Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

December 16, 2011
Off-road enthusiasts ask Jerry Brown to rethink dismissal

A week after Gov. Jerry Brown dismissed Daphne Greene, deputy director of the state's off-road vehicle recreation program, the chairman of the California Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Commission today criticized the decision and urged Brown to reconsider.

Eric Lueder told Brown in a letter that it was with "great shock and sadness" that he learned of Greene's dismissal, effective at the end of the month. Lueder said accusations that Greene catered to off-road enthusiasts at the expense of environmental concerns were unfounded.

"Ms. Greene exemplifies what is right in state government and should be held up as a model employee/manager for all others to aspire to," Lueder wrote.

Greene, a Democrat, was appointed by Brown's predecessor, former Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. She was praised by off-road enthusiasts but sometimes criticized by environmentalists.

In a guest op-ed in The Bee in June, Karen Schambach, California director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, accused Greene of hoarding money within her division while other park programs suffered from state budget cuts.

December 16, 2011
California board to review rural fire fee yet again in January

Gov. Jerry Brown's quest to impose a fire fee on rural homeowners has run into another delay.

The state Board of Forestry and Fire Protection has withdrawn its latest version of a $150 annual charge on 800,000 property owners in rural California, according to Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant. The board plans to revisit the issue in January for the third time since Brown and lawmakers authorized the fee in their June budget.

Brown said the fee was necessary to pay for fire services as more residents have moved into rural areas of the state.

After Brown restocked the fire board this fall with new members, the panel approved an emergency regulation last month to bill property owners $150 each, with a $35 credit for those situated in fire districts. Before withdrawing the proposal this week, the board sent the regulation to the state Office of Administrative Law with an expectation the state would bill property owners by June.

It was not immediately clear why the board wants to revise its fee, but Berlant confirmed an Ag Alert commentary this week that said the panel may seek to exempt buildings such as hospitals and county jails.

December 16, 2011
First dog Sutter Brown lands page on Jerry Brown's website

20110215_HA_sutter4068 sutter brown.JPGIn big dog news, Gov. Jerry Brown has added a biography of his Pembroke Welsh corgi, Sutter, to the California governor's state website.

The Democratic governor lists the first dog's hometown as Ketchum, Idaho. His religious views are Zen Jesuit -- "although I am not burdened with dogma (but I do like dog bones)" -- and his political affiliation is Whig.

"Practical and not carried away by the barking constituencies," the site says.

Sutter Brown's Facebook page linked to the biography this morning with the message, "A very important update added to Dad's website!"

Sutter's biography in the "About" section of Brown's website joins biographies of Brown and first lady Anne Gust Brown.

PHOTO CREDIT: Sutter Brown makes an appearance at the California Capitol on Feb. 14, 2011. Sacramento Bee photo / Hector Amezcua

December 16, 2011
The Dish: Griselda's World Café in the California Capitol building

IMG_1058.jpgThe spot: The Bee's Capitol Alert blogger Torey Van Oot and I took the stairs down to the statehouse basement for a trip through the buffet line at Griselda's World Café, across from the building's gift shop and a few steps from Capitol Coffee. The operation is owned by Sacramento Tex-Mex maven Griselda Barajas, who also caters out of that location. There's plenty of comfortable seating just a few steps away in a large common area popular with legislators and staff who frequent Griselda's. The restaurant, open weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., takes cash and plastic.

IMG_1063.jpgThe grub: When the Legislature is in session, Griselda's boasts a wide-ranging menu that includes the Texas-style Mexican food that made the owner famous. Customers also can choose from pizza, a salad bar, soups, sandwiches, wraps and various desserts and grab-and-go snacks. But we visited midday in early December when lawmakers were on recess, so the menu was pared back, a restaurant employee said. The main features that day were Griselda's staple Mexican specialties and the salad bar, which included tuna for the protein-conscious but no tomatoes. Breakfast, served until 10:30 a.m., includes made-to-order eggs (75 cents each), bacon slices and sausage links (same prices as the eggs). Higher-end fare when the full menu is available includes $4.95 for pizza. The eatery's website promotes carved sandwich combos ($7.95 with two sides) and $6.95 daily entrée specials that weren't available during our visit. The usual self-serve beverage options are all there: coffee, tea, fountain sodas, bottled water, juices and milk started at $1.

IMG_1066.jpgOn our plates: Torey had the carnitas tacos (priced from $1.75 each a la carte to $5.25 as a combo plate) with beans and rice and bottled water. I had the carnitas burrito a la carte ($4.95) with a soda ($1.49 for a small, $1.59 for a medium, $1.69 for a large).

The bill: The taco combo, a la carte burrito and drinks set us back $13.36.

The good: Griselda's has successfully taken Tex-Mex to the state buffet line. A frequent customer at Griselda's told me that the pozole (a type of Mexican stew offered only on Mondays) is terrific. Ditto for the great greasy-spoon breakfast burritos. Torey was pleased with the amount of food on her plate: "Good portions but not monster size." The carnitas was tender, moist and "very spicy," she said. My burrito was about as big as my two fists, and the carnitas virtually melted in my mouth. Spicy? You betcha, but not the sweat-inducing spicy that can make you wish you could disconnect your tongue.

The bad: Torey's rice was dry and the beans, she said, "weren't great ... but I'm not a bean fan." The food service can bog down, since the buffet line is in a fairly narrow space that can't accommodate more than a handful of customers before it clogs. And during the legislative off-season, the place looks barren, with empty service counters and display cases creating a stark feel.

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 sporks.

Have you been to Griselda's World Café? Share your experiences in the comments field below. And check out our recent reviews of Gold Rush Grille, Side Bar Café, Cafe 744, Capitol Coffee and Dave's Deli (closing soon).

Jon Ortiz and Torey Van Oot are taking suggestions for state building restaurants to try. Send your picks to and check back every Friday for a weekly write up.

December 16, 2011
Secretary of state posts PDFs of filings during Cal-Access crash

California's campaign finance and lobbying disclosure database is still down, but campaign filings submitted the old-fashioned way are now available online.

The secretary of state's office is now posting PDF versions of campaign and lobbying reports it has received during the two weeks that technical troubles have plagued Cal-Access.

Staff members have been working since Monday on three different ways to restore access to the 12-year-old database, which has been down for all but 30 hours since Nov. 30.

Mandatory reports filed for large campaign contributions, political committee creations and lobbying activity can be viewed at this link.

MEMO: Secretary of state staff tries three fixes for Cal-Access
California website's glitches block online tracking of campaign donations
Tech troubles continue for CalAccess campaign finance site

December 16, 2011
Senate aide got six-figure settlement against Rod Wright

rodwright.jpgThe state Senate quietly approved a $120,000 taxpayer-funded settlement last year to resolve sexual harassment allegations made against Democratic Sen. Rod Wright by a former member of his staff.

The settlement agreement was reached after a private mediation between attorneys for the state Senate and former Wright aide Fahizah Alim in April 2010, Alim's attorney confirmed to the Bee.

Attorney John Poswall said Alim was reassigned to another Senate office after raising concerns about what he described as a "totally inappropriate" and "intolerable" work environment in early 2010.

"The environment in Sen. Roderick Wright's office is beyond anything anyone would expect of a public official or even any employer in the 20th century," Poswall said. "It is totally intolerable towards women and certainly black women."

Alim, a former Bee reporter who now works for Democratic Sen. Curren Price, has not responded to a request for comment. A spokeswoman for Wright declined to comment, as did a spokeswoman for Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg. Both cited private personnel issues.

December 16, 2011
California finally grabs school money from Race to the Top

California shot and finally scored in the competition for more federal education dollars, as the state was one of nine winners named Friday in the Education Department's Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grant program.

But don't count on the funds to relieve California of K-12 cuts. The state will receive $52.6 million, largely to build a new child-care rating system that measures learning environment, teachers and parent involvement, according to the California Department of Education.

California and the eight other states will divvy up $500 million, with the money targeting K-12 school reform plans that, in the words of the Education Department, "raise academic standards, improve teacher and principal quality, build cradle to career data systems and turn around persistently low-performing schools."

The state had previously failed to secure federal grants under the initial round of Race to the Top funding.

The White House announced the grant winners, saying that individual state grants will range from between $50 million and $100 million depending on state population and specific reform plans.

December 16, 2011
AM Alert: Jerry Brown talks solar power in San Diego

Fresh off his conference in San Francisco on climate change, Gov. Jerry Brown heads to Southern California to talk clean power and jobs.

Brown, who referred to global warming naysayers Thursday as "political lemmings," will have a few words to say this morning at the dedication of a new solar manufacturing plant in San Diego.

The company, Soitec, makes concentrator photovoltaic modules for large power plants, and the global firm's new North American solar headquarters and plant in San Diego will supply 450 jobs and have a capacity of 200 megawatts, according to a news release from the governor's office.

Brown is scheduled to give his remarks at 10 a.m. Click here to read more about the company. This news release from Soitec explains more about the joint venture in San Diego that will produce lens plates for the solar modules.

Meanwhile, the state's Ocean Protection Council takes Brown's climate change conference one step further at its own meeting today, discussing the latest science on how vulnerable California's coastal population, property, infrastructure and ecosystems are during storms and other extreme weather.

Click here to read the agenda for the meeting, which runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Cal-EPA, 1001 I St. in Sacramento.

HOLIDAY MUSIC: Today's offering at the Capitol rotunda starts at 11 a.m. with the trombone jazz group No Bones about It, followed by the Vocal Art Ensemble at noon. Click here to read the full schedule through next Friday.

CAKE AND CANDLES: Birthdays are taking no holiday this month. Sen. Curren Price, D-Inglewood, turns 61 today, and Assemblyman Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, turns 45 on Saturday.


Capitol Alert Staff

Jeremy White Jeremy B. White covers California politics and edits Capitol Alert's mobile Insider Edition. Twitter: @capitolalert

Amy Chance Amy Chance is political editor for The Sacramento Bee. Twitter: @Amy_Chance

Dan Smith Dan Smith is Capitol bureau chief for The Sacramento Bee.

Christopher Cadelago Christopher Cadelago covers California politics and health care. Twitter: @ccadelago

Micaela Massimino Micaela Massimino edits Capitol Alert.

Laurel Rosenhall Laurel Rosenhall covers the Legislature, the lobbying community and higher education. Twitter: @LaurelRosenhall

David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. Twitter: @davidsiders

Dan Walters Dan Walters is a columnist for The Sacramento Bee. Twitter: @WaltersBee

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