California

It's so easy to go after public employees

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The always-insightful Robert Cruickshank has a fascinating piece on Calitics today talking about the investigative reports showing that some state employees save up all their vacation time and get big payouts when they retire. It's true that some state workers walk away with upwards of $100,000, and it's true that it pisses people off, and it's true that there probably ought to be some reforms that limit the amount of vacation time you can save and cash in.Read more »

PG&E’s laughable Prop 16: Who needs friends when you’ve got $35 million?

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Last month, when the Guardian sent an intern to cover a debate between Pacific Gas & Electric Co. spokesperson David Townsend and California Sen. Mark Leno, the reporter was ejected from the event at Townsend’s request.

I figured I’d be immune from such nonsense when I ventured to the state capitol yesterday for a joint informational hearing about Proposition 16, the ballot initiative that PG&E has bankrolled for the June ballot for the purpose of extinguishing competition in its service territory. The initiative would establish a two-thirds majority vote before any municipal electricity program could get up and running, and its sole sponsor is PG&E.

But just after I snapped a photo of Sen. Mark Leno and Assemblyman Tom Ammiano chuckling sardonically at a PG&E executive who had mistakenly referred to the ballot initiative as “Prop 13,” a guard swooped in and ordered me to stop photographing and turn off my voice recorder. Read more »

Poll: Voters give $11 billion water bond thumbs down

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By Rebecca Bowe

There is very weak support across political and geographic boundaries in California for a proposed $11 billion water bond that will go on the November ballot, according to the results of a poll released yesterday.

Just 34 percent of respondents said they would vote yes on the proposed $11 billion bond, while 55 percent said they would vote no. A more detailed breakdown revealed that 32 percent of likely voters indicated that they would definitely vote no, while only 12 percent said they would definitely vote yes.

“This bond is in deep trouble,” said Ben Tulchin of Tulchin Research, the firm that conducted the poll. “No bond has ever won statewide that started with a majority against it. It faces a real uphill battle.” Tulchin Research conducted the poll at the request of groups opposing the bond. The poll surveyed 600 likely voters across California, asking respondents to share their opinions after reading them the title and summary. Read more »

The war on suburbs? Huh?

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Joel Kotkin, the author and urban scholar, was on KQED's Forum this morning talking about what he called "the war on the suburbs." He's got a new book out, called The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050, and he's arguing, among other things, that the election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts signals that the Democratic Party and progressives in America have lost touch with the suburbs and are being mean to the poor suburbanites.Read more »

California healthcare workers spar over medical facility rallies

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By Rebecca Bowe

Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) is holding a series of rallies today at eight different Bay Area medical facilities to “mark the approval of their new contract and organize to enforce it; and throw out an outside organization that is trying to undermine their progress,” according to a press release.

The “outside organization” refers to the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW), a young union formed early last year in the wake of a deep rift created when SEIU brought UHW workers under its representation through a trusteeship. NUHW later decried the move as a “hostile takeover.”

Workers at the hospitals, which include five medical centers in the Daughters of Charity Health System, are expected to vote soon on whether they would rather remain under the SEIU-UHW umbrella or break away to join NUHW. The eight medical centers employ roughly 3,500 SEIU-UHW members. SEIU-UHW also plans to deliver an open letter to NUHW tomorrow, Feb. 19, at NUHW's offices in Emeryville. Read more »

Rambling Jerry Brown speech raises fear among Dems

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If Jerry Brown’s keynote speech last night to a gala environmentalist dinner is any indication, the Democratic Party faces an uphill battle to win this year’s governor’s race. The rambling, alternately vague and academic, and often pointless address did little to inspire or excite a large, sympathetic crowd that was loaded with top Democrats. In fact, some party luminaries were openly aghast at the poor performance, with one making this succinct (if off-the-record) assessment: “We’re fucked.”Read more »

Loose in Obamalandia: Dead man walking through CA

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I am on a low-rent book tour with my new cult classic El Monstruo - Dread & Redemption In Mexico City.  For the next three months, I will stumble across this land from sea to stinking sea probing the underbelly of Obama's America.  The findings will be posted on these pages.

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First stop was the near north woods, Humboldt County USA, to wheedle the medicos into granting me a clean bill of health before I hit the road.  A year ago this February, my doctor who has poked and probed my old broken cadaver for nearly 20 years, pronounced me dead. "Liver Cancer" he parsed gravely -- but I am still alive and kicking. The class enemy be warned: I am not dead yet.

Humboldt had just been wracked by a 6.5 earthquake that cut a swath through Oldtown Eureka's antique shops but was not quite Haiti.  Nonetheless, the shake-up worked its usual bad mojo and implanted the seeds of fear and loathing in every soul.  On January 22nd, three separate police agencies shut down the north end of Arcata and evacuated hundreds of residents after a scruffy hippie-type tried to fed ex a suspicious package to Berkeley that leaked, according to the clerk at Kinko's, "a chemical odor." The offending package was blown up in a back alley. Read more »

The "Newsom wins" merry-go-round: What fun

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Gavin Newsom still hasn’t said for sure that he’s in the race for lt. governor, although just about everyone in town now thinks he's going for it.

But the very prospect of the mayor leaving office before his term is up has the political classes speculating: Who gets that job? And how does it happen?

It’s actually pretty interesting. Read more »

Ammiano reviving Prop. 13 reform

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Assemblymember Tom Ammiano is trying to put property-tax reform back on the California agenda. He's introducing a measure that would call for taxing commercial and residential property at different rates -- which would involve a significant change to Prop. 13. It's been tried before, and big business interests have always managed to shoot it down, but as Ammiano puts it, these are different times:

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Gavin for Lite Guv?

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Willie Brown thinks it's a good idea. And you can tell Newsom wants to consider it, since he knows there's nothing else obvious for him to do once his term as mayor is up -- and there are going to be a lot of options not too far down the road. Sen. Dianne Feinstein isn't getting any younger, and at some point she'll retire. If Jerry Brown doesn't get elected governor, the Democrats will be looking for someone very different in four years. But once a politician like Newsom is out of office and out of the spotlight, he'll have a hard time coming back.

So he could sit up there in the Lite Gov's office, doing what John Garamendi did -- taking on issues like cuts to the University of California (the Lt. Gov. sits on the Board of Regents) and making speeches about reform, and maybe he could get out in front of this constitutional convention stuff, and keep his name in the news, without having to make a single difficult or unpleasant decision that he can be blamed for later.

You know he wants to do it ....

But there's this problem, and for Newsom, it's very real.

Read more »