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Brown-bagging for peace

Progressive Democrats of America is planning another round of brown-bag lunch vigils at House members’ district offices – including four in Northern California – next Wednesday, Feb. 17 to demand commitments to vote against more money for war.

brown-bag lunch The first round, on Jan. 20, targeted 22 House members; this round already has 37 events scheduled. And this time, PDA will be joined by CODEPINK, AfterDowningStreet, Democrats.com, the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United, and United for Peace and Justice. Poster slogans include “Healthcare not Warfare,” “Corporations out of Politics,” “Bailout Main Street not Wall Street,” and “Brownbaggers not Teabaggers.”

In Northern California, the vigils are scheduled for 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Rep. Dennis Cardoza’s office, 1010 10th St. in Modesto; noon to 1 at Rep. Lynn Woolsey’s office, 1101 College Ave. in Santa Rosa; and noon to 2 p.m. at Rep. Barbara Lee’s office, 1301 Clay St., Suite 1000-N in Oakland, and at Rep. John Garamendi’s office, 1981 N. Broadway, Suite 220 in Walnut Creek.

Can you guess which of these is least likely to invite the brown-baggers in? I knew you could.

The activists want House members to vow to oppose any bills that fund wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan or Yemen, and to publicly urge their colleagues and the House leadership to do the same. They also want members to cosponsor antiwar legislation including Lee’s HR 3699, which would prohibit any increase in the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. That bill’s 28 cosponsors already include Woolsey as well as Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, and Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose.

“We have to choose between jobs and wars,” PDA national director Tim Carpenter said in a news release. “The American people are on one side, but our so-called representatives in Congress are on the other. The Supreme Court is busy increasing corporate control of our elected officials. We need to be busy enforcing the people’s control before it is too late.”

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Lawmakers’ plea for NUMMI goes unheeded

California’s U.S. Senators, joined by much of the Bay Area’s House delegation, wrote to Toyota today to forestall closure of the New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI) plant in Fremont, but apparently it’s too little, too late.

NUMMI is a joint venture between General Motors and Toyota; GM announced last month it will withdraw, and Toyota has been considering doing the same. The plant’s closure would cost 4,500 California jobs directly, and an estimated 35,000 or more indirectly.

The lawmakers wrote to Toyota Corp. President Akio Toyoda to emphasize NUMMI’s importance to California’s economy and to offer to work with Toyota to keep the plant open. Also, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., reports she recently spoke on the phone with Toyota Motor America President Yoshimi Inaba about her willingness to help find solutions to keep the plant in operation’ other California lawmakers have talked to company officials as well.

But even as the lawmakers announced their effort, media began reporting Toyota’s decision to pull out of the venture and close the plant.

UPDATE @ 5:11 P.M.: Never say die, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s office insists. The governor has talked with and written to the Toyota execs, too, and has formed a “Red Team” of stakeholders to work on keeping the plant open. “The Schwarzenegger Administration is actively engaged with NUMMI’s partners, Toyota, federal officials, local officials, labor, suppliers and other stakeholders to work together to ensure the future success of the facility,” David Crane, the Governor’s special advisor for jobs and economic growth, said in a release. “Our office will continue to respect Toyota’s wishes to keep discussions private as we work together to determine the best path for ensuring NUMMI’s continued operations in Fremont.”

See the letter, after the jump…
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Ellen Tauscher introduces anti-foreclosure bill

Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, introduced a bill Wednesday that would let the California Housing Finance Agency issue an estimated $10 billion in new bonds to help refinance “underwater” mortgages and jump-start growth in neighborhoods devastated by home foreclosures.

The bill also would grant CalHFA the power to use Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) money to help families refinance their homes at a price they can afford in order to avoid foreclosure.

“Foreclosures are decimating neighborhoods from Fairfield to Antioch and Oakley,” Tauscher said in her news release. “This legislation will help families in the hardest hit areas get the additional resources they need to stay in their homes and keep these vibrant communities from disappearing.”

Tauscher’s co-authors on the bill are Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Dennis Cardoza, D-Atwater; Shelley Berkley, D-Nev.; and Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y.

Cardoza’s Central Valley district includes more than half of the city of Stockton, which has been rocked by one of the nation’s highest foreclosure rates. “As I have continued to say, the foreclosure crisis remains at the heart of our nation’s economic crisis. It is imperative that we pursue all means to address this problem and ensure that taxpayer funds are being used in the most responsible way,” he said.

UPDATE @ 8:36 A.M. THURSDAY: Click here for a copy of the bill.