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Former FCC, CPUC member goes to Comcast

In the latest case of a former public official going to work for the industry he or she used to regulate, Comcast today named former Federal Communications Commission member and California Public Utilities Commission member Rachelle Chong as its regional vice president of government affairs for California.

Rachelle ChongChong will oversee all aspects of Comcast’s governmental affairs activities, as well as all cable and telecommunications policy matters, throughout the state. She will be based in the company’s Livermore office.

“Rachelle has a proven track record as a prominent telecommunications lawyer, fair regulator and a motivational leader,” Curt Henninger, regional senior vice president for Comcast California, said in a news release. “Her understanding of technology and ‘hands on’ management style, combined with her creative approach to the ever-evolving world of communications and her life-long ties to California, make her the perfect choice for this role.”

Chong was the first Asian American to serve on the FCC, and holds the same distinction with the CPUC.

She was appointed to the FCC by President Bill Clinton in May 1994, and served until November 1997, working on implementation of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, digital television transition rules, children’s television, the first spectrum auction rules, and services rules for many new wireless services.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed her to the CPUC in January 2006 and reappointed her in December 2008; there, she led broadband initiatives and regulatory reform in the communications area, including implementation of the state’s first video franchise law. She also led the CPUC’s smart grid, electric vehicle, demand response and dynamic pricing energy initiatives.

In between the two regulatory stints, Chong was a partner at Coudert Brothers in San Francisco and Palo Alto, leading the firms’ West Coast Telecommunications and Internet Practice Group. Later, she was general counsel and vice president for government relations of Broadband Office, Inc., a Kleiner Perkins-funded broadband, communications, and applications service provider start up.

After her CPUC service, Chong was appointed by the governor to be special counsel for advanced information and communications technologies at the California Technology Agency, leading broadband, digital literacy, and public safety communications initiatives for the state and advocating before the FCC, Commerce Department and Congress on communications policy matters.

A Stockton native and San Francisco resident, Chong holds an undergraduate degree from Cal and a law degree from UC Hastings College of the Law.

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McNerney pushes VA on Livermore, San Joaquin

Rep. Jerry McNerney says he went to bat for a couple of 11th Congressional District projects as well as veterans across the nation in his one-on-one meeting today with U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki.

McNerney and Shinseki 2-9-2011McNerney, D-Pleasanton – who had announced yesterday that he’ll be the ranking Democrat on the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs – said he again urged the secretary to revisit decisions made by his predecessors to close the Livermore VA facility and to instead develop a plan that would keep it in veterans’ hands.

“The Livermore VA is a uniquely situated facility that is an important resource for the thousands of veterans who live in the area,” McNerney said in a news release. “Given its tranquil setting, I’ve long advocated for the facility to remain in veterans’ hands and be used to provide treatment for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. With an increasing number of veterans suffering from PTSD, this type of care is more important than ever.”

He said they also discussed the new veterans’ nursing home and outpatient medical facility planned for San Joaquin County.

“Just the other week, local veterans attended my most recent Congress at Your Corner event in Stockton to ask for an update on the VA’s decision on where to locate the new medical facility,” McNerney said. “At today’s meeting with the secretary I expressed again the importance of reaching a decision. This facility will create about 900 jobs and serve thousands of veterans in the area and it’s very important to our community that a final location is selected without delay.”

And McNerney said he and Shinseki discussed the VA’s backlog of benefits claims waiting to be processed – a figure the VA puts at about 400,000, but advocacy groups such as the American Legion say could be closer to 1 million – as well as the need to improve care for veterans with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries.

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LAO, local officials face off on redevelopment plan

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, Union City Mayor Mark Green, Livermore Mayor Marshall Kamena, Emeryville Mayor Nora Davis, Concord Vice Mayor Ron Leone and other Bay Area elected officials will gather with business, affordable housing and labor leaders tomorrow in Oakland in opposition to Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to eliminate California’s local redevelopment agencies and use their money to help close the state’s gaping budget deficit.

Brown proposes to end the redevelopment agencies, while giving local governments more power to promote economic development themselves by amending the state constitution so that local voters can approve tax increases and general obligation bonds by a 55 percent majority rather than the two-thirds required now.

Those planning tomorrow’s press event insist this is the kind of state raids of local funds that voters oppose, and will bring little benefit to the state while destroying hundreds of thousands of jobs – including an estimated 29,000 in the East Bay – and billions in local economic activity.

But as these local officials – acting as part of a coalition of local governments and business groups – take their complaints to the street, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office released a report today saying Brown’s plan is the way to go, shifting responsibility for local economic development to local governments with a level of transparency that’s been lacking with the redevelopment agencies:

Given the significant policy shortcomings of California’s redevelopment program, we agree with the Governor’s proposal to end it and to offer local governments alternative tools to finance economic development. Under this approach, cities and counties would have incentives to consider the full range of costs and benefits of economic development proposals.

In contrast with the administration’s proposal, however, we think revenues freed up from the dissolution of redevelopment should be treated as what they are: property taxes. Doing so avoids further complicating the state’s K–14 financing system or providing disproportionate benefits to K–14 districts in those counties where redevelopment was used extensively. Treating the revenues as property taxes also phases out the state’s ongoing costs for this program and provides an ongoing budget solution for the state.

Ordinarily, we would recommend that the state phase out this program over several years or longer to minimize the disruption an abrupt ending likely would engender. Given the state’s extraordinary fiscal difficulties, however, the Legislature will need to weigh the effect of this disruption in comparison with other major and urgent changes that the state would need to make if this budget solution were not adopted.

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Today’s Congressional odds and ends

A vote on House Republicans’ bill to repeal last year’s health care reforms is getting all the headlines, but other things are afoot from the Bay Area’s voices in Congress today…

McNerney meets with mayors: Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, met today with Danville Mayor Karen Stepper, Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti, Livermore Mayor Marshall Kamena and San Ramon Mayor Abram Wilson to discuss proposed transportation infrastructure improvements throughout the Tri-Valley area; the i-GATE iHub initiative, a public-private partnership designed to support the growth of small businesses and clean-energy technologies; emergency preparedness throughout the region; and legislation of importance to local community access television stations.

Boxer applauds homelessness grants: U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., touted Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan’s announcement that 801 California organizations – including dozens in the Bay Area – will receive more than $227 million in federal grants to provide housing, job training, health care, mental health counseling, substance abuse treatment and child care to homeless Californians. “Since the recession began, California and the rest of the nation have seen an increase in homelessness. These federal investments will help us combat the epidemic of homelessness so people can get back on their feet and off the streets,” Boxer said. California’s share is about 16 percent of the $1.4 billion total HUD announced today, funded through the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.

Eshoo elected to tech subcommittee post: Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, was elected ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications and Technology. “My Congressional District, home to Silicon Valley, is the innovation center of the world, and the policies we shape can advance America’s competitiveness and job growth,” said Eshoo, who vowed to work on expanding high-speed, affordable broadband; protecting electronic privacy; freeing up more spectrum; and transitioning our nation’s 911 system to a next generation, IP-based network. Eshoo last week had announced she’ll co-chair a bipartisan, bicameral Congressional Internet Caucus.

Pelosi to attend State Dinner: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, will be attending tonight’s State Dinner at the White House for Chinese President Hu Jintao. Other Bay Area notables on the long list of expected attendees include Oakland Mayor Jean Quan; San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee; Intel Corp. Paul Otellini and his wife, Sandy; former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz and his wife, Charlotte; former state Controller and 2006 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Steve Westly and his wife, Anita Yu; and Obama supporters Azita Raji and Denise Bauer.

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GOP foes will appear together Saturday

Del Beccar

Del Beccaro

Houston

Houston

The two candidates vying for the chairmanship of the California Republican Party will appear together Saturday at the Republican Round-up, a gathering of GOP candidates at the Livermore ranch of Robert Rao.

California GOP Vice Chairman Tom Del Beccaro and former Assemblyman Guy Houston, both running for the party’s top job, are scheduled to speak on the future of the GOP.

I suspect the men will hold hold hands and sing Kum Ba Ya, though. Del Beccaro has been running for the chairmanship for several years, while Houston only recently announced plans to usurp the vice chairman’s presumed ascension.

Rao, an entrepreneur who made his money in the automobile sales business, will host the bash at his spectacular spread in Livermore. (I interviewed Rao at his ranch when he ran, unsuccessfully, in 2008 for the GOP nomination in the Assembly District 15 primary race. And it is a lovely place.)

The event is open to the public. Read on for details and the list of confirmed attendees, per the Alameda County Republican Party.

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Political events roundup

Here is a roundup of political events and news:

Concord

Buchanan

Buchanan

Wilson

Wilson

The two candidates vying for California’s 15th Assembly District, Democratic Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan and GOP challenger and San Ramon Mayor Abram Wilson, have agreed to debate on Sept. 10.

Organized by the Contra Costa Council, the candidates will answer questions from a moderator and the audience at a luncheon set for 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. at Round Hill Country Club, 3169 Round Hill Road, in Alamo.

Lisa Vorderbrueggen, political columnist and reporter for the Contra Costa Times, will moderate the discussion.

Event co-hosts are the Engineering and Utility Contractors Association and IBEW Local 302, and the sponsor is AT&T.

The cost is $35 for members and $45 for nonmembers.

For reservations, call 925-246-1880 or fax 925-674-1654 by noon on Sept. 7. Visit www.contracostacouncil.com for more details.

The Contra Costa Council is a nonpartisan private sector, public policy organization with a membership that includes business, government, education and labor.

Livermore

Robert Rao

Robert Rao

GOP candidates invited to meet-up: All Republican Candidates for federal, state and local offices have invited to a Livermore ranch for a Sept. 25 meet-and-greet and fundraiser sponsored by the Alameda County Republican Party.

The 2010 Republican Roundup features a barbecue and live music on a working cattle ranch overlooking the Livermore hills. Invited candidates, who have not necessarily confirmed their attendance, include all GOP nominees from the U.S. Senate to governor and other statewide offices, along with Congress and the California Legislature.

The event will be held from noon to 4 p.m. at the Rao Ranch on Mines Road in Livermore. Owner Robert Rao ran for the Assembly in 2008.

To RSVP, contact the Alameda County Republican Party at 510-638-3414 or info@alamedagop.org.

Pleasanton

The office of Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, is accepting internship applications.

Students interested in public policy, civics and government are encouraged to apply for the unpaid positions in his Stockton, Pleasanton and Washington, D.C., offices. Interns may also be eligible for academic credits.

College and postgraduate students are eligible to apply for any of his three offices. Applications from high school students are considered on a case-by-case basis for internships in the Stockton and Pleasanton offices.

To apply for a position in either the Stockton or Pleasanton office, mail or fax a cover letter and resume to the respective office. Mail delivery to D.C. is delayed due to security, so applicants are encouraged to fax a cover letter and resume.

The addresses and telephone numbers are as follows:

Stockton Office, Attn: Staff Assistant, 2222 Grand Canal Blvd., No. 7, Stockton, CA 95207. Phone 209-476-8552 or fax 209-476-8587.

Pleasanton Office, Attn: Staff Assistant, 5776 Stoneridge Mall Road, No. 175, Pleasanton, CA 94588. Phone 925-737-0727 or 408-744-0727 and fax 925-737-0734.

Washington, D.C., Attn: Staff Assistant. Phone 202-225-1947 and fax 202-225-4060.

Richmond

Gioia

Gioia

Contra Costa Supervisor John Gioia, of Richmond, seeks volunteers for the 27th Annual California Coastal Cleanup at Richmond’s Marina Bay on Sept. 25.

Gioia has volunteered since 1990 and his office reports that in 2009, hundreds of volunteers helped pickup everything from tires to cigarette butts and plastic bottles along the shoreline and marsh areas.

Other event sponsors include The Watershed Project, city of Richmond, and Citizens Shoreline Response Team.

The cleanup starts at 9 a.m. and free lunch will be served to the volunteers at noon. Meet at the Shimada Friendship Park at the end of Marina Bay Parkway.

For more information, contact Kate Rauch at 510-374-3231 or kate.rauch@bos.cccounty.us.

California

September is National Voter Registration Month and voters are reminded to check their registrations or send in their applications and vote.

The registration deadline is Oct. 18 in order to vote in the Nov. 2 general election.

To be eligible to vote, a California resident must be a United States citizen, reside in California, at least 18 years old by Election Day, not in prison or on parole for a felony conviction, and have not been judged by a court to be mentally incompetent.

A voter must re-register to vote after changing names, permanent residence or political party choice.

To check registration status, take advantage of a new feature on the Secretary of State’s website at www.sos.ca.gov/elections/registration-status/index.htm for a list of county Web sites and phone numbers dedicated to registration verification.

People who would like to register to vote can download a form online at www.sos.ca.gov/nvrc/fedform/, print, sign and mail it. Californians can also pick up a voter registration form at any county elections office, public library or U.S. post office.

Voter registration forms, vote-by-mail applications and the Secretary of State’s “Guide to Voting” can be found in Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Tagalog and Vietnamese at www.sos.ca.gov/elections/elections_multi.htm.

The last day to request a vote-by-mail ballot is October 26. Use the application printed on the sample ballot booklet mailed by his or her county elections official or go to www.sos.ca.gov/elections/vote-by-mail/pdf/fill-in-vote-by-mail-app-instruct.pdf.

Sacramento

Bob Stern

Bob Stern

Center for Governmental Studies President Bob Stern, the former state political watchdog agency counsel who helped write the California Political Reform Act, will serve as co-chairman of a panel that will recommend changes to campaign finance laws.

Stern was appointed to the 25-member panel by the Fair Political Practices Commission to the Chairman’s Advisory Task Force.

He will lead in the panel with Republican political attorney Chuck Bell.

The panel has been asked to make the state’s complex 1974 Political Reform Act clearer and more accessible for candidates and the public, according to the FPPC.

Stern, who leads the nonpartisan Los Angeles-based Center for Governmental Studies, is the co-author of a number of campaign reform proposals, including the initiative that established the Fair Political Practices Commission. He was the commission’s first general counsel, from 1975 to 1983, and previously served as an attorney for the Assembly Elections and Reapportionment Committee and the Secretary of State’s office.

Co-chairman Chuck Bell is the senior partner of Bell, McAndrews and Hiltachk, LLP. He has practiced election and campaign law for over 30 years, and was the founding chairman of the California Political Attorneys Association.

The task force is scheduled to unveil its recommendations January and the commission hopes to place its suggested revisions on the 2012 ballot.