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Archive for the ‘Debra Bowen’ Category



The Envelope Please: Winners and Losers from State Dem Meeting

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

If there’s one thing Calbuzz can’t stand, it’s that whole self – esteemy, kissy-mama “We’re All Winners” thing, where every rug rat who shows up for after-school league soccer practice goes home with a red ribbon and a cheesy trophy. Politics is all about winners and losers and there were plenty of each at the California Democratic Party state convention last weekend. Here’s our user-friendly guide to both:

Capitol Creaturesdebra-bowen-official-photo

Winner: Debra Bowen. The SOS, a young, smart and very competent rising star, got one of the weekend’s warmest receptions from the delegates. Not to mention, she’s one of the few denizens of Sacto without a single fingerprint on the budget debacle and the looming special election disaster.

Loser: Darrell Steinberg. In his maiden voyage into statewide visibility, the Dems’ state senate leader bet the house on the budget deal embodied by the May 19 ballot props. On Sunday, he lost the pot, when SEIU and AFSCME outmaneuvered him to block an endorsement of Prop. 1A; Steinberg’s post-game effort to declare victory was beyond lame, and only made matters worse.

Event Planner Optics

Winner: Tacos. Assemblyman Hector de la Torre, who’s running for Insurance Commissioner, showed a political talent that approaches sheer genius by throwing all his resources at the key feature of campaign organzing: free food. Hector’s taco giveaway on the K Street mall was mobbed by convention goers who made it among the best-attended events of the weekend.

Loser: The Blue Plymouth. The surprise appearance of AG Jerry Brown’s 1974 powder blue 150 hp, 318 cu. in. V8 Plymouth Satellite (list price $3,342), the iconic image of his first turn as governor, was sweet and sentimental, but it served to underscore the historic set piece nature of his event at the Governor’s Mansion, which itself is a museum, ferhevinsake.


Gubernatorial Gumption


Winner: Gavin Newsom. S.F’s pretty-boy mayor did everything he needed to do to introduce himself to party regulars and insiders in a big way, instantly establishing his credibility as a statewide candidate. If Prince Gavin learns to turn down his constant charm offensive a notch or two, he could be formidable.

Loser: Antonio Villaraigosa. We’re still searching for the urgent, this-just-in bulletins on the big “crisis” budget talks that forced the L.A. Mayor to stiff the convention at the last minute. Tony V’s already hampered by his inability to raise money for a gov’s race before late summer, and skipping what traditionally is the kickoff event didn’t help establish him as a force in the contest.

Special Interest Sweepstakes

Winner: SEIU and AFSCME. Fearful that Prop. 1A’s spending cap will mean lost jobs and wages for their members, the two public employee unions, with an assist from the liberal netroots, out-organized and out-hustled the Democratic legislative leadership to deny the 60% vote needed for a party endorsement of their deal-with-the-devil initiative. If 1A goes down, though, these same union leaders will be on the hook should the prop’s supporters be right in their sky-is-falling prognosis of more and worse budget cuts to come.

Loser: California Teachers Association. The teachers are in a truly awkward position, in bed with Arnold on Prop. 1A, in order to win approval for Prop. 1B, which is what they really want. The Demo delegates endorsed 1B all right, but it was a hollow victory for CTA ‘cause all bets are off unless 1A passes first. Despite heroic efforts by their consultants to fashion a silk purse, CTA is stuck with a sow’s ear.


Comic Relief

Winner: Tony V’s press guys’ line: “Antonio Villaraigosa is not going to Twitter while Rome burns.”

Loser: Bill Lockyer. To his credit, Mr. Treasurer tried to lighten things with a Power Point presentation of the Top 10 movie remakes to come out of the recession. But Good Lord, man, stop the droning and watch some Letterman re-runs: Top 10s only work if they’re short and punchy to the point.

Media Mavens


Winner: Carla Marinucci.
Watching Chron teammates take buy-outs by the score, the Chron’s political chief does it all, racing around and schmoozing at warp speed while covering all the bases, in print and online. She scored a coup by video-blogging Brown giving her a tour of the governor’s mansion, a scoop that turned Calbuzz green with envy.

Loser: Liberal bloggers. We love the energy, smarts and passion of our netroots colleagues on the left, but seriously, guys and gals, there’s no cheering in the press box. The sycophantic questions for Barbara Boxer were bad enough, but the applause at the end of her press avail was truly over the top.

Marketing Strategy

Winner: Ben Tulchin, of Tulchin Research in San Francisco, who dropped a governor’s race poll into the mediasphere just before the convention opened, guaranteeing that it would generate buzz –- positive and negative, alike — for his newly-established survey firm.

Loser: Traditional news media. If their survival depends on making themselves indispensable to their hometown readers, the newspapers demonstrated anew that they’re 24 hours late and $14.95 a month (or whatever the going subscription rate is) short.

A Guy Who Studies Ballot Props for Fun, Friends and No Profit

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009


Pete Stahl, the Cincinnatus of California, may be the only man in the state opposing Prop. 1F who is not an elected official.

The measure on the May 19 special election ballot calls for a ban on raises for state officeholders in any year when the not-so-Golden State is in deficit. At a time when California politicians rank lower in public esteem than bankers, reporters and possibly lawyers, look for 1F to pass by a margin not seen since Kim Jong-il was last re-elected Dear Leader in North Korea.

The 49-year old Stahl is a Mountain View web designer who’s devoted a fair chunk of his adulthood to closely, if not obsessively, deconstructing California initiatives, then publishing his analyses as (warning to consultants: close your eyes) a public service. He considers Prop 1F a cheap shot; his hyper-developed good government gene was deeply offended when he read about it, so he dashed off a written argument to the Secretary of State.

“Legislators won’t change their voting behavior just because of a threatened salary freeze,” reads his 48-word statement in the voter handbook. “This petty, vindictive attempt to punish the Legislature will give us no relief from budget stalemates, while unfairly penalizing innocent bystanders such as the Secretary of State and Board of Equalization.”

Innocent bystander or not, SOS Debra Bowen miffed Stahl by allowing only one business day for arguments to be submitted for the hurry-up May 19 special: “One business day to submit arguments pro and against,” he complained, in a tone that someone else might use after, oh say, witnessing a hit-and-run. “This election was really slapped together quickly.”

Stahl plans to have his views on Props. 1A-1E posted on his web site, Pete Rates the Propositions, at least a month before the election. Given that the five budget-related measures are about as complicated as string theory, it’s good to know that somebody is taking the time to actually read and understand them, unlike the legislators who put them on the ballot.

His site is a kind of Hiram Johnson treasure trove, featuring recommendations for every state ballot measure going back to 1994. Among other things, he has a “best of” section which categorizes his views on memorable props in four color-coded categories, including an annual argument on one prop that he offers in the style of a different poet, including not only Blake, Coleridge and Poe, but also Masaoka Shiki, Ernest Lawrence Thayer and Dr. Seuss.

For Prop. 44, a March 2002 initiative about disciplining chiropractors, for example, he wrote a knock-off of W.S. Gilbert:

“Here we have the very model of a modern proposition,
One to which — as you’ll discover — there’s no cogent opposition.

We need laws to stop insurance fraud by doctors chiropractic.

But a ballot proposition? Seems a bit anti-climactic.

There are laws preventing fraud for both physicians and attorneys,

But not those manipulating patients’ muscles upon gurney.”

It goes on for a while, but you get the idea.

Stahl has been distributing his dissections of props since 1980, beginning with Xeroxes of typed pages given out to friends and family members (the process of scanning in his old stuff, he says, is “going to take me the rest of my life”).

“The first issue was 20 copies,” he recalled. “By 1985 the printing went to more than 100 people. I left them on library tables, passed them out to strangers and at a Stanford football game. Most people who bothered to read it said, ‘I need this.’”

These days, he gets about 20,000 unique visitors per election cycle who check out his stuff, which he thinks will be in demand in advance of the Einstein Election on May 19. “Fewer people will vote,” he said, “But more of those who will depend on my blog.”

Ask Dr. Hackenflack: The May 19 Special Election

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

As a public service and sparing no cost, calbuzz has hired the renowned political psychologist Dr. P.J. Hackenflack, to offer counseling to those afflicted by California’s political system. Not surprisingly, we have received a batch of letters from people suffering ailments after reading the voter guide to the May 19 special election.

Dear Dr. Hackenflack,
Debra Bowen wrote in the official election guide that “voting is easy.” But when I read the analysis of Prop. 1A, my colon locked up and my eyes crossed and got stuck. What should I do?
— Earnest in Eagle Lake
Google “Garamendi for Governor,” click on “latest video” and watch it at full volume. Your colon will unlock nicely and your eyeballs will roll back in your head.

Dear Doctor,
I’m employed at a big casino in Las Vegas, and have been assigned to set the line on the $5 billion being borrowed from the lottery if Prop. 1C passes. What are the odds of that happening?
— Stayin’ in Vegas
Slightly less than the chances of Arnold spending two consecutive nights in Sacramento.

Hey Doc,
Someone told me that if Prop. 1B wins, and Prop. 1A loses, then Prop. 1B loses. Wussup with that?
— Overtaxed in Temecula
It doesn’t matter. CTA and their consultants get all the money anyway.

Sir,
I keep hearing about the “rainy day fund.” What happens to all that money if the drought keeps up?
— MWD, Chinatown
Not to worry. Bill Lockyer is working on a deal to insure California with AIG.

Dear P.J.,
A friend says that if Prop. 1E is defeated, little kids all over the state won’t have anywhere to go to pre-school. What is the Republican plan for dealing with that?
— Sob Sister, West L.A.
Build more prisons.

Dear Dr. H,
I work in the Legislative Analyst’s office and wrote this about the fiscal impact of Prop 1A:
“Some of these factors would make it easier to balance the state budget in the coming years. Other factors could it make more difficult. The net result of these factors is difficult to determine in any particular year.”
My question is: do you think I can get a job in newspapers?
— Capitol cubicle dweller
Definitely – you have a bright future as an editorial writer, probably at the SF Chronicle.

Dear Dr. Hackenflack,
Can you tell me what happens if voters turn down the revenue requests in Props. 1C, 1D and 1E?
— Tom in Campbell
Everybody in SEIU will eat communally out of Maria’s vegetable garden.

Dear Dr. H,
Prop. 1D is called “Protects Children’s Services Funding.” But it seems like it actually takes money away from children’s services. Can you help me understand this?
— Disoriented in Chico.
Stop reading immediately. Dick Riordan was the last person to read Prop. 1D, and it caused his head to explode.

Doctor,
I have a choice between reading the ballot handbook and “Rememberance of Things Past.” What should I do?
— Marcel from Cucamonga
Go with the Proust – it won’t take as long.

Dear Dr. HF,
I’ve read everything I can find about the election and I still feel like I don’t understand. What more can I do?
— Garry from Arnold
Call Debra Bowen at home.