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Oakland, SF education officials meet with Obama

Three California education officials – including two from the Bay Area – met Monday morning with President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to highlight the need for funding as Congress mulls a new budget and a revamp of the No Child Left Behind law.

Jumoke Hinton HodgeOakland Unified School District board member Jumoke Hinton Hodge, San Francisco Unified School District Superintendent Richard Carranza and Fresno Unified School District Superintendent Mike Hanson were among the dozen officials from across the nation who met with Obama and Duncan at the White House.

All were from districts that are part of the Council of the Great City Schools; Hodge chairs the board of that national organization, which represents the needs of urban public schools. School districts eligible for membership must be located in cities with populations over 250,000 and student enrollment over 35,000.

Obama said in the meeting that he’s ready to fight with Republicans for school funding and his education priorities, the Associated Press reported. He hopes that Republican lawmakers focus on educating every child and not shifting money away from needy districts, he said; he’s also calling for a focus on low-performing schools, annual assessments and investments in special education and English-language learners.

If the Republican budget doesn’t reflect those priorities, he said, they will have “a major debate.”

“My hope is that their budget reflects the priorities of educating every child,” he said, according to a pool report from the New York Post’s Geoff Earle. “We are making too much progress here … for us to be going backwards now.”

Obama and Duncan are touting improved high-school graduation rates as evidence that the administration’s policies are working. In California, the high school graduation rates from 2012 to 2013 increased by 2.4 percent overall, including a 2.7 percent increase for Hispanic students and a 2.1 percent increase for African-American students.

Richard CarranzaHinton Hodge is co-founder of the Parent Leadership and Engagement Academy Initiative (PLEA), a community-building project dedicated to the education and support of West Oakland parents and families. She collaborated with California Tomorrow to develop programs aimed at increasing parents’ ability to navigate the public school system; has worked extensively with low-income youth and students identified as severely emotionally disturbed; and she has provided gender-specific services to urban girls.

Carranza has been San Francisco’s schools superintendent since June 2012; earlier, he had been the district’s deputy superintendent of instruction, innovation and social justice at the district since 2009.

Posted on Monday, March 16th, 2015
Under: Barack Obama, education, Oakland, Obama presidency, San Francisco politics | 12 Comments »

State oversight avalanche bears down on ABAG

State officials are rushing to put new oversights in place following the embezzlement of almost $1.3 million by an Association of Bay Area Governments official from a bond-funded San Francisco development account.

State Treasurer John Chiang on Thursday announced a partnership with Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, to conduct legislative oversight hearings to make sure money raised through government bond sales is safe from fraud, abuse, and mismanagement. Chiang also said he has created a special task force to develop best-practices guidelines on the care of bond proceeds that will be issued to all state and local governments.

California and its local governments over the past decade have issued more than $700 billion in public debt, Chiang noted in a news release.

“We rely on these borrowed moneys to build and maintain the critical infrastructure upon which our communities and economy depend – from schools and roads to levees and libraries,” Chiang said. “The ease in which one of ABAG’s leaders allegedly fleeced more than a million dollars in bond funds raises concerns regarding whether there are sufficient safeguards at the thousands of State and local agencies which are responsible for nearly three-quarters of a trillion bond dollars.”

And state Controller Betty Yee announced Thursday her staff will audit ABAG’s internal administrative and accounting controls.

“As California’s chief fiscal officer, I am charged with protecting state resources,” Yee said. “When public money goes missing, I need to determine how it happened and whether effective controls are in place.”

Yee’s audit will initially focus on FY 2012-13 and 2013-2014, but that might expand if investigators discover accounting weaknesses that may have affected earlier years. The Controller’s Office sent a letter today to ABAG asking that the association make available documents that will be used in the audit including ledgers, contracts, invoices, personnel records, meeting minutes, policies and procedures. The audit work will begin Feb. 20 and is expected to take a few weeks.

More, after the jump…
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Posted on Thursday, February 12th, 2015
Under: California State Senate, John Chiang, Kevin de Leon | 4 Comments »

Obama to speak next Friday at Stanford, in SF

President Barack Obama will be in the Bay Area next week to speak at a Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection at Stanford University – an event that was scheduled a month ago but seems particularly timely given this week’s news of a massive hacking fiasco that compromised the personal data of up to 80 million Anthem insurance customers.

The president will arrive in San Francisco on Thursday night, a White House official said on background. He’ll speak Friday at the summit, which aims “to help shape public and private sector efforts to protect American consumers and companies from growing threats to consumers and commercial networks.”

“The summit will bring together major stakeholders on cybersecurity and consumer financial protection issues – including senior leaders from the White House and across the federal government; CEOs from a wide range of industries including the financial services industry, technology and communications companies; computer security companies and the retail industry; as well as law enforcement officials, consumer advocates, technical experts, and students,” the White House official said.

President Obama after his remarks will host a roundtable discussion with business leaders. On Friday evening, he’ll speak at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser at the San Francisco home of venture capitalist Sandy Robinson; tickets cost $10,000 for dinner and a photo, $32,400 to co-chair the event. On Saturday, Obama will head for Palm Springs.

Posted on Friday, February 6th, 2015
Under: Barack Obama, Obama presidency | 5 Comments »

House members react to net neutrality plan

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler announced Wednesday that he’s proposing strong new rules that would bar Internet and wireless providers from blocking, slowing or discriminating against consumers’ access to particular websites and services – thus preserving “net neutrality.”

From Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto:

“The proposed update to net neutrality rules is a triumph for the American consumer. The American people asked for the strongest possible rules to ensure a free and open Internet, and Chairman Wheeler has heard their voices by proposing to reclassify broadband under Title II of the Communications Act.

“The American people asked for net neutrality rules to apply to both fixed and mobile broadband service and the updated rules again deliver.

“The American people asked for and received bright-line rules to prevent throttling of Internet content, prohibit paid prioritization, and a ban on blocking.

“Finally, the proposed update goes a step further to prevent broadband providers from discriminating against content providers at the point of network entry.

“This is the architecture of our digital future. The Chairman’s proposal deserves the vote of the full Commission.”

From Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose:

“The record breaking number of comments received by the FCC left no doubt that the public supports strong net neutrality rules. I’m pleased Commissioner Wheeler has recognized that public sentiment today and put forward a good plan to use Title II authority to implement and enforce open internet protections.

“These protections, including bans on blocking, throttling, or prioritizing Internet traffic based on source, application, or content, will bolster innovation and self-expression across the nation and around the world. Large technology companies, small app developers, movie and television writers, public advocacy organizations, and the public at large all stand to benefit from a free and open internet.

“Additionally, I am pleased the Chairman has put forth a plan that emphasizes restraint – forbearing from regulations unnecessary for achieving an open and competitive internet.

“I look forward to a swift consideration of the Chairman’s proposal by the full Commission.”

More, after the jump…
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Posted on Wednesday, February 4th, 2015
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 10 Comments »

AG Eric Holder in Oakland, SF on Thursday

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will be in Oakland and San Francisco on Thursday to wrap up his national “Building Community Trust” tour seeking stronger bonds between law enforcement and the people they’re supposed to protect and serve.

Eric HolderHolder – in his final days in his job, as his nominated successor, federal prosecutor Loretta Lynch, awaits Senate confirmation – will take part in a roundtable discussion with Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, Rep. Barbara Lee, and other selected officials and community members at 9:30 a.m. Thursday in Oakland’s federal building on Clay Street.

The event isn’t open to the public.

“I am very glad the Attorney General accepted my invitation to come to Oakland and hear first-hand our community’s concerns and ideas to enact much needed change,” Lee, D-Oakland, said in a news release. “We must work together to take the long overdue action needed to build trust between the community and law enforcement and ensure justice for all. This dialogue is an important step in that effort.”

Holder on Thursday afternoon will meet with students and police officers and tour the Willie Mays Boys and Girls Club of San Francisco.

Holder in September announced a National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice, a $4.75 million effort to combat distrust and hostility between law enforcement and the communities they serve – a reaction to the massive protests following the slaying of a young black man by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo.

This will be the final stop on his tour. Previous stops included Atlanta in November; Cleveland, Chicago and Memphis in December; and Philadelphia in January.

Posted on Wednesday, February 4th, 2015
Under: Attorney General, Civil liberties, Public safety | No Comments »

Jeb Bush to address car dealers Friday in SF

As he “actively explores” a 2016 presidential run, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush will be in San Francisco on Friday to give a convention keynote speech.

Jeb BushBush will address the National Automobile Dealers Association’s convention and expo at the Moscone Center late Friday afternoon. Former “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno will address the convention Saturday.

“Jeb Bush is a visionary leader and successful governor,” said 2014 NADA Chairman Forrest McConnell. “We are delighted to have him keynote NADA’s convention this year, and we hope to learn a bit more about his future ambitions.”

Bush, the son of former President George H.W. Bush and younger brother of former President George W. Bush, was Florida’s governor from 1999 to 2007. He announced in December that he’s considering a presidential run, and has been hiring staff and meeting with contributors in recent weeks.

A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released Tuesday found Bush lags in popularity behind 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney, who announced this month that he’s considering a third run for the White House. Bush’s numbers have fallen since his own December announcement; 37 percent of Republicans now view him positively, down from 44 percent in November, the poll found.

Friday’s address is expected to be among his last paid speeches before he shifts more fully into potential-candidate mode; he’s scheduled to give a policy speech at the Detroit Economic Club early next month.

NADA represents nearly 16,000 new-car and new-truck dealerships with 32,500 franchises, both domestic and international. The group says its convention and expo, expected to draw more than 23,000 attendees, “is the automotive industry event of the year and the world’s largest international gathering place for franchised new-vehicle dealers.” Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who many believe will be a Democratic presidential candidate in 2016, spoke at NADA’s convention last year in New Orleans.

Posted on Wednesday, January 21st, 2015
Under: 2016 presidential election | 9 Comments »

Citizens United anniversary brings protests

Activists are taking to the streets Wednesday in the Bay Area and across the nation to mark the fifth anniversary of the Citizens United U.S. Supreme Court ruling that has let an unprecedented flood of money wash across the face of American politics.

money in politicsIn Berkeley, the California Public Interest Research Group, local officials, students and residents gathered Wednesday morning on Cal’s Sproul Plaza. “Five years ago today, the Supreme Court went way off track, and gave mega-donors and corporate interests free rein to drown out the voices of the majority,” said Zach Weinstein of CALPIRG. “But we’re here today because the decision also sparked a movement of Americans working to take back our democracy, city-by-city and state-by-state.”

“We must stop the influx of big money in our democracy by passing an amendment to our constitution to stop corporations from being defined as people and money as speech; enacting disclosure laws, campaign finance contribution limits and publicly funded campaigns,” said Helen Grieco of Common Cause.

In San Francisco, activists are organizing a “Mourning in America” march starting at 3:30 p.m. from Market and Montgomery streets to the federal building at 450 Golden Gate Ave. for a 4:30 p.m. rally. The march, to “call for a reversal of corrupt campaign finance system that favors wealthy special interests over the public interest,” will be led by hip-hop artist Khafre Jay, effigies of the five Supreme Court Justices who were in the majority on Citizens United, a live band, and a coffin containing Uncle Sam; marchers are encouraged to wear black, and black armbands will be handed out.

Those scheduled to speak at the rally include former Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco; former Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin; good-government expert and former Secretary of State candidate Derek Cressman; and others. Endorsers and organizers include the Money Out! People In! Coalition, 99Rise, CA Nurses Association, Common Cause, Courage Campaign, California Clean Money Campaign, Free Speech for People, Money Out Voters In (MOVI), MoveOn Councils, Move to Amend, Mount Diablo Peace and Justice Center, Public Citizen, Represent.us, San Francisco Labor Council AFL-CIO, Solar Justice, and the Sunflower Alliance.

99RiseIn Washington, D.C., seven 99Riseactivists disrupted Wednesday morning’s U.S. Supreme Court session. Each stood up and demanded that the court overturn Citizens United, before raising his or her index finger in the air – a gesture meant to represent the “one person, one vote” principle that they say the ruling undermined.

“We have seen the consequences of the free flow of private money rushing into our public political system,” activist Curt Ries said. “Nearly $4 billion was spent in the 2014 midterm elections, and almost all of it came from a handful of wealthy individuals and organizations. The kind of influence that money buys fundamentally corrupts our electoral process by giving undue representation to wealthy donors and corporations. That’s not a democracy, it’s a plutocracy.”

Posted on Wednesday, January 21st, 2015
Under: campaign finance | 3 Comments »

Tom Steyer looks good in his own Senate 2016 poll

Hedge fund billionaire and environmental activist Tom Steyer said Tuesday he’s considering whether to run for California’s U.S. Senate seat in 2016, but apparently he’s been mulling this for a while: A polling memo shows he commissioned a survey on his chances in mid-December.

And those chances aren’t bad, the poll found (which, no doubt, is why I was able to obtain the memo).

“Our December survey shows that Tom Steyer is clearly a strong contender to win the seat now open due to the announced retirement of Senator Barbara Boxer,” according to the memo from the firm of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates. “Steyer’s profile, background and the storyline of his political and charitable involvement combine to form an attractive foundation for a candidacy.”

CincinnatusLest anyone worry how healthy an opinion Steyer, 57, of San Francisco has of himself, the memo was addressed to “Team Cincinnatus” – presumably referring to the Roman statesman hailed as an icon of virtue, selflessness and humility after twice being chosen for, and then twice resigning, the mantle of dictator in order to protect the republic. Big sandals to fill, there.

The poll conducted from Dec. 18-22 asked 600 California registered Democrats and nonpartisan voters about their priorities; they named the environment – including climate change, the need for clean-energy jobs, and anti-pollution efforts – among the three top issues facing California’s next senator, along with education and income inequality. The poll also found:

    75 percent would be likely to support a candidate who led the fight to pass Proposition 39, the successful 2012 ballot measure that closed a corporate tax loopholes for out-of-state companies and set some of the revenue aside for schools and clean-energy construction jobs;
    79 percent would be likely to support a national leader in promoting new clean energy technologies;
    66 percent would be likely to support a candidate who “believes climate change is the biggest challenge of our times”;
    66 percent would be likely to support a successful businessman who understands how the global 21st Century economy works; and
    65 percent say they would be likely to support a candidate who has committed to giving away the majority of his personal wealth to help the next generation get a fair shake.

All of these questions were asked without any mention of Steyer’s name. Afterward, when respondents were read an actual description of Steyer, 75 percent said they would be likely to support him, including 41 percent who said “very likely.”

Tom Steyer“Much of the elements of this campaign are, of course, yet to be determined so soon after Senator Boxer’s announcement — particularly the precise make-up of the field, including Republicans since all candidates must attempt to qualify for the November general election by finishing in the top two,” the memo said. “What is clearly evident, however, is that unlike other wealthy and mainly self-funded candidates in the past, Tom Steyer possesses a very sound foundation among the voters in terms of the issues, and political and charitable activities that provide his motivation for running. That is a huge asset for him going forward.”

Read as: Voters won’t be quick to peg Steyer as a rich dilettante who’s trying to buy one of the state’s top political posts, like a certain someone whose name starts with “M” and ends with “eg Whitman.”

The memo also notes that depending on whether Republicans can field “a credible and financially resourced candidate” in June 2016’s top-two primary, California could wind up with two Democrats going head to head in that November’s general election. “In such a scenario, Tom Steyer’s profile can make him the best positioned candidate to have cross-over appeal, especially with non-partisan voters,” the memo concluded.

What does it all mean? Some context, after the jump…
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Posted on Thursday, January 15th, 2015
Under: U.S. Senate | 23 Comments »

Some Muslim-American thoughts on Charlie Hebdo

As Bay Area residents prepare to stage a solidarity and support vigil outside the French Consulate in San Francisco tonight, here’s a sampling of some Muslim-American thoughts on the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris.

From Haris Tarin, director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council’s Washington, D.C. office:

“The tragic irony that these criminals displayed is that if they actually gave a cursory look over the Prophet Muhammad’s life, they’d see how he reacted to insults and degrading treatment. The Prophet always responded with mercy and forgiveness. No matter what grievances individuals or communities might have, violence is never the answer.”

From Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Executive Director Nihad Awad:

“We strongly condemn this brutal and cowardly attack and reiterate our repudiation of any such assault on freedom of speech, even speech that mocks faiths and religious figures. The proper response to such attacks on the freedoms we hold dear is not to vilify any faith, but instead to marginalize extremists of all backgrounds who seek to stifle freedom and to create or widen societal divisions.

“We offer sincere condolences to the families and loved ones of those killed or injured in this attack. We also call for the swift apprehension of the perpetrators, who should be punished to the full extent of the law.”

Zahra Billoo, who directs CAIR’s San Francisco Bay Area chapter, posted to her Facebook page and Tweeted that she “supports free speech. ‪#‎CharlieHebdo‬ ‪#‎ParisShooting‬.”

From the Facebook page of Hanif Mohebi, who directs CAIR’s San Diego chapter:

“To my French Muslim brothers and sisters, its absolutely important to condemn the recent violent act, and be very vocal about it. I also recommend that security for Mosques, Islamic Schools and to be very cautious in general. May Allah(swt) save us all.”

From the Facebook page of Shireen Qudosi, who runs a Southern California content, marketing and design agency:

“Home sick today to find more distressing news that should be another wake up call for the fundie-coddling West. Amidst catching up on the news, I see a once-again mushrooming of ‘Where are the Muslims voices speaking out against this?!’ To the nay-sayers, I say this: Please explain to me how you expect reform-minded Muslims, to practically overnight, go toe-to-toe with well-funded radical and sympathetic organizations, who on top of all their funding receive ample Western media support. On the other hand, I’ve had reporters and journalists straight up walk out of the room or not use a single line of interview time because it didn’t subscribe to a victim agenda. We’re speaking out, and we’re doing the best we can on a grassroots level. I can only speak for me personally when I say that I do my best to research and write pro-reform work and network with like-minded individuals, while also working almost two full time jobs and raising a toddler with special needs. I wield my war against radical Islam with a pen, and not with useless hippie protests on a street when I need to be at work fulfilling my commitment to my family. People are so quick to say ‘where are the Muslims’ and very slow to actually understand the juggernaut obstacles we’re working to overcome along with very awkwardly balancing a personal life… and we are overcoming our reform obstacles. When I started my reform work nearly ten years ago, reform wasn’t even an idea and there were only maybe 3 or 4 people speaking out. Now we have a legion. It’s in fact one of the projects I’m working on and you’re welcome to walk the talk even if all you’re doing is sharing this link and message with your network: http://www.gofundme.com/Islamic-Reform
I don’t have time to deal with naysayers, internet trolls, doubters and arm-chair generals. We have real wars to fight and, in this, we don’t have the luxury of entertain people who like to think they’re experts and philosophers. You don’t like Muslims? That’s fine. You don’t need to and I’m not asking you to. But I also don’t need to answer to your petulant demand for answers.”

Posted on Wednesday, January 7th, 2015
Under: Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

State lawmakers react to Brown’s inaugural speech

From state Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose:

Jim Beall“This may have been Gov. Brown’s best State of the State address. He laid out a long-term vision for California’s future. As chairman of the Senate transportation committee, I agree with his mission to maintain our roads, highways, and bridges. By investing in infrastructure maintenance and effective mass transit projects we can cut pollution and create new jobs. The BART extension to San Jose is projected to generate 19,000 jobs (one job for one year). We have to keep the state moving and I’ve introduced SB 9 to allow multi-year funding under the Cap and Trade program for large, innovative mass transit projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“I also agree with the Governor that we can no longer make students the ‘default financiers’ of our colleges. SB 15 would freeze tuition rates and that’s why I co-authored it. I believe there has to be a more public investment in education rather than have the students pick up higher and higher percentages of the cost. The Governor was right to point out that California cannot afford to pour more money into the prison system. This costs higher education dearly because it is money that could be spent on our universities.’’

From Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, R-Dublin:

Catharine Baker“As we prioritize our budget, we must focus on what is needed for a strong and prosperous state. Education, transportation, and an environment that promotes job growth must be our focus in the coming years.

“I was pleased to hear the Governor’s commitment to some shared priorities we have. Ensuring our schools receive the necessary funding to provide all of California’s children the education they deserve should remain a top priority. We need to ensure that funding for education is going directly to the classroom to benefit our students and teachers, and not to a bloated administrative bureaucracy. And we cannot continue to defend the status quo and the policies addressed in the Vergara decision. Those policies are denying students the opportunity to get a good education. Finally, in the true spirit of local control, we must eliminate the cap on savings reserves that was implemented last year. It endangers the financial health of every school district in our community.

“Republicans and Democrats worked together last year and supported the rainy day fund, and the state needed that reform. Our school districts need a rainy day fund, too, and state law now prohibits them from having the savings they need to protect against cuts. Ensuring we have reserves to continue necessary programs in the midst of a fiscal crisis is the right thing to do. I am committed to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure that the cap on reserves is eliminated.

“As Vice-Chair of the Higher Education Committee, I will work to fight tuition increases that hinder our students’ ability to attend college, and I hope the Governor will join me in this pledge. Under the UC proposed tuition hike, students and their families will pay 25 percent more for their degrees in 2020 than they are paying today. Lawmakers and the UC must work together on long-term planning to keep higher education affordable, and I will fight for that.

“The Governor and I agree that it is time Republicans and Democrats come together to address California’s transportation needs. We have a crumbling infrastructure that was built for a population a fraction of the size it is now. But directing public funds to High Speed Rail as it starts breaking ground this week is a poor use of taxpayer dollars. We should be breaking ground on BART to Livermore, expanding parking at BART, and improving our road capacity instead of funding the bullet train project. This is money that should be spent easing congestion and increasing mass transit in the most high traffic regions of the state.

“I applaud the Governor and my predecessors that have worked to turn our economy around over the past few years. There is a still a great deal of work to be done, and our economy is fragile. Unemployment is dropping, but there are still too many Californians out of work and too many businesses leaving our state. We have to make it easier for employers to do business here. I would like to have heard the Governor address this, but I look forward to working with him on improving California’s business economy.”

More from the Bay Area’s lawmakers, after the jump…
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Posted on Monday, January 5th, 2015
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Catharine Baker, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown, Jim Beall, Phil Ting | 1 Comment »