Thursday, June 30, 2011

Brown's Countdown, Day 172: California teachers win big in state budget deal

By Kevin Yamamura and Diana Lambert

Published: Thursday, Jun. 30, 2011 - 12:00 am | Page 1A
Teachers win layoff protection while school finance officials see their powers curtailed in the state budget package Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to sign today.
The last-minute school legislation, Assembly Bill 114, emerged publicly less than an hour before lawmakers approved it in a late-evening Tuesday session. It reflects the negotiating muscle of teachers as Democratic lawmakers crafted their majority-vote budget with a governor of their own party.
"This provides stability for students and teachers," said Dean E. Vogel, the new president of the California Teachers Association. He said the bill stems the tide of an estimated 30,000 job losses that teachers have faced since the recession began.
Read more:

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Brown Vetoes Budget! (video)

SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Jerry Brown has vetoed the Democratic budget plan approved Wednesday in the Legislature, restarting talks over how to close California's $9.6 billion deficit.
The Democratic governor says he vetoed the entire set of budget bills passed by majority Democrats. It includes several provisions that would likely face a legal challenge, including imposing a $12 fee on vehicle registrations, a firefighting surcharge on rural residents and an extension of a hike in the sales tax.
He says the plan sent to his desk "will not stand the test of time."
The plan was widely seen as a placeholder until Brown could compromise with Republican lawmakers over whether to extend a series of expiring tax increases.Budget Veto Video

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Rep. Cardoza Honored with 2011 "Champion of Agriculture" Award

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Congressman Dennis Cardoza (CA-18) was honored with the 2011 Champion of Agriculture Award by American Agri-Women, the national coalition of farm, ranch and agribusiness women’s organizations.  Rep. Cardoza was recognized for his leadership on the House Committee on Agriculture to support policies promoting abundant, safe, and affordable domestic food and fiber production. 

Rep. Cardoza, who serves as the Ranking Member of the Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Subcommittee this Congress, has also led efforts to rein in the Environmental Protection Agency’s overregulation of the agriculture sector.  In March, Rep. Cardoza grilled EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson about the EPA’s “agency activism,” and the impact their extreme regulations have on farmers’ ability to produce food for the nation.

“I am honored to accept this award from an organization representing thousands of women in agriculture nationwide, including many in the Central Valley,” said Congressman Cardoza.  “A strong agricultural sector is key to our nation’s food security, and I will keep fighting in Congress for pro-farming policies and to eliminate burdensome and unnecessary regulations.”

Barbara Brazil LeVake of Gustine, who serves as state legislative director for California Women for Agriculture and is a second-generation member of the CWA’s Merced County Chapter, said, “I have worked with Congressman Cardoza for years on ag issues, and every time we have gone to him for help, he has been there for us.  As a member of the House Ag Committee, he has gone to bat for the specialty crops program, which is so important to Central Valley ag producers.  Congressman Cardoza has also been a champion for regulatory reform, and has taken on EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson for policies that are preventing our farmers from being able to grow safe, affordable food.  Congressman Cardoza has been a true champion of agriculture, and we thank him for his support.”

California is home to 81,500 farms and ranches, and agriculture produced $36.2 billion in cash farm receipts in 2008.  The state produces nearly half of U.S.-grown fruits, nuts and vegetables.  Four of the five counties in Congressman Cardoza’s Congressional District – San Joaquin, Merced, Stanislaus, and Fresno – rank in the top ten agriculturally-producing counties in the state, based on the market value of products sold.

Founded in 1974, American Agri-Women currently has 58 state and commodity affiliate organizations throughout the country, representing tens of thousands of women involved in agriculture. AAW members are actively involved in impacting legislative and regulatory matters at the local, state, and national levels. AAW is also instrumental in student and consumer education about agriculture through national and state programs like “Agriculture in the Classroom.”

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Viewer Poll on Republican Debate: 25% Undecided, 75% Unconscious

Worrisome News for GOP Field

"Finally, by a wide margin, the poll showed that the biggest winners of the GOP debate were the people who didn’t watch."

The Borowitz Report

NEW HAMPSHIRE (The Borowitz Report) – In what could spell trouble for the current field of GOP presidential candidates, a poll of likely voters who saw last night’s Republican debate found that 25% of viewers were undecided while 75% were unconscious.
Additionally, over half of respondents agreed with the statement, “This field of candidates comes dangerously close to qualifying as a prank.”
Despite this somewhat tepid response, the debate did have its moments of excitement, such as Rep. Michele Bachmann’s official announcement of her candidacy: “I wanted to declare my candidacy here in New Hampshire, the home of the Boston Tea Party.”
Rep. Bachmann received high marks in the poll from voters who said they found former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin “too cerebral.”
While Gov. Palin is not yet an official candidate, she told reporters today, “If I do decide to run, I’m gonna come ridin’ in like Paul Revere at the Alamo.”
Another potential candidate, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, offered this statement: “At this time, I can’t decide whether to run for President of the US or secede from the US and become President of Texas.”
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney made the most headlines last night by offering voters this guarantee: “I will never get involved in a scandal like Weinergate because Mattel did not give me genitals.”
Answering a question about the mass defection of his campaign staff, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said, “They all simultaneously realized I was a douche.”
Finally, by a wide margin, the poll showed that the biggest winners of the GOP debate were the people who didn’t watch.

Friday, June 10, 2011

VOTE: Garrad Marsh for Mayor of Modesto

VOTE: Garrad Marsh for Mayor of Modesto: "'For those of you that do not already know, I am officially running for Mayor of Modesto. Election is this November. I would appreciate y..."

California Citizens Redistricting Commission Maps: First Draft Senate Districts |

Today California takes another step toward reforming the redistricting process and returning electoral power to the people. The California Citizens Redistricting Commission is releasing its first round of draft maps for Congressional, Assembly, State Senate and Board of Equalization Districts.
Click here to check out maps.

For Immediate Release: Democratic Women's Club of Stanislaus County has Historic Meeting!

The Democratic Women's Club of Stanislaus has its first general meeting!  The women's club invited its Charter Members and the general public to be a part of their historic first meeting! The DWCS, also celebrated the women's right to vote that was passed by Congress on June 4, 1919.  "This is the first Democratic Women's Club in Stanislaus County and in the Northern Central Valley," said DWCS Founder, Patty Hughes. Founding Officers, Yvonne Allen and Carole Stark, are very pleased with the large group of energized Democratic women from all over the region that turned out for tonight's meeting.  Anyone who is a registered Democrat in California can become a member!  Student memberships are free! For more information contact the DWCS: (209) 551-0501.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Democratic Women's Club: Democratic Women's Club of Stanislaus County - Mee...

Democratic Women's Club: Democratic Women's Club of Stanislaus County - Meeting...: "Patty Hughes DEMOCRATIC WOMEN'S CLUB of Stanislaus WHEN: Thursday, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. WHERE: Mediterranean Market & Grill, 421 McHenry Ave Modesto...."

Monday, June 6, 2011

Anna Caballero Confirmed Secretary of Consumer Services Agency

 Torey Van Oot 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

California High-Speed Rail: A Bridge To Nowhere? Huffington Post

"It's amazing to me that it's taken as long as it has, and there's so much controversy," Gianturco said. "I don't understand why California, why the entire United States, is so much behind the curve."

This story comes courtesy of California Watch.
By David Siders
FRESNO - The plan for high-speed rail in California is to start on the Fresno side of the San Joaquin River, between Bakersfield and Chowchilla, and go until the money runs out.
The Central Valley is for many reasons a practical place to begin: The land is broad and flat and relatively inexpensive, and the federal government, which is contributing billions of dollars, requires it.
The first section will one day form the spine of a system connecting Los Angeles to San Francisco, officials say. But there is no money guaranteed to build the rest, and the initial tracks, through towns like Wasco and Madera, are conspicuously far from where most people live.
For the California High-Speed Rail Authority, the location has become a political and public relations challenge.
"It's a 'Bridge to Nowhere,'" said Adriana Gianturco, who was California's transportation director three decades ago, when the state first considered high-speed rail.
A "Bridge to Nowhere," she said, "does not gain political support."
Farmers on the line are calling lawyers and organizing opposition, and criticism is intensifying at the Capitol.
Last month, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office said the rail authority's financial assumptions are optimistic and its management inadequate. It cited "significant risk" the project will never be finished, and it suggested starting in Los Angeles or the Bay Area in case nothing else is built.
Rail officials are undeterred. They plan to release a new business plan in October, including updated financial and ridership projections.
"If that plan is not acceptable," said Sen. Alan Lowenthal, the Long Beach Democrat who chairs the Senate select committee on high speed rail, "then all the money stops."
The project, costing $43 billion or more, is one of the most ambitious in North America. Even on a map it is imposing: Plowing through the Valley, the railroad rises over roads and rivers and tunnels underground, rearranging whole intersections and pushing part of Highway 99 aside. It rubs out motels and fast food restaurants as it runs into towns, and strips of farmland outside them.
Yet nowhere in California is the landscape more open.
"It's the middle that there's nothing there," former rail authority director Mehdi Morshed said. "It's the middle that is now still an opportunity to build something."
The only reason construction hasn't started yet, he said, is politics.
"It's the mayor of such and such a city who wants a station in such a place," Morshed said. "It's Assemblyman or 
Senator X, Y, Z who thinks they have a better idea where to build it."
California has contemplated high-speed rail at least since the early 1980s. But it wasn't until 2008, when voters approved $9 billion in project bonds, that anyone paid much attention. The Obama administration awarded the project about $3.5 billion, and the rail authority, influenced by federal transportation authorities, decided in December where to start.
Its first choice, a 65-mile stretch from Borden, outside Madera, to Corcoran, in Kings County, would have started construction in an area represented in Congress by Jim Costa, the conservative Democrat and former state senator who pushed hard for the project and for funding for the Central Valley.
A banner went up on a cotton trailer off Highway 99: "Looks like a high speed train. Smells like pork."
Costa and Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Atwater, said the selection was not political.
But Cardoza, fearing the line would bypass Merced, had what he would later describe as a "conniption." In a letter to federal transportation officials, he said it was logical to start building in the Valley, but "it defies logic and common sense to have the train start and stop in remote areas that have no hope of attaining the ridership needed to justify the cost of the project."
Cardoza's mood improved in May, when the project found enough federal money to extend the line north to near Chowchilla. The extension convinced Cardoza the railroad eventually will reach Merced, where a connection to existing Amtrak trains would benefit Valley residents years before the high-speed system's planned extension to Sacramento and San Diego.
Many Central Valley cities are hours from major airports, and passenger rail service is relatively slow. Nowhere else in California could the state lay so much track for so little money, Costa said.
Still, it could be many years before high-speed trains run through the Valley, even if the tracks are built. The planned segment is not long enough and does not connect sufficient populations for high-speed trains to operate on that route alone. Only if the line is extended could service begin. In a worst-case scenario in which nothing more is built, authority officials say, Amtrak could use the line.

Even critics acknowledge the potential benefits of high-speed rail: Improved transportation for a growing population, reduced oil consumption and work for thousands of people during a period of high unemployment.
Yet for decades, as other countries pushed ahead with high-speed rail projects, plans in California stalled.
"It's amazing to me that it's taken as long as it has, and there's so much controversy," Gianturco said. "I don't understand why California, why the entire United States, is so much behind the curve."
It was long ago settled that the path from Los Angeles to San Francisco would go through the Central Valley, and more recently that the route would generally follow Highway 99. The Valley is where trains can reach speeds of 220 miles per hour, and engineering and environmental concerns are less pronounced than on the coast.
Andrew Goetz, a professor at the Intermodal Transportation Institute at University of Denver, said the Central Valley offers a "nice, linear corridor," and Anthony Perl, a transportation researcher at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, said it's "not cluttered with people, businesses and other things that will feel threatened by change."
The nation's interstate highway system started in the Midwest, which is roughly in the middle, too.
But Goetz said visibility is important.
"If the first segment is not successful just because it's not serving a real market, then I don't know if you're doing yourself any favors," he said.
The federal government required spending in the Central Valley after concluding construction there was more likely than other areas to meet a 2017 deadline for spending federal stimulus money. Officials believed there was little opposition locally to slow the project down.
But farmers in the Central Valley noticed when surveyors started visiting their land. East of Hanford, the proposed line runs through an almond orchard that has been in Helen Sullivan's family since the late 1800s.
Sullivan voted for the rail bond in 2008, but she said it is foolish to permanently disrupt productive farmland for a line that may never be finished. If officials were expecting "yahoo farmers" to roll over, she said, they miscalculated.
"They can't throw enough money at me to take my land away," she said.
Yet the promise of massive spending in the region - the first section alone is expected to cost $6.3 billion - is attractive to many people in the recession-battered Valley. Cities clamored for stations and are competing for a maintenance yard.
Scott Crawford, chairman of the board of The Greater Merced Chamber of Commerce, said a station will bring Yosemite-bound tourists through Merced, and people working as far away as San Francisco could live there.
"It's going to change the whole complexion of our downtown," Merced Mayor Bill Spriggs said.
The response has been less enthusiastic in cities where the train won't stop.
"The cities that are getting a station, they're falling all over themselves to get this thing going," Madera Mayor Robert Poythress said. "I just don't see the ridership numbers. ... It's, 'Let's put down the track and we'll work out the details later.'"
The timing of the legislative analyst's report, issued just days before lawmakers began considering the rail authority's budget for next year, could hardly have been worse for the project's supporters.
The analyst called the project a "big gamble," predicting it could cost $67 billion while relying on billions of dollars in uncertain private investment and additional federal funds.
Roelof van Ark, the rail authority's chief executive officer, acknowledged there is no long-term commitment from the federal government. But mega-projects rarely, if ever, start with all the money they need.
"If you were to wait until you had every dollar set aside and reserved for these kind of infrastructure projects, you'd never build anything," Costa said.
As state lawmakers last month discussed the project's merits, Daniel Krause, executive director of the advocacy group Californians for High Speed Rail, said their "futzing around" risks delay and losing federal aid.
"We're getting this initial chunk of money," Krause said. "We want to build as much track as we can."
Krause and other supporters of high-speed rail responded sharply to the legislative analyst's report. Former state Sen. Quentin Kopp, a former rail authority board member, said it read "almost as if it was written by Lowenthal and (Joe) Simitian," two senators critical of the authority.
"That was the most disgraceful report I ever saw come from that office," he said.
But even before the report's release, Kopp acknowledged the project had developed an image problem.
In a March memorandum urging van Ark to cancel the rail authority's multimillion-dollar contract with Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, Kopp said the firm's failure was evident in "the worsening legislative, media, academic, and popular comments in the public domain about our project."
The rail authority's outreach challenges came up in a budget hearing recently. Sen. Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield, said support already has eroded.
"We're losing it," she said. "In my area, we're just losing it like crazy."
The rail authority is pushing forward, staffing up and meeting with people living on the line. Engineers plan to start construction next year, preparing to lift a bridge over the San Joaquin River while pushing south through Fresno.
Tom Tracy, the engineer managing the section from Fresno to Bakersfield, was standing on the Fresno side of the river when a Union Pacific train rumbled overhead.
High-speed rail will look a lot like that, he said. Except, he said, "we'll go by a lot quicker."
David Siders is a reporter with the Sacramento Bee Capitol Bureau. He can be reached at 916-321-1215.
This article was produced as part of a joint initiative to cover high-speed rail involving The Bakersfield Californian, California Watch, The Fresno Bee, The Orange County Register, The Sacramento Bee and the San Francisco Chronicle.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Democratic Women's Club: Women's Right to Vote

Democratic Women's Club: Women's Right to Vote: "@ @DemWomensClub StancoPatty On this Day:June 4, 1919 Amendment to U.S. Constitution, guaranteeing women the right to vote is passed by C..."