Archive for the ‘John Garamendi’ Category



Press Clips: And Now, the Calbuzz “Little Pulitzers”

Friday, September 4th, 2009

leomccarthyChecking Arnold’s respirations: The late, great Speaker Leo Tarcissus McCarthy, who also served three terms as Lieutenant Governor, used to joke, sort of, that his chief duty was to get up in the morning, make sure the governor was still breathing, then go back to bed.

With incumbent Lite Gov John Garamendi apparently headed for Congress after skunking the field in the 10th CD special the other night, speculation abounds about who the Terminator might pick to replace him (of which the weirdest is the strange-bedfellow suggestion by state Demo chair John Burton that Republican and ex-L.A. Mayor Dick Riordan would make a fine seat-warmer).

For our money, however, the estimable Joe Mathews is on the right track, in this piece excavated from the files of Fox & Hounds, to wit: Does California really need a lieutenant governor? The 30 employees of the office are no doubt Fine People and Great Americans, and the $3 million they cost is a decidedly modest amount, but bottom line? How much would taxpayers really suffer from cutting back our delegation to the Shanghai Wine and Cheese Exposition ?

suehortonThree Dot Awards: This week’s Calbuzz “Little Pulitzer” prize for High-Impact Performance goes to Sue Horton, indefatigable editor of the op-ed page at the By God L.A. Times, who scooped the world by landing a piece by online TV journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee, their first since being released from captivity in North Korea…

Best of  Show for the week’s political reporting goes to Merc Newsman Mike Zapler for his sharp piece on how Hewlett-Packard peddled millions of dollars of electronics to Iran, in violation of U.S. trade policy, under the fine leadership of Hurricane Carly Fiorina…

nancy

Top Honors in the investigative category go to the Contra Costa Times for compiling and publishing a data base with the salaries of 134,000 public employees in the Bay Area, including a whopping $876,831 paid to one Nancy Farber for running the tiny Washington Township public health care district in southern Alameda County; turns out the district employs four of the top 10 salaried folks in the survey. Talk about your Cadillac health care – now there’s the place you wanna get sick.  Or hired.

And the coveted “If It’s News, It’s News to Us” prize to the Sacto B-, for waking up from a long and snuggly nap to breathlessly report that Steve Westly “unequivocally” isn’t running for governor, more than two weeks after the Calbuzz knock down of that silly rumor peddled by Willie Brown in the, um, news pages of the Chron. This just in to the Bee: World War II Unequivocally Over!

george_lakoffAnd another thing, Barack: We’re drowning in blog posts offering earnest, unctuous and cheap, bad advice to the president about what he should, shouldn’t, did and didn’t do in selling health care reform to the nation. As he prepares to deliver a crucial speech on the subject at a special joint session of Congress next week, one of the few pieces worth perusing comes from George Lakoff, noted  Bezerkley chrome dome and author of several books on how language shapes perception. The piece by Lakoff, who’s the (all rise) Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at Cal, is even longer than his title, but well worth the effort.

Homer_British_Museum

Context on context: David Dayen, world’s most prolific blogger, takes a brief time-out from accepting online journalism awards to message from his perch at Calitics that he’s certain we misstated the context of now-infamous comments by Bert Stead, self-proclaimed “right-wing terrorist” at Rep. Wally Herger’s town hall meeting. Says the Dayen of Delphi:

“The right-wing terrorist” comment is a ‘vamp’ – but on a report delivered by the Department of Homeland Security back in April on right-wing terrorism, which conservatives howled about and eventually forced a retraction. Because conservative extremists have never resorted to violence to make their political points (Holocaust museum, Jim Adkisson in Tennessee, Tim McVeigh). Conservatives have been wearing the label as a badge of honor since April. Here’s a site that started in May. ”

So noted.

Single Payer Health Plan Surfaces in 10th CD Race

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

By Evan Wagstaff
Special to Calbuzz

mark Desaulnier2

As progressives in Congress press President Obama to commit to a “public option” as part of health care reform, leading Democrats in the 10th Congressional District race are embracing an even more liberal single payer system.

With the spirited special election campaign heading into its final days before the Sept. 1 vote, three top contenders are telling voters they favor a single payer solution to overhaul the nation’s medical system, in which the federal government would replace private health insurance with a mandatory coverage program.

“Single payer is the simplest, most direct way to solve the health care problems in this country, both from a fiscal and medical standpoint,” said state Senator Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, one of the front-runners in the race. He said soaring medical costs under the current system are “unsustainable – it’s the next mortgage meltdown. As Republicans often say, if you can’t afford it, you shouldn’t keep funding it.”

GaramendiLieutenant Governor John Garamendi, whom several polls have shown leading the pack, said that his support for a single payer plan is well-received by voters in the district: “I’ll tell you, some of my best applause lines come when I talk about health care reform,” Garamendi said. “There is a real hunger in the 10th Congressional District for universal health care … Medicare for all is very popular and people understand the advantages that it brings.”

State Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan also pledged her support for any kind of universal coverage, and included a single payer plan first in a list of possible buchananalternatives. “We have to make health care the right of every American,” she said. “I will support single payer universal coverage, a public option, or a compromise plan that meets these requirements. Doing nothing is not an option.”

A single payer system, which is strongly supported by many liberal groups, has never been on the table in the Washington debate over health care, despite its popularity on the left.

A single payer plan would establish a taxpayer-financed, non-profit system to fund doctors, hospitals and other health care needs under a universal coverage program; the public option plan backed by liberal Democrats in Congress would basically maintain the current system of private insurance, but set up a government-backed insurance program as a competitive alternative to employer plans.

While many health care town hall meetings across the country have been disrupted by protests against reforms being considered in Washington, events in the 10th district have been more restrained.

DeSaulnier said that he had prepared himself for jeers and outbursts in discussions of health care, but has been pleased at the civility of discussions of the issue at campaign events.

“We had a few people who obviously disagreed with my positions, but they were very thoughtful and I think their tone was respectful of the process,” he said. “I was prepared for more anger and acrimony.”

The 10th District includes a large area of the East Bay between Solano and Alameda counties. The seat opened up when former Rep. Ellen Tauscher accepted Obama’s appointment to the State Department as the undersecretary of Arms Control and International Security.

With 14 candidates on the ballot, including representatives from the Peace and Freedom and American Independent parties, it is unlikely that anyone will capture the 50% plus one vote required to win the seat in the first round; if no one does, a run-off among the top finishers in each party will be held November 3.

While leading Democrats move to the left on health care, Republicans are trying to outdo each other in support of market-based solutions that reject government involvement in a reform package.

gary-clift-for-cd-10GOP contender Gary Clift, a retired police officer, for example, argued that healthcare in the U.S. is superior and so merits the cost of private insurance.

“Our current health care is the best, so it costs more,” Clift said. “People need to be willing to pay for health care.”

Other Republican candidates including business owner Mark Loos, businessman David Harmer, veteran Chris Bunch, and physician John Toth anthony-woods-01all agreed that the solution to the health care issue is to remove present government influence and allow the free market to govern the system.

Democratic candidate and investigator Adriel Hampton also came out in favor of a single payer healthcare system. Economic policy analyst Anthony Woods supports the competitive public option.

Calbuzz intern Evan Wagstaff is Opinion Editor of The Daily Nexus at UCSB.

Key Democrats Plan New Push for Oil Severance Tax

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

johngaramendiGov Lite John Garamendi and Assemblyman Pedro Nava tell Calbuzz they are preparing a new political offensive to push aggressively for a 9.9 percent per barrel severance tax on oil producers in California.

Having led the charge to defeat the governor’s proposal for a lease authorizing oil drilling in state waters off the coast of Santa Barbara, the two are seeking to harness the momentum built by the statewide coalition of environmental groups that quickly mobilized in that fight.nava

“The taxpayers have been giving their oil free to the oil companies for 100 years, and it’s time for the oil companies to start paying it back,” Garamendi, who’s running for congress, told us. “The environmental community, having rallied to defeat (Schwarzenegger’s offshore leasing plan) is very engaged on this.”

Nava, who’s seeking the Democratic nomination for attorney general, said in an interview that he is also working with environmental groups “invested in opposition to offshore drilling” as he puts together legislation for a severance tax to raise $1-1.5 billion a year.

“Do the math,” Nava told us. “The governor was willing to sell of the coast for $100 million – this would raise over $1 billion a year.”

Torrico-AlbertoA proposal to impose such a tax and earmark the money for higher education, by Assemblyman Alberto Torrico – who’s also running for attorney general – is pending in the Legislature. Nava said his bill would not restrict the use of new revenue within state government: “Earmarking the money divides people,” he said.

Because California is the only oil-producing state that does not impose a severance tax, such a proposal could gain political traction, at a time when Democrats insist they will not support further education and social welfare cuts after joining in passing a red-ink budget that slashed many programs.

Passing a tax increase would be an uphill fight because it requires a two-thirds vote in both houses. However, the public unpopularity of oil companies offers Democrats perhaps their best opportunity to pressure Republicans on a revenue-raising measure. Schwarzenegger at one point suggested an oil tax, but dropped the idea in the face of opposition by GOP lawmakers.

John Doherty, a legislative aide to Torrico, told us the assemblyman did not have the votes to get his proposal out of the Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee earlier this year; Torrico plans to use the rest of the current legislative session to build support for passing it in 2010, he addedm a wide-open election year in which many legislators will be seeking statewide offices.

A 9.9 percent severance tax would generate about $1.4 billion a year with oil at $70 a barrel, according to the lieutenant governor. A barrel of crude oil was priced at $71.97 on Wednesday.

In the interview with Calbuzz, Garamendi also addressed three related issues, saying he:

-Expects the governor, having “set the stage for a new re-run,” to try again to push through the controversial Tranquillon Ridge project defeated in the Assembly after passing the Senate by one vote, perhaps when the Legislature reconvenes later this month.

-Plans at next week’s meeting of the State Lands Commission to hold a risk-assessment hearing to weigh the relative merits of drilling in state waters from offshore and onshore facilities: “Intuitively, drilling from the land, you’re not likely to spill in the ocean (while) drilling from the sea you’re likely to spill in the ocean,” he said, “We want a data base to determine the facts.” The issue is timely because Venoco Oil Co. is proposing an onshore slant drilling project in state waters off Santa Barbara, not far from the Tranquillon Ridge project.

-Dismisses speculation that if he (Garamendi) wins his congressional race, Schwarzenegger will be able to hand-pick a successor as lieutenant governor who would swing the balance of power on the lands commission in favor of authorizing an offshore lease. The governor’s nominee would have to be confirmed by the Democrat-dominated Legislature, three of whose members are already running for the post, he noted.

“There’s a lot of foolishness about this,” he said of speculation in Sacramento about such a scenario.

Arnold’s Offshore Oil Drill Project Not Dead Yet

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

offshoreA new statewide poll reports that a sizeable majority of likely voters now favors  expanded offshore oil drilling in California, a finding likely to fuel renewed efforts to approve the just-defeated Tranquillon Ridge project .

A PPIC survey released late Wednesday  shows that 55 percent of likely voters support more oil drilling off the coast, compared to 41 percent who oppose it. Among all adults, the gap is narrower — 51-to-43 percent in favor — although this is the second year in a row that PPIC found majority backing for more drilling, which previously was a long-settled issue in the state.

The new data comes as executives of the Houston-based oil company PXP vow to continue pressing for approval of a state lease for the controversial project off the coast of Santa Barbara, which was defeated in the Assembly last week after passing the senate by one vote.

An Administration spokesman also said the governor remains enthusiastic about the proposal – and hopes to get another chance to sign it into law.

“The fact that the Legislature did not approve it does not in any way lessen the Administration’s support for the project,” Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer told Calbuzz. “Nor does it in any way lessen the fiscal and environmental benefits to the state, which we hope the Legislature will re-examine.”

In the context of the budget battle, the basic media narrative that emerged from last week’s dust-up framed the Tranquillon Ridge vote, with its potential revenues for the state, as a simple yea-or-nay referendum on offshore drilling. In fact, the policy issues at stake are more nuanced and complex, given that the rejected legislation has its roots in a negotiated 2008 agreement between PXP and a large group of Santa Barbara environmentalists ; they enthusiastically backed a new state lease –- for slant drilling off an existing oil platform in federal waters — as a pathway to ending some drilling off their coast permanently.

The Politics

As a political matter, the unsettled conflict over the project is significant for several key reasons:

– In California, the fight over Tranquillon Ridge reflects a shifting political landscape, as recession-mired residents appear to be recalibrating the balance between long-held, pro-environmental values and economic growth and energy  costs. The PPIC poll found that public support for policies to improve the environment “has dropped a notch,” in the words of poll-taker Mark Baldassare, on a host of issues, including climate change and air quality, with wide partisan differences in each case.

– Across the nation, the fight over the PXP project is being watched as a possible precedent-setter, at a time when the Obama Administration is conducting a review of the government’s five-year drilling plan for the outer continental shelf. The issue is particularly germane in Florida where U.S. Senators from Alaska and Louisiana are trying to remove prohibitions against drilling in a wide swath of coastal waters.

– In Sacramento, the issue is filled with palace intrigue, because environmentalists who negotiated the agreement with PXP hope eventually to bring it back to the State Lands Commission for reconsideration. The commission defeated it on a 2-to-1 vote last January, with Lt. Governor John Garamendi leading the opposition; with Garamendi now running for a House seat in the 10th Congressional District, insiders are spinning scenarios in which Schwarzenegger might appoint Garamendi’s replacement, swinging the balance of power on the commission in support of the project.

What’s Next

PXP oil company executives have spent millions on some of the top lobbying talent in Sacramento, including Darius Anderson, good pal of  Schwarzenegger chief of staff Susan Kennedy, according to a nice weekend piece by the Bee’s Kevin Yamamura that examined how the Third House influenced the budget deal.

PXP executives made it clear immediately after the project was voted down in the Assembly that they plan to keep pushing: “PXP is committed to continue working with California’s elected and appointed leaders on a potential agreement for the T-Ridge project to build on the momentum generated by the (Schwarzenegger) Administration’s and Senate’s bipartisan support,” PXP vice president Steve Rusch said in a statement released Sunday.

The project could return in several venues. Speaker Karen Bass said in a statement after the budget vote that the project “could be reconsidered in August.” Although Bass’s press office failed to return calls seeking clarification about exactly what this meant, it is possible the project could return in a standalone bill. With state revenues continuing to plunge, the project might also be resurrected yet again if the governor and Legislature have to craft another deficit cutting package in the fall or winter.

And as leaders of Santa Barbara’s Environmental Defense Center work to address the problems with the project cited by the State Lands Commission in January – specifically the enforceability of PXP promises to permanently end offshore drilling on four federal platforms in exchange for the state lease – the possibility that Schwarzenegger could name a replacement for Garamendi would be crucial.

“This ain’t over,” Attorney General hopeful and Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, who led the charge against the project, told us.  “Round two is coming up.”

Weed Whacking with PPIC

Foes of offshore drilling no doubt will try to minimize the importance of the new poll’s basic finding –- that all adults surveyed favor expanded drilling by 51-to-43 percent –- which is essentially unchanged from last year, when a slim majority of Californians –- 51-to-45 percent –- favored more drilling, albeit for the first time in PPIC polling history.

But if you, uh, drill down into the data, there are some troubling trends for coastal oil foes.

For starters, among likely voters, which is to say the most politically engaged Californians, the majority of those who favor more drilling is significantly larger – 55-to-41 percent – than among all adults. In this group, the pro-drilling view has grown substantially stronger in one year; in 2008, likely voters told PPIC they favored more drilling by 51-to-45. This represents a net pick up of eight percentage points for the drill baby drill team in just one year.

Breaking the likely voter numbers down along partisan lines shows that the polarized views of Democrats and Republicans on the subject are essentially unchanged: 34 percent of Democrats now favor more drilling (compared to 32 percent last year) while 81 percent of Republicans are now in favor (compared to 80 percent in 2008).

But there has been a dramatic switch in attitudes among independent voters:

– In 2008, independents opposed more drilling by a ratio of 53-to-43 percent, with four percent having no opinion.

– In 2009, independent likely voters now say they favor more offshore drilling, by 55-to-42 percent, a net swing of 23 points in favor of the oil companies’ position.

–Jerry Roberts and Phil Trounstine

Garamendi Leads Charge Against Offshore Deal

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

garamendiUPDATED 7/23 — SEE BELOW

John Garamendi was on the phone, sounding like his head was about to explode.

“The governor has just put the coastline up for sale,” he thundered. “Big oil has been sitting at the governor’s right hand throughout this administration.”

The object of the Lite Gov’s ire was the oft-discussed PXP/Tranquillon Ridge oil drilling project off the coast of Santa Barbara, one puzzle piece in the M.C. Escher budget agreement negotiated between Governor Arnold and legislative leaders.

oil_platformWhile Garamendi ticked off a half-dozen specific objections to the deal, which will be presented to the Legislature as a budget trailer bill,  there are three crucial political questions at stake, beyond the details of the specific proposal, that seem likely to reignite the long-settled debate about offshore drilling in the state:

1. Is the end date of the offshore project enforceable? Schwarzenegger insists that the PXP energy company, which would get a lease to slant drill into state waters from an existing platform in federal waters, would be required to stop drilling in 2022 under terms of the agreement. But Garamendi and his allies say there is no legal way for California to ensure this happens, because the federal government’s jurisdiction over the original federal lease on Platform Irene will trump the state’s.

2. How strong a signal is the state sending by awarding this lease? The governor and his allies insist that the PXP lease, the first that would be awarded by the state in four decades, is a one-time deal that applies to the existing site and no other. Garamendi counters that if California, long the nation’s strongest outpost of anti-drilling fervor, blinks now, it will set a powerful precedent that will make it open season for new offshore leases everywhere.

3. Is the environmental tradeoff worth the money? In exchange for the lease, the state is supposed to collect about $1.8 billion in royalties over the life of the lease, with a $100 million advance on that amount flowing in the current fiscal year. Garamendi and the anti-drilling brigade say this is chump change; far preferable would be to slap a severance tax on all oil production in California, as every other state does, which would generate many more billions without any new leases.

That the PXP deal has much broad political implications well beyond this lease was quickly demonstrated, when our friends at California Weekly obtained a copy of a memo about the overall budget deal, prepared by Senate Republican leader Dennis Hollingsworth for his caucus, telling them that it was essential that the GOP prevent Kip Lipper, key aide to Democratic Senate president Darrell Steinberg from drafting the language for the trailer bill authorizing the Tranquillon Ridge deal: “T-ridge is in (we have to keep Kip [Lipper] from writing it so it’s impossible [to stop]).”

“There’s going to be considerable opposition” to the trailer bill, Garamendi said. “We’re going to do everything we can to forestall it.”

UPDATE: 5 PM

John Burton, Democratic state party chair, considerably raised the political stakes on the Tranquillon Ridge drilling deal by sending out an email urging Democrats to pressure legislators to vote against the “sweetheart deal.”

“This proposal is an affront to all Californians and we must urge lawmakers to vote it down,” Burton write. “This sweetheart deal for one oil company was negotiated behind closed doors, without any legislative hearings to allow public comment.”

Beyond the key political points about the deal enumerated above, Burton also says it’s crucial for Democrats to oppose the project to prevent the governor from hijacking the authority of the State Lands Commission over offshore leases, and puts in a plug for overturning the two-thirds vote requirement to pass a budget.

“The offshore drilling plan does not solve either this year’s budget problems or systemic problems,” he says. Burton’s full statement is HERE.

UPDATE: 5 PM 7/23

As coastal protection groups increased the political pressure on legislators to vote against the offshore project, Environment California, an L.A.-based organization, put together a cool online ad on the subject, featuring a montage of Gov. Arnold’s past statements in opposition to drilling. It’s here.