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Tuesday
Jul272010

A.M. MEMOS - Tuesday, July 27: Maldonado, Jerry Brown, Schwarzenegger, state budget stalemate, November ballot measures...

MISCELLANEOUS POLITICAL NOTES.....

* Maldonado's family farm settles tax bill with IRS" - Following media reports regarding IRS liens against the family business, the lieutenant governor's brother and father paid $111,146 in back taxes Monday but said they were doing so "under protest" because they disupte the charge.   (LAT)

* "What labor likes best about Brown:  He's not Whitman" - "Unions are giving the candidate plenty of financial support, even though he has made no commitment to their causes."   (LAT)

* "Schwarzenegger threatens to leave office without signing budget" - "California governor demands legislative reforms to budget and tax systems before he'll approve any spending plan.  Senate president suggests Democrats are willing to wait it out."  (LAT)

* "Long California budget stalemate could affect Prop. 25" - This is the November ballot measure that would change the legislative vote requirement for budgets from two-thirds to a simple majority.  Democrats and their union allies are in favor of the measure, while Republicans, who would lose their leverage on the budget, and business groups are opposed.  Dan Walters' says both sides of the Proposition 25 battle may have a vested interest in having this year's budget stalemate continue indefinitely, thus ultimately driving legislators' abysmal popularity even lower.  (Sac Bee)

* "Democratic donor gives $5 million to Prop. 23 foes" - Thomas Steyer, a San Francisco hedge fund manager and a big backer of Democratic candidates, will donate $5 million to a group opposing the ballot measure to roll back California's landmark climate change law. Steyer, founder of Farallon Capital  Management LLC, has joined George Shultz,  former U.S. secretary of the state, as co-chairman of the No on 23 committee, giving the group's leadership a bipartisan mix.  (Sac Bee)

* "Sacramento Bee to co-sponsor governor's debate" - Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman has agreed to participate in a September debate co-sponsored by The Sacramento Bee.  Other sponsors of the event, to be held September 28 on the UC Davis campus, are KCRA, Capitol Public Radio and the University of California, Davis.  Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown had previously accepted the invitation. Brown announced earlier this month that he has agreed to participate in 10 debates and forums leading up to the Nov. 2 general election.  Whitman plans to participate in three, including the Sacramento-area event announced today.  (Sac Bee)


Tuesday
Jul272010

"Unringing" the Bell; "outrage remains" in city of Bell....  *[UPDATED]

* "UNRINGING" THE BELL?  CITY OF BELL REMAINS FRONT AND CENTER IN THE NEWS.... Various items today:

"Bell council members cut salaries 90%; some will forego pay" - They say they will cut their salaries to $8,000 per year.  Mayor and vice mayor say they will finish their terms without any salary.  Meanwhile,  California Attorney General and Los Angeles County District Attorney continue their investigations.... (LAT)

"As top Bell officials earned massive salaries, city workers were laid off" - Layoffs and cutbacks in public safety, parks and community-based services over the past several years; $800,000 cutback in funding for such services the same year the city manager was given an $82,000 raise....  (LAT)

"Outrage remains after Bell council votes to cut pay" - Vocal residents say the pay cut is not enough; they want the council members (four out of the five) to resign....  (Daily News/AP)

"Former Bell police officer alleges serious voting irregularities in 2009 election" - The officer, who says he was forced out of the department for his whistleblower activities, has filed a lawsuit claiming that off-duty Bell police officers distributed absentee ballots to residents and told them which candidates to select and that some ballots were filled out for deceased people....  (LAT)

***UPDATED:

*  BROADER INVESTIGATION OF BELL BY D.A. COOLEY THAN PREVIOUSLY KNOWN; INVESTIGATORS HAVE BEEN GATHERING EVIDENCE SINCE MARCH....  From L.A. Times website this afternoon:

   L.A. County prosecutors have launched a multipronged investigation into the city of Bell, examining allegations of voter fraud as well as conflicts of interest involving city business.  In an interview with The Times, Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley described the investigation as “rapidly expanding and full-fledged,” saying investigators have been gathering evidence since March.

Cooley’s comments indicate a larger probe than prosecutors had acknowledged up to now.  Until now, the district attorney has said it was looking at what it called high salaries paid to City Council members, who earned nearly $100,000 until they cut their own salaries on Monday. But Cooley said that part of the probe is specifically looking at whether council members received pay for meetings they didn’t attend.  (LAT)

 

Tuesday
Jul272010

New city labor agreement with Engineers & Architects Assn.? SEIU is not happy about this....

* IN AN EFFORT TO REDUCE FURLOUGH DAYS FOR ITS MEMBERS, THE LEADERSHIP OF THE ENGINEERS & ARCHITECTS ASSOCATION HAS NEGOTIATED AN AGREEMENT FOR ITS MEMBERS TO CONTRIBUTE A HIGHER AMOUNT TOWARD THEIR HEALTH CARE; EAA LEADERSHIP IS ALSO LOOKING AT A POSSIBLE FUTURE AGREEMENT TO INCREASE PENSION CONTRIBUTIONS. SEIU UNION OFFICIALS ARE NOT HAPPY ABOUT THE PROSPECT OF THIS BECOMING A PRECEDENT FOR OTHER CITY EMPLOYEE UNIONS....  David Zahniser reports in today Los Angeles Times:

   Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and his top budget advisers thought they negotiated a labor contract last week that would begin to address the steadily rising cost of employee healthcare benefits. 
But that deal, reached with the 4,800-member Engineers and Architects Assn., has come under attack from members of another civilian employee union, which contends that the agreement contains "unprecedented and dangerous" concessions and should be rejected
.  With the Engineers and Architects voting on the tentative agreement this week, organizers with Service Employees International Union Local 721 have begun warning that the proposed pact is part of a larger effort to "divide and conquer" the city's civilian employee groups........

   The fight shows the political challenges city officials face as they attempt to rein in employee benefit costs. Healthcare costs for city workers are expected to jump from $361 million to $514 million over a five-year period, according to budget analysts.  As it battles a continuing budget crisis, the city has already found it necessary to shed thousands of employees, using early retirement, layoffs and other strategies to trim the workforce.  (LAT)

 

Tuesday
Jul272010

Wille Brown, on Obama and Shirley Sherrod.....

* THE FORMER MAYOR OF SAN FRANCISCO (AND FORMER LONG-TIME SPEAKER OF THE ASSEMBLY) WEIGHS IN ON THE WHITE HOUSE "OVERREACTION" REGARDING SHIRLEY SHERROD AND OPINES THAT ANY TIME THERE IS AN ISSUE WITH RACE, THE OBAMA PEOPLE DON'T WANT TO BE ASSOCIATED WITH IT IN ANY FASHION; BROWN SAYS THE PRESIDENT NEEDS TO HAVE A AFRICAN-AMERICAN ISSUES ADVISER, JUST AS HE HAS ON LATINOS, ON SENIORS AND ON LABOR...  From the San Francisco Chronicle:

   My phone has been burning up with calls about the Shirley Sherrod flap from everyone from Rep. Maxine Waters to Bill O'Reilly - and believe me, there is more to the story than just her remarks.

   In case you missed it, Sherrod, who is black, was forced to resign from her job at the U.S. Agriculture Department after conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart posted part of a speech in which she appeared to say she had blown off a poor white farmer's request for aid more than two decades ago when she was a federal worker in Georgia.  Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack canned her. Sherrod said the excerpt had been taken out of context, and when the whole speech surfaced, it turned out she was right. Now everyone from President Obama on down is begging her to come back.

   As an old pro, though, I know that you don't fire someone without at least hearing their side of the story unless you want them gone in the first place.  This woman has been a thorn in the side of the Agriculture Department for years. She was part of a class-action lawsuit against the department on behalf of black farmers in the South. For years, she has been operating a community activist organization not unlike ACORN.  I think there were those in the Agriculture Department who objected to her being hired in the first place. 

   Plus there was the politics. If you are running for election in south Georgia, you don't want to have to explain someone like Sherrod.  But I have to add that the overreaction of the White House once again underscores Obama's own problem with race.  This president has carefully crafted his image, and it hinges on his not being seen as a Jesse Jackson or an Al Sharpton, as a flack for the NAACP or the Urban League.  In other words, he does not want to be seen as a "black" president. He wants to be seen as a president who happens to be black.

   That mind-set permeates his administration. Anytime there's an issue that is clearly "black," the Obama people do not want to be associated with it in any fashion.  We saw it first in his distancing himself from the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and to a lesser extent in the dust-up between police and Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates. And now this.

   Obama has come in for considerable criticism from a number of respectable and important black people. He has a Latino issues adviser. He has an adviser on gay rights. He has an adviser on senior issues, on labor - but there is no African American issues adviser. There has been no big black cultural celebration at the White House.  There's only one black in his cabinet. Even George W. Bush had more blacks in positions of power than Obama.

   Frankly, I think some of the sniping is unfair. Obama really is trying his best to elevate the racial climate and bring this country into the 21st century - but there's a lot of mid-20th century left in America.  (SF Chronicle)

Monday
Jul262010

Obama, Washington politics, immigration....

* REPUBLICANS COMFORTABLE WITH JUST SAYING "NO", BELIEVE THEY CAN WIN SEATS IN NOVEMBER BY STICKING WITH POLICY OF OPPOSING MOST DEMOCRAT-SPONSORED MEASURES....  From today's Washington Post: 

   Republicans say polls suggest that they can oppose all of these [Democratic-sponsored]  initiatives by casting them into a broader critique of Democrats increasing the size of government and the budget deficit, even if their bills are individually popular with the public.  "We're very comfortable where we're at; we have very few members who feel endangered," said Rep. Tom Cole (Okla.), a veteran Republican and a deputy whip in the House. "We feel like we are reflecting a broader mood of dissatisfaction. Right now, the American people want us saying no."

   Republicans say they oppose the substance of nearly every proposal by Democrats or view the GOP alternatives as better. And party strategists argue that voters largely care about one issue this year: the unemployment rate.  Congressional Democrats and the White House "are trying to deal with these other issues when there is only one issue in the room: jobs and the economy," said David Winston, a Republican pollster.

   The opposition has left Democrats fuming. They say Republicans complain that Congress should focus more on the economy but oppose every measure Democrats take up to create jobs. In the Democratic view, the GOP is cynically blocking measures to reduce unemployment so they ensure an angry electorate this fall who will want to vote out incumbent, most of whom are Democrats.  "They want to blame us for failing to get things done that they themselves have blocked us from getting done," said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.   (WP)

* AND ON THE HOT-BUTTON ISSUE OF IMMIGRATION, REPORT OUT OF WASHINGTON IS THAT THE ADMINISTRATION IS "DEPORTING RECORD NUMBERS OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS"; NOBODY HAPPY?  From Page A-1 of the Washington Post:

   In a bid to remake the enforcement of federal immigration laws, the Obama administration is deporting record numbers of illegal immigrants and auditing hundreds of businesses that blithely hire undocumented workers

   The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency expects to deport about 400,000 people this fiscal year, nearly 10 percent above the Bush administration's 2008 total and 25 percent more than were deported in 2007. The pace of company audits has roughly quadrupled since President George W. Bush's final year in office.

   The effort is part of President Obama's larger project "to make our national laws actually work," as he put it in a speech this month at American University. Partly designed to entice Republicans to support comprehensive immigration reform, the mission is proving difficult and politically perilous.

   Obama is drawing flak from those who contend the administration is weak on border security and from those who are disappointed he has not done more to fulfill his campaign promise to help the country's estimated 11 million illegal residents. Trying to thread a needle, the president contends enforcement -- including the deployment of fresh troops to the Mexico border -- is a necessary but insufficient solution.  (WP)

* "ENOUGH RIGHT-WING PROPAGANDA":  WASHINGTON POST COLUMN ON THE "SMEARING" OF SHIRLEY SHERROD, THAT THIS SHOULD BE A "TURNING POINT" IN AMERICAN POLITICS.....  Excerpt of commentary by E.J. Dionne Jr.: 

   The smearing of Shirley Sherrod ought to be a turning point in American politics. This is not, as the now-trivialized phrase has it, a "teachable moment." It is a time for action.  The mainstream media and the Obama administration must stop cowering before a right wing that has persistently forced its propaganda to be accepted as news by convincing traditional journalists that "fairness" requires treating extremist rants as "one side of the story." And there can be no more shilly-shallying about the fact that racial backlash politics is becoming an important component of the campaign against President Obama and against progressives in this year's election.

   The administration's response to the doctored video pushed by right-wing hit man Andrew Breitbart was shameful. The obsession with "protecting" the president turned out to be the least protective approach of all.  The Obama team did not question, let alone challenge, the video. Instead, it assumed that whatever narrative Fox News might create mattered more than anything else, including the possible innocence of a human being outside the president's inner circle.  (WP)

* AND ALSO NEW YORK TIMES' COLUMNIST FRANK RICH ON THE SUBJECT OF SHIRLEY SHERROD, POLITICS, THE MEDIA, THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION AND THE "POISONOUS RESIDUE" THAT THIS HAS LEFT BEHIND.... 

   This country was rightly elated when it elected its first African-American president more than 20 months ago. That high was destined to abate, but we reached a new low last week. What does it say about America now, and where it is heading, that a racial provocateur, wielding a deceptively edited video, could not only smear an innocent woman but make every national institution that touched the story look bad? The White House, the N.A.A.C.P. and the news media were all soiled by this episode. Meanwhile, the majority of Americans, who believe in fundamental fairness for all, grapple with the poisonous residue left behind by the many powerful people of all stripes who served as accessories to a high-tech lynching.  (NYT)