The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

August 29, 2010
Carly Fiorina's father was a Nixon favorite, tapes show

No one knows whether President Richard Nixon would have named Joseph T. Sneed to the U.S. Supreme Court if Nixon had served a full second term.

But as we note in this column in today's Forum, White House tapes show that Nixon had a soft spot for Sneed, the father of Republican U.S. Senate candidate Carly Fiorina. We link to two of those tapes below.

Sneed was dean of Duke Law School, Nixon's alma mater, when Nixon appointed him deputy attorney general in January 1973. The President named Sneed to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in July 1973. A year later, Nixon resigned in disgrace. His successor, Gerald Ford, made one appointment to the high court, John Paul Stevens, who recently retired.

Sneed, meanwhile, served 35 years on the appellate court and died in 2008. Here is an obituary.

Sneed's name came up several times during conversations recorded in Nixon's offices, as disclosed by the Presidential Records Program at the University of Virginia's Miller Center for Public Affairs.

In this tape, dated Nov. 11, 1972, Nixon is meeting at Camp David with Chief of Staff H.R. "Bob" Haldeman and Chief Domestic Policy Adviser John D. Ehrlichman, and asks whether Sneed might accept an appoinment as the head of the Internal Revenue Service:

"How about the Dean of the Duke [University] Law School? Would he take it? Having in mind the fact that he ... having in mind the fact that he would go up to the Court maybe?"

Earlier, on Feb. 2, 1972, Ehrlichman passed along a gift from Sneed to Nixon, a photo of Nixon during his days at the Duke law school. 

As this tape reveals, Ehrlichman and Nixon proceeded to discuss their plans for Sneed. Ehrlichman described him as "very bright, very obviously quite conservative, a good Republican."

Here is the Miller Center's full transcript:

Ehrlichman: It's the dean. He's named Sneed. He's a very classy Republican.

President Nixon: Well, I'm―incidentally, a fellow that Lon Fuller recommended for the Court.

Ehrlichman: Yeah.

President Nixon: Says he's that good.

Ehrlichman: Yeah. Well, I talked to him about busing and a lot of things, and he thinks straight.

President Nixon: Keep him in mind.

Ehrlichman: Yep. He's―

President Nixon: How old is he?

Ehrlichman: I would guess about 52, something of that kind. ... His wife was with him and she looks about that age.

President Nixon: What is his background, law school or whatever it is?

Ehrlichman: I'm not sure where he went to law school. He's been teaching at Stanford for about eight or ten years. I don't know where he was before that. I mean, that's how I got an introduction to him. But he asked to come in.

President Nixon: He is a classy guy, huh?

Ehrlichman: I think he is.

President Nixon: Good.

Ehrlichman: He's got a funny muscle spasm, his head over to one side, but very bright, very obviously quite conservative, a good Republican. He's been active in Republican politics in California.

President Nixon: How the hell did he?

Ehrlichman: I don't know how that happened, but―

President Nixon: God Almighty. You know, you have to wonder how any .

Ehrlichman: Apparently he's been pretty busy in California state politics, because he knew all the players.

President Nixon: Let's remember him, sort of keep him in mind, you know? You never know what―assistant attorney general, deputy attorney general. He's that kind of fellow.

Ehrlichman: He says you're most welcome at the law school any time you wanted to come down.

President Nixon: It's about the only place they'll let me on.

Ehrlichman laughs.

August 25, 2010
Ted Gaines is shifting into campaign mode

Some politicians gear up for campaigns by going on crash diets to lose those spare tires.

Assemblyman Ted Gaines gave up an entire set of wheels.

Gaines, a Roseville Republican, is running to replace the late Sen. Dave Cox in the California senate district that stretches from Fair Oaks to Elk Grove, Placer and El Dorado counties and up to the Oregon border.

As noted in this column, Gaines often used a state-issued 2007 Camry hybrid to traverse the vast district. But last week as the field took shape, Gaines informed the Assembly Rules Committee that he was turning in the vehicle.

Gaines explained the decision by saying he wanted "to be clear that I'm not using any state resources" to wage the campaign.

Gaines' main Republican challenger so far is Assemblyman Roger Niello, R-Fair Oaks. Niello hails from the auto dealership family, so no doubt has his pick of the lot.

August 25, 2010
A possible tobacco tax hike, but not until 2012

It looks like California voters will finally get their way on whether to raise tobacco taxes.

It just won't be until the primary in February 2012.

The Secretary of State's office says that the latest initiative to qualify for the ballot is one that would raise the cigarette tax by $1 a pack, with the estimated $855 million in annual proceeds going to cancer research and smoking prevention programs.

As The Bee's editorial board noted last month, even as the Legislature slashes health programs, the vast majority of lawmakers won't look at most increases in tobacco or alcohol taxes to help plug the gaping budget deficit.

Bills last year in both the Assembly and Senate to increase cigarette taxes went nowhere fast. The last two major tobacco tax increases also came through the ballot box, Proposition 99 in 1988 and Proposition 10 in 1998.

While California is stuck, 20 states have increased their tobacco taxes in the past two years, so California's tax is 19th lowest in the country.

August 24, 2010
League of Women voters weighs in on meeting change

More voices are being raised objecting to the Sacramento City Council's decision last week to move a public comment period to the end of meetings from the beginning.

In advance of tonight's meeting, the League of Women Voters sent a letter to the council saying it was "disappointed" by the change, which affects comments on issues not on the council agenda.

The league echoed concerns that because of Regional Transit service cuts that mean no buses or light rail trains start routes after 9 p.m., it might be "impossible" for some residents to speak.

The league suggested an alternative: limit the public comment at the start of meetings to 12 minutes total and put the "overflow" at the end of meetings. The league said that would be much fairer.

Already, the advocates of a "safe ground" campground for the homeless are up in arms. They have been showing up like clockwork and Mayor Kevin Johnson told his colleagues before voting last week against the change that the group was being unfairly targeted.

The supporters of the change complained that "special interests" have taken over the comment period, and argued that moving to the end of meetings will allow them to do the public's business more efficiently.

The Bee's editorial board also opposed the change.

 

August 17, 2010
Carly Fiorina doesn't take a stand on Proposition 23; Next question

Carly Fiorina gladly accepted the endorsement of the anti-tax Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association today, noting she has signed a pledge never to raise taxes if she becomes U.S. senator.

But the Republican who seeks to unseat Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer didn't endorse the Jarvis group's big cause on this November's ballot, passage of Proposition 23, the initiative to suspend California's law to curtail greenhouse gases. The Jarvis organization talks about the initiative here.

The former Hewlett-Packard chief executive officer made clear that she is no fan of AB 32, the 2006 law embraced by many Silicon Valley venture capitalists who believe the measure could help transform California's economy by encouraging growth in green technology.

Fiorina doesn't seem to share that optimism. Stopping at the Sacramento offices of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, Fiorina said in answer to a reporter's question about Proposition 23:

"AB 32--studies that have been done certainly suggest that in the short term, it will destroy jobs. I think that is worth taking into account in the middle of a deep recession where we have 21 counties with unemployment above 15 percent."

Will she vote for Proposition 23? the reporter pressed.

"I haven't yet taken a formal position on Proposition 23. But I think common sense would tell us that you don't rush forward with AB 32 when you know it is destroying jobs in the short term."

But will she take a position before the November election? the reporter persisted.

"Do we have other questions?"

With that, Fiorina proceeded to answer other a few other questions from the small gathering of reporters.

Jon Coupal, the organization's president, said after Fiorina left that he hopes she will take a stand in favor of the Proposition 23 before election day.

That almost surely will depend on polls as the election nears. CalBuzz last month summed up the political dilemma Republicans are facing in this item.

August 17, 2010
Sacramento 'crash tax' debate is delayed

Sacramento's "crash tax" is back in the shop.

The City Council was supposed to vote tonight on whether to join a growing number of California cities and start billing out-of-town motorists who have wrecks.

But the city just announced that the debate has been put off -- tentatively until Sept. 14 -- at the request of interim City Manager Gus Vina, who wants more information on what other cities are doing.

The current proposal had already been revised to make clear that only at-fault drivers would be filled for the costs of the fire department responding to crashes, and to include a dispute resolution mechanism.

The Bee's editorial board, however, is still against the plan, which would make California's capital city a bad host and likely cost it more money in lost tourism revenue.

The state insurance association and small business advocacy group also oppose the "crash tax."

The fire department, which is strapped for cash like the rest of City Hall, wants to recover its costs on a sliding scale that starts at $435 any time it responds and goes to $2,275 if a helicopter is used to take the injured to the emergency room.

August 17, 2010
Paul Smith suspends campaign against Rep. Matsui

He was always going to face a really uphill battle.

But Paul Smith, the Republican challenger to Congresswoman Doris Matsui of Sacramento, was running a feisty campaign. When I wrote last week, after Matsui visited the Bee's editorial board, that she was expected to win a third term easily, Smith left me an angry voicemail.

Today, however, he announced he is suspending his campaign due to a lack of money, and is going back to his day job selling homes.

He left himself a small out (and suggested this might be a fund-raising gambit), saying he would jump back in if he raised at least $20,000 by the end of the month.

"All campaigns must have some support from the voters and it has become apparent just relying on my bank account to pay for everything is no longer feasible," he wrote in an email to supporters.

"As of today, all precinct walks, meetings and events are canceled," he added. "I have appreciated meeting all of you and discussing issues that are important to America and to the 5th CD. I believe our message is right for America and the 5th CD. Unfortunately, unless folks start voting with their pocket books, I can no longer afford to pay the freight and continue to deliver the message that you the voter, needs to hear."

August 16, 2010
Has State Fair turned the corner? Numbers say maybe

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Maybe the earlier start date did pay off for the California State Fair.

Not only did overall attendance go up nearly 10 percent in this year's version to 741,189, Cal Expo said today that the more important paid attendance figure rose by 11 percent to 512,277.

This year's version (shown in a Bee staff photo above) ended Aug. 1, a month earlier than the usual Labor Day closing, to try to attract more schoolkids on summer vacation. Lower food prices, admission discounts and relatively pleasant weather also helped, and the fair got past a robbery of a vendor and the unfortunate putting down of a pregnant cow.

But it's too early yet to say the fair has entirely turned the corner on a lengthy decline. The 2010 attendance figures are still lower than any other year this century, other than 2009.

And as The Bee has editorialized and has analyzed, the annual expo faces big challenges. State Fair officials, of course, say they're up to the task.

 

August 13, 2010
Sacramento 'crash tax' gets boos from insurers, businesses

If there were any doubt, California's insurance industry made absolutely clear today how much it abhors a proposed "crash tax" in Sacramento.

Sam Sorich, president of the Association of California Insurance Companies, plans to testify Tuesday before the City Council against the proposed ordinance.

Under the plan, out-of-town drivers who are at fault for wrecks would be billed fees that would range from a minimum of $435 every time the Fire Department shows up at an accident scene to $2,275 if a helicopter is called in to transport an injured motorist.

Sorich says that if the fees are imposed, Sacramento would operate like a small-town speed trap and gouge unwary drivers.

"Sacramento is rightly proud to be the capital of America's largest state. It should be welcoming with open arms those from outside Sacramento who work in the city and visitors from around the world," he said in a press release. "Instead, the city plans to literally add insult to injury."

The insurers group also warns that if the fees are collected, rates could rise for all drivers in the Sacramento region.

The state's largest advocacy group for small businesses also opposes the "crash tax," saying that florists, pizza parlors and others that operate fleets of vehicles cannot afford any more bills.

"The local police and fire departments are there to serve and protect, not serve and collect," John Kabateck, executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business, wrote in today's Bee.

The Bee's editorial board has also come out against the proposal. For its take on the latest version of the proposal, come back to www.sacbee.com/opinion on Monday.

August 12, 2010
Ray Kerridge happy to be the heck out of Sacramento

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A delegation of Roseville leaders came calling this afternoon to trumpet the city's efforts toward economic recovery and prosperity.

In September, the City Council plans to appoint an advisory committee of builders, engineers and others to look at development standards -- softening the city's reputation as tough on developers and making sure it's not putting itself at a competitive disadvantage. In October, the council plans to create a community development corporation to focus on infill development in downtown and older commercial corridors. Roseville is continuing to work on recruiting clean energy, medical and professional jobs, plus a possible satellite campus of Sacramento State University.

The Placer County city is "open for business," declared its new city manager, Ray Kerridge (shown in a Bee photo above).

He said he didn't want to dwell on his previous life as city manager in Sacramento. But with just a little goading from The Bee's editorial board, Kerridge also made clear how happy he is to be in Roseville -- and no longer in Sacramento. He resigned in February after a tumultuous four years, and started his new job June 17.

Kerridge said there's a different culture in Roseville, where the council and administrators have a good relationship and are all interested in moving forward. Of his leaving Sacramento, Kerridge said he decided: "This isn't a good environment to be working in, and I need to get out."

He even made a joke -- with a mischievous gleam in his eyes -- about the split vote by the Sacramento council last month on the latest K Street redevelopment proposal, when the four members of an ad hoc committee were outvoted by the council members not on the panel.

Kerridge's departure has remained somewhat murky. It was clear he was frustrated by the dysfunctional council, and that some council members were not happy with him. When he left, Kerridge talked about a private sector job, so it was something of a surprise when he landed nearby in Roseville.

He and Mayor Gina Garbolino provided much more of the back story today:

A headhunter hired by Roseville in November originally came up with 68 names. Kerridge was in a group of 13 that the consultant recommended for a closer look, then was one of four finalists who underwent intense vetting. He originally provided six references, but then was asked for more with both positive and negative views of him. He eventually offered 50 references, 36 of whom were contacted.

Kerridge wanted to leave after February budget work but before May, but eventually stuck it out until May when his hiring was announced. He is now the Sacramento region's highest paid city manager, with an annual salary of $237,700. But that's less than the $285,000 his predecessor was making.

Garbolino said she's heard little criticism of Kerridge's pay, even with the huge controversy started by the astronomical salaries in Bell. And she seemed confident that Kerridge is providing the vision, leadership and integrity the city wanted.

August 12, 2010
Rep. Doris Matsui not looking forward to ethics trials

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Rep. Doris Matsui, five years into her tenure in Congress, is so happy working on clean energy, housing and other issues that she's not angling for a leadership post. She says she's busy looking out for Sacramento, making sure her district gets money for the Natomas levees, Folsom dam improvements and transportation projects.

One job she isn't looking forward to: Possibly weighing in on the conduct of fellow Reps. Maxine Waters of Los Angeles and Charles Rangel of New York, who face ethics charges and whose fate could end up in the full House.

"None of us look forward to that at all," Matsui told The Bee's editorial board this afternoon. "It's difficult to judge your colleagues."

Matsui said she hasn't reviewed the allegations in detail, but knows that both colleagues are fighting them tooth and nail. She was in the House on Tuesday when Rangel took to the House floor to defend himself and demand a prompt ethics committee hearing so he wouldn't't be left "swinging in the wind" until the November election.

'He's a proud man and he's very hurt," said Matsui (shown above in a Bee photo).

(Come back to www.sacbee.com/opinion over the next few days to see The Bee editorial board's take on Waters and Rangel.)

Matsui isn't expected to face much of a challenge in November to win a fourth term (though Republican Paul Smith would dispute that), but acknowledged that fellow Democrats are likely to lose some seats because it's a midterm election in the middle of a recession with lots of unhappy voters.

But she's still optimistic that Democrats will hold on to their majority. Republicans, she said, face their own challenges because of divisions between establishment candidates and tea party activists.

And while she wasn't ready to predict victory, she said that Democrat Ami Bera will run a very strong race against Republican Rep. Dan Lungren of Gold River. Bera, she said, is bright, a very good fund-raiser and has the "fire in the belly" to win.

August 4, 2010
Coming Thursday: Dueling op-eds from Dems and Reeps on state budget proposal

Our Viewpoints page on Thursday will feature dueling op-eds from Democrats and Republicans on the budget proposal floated Tuesday by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John A. Perez.

Here's an excerpt from Steinberg and Perez's piece:

Sadly, the Governor and legislative Republicans have not stepped up with realistic solutions; instead they irresponsibly refuse to compromise and insist on an exclusively ideological approach that will wipe out hundreds of thousands of jobs for teachers, cops, firefighters, and the employees and owners of small businesses throughout California. That is not a future Californians want.

And here is an excerpt from the op-ed by Senate Republican Leader Dennis Hollingsworth and Assembly Republican Leader Martin Garrick:

The Democrats claim these huge tax increases will have a negligible impact on most Californians because they can be written off as a tax deduction on federal income taxes. The problem is that only 38 percent of California taxpayers itemize their deductions, typically higher-income earners. Those who don't - the poor, seniors, renters and working families - will be hit the hardest.

Check back here after midnight tonight for both opinion articles. You can read The Bee's take on the proposal here.

August 3, 2010
Grimes bows out; Woo enters race with Grimes' endorsement

Just days before candidate filings close, things have gotten interesting in the Sacramento City Unified Area 6 school board race (covering the Greenhaven/Pocket area, and including Kennedy High School, Sam Brannan Middle School and six elementary schools).

It's now a vacant seat. The district sent out a news release this afternoon, headlined: "SCUSD Board of Education Vice President Roy Grimes will not seek re-election." He is leaving to "pursue other interests including teaching graduate-level business courses and the ministry."

Less than an hour earlier, Darrel Woo, a former City of Sacramento planning commissioner, announced that he would run for the seat with Grimes' endorsement.

Woo is a Class of 1970 graduate of Kennedy High School and earned a law degree from Lincoln Law School in 1993. His daughter graduated from Kennedy High School in 2002.

He writes:

As the district heads in a new direction, I want to make sure the decisions being made are in the best interest of our children. I have "in the classroom" teaching experience and want to apply that knowledge when making decisions on the board. Teachers must have the resources they need to provide the best education for our children. At the same time, administrators must be held accountable for ensuring our teachers are prepared to provide a quality education.

In this now-vacant seat, two candidates have jumped in: Woo and Robert Bartron. (See the July 27 blog entry on him.)

Any other takers? Candidate filings close Friday.



About The Swarm

The Swarm is written by members of The Sacramento Bee's editorial board. They meet daily and are separate from the newsroom. Views included here are those of individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect those of a majority of the board or the positions expressed in The Bee's editorials.

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