Tag Archives: California Assembly

Scott Haggerty, Democrat?!

10 Sep

Yesterday, I was speaking to a colleague about the resignation of the District Attorney and the appointment process when he mentioned Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty switching parties to become a Democrat.

“What?!,” I responded, sure that I must have misheard him

But I had not. At the annual Labor Day picnic that the Alameda Labor Council hosts, Haggerty turned over his Democratic registration to Robin Torrello, Chair of the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee. Haggerty has been a longtime supporter of labor so it’s no surprise he chose this venue to switch parties.

But why, why would he switch parties? Alameda Supervisors are essentially unbeatable, and Haggerty is popular in his South County district. He had no opponent in 2008 and won with 98.45% of the vote.

The only good explanation for his party switch is that he’s eyeing higher office, and he knows that in Alameda County, it’s incredibly difficult to get elected as a Republican. My initial reaction was that he must be looking towards a state assembly run, though I have no real evidence of that. His term ends in 2012 at the same time that Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi’s term ends, and that’s the district he lives in. If he’s looking to run sooner, he could easily move to the nearby 20th district, where Alberto Torrico is leaving his seat and running for Attorney General. With the support of labor and potentially the support of the Democratic Party, Haggerty would have a fair shot at one of those seats.

While I don’t think Haggerty would make a very good Assemblymember, he wouldn’t be terrible (no worse than many of the centrist Democrats there now), and we’d be rid of him at the local level. Not only would we get a new Supervisor, but we’d get new representation on several important regional transit boards. According to his website, he has his hands in just about every transit related decision making body:

Supervisor Haggerty has extensive experience with regional transportation and infrastructure policy of the Bay Area. He is a founding member of the Inter-Regional Partnership (IRP), comprised of 15 elected officials representing counties and cities from two regions; and he is a member and former chair of the Altamont Rail Express Joint Powers Authority (ACE). Scott is a member and former chair of the Alameda County Transportation Authority (ACTA) and the Alameda County Transportation Improvement Authority (ACTIA), which was formed to oversee projects funded through Measure B dollars. Scott also serves on numerous regional transportation boards including: chair of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), which is responsible for allocating state and federal funds to regional transportation projects; member and former chair of the Alameda County Congestion Management Authority; Chair of the Alameda County Congestion Management Authority (CMA) and a member of the Livermore-Amador Valley Transit Authority (LAVTA). Supervisor Haggerty is a member and former chair of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD); and the Board of Supervisors’ Transportation & Planning Committee.

And what’s wrong with his involvement in all of these transit planning boards? Again, from his website:

With traffic traveling through Alameda County projected to double by 2030, his goals include making long-needed improvements in major travel corridors including I-580 in the Tri-Valley, one of the most congested roads in the Bay Area; and expanding and enhancing transit service. Scott is currently working to ensure the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) extension to Livermore is completed, and also has a key role in an ongoing effort to extend BART to San Jose.

Haggerty believes that by expanding highways and roads and building expensive BART extensions that bankrupt the core system, traffic problems will all be solved. We don’t need someone with these attitudes representing Alameda County, or in the case of MTC, quasi-representing Oakland (Oakland has no direct representation on MTC).

So I’m all for Haggerty moving on in search of higher office. Let’s just make sure he doesn’t get on any state level transportation committees or boards.

Sandre Swanson stripped of committee chair for defying party leadership

4 Mar

A few weeks ago, V Smoothe wrote about the state government, and readers responded that they wanted to hear more. So when I heard last night that Assembly Speaker Karen Bass had stripped Oakland’s Assemblymember, Sandre Swanson, of his committee chairmainship, I thought Oaklanders might want to know.

Swanson wasn’t alone in receiving this punishment:

Three Assembly Democrats who broke with their caucus by voting against a state spending cap and other budget trailer bills have been stripped of committee chairmanships. Meanwhile, Democratic lawmakers who supported the party majority have gotten promotions.

Those losing out are Assembly members Sandré Swanson of Alameda, Tony Mendoza of Artesia and Warren Furutani of Gardena. All three voted against a key budget compromise to put a state spending cap before voters. Now, following a flurry of new assignments by Bass, all three are former chairs of Assembly committees.

Now of course Bass is keeping quiet about this, refusing to say whether these members were stripped of their positions because of their votes on the spending cap, but it’s clear that this is the reason why she did it. I happen to agree with Swanson’s position on this vote and have great respect for him, since he voted this way even though he knew he would likely be punished by party leadership. But regardless of opinions on which way he should have voted, this is just messed up and it happens all too often in the legislature, on both sides of the aisle.

The intended effect of actions like this is to put party members into place, to remind them that they are only as powerful as they are because party leadership allows them to be, and that if they cross the party, they will be punished. This has a stifling effect on speech and forces legislators to respond first to party leadership, instead of representing their constituents.

Beyond that, it makes a mess of the legislative process. Swanson charied the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee. The committee staff will now leave his office (or, more likely, they’ll stay in the physical office and Sandre and his staff will move to a smaller space), and will have a new Assemblymember as their boss.

Imagine if something like this happened in Oakland – Jean Brunner got upset with Jean Quan and stripped her of her Finance Committee chair, appointing Nancy Nadel to lead the committee instead. Quan’s staffer who’s worked on finance issues would move to Nadel’s office, mid-session, and would have to reaclimate to a job under a new boss, in strained circumstances. As twisted as Oakland government can be, I don’t think this is going to happen, but this gives you a sense of how serious this situation is.

And what of the bills that were headed for hearings at the Labor Committee? I know that if this had happened last year, I would have entirely freaked out. The organization I work for was working on passing a bill through the legislature that would have protected medical marijuana patients’ right to work (we did end up passing it, but Schwarzenegger vetoed it). We had been working with committee staff and focusing our efforts on committee chairs, including Swanson. This move would have entirely pulled the rug out from under our efforts and we basically would have been back to square one.

Which reminds me… I’ll admit that I don’t know much about Swanson’s time as Labor Committee Chair, but I do have one strong memory of him from the committee meeting I attended on our bill, AB 2279:

A representative from the National Federation of Independent Business voiced his concerns about the bill. He stated that testing for impairment on the job would be difficult and employees could still come to work impaired. He argued that if a medical marijuana patient was impaired and caused an accident, the employer would be held liable and would have to provide worker’s compensation…

Swanson then took his turn to grill the opponents. He asked the rep from the National Federation of Independent Business whether he had any statistics or examples of accidents medical marijuana patients had caused. Our opponents could not even come up with one example.

I’m glad to have had the opportunity to see my Assemblymember in action that day, but am sad to know that one vote can cost a generally party-loyal member such an important position.