A Progressive Alamedan

Various writings from a resident of Alameda regarding the political scene. The local perspective of local, state and national politics and a few other odds and ends of local concern. May not be particularly interesting to people outside of the Alameda area.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Pete Stark Opposes Wasteful Defense Spending, DADT

Our congressman, Pete Stark, is the bee's knees. He voted against the wasteful defense spending bill. Of course, bills tend to package in a mixed bag of pieces, and he wanted to make sure that he was in favor of repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." This is his statement, which I think is worth reading.

MR. STARK: Madam Speaker, I rise to oppose out of control war and defense spending. This bill (H.R. 5136) would authorize a record $726 billion for defense. Congress refuses to find money to maintain COBRA premium assistance for jobless workers, but somehow we can afford yet another increase to our already bloated defense budget.

We should recognize that this legislation would fix a long-standing injustice by creating a path for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” I was proud to vote for the Murphy Amendment and I look forward to the day when LGBT Americans enjoy equal rights in all facets of society, including marriage. Although I strongly support the repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell," I cannot vote for this legislation.

The waste in this bill is shameful. It includes $361.6 million more than the Pentagon wants for a missile defense program that doesn't work, and $485 million in funding for another engine for a fighter jet that already has a working engine. I offered an amendment that would have cut the extra funding for missile defense, but it was not allowed to come to the floor for a vote. An amendment to strike money for a duplicative engine that the Pentagon doesn't want or need was also defeated.

Congress needs to get our priorities in order. We should be working to create jobs and assisting those impacted by the recession, not continue runaway defense spending. I urge all of my colleagues to oppose this wasteful bill.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Beware the "Voter Information Guide" scam

Back in 2008, I pointed out a suspicious flyer that looked like it held the Democratic Party endorsements, but didn't. Well, it's back! Take your pick: Democrat or Independent, you probably got a flyer this week that looks like a very handy voter guide.

And the source of those recommendations?

This time I dug a bit deeper, looking up the return address. It turns out that the flyer comes from Political consultant Larry Levine, who is happy to endorse you on his flyer — for a price.

He's probably not breaking any laws with this, but it is sure slimy; especially the flyer for Democrats that looks like an official Democratic Party slate card (which I am still waiting to receive).

If you look very closely, you will see that candidates Gavin Newsom, Alberto Torrico, and Dave Jones paid for his endorsement at the statewide level, and John Creighton paid for the endorsement as Superior Court Judge locally. And of the propositions, PG&E and Mercury Insurance paid for Levine's endorsements of Propositions 16 and 17.

How does that compare to the Democratic Party endorsements? The only overlap is that Dave Jones got the party's endorsement. (I'm disappointed in Jones for participating!) All other races either didn't have party endorsements, or are the opposite of the Democratic Party endorsement.

It's really a shame that thousands of voters around California are probably going to actually look at, and use this flyer in making their judgments.

(And check out this for a laugh: There's a "No on Prop 14" blurb on the flyer, which does correspond to the Democratic Party endorsement. On the flyer targeted to Democrats, it has a quotation attributed to California Democratic Party chair John Burton. (This makes the flyer seem legitimate, right?) On the flyer targeted to Independents, it has the same quotation, except that it substitutes "Independent voters" for "Democrats," but this time It's attributed to Allan Clark, President of the California School Employees Association. Hmmmm.)

At least it's nice to see that this flyer is getting some attention as being a scam. One blog post on Daily Kos uncovered it a several years ago; a concerned citizen has created a website www.VoterInformationGuide.org warning people who may have googled the flyer about its true origins. And just today, a SFWeekly blog post has a great headline: Gavin Newsom Pays For Endorsement in Bogus 'Voter Information Guide'.

It's important that the old-school, cigar-smoking, deal-making, money-grubbing political operatives are exposed.

It's no surprise that on his flyer, Levine recommends a NO vote on Proposition 15. He didn't need anybody to pay him for that position — Proposition 15 is the first step in putting the likes of him out of business.

Let's put him out of business.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

My Recommendations for the June 2010 Ballot (Alameda area + California)

Election Day for the June Primaries is a month away. As you know, I like to send out my suggestions for upcoming elections based on my experiences and research.

Since many of us vote by mail, I figured it would be a good idea to post my recommendations earlier rather than later. (Please save, bookmark, or print this page until you are ready to fill out your ballot.)

Feel free to excerpt this and forward this to other Californians who care! I've tried to segment out the local stuff so it's easy to extract the state-wide stuff if needed.


There are only 5 propositions on this ballot. I'm calling this the "Power Grab" election because several of these are about big corporate groups trying to grab power by spending a lot of money.

13: YES. This one's a no-brainer and supported by both the Democratic and Republican Party of California. Allows people to do seismic retrofitting and not trigger a property value reassessment.

14: NO. Change the primary election process to be a so-called "open primary" with the top two overall vote getters duking it out in November. You could easily end up with the top two money-spenders as your two choices in November. Imagine if it came down to Meg Whitman vs. Steve Poizner ... which millionaire would you choose? In local elections, the main problem is that in Red areas, it will generally pit R vs. R; in Blue areas, D vs. D. That doesn't really allow for much diversity in choices, and would make it nearly impossible to "flip" a district. Obviously opposed by the Democrats, but I was surprised to see it's opposed by the CA Republican party for pretty much the same reasons.

15: YES, YES, YES!!! This is a small step toward what we were trying to pass as Proposition 89 in 2006. A pilot program for the Secretary of State's office, it is public financing for campaigns so that candidates with the best ideas and most support -- not the most money -- get to participate in politics. Imagine a world where politicians are free from the campaign contributions of special interests.
More info: http://www.yesfairelections.org/

16: NO!!! This is a big POWER GRAB by PG&E. You've probably gotten a lot of YES flyers - PG&E is putting a lot of money (I read $34.5 million) into this! Passing this would amend the state constitution on behalf of one company, making it extremely difficult for local governments to set up public power agencies - which would take business away from the power giant. As an Alamedan with a local power company, I have a lot of personal reasons to appreciate having our own power company, especially during the Enron days when Alamedans were paying the usual for electricity while the rest of California was being robbed blind. Do you know that nonprofit municipal utility customers pay an average of 20%–25% less for electricity than customers of for-profit electric utilities?
More info: http://www.noprop16.org/

17: NO! This is a power grab funded by one company: Mercury Insurance. It would roll back the insurance regulations that were passed as Proposition 103 many years ago. Their ads make it seem like a nice idea, but it's really a way for this company to get a lot of extra money.
More info: http://www.stopprop17.org/ http://www.consumercal.org/article.php?id=1203

Props 16 and 17 are so disgusting. The initiative process was supposed to empower people, not corporations. Maybe 15 is a small step in the right direction....

Other local/non-partisan items on the ballot:

Alameda County -- Superior Court Judge, Office #9: I'm supporting VICTORIA S. KOLAKOWSKI. I got to hear all three candidates at a panel last month, and she was the only one that impressed me. She's picked up the support of a lot of fellow progressive Democrats as well.

California State Superintendent of Public Instruction: I don't really have any strong feelings here. Tom Torlakson seemed to be the front-runner, at least from those on the Democrat side of the room.


If you are voting as a Democrat (either you are a registered Dem, or you are independent but have asked for the "Nonpartisan Democratic" ballot), you will have an opportunity to vote for who will represent the Democrats in the November election.

For Governor, the obvious front-runner is come-back kid Edmund G. "Jerry" BROWN. Viewed as too liberal by the conservatives, and not liberal enough by the progressives like me, he will probably do a decent job. I don't think anybody else is as qualified! The only other candidate I've heard of it Peter Shurman, who had a minor presence at the Democratic Convention and is running as a progressive. You could toss your vote to him as a protest vote, I suppose, though I wasn't that impressed by him.

Lieutenant Governor: This is a tough one. The two front-runners are Gavin Newsom and Janice Hahn. I'm somewhat ambivalent, but I am supporting JANICE HAHN only because I think that the ticket needs balancing; I think that Brown/Newsom would have a tough time competing against the Republicans in November; but pairing Brown with a woman, from Southern California, without a lot of the baggage that Newsom has, might be a winning combination.

Incumbents Debra Bowen (Yeayyy!), John Chiang, and Bill Lockyer are running unopposed on the Democratic ticket. I can't think of any reason not to vote for them.

Attorney General is the only state race that is truly an open field. I got to hear many of the candidates, and though I thought the "vote for pedro" T-shirts were cute, I am supporting KAMALA D. HARRIS, a D.A. from San Francisco. She comes across as one of the brightest people I've seen. I really like her "smart" (as opposed to "tough") on crime approach.

Insurance Commissioner: I'm supporting DAVE JONES; I've actually met him a few times here and there and I like his politics. Jones was supported by a supermajority of delegates at the convention, so he got the official Democratic Party endorsement.

State Board of Equalization, District 1 (Coastal California) I'm supporting the incumbent, BETTY T. YEE. I met her a couple of years ago and I've always been impressed by her political passion. (For people in District 2, covering most of inland California and into Santa Barbara, I recommend CHRIS PARKER.)

State Senator: BOXER. A true hero. 'Nuff said.