BART strike bill is dead, but another is coming

Assembly Democrats on Wednesday killed an East Bay lawmaker’s bill that would’ve essentially banned strikes by BART workers, like the ones that threw Bay Area commutes into chaos in 2013 – but another lawmaker is preparing to take another stab at it.

Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, R-Dublin, introduced AB 528 last February, delivering on a campaign promise that had helped her become the Bay Area’s only Republican lawmaker.

Catharine Baker“In June 2017, the current BART contract expires. We should never be subject to BART strikes again,” Baker said in a news release issued Wednesday after the Assembly Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security Committee killed the bill on a party-line vote. “This is just the first step in the fight to protect us from BART strikes and I will keep pursuing solutions that will prevent the entire Bay Area from coming to a grinding halt in the face of another strike.”

Many didn’t think the bill would last even this long in the Democrat-dominated Legislature. The committee first heard it in May, and rather than voting it down, agreed to make it a two-year bill; then-chairman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, said that would give more time for legislators and other interested parties to discuss the issues. Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove, now chairs the committee.

Baker’s AB 528 instead would have barred BART workers from striking as long as they continue to get wages and benefits – in other words, if an existing contract has a no-strike clause and management keeps honoring the pact’s financial terms after it expires, unions couldn’t strike. Baker campaigned on pursuing a bill like this after two 2013 strikes brought BART to grinding halts, snarling Bay Area traffic and costing the local economy $73 million per day by one business group’s estimate.

Democrat Steve Glazer made a similar campaign promise when competing with Baker in 2014’s 16th Assembly District primary, and again in his successful campaign in last year’s 7th State Senate District special election. Glazer intends to introduce a BART-strike bill sometime in the next few weeks, spokesman Steve Harmon said Wednesday.


Honda & Lee bring home bacon for BART, cops

‘Tis the season when members of Congress proudly trumpet the bacon they’re bringing home for local programs and institutions.

Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, announced Friday that the Department of Transportation has awarded $150 million to the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority to fully fund the next year of construction on the BART Silicon Valley Berryessa extension. He said he used his Appropriations Committee seat to ensure the funding was included in the budget.

“Since coming to Congress, I have worked with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure that the BART Silicon Valley Extension receives federal funding,” he said in his news release. “In Silicon Valley, the capital of innovation and manufacturing, we lead in many industries, including progressive transportation projects that will reduce traffic on our roadways and protect our environment.”

He said he has previously worked with VTA and the Secretary of Transportation to secure the $900 million federal full-funding grant agreement needed for the BART extension, $700 million of which has now been brought home.

And Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, announced Monday that the Justice Department’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program is awarding $1.875 million to create or preserve jobs for 15 officers in Oakland; $250,000 for two officers in Alameda County; and $125,000 for one officer in Berkeley.

“At a time when departments face high resource constraints, these federal grants will help address public safety and promote community-oriented policing,” Lee, also an Appropriations Committee member, said in her news release. “As we work to build greater trust between law enforcement and our communities, especially communities of color, the COPS program has proven track record of re-focusing law enforcement efforts on the needs of the communities and promoting greater community trust. We must ensure this vital federal program has the resources it needs to support our communities and ensure public safety.”


SD7: Glazer blasts campaigning on BART property

Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer, one of two Democrats competing in the 7th State Senate District special election, wants the BART board of directors to probe what he says is inappropriate union campaign work on BART property to benefit his opponent, Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla.

Glazer news conference 5-11-15 (photo by Josh Richman)In a news conference Monday morning outside BART’s Oakland headquarters, Glazer displayed photos of BART workers at the Richmond, Concord and Hayward yards, accompanied by a Service Employees International Union Local 1021 organizer, displaying Bonilla campaign signs or fliers. Another photo showed workers, apparently in a training classroom at the Hayward facility, watching the Bonilla-Glazer debate.

Glazer said that despite serious maintenance problems that have snarled commutes in recent weeks, workers apparently had the time to organize for his opponent on BART property. He acknowledged he didn’t know whether the photos were taken during work hours, but called it “an outrageous use of public property.”

He said he would deliver a letter Monday to BART Board of Directors President Thomas Blalock demanding an independent third-party investigation of the union workers who took part in the activities, and whatever managers allowed it to happen on BART property. Management must be notified of work-site union activities, he said, and so is “at some level involved in this illegal campaign activity and they should be held to account as well.”

Glazer’s call to ban BART strikes is among the centerpieces of his campaign.

Steve Maviglio, organizer of the union-backed Working Families Opposing Glazer committee that has spent millions to support Bonilla, dismissively called Glazer’s news conference “nothing more than a Hail Mary publicity stunt for Steve Glazer to deflect the criticism away from the Koch Brothers and a Tea Party developer from LA funneling millions of dollars into his campaign.”

The Working Families committee launched a new ad along these lines Monday:

Independent Women’s Voice, a Washington, D.C.-based group with ties to the Koch brothers, has spent $8,600 to produce an anti-Bonilla ad, promote it online, and conduct some phone surveys; Bill Bloomfield, a laundry and real-estate millionaire from Manhattan Beach, has spent almost $1.79 million so far to support Glazer. Maviglio said Bloomfield has supported Tea Party candidates, but Bloomfield has said he quit the GOP and became an independent because he believes the party has grown too extreme; last year, he supported moderate Republican Neel Kashkari over Tea Party favorite Tim Donnelly in the gubernatorial primary.

The election is next Tuesday, May 19. Glazer said Monday morning that about 71,000 vote-by-mail ballots already have been received by the Contra Costa and Alameda county registrars, of which about 15 percent are from voters who didn’t cast ballots in the March primary. He also said about 33 percent of the ballots returned so far are from registered Republicans, whom he has been actively courting – which means GOP voters are outperforming their 29 percent voter registration in what’s expected to be a very low-turnout election.

UPDATE @ 12:52 p.m.: Bonilla agrees union workers shouldn’t be campaigning on BART property – and neither should Glazer and his supporters.

“I am appalled that BART platforms and BART property have been used for electioneering by Steve Glazer, Los Angeles billionaire Bill Bloomfield (who has spent $2 million on Steve Glazer campaign advertising), and by BART employees who were holding my campaign signs,” she said in a statement emailed to reporters early Monday afternoon. “These parties should immediately stop using BART property for electioneering, including candidate Steve Glazer who has repeatedly used internal BART property for self-advertising.”


Barbara Boxer praises BART’s plan to ban e-cigs

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer is thanking BART for its plan to ban use of e-cigarettes on trains and in stations.

Barbara Boxer“Research has raised major concerns about secondhand exposure to e-cigarette vapor,” Boxer, D-Calif., wrote in a letter sent Wednesday to Bay Area Rapid Transit Board President Thomas Blalock. “This is particularly relevant in small, enclosed spaces such as trains and stations, leading the World Health Organization to recommend that steps be taken to end the use of e-cigarettes indoors in public and work places.”

The BART Board of Directors will hold a final vote to approve the ban on Feb. 12. Boxer last June wrote to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx asking him to ban the use of such devices on airplanes.

State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, introduced a bill this week that would ban use of e-cigarettes in all public spaces.

For the full text of Boxer’s letter to BART, read after the jump…
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Honda touts manufacturing bill within CRomnibus

Some last-minute poison pills kept Rep. Mike Honda from voting for the $1.1 “CRomnibus” spending bill approved by Congress, but he sees a few bright spots in it for Silicon Valley nonetheless.

And there’s little that Honda – who just eked out a narrow electoral win last month over fellow Democrat Ro Khanna – would rather do these days than deliver a bit of good news for his district.

honda.jpgHonda, D-San Jose, said Tuesday that the CRomnibus included the Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation (RAMI) Act. This Republican-led, bipartisan bill that the House had approved back in September authorizes $400 million to create up to 15 Centers for Manufacturing Innovation – regional hubs where universities and colleges, small and large manufacturers, and government can address manufacturing challenges and bring ideas from lab to market. They’ll also work toward producing a skilled workforce to meet the nation’s manufacturing needs.

Honda believes the initiative will lead to more domestic manufacturing and job creation across the nation. He anticipates that Silicon Valley will be among the first applicants seeking to create such a center, probably in order to develop the next generation of semiconductor manufacturing tools.

IPC – a global trade association serving the printed board and electronics assembly industries, their customers and suppliers – issued a statement Monday thanking Honda for his role in RAMI’s passage.

“Among the bill’s earliest and most steadfast champions, Congressman Honda keenly appreciates the connection between the strength of America’s manufacturing base and the incredible innovation that takes place in his district in Silicon Valley.” IPC President and CEO John Mitchell said. “Representing all facets of the electronics industry, IPC’s members — including the many located in Congressman Honda’s district — look forward to the collaboration among private and public sector stakeholders at the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation centers that this legislation will establish.”

Honda was proud of the bipartisan effort behind this bill and the greater CRomnibus, but said he had no choice but to vote against it after two riders were added that he staunchly opposed – one to roll back part of the Dodd-Frank banking reforms that prevent taxpayers being left on the hook to insure risky derivatives trading, and another to vastly increase the amount of money individuals can contribute to political parties.

“I had to make that decision (to vote nay) … That’s the way the sausage is made in Congress,” he said. “But I’m glad we got the RAMI in and also the next round of funding on BART, about $150 million” for the Berryessa extension.

Honda spoke Tuesday as he prepared to leave for South Korea, where he’ll spend the next few days meeting with business and government leaders including Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se and U.S. Ambassador Mark Lippert, as well as visiting U.S. troops and surviving victims of World War II sexual enslavement.

He said his priority is to discuss what South Korea is doing to encourage American businesses to thrive there, and the investment and innovation opportunities South Korean businesses have in the Bay Area. He’ll be delivering a policy speech at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul about how the two nations can strengthen their economic and political relations; he also has a dinner scheduled with the Korea International Trade Association and its chairman, as well as a meeting with the vice minister of trade, industry and energy.


Stevie Wonder in Oakland: ‘Black Lives Matter’

The incomparable Stevie Wonder played the final regular date of his 11-city “Songs in the Key of Life” tour Friday night at Oakland’s Oracle Arena, and he was a powerhouse.

After performing the landmark 1976 album in its entirety, he performed an encore of several more of his hits, playfully baiting the crowd between songs. But after playing the first few notes of “Living for the City,” from 1973’s Innervisions, he stopped abruptly and told the audience there’s been “some bullshit” going on in this country lately – two glaring failures to indict, clearly references to the “no true bill” decisions rendered by grand juries for the police officers who shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and who killed Eric Garner on Staten Island, N.Y.

My colleague, Jane Tyska, captured most of the rest of his words on video:

Note his comment that “right around here, there was a movie about it” – a reference to “Fruitvale Station,” which dramatized the 2009 shooting death of Oscar Grant at the hands of BART Police Officer Johannes Mehserle.

He had made a similar statement Wednesday night in Seattle, though without leading the crowd in a chant before launching into the song.

A boy is born in hard time Mississippi
Surrounded by four walls that ain’t so pretty
His parents give him love and affection
To keep him strong, movin’ in the right direction
Living just enough, just enough for the city

His father works some days for fourteen hours
And you can bet he barely makes a dollar
His mother goes to scrub the floors for many
And you’d best believe she hardly gets a penny
Living just enough, just enough for the city

His sister’s black but she is sure enough pretty
Her skirt is short but, Lord, her legs are sturdy
To walk to school she’s got to get up early
Her clothes are old but never are they dirty
Living just enough, just enough for the city

Her brother’s smart, he’s got more sense than many
His patience’s long but soon he won’t have any
To find a job is like a haystack needle
‘Cause where he lives they don’t use colored people
Living just enough, just enough for the city

His hair is long, his feet are hard and gritty
He spends his life walkin’ the streets of New York City
He’s almost dead from breathin’ in air pollution
He tried to vote but to him there’s no solution
Living just enough, just enough for the city

I hope you hear inside my voice of sorrow
And that it motivates you to make a better tomorrow
This place is cruel, nowhere could be much colder
If we don’t change, the world will soon be over
Living just enough, stop giving just enough for the city