Boxed Out

Jerry McNerney kicked ass in the primary, so where's all the love from his party? B-town hopes to fine, er, deter red-light runners. George W's potty talk sparks ethics debate.

Nowhere has the disconnect between the Democratic Party’s leaders and its liberal base been more apparent than in the Bay Area’s only potential swing district for the House of Representatives. Before the primary, party leaders in Washington targeted Republican Congressman Richard Pombo, whose gerrymandered district stretches from the Central Valley to the East Bay suburbs of Pleasanton and Danville, as a beatable GOP incumbent. At the urging of Walnut Creek Congressgal Ellen Tauscher, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee — D-triple-C, as those in the know call it — touted her handpicked candidate, former Republican airline pilot Steve Filson. Party heavies believed a moderate like Filson stood a better chance than his opponents of beating Pombo in the Republican-leaning district. Democratic voters in the district, however, didn’t buy the “electability” argument (remember John Kerry?). Filson wound up getting trounced by liberal wind-energy consultant Jerry McNerney, who dominated by nearly 25 percentage points.

After the primary, insiders wondered what the D-triple-C would do in the general election with Filson out of the picture. Two weeks ago, they got their answer when the committee left McNerney off a list of so-called Red to Blue candidates the organization would be backing in the coming months in its effort to recapture the House. Lefty bloggers decried the snub, which will no doubt make it harder for McNerney to overcome incumbent Pombo, who has nearly $1 million in campaign cash on hand — five times the Democrat’s war chest. “It’s a tough race for a Democrat,” especially a lefty one like McNerney, rationalizes one DC Democratic Party operative. Pombo clobbered McNerney 61 to 39 percent in 2004.

Steve Thomas, a progressive Democrat who also ran against McNerney in the primary, thinks the D-triple-C hasn’t learned from past mistakes: “For ten years the DCCC has been pushing candidates to run to the center,” he says. “For ten years, they’ve been losing.”

To add insult to injury, Pombo has seized on the rival party’s reluctance to back his opponent. The congressman’s campaign recently sent voters a hit piece that attacked McNerney in a novel way, assailing his “plan” to raise gasoline taxes. McNerney hardly has a big plan to raise gas taxes; the Pombo camp seized on the Dem’s answer to a questionnaire from Project Vote Smart in which he said he supported a “slight increase.” In any event, the mailer declares, “Jerry McNerney’s campaign to raise our gas taxes is so unpopular, even the Democratic Party is distancing itself from his campaign.”

McNerney hasn’t given up wooing the Beltway crowd. He just held a fund-raiser in Washington attended by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. His campaign spokesman Tor Michaels also points out that even though the DCCC isn’t officially on board, its chair, Representative Rahm Emmanuel, just cut the campaign a $5,000 check. And there’s still a chance the DCCC could add McNerney to its Red-to-Blue slate during the final month of the race: “We’re working night and day to get on that list,” Michaels says. In the meantime, former GOP Congressman Pete McClosky is expected to announce his endorsement of J-Mc this week.

Stupid Berkeley Tricks

Attentive Feeder reader Mari Metcalf of Kensington wrote in not long ago asking about oddly placed signs warning Berkeley motorists about photo-enforced traffic lights. Thing is, these signs are posted in residential areas — one on the Arlington, another on Colusa Avenue — miles from the nearest such traffic lights, thereby sullying the area’s otherwise pretty streetscapes, Metcalf groused.

State law requires cities to post the warning signs, but lets them choose between two locations: near the intersections, visible from all approaching directions — as Emeryville has them — or at all major entrances to the city, where Berkeley puts its signs — sort of.

Emeryville City Manager John Flores says city leaders chose to put the signs at the intersections because they felt it gave drivers the fairest warning. So why did Berkeley post them at its borders instead? Interestingly enough, Berkeley’s supervising traffic engineer Hamid Mostowfi says city staffers also thought that would provide drivers with the best warning.

Feeder dutifully reported Mostowfi’s explanation to Metcalf. The Kensington attorney found it less than persuasive: “When I leave Kensington and see the ‘PHOTO ENFORCED’ sign as I am winding down the Arlington, all I think to myself is, ‘Why put such an ugly sign right there, where it assaults me visually and ruins the charm of the road?'” she says. “I am not thinking to myself ‘Oh, yeah, if and when I hit the intersection of [Sixth] and University, which is over three miles from here, I’d better remember to resist the temptation to run the red light, because there are cameras there.'”

And while there’s a warning sign on residential Arlington, there is no such sign on Seventh Street — one of the town’s main traffic arteries — where drivers enter Berkeley from Emeryville. A cynic might conclude that’s because Berkeley really doesn’t want to warn drivers about the photo-enforced lights, but would rather nab them running the lights in order to boost city revenues.


The cool thing about working in the media is that we get to confront ethical dilemmas on a daily basis. Do we show Tara Reid‘s nipple or pixelate it? Should we name the woman who has sex with her German shepherd?

When President George Bush dropped the S-bomb at the G8 summit last week talking to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, he spurred debate in newsrooms across America as to whether the media should print or broadcast the four-letter word uncensored. The New York Times and The Washington Post chose to print the cuss word. CNN aired the snippet uncensored, reasoning that it “was reflective of how these two world leaders talk with each other.”

The day after W’s curse, though, none of the Bay Area’s major dailies printed the whole word, including our paper of record, the West Bay Chronicle. In general, the Chron‘s policy is not to use or quote profanity. But in this case deputy editor Narda Zacchino wanted to print the word since it wasn’t just anybody cussing, but the leader of the free world. The big boss, executive editor Phil Bronstein, overruled her, however. He argued that adults could figure out what Bush said from the context without printing the obscenity. The next day, the paper printed “s—.”

Well, at least give the Chron credit for not resorting to the ol’ [expletive deleted]. I mean, jeez! Expletive deleted? What the f— is that?

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