Archives for July 2012

A Runoff Is Down to the Wire in Texas

From New York Times:

HOUSTON — It may be the armadillo days of summer in Texas, but a runoff vote on Tuesday for the Republican Senate nomination has jolted the party establishment here and around the country as a magnetic Tea-Party conservative with no elective experience gains momentum against the chosen candidate of Gov. Rick Perry.

Only a few months ago the longtime lieutenant governor, David Dewhurst, 66, seemed all but certain to win the nomination, which in Republican-dominated Texas is tantamount to winning the seat being vacated in November by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.

A successful businessman with Romney-esque wealth, Mr. Dewhurst has been allied with Mr. Perry — himself a favorite of the Tea Party and religious conservatives — as Texas burnished its reputation as a low-tax, small-government state with rare growth in jobs. Beyond Mr. Perry, who calls him “a great conservative leader,” Mr. Dewhurst has been endorsed by many party leaders, big business groups and the farm bureau.

But Mr. Dewhurst won only 45 percent of the votes in the May primary, forcing him into a runoff against the No. 2 finisher, Ted Cruz, a Harvard-educated lawyer and former state solicitor general who trailed him by 11 points.

 (Read Full Article)

Costa Mesa votes tonight on putting charter on November ballot

From Orange County Register:

COSTA MESA – Tuesday night is the last chance for residents and others to get their say on the proposed city charter before the council votes whether to put it on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Ever since Councilman Jim Righeimer first drafted the charter last December, the city has been engaged in a contentious, sometimes hostile hearing process, with the meeting room filled to standing-room-only.

Enacting a city charter would change Costa Mesa from a general law city, which follows rules set by the state, to a city governed by laws stipulated in the charter, essentially a local constitution. The charter’s proponents have argued that the charter would give the city more flexibility and local control, while its critics have focused on how the charter came about, for the most part drafted by Righeimer without a citizen’s commission.

Back in March, the council voted 4-1, with Councilwoman Wendy Leece voting no, to place the charter on the June ballot. After former city clerk Julie Folcik missed the filing deadline, the city was forced to reboot the entire hearing process for the ballot in November.

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Struggling cities eye tax hikes

From Daily Breeze:

STANTON – There’s a new twist emerging as some of California’s most financially troubled cities look for ways out of their predicaments: They’re declaring fiscal emergencies so they can quickly get tax hike initiatives on local November ballots.

Leaders are turning most often to an increase in the local sales tax. But there also are proposals for hikes on utility taxes, parcel taxes and, in the Los Angeles-area city of El Monte, a proposal to tax sugary drinks.

Last month’s bankruptcy filing by Stockton, quickly followed by one in Mammoth Lakes and then San Bernardino’s sudden declaration of a fiscal emergency and plan to file for bankruptcy drew attention to an increasingly common theme – some communities battered by the economy and unable to control costs now are heading toward insolvency.

El Monte Finance Director Julio Morales said San Bernardino was a wakeup call. Local officials declared a fiscal emergency last week, clearing the way for a ballot question asking residents to approve a 1 cent-per-

ounce tax on sugar-sweetened drinks. Local officials think the tax would bring in up to $7 million per year.

“We don’t want to wait like San Bernardino and say, `We can’t make payroll,”‘ Morales said.

 (Read Full Article)

GOP conservatives challenging moderates they see as obstacles

From The Washington Times:

TOPEKA, Kan. — Frustrated by their inability to achieve some policy goals, conservatives in Republican states are turning against moderate members of their own party, trying to drive them out of state legislatures to clear the way for reshaping government across a wide swath of mid-America controlled by the GOP.

Political groups are helping finance the efforts by supporting primary election challenges targeting several dozen moderate Republicans in the Midwest and South, especially prominent lawmakers who run key state committees.

Two years after Republicans swept into power in many state capitols, the challengers say it’s time to adopt more conservative policies.

“If you don’t believe in that playbook, then why are you on the team?” said Greg Smith, who is trying to oust a moderate incumbent from the Kansas state Senate.

The push is most intense in Kansas, where conservatives are attempting to replace a dozen moderate Republican senators who bucked new Gov. Sam Brownback’s move to slash state income taxes.

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Boehner names GOP conferees on stalled Violence Against Women Act

From The Hill:

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Monday named Republican negotiators on the long-stalled reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, hoping to launch a House-Senate conference committee two-and-a-half months after the House passed its version.

The Speaker’s announcement is the first sign of movement on the legislation in weeks, but whether it will lead to substantive action before the November elections is unclear. The House and Senate are just days away from a five-week congressional recess.

“Completing work on legislation to renew and strengthen the Violence Against Women Act is critical in our efforts to combat domestic violence and sexual assault,” Boehner said in a statement. “The law has broad, bipartisan support in both chambers, and I’m announcing our negotiators today in the hopes that we can begin to resolve the differences between the House and Senate bills.

“The House is ready and willing to begin those discussions,” he continued, “and I would urge Senate Democrats to come to the table so this critical legislation can be sent to the president for his signature as soon as possible.”

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California GOP cash short, but insists candidates won’t be

From San Gabriel Valley Tribune:

The California Republican Party might be awash in red ink right now, but that doesn’t mean its candidates will have empty wallets for this fall’s elections, experts and party activists say.

The state GOP’s midyear report, due Tuesday, is expected to show it’s a few hundred thousand dollars in debt, forcing it to scale down its Sacramento office, lay off some workers and cut others’ salaries, and negotiate down its bills. Some within the GOP say nobody will respect the party’s talk of fiscal responsibility if it can’t walk the walk by managing to pay for its own overhead.

But rather than imagining the party as lost in a money desert, it’s better seen as a hill left high and dry while rivers of money flow around it to conservative campaigns and causes.

That’s the new landscape hewed by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, which begot “super PACs” that can raise and spend unlimited cash so long as they don’t directly coordinate with a candidate’s campaign.

Also affecting campaign donations are state and federal laws setting stricter spending parameters for parties than for other committees. Big benefactors who in the past might have cut fat checks to the state party now feel their bucks bang louder elsewhere.

 (Read Full Article)

GOP Edge in Swing States

From American Thinker:

The world of political punditry seems convinced that the 2012 presidential election will be won in ten swing states: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia. Two other states, Indiana (lean Republican) and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin (lean Democrat) could probably go either way in a close election.

If the election is a landslide, as many conservatives, including me, believe, then these thirteen swing states will not matter. Obama will likely get stuck with a group of northeastern states and a smattering of others. If the election is close, however, those dozen states will likely decide the election.

Almost wholly overlooked in the election is an advantage which Mitt Romney will have in those thirteen states which could well be decisive: heavyweight political muscle in the state governments. This is a consequence of the sweeping nature of the 2010 Republican landslide.

In those thirteen states, Republicans have a governor in Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Virginia, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. North Carolina and Missouri have gubernatorial elections this year, or Republicans might have had ten of the twelve governors instead of eight. These governors can be surrogate campaigners who know their states’ voters and can focus on constituencies which can be persuaded.

The enviable record of Republican governors on unemployment can be hammered as well, and the grand theme of governance, as I have written about before, can be used against Obama — particularly since his Republican opponent has been a governor and since Obama himself seems so incapable of governing.

The Republican state government edge, however, runs much deeper in these swing states. In nine of the thirteen — Florida, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Indiana — Republicans control both houses of the state legislature. In two other states — Wisconsin and Virginia — Republicans essentially control the legislature. The Colorado and Iowa legislatures are divided, and only in Nevada are both houses controlled by Democrats.

 (Read Full Article)

Photo courtesy of DonkeyHotey, flickr

Conservative group to score gun-control amendment to Senate cybersecurity bill

From The Hill:

A leading conservative think-tank has threatened to score a gun-reform proposal that could hit the Senate floor this week.

The Heritage Foundation said the measure to ban high-capacity ammunition clips – proposed by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) as an amendment to the Senate’s cyber-security bill – “may infringe” on the Second Amendment right to bear arms. The group’s lobbying arm is urging lawmakers to kill the proposal.

“The Lautenberg amendment may functionally ban a number of handguns, including smaller handguns that are often used for self defense, and therefore the amendment raises serious constitutional questions,” Heritage Action wrote Tuesday in an email blast.

“Should Congress decide to proceed,” the group added, “then the serious constitutional questions at stake demand that Congress must at a minimum hold further constitutional hearings and investigations rather than rushing to regulate.”

(Read Full Article)

Republican ads woo disillusioned Obama voters

From The Washington Times:

NEW YORK — One Republican campaign ad describes the “buyer’s remorse” some voters feel about President Barack Obama. Another ad features a woman saying she had supported Obama because “he spoke so beautifully,” but he’s failed to deliver on his promises. Still another ad woos Obama supporters with a direct but gentle prod: “It’s OK to make a change.”

Come on in, the water’s fine. That’s the message from Republicans as they try to persuade voters who supported Obama in 2008, many of them women, to switch to Republican candidate Mitt Romney this time.

Nearly all of the $100 million Romney and his allies have spent on TV ads in general election battleground states has been aimed at a single audience: swing voters who say they like Obama personally but are disappointed in his job performance. To reach those voters, Republicans have adopted a political soft sell: Coax them to consider Romney without criticizing the choice they made four years ago.

 (Read Full Article)

Dominant Democrats Rule and Ruin Sacramento

As Democrats have taken over most of the Golden State, an ugly attitude has crept in. This bad attitude is demonstrative of what’s wrong with today’s Democrats, and why they get called Socialists. They think they are above the law because they now control the law.

With such little respect for the law, Democrats in power appear to think they are not accountable to anyone.

Character is how you conduct yourself when no one is watching. How politicians and public officials conduct themselves when one political party holds all of the cards determines the character of the cities and the state.

Thus far, with the Democratic Party in sole control, California has dropped significantly on the character and integrity scale.  It’s as if they can’t help themselves.

Trickle down attitude

As a native of Sacramento, I feel a little proprietary toward my city–even a little protective. Which is why, after observing decades of lousy leadership, corruption, local special interest deals and incompetence, all under the hand of Democrats, Sacramento is everything that’s wrong in California.

Sacramento has turned into one of the worst anti-business cities in the state, and it’s only getting worse.

two-month survey of more than 6,000 small business owners nationwide by found that small businessesrank California among the least friendly states for small business. The survey gave California an “F” grade for business friendliness.

Small businesses rated California as having the second-least friendly tax code of all states nationwide.

Texas, Idaho, Oklahoma and Utah scored “A-plus” grades. Three of the top five business-friendly cities are in Texas. Sadly, four of the bottom five cities are in California, and received “D” and “F” grades: Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and Sacramento.

Of all 50 states, California ranked 41st in growth rate and current economic health, and 35th in level of optimism about the future. California earned mostly “F’s” in the 12 categories. But perhaps the most devastating finding was the three worst cities nationwide for small businesses all are in California.

Sacramento flunked the test

Sacramento’s grades: Eight “F’s” for ease of starting a business; regulations; health and safety; employment labor and hiring; tax code; licensing; environmental; and zoning. Two grades of “D+,” for networking and networking programs. And the top grade was a single “C+” for hiring programs. The final grade for overall business friendliness: “F.”

But no one on Sacramento’s City Council is listening.

“One of the biggest myths floated by members of the Sacramento City Council is that they’ve presided over a scandal-free city,” Sacramento Bee editor Stuart Leavenworth wrote Sunday.

“In a survey released earlier this year, 56 percent of Sacramento city employees said they had concerns about waste, fraud or abuse inside City Hall, but more than half said they didn’t report it, largely because of fear of retaliation,” Leavenworth wrote. “Does that sound like a City Hall with a culture of cleanliness?”

“Probably the biggest scandal is the overinflated image that City Council members have of themselves and Sacramento’s place within the region.”

Leavenworth nailed it with that statement.

Sacramento has had a historical problem getting any real leaders to run for city council or county supervisor. And then many of these non-leaders go on to the state Legislature to cause damage on a larger scale.

Sacramento has produced such gems as Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, a Democrat and former city councilman. Former Assemblyman Dave Jones, now the California insurance commissioner, is a former city councilman. Assemblyman Roger Dickinson is a former county supervisor. Former Senator Debra Ortiz is a former city councilwoman. And they are all Democrats.

The current makeup of the city council is mostly labor union-funded professional board sitters and government employees. The council includes a former Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment commissioner, the wife of a deceased councilman, a retired cop, a former assistant secretary to the governor, a lawyer, another lawyer, another board sitter and wife of a former county supervisor, one citizen and a former NBA all star, Mayor Kevin Johnson.

There are no business owners on the council, and there is not one leader among them. But the egos could fill the Power Balance Arena, which hosts the Sacramento Kings basketball team. And this group of Democrats voted to put a tax increase initiative on the November ballot to pay for their bad decisions.

Despite dire warnings and public outcry, the city council approved a no-bid garbage contract worth $22 million with BLT Enterprises,which was then acquired by Waste Management Inc. Sacramento city rate payers will have to live with the contract for decades, according to the Sacramento County Grand Jury.

‘We’re all Democrats’

At a meeting with Sacramento City Councilman Rob Fong in 2009, my husband, an elected representative of our city neighborhood association, got a taste of what was ahead for the state. My husband and another association member met with Fong to express concern over the deteriorating condition of the city’s largest regional park, around which our neighborhood was developed in the 1930′s.

But Fong was dismissive and condescending, and played politics over an issue that should not be political.

“You know, we’re all Democrats, Terry,” Fong told my husband, dismissing his concerns. Fong did nothing to help with the park, and continues to this day filling dead space on the city council, while the park is largely maintained by a volunteer group instead of the city employees still on the payroll.

Sacramento’s former Mayors have equally unimpressive credentials. The most recent former mayor, Heather Fargo, was a Parks and Recreation employee. Former Mayor Joe Serna was a farm worker activist and organizer for Cesaer Chavez. Former Mayor Anne Rudin was a nurse.

Current Mayor Kevin Johnson has his eye on the ball, but it’s the wrong ball. Johnson has spent his first four years in office trying to build a new publicly funded sports arena for the Sacramento Kings while Sacramento’s economy crumbles, businesses close, pension debt skyrockets, crime is on the rise, the downtown is a ghost town full of crazy homeless people, city parks are being allowed to deteriorate, city services are getting cut, city utilities costs are increasing and the city’s sewer system is about to collapse after years of neglect.

When the arena talks fell apart for the third time, Johnson announced last week that he will focus his efforts on bringing the Oakland A’s to Sacramento. But he really stepped in it this time. West Sacramento is home to the River Cats, the wildly popular minor league team of the A’s. If the A’s actually came to Sacramento, the River Cats would have to find a new home, leaving West Sacramento with an abandoned ball park, debt and thousands of angry residents who love the River Cats.

Sacramento arena obsession

“Mr. Dickinson most recently made a name for himself with his flaccid handling of the proposed Sacramento Sports Arena,” I wrote in my column for The Sacramento Union in 2007. Despite Sacramento voters soundly defeating the 2006 initiatives, Measures Q and R, which would have raised taxes and spent the money on a sports arena, Dickinson continued to push like crazy to build an arena.

The back room deal was put together by Dickinson Steinberg. They hurried Measures Q and R onto the ballot, leaving voters only a few days to vote on the measures which were missing crucial information. Dickinson continued withholding the information until two courts overruled him. But the measures failed anyway because Sacramento voters are also taxpayers; they didn’t want to fund an arena in 2007, and still don’t.

Steinberg and Dickinson also tried to get the measures passed by a 50 percent simple majority vote, instead of the two-thirds vote required for tax measures. Already strapped by county taxes, taxpayers smelled a rat and told arena supporters to pay for their own sports complex.

Dickinson is now in the Assembly, and Steinberg is president of the Senate.

Library scandal

Dickinson was Chairman of the Sacramento Library Board of Directors when more than $800,000 was stolen by three employees in an over-billing and kickback scheme. In 2008, the Sacramento Grand Jury investigated and found gross mismanagement and financial conflicts of interest within the Sacramento Public Library Authority. The Grand Jury skewered the library’s board, of which Dickinson was chairman, for not overseeing the management, as well as the library’s finances.

But the real eye-opener was that despite the Grand Jury findings of gross mismanagement, even after the library director and two library officials were charged with felonies in the billing scandal, Dickinson stubbornly stood by the library director, Anne Marie Gold, after the Grand Jury recommended that she step down. After the scandal, Gold opened up her own library consulting firm and was hired by the Sacramento County Supervisors as a consultant to a county-led joint powers agency.

The thieving library employees were convicted and received significant jail time. Another former library employee filed a hostile work environment lawsuit, and won.

And Dickinson ran for the state Assembly and won. Two years later, the Sacramento Bee ran an exposé on Dickinson  that found, “In his last 30 months as a Sacramento County supervisor, Roger Dickinson spent almost $70,000 in county funds on expenses — nearly as much as the county’s other four supervisors combined,” the Bee reported.

“Dickinson went on 16 taxpayer-funded trips, bought almost $4,000 worth of furniture and paid about $30,000 to a consultant for work on a youth violence committee, records show,” the Bee reported. This information might have been pertinent to voters in November 2010, when he was a candidate on the ballot for the state Assembly.

Sacramento’s other elected officials are just as bad. Democratic Congresswoman Doris Matsui is the wife of deceased Congressman Bob Matsui, who died while in office. Doris is mostly MIA–rarely is she seen in Sacramento other than for an occasional ribbon cutting. Matsui lives in Washington, D.C., where she was a lobbyist while her husband was Sacramento’s Congressman.

Does it get any more pathetic?
(Katy Grimes is a longtime political analyst, writer and journalist, and CalWatchdog’s news reporter. Originally posted on CalWatchdog.)