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Commerce Secretary attends Oakland forum

U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker joined Rep. Barbara Lee and other officials Monday for a regional economic development forum at Oakland International Airport, focused on creating more jobs and growing businesses in the East Bay.

Penny Pritzker“The Department of Commerce has tremendous resources in place in this region and around the country that allow us to partner with your businesses and entrepreneurs so they can compete and succeed,” Pritzker said in a news release issued by Lee, D-Oakland, after the event.

“Here in the Bay Area, we are working with companies large and small to sell their goods and services to the 95 percent of global consumers who live outside the U.S., helping to create the conditions for innovators and entrepreneurs to thrive, and supporting minority-and women-owned businesses through our Minority Business Development Agency,” she said, adding her department “is committed to helping your companies grow and thrive so they can create jobs – that is our mission and a core objective for President Obama.”

Lee said small businesses “are fundamental to the East Bay’s economic growth, especially women and minority-owned businesses.

“These businesses create jobs, contribute to our community and create opportunities into the middle class,” she said. “In order to ensure continued economic growth, we need to investment in sharing the available resources with these businesses and businesses owners to help them succeed.”

Other attendees included regional Small Business Administration Administrator Donna Davis; Minority Business Development Agency Director Alejandra Castillo; Overseas Private Investment Corp. Director of Corporate Development Alison Germak; Port of Oakland Aviation Director Deborah Ale Flint; Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson; and Oakland Mayor Jean Quan.

Earlier Monday, Lee had hosted a roundtable discussion with Pritzker and East Bay business leaders to discuss economic development, supplier diversity and the importance of gender and ethnic diversity in corporate leadership.

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It’s National Voter Registration Day. Do it. Do it.

Today has been National Voter Registration Day, and Bay Area officials and activists joined their peers across the nation in urging people to “register in September and make it count in November.”

photo courtesy of Keith CarsonRep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, and Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson were among those who rallied at mid-day outside the Alameda County Administration Building in Oakland to urge all eligible voters to register and cast ballots this fall.

The Oakland event was one of several held today across the nation by members of the Congressional Black Caucus as a part of the “For the People” Voter Protection Initiative. H. Res. 542 condemns “the passage of legislation that would unduly burden an American citizen’s ability to vote and opposing any State election law or proposed legislation that would have a disproportionate impact on vulnerable communities across the country.”

“We are engaged in a battle to protect the fundamental, Constitutional right to vote,” Lee said later Tuesday. “Voter suppression tactics do nothing at all to prevent voter fraud, while disproportionately excluding and disenfranchising people of color, elderly and young adults from their Constitutionally given right to vote. By preparing all Alameda County residents to vote this fall, we are standing in solidarity with communities fighting intense battles against voter suppression efforts throughout the country.”

Lee notes that at least 34 states have introduced laws that would require voters to show photo identification in order to vote, and at least 12 states have introduced laws that would require proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate, to register to vote or to vote. The states that have already cut back on voting rights provide 171 electoral votes in 2012, 63 percent of the 270 needed to win the presidency, she said.

on Sproul Plaza (photo by Josh Richman)Meanwhile, groups at the University of California, Berkeley – including the Associated Students, Voto Latino and others – had tables on Sproul Plaza today in an attempt to register as many people as possible.

Election Day is six weeks away. Still not registered to vote? You’ve got until Monday, Oct. 22, and you need not even get up from where you’re sitting right now reading this post: You can register online. Or, if you prefer, printed voter registration forms are available at many government offices, DMV offices, post offices, public libraries and other locations.

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Obama 2012 defends, touts health care reform

As the Affordable Care Act‘s second anniversary looms this week, the war of words over its worth is becoming deafening. It’s a fascinating phenomenon, in that both sides truly seem to believe they have a winning issue here.

Here in Oakland, Democratic activist Christine Pelosi of San Francisco – daughter of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi – and Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson rallied about 30 volunteers today at the campaign headquarters on Telegraph Avenue, briefing them on the reform law’s effects to prepare them for an afternoon of phone-banking.

Christine Pelosi @ OFA HQ 3-19-12Just as Medicare and Social Security were “an intergenerational compact,” so too is health care reform “a societal compact” from a president who believes “health care is a right, not a privilege,” Pelosi said.

By forcing insurers to spend most of their premiums revenue on health care, not administration; by requiring them to insure people with pre-existing conditions; by reducing prescription costs for seniors; and by advancing patients’ rights, including the right to wellness visits, the law has improved the lives of millions of Americans, she said.

As the U.S. Supreme Court takes up the question of its constitutionality and as Republicans run on platforms of repeal, “our response has to be, ‘we’re not going back,’” Pelosi told the volunteers. “And each of you is taking personal responsibility to make sure that we’re going forward.”

Carson noted about 356,000 young adults in California – out of 2.5 million nationwide – have benefitted from the reform law by being allowed to remain on their parents’ health insurance until age 26. Almost an equal number of Californians on Medicare got a $250 rebate in 2010 to help cover the cost of their prescriptions when they hit the “donut hole” in their coverage, and almost 320,000 got a 50 percent discount in 2011 on their covered, brand-name prescriptions when they hit the donut hole; the law will close the hole by 2020.

Carson also said 12 million Californians no longer need worry about lifetime limits on their coverage; almost 3 million Californians on Medicare received free preventative services (such as mammograms and colonoscopies) or a free wellness visit with their doctor last year; and almost 6.2 million Californians with private insurance gained preventative service coverage with no cost-sharing.

He told the campaign volunteers that this is what they must convey to the people they call, in order to ensure they’re not swayed by “those who are critical, those who are fearful, those who are financed by the insurance companies.”

Lots more, after the jump…
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East Bay love trend continues with Haggerty wedding

Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty

Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty

Wedded bliss, or the prospect thereof, is no longer just a Contra Costa trend.

Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty of Dublin married Rhonda Gibbons on Feb. 14 in Jack London Square in Oakland. Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson presided.

For a while, we thought it was something in the water in Contra Costa County.

In the past few months, Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo; Assemblyman Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch; and California GOP Vice Chairman Tom Del Beccaro of Lafayette, each announced their engagements to their respective partners. (No, not to each other.)

According to a press release from Haggerty’s office, he and his bride met at a sports event in Livermore in which both of their sons were playing. This is nearly a Brady Bunch union: Haggerty has three children and Gibbons has two.

The newlyweds are spending their honeymoon in Hawaii.

Haggerty has served on the five-member Board of Supervisors for twelve years and was re-elected to a fourth four-year term in 2008. He represents the cities of Fremont, Livermore, Pleasanton, the eastern-most portion of Dublin and unincorporated east Alameda County on Board of Supervisors.

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Big Inauguration-Day event planned for Oakland

Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson is coordinating the planning for a big Inauguration Day bash, most likely at the Oracle Arena, so a large East Bay crowd can gather to watch Barack Obama sworn in as the 44th President of the United States.

“We’re almost sure we’re going to have the contract for the arena that day,” Carson told me a few minutes ago, just hours after about 25 representatives from various faith congregations, community groups and local agencies had gathered for their first meeting to plan the event. “Everybody is saying, ‘What can I do to help?’”

They’re also planning a series of other community events in the 10 days leading up to the Jan. 20 inauguration, including an event Sunday, Jan. 11 at Oakland’s new Cathedral of Christ the Light near Lake Merritt, and another on Sunday, Jan. 18 at Beebe Memorial Cathedral on Telegraph Avenue. Other institutions have set tentative dates as well.

“We know that we are in the middle of… very volatile times in the community, and even with a new administration, it’s going to be difficult locally for us for years to come. This gives us an opportunity to find new friends, to recommit to communicating across those lines to see how we can leverage our resources and infrastructure to help people,” Carson said today. “Barack’s campaign on some level was kind of indicating we as a country need to do that.”

Tickets for Oracle Arena event – likely to start pretty darned early on Tuesday, Jan. 20, as the president is traditionally sworn in at noon, meaning 9 a.m. PST – might cost a nominal fee, if only to control their dissemination, Carson said; as many as 17,000 people might fit into the arena for such an event.

That’s all we know for now; I’ll provide more details as they become available.

Carson, like Rep. Barbara Lee and Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, is a protégé and former aide to Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums during Dellums’ Congressional tenure. Swanson and Dellums had endorsed Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential primary, while Lee and Carson backed Obama; all of them supported Obama in this month’s general election.

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Barbara Lee: We’re not getting enough HUD help

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has released a formula that determines funding levels for communities decimated by the foreclosure crisis, with an estimated $10.3 million directed to Alameda County and $8.2 million of that reserved for Oakland.

And Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, isn’t happy.

“Though I am pleased we were able to secure this much needed funding for our communities being devastated by the foreclosure crisis, I remain concerned about the overall California allocation,” she said in a release issued this afternoon. “Several of my colleagues and I have written a letter to HUD Secretary Steve Preston calling for a review of the formula and asking that it be adjusted to recognize the devastating impact of the foreclosure crisis in the state of California.”

Under H.R. 3221, the Foreclosure Prevention Act signed into law July 30, HUD will disperse $3.92 billion in CDBG funding nationwide with $145 million in funding going to California; the money is to be used to buy and rehabilitate foreclosed properties that have been vacant for more than 90 days, as a means of restoring home values and reducing blight and crime in hard-hit neighborhoods.

Yet, Lee notes, California is slated to receive $12 million less of this CDBG funding than Florida.

Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, Assemblymember Sandré Swanson and Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson are on board with Lee’s call for a re-examination of the funding formula. (It’s not surprising to see all of them on the same page, as Lee, Swanson and Carson all worked for Dellums when he held the 9th Congressional District seat Lee now occupies.)

“With regards to the issue of foreclosures, anyone familiar with this crisis knows that the city of Oakland and the county of Alameda have been hit extremely hard,” Dellums said in Lee’s release. “Many of Oakland’s neighborhoods have been devastated by this crisis, and I join my colleagues in expressing our disappointment in what appears to be a fundamentally flawed and unfair formula.”

Said Carson: “California has the second highest foreclosure rate in the country, second only to Nevada. The HUD allocation of $2 million does not adequately address the needs of working families in our communities who are struggling to hold onto their property.”

And Swanson agreed time is of the essence “in dealing with long-vacant foreclosed properties. Increasing blight attracts crime, bringing down property values, and straining local police services that are often stretched too thin already. Given the incredibly high rate of foreclosures in the State, it is imperative that HUD reexamines its funding formula to ensure that California receives the funds it needs to properly address this crisis.”