62,075 went to campaign consultants (the biggest chunk of which, $37,000, went to Carol Jones, who is both his district director and his campaign events director/staff contact.)

His campaign finance records also indicate where he likes to eat: 21 “meetings and appearances” tabs totalling $931.55 at the Angel Fish sushi restaurant near Swanson’s home on Alameda’s Bay Farm Island; 20 totalling $1,319.13 at P.F. Chang’s; 17 totalling $783.12 at Nellie’s Soul Food; 8 totalling $729.20 at Scott’s; eight totalling $525.45 at the Fat Lady near Oakland’s Jack London Square; six totalling $367.13 at McCormick and Schmick; 14 totalling $258.98 at the Buckhorn Restaurant; six totalling $852.17 at Kincaid’s in Jack London Square; one for $352.66 at Joe’s Seafood and Stone Crabs; five totalling $301.38 at Zocalo in Sacramento; six totalling $286.45 at Aioli Restaurant (not sure where this is); two totalling $275.61 at Oakland’s Le Cheval; eight totalling $273 at the Harbor View Restaurant, also on Bay Farm Island; three totalling $273 at Yoshi’s near Jack London Square; one at Sushi Roku for $130.60; one at Morton’s steakhouse for $180.26; and one at San Francisco’s Waterfront Restaurant for $116.57. If you’re counting, that’s 128 tabs totalling $7,956.26. Yum!

But he also gave $30,415 to the California Democratic Party, and $26,150 to other local Democratic campaigns and committees. And as we all know, throwing money to the party is an important way in which lawmakers build their clout.

So if you’re going to Swanson’s birthday/re-election bash Saturday, feel certain your money is helping not only Swanson but lots of other Democrats. And campaign fundraisers and consultants. And restaurants.

Posted on Tuesday, November 25th, 2008
Under: Assembly, campaign finance, General, Sandre Swanson | 1 Comment »

Swanson to chair state black legislative caucus

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, isn’t the only one taking the chair of a black caucus. Her former chief of staff, Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Oakland, will lead the California Legislative Black Caucus, the first Northern California lawmaker to hold that post in more than a decade. His chairmanship of the eight-member caucus — six Assembly members, two state Senators — for the 2009-2010 term takes effect Dec. 1.

“I am honored that my colleagues have entrusted me with this incredible responsibility,” he said in a statement issued yesterday. “We face enormous challenges in this state, and I look forward to addressing them with my colleagues in the coming months.”

Assemblyman Curren Price, D-Inglewood, will be the caucus’ vice-chair.

Assemblyman Mervyn Dymally, D-Compton, California’s longest-serving African-American lawmaker, said he was “very pleased” with Swanson’s election. “With his leadership, I am sure that the Caucus will lead the way in crafting a proactive agenda that will benefit all citizens in our State.”

Swanson intends to hold a strategic planning session to set the caucus’ statewide agenda, which will include getting more African-Americans elected to the Legislature, setting legislative priorities, and addressing the coming term’s weighty economic issues — first and foremost, California’s $28 billion deficit in this and the next budget years.

“This is a crisis that affects the entire state,” Swanson said. “Yet, as difficult as this task is, it is an opportunity to recast our priorities to ensure that government plays a prominent role in mitigating the impact of this serious economic downturn on our working families. The Legislative Black Caucus will be actively engaged in setting those priorities and shaping the economic stimulus package that must come out of our budget negotiations.”

That package is still taking shape, but Swanson said education and job creation are the most important issues. He also wants to reign in California’s prison spending, as we’ll soon be spending more on prisons than on higher education; reducing this cost will involve lowering recidivism rates through better rehabilitation, he believes.

Swanson said he intends to work closely with the Latino and Asian Pacific Islander caucuses on these issues. “Given these economic conditions, it is now more important than ever that we develop a tri-caucus strategy to address the needs of communities most severely impacted by this economic downturn and budget deficit,” he said.

We’re going to need some federal help, Swanson said. “Right now, we send $50 billion more to Washington than we get back in federal programs and aid. I am optimistic that President-Elect Obama will be more responsive to our needs than the previous administration, and I look forward to working with the new administration and our leaders in Congress on an economic strategy that benefits the state.”

Posted on Thursday, November 20th, 2008
Under: Assembly, Sandre Swanson | No Comments »