Flood-Protection Bills First Shelved, Then Revived Revived Perata Denies Being Swayed By Builders Group's $500,000 Donation
A slew of flood-protection bills, including one strongly opposed by California builders, got beached the other day by state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata -- and 48 hours later, the same builders pumped $500,000 into a campaign committee with ties to the Oakland Democrat.
Perata said he had tabled the bills after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger served up some last-minute amendments that, in his opinion, would have weakened the proposed new rules about building subdivisions in floodplains.
With only a week left in the session, Perata said, there just wasn't time to work out a compromise. So the idea was to put the whole package on hold until next year, including a bill favored by the builders.
There was no quid pro quo, he said, in the builders' subsequent donation to Rebuilding California, a Perata-backed campaign committee working to pass the multibillion-dollar infrastructure bond package on the state ballot this fall.
Maybe, but the timing sure had the halls buzzing.
And backers of the tougher rules were not happy.
"We have been working on these bills for two years. It's important that something be done, particularly for the Central Valley, which has less flood-protection requirements than New Orleans,'' said Assemblywoman Lois Wolk, D-Davis, author of one of the bills.
Wolk also noted that putting off passage of the measures gave builders a free ride for another year.
As for that timely donation, California Building Industry Association spokesman John Frith said there was no connection to what was happening in the Legislature. He noted that on the same day it donated to the Perata-backed committee, the association pumped $500,000 into another bond drive, the Let's Rebuild California campaign, which has nothing to do with Perata.
"It's all part of our goal to raise $3 million for all of the bonds," Frith said.
Nonetheless, faster than you could say "oops," Perata changed his tune late last week and called for a "flood summit" today with the bills' authors to see if the package can be brought back to life in the waning days of the session.
"The goal," said Perata spokeswoman Alicia Trost, "is to get something to the governor's desk that he won't veto."
Another example of democracy in action.
Complaints 'R' Us: San Francisco's Office of Citizen Complaints usually investigates police misconduct -- but now its own boss is under investigation.
Agency Executive Director Kevin Allen's alleged violations include showing preferential treatment toward African American staffers and creating a hostile work environment.
The chief beef appears to center around Allen's provisional appointment of Charles Gallman -- a department veteran with a reputation for being a bit gruff -- as his chief investigator.
"I can't discuss matters of personnel," Allen told us, "but as for allegations of racism, that's ridiculous.''
The accusations surfaced after the city controller's office began a performance audit of the civilian-run police watchdog a couple of months back at the request of the San Francisco Police Commission, which has been none too happy about the seemingly slow pace of misconduct investigations.
"The commission's focus has not been on a particular individual, but frankly with all personnel,'' said Louise Renne, the commission's president.
Sources inside the watchdog agency tell us fingers quickly pointed to the front office and to Allen's appointment of Gallman.
Allen was contacted last week by the city's Department of Human Resources to answer allegations of favoritism toward blacks -- including Gallman -- and heavy-handed oversight of the department. Allen says only that Gallman, an ex-military man, has held staffers to a high level of accountability.
From what we hear, the real hit may be still on the way from the controller's office, which is trying to determine if Allen's agency purposely sat on certain police misconduct cases -- or if any investigators have been improperly moonlighting.
China express: Longtime labor boss Josie Mooney, who once taught special-education classes in the San Francisco school district, was preparing to run for a spot on the city's school board -- but missed the chance when time and 6,000 miles kept her from getting her nomination papers in under the deadline.
Mooney has headed Local 790 of the Service Employees International Union since 1997, representing 13,000 city, school and nonprofit employees, and her political future has been a source of speculation for months.
The union is undergoing a national shakeup, and Mooney made it clear a while ago that she planned to leave when her contract ended this year.
Since then, there has been talk of her running for everything from the Board of Supervisors to the state Assembly. But then, she has also been spending lots of time lately with national union President Andrew Stern, who has been crusading to organize Wal-Mart employees in China.
Mooney herself made 10 trips to China in the past three years alone. Then came the startling announcement earlier this month that China's Communist Party-controlled trade unions had reached a deal with Wal-Mart to unionize its stores in that country, and already 17 have been recognized by the retail giant.
But while Mooney was off celebrating in Tibet, San Francisco's Aug. 16 deadline to file for November political races was quickly approaching -- and a faxed copy wasn't acceptable.
A signed set of papers for Mooney's school board candidacy would take five days to arrive by Federal Express, and Mooney couldn't get it done.
"They had my faxed signature, but original signatures are required, and they didn't get here in time,'' Mooney, now back home, tells us. "I'm disappointed, but I know a lot of qualified candidates are running.''
As for her own plans, Mooney said she hopes to stay on at least for another year as a consultant to the local union.
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