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San Francisco gears up to battle Justin Bieber

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera – already a hero to some for defending marriage rights, gun laws and the city’s universal health care ordinance – could soon cement his legal reputation with the noblest undertaking of them all: bringing the hammer down on Justin Bieber.

Bieber graffitiHerrera sent a letter Monday to executives at Def Jam Recordings and Universal Music Group – the Canadian scourge’s record label and distribution company – demanding that they cooperate in identifying and punishing those responsible for a guerrilla marketing campaign for Bieber’s new album, “Purpose,” involving stenciled, spray-painted messages on public sidewalks.

Herrera called the graffiti vandalism “illegal and actionable,” and vowed to “aggressively pursue all available penalties and costs from those responsible for lawless marketing tactics that intend to financially benefit your respective companies.”

According to Herrera’s office, San Francisco Public Works workers have been responding for several weeks to neighborhood complaints about the stenciled ads. In his letter, Herrera notes that other recent instances of illegal sidewalk advertising was chalk-based, but the Bieber-tagging looks to have been applied with permanent spray paint.

State and local laws let his office pursue civil litigation for such unlawful guerrilla marketing practices, and such lawsuits could secure court-ordered injunctions, civil penalties of up to $2,500 for each violation, and restitution for fees and costs if successful. Herrera’s office has successfully resolved similar violations by perpetrators including IBM, NBC Universal, Turner Broadcasting and Zynga; past disputes also involving illegal sidewalk graffiti ads ended with financial settlements to compensate city taxpayers for all costs, civilly punish wrongdoing, and publicly discourage such illicit conduct by other would-be commercial vandals.

“This prohibited marketing practice illegally exploits our City’s walkable neighborhoods and robust tourism; intentionally creates visual distractions that pose risks to pedestrians on busy rights of way; and irresponsibly tells our youth that likeminded lawlessness and contempt for public property are condoned and encouraged by its beneficiaries – including Mr. Bieber and the record labels that produce and promote him,” Herrera wrote to Def Jam CEO Steve Bartels and Universal Music General Counsel and EVP Jeffrey Harleston.

The city certainly is grappling with… well… smellier street problems than this, but still doesn’t want the Bieb plastered all over its sidewalks at any time, and especially not during the upcoming festivities surrounding Super Bowl 50. Herrera’s letter said he’s working with the Board of Supervisors on legislation to “substantially enhance civil penalties” for illegal guerilla marketing tactics, and Supervisor Aaron Peskin already has begun drafting it.

“Graffiti abatement and prevention are important aspects of protecting the quality of life in San Francisco neighborhoods,” Peskin said in Herrera’s news release. “Unfortunately, current penalties for ‘guerrilla marketing’ graffiti seem to reflect an acceptable cost of doing business by irresponsible companies competing for consumers’ attention. It’s clear that we need to enact tougher penalties to more effectively discourage this practice.”

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Jerry Brown blasts states fighting carbon-limit plan

California Gov. Jerry Brown vowed Friday to fight the 25 states and various business groups that are suing to block the Obama administration’s plan to curb carbon emissions from power plants.

“While the world’s scientists warn of the existential threat we face, these misguided political representatives seek to take America into a dark age of climate denial,” Brown said in a news release. “I will do everything in my power to fight this pernicious lawsuit.”

Power plants are the largest emitters of greenhouse gases among stationary sources in the United States, accounting for about a third of all emissions. The Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan sets greenhouse gas emissions guidelines for each state based on current levels of pollution; on average, it would help cut pollution from existing power plants nationwide approximately 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

California already is primed to meet and exceed these new, national reduction targets, having committed to cutting emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 under an executive order Brown issued in April – the most ambitious target in North America and consistent with California’s existing commitment to reduce emissions 80 percent under 1990 levels by 2050.

Brown has been focused on subnational pacts – collaboration between cities, states and provinces around the world – to fight climate change, even as national governments seek a deal ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference next month in Paris.

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SD7: Money & endorsements as endgame nears

Independent spending has continued to run amok in the all-Democrat 7th State Senate District special election since I last updated the tsunami Friday.

To recap, unions are spending big for Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, and against Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer – though Glazer has his own deep-pocketed, anti-union benefactors. Former Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan looks to be caught in the crossfire, and former Concord City Council candidate Terry Kremin remains beneath the radar.

Mailers are flooding the district’s mailboxes, often several a day, as the candidates plan get-out-the-vote efforts like precinct-walking and phone-banking for the campaign’s final days.

Here’s where the independent spending stands as of Wednesday:

    Bill Bloomfield, businessman: $552,984 (pro-Glazer)
    JobsPAC (California Chamber of Commerce): $297,494 (pro-Glazer or anti- the other two)
    California Charter Schools Association Advocates: $128,202 (pro-Glazer)
    EdVoice: $23,570 (pro-Glazer)
    Independent Voter PAC: $7,539 (pro-Glazer)
    California Dental Association: $336,631 (pro-Bonilla)
    California Professional Firefighters: $154,928 (pro-Bonilla)
    California Medical Association: $83,439 (pro-Bonilla)
    California Building Industry Association: $66,526 (pro-Buchanan)
    Working Families Opposing Glazer (labor unions): $240,829 (anti-Glazer)
    Asian American Small Business PAC: $122,478 (anti-Glazer or pro-Michaela Hertle, a Republican who dropped out and endorsed Glazer)

The grand total: $2,014,619. And that, of course, doesn’t include the $669,000 the three candidates had spent as of Feb. 28 – a figure that will surely rise in these final weeks before next Tuesday’s special primary.

Buchanan’s campaign bankroll includes $75,000 that she loaned out of her own pocket on Feb. 28 – about 26 percent of what her campaign has collected this year.

There’s been no movement yet on the federal trademark-infringement lawsuit that the California Republican Party filed last week against the Asian American Small Business PAC. As previously reported here, the PAC – which almost always supports Asian American Democrats – has been using union money to buy fliers on behalf of Michaela Hertle, the Pleasanton Republican who quit the race Feb. 2 and endorsed Glazer. Hertle and the state GOP contend unions are funneling money through the PAC to produce mailers urging Republicans to vote for Hertle, thereby sapping votes from Glazer.

The party complains the PAC used its elephant logo without permission; party vice chairwoman and attorney Harmeet Dhillon said Wednesday she has not yet been able to serve the committee with the complaint, but she’s sending its officers and vendors letters warning them to preserve evidence for the case.

In other news, Bonilla has continued to rack up significant endorsements in the past few weeks, including those of the California Labor Federation and former Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez. Miller called her “a proven leader who has delivered balanced budgets, improved our schools, fought to protect the Delta, and created new opportunities for middle-class families.”

Clean Water Action endorsed Buchanan last week.

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Boehner prepares resolution to sue Obama

House Speaker John Boehner on Thursday released a draft of a resolution he’ll introduce authorizing the House to sue President Obama over his 2013 decision to unilaterally delay implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate.

“In 2013, the president changed the health care law without a vote of Congress, effectively creating his own law by literally waiving the employer mandate and the penalties for failing to comply with it,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement issued with the draft. “That’s not the way our system of government was designed to work. No president should have the power to make laws on his or her own.”

The resolution reads as follows:

Providing for authority to initiate litigation for actions by the President inconsistent with his duties under the Constitution of the United States.

Resolved, that the Speaker may initiate or intervene in one or more civil actions on behalf of the House of Representatives in a Federal court of competent jurisdiction to seek relief pursuant to sections 2201 and 2202 of title 28, United States Code, and to seek appropriate ancillary relief, including injunctive relief, regarding the failure of the President, the head of any department or agency, or any other officer or employee of the United States, to act in a manner consistent with that official’s duties under the Constitution and laws of the United States with respect to implementation of (including a failure to implement) any provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and title I and subtitle B of title II of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, including any amendment made by such provision.

SEC. 2. The Speaker shall notify the House of Representatives of a decision to initiate or intervene in any civil action pursuant to this resolution.

SEC. 3. The Office of the General Counsel of the House of Representatives, at the direction of the Speaker shall represent the House in any civil action initiated, or in which the House intervenes, pursuant to this resolution and may employ the services of outside counsel and other experts for this purpose.

The House Rules Committee will consider the draft resolution next Wednesday, July 16.

Drew Hammill, spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, issued a statement later Thursday:

“Instead of working to create jobs, instead of working to strengthen the middle class or addressing any of the urgent issues facing our nation, Republicans are wasting taxpayer dollars on another toxic partisan stunt.

“Time and again, House Republicans’ total abdication of responsibility has forced the President to act. They’ve wasted billions of taxpayer dollars forcing a downgrade of the U.S. economy and a shutdown of the federal government, and now, after wasting millions defending discrimination in the federal courts, the resolution unveiled tonight would authorize hiring more partisan lawyers for yet another legal boondoggle doomed to fail.

“This lawsuit is just another distraction from House Republicans desperate to distract the American people from their own spectacular obstruction and dysfunction. Congress should be creating jobs, raising new ladders of opportunity, and focusing on the challenges facing hard working American families.”

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Neel Kashkari praises teacher-tenure ruling

A Los Angeles judge’s ruling Tuesday that California’s teacher tenure, layoff and dismissal laws are unconstitutional is “an important first step in transforming our schools,” Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari said.

“I applaud today’s ruling by Judge Treu, which recognizes that every student in California has a Constitutional right to a quality education but that their rights are being violated by failing schools,” Kashkari said in a statement issued soon after the ruling.

“California ranks 46th in the nation in education, and it will take the joint efforts of parents, teachers and political leaders to make the bold changes our kids deserve,” he said. “Today’s ruling is an important first step in transforming our schools; if we are to close the achievement gap, reduce income inequality and rebuild the middle class, then we must continue to pursue bold education reform. I have made transforming our schools a centerpiece of my campaign for Governor and I am encouraged by today’s development.”

UPDATE @ 12:40 P.M.: Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, the House Education and the Workforce Committee’s senior Democrat, also applauded the ruling:

“Judge Treu’s ruling affirms the simple and undeniable premise that every child, regardless of background or zip code, has the right to a high-quality education and an effective teacher. It is not only Californians who should celebrate today’s decision, but families in every state and school district across the country.

“For years, our nation’s courts have been the arbiter of equity in education. Like Brown v. Board, Serrano, Butt, and the many other landmark educational equality cases before it, Vergara will help refocus our education system on the needs of students.

“Unfortunately, school districts nationwide have policies in place that mirror those challenged in Vergara—policies that constrain the ability of schools to put the very best teachers in front the children that need them most. This is simply indefensible. Today’s ruling puts every school with similar policies on notice.

“I call upon all stakeholders in my home state—elected officials, community and school leaders, and teachers—to be bold and do what is right for kids. This is an historic opportunity and a defining moment for California, one that we must not squander. The Vergara decision underscores the state’s responsibility to protect the rights of children to constitutionally mandated equal educational opportunities. We owe it to the six million students in California’s public education system to be thoughtful and deliberate, and to put their needs first as we move forward.”

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Bill: State must buy or take Khosla’s beach land

Billionaire venture capitalist Vinod Khosla either would have to voluntarily sell part of the beach property he bought in 2008 to the state or else see it seized under eminent domain powers, under a bill to be introduced Friday by a Bay Area lawmaker.

State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, plans a news conference Friday near Half Moon Bay to roll out a bill he says would settle the years-long battle between Khosla, 59, of Portola Valley, and various local residents and groups. The battle is being watched across the nation as a key, possibly precedent-setting showdown between private property owners and public access rights.

Khosla – a Sun Microsystems cofounder and prominent donor to President Obama – in 2008 paid $37.5 million for 89 acres near Martin’s Beach, a popular surfing and picnicking spot south of Half Moon Bay. The property’s previous owners had charged visitors $5 for access and parking at the beach, but Khosla built a gate and declared the beach closed to the public.

Hill’s bill would require the State Lands Commission to start negotiations with Khosla to buy all or part of the property for a public access road; if no deal is struck within a year, the bill would require the commission to acquire all or part of it by eminent domain to create that road.

Vinod KhoslaA group of surfers who were arrested in October 2012 for walking around the gate and down the road to the beach dubbed themselves “Martin’s 5;” county prosecutors later dropped the charges.

A group of three surfers calling themselves Friends of Martin’s Beach sued to restore public access, citing a section of the state constitution that says property owners can’t completely block access to public bodies of water. But San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Gerald Buchwald ruled in October that this provision doesn’t apply because the constitution was predated the original land grant, which dates back to 1848.

The Surfrider Foundation has sued Khosla too, based mostly on the California Coastal Act and claiming Khosla didn’t get a coastal development permit for the gate and “keep out” signs. That case is scheduled to be tried later this year.