An afternoon collection of links and comments about my home, California.
For redistricting commissioners, what’s a conflict of interest?
In the spring of 2010, when he applied to become a member of the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, Gabino Aguirre of Santa Paula described himself as a “community activist” who had been an “advocate for a variety of causes.”
Aguirre survived the rigorous screening process conducted by the State Auditor’s Office and was ultimately chosen as one of 14 commissioners selected from a pool that originally included 25,000 applicants.
Now, with the commission poised to adopt political district maps that are certain to displease many Californians, Aguirre, one of five Democrats on the panel, has become the subject of sharp attacks from Republican Party leaders who accuse him of being a community activist who has been an advocate for a variety of causes.
The attacks raise anew questions that the State Auditor Elaine Howle struggled with in 2009 as she developed guidelines and regulations for the selection of commissioners, a task with which she was charged under Proposition 11, the initiative that created the independent redistricting process.
Kim Alexander, president and founder of the nonpartisan California Voter Foundation, said she believes the auditor “struck the right balance” in disqualifying those whose political connections were so strong as to make them potentially beholden to a particular party or politician while at the same time keeping the process open to those who had been engaged in civic activities.
“No one involved in crafting this commission expected you to have applicants who had zero political involvement in their history,” she said.
Indeed, a review of applications reveals a history of civic and political activism on the part of several commissioners. Some examples:
– Jodie Filkins Webber of Norco is a member of the Corona Norco Republican Women, and has engaged in voter registration and fundraising activities organized by the group.
– Maria Blanco of Los Angeles, a Democrat, was counsel to the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund when it filed suit against the 2000 redistricting plan, alleging that it deprived fair representation to Latinos in the San Fernando Valley.
– Gil Otani was a member of the San Diego Planning Commission, appointed by a Republican mayor.
– Peter Yao of Claremont, a Republican and former City Council member, served on three Asian caucuses of organizations for local elected officials “because I found that Asians were poorly represented at all levels of government.”
There are parallels in all the above examples to the charges leveled against Aguirre: that he had the support of a Democratic elected official (Supervisor Kathy Long), that he had a history of advocating for increased political representation for a particular ethnic group (Latinos) and that he was associated with a civic group that took an active role in redistricting (CAUSE).
California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Becarro Calls for Resignation of Redistricting Commission Chairman Aguirre
California voters made it abundantly clear that they want an open and transparent non-partisan redistricting commission process to redraw legislative lines. According to CalWatchdog, California voters aren’t getting what they asked for.
CalWatchdog launched an investigation into the past of one of the appointees to the commission, Dr. Gabianno T. Aguirre, and found that he has made multiple political campaign contributions to Democratic candidates and has a special “web of connections” with a special interest group that submitted its own redistricting proposals to the commission. This revelation comes amidst recent public criticism that the Redistricting Commission maintains a partisan slant.
In response, I have sent a letter to Governor Jerry Brown and the Chairman of the California Citizens Redistricting Commission calling for Dr. Aguirre to resign or, if he fails to step down, for the Governor to remove him from the Commission. Because Dr. Aguirre has failed to disclose any of his political contributions, as well as his current advisory board membership with the Central Coast Alliance for a Sustainable Economy more commonly known as CAUSE, he has compromised the Commission’s integrity.
The California Republican Party has consistently been engaged in the redistricting process and has demanded accountability from the CRC every step of the way. We will continue to closely monitor the Redistricting Commission’s efforts and are prepared to take immediate action if their final maps do not meet the fair and competitive standards that voters expect after passing Props 11 and 20.
Being on list of tobacco money recipients pains some Dems
It’s an article of faith for most Democrats to avoid being associated with Big Tobacco.
Of the 77 Democrats in the Legislature, 54 (75 percent) have never received a single dime from tobacco companies or interests associated with them.
So, it was more than mere annoyance that Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco/San Mateo, found his name on a list of Democrats who received tobacco money.
Yee is running for mayor in San Francisco, and the last thing he needs is to be labeled as the Big Tobacco candidate.
A study by the American Lung Association showed Yee as taking $4,300 from tobacco interests. But Yee’s chief of staff, Adam Keigwin, insists that the report is wrong.
Philip Morris, the tobacco giant, sent Yee $3,300 in 2005-06 when he was running for the Senate. But Yee sent the money back, Keigwin said.
“He has a policy of not accepting tobacco contributions,” Keigwin said. “He never took any donation. They reported it as a contribution, but check our contribution filing and you’ll see he never accepted it.”
Still, there was the $1,000 he received from the California Distributors Association in the 2005-2006 election cycle.
“When he took that, he wasn’t thinking of it as a tobacco contribution,” Keigwin said. “I’m not denying they distribute tobacco. But his policy is to not take tobacco money. That means tobacco companies and manufacturers.
“If you try to include anybody with any connection with tobacco, that’s a bit extreme,” Keigwin said.
Assemblyman Jim Beall, D-San Jose, said that when he took $1,000 from the California Distributors Association in 2007-2008, he had no idea it has a strong affiliation with tobacco.
“I hate to say it, but I’m not as sharp on the PACs as others,” Beall said from his San Jose district office. “It’s not my priiority.”
Beall was called out on the contribution by a voter in his district, Linda York, who was outraged he’d taken the money.
Judge rules against SEIU in California fight
A judge ruled this week that the Service Employees International Union improperly coerced workers caught in the middle of SEIU’s high-stakes turf battle with a breakaway union in California, potentially invalidating a 2010 election involving 43,500 employees.
SEIU, the nation’s most politically influential union, has been engaged in a costly fight with the former leaders of a 150,000-worker California chapter that formed a breakaway union in 2009. The split followed clashes with then-SEIU President Andy Stern over his emphasis on growing membership even if it meant giving concessions to employers.
Last fall, SEIU won the biggest standoff, an election to represent 43,500 Kaiser Permanente workers in Northern California.
The vote was a big setback for the breakaway union, the National Union of Healthcare Workers, leaving it with fewer than 10,000 members. But this week, Administrative Law Judge Lana Parke ruled that Kaiser had improperly withheld pay raises from workers in Southern California who had switched to the new union and that SEIU had then improperly threatened the workers voting in the Northern California election that they, too, could have raises denied if they made the switch.
It is now up to the National Labor Relations Board to decide whether to call a second election, as the judge recommends.
Enjoy your day!