Archive for 2011

Key to Feinstein’s Re-Election: A Beating Heart

Friday, July 8th, 2011

We’re still vigorously scratching our corporate head, if not tearing out our collective hair, about a Fresno Bee piece that came over the mojo wire just before the three-day weekend, propounding one of the weirder political theses since one of us (we name no names) picked Dick Gephardt as the man to beat in 1988.

“Water a key to Feinstein’s re-election chances,” proclaimed the hed on this mysterious yarn.

Memo to the Bee: The only thing “key to Feinstein’s re-election chances” is that she’s still breathing come election day.

This odd political analysis was authored by Michael Doyle, McClatchy’s the Frezbee’s normally redoubtable Washington Bureau Chief Indian, who latched on to a new Field Poll to posit that Feinstein has her  “Valley work cut out for her” in seeking her fourth full U.S. Senate term in 2012.

Forty-one percent of Central Valley residents surveyed said they were “inclined” to vote for Feinstein, while 46% said they were “not inclined.” Statewide, 43% of Californians surveyed were inclined to support her; 39% were not.

It’s a comedown from her standing at a comparable time last election cycle…

Add it up, and the Central Valley is far more of a jump ball than the Bay Area and Los Angeles, where Feinstein dominates, or Southern California’s inland region, where Feinstein fares poorly.

Oy. Really? Deep breath. Let’s look at the tape:

1-The Central Valley has always been “far more of a jump ball” than the Bay Area  and Los Angeles, where she’s always runs strongest, and the Inland Empire, where she always hasn’t.

This therefore comes under the heading of “News that stays news,” kind of like “Tensions Roil Mideast,” “Council Committee Mulls Options,” or “Mass Slayer Was Quiet Loner, Neighbors Say.”

2-Feinstein’s decline in the Central Valley, as reported by Field, is basically the same as it is across California, a rather significant factoid that Doyle, to his credit, did report, but only at the end of the 10th paragraph, where it would not do violence to the thrust of his argument.

3-The piece cites a quarrel Feinstein had with some House Democrats over water policy in 2010, characterizing it as “a reminder that the former San Francisco mayor now represents – and needs votes from – a diverse statewide constituency.”

Huh? Feinstein served just over nine years as S.F. mayor, an office she left in 1987; she’s now in her 19th year in the Senate, having won four statewide elections, which seems kind of a funny time to advise that she better grow her political base beyond all those whacky people who voted for her in Baghdad by the Bay.

All of which is part and parcel of the much larger point, i.e. that far more than any other elected official in California, Difi has been up to her eyeballs in the tediously confounding conflicts and complications of state water policy for decades, squarely in the middle of every argument, compromise and deal that’s gone down since Mark Twain did or didn’t say that “whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting over.”

All of which Doyle knows full well, of course, which is why the piece fairly bristles with details that make that very point. Which is why we, for the life of us, cannot figure why Feinstein’s long record and nuanced positions on water, of all things, which have earned her respect on every side of this tiresome debate that has plagued political writers since statehood, is now suddenly proclaimed the “key” to her election chances.

Oh, one more thing: THERE’S NO ONE RUNNING AGAINST HER (despite our best efforts to urge eMeg Whitman into the race) who might leap to take advantage of this alleged threat to her “re-election chances.”

So: We are left to hypothesize reasons why the piece came into being:

a) Doyle got stuck writing a routine situationer on what’s up with water in Congress and put a political lede on it in hopes of fooling more people into reading it.

b) Hustling out the door for a gala July 4th weekend celebration, he somehow confused Feinstein with Barbara Boxer, who couldn’t find the Central Valley with a map.

c) The piece was intended to mess with Chronicle Washington hand Carolyn Lochhead, keeper of the Old Chron’s Difi flame, in hopes her editors would call in a panic and demand she match the story.

d) Our old campaign pal Jim Boren, now the F-Bee’s editorial page editor, rang up Doyle to say that Difi was ignoring him again so let’s fire one across her bow.

e) Jon Fleischman promised Doyle he’d get primo play at the top of Flashreport if he’d write something – anything ! – to help him and Grover Norquist find some poor GOPer to dispatch on the fool’s errand of challenging Feinstein.

Calbuzz sez: a) and d).

Whores, Budgets, Huffing and Puffing on the Trail

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

When Jerry Brown whacked $71 million from the budget for the Division of Law Enforcement in the Attorney General’s office, Kamala Harris fumed that the cuts would  “cripple California’s statewide anti-gang and drug trafficking operations.”

Which surely was not Krusty’s intention. Naw, his target were those in league with the Los Angeles Police Protective League, which leaked the voice recorder message in which Anne Gust Brown some unidentified woman was heard referring to GOP rival Meg Whitman as a “whore.”

For those who may have forgotten, Whitman was still reeling from the revelation that she had employed and then kicked to the curb an illegal housekeeper named Nicky Diaz, when Brown was recorded on a message machine at the offices of the LAPPL, complaining that Alan Barcelona, head of the California State Law Enforcement Association, had cut a secret deal with Whitman to protect public safety pensions in exchange for law enforcement support.

After the call, someone in Brown’s office forgot to hang up the phone and some cross talk was recorded in Krusty’s campaign office in which it was suggested that Whitman was a “whore” for trading hands off cops’ pensions in exchange for an endorsement from the CSLEA.

As John Howard of the Capitol Weekly noted:

That incident drew wide attention during the heat of the rancorous gubernatorial campaign and figured in the televised debate last October between Brown and Whitman. CSLEA also spent $1.6 million to boost Whitman – which also rankled Brown.

To some, speaking privately, Brown’s budget cut looked like classic payback. “Why not? He’s got the budget cuts as cover,” said one Democrat. “But how would you ever know for sure?”

So, who does the $71 million budget cut affect? Hundreds of employees in the AG’s Division of Law Enforcement, including about 300 members of the CSLEA.

Imagine that. Political payback.

Oh no, Barcelona told Cap Weekly. “As far as retribution goes, I don’t think so. I don’t think he has it in his heart to do that. He’s looking to cut everywhere he can. But unfortunately, this one is really going to cost the citizens. I think you’re going to see a tsunami of crime roll across the state.”

Actually, it looks to us as if Krusty does have it in his heart to use his power to punish his enemies. As for rewarding his friends, you’ll have to ask Arturo Rodriquez of the United Farm Workers about that.

She Looks Okay to Us

Who wants to spend their summer in Iowa, trailing around whack job Republicans who will never be president of the United States? Young, ambitious, talented reporters like our pal Seema Mehta of the LAT, who gives us another reason why we’re glad we’re too old and worn down to be out on the campaign trail.

This from Seema’s Facebook page after she appeared in a New York Times photo:

“I was a sweaty pig by the time that pic was taken — had walked/ran alongside Bachmann for a mile, then ran back half a mile to follow Gingrich and then walked with him the rest of the parade. And it was HOT.”

Love the glam sunnies and the little recorder that looks just a bit like a taser — which might have been more useful. Remember Seema: What happens in Keokuk stays in Keokuk. But it’s a dateline  you must get.

Decline of the Criminal Mind, Chapter 86: Do you have anything to declare, ma’am?

And don’t miss: CNN to Cover New Casey Anthony Murder Trial When Nancy Grace Kills Her by the brilliant Andy Borowitz

Keeley: Spirit of ’76 Alive in the Reform Movement

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

By Fred Keeley
Special to Calbuzz

Californians have just moved through two important dates: the end of the fiscal year, and the 4th of July weekend.  For fiscal and policy nerds like me, it makes sense to pause for a moment and reflect on “what condition our condition is in.”

California’s constitution requires a balanced budget as state government began the new fiscal year on July 1st (Happy Fiscal New Year!).  This year, as opposed to most previous years in the 1990s and first decade of 2000s, the constitution was respected.

While many people are not entirely pleased with the outcome, the legislature and the governor met their constitutional obligations (although it is curious that we practically do back flips when the bare minimum is accomplished).  Nonetheless, with a new governor and a new provision in the state’s constitution that allows a budget to be adopted on a majority vote rather than the absurdly dysfunction-inducing two-thirds vote of previous years, the job got done.

A few days prior to this accomplishment, another of California’s voter-approved laws was respected by the Citizens Independent Redistricting Commission which issued its first draft of new legislative district, congressional, and Board of Equalization district lines.

Despite the drumbeat of negative predictions from even before the commission began its work, it produced perhaps the most reasonable and lawful maps in recent memory.  The commission followed a transparent, open public process that considered the only three tests allowed under the law regarding redistricting: the results of the once-a-decade census, the Voting Rights Act, and the rather broadly defined notion of “community of interest.”  Rather than producing “an incumbent protection act,” the draft 2011 redistricting echoes the post-1990 census maps drawn by the courts.

In 2012, elections will be conducted using district lines that will be adopted in August by the commission.  They will also feature the newly voter-adopted “Top Two Vote Getter” primary.  Some folks claim that there is no way to know what these two electoral changes will produce.  A look at recent history suggests something else.

In the 1990s, California’s redistricting was accomplished by the courts, not the legislature.  At the same time, a voter-approved form of open primaries was adopted.  The results produced a legislature — from about 1995 through 1999 — that had a broader ideological middle than before or since that time.  We can debate how to measure the productivity of the legislature. But my experience as a legislator during that time makes me believe that such a broader middle produces budgets and policy that more accurately reflects California’s place on the ideological spectrum (a slightly left of center state that is getting a bit more so).

Throughout the last decade, for the most part, the legislature has been both more to the right and more to the left than the electorate at large.  The 2012 elections are likely to produce a legislature that is controlled by Democrats, but with somewhat larger numbers of moderates in both the Democratic and Republican caucuses.

So, upon reflection, it appears as if some of the recently voter-enacted reforms of the electoral and governance systems are starting to take hold and producing signs of positive change.

What about other reforms that are under discussion?

Many reform-oriented organizations, such as California Forward, What’s Next California?, Common Cause, League of Women Voters, and California Calls, are continuing the press forward on governance reforms.  More work is being done regarding bringing greater transparency and accountability to the state budget process.  Moving government closer to the people is another key notion reformers are exploring.

A major step toward achieving those goals was recently taken in Torrance.  Led by What’s Next California and with support from California Forward and others, a “deliberative poll” was conducted.  That consisted of 400 Californians, randomly selected to match the demography and ideology of California at-large, who gathered to participate in this historic event.  Using balanced information about pressing issues, the participants respectfully discussed and debated California’s challenges.  Education, taxation, prisons, dysfunctional government at many levels were all talked about and potential solutions tested.

What surprised many folks who participated and observed this extraordinary three-day event was the common ground that was discovered.  When some of the sharp partisanship was stripped from the conversation, and when points of view were heard and respectfully discussed, space was created for trustworthy problem-solving.  Watch the news for more on the results of the deliberative poll during the next few weeks.

So where does the 4th of July come into this?

The moment we have agreed upon to celebrate as the beginning of our democracy and independence, is a moment to pause and reflect on the California version.  A democracy that was born in the middle of the 19th Century, reformed itself in the early 20th Century, made great strides in education, higher education, transportation, water supply, and economic development in the mid-20th Century, and sadly declined in the late 20th Century, now is being refreshed by the kind of Spirit of ’76 that we celebrate on the 4th of July and the Progressive Reform era of the early 1900s.

In other words, while we still have great challenges, we can meet those challenges, modernize the tools of governance and refresh our state’s national and world-wide leadership with widespread public participation that places a premium on civility and honest debate.

Fred Keeley is the elected Treasurer of Santa Cruz County.  He is a member of the Leadership Council of California Forward, and a former Assembly Member representing the Monterey Bay area.