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Your International Human Rights Day review

Hey, it’s International Human Rights Day!

The date was set by the United Nations in 1950 “to bring to the attention ‘of the peoples of the world’ the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations.”

Nice! Let’s take a celebratory scan of some of today’s top stories!

“All senior U.S. officials and CIA agents who authorized and carried out torture like waterboarding as part of former President George W. Bush’s national security policy must be prosecuted, top U.N. human rights officials said Wednesday,” the Associated Press reports.

Ah. Well, at least we can be sure ordinary people’s voices are heard by lawmakers come election time.

“The $1.1 trillion spending agreement reached by House and Senate negotiators on Tuesday night would vastly expand the amount of money that donors can give political parties, bolstering party leaders’ ability to tap into the wallets of their largest contributors and reclaiming some clout from the outside groups that can accept unlimited dollars,” the New York Times reports.

OK, maybe we should look a little closer to home.

“For the third time in four nights, mayhem defined a protest march from Berkeley to Oakland, as demonstrators took over a freeway, looted businesses and threw objects at police, authorities said,” our own Bay Area News Group reports. “The demonstrations were part of an ongoing national movement against police violence, spurred by grand jury decisions not to indict police officers in Missouri and New York after the deaths of two unarmed black men.”

Yeeeesh. Well, at least there’s some progress elsewhere on protecting that most basic of human rights – life itself.

“The Ebola virus that has killed thousands in West Africa is still ‘running ahead’ of efforts to contain it, the head of the World Health Organization has said,” the BBC reports.

I give up.

I surrender

Posted on Wednesday, December 10th, 2014
Under: campaign finance, Civil liberties, War on Terror | 1 Comment »

Brown names Bay Area lawyer as Cal/OSHA chief

Gov. Jerry Brown has named a Bay Area attorney with a background in organized labor as the permanent chief at Cal/OSHA, the Department of Industrial Relations Division of Occupational Safety and Health.

Juliann SumJuliann Sum, 58, of Berkeley, has served as acting chief since September 2013 at the agency tasked with watchdogging California workers’ health and safety through its research and standards, enforcement, and consultation programs.

Sum was special advisor to the director at the California Department of Industrial Relations from 2012 to 2013 and held several positions at the University of California, Berkeley from 1994 to 2012, including project director at the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment and attorney and industrial hygienist at the Labor Occupational Health Program.

She was an associate attorney at the Environmental Law Foundation from 1994 to 1995; a litigation associate at Carroll, Burdick and McDonough LLP from 1991 to 1994; and an industrial hygienist and business representative for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245 from 1979 to 1986.

Sum holds a law degree from the UC-Hastings College of the Law and a Master of Science degree in environmental health sciences from the Harvard University School of Public Health.

This position requires Senate confirmation and the annual salary is $139,092. Sum is a Democrat.

Posted on Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014
Under: Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown | No Comments »

A few upcoming political events

Political junkies have some great opportunities coming up.

On Monday, Oct. 6, Assembly Speaker Emeritus John Perez, D-Los Angeles, will speak on “changes in the California electorate and the road to a Democratic supermajority in the Legislature” in the Institute of Governmental Studies Library, 109 Moses Hall on the UC-Berkeley campus. The event starts at 4 p.m.

On Tuesday, Oct. 7, activist, blogger and author Pamela Geller will address the Conservative Forum of Silicon Valley in the IFES Portuguese Hall, at 432 Stierlin Road in Mountain View. Geller is founder, editor and publisher of AtlasShrugs.com/PamGeller.com; president of the American Freedom Defense Initiative and Stop Islamization of America; and author, with Robert Spencer, of “The Post-American Presidency: The Obama Administration’s War on America.” Tickets for the 7 p.m. event cost $10 in advance or $15 at the door for forum members, and $20 in advance or $25 at the door for non-members, and are available online.

On Wednesday, Oct. 8, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., will be in conversation with Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg for a 3 p.m. program and 4 p.m. book-signing at the Commonwealth Club of California, on the second floor of 595 Market St. in San Francisco. Gillibrand will discuss “why it’s critical for women’s voices to be heard to make issues like affordable daycare, paid family leave and equal pay political priorities.” Tickets cost $10 for club members, $15 for non-members or $7 for students with valid ID, and are available online or by calling 415-597-6705.

Posted on Friday, October 3rd, 2014
Under: Calendar | 3 Comments »

Supporters rally for ‘gun restraining order’ bill

Advocates of a bill that would create a “gun violence restraining order” system are stepping up their efforts in advance of a state Senate floor vote later this month.

Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, along with several Bay Area police chiefs and gun control advocates, rallied Monday morning outside the Emeryville Police Department in support of AB 1014. Skinner and Santa Barbara Democrats Assemblyman Das Williams and state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson announced the bill soon after a May rampage at UC-Santa Barbara left six students dead.

“When someone is in crisis, the people closest to them are often the first to spot the warning signs, but almost nothing can now be done to get guns out of the hands of someone in crisis,” Skinner said in a news release Monday. “Parents, like the mother who tried to intervene, deserve an effective tool to help prevent these tragedies.”

Modeled on domestic violence laws, AB 1014 creates a process to intervene and potentially prohibit the purchase of firearms and/or remove firearms already in possession by a person who shows warning signs of a risk of violence. Law enforcement or family members would have the right to ask a judge to grant an order prohibiting firearms purchase or possession. Connecticut, Indiana and Texas have similar laws, Skinner’s office said.

Current law lets that process start only when therapists notify police that a client is at risk of committing a violent act. Family members can call police, but if no crime has been committed, or the individual doesn’t meet criteria for an involuntary civil commitment to mental health treatment, there isn’t anything police can do about that person’s firearms.

“AB 1014 fills an important gap in the law that prevents law enforcement from acting to prevent violence before it happens,” Emeryville Police Chief Ken James, a longtime gun-control advocate, said in Skinner’s news release. “This need has been obvious to law enforcement for years. But the time to act is now. The tragedy in Santa Barbara makes that obvious.”

The Senate Public Safety Committee approved the bill on a 5-2 vote June 24, and the Senate Appropriations Committee approved it Friday on a 5-0 vote with two Republicans not voting.

Posted on Monday, August 18th, 2014
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, gun control, Nancy Skinner | 9 Comments »

‘Gun violence restraining order’ bill proposed

Lawmakers reacted to the Santa Barbara shooting by announcing plans Tuesday for a bill to create a “gun violence restraining order.”

The bill would establish a system in which concerned relatives, intimate partners or friends can notify police about someone showing a propensity toward violence, so police can investigate and seek a judge’s order to seize that person’s firearms and prevent any purchases.

Current law lets that process start only when therapists notify police that a client is at risk of committing a violent act. Family members can call police, but if no crime has been committed and the individual doesn’t meet criteria for an involuntary civil commitment to mental health treatment, there isn’t anything police can do about that person’s firearms.

“When someone is in crisis, the people closest to them are often the first to spot the warning signs,” Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, said in a news release. “Parents, like the mother who tried to intervene, deserve an effective tool they can act on to help prevent these tragedies.”

Skinner will co-author the bill with Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, and state Sen. Hannah Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara. “The tragic incident in my hometown of Isla Vista is not a result of gun laws failing,” Williams said. “Rather, it is a horrific example of how our mental health laws and gun control laws are not working together.”

Also, state Senate Democrats will present a package of mental health policy and budget proposals Wednesday in Sacramento “to address mental healthcare within California’s criminal justice system, recidivism and public safety,” according to a release from Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg’s office. “The package includes a proposal to strengthen and apply statewide protocols to help frontline law enforcement identify signs of mental illness.”

Posted on Tuesday, May 27th, 2014
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, gun control, Nancy Skinner | 4 Comments »

Reich visits Capitol on CEO pay, oil extraction tax

It’s Robert Reich day at California’s State Capitol.

No, there hasn’t been an official proclamation. But the former U.S. Secretary of Labor, now a UC-Berkeley public policy professor, will be under the dome Thursday to speak on behalf of two bills introduced by Bay Area lawmakers.

Reich is doing a news conference with state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord; state Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley; and California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski in support of DeSaulnier’s SB 1372, which would create a new corporate tax table that increases taxes on businesses with big disparities between the salaries of their workers and their CEOs. The bill is being heard Thursday morning by the State Governance and Finance Committee.

“For example, if the CEO makes 100 times the median worker in the company, the company’s tax rate drops from the current 8.8 percent down to 8 percent. If the CEO makes 25 times the pay of the typical worker, the tax rate goes down to 7 percent,” Reich wrote on his blog Monday. “On the other hand, corporations with big disparities face higher taxes. If the CEO makes 200 times the typical employee, the tax rate goes to 9.5 percent; 400 times, to 13 percent.”

“Pushing companies to put less money into the hands of their CEOs and more into the hands of average employees creates more buying power among people who will buy, and therefore more jobs,” he wrote. “For the last thirty years, almost all the incentives operating on companies have been to lower the pay of their workers while increasing the pay of their CEOs and other top executives. It’s about time some incentives were applied in the other direction.”

And, Reich will testify to the Senate Public Education Committee in favor of SB 1017 by state Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, which would create an oil extraction tax to fund higher education, health and human services, state parks and more.

Reich endorsed a similar student-organized ballot measure effort last year, saying that using oil severance tax revenue for education “should be a no-brainer. It will only improve our schools. The real question is why California hasn’t done this long before now.”

The California Chamber of Commerce this month put both bills on its list of “job killers,” arguing they create barriers to economic development.

“The economic recovery is still the number one issue for Californians,” Chamber President and CEO Allan Zaremberg said when announcing the list. “These bills pose a serious threat to our economy and, if enacted, would dampen job growth in the state.”

Of Evans’ bill, Zaremberg said “an oil extraction tax will drive up consumer prices, push jobs away and upset a fragile economy that is showing strong signs of life.”

Posted on Thursday, April 24th, 2014
Under: economy, education, state budget, taxes | 12 Comments »

New statewide college GOP chair is from Berkeley

The newly elected chairman of the California College Republicans is a former chairman of the Berkeley College Republicans.

Shawn LewisShawn Lewis, 22, was elected Sunday morning at the statewide group’s annual convention in Irvine. He succeeds Mathew Nithin, 25, of San Jose State University.

“I’m ready for the challenge,” Lewis said. “Our success this year is going to be driven by our efforts to elect Republicans across California by getting on the ground and making contact with voters.”

Lewis said his organization will target House and Legislative districts with the goal of ending the Democratic supermajority in Sacramento. He also said he’ll be in regular contact and coordination with California Republican Party Chairman Jim Brulte, State Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, and Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway.

Lewis now serves as a Senate Fellow for Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, in Sacramento; he was the California College Republicans’ political for the past year.

Other officers elected Sunday are Co-Chair Alice Gilbert of UC-Santa Barbara, Executive Director Lx Fangonilo of San Diego State, Administrative Vice Chair Jere Ford of the University of San Diego, Treasurer Ivy Allen of Pepperdine University, and Secretary Erick Matos of CSU-Channel Islands.

Posted on Monday, April 7th, 2014
Under: Republican Party, Republican politics | No Comments »

Rand Paul in Berkeley & SF next week

Fresh from his second consecutive win in the Conservative Political Action Conference straw poll, Republican presidential hopeful Rand Paul will be in the Bay Area next week to raise funds and speak to students about government surveillance’s intrusion on liberty.

Rand PaulThe junior U.S. Senator from Kentucky has fundraising events on the morning of Tuesday, March 18 at the Olympic Club of San Francisco. First comes a roundtable breakfast hosted by cardiologist Dr. Michel Accad, 2012 congressional candidate Dr. Wayne Iverson of San Diego, and John Dennis, a Republican now posing his third consecutive challenge to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi; tickets for that cost from $500 to $2,500. Later the same morning, contributors will pay $500 each for a private meet-and-greet with Paul, hosted by Dennis and investor Robert Leppo.

Then, on Wednesday March 19, Paul will address the Berkeley Forum – a nonpartisan, student-run group at UC-Berkeley – about domestic security, the NSA’s collection of telephone metadata, and the public debate regarding privacy and its Constitutional implications. The 3 p.m. event is free for Cal students and faculty, $15 for the general public; tickets are available online.

Paul’s campaign strategy involves mobilizing young libertarian-leaning voters, much as President Obama did for young Democrats in 2008, and believes issues of privacy and civil liberties will help accomplish that.

Posted on Thursday, March 13th, 2014
Under: Rand Paul | 4 Comments »

Looking ahead to SD9 in 2016

Looking beyond this year’s elections, Friday’s campaign finance deadline offered an early glance at what might be one of the East Bay’s hottest contests of 2016.

Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, who is term-limited out at the end of this year, intends to run for the 9th State Senate District seat from which Loni Hancock, D- Berkeley, will be term-limited out in 2016. So is former Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, another Democrat now serving as Oakland’s deputy mayor.

Reports filed Friday show Skinner raised $162,509 and spent $39,519 in the second half of 2013, leaving her at year’s end with $188,005 cash on hand and $6,382 in debts. Swanson in the same period raised $23,100 and spent $16,956, ending 2013 with $8,133 cash on hand but $9,220 in debts.

Swanson launched a campaign to challenge Hancock in 2012, but withdrew; Hancock responded by endorsing him to succeed her in 2016.

Posted on Friday, January 31st, 2014
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, campaign finance, Loni Hancock, Nancy Skinner, Sandre Swanson | 1 Comment »

Bay Area House members offer Postal Service bills

Two Bay Area House members went postal Wednesday, introducing legislation to protect and update the U.S. Postal Service’s assets.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, introduced H.Res. 466, which would urge the Postal Service to halt all sales of historic postal buildings across the nation and permanently preserve them.

Berkeley Post Office“These historic post offices are an irreplaceable part of our nation’s history. They belong to the American people, and shouldn’t be sold without community input,” Lee said in a news release. “Historic post office buildings are an integral part of our cultural heritage and should not be used as a bargaining chip in resolving the Postal Service’s financial woes.”

In the bipartisan omnibus Appropriations bill passed this month, lawmakers called upon the USPS to halt sales of historic post offices until the Office of the Inspector General publishes its investigation on the processes and plans used for the sale and preservation of historic properties. Lee’s resolution expands upon that effort to ensure that these national landmarks are permanently preserved for their communities.

“The East Bay values and cherishes the Berkeley Post Office,” she said. “This bill would ensure that historic post offices across the country, including the Berkeley Post office, remain as a cornerstone of our community.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, joined with Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., to introduce a bill requiring modernization of the Postal Service’s outdated vehicle fleet.

Grumman LLVThe Postal Service owns and operates the world’s largest civilian vehicle fleet: 192,000 mail delivery vehicles that are driven 4.3 million miles per day. More than 141,000 are aging Grumman LLVs, which average only 10 miles per gallon; this vehicle first went into service in 1987, and most have reached the end of their 24-year operational lifespan.

HR 3963, the Federal Leadership in Energy Efficient Transportation (FLEET) Act of 2014, would require the USPS to reduce its petroleum consumption by 2 percent each year for the next 10 years. The aim is to reduce fuel spending while increasing efficiency; the Union of Concerned Scientists estimates the bill would save the Postal Service an estimated 150 million gallons of fuel over the next ten years, worth about $400 million, Huffman’s office said.

“The Postal Service is crippled by an inefficient, outdated fleet, and the vast majority of these vehicles are reaching the end of their operational lives,” Huffman said in a news release. “The FLEET Act will help us invest in a modern, efficient Postal Service fleet. Our nation’s largest civilian fleet should serve as a global leader in efficiency and innovation.”

Shirley ChisholmIn other postal news, Lee is scheduled to be joined by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco; Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo; and former Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, on Saturday at Mills College in Oakland for the rollout of the Shirley Chisholm Forever® stamp.

This 37th stamp in the Black Heritage Series honors Chisholm, who was the first African American woman elected to Congress and who ran for president in 1972. She was the first African American and the second woman ever to seek a major party’s presidential nomination.

Lee first met Chisholm at Mills College in 1972, and organized Chisholm’s Northern California primary campaign that year. She first introduced legislation in 2005 expressing Congress’s sense that a commemorative stamp should be issued in Chisholm’s honor. The stamp image – designed by art director Ethel Kessler and featuring a color portrait of Chisholm by artist Robert Shetterly – will be unveiled Saturday.

The unveiling ceremony will be followed by panel discussion on House Democrats’ “When Women Succeed, America Succeeds” economic agenda, just like one that Pelosi, Speier and Lee did last week in San Francisco.

Posted on Wednesday, January 29th, 2014
Under: Barbara Lee, Jared Huffman, U.S. House | 2 Comments »