Stark to Nip/Tuck Senate Bill? | The Corbett Rule | IRV becomes RCV | Who will run against Gregory and Souza?

In lieu of gifts, please send cash….The Sacramento Bee published a listing of every gift California legislators received from lobbyists since January of last year. For local politicians in the capitol the news is good and bad, or maybe sad. The positive part is both state Sen. Ellen Corbett and Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi are relatively squeaky clean. Neither appeared to be a part of the perceived pay-to-play politics that goes with campaign fundraising, but given the holiday season, it is a bit sad our elected officials are lacking for presents under their respective tree. Unless you count $2 flashlights both received from the California Professional Association of Specialty Contractors, but that is simply a useful stocking stuffer. Hayashi, who dazzled donors with a $3,900 spa and dinner fundraiser in out-of-county Sonoma in October, despite rising unemployment in her own district received over $10,000 in travel expenses from the California Foundation for the Environment and the Economy last year to review water policy, high speed rail and infrastructure in Spain. According to the Bee, Hayashi’s junket to the Iberian Peninsula ranked as sixth largest travel gift given to any member of the Legislature. Not only does Hayashi apparently enjoy tapas and a big plate of paella, but also has a taste for fine dining, too. Six of the gifts reported involved dinners at Spataro, which according to the Bee is a popular schmoozing spot for legislators to be wined and dined by outside interests. Corbett, on the other hand, had very little in terms of gifts, but her staff and a guest received concert tickets from AT&T valued at over $250. Normally, this is not notable, but the act of currying favor with family members of candidates is becoming a growing issue, according to the Bee. Gifts given to friends and family of legislators are not subject to reporting rules thereby circumventing the rule allows lobbyist to give up to the legal limit of $420.

Rep. Pete Stark is casting a long shadow on the future passage of health care reform in America, but he may be looking to push for a nip and tuck on Sen. Harry Reid‘s so-called “botax” plan to tax elective plastic surgeries to help fund its $894 billion legislation. The proposed 5 percent tax would raise $5.8 billion over the next ten years and that’s just from Kenny Rogers. Reid’s amendment may not survive the mending process between the bill sponsored by Stark and passed last month in the House along with various bills floating around the Senate. Critics say the proposal disproportionately affects woman and may force customers to cheaper, but unsafe procedures in foreign countries. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons say over 70 percent of those who go under the knife earn less than $90,000 a year and that’s where Stark enters the equation. During the previous campaign finance period ending in 2008, Stark received $20,000 from the same plastic surgeons lobby. Stark’s office did not respond to questions about his opinion of Reid’s proposal. Stark has received over $100,000 from health-related industries this year alone, according to, but not surprising. Stark chairs the House Ways and Means Committee on Health so it would make sense for the health care industry to flock to him.
What’s in a name? The term “Instant Runoff Voting” or IRV is no longer the chosen phrase among proponents of the election system favored by some San Leandro leaders. It is now Ranked Choice Voting (RCV), thank you, and goes by a slew of other monikers–alternative voting, preferential voting and Ware’s Method–among others. The City of San Francisco also prefers the term Ranked Choice Voting since its implementation in 2004. San Francisco State Political Science Professor Rich DeLeon says the use of IRV is a bit of a misnomer since it does not fully guarantee a majority winner. Under the system, if there are not enough ballots fully ranked, it is possible to exaust all the votes before a majority is reached. RCV, on the other hand, does a better job of describing the system where voters attach preference for their first, second and third choice to produce a majority winner.
Women hold three of the six council seats and five of the seven spots on the school board, but this wasn’t always the case. San Leandro has always been ahead of the gender curve when it comes to women in government, but that hasn’t stopped the old boy network from trying to thwart progress. There is an interesting background story to today’s discussion of Ranked Choice Voting. Call it the Corbett Rule. In 2000, the city charter was changed to require elections be decided by a majority margin, but the roots of the change goes back to 1994 when then-councilwoman and current state Sen. Ellen Corbett shook the establishment by winning the race for mayor with far less than 50 percent of the vote. The crowded field was further disrupted when interim mayor John Faria, who was appointed after the death of Dave Karp, reversed his pledge not to run for re-election. Those concerned with electing an official with far less than a mandate to govern the city raised hackles, but many believe there was more to it than saving democracy. Many around town still believe the old chauvinistic establishment despised a woman at City Hall and fashioned the change in the city charter to remedy it ever happening again. Except, Shelia Young captured the mayor’s office in 1998 and used the power of the incumbency to easily win re-election. Jack Maltester‘s bygone era of good ol’ boy politics had to wait until 2006 for Tony Santos to become mayor.
There is great danger when politicians run for re-election unopposed, yet two incumbents just may be afforded that opportunity. There is absolutely no buzz on whether anyone has interest in running against either Councilmembers Michael Gregory or Diana Souza. Nothing! Zero! Not even unverifiable gossip! One source says historically recruiting candidates for District 1 and 3 has been notoriously difficult. Gregory did not seek the position, but was recruited, they said. Both councilmembers tend to take a low profile on most matters, which has a way of not provoking opponents calling for their respective scalps. It is surprising there is no interest in Gregory’s District 1 seat, though, since San Leandro Hospital lies within his jurisdiction. It begs the question whether residents realize the possibility of losing the facility may be imminent or feel it has nothing to do with Gregory’s job performance. Nevertheless, it seems like a strong starting point for at least one possible candidate to agitate an incumbent. On the other hand, there’s nobody cooler than Gregory when he is riding his bicycle down East 14th Street clad in a suit and tie. – S.T.