Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

December 27, 2011
Jerry Brown thinks Occupy movement unlikely to help tax bid

BROWNYEAREND.jpgGov. Jerry Brown, who has been quiet for months about the Occupy movement, said today that despite its focus on the distribution of wealth, the movement is unlikely to help his campaign to raise taxes.

He said the movement has made people "more sensitive" to inequality but in a "separate domain."

"I think the Occupy movement is focused on city halls and universities and maybe other institutions," Brown said. "It's an expression of disapproval and discontent, but it's not incorporated into the political process at this point, at least not the political process where you vote Yes or No on an initiative."

The Democratic governor plans to ask voters in November to raise an estimated $7 billion annually by temporarily increasing the state sales tax and income taxes on California's highest earners.

"Democracy requires a certain acceptance on the part of everybody in it that things are fair, and if the legitimacy declines enough, you get a lot of social turmoil, and you get political breakdown, and we're in some stage of that right now," Brown told reporters at the Capitol. "The occupy movement is a reaction, a scream as it were, against what's going on."

He was uncertain of its impact.

"They're more of an emotional pressure point that hopefully will make politics more responsive," Brown said. "But in and of itself, you know, camping out in front of city hall ... it means you've got to re-seed the lawn, and I don't think that's such a good idea."

Asked about embattled Oakland Mayor Jean Quan's handling of the movement in her city - where Brown was previously mayor - the governor demurred.

"I don't think Jean Quan needs any more critics," he said.

PHOTO CREDIT: Gov. Jerry Brown holds a press conference Tuesday to discuss his first year in office at the Capitol. The Sacramento Bee/Autumn Cruz

December 27, 2011
Jerry Brown ramps up California judicial appointments

Gov. Jerry Brown made just one judicial appointment in his first 11 months in office.

This afternoon, he announced 14.

The Democratic governor's appointees included six Democrats to Los Angeles Superior Court and three more to Riverside Superior Court, including Raquel Marquez, a 45-year-old senior deputy district attorney who will be that court's first Latina judge.

Brown also appointed Kathleen O'Leary, 60, to be presiding justice of the third division of the 4th District Court of Appeal, where she has been an associate justice since 2000. O'Leary will be the first female presiding justice of the division, which oversees matters in Orange County. The position requires confirmation by the state Commission on Judicial Appointments and pays $204,599 a year.

Tuolumne County District Attorney Donald Segerstrom Jr., a Democrat, was appointed to a judgeship in Tuolumne Superior Court. Brown also appointed Democrats to judgeships in Ventura and Santa Clara superior courts, and he named a lawyer registered as a decline-to-state voter to a superior court judgeship in Imperial County.

The superior court positions pay $178,789 a year.

The appointments follow Brown's sole other judicial pick this year, in which he appointed Goodwin Liu to the California Supreme Court.

December 27, 2011
VIDEO: Jerry Brown foresees tough budget year for California

Gov. Jerry Brown said today that he expects the first half of the new year to be dominated once again by California's budget problems, as he proposes more spending cuts and tries to clear the November 2012 ballot of tax measures that might compete with his.

"Pulling it all together," Brown told reporters at the Capitol in Sacramento, "will be probably just as hard as last year."

The Democratic governor said he is meeting with business and labor leaders about his tax proposal and is seeking "a clean election, a clean shot, one major measure" for the November ballot. His plan -- which would raise an estimated $7 billion a year by temporarily increasing the state sales tax and income taxes on California's highest earners -- is the most likely to pass, he said.

"One of the things about elections, you want them simple," Brown said, adding that complexity only "gives fodder to the opposition."

December 27, 2011
Michael Rubio decides not to run for Congress in 2012

State Sen. Michael Rubio announced today that he will not run for Congress next year after all.

The 34-year-old East Bakersfield Democrat had been eying a bid for the newly drawn 21st Congressional District in which Democrats hold a 10 percentage point advantage in voter registration.

Rubio, elected to the Senate last year, said he looks forward to staying in the Legislature, where he is eligible to serve seven more years and is not slated for re-election until 2014.

In turning thumbs down on a congressional bid, Rubio said in a written statement that the recent birth of his second child, with "Down Syndrome," was "truly a gift" that reminded him of priorities in life. His family needs him more today than Congress does, he said.

Rubio was not available to comment, but issued a brief statement that said, in part:

"When the day comes that (my daughter) may read this statement, all I can say to her is 'thank you,' for she has reminded me that priorities in life should always be God, family and then career."

December 27, 2011
California legislative races to watch: Part 1

With just five months until the June primary, legislative contests around California are starting to heat up.

While candidates can't begin the formal process of filing for office until Friday, when candidate papers can first be pulled, many legislative hopefuls have already spent months raising cash, securing endorsements and plotting their path to potential victory.

The decennial redistricting process and first election under the state's new top-two primary system has produced a new list of competitive state legislative districts that are being closely watched by political junkies on both sides of the aisle. The stakes are high, especially in the Senate, where Democrats see an opportunity to reach a coveted two-thirds majority.

Capitol Alert has compiled a roundup of battles we're keeping tabs on in the early stages of the primary campaign. Because the candidate papers have yet to be filed, we've listed only the declared or expected entrants on our radar so far.

You can send your suggestions for contests or candidates we might have missed, or predictions about the outcome of these races, to

Read installment one -- on Senate District 5 and Assembly District 8 -- after the jump:

December 27, 2011
The Dish: Plaza Cafe at CalPERS

By Jon Ortiz

While there's no shortage of coffee and lunch locales around the Capitol, many state buildings are home to additional dining options. This post is part of a weekly series of mini-reviews of some of those spots for downtown denizens looking to try something new.

Thumbnail image for patio.jpgThe spot: The Plaza Café, located on the ground floor of CalPERS' Lincoln Plaza North at Q and 3rd streets, is about a half-mile walk from the Capitol. It features patio seating with a waterfall (left) and a large, multi-level indoor eating area (below at right). Come at peak breakfast or lunch hours, and be prepared to wait in line for the grill. My gastric brothers-in-arms for my recent visit, CalPERS board member J.J. Jelincic and Jim Zamora, SEIU Local 1000 spokesman, both mentioned that Plaza Café draws customers from several buildings nearbycafeteria.jpg including the Board of Equalization HQ, the Crocker Art Museum and the state Department of Social Services. The business is open for breakfast (6:45 a.m. to 10: a.m.), lunch (11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.) and snacks (1 to 3 p.m.). Street parking can be a hassle, especially during the three days in the middle of the month that the fund's board meets in an auditorium just a few steps from the cafeteria. Nearby meters charge 25 cents per 12 minutes. The parking garage across the street runs $2.50 per hour, according to CalPERS' website.

The grub: There must a reason that Plaza Café is taking business from other state cafeterias. Maybe it's the locally harvested and organic produce touted on a blackboard at the cafeteria's entrance. Could it be the $5.99 artisan sandwiches? The regularly rotated "global flavors" like the Japanese teriyaki rice bowl ($6.59)? Maybe it's the Bayou wraps with jerk chicken or pork tenderloin with mashed sweet potatoes, red beans, rice, slaw and pineapple salsa ($6.99)? Or it could be the made-to-order pasta, tacos and salads that all run between $6.59 and $6.99. And I haven't even mentioned the grill that was serving a veggie banh mi -- a Vietnamese sandwich -- plus the usual burger-and-fries fare. Safe to say that this is easily the most diverse menu offered by any state cafeteria reviewed by The Dish.

plum.jpgOn our plates: I ordered a veggie calzone. Jim sampled the goat cheese with roasted plums and herbs on crostoni (right). J.J. went for the grilled cheese and short ribs sandwich with curly fries (left).sandwich.jpg

The bill: The food and two soft drinks (Jim didn't buy a coke) plus tax came to $22.45. Note to the Fair Political Practices Commission: J.J. paid for his meal.

The good: This isn't your dad's old state government chow line. Plaza Café's atmosphere is open and bright, and the food's degree of sophistication is surprising. I heard that the soups are terrific, especially the butternut, corn and coconut chowder. Regulars also raved about the blueberry pancakes with ricotta cheese often offered for breakfast. Our lunches received high marks, too, for the most part. J.J. said the meat in his sandwich was "awesome," tender and tasty. His fries were done to his liking, with a nice exterior crunch and a warm, chewy center. Jim said the plum crostoni had a nice blend of the sweet fruit and the garlicky cheese. My calzone was enormous, nearly covering my 9-inch paper plate.

The bad: J.J. wished the bread on his grilled sandwich had been a little crispier. Jim wanted some crunch on his crostoni, too. He suspected that even though the bread bore panini grill marks from its preparation, that it was softened by the cheese and refrigeration. My calzone was an unadventurous mountain of crust packed with ricotta, asparagus and spinach and an unsatisfying smudge of bland tomato sauce.

Grade: 4.5 sporks out of 5.

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

December 27, 2011
Lobbying database, Californians to watch series mark holiday week

Back from the long Christmas weekend and want to catch up on Capitol news? Here's a start.

Check out the reporting collaboration between the The Bee's Laurel Rosenhall and California Watch's Chase Davis looking back at the successes and failures of lobbying interests at the Capitol in 2011.

See the database California Watch put together on lobbying successes. And the interactive graphic The Bee's Nathaniel Levine mapped on lobbying successes and money spent on lobbying.

Meanwhile, The Bee's Californians to Watch series has cranked up for 2012, launched by a look back at the 2011 class and how they did.

Today's installment of the 2012 class features Democratic political consultant Gale Kaufman. Monday's subject was Matt Cates, director of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.


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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