Saturday, December 15, 2007

Rumblings from Los Angeles

Below is an article by Rosalio Munoz, describing the exciting activities that happened last weekend at Los Angeles County Federation of Labor 2nd Delegate Congress. Via Latino LA:

LA is Labor Territory
A report on the historic L.A. labor congress
By Rosalio Munoz

Next year labor contracts covering some 350,000 union members in 30 union locals in Los Angeles County will expire, while tens of thousands more are organizing for first contracts.

The area's labor movement is also its single most influential political force. In 2008 over 10 million county residents comprise 13 full Congressional Districts and parts of others. They can be decisive in determining the state's presidential electoral vote, and the balance of power in the legislature of the nation's largest state.

"In 2008 when it comes to contract fights, organizing and politics, L.A.'s workers are combining their resources in a single Fight for Good Jobs, "Maria Elena Durazo, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, declared Dec. 3 as she opened its historic 2nd Delegates Congress. The Congress included hundreds of key activists beyond its official federation delegates.

Over 1,000 union members from work sites and retiree groups, representing over 300 union locals, attended the Congress to unite on a common agenda. They roared their unanimous approval for the focus on "good jobs."

In keynoting the Congress, Durazo spelled out what is meant by good jobs. "Working people are sick and tired of hearing politicians boast about all the jobs they create," she said. "The working poor who are trying to organize know all about jobs. The jobs are so lousy they need two or three of them just to pay the bills. Creating jobs isn't the solution. The solution is creating good jobs."

Durazo pointed out that a "bare bones" budget for a single person in Los Angeles requires spending $843 a month on housing, $211 on food and $233 on health care with a $28,000 yearly income.

She took on L.A. media who criticized city water and power workers making $76,000 a year: "We should be proud the workers are earning $76,000 a year, a salary that allows them to raise their families and give back to the community. That is the standard we need to set and replicate in other jobs and industries...(what) ordinary workers need to live and survive in L.A. today."

Longshore workers, security guards, hotel workers, professors, firefighters, home healthcare workers, building trades, janitors and many others addressed the Congress, spelling out their issues, their need for support and their solidarity with their union sisters and brothers.

The delegates approved a platform for the Fight for Good Jobs campaign. A 28 mile mass march is planned next spring through the heart of the county from Hollywood, where entertainment industry contracts are on the line, to the LA/Long Beach port where workers handle 40 percent of the nation's imports, the longshore workers' contract is up and port drivers are organizing. Along the way the union marchers will address communities on key electoral races like the open District 2 County Supervisor race in South Los Angeles, whose winner will vote on the contracts of scores of thousands of government workers.

A resolution was passed to establish a countywide solidarity committee of all unions wanting to help coordinate resources and to join negotiating committees where asked. The County Supervisor District 2 race was made a priority. The delegates approved
support for L.A. City Proposition S, a telephone users' tax to fund city services, and opposition to the state's "Big 4" Indian gambling deals.

Durazo drew rousing cheers as she addressed national labor concerns. "L.A. Labor must, and will, do its part to end this wasteful and futile war in Iraq. L.A. Labor must, and will, help enact rational and humane immigration reform. L.A. Labor must, and will, help America elect a new President of the United States!"

Just before dusk, after the Congress adjourned, hundreds of delegates marched in support of SEIU's SOULA campaign organizing security guards. Boisterous chants swelled as marchers passed the offices of high rise real estate corporations: "One, Two, Three, Four, there should be no working poor," and "We tell the story, this is union territory!"

An original Chicano boomer, Munoz got active in the United Mexican American Students at UCLA in 1967, he is still active in Latino, peace, labor, socialist and other peoples movements. He lives in Highland Park, Lincoln Heights adjacent.

Friday, December 14, 2007

L.A. Must Dump 600 Million Gallons of Water

Today, the Department of Power and Water, announced that it must drain the Silver Lake and Elysian reservoirs of all its water. In the middle of an ongoing drought this announcement seems crazy but both reservoirs are contaminated due to a chemical reaction.
Officials believe that intense sunlight, bromide in ground water and chlorine combined to produce bromate, a carcinogen that is dangerous through long-term
Officials with DWP claim that the reservoirs amount to 1% of Los Angeles total annual water usage. The water will be drained into the Los Angeles river and will be carried out to sea.[Link]

Governor Declares Fiscal Emergency

SacBee has it that Governor Schwarzenegger has just declared a Fiscal Emergency for the state of California. So what does the heck does that mean? It means he's invoking Prop. 58 (passed in 2004):

It will mark the first time Schwarzenegger has used the "fiscal emergency" authority that he asked voters to create by passing Proposition 58 in 2004. The provision allows the governor to declare an emergency when revenues are "substantially below" what was anticipated when the budget was signed. Such an emergency would summon the Legislature into special session.

If lawmakers fail to send the governor legislation addressing the budget problem within 45 days, they cannot take action on any other bills or adjourn until they do so. (SacBee 12.14.07)
I guess that pretty much assures us that no endemic failings in the budget process will be explored or fixed. Not surprisingly, the Governor prefers quick and easy abdication of responsibility to substantive leadership. Thank goodness we dumped that fiscally reckless Gray Davis or we might find ourselves in some trouble right now.

Booze Ban as Bad Governance

On December 6, Mayor Jerry Sanders officially signed the San Diego Beach Booze Ban. On the same day, opponents announced they would organize a petition drive to put the ban on the ballot, where it has failed twice in the past (1991 and 2002). The group has dubbed itself Ban The Ban 3 and is current in the midst of a 30 day window to gather more than 30,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot. I remain ambivalent about the virtues of the ban in itself- I think that the goal of reigning in drunken craziness is laudable but highly doubt that much can change without increased enforcement capacity- but am increasingly coming to support this ballot measure as a way to force into light the underlying issues that actually matter.

Like I discussed in my initial thoughts on the ban, I have a hard time imagining this having a significant effect. If police can't enforce public drunkenness now, then when people just load up at beachfront bars or friends houses then walk/bike/drive to the beach, they'll be just as obnoxious. If anything, it spreads the problem out and removes responsible drinkers from the equation. But that's ultimately beside the point.

Nobody seems interested in asking why these people have no concern about their behavior. Nobody is questioning how San Diego has ended up with a significant population that simply has no investment in their community. Nobody is questioning the develop-or-bust strategy that's turned San Diego into a boom town for young people with new money and no plans to stay beyond a few years of fun in the sun. What was once a community of villages has abandoned that mentality in favor of big corporate money. Neighborhood self-sufficiency has broken down, condo conversions have tightened the rental market has led to increased transience, and people don't develop connections to their neighbors or neighborhoods. I may sound like a Leave It To Beaver revivalist here, but there are tangible and practical concerns involved here. Specifically, that feeling like part of a community leads one to take responsibility for that community. Right now, with no sense of accountability, there's no compelling reason to not get drunk and tear things up. It's not "home," and everything breaks down from there.

California suddenly finds itself wrestling with similar issues at the state level. Senate leader Don Perata is set to block any health care reform because of a $14 billion budget gap next year. Governor Schwarzenegger has proposed 10% cuts across the board for all state agencies and services, a majority of Californians have a negative outlook on the direction of the state (pdf) and the Governor wants to raid local tax revenues to help cover the shortfall. In short, the state is facing a budgetary crisis and absolutely nobody is talking seriously about increasing revenue or re-examining the basics of budgeting. The same problem with different dressing is unfolding in San Diego.

The city has seen fights over unions, fair pay for police and firefighters, condos vs. apartments, living wage, big-box stores, the list goes on and on. Increasingly the arguments over the trees has abandoned any attention on the forest. How do we convince people that a viable community is worth their time and effort? The booze ban doesn't do it- it just increases tension and disenchantment. It blatantly sells out to the tourism industry and more sadly, it factionalizes the city at a time when exactly the opposite is necessary. Just as the state government is reaching a breaking point and must address the failings of its operational infrastructure, San Diego needs to stop reacting to symptoms and look at the root cause of the problems being faced collectively. Pointing fingers and ignoring the bigger picture doesn't help anything. As long as our city government won't tackle the big issues, it becomes incumbent on citizens to force the issue. The booze ban isn't simply about civil liberties or drunk yahoos at the beach. It's fundamentally about whether a piecemeal approach to city government is feasible. It hasn't seemed to be working so well lately if measures like this seem necessary.

There are 21 days remaining for signature gathering. Find a place near you to sign and let's stop talking about bandaids and start talking about solutions.

Power Grabs, Officially In During The Holiday Season

Something smells fishy. San Diegans for City Hall Reform, the group that helped Sanders campaign for outsourcing last year, has over $111,000 ready to go for apparently any cause that Sanders would like, as reported in a VOSD article back in August. The group stated yesterday that they found the cause that they want to use the funds for: a charter reform initiative; especially since Sanders' committee did not get their way with the charter reform recommendations that were presented to the City Council Rules Committee in November. Even though at the time perception lent a different idea that Sanders had another "change of heart" with a memo he released just before the committee went to council, when all along they had Plan B ready to go--they just held back on it because Plan A would not cost them as much money.

John Davies, who happens to be a member of the San Diegans for City Hall Reform and served as the Chair of the Mayor's Charter Review Committee (Sanders appointed Davies), said in today's VOSD article, "If the City Council subsequently agrees to place provisions substantially the same as those contained in our initiative on the ballot in 2008, we will terminate our initiative effort." It is now clear that Davies had ulterior motives when he chaired the Mayor's committee. Therefore, Davies lied to the public and represented another cause other than the people of San Diego.

Concerned citizens and local media should take notice. Apparently, power grabs are in during the holiday season. San Diegans for City Hall Reform has the machine set up and ready to change the city charter even if the public's representatives think that it is outrageous, along with countless community groups.

Friday - Quick Hits

Truly a stupid idea. Los Angeles county MTA proposal to turn carpool lanes into toll roads. LATimes

Continued racial problems in Poway. Swastika found at Westview High School. UT

Pointing out the merely obvious. UCR study finds fewer liquor stores in gang-infested area reduces violence. UT

The newly elected Potero Planning group was sworn in yesterday. UT

City supervisors distributed "cheat sheet" to employee for a disaster preparedness test. UT

Another sign of the ongoing housing crisis in the I.E. Hospital district that owns Sun City and Hemet hospitals files Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection. NCTimes

Thursday, December 13, 2007

State Ethics Board Votes for New Disclosure Rules on Political Spending

The California Fair Political Practices Commission voted 5-0 today to tighten the disclosure rules for politicians who use their campaign funds on meals, gifts and travel. The rule changes are design to force politicians to justify their use of campaign funds for such activities that tied to official business. The rule changes will also force politicians to disclose gift recipients. Final action on the rule changes is expected on February 14.[Link]

In addition, the commission vote 5-0 to impose an emergency rule to require non-profits that engage in ballot measure campaigns to their donors.[Link]

Volunteers Needed for Sandbagging

Wildfire Recovery - Sandbagging in the City of Escondido

Escondido City Yard
475 N. Spruce Street
Escondido, CA 92025 [Map]

City of Escondido, the San Diego Democrats, and Democrats Work


The City of Escondido and Volunteer San Diego have put out a call for volunteers who can help with sandbagging this weekend. Sandbagging teams will assemble on Saturday, December 15th from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. in Escondido.

No special skills are specified for this project, just come ready to help. Water and snacks will be provided.

Please RSVP in the box above or send an email to

SD Ethics Commission Hearing on Public Financing

Issue: Clean Elections
Action: Show your support by attending the Ethics Commission Meeting
Date / Location: Today, December 13th, 5pm at 202 C Street, 12th Floor

Today, December 13th, Neighborhoods for Clean Elections will be participating in the monthly San Diego Ethics Commission hearing. This public session will focus on Public Financing, and the group will be presenting their initiative and supporting information, and answering questions posed by the Commissioners. In coalition with California Common Cause, a long-term Clean Elections partner, they will explain how Clean Elections will work in San Diego and why the Ethics Commission should recommend it to the City Council. Join Neighborhoods for Clean Elections today at 5pm.

Beware of Toxic Toys

The United Steel Workers have put out a video to remind people of the danger from lead tainted toys made in China this holiday season.

Thursday - Quick Hits

With their arrogance showing, Blackwater claims vote results doesn't change their plans one bit. UT

Victory for the environmental community. Sea World becomes the first group in the United States to apply for a water-quality discharge permit for conducting fireworks over water. UT

La Mesa has hired a consultant to try to attract more business for city. UT

Solana Beach and developer are at odds over train station project. UT

Stepping up and trying to do something that is right, an addiction treatment center is offering free services for Afghanistan and Iraq veterans. UT

The Coastal Commission kills the extra per room fee for controversial Oceanside beach resort. NCTimes

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Katherine Nakamura elected San Diego School Board President

After four votes the San Diego Unified trustees elected Katherine Nakamura as president of the San Diego Unified School Board and John de Beck as vice president this evening. The vote replaces Luis Acle as president and Shelia Jackson as vice president of the school board.[Link]

Nakamura who had at one time expressed interested in possibility seeking another office, easily won reelection last year over crazy wingnut Micheal McSweeney. Earlier this year her name surfaced as a potential candidate for district 7 city council seat. It will be interesting to see if she using her position as school board president to increase her profile for a run at another office.

Labor Council Searching for Political and Legislative Director

The San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council (SDICLC) seeks a hard working, responsible individual to coordinate our political and legislative activities. The Labor Council, which represents 118 affiliated unions, is active in political and legislative advocacy, public relations, strike support, community services, outreach and labor to neighbor voter education on behalf of our local affiliated labor unions.

Responsibilities include, but are not limited to:

1. Serving as principal researcher / writer for SDICLC legislative and lobbying activities.

2. Serving as primary spokesperson for the SDICLC when the Secretary Treasurer is unavailable, participating in community forums, testifying at government hearings, and lobbying elected and appointed officials on labor issues.

3. Overseeing the Committee on Political Education (COPE) program, which includes coordinating candidate recruitment and endorsements, targeting key races, supervising labor to neighbor voter education efforts, managing independent expenditure campaigns in coordination with outside consultants, and overseeing budget for all political activities.

4. Working with the Labor to Neighbor Coordinator to ensure an internal organizing program that achieves the goal of 1% involvement from members. This includes overseeing the Coordinator's efforts to recruit and train volunteers, coordinate phone banks, letter writing campaigns, precinct walks and the precinct leader program.

5. Working with the Communications Director to ensure a cohesive external and internal public relations and media strategy. This includes overseeing the Communications Director's work with print and electronic media, writing and editing articles for the Labor Leader, and updating and maintaining the Labor Council's website.

This position requires attention to detail, the ability to multi-task, creativity, flexibility, and the willingness to sometimes work long hours and weekends.

Ideal candidate will have excellent written and verbal communication skills, experience with computers, databases and websites, broad political knowledge, and an understanding of local labor issues, political reporting requirements, and lobbying rules.

Ability to work independently and effectively under strict timelines; ability to
work with union leaders, staff and members, elected officials and the broader community and ability to fully embrace the mission of the San Diego - Imperial Counties Labor Council are required.

Interested applicants should send a cover letter and resume to Gessie Perez at or fax it to her attention at (619)281-1296. Resumes must be received by Friday, December 21st.

Working the Fringe with Duncan Hunter

Over at The New Republic, editor Eve Fairbanks spends some time on the road with Duncan Hunter as he campaigns for the Republican Nomination. It has been a difficult time for the Hunter campaign as it tries to crack into the mainstream of the GOP presidential race. But in his case even cracking into the fringe appears to be a high hurdle for the campaign overcome. In the article titled "Plain Nuts" she portrays the campaign as:

traditionally ... people running for president with no support in the polls "vanity candidates." The Duncan Hunter campaign for the Republican nomination, though, feels more like the antidote to vanity.[Link]
She describes Hunter riding in a white convertible Corvette in a Veterans Day parade in Reno.

The parade's organizers have assigned him a slot at the end of the march, putting him behind Dennis Kucinich supporters, people banging saucepans in memory of Molly Ivins, a hayride truck filled with senior citizens labeled MARTIANS FOR PEACE, and, worst of all, a troupe of five cavalry re-enactors on horseback. Hunter, a military equipment nut, enjoyed hanging out with the cavalrymen before the parade, but, once they set off, their horses begin pooping profusely along the route. As Hunter's convertible starts to roll, it streaks piles of hot yellow horse dung under its wheels. "Eeewie!" a child screams.[Link]
Hunter isn't your typical fringe candidate. He does have an affable personality but has struggled to gain traction in the race.

A friend of Hunter once described him as "Pat Buchanan with a smile." Hunter has struggled just to break into the fringe. He has raised half as much money as Tom Tancredo and netted half the major-paper mentions of Dennis Kucinich over the past year. Apparently, becoming a successful marginal presidential candidate is harder than it looks.

* * *

But Hunter is not only too fringe to be mainstream; with his mild manner and good cheer, he is also too mainstream to be fringe.[Link]
With the California less 60-days away, I suspect that Duncan Hunter will be withdrawing from the presidential race the day after the primary. Maybe, he can make his concession speech from in front of the Midway aircraft carrier much like he did his announcement to run.

And Bill Gentry?

I’m not one to cry for Republicans, but this is too obvious to pass up. It appears that someone with the balls to step up when no one else would is about to be sacrificed for expediency's sake by a latecomer.

Bill Gentry. Republican. War hero. Great civil servant from Dumanis’s office.running against Mike Aguirre.

Enter Jan Goldsmith. Republican. Former Judge and State Assemblyman. A known commodity running against Mike Aguirre.

Now, I’m on the outside of this inter-party dust up, but it would appear that a good man is about to be abandoned by his stalwarts for a more seasoned politician in the name of party unity.

This is politics and nothing is ever fair but I think we should take a moment to reflect on just how desperate times have become on the “red” side

Some facts:
1) Bill got in the race first and, from what I’ve been told, isn’t the most compelling guy in the room but he seemed sincere in his desire to take on Mike even if he had to talked into it.

2) Then comes Goldsmith, whom it seems had to be talked into it as well.

3) Because these guys had to be “talked” into it doesn’t bode well for an Aguirre take down in that there are enough dissatisfied Dems to make it happen, but these guys appear to lack the fire in the belly that Aguirre has to win cross over votes.

As such, the weaker of the two must go and that will be Gentry because:

1) The Reps need a unified front to take out Aguirre because, and let be honest here, he appeals to both sides of the aisle in pointing out the endemic corruption that is San Diego City government

2) Bonnie has ambitions to be the next attorney general for California so she’s not going to save the guy from her office lest she cross her future supporters in the Rep establishment.

3) Gentry has little real support and is, therefore, expendable.

So the Republicans continue their grand tradition of eating their young, or at least their farm team, to appear unified in the face of a major challenge that, as of this writing, they don’t seem committed to.

This says something about the local rep establishment, what Bonnie is willing to do for her career, and the hapless state of the local GOP.

Wednesday - Quick Hits

Plan to buy 50 more fire engines moves forward. UT

Barona Valley Casino granted limited liquor license by the ABC. UT

UCSD Preuss Charter School has grading irregularities according to audit. UT VOSD

Poway Unified School District hate behavior plan doesn't go far enough to its critics. UT

How about a telethon? City to raise private funds for second firefighting copter. UT

SEC slaps the wrist of City's former private auditor. UT VOSD

City of Vista votes to double the size of its downtown redevelopment area. UT

Blackwater 5 Recalled!!

Rarely does an election for a planning group make the news. But yesterday anticipated recall election of the Potero Planning Group had been a national story for some time. The planning group's decision last December to recommend to the County Board of Supervisors for approval a proposal that would allow the mercenary outfit Blackwater USA to build a 400+ acre training facility out near the Mexican border attracted protests almost immediately. The ensuing debate over what was dubbed Blackwater West became framed in the overall political debate over the role of mercenary outfits in the war in Iraq.

Yesterday, all five incumbent members of the planning group were recall. The vote wasn't even close, most of the members lost by a margin of 2 to 1 in the mail only ballot.
“It should send a loud and clear message that Potrero does not want Blackwater in the community,” said Carl Meyer, a leader in the recall campaign and an anti-Blackwater candidate.[Link]
In their typical arrogant manor, Blackwater USA vice president Brian Bonfiglio was quoted in the UT that the recall election outcome doesn't effect the company's plans to build in Potero. “I don't care one way or the other,” Bonfiglio said.[Link]

The activists who worked hard in the recall effort must continue to remain vigilant in their efforts. Blackwater USA has deep political connections and will still try to force their way into developing the facility out in East County.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Chris You're Fired!!

Via Daily Kos:
We found out this morning that major league asshole Chris Lehane had been fired by SEIU. I just got confirmation from Change to Win -- the coalition of seven top unions(including SEIU, Teamsters, and the Laborers) has also kicked Lehane to the curb. I was given this statement by a CtW spokesman:
Change to Win had a general consulting contract with Chris Lehane. That contract was terminated upon discovery of his role supporting the studios in the writers guild strike. As you know, Change to Win and its affiliates stand solidly behind the writers in their struggle for fairness, so we did not think twice about this decision.


Lehane may have a great future helping corporate America bust unions, but as long as he never works in progressive politics, it'll be a net win for our side.

Now that SEIU and Change to Win have fired Chris Lehane when is Cal Labor Fed going to step up and show him the door?

Recall Election in Potrero: Ballot Due Today

As written about in this mornings UT, the ballots for the election to recall five of the members of the planning group are due today. The reason for the recall is because five of the members of the planning board gave early approval for a military training camp proposed by Blackwater. As of this morning more than half of the registered voters in Potrero have turned in ballots.

Blackwater has been making a big marketing push during the last couple of weeks, one of which included the "stunts" performed at a recent local university game, as reported in SD Politico. At the same time, Blackwater has found itself on the bad side of some national news, so it is hard to tell who will win out in the minds of residents.

Hopefully, the citizens of Potrero will take another symbolic stand against the private mercenary corporation and the supporters.

Tuesday - Quick Hits

UCSD hoax bomber has bail set at $100K. UT

As water crisis worsen, regional officials continue with half-hearted measures. UT

Supporters of new downtown library have riased only $18 million in private donations far short of their $50 million goal for this year. UT

Today is the final day to turn in ballots for Potero recall election. UT

Chula Vista Elementary School District has to pay $1 million to teacher who was dismissed after becoming pregnant. UT

City Fire Chief blasts the county at a hearing on Monday over the lack of fire equipment to deal with wildfires. NCTimes

Increase in human smuggling see off the coast of San Diego. VOSD

Chris Lehane Fired from Union Contract!

Via FireDogLake:

SEIU Local 99 in Los Angeles -- education workers who include teacher's aids, cafeteria workers and crossing guards -- have fired former Clinton spokesman Chris Lehane from a consulting contract in support of the WGA.

"By the end of the week, I believe Chris Lehane will have no union clients because of his work for the AMPTP," says SEIU President Andy Stern, who confirms that all Change to Win Unions are severing ties with Lehane. "His days are numbered in the labor movement."[Link]

I'm glad to see some retribution taken against Chris Lehane. We need to hold Democratic consultants accountable when they go to work against progressive organization.

Cross posted at Calitics

Monday, December 10, 2007

Jefferson Attack Ad

Via The Plank: For those of you who think that negative ads are new to the political discourse. Here is an attack ad at Thomas Jefferson based on some of the pamphlet attacks directed at him during the election of 1800.

Monday - Quick Hits

Another sign of compassion here in San Diego. Important homeless shelter in East Village closes and it loses its lease. UT

Fired UCSD employee behind bomb scare last week. UT

SANDAG joins list of groups who are suing SDSU over expansion plans. UT

Halfway through completion coastal wetlands show signs of progress. UT

City can't keep track of its outside legal costs. VOSD

Another example of NIMBYism. Community rallies against freeway ramps. NCTimes

County's top administrator to get 10% pay raise. UT

School board weighs plan to keep failing student back. UT