Let’s hear it for no more elections! At least, until November. In case you haven’t heard who’s now running our lives with the same iron determination they deployed to destroy their rivals, we’ve got names and numbers:
Loni Hancock is the new Don Perata, beating former state Assemblywoman Wilma Chan by thirteen points to be the Democratic candidate for state Senate. Nancy Skinner takes Hancock’s place in the state Assembly, nuking rival and Richmond’s favorite son Tony Thurmond by more than twenty points. Rebecca Kaplan and Kerry Hamill will duke it out this November for the at-large seat on the Oakland City Council, although seeing as how Hamill got half the votes Kaplan did, this may be a no-brainer. North Oakland Councilwoman Jane Brunner trounced six-shooter and populist crime-fighter Patrick McCullough; West Oakland curmudgeon Nancy Nadel barely survived an intense effort by Sean Sullivan and Greg Hodge to unseat her; and Ignacio De La Fuente gets to rule the city council for a few more years after squeaking past the toughest reelection fight he’s ever had. Rent control survived, but eminent domain didn’t. Now it’s on to November, Obama, and gay marriage.
Governor Flops at Oakland City Hall
Speaking of celebrities, a certain Austrian governor hauled his quads to Oakland City Hall last week, as part of his campaign to rally support for his version of the state budget. That would be the cut spending and live within our means version. How did Herr Schwarzenegger do? Let’s just say he didn’t win any Oscars. No, let’s say a little more: he died up there! The crowd of East Bay liberal luminaries pelted him with demands for more new taxes, including reinstating the vehicle license fee, taxing oil extraction, and reforming Prop. 13 in order to tax commercial properties at a higher rate. The governor wielded as much charm as one can while saying nein over and over, but lefties like Ron Dellums were not amused. Better stay in the Central Valley, governor — Oakland’s movie heroes are tax assessors and social workers.
But really, why would the East Bay political class have it in for Schwarzenegger so badly? It might have something to do with the fact that he recently proposed eliminating a state program to give small cash grants to severely disabled immigrants. Since said immigrants aren’t American citizens, they aren’t eligible for traditional disability payments, and the state has intervened to provide a few hundred dollars a month to the worst off among them. But the governor has suggested axing the program, which would save the state $111 million, but at a truly tragic cost.
More Signs of the Apocalypse
But hey, times are tough, and we’re seeing the aftereffects of the worsening economy all over. Last Thursday, for example, UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau was supposed to meet with a gathering of university employees, to discuss the sexy topic of job classification changes. But that was before a mob of 350 union members showed up and gave him more hell than he’s seen in a while. The crowd was composed of UC medical and service employees who earn considerably less than their counterparts at private medical centers; some make as little as $14.45 an hour. Meanwhile, Cal police Chief Victoria Harrison just walked away with a multi-million-dollar pay and retirement package, a fact that angry union members threw in Birgeneau’s mortified face. The Oakland Tribune reported that the chancellor “looked distressed.” We don’t doubt it.
Meanwhile, other signs of the recession-that-isn’t-a-recession continued to pop up. Ross Stores, the East Bay’s giant discount clothing retailer and the go-to place when the checking account looks a little thin, reported sales rose no less than fourteen percent over the same period a year ago. The Port of Oakland faces an $18 million deficit, leading managers to warn that they may have to lay off as many as eighty employees in the coming months. And social workers report that demand at East Bay food banks is rising sharply, even as donations dwindle away. Now that school’s out for summer, so are the subsidized school lunches, which could leave thousands of poor children hungry around the East Bay.
After weeks of arguing, the Richmond Planning Commission approved Chevron’s plan to upgrade its refinery capacity, but slapped a cap on the amount of crude oil the company can refine, as well as restrictions on certain kinds of crude. No one knows just what the cap will consist of yet, as the commission ordered city staff to figure out the details and get back to them. … After ten years of planning and effort, UC Berkeley’s ground-breaking attempt to launch cheap satellites finally came to an end, as NASA pulled the plug on Cal’s Cosmic Hot Interstellar Plasma Spectrometer satellite. … UC Berkeley Haas Business School Dean Tom Campbell has left to join the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, where he will get to swap George Bush jokes with former solicitor general Ted Olson.