Federal Government

First draft down the Memory Hole

Submitted: Feb 02, 2007
Finally, valley's farmers get seat at USDA's table...Editorial

Unlike previous incarnations, this farm bill proposal is actually important to farmers in the Northern San Joaquin Valley. Anne Cannon, who spearheads Rep. Dennis Cardoza's team on ag issues, was particularly pleased with that: "For the USDA to specifically recognize us in such a fashion is hugely important." Cardoza is particularly well placed to have an impact. He is chairman of the subcommittee on fruits and vegetables and sits on subcommittees that deal with livestock and conservation. He also sits on the important Rules Committee, which sets the agenda for all of Congress. That makes him important to every other representative. Despite all the positives, this proposal could be in for a rough ride. Congress, not the USDA, writes legislation and already considerable resistance is developing. Ag issues split on regional lines rather than partisan, so it wasn't surprising when one Midwestern Republican senator greeted the proposal with a press release that said, essentially, "we'll see" about subsidy reductions.

Clearly, the trauma experienced by Big Wine, Big Cheeze, Big Milk and Big Cotton of not having their own USDA secretary from Modesto for a year and a half has unbalanced the mind of McClatchy-Modesto’s editorial staff. Modesto has produced two USDA secretaries in the last 20 years, Dick Lyng and Ann Veneman, and three state Department of Food and Agriculture secretaries, Lyng, Veneman, and Bill Lyons, Jr. The Modesto Assembly district has produced two Assembly Ag Committee chairmen in recent years, John Thurman and Dennis Cardoza.

The anxiety of agricultural commerce without a Modestan secretary of USDA may have popped big pumpkins in the north San Joaquin Valley.

It is true that a strong, bipartisan campaign including a strong showing by state and national environmental groups defeated Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy, who might well have become the chairman of the House Ag Committee. But he and Cardoza formed the Pomboza, funded by developers, to try to gut the Endangered Species Act.

Meanwhile, Valley agriculture lost the enormous clout of chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Bill Thomas, R-Bakersfield, who retired.

So, now Big Wine, Big Cheese, etc., are stuck with Cardoza, the senior Valley Democrat in the newly elected Democratic Congress. Cardoza has been appointed chairman of an agricultural subcommittee on specialty crops. We find nothing in his political career to indicate he is interested in anything but the speculative real estate value of the land on which these fruits, nuts and vegetables are being grown. I have never met a farmer or rancher in the 18th congressional district who had confidence in Cardoza’s grasp of agricultural issues. Perhaps his agricultural “spearhead” knows the answers.

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Where's the juice?

Submitted: Jan 31, 2007

"The big question is how we're going to do our new initiatives while still maintaining existing programs," Cardoza said, adding that budget-balancing rules will further complicate the challenge.

A key Cardoza staffer and Turlock resident, attorney Dee Dee Moosekian, began working more than a year ago on crafting the House's specialty crop alternatives with groups including Environmental Defense, Western Growers Association and American Farmland Trust.

Their plan includes goals like quadrupling to $100 million the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. This pays farmers for conservation measures that can accomplish goals like cutting air pollution. In another bid to aid specialty crop growers, the coalition wants to double to 5 million acres the amount of land conserved through the Wetlands Reserve Program. -- Merced Sun-Star, Jan. 30, 2007

Let us return to those halcyon days when the Pomboza ruled the earth of the north San Joaquin Valley. In March 2006 Republican House leadership appointed Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy, to the vice chairmanship of the House Committee on Agriculture. Cardoza has also served on the agriculture committee since 2003.

When Pombo was appointed to the vice chair, even the Farm Bureau press commented it was odd to give the chairman of one House committee (Resources) the vice-chairmanship of another major committee. At time time, there was speculation Pombo would assume chairmanship of the agriculture committee and leave the resources committee. Meanwhile, his new position in agriculture was good campaign fund-raising strategy, in light of the upcoming 2007 Farm Bill.

However, the Pomboza's third attempt, from its vantage point in the House resources committee, to gut the Endangered Species Act, caused enough alarm in the national environmental community that -- in a bipartisan campaign -- it went after Pombo and defeated him in November.

The Pomboza was never about agriculture. It was about development, of use to agriculture solely if farmers want to sell their land. In fact, the boom in real estate prices in the north San Joaquin Valley has made buying farm land to farm on prohibitively expensive.

Although Cardoza is now chairman of a subcommittee on fruits and vegetables, what has the nominal Democrat Cardoza's reckless gamble -- hopping in Pombo's back pocket on behalf of a handful of developers -- done for the bargaining position of specialty crops in his district?

Wasn't the real, super-clever rightwing political game in 2006 to load up Pombo's campaign chest with agriculture contributions that weren't linked to Abramoff, and to arrange that Cardoza had a free ride?

But, something happened. Democrats control Congress now and Pombo was defeated. Can Cardoza stand on his own in a Congress controlled by his own alleged party? His immediate problems has nothing to do with specialty crops; it is a speculative housing bust, the bottom of which in his district is not yet visible. This is the same politician who, as chairman of the California state Assembly agriculure committee, argued that Merced County should finally adopt the Williamson Act because it would be mitigation for UC Merced. To say that Cardoza has split loyalties doesn't cover the half of it. Public development? Private development? His family's real estate interests? Health care? Agriculture comes last, we think, except where some clever developer can show him how agriculture can be used for real estate development.

How many acres of fruits and nuts in Cardoza's district are owned by people farming at a loss whose business plans terminate in real estate development?

We doubt he'll have much influence on funding for fruits and vegetables making remarks like:

"I can't imagine he's going to come to Modesto to speak ill of specialty crops; that would be suicide," said Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced. "I can only imagine he's going to make a positive announcement."

Suicide? Really?

Does anybody put any faith in what the Bush administration announces about anything at this point? This is a regime now reduced to appointing rightwing commissars to control its own agencies on behalf of special interests:

President Bush has signed a directive that gives the White House much greater control over the rules and policy statements that the government develops to protect public health, safety, the environment, civil rights and privacy.

In an executive order published last week in the Federal Register, Mr. Bush said that each agency must have a regulatory policy office run by a political appointee, to supervise the development of rules and documents providing guidance to regulated industries. The White House will thus have a gatekeeper in each agency to analyze the costs and the benefits of new rules and to make sure the agencies carry out the president’s priorities. -- New York Times, Jan. 30, 2007.

Given this kind of political setup, the Badlands editorial board is going to take a wild guess that fruits and vegetables may actually lose federal support to the War Suck, and that Cardoza, pressed between the Bush regime and the Democratic congressional leadership, doesn't have the juice. In fact, he is juice, of either a fruit or vegetable kind.

More fuel, more cars, more development.

If Cardoza is doing anything for agriculture in his district, it is getting on the enthanol bandwagon. Corn for ethanol is replacing cotton on the west side. There is even some question that part of the drive to ethanol is fueled less by oil prices than by cotton-grower anxiety that China is planning to dump an unknown quantity of its cotton on the world market, driving the world price so low that the federal government would balk at the subsidy required to bring US cotton up to a break-even price. Another "supply-side" factor is that US and Canadian genetically modified corn has lost a significant quantity of its export market.

Cracked corn prices to local dairymen are reported to have reached $200 per ton, shipped from the Midwest. That's up $50 per ton from prices reported in early November. Meanwhile, milk prices languish below break-even and dairymen dig deeper into their equity to stay in business.

It has to be the stupidest question in the world because nothing about the agricultural economy makes much sense anymore, but why aren't we growing this badly needed kind of corn here, instead of corn for ethanol? Instead, corn growers, who will use more btu's to grow the corn than it will produce, will then ship it to the nearest ethanol plant, wherever that is, rather than ship it across the road to the neighoring dairy. It seems to make sense, therefore it doesn't make sense, because it looks like agriculture is getting sucked into the lastest speculative boom: ethanol. The last time that happened to corn, c. 1974, the Midwest never recovered.

It makes about as much sense as invading oil producing nations capable of sustained guerrilla resistance. Did somebody up there just forget about 241 Marines in Lebanon? The best historians in the nation have three muses these days: Hubris, Ate, and Nemesis.

Perhaps, the USDA secretary will announce a program for disaster relief for citrus and vegetable crops losing market share due from e. coli and other contamination. In this case, the first relief ought to go to the unemployed farm workers who usually harvest these crops. We doubt a USDA secretary from Nebraska knows what a farm worker is. Perhaps, he's a compassionate man who decides on assisting the desperate farm workers. The Bush USDA commissar might overrule him. If the secretary objects, perhaps he will be sentenced to 10 years at Gitmo. That seems to be the general direction the republic is going.

If the gentle reader think that Badlands is being harsh on our congressman, we are only following the advice of one of our keenest observers of the American political scene: Henry Adams (1838-1918), whose grandfather and great-grandfather were presidents:

"You can't use tact with a Congressman! A Congressman is a hog! You must take a stick and hit him on the snout!" -- Henry B. Adams -- Slapstick on Jenkins Hill, By WERTHER, Jan. 30, 2007, Counterpunch.com

Regarding the negative opinion of the president, it is shared by two-thirds of the nation.

As a form of government, imperialism does not seek or require the consent of the governed. It is a pure form of tyranny. The American attempt to combine domestic democracy with such tyrannical control over foreigners is hopelessly contradictory and hypocritical. A country can be democratic or it can be imperialistic, but it cannot be both. -- Chalmers Johnson, Tomdispatch.com, Jan. 31, 2007 (Johnson is the author of an historical trilogy on the American Empire: Blowback and Sorrows of Empire, and Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic)

Bill Hatch


Merced Sun-Star
Farming: Federal agricultural campaign plans local kick-off...Michael Doyle, Sun-Star Washington Bureau

The big farm bill debate escalates in the San Joaquin Valley this week...Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns. "I can't imagine he's going to come to Modesto to speak ill of specialty crops; that would be suicide," said Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced. "I can only imagine he's going to make a positive announcement." Until now, specialty crops have harvested federal money primarily from ventures like the Market Access Program. This year, $100 million will help groups like the California Kiwifruit Commission, the California Table Grape Commission and the California Walnut Commission. By contrast, California growers of cotton, rice, wheat and corn received $321 million in federal payments in 2004... Cardoza, who chairs the House subcommittee handling fruits and vegetables, expects to reintroduce after President's Day an ambitious farm bill proposal that includes far greater specialty crop spending."The big question is how we're going to do our new initiatives while still maintaining existing programs," Cardoza said, adding that budget-balancing rules will further complicate the challenge. Their plan includes goals like quadrupling to $100 million the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. This pays farmers for conservation measures that can accomplish goals like cutting air pollution. In another bid to aid specialty crop growers, the coalition wants to double to 5 million acres the amount of land conserved through the Wetlands Reserve Program. Currently, 6,264 acres in California are conserved through the program.

New York Times
Bush Directive Increases Sway on Regulation
by Robert Pear

President Bush has signed a directive that gives the White House much greater control over the rules and policy statements that the government develops to protect public health, safety, the environment, civil rights and privacy.

In an executive order published last week in the Federal Register, Mr. Bush said that each agency must have a regulatory policy office run by a political appointee, to supervise the development of rules and documents providing guidance to regulated industries. The White House will thus have a gatekeeper in each agency to analyze the costs and the benefits of new rules and to make sure the agencies carry out the president’s priorities.

This strengthens the hand of the White House in shaping rules that have, in the past, often been generated by civil servants and scientific experts. It suggests that the administration still has ways to exert its power after the takeover of Congress by the Democrats.

The White House said the executive order was not meant to rein in any one agency. But business executives and consumer advocates said the administration was particularly concerned about rules and guidance issued by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

In an interview on Monday, Jeffrey A. Rosen, general counsel at the White House Office of Management and Budget, said, “This is a classic good-government measure that will make federal agencies more open and accountable.”

Business groups welcomed the executive order, saying it had the potential to reduce what they saw as the burden of federal regulations. This burden is of great concern to many groups, including small businesses, that have given strong political and financial backing to Mr. Bush.

Consumer, labor and environmental groups denounced the executive order, saying it gave too much control to the White House and would hinder agencies’ efforts to protect the public.

Typically, agencies issue regulations under authority granted to them in laws enacted by Congress. In many cases, the statute does not say precisely what agencies should do, giving them considerable latitude in interpreting the law and developing regulations.

The directive issued by Mr. Bush says that, in deciding whether to issue regulations, federal agencies must identify “the specific market failure” or problem that justifies government intervention.

Besides placing political appointees in charge of rule making, Mr. Bush said agencies must give the White House an opportunity to review “any significant guidance documents” before they are issued.

The Office of Management and Budget already has an elaborate process for the review of proposed rules. But in recent years, many agencies have circumvented this process by issuing guidance documents, which explain how they will enforce federal laws and contractual requirements.

Peter L. Strauss, a professor at Columbia Law School, said the executive order “achieves a major increase in White House control over domestic government.”

“Having lost control of Congress,” Mr. Strauss said, “the president is doing what he can to increase his control of the executive branch.”

Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California and chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said: “The executive order allows the political staff at the White House to dictate decisions on health and safety issues, even if the government’s own impartial experts disagree. This is a terrible way to govern, but great news for special interests.”

Business groups hailed the initiative.

“This is the most serious attempt by any chief executive to get control over the regulatory process, which spews out thousands of regulations a year,” said William L. Kovacs, a vice president of the United States Chamber of Commerce. “Because of the executive order, regulations will be less onerous and more reasonable. Federal officials will have to pay more attention to the costs imposed on business, state and local governments, and society.”

Under the executive order, each federal agency must estimate “the combined aggregate costs and benefits of all its regulations” each year. Until now, agencies often tallied the costs and the benefits of major rules one by one, without measuring the cumulative effects.

Gary D. Bass, executive director of O.M.B. Watch, a liberal-leaning consumer group that monitors the Office of Management and Budget, criticized Mr. Bush’s order, saying, “It will result in more delay and more White House control over the day-to-day work of federal agencies.”

“By requiring agencies to show a ‘market failure,’ ” Dr. Bass said, “President Bush has created another hurdle for agencies to clear before they can issue rules protecting public health and safety.”

Wesley P. Warren, program director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, who worked at the White House for seven years under President Bill Clinton, said, “The executive order is a backdoor attempt to prevent E.P.A. from being able to enforce environmental safeguards that keep cancer-causing chemicals and other pollutants out of the air and water.”

Business groups have complained about the proliferation of guidance documents. David W. Beier, a senior vice president of Amgen, the biotechnology company, said Medicare officials had issued such documents “with little or no public input.”

Hugh M. O’Neill, a vice president of the pharmaceutical company Sanofi-Aventis, said guidance documents sometimes undermined or negated the effects of formal regulations.

In theory, guidance documents do not have the force of law. But the White House said the documents needed closer scrutiny because they “can have coercive effects” and “can impose significant costs” on the public. Many guidance documents are made available to regulated industries but not to the public.

Paul R. Noe, who worked on regulatory policy at the White House from 2001 to 2006, said such aberrations would soon end. “In the past, guidance documents were often issued in the dark,” Mr. Noe said. “The executive order will ensure they are issued in the sunshine, with more opportunity for public comment.”

Under the new White House policy, any guidance document expected to have an economic effect of $100 million a year or more must be posted on the Internet, and agencies must invite public comment, except in emergencies in which the White House grants an exemption.

The White House told agencies that in writing guidance documents, they could not impose new legal obligations on anyone and could not use “mandatory language such as ‘shall,’ ‘must,’ ‘required’ or ‘requirement.’ ”

The executive order was issued as White House aides were preparing for a battle over the nomination of Susan E. Dudley to be administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at the Office of Management and Budget.

President Bush first nominated Ms. Dudley last August. The nomination died in the Senate, under a barrage of criticism from environmental and consumer groups, which said she had been hostile to government regulation. Mr. Bush nominated her again on Jan. 9.

With Democrats in control, the Senate appears unlikely to confirm Ms. Dudley. But under the Constitution, the president could appoint her while the Senate is in recess, allowing her to serve through next year.

Some of Ms. Dudley’s views are reflected in the executive order. In a primer on regulation written in 2005, while she was at the Mercatus Center of George Mason University in Northern Virginia, Ms. Dudley said that government regulation was generally not warranted “in the absence of a significant market failure.”

She did not return calls seeking comment on Monday.

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Who needs a UC new town?

Submitted: Jan 21, 2007

Home prices in county slide further in December...J.N. Sbranti...Modesto Bee

Even as real estate prices in Valley cities to the north appear to be rebounding...Sales prices continued dropping in Merced County, hitting $326,000 in December. That was $6,500 lower than November and $54,750 lower than December 2005. Merced homes haven't been that cheap since the spring of 2005. John Melo, chief executive officer of Century 21 M&M and Associates...the real estate market is tough in Merced County. "Merced prices just went way too high. The county just doesn't have the (employment) base to support such housing,"... In recent years, Melo said Merced developers built too many homes and investors bought too many properties on speculation that the new University of California campus would create a great demand. It hasn't. "Now, many of those investors are cutting their losses and trying to sell," Melo said. That's driving down prices ...

Meanwhile, UC Merced continues to move forward on its University Community Plan, a 2,100-acre new town planned immediately south of the campus. Public funds have been involved with its planning since inception. Public funds are paying UC attorneys to defend the UCP in court. UC is a partner in the planned commercial strip mall. It is a perfect “public/private, win-win partnership for growth.” UC faculty and staff will be given preference for the new town housing, for which UC-subsidized mortgages are provided. If all the housing cannot be sold to UC employees, others will be able to buy there.

A glut of new homes of descending value, speculators unable to get more than a third their mortgage payments on rent for homes in Merced they only bought to flip, never to live in, and no rational jobs/housing balance, are parts of a large problem caused by irresponsible city and county planning and corrupt land-use decisions by the city council and the board of supervisors.

With all the partial subdivisions standing around town, Merced had enough infill (in many cases with infrastructure installed) to provide housing for UC Merced faculty, staff and students without another corrupt, stupid public/private, win-win partnership for growth.

The Merced public must realize at some point that, from the UC through the Riverside Motorsports Park (RMP) and every subdivision in between, its elected officials have been the willing and eager enablers of the economic, air quality and traffic mess we call home. Chief among them, from the beginning, has been Dennis Cardoza, whose congressional office is on the third floor of the county administration building, next to the board of supervisors, a floor above the planning department.

The federal Bureau of Prisons was going to sue on the RMP project. Its drag strip backs up to the prison walls. The bureau sent letters to the county. A bureau representative told citizens the bureau would sue. The representative said later Cardoza was “negotiating” with the bureau. The negotiations continued through the filing deadline for a suit under California Environmental Quality Act.

Allied with RMP, the chambers of commerce and banks, how hard is Cardoza now working to get the state Farm Bureau to drop its suit against the racetrack? He's on the House agriculture committee. And the great corruptor of the Williamson Act ("it's mitigation for UC Merced," he said) was once chairman of the state Assembly agriculture committee. Oooo, oooo, power, power! We must tremble.

Please, Sister Nancy, take that boy to the river and dunk him again. Wash that Pomboza hangover out of his mind. Remind him that stock cars are not a California specialty agricultural commodity.

Cardoza is the top corrupt official in Merced. But it runs downhill. At the RMP public hearing, it reached down and called upon poor Councilman Carl Pollard, who stumbled over some words he was told to say but could barely pronounce.

How is RMP going to improve the jobs/housing balance in Merced, Carl? Reason it out for us, please. Would that be the "diversity" of labor in Merced between the work there is, the real estate crash, and the fantasy UC high-tech economy that isn't? Did you ever vote against any subdivision in north Merced? And how did that help your constituents in South Merced?

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Submitted: Nov 22, 2006

The general environmental interest in the San Joaquin Valley is strong because it concerns basic health and safety issues. Anger is stirring in the public against rampant air pollution-producing development and the politicians who promote it.

In a recent article, Stockton Record political reporter Hank Shaw ended a look into the post-Pombo world with a quote from a professor:

"I am dubious that this will be a productive Congress," Pitney said. "I think there's going to be a lot of posturing."

If the professor's crystal ball is clear, and Shaw's interview with Pombo’s Ghost, Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Merced, is any indication, we predict that Cardoza will rise in Congress like an untethered helium balloon.

But where will that balloon go, exactly?

The Congressional Progressive Caucus is almost twice as large as Cardoza’s Blue Dog Coalition. Other factors might spook Pombo’ s Ghost into striking aggressive postures. The CPC is led by two progressive congresswomen from the Bay Area. If that sounds familiar, it could be because the speaker-elect of the House and California's two US senators are also progressive women from the Bay Area.

Cardoza claims to be positioning himself in the political center.


Senators Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, and congresswomen Nancy Pelosi, Lynn Woolsey and Barbara Lee represent the center of the nation, which just voted the Republicans out because we the people are sick of this catastrophe of a war and corruption in Congress.

Cardoza told the Stockton Record he and the Blue Dogs are forming a coalition with a group of Republicans to influence policy.

This reminds me of a funny story that occurred one morning at a congressional breakfast held by former Rep. Gary Condit, Ceres. Condit was one of the founders of the Blue Dogs, a group of Boll Weevil congressmen that split from the Democrats when Newt Gingrich became the Republican speaker of the House.

Condit had invited Pelosi down to speak. She arrived with a friend, a small Hispanic woman in a neat city suit, whom she introduced only as "my friend, Dolores." She and her friend sat down at the head table with Condit and some lords of agribusiness and broke bread.

Meanwhile, a local Democrat with a living memory, a good camera and a sense of humor, took a number of pictures of the head table, Pelosi and Dolores chatting with the czars of wine, milk, and cotton.

As the event was breaking up, he offering the pictures to the great men who had been at the head table, suggesting that a picture of such-and-such a captain of agribusiness exchanging pleasantries over croissants with Dolores Huerta, the famous leader of the United Farm Workers, would look good on their boardroom walls.

The vignette could indicate how much influence Pombo's Ghost will have with the speaker.

State Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, D-SF didn’t like the Valley any more than the Valley liked him. State Senate Pro Tem John Burton, D-SF, called UC Merced the biggest “boondoggle” he’d ever seen. They are long-time Pelosi political associates.

The Record reporter speculated that Cardoza might get a subcommittee chairmanship in the House Agriculture Committee that would permit him to advance the agenda of California's "specialty crops." It will be interesting to see if Pelosi will give it to Cardoza, after he was one of the five nominators of Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-MD, for majority leader, against Pelosi's choice, Rep. John Murtha, D-PA. Some might have suggested that if California's crops were so important to Cardoza, he should have kept his mouth shut.

It’s fun to imagine Cardoza in a panic, fearing the San Francisco women in power, rushing to the club of “real men in the center.” But, you can’t know that’s how it is happening. It could be that his special interest clients are dictating his every move and using their money in other venues to bring about advantageous results for themselves. After all, to them it is business, and they take business far more seriously than they take Cardoza. Pombo’s Ghost can pose as he wishes; meanwhile wine, dairy, cotton and development will make their deals where they think best. His aggressively Blue Dog strategy is a gamble. It may be a smart play or it may be a desperate leap. The nation moved politically to the left, so only time will tell.

Then comes the recent green paint job: starting with installing solar panels on his home roof (we wonder who paid for that), and talk about ethanol, etc.

"I'm just so committed to getting us out of the Middle East, with our dependence on foreign oil," he said. "We have to come up with alternatives."

While this sounds fruity and nutty enough for any wannabe chairman of a subcommittee on specialty crops, the nation prefers the direct approach of Pelosi, Lee, Woolsey and other mainstream Democrats: Get out of Iraq as soon as possible. Cardoza claims he is being “strong” posing in his imaginary middle, waiting until America is energy self-sufficient before ending imperial invasions of oil-rich countries.

More lipstick.

A powerful cabal of special interests in the northern San Joaquin Valley – Cardoza’s special interest clients – were able to arrange a free ride for him in this election. Residents of the 18th congressional district ought to ask themselves why a man as unpopular as Pombo’s Ghost represents them. Large landowners, developers, major agribusiness interests and the real estate financial and sales industries, along with UC Merced and the Great Valley Center, have ruled so absolutely that they think the region’s voters and the rest of the nation shared their agenda. In fact, even the voters of the district don’t share that agenda. For one glaring example, they thought the rest of the country hated the Endangered Species Act and loved developers, too. That isn’t even true in Cardoza’s district. So why is he representing the district? Did voters get sold a bill of goods here?

Rep. RichPAC Pombo, R-Tracy, was defeated because the opposition told the truth about him: he is corrupt, pro-Iraq War and radically anti-environmental. In the Sacramento area, Rep. John Doolittle, R-Roseville, crept back to Washington with less than 50 percent of the vote in his district, because the opposition told the truth about him: he is corrupt, pro-Iraq War and radically anti-environmental.

Cardoza is in the same pockets and, at least until a week or two, held the same views. His recent interviews with the regional press are lipstick. The intensity and quality of the collaboration and protection he enjoyed with Pombo can’t be replicated in this session of Congress, which will have a different agenda and some different faces, like Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, for example. McNerney and Cardoza belong to the same party in name only. McNerney, in two brutal races against Pombo, got no help from Cardoza at all. At least Pombo stood and eventually fell for something. Cardoza is now peddling the fiction that the gut-the-ESA bill he co-sponsored with Pombo was “too radical.”


When Pombo lost, Cardoza -- corrupt, scared of the Iraq War and radically anti-environmental – lost a lot of influence he had with corrupt rightwingers. However, Pombo’s Ghost and a gang of old-time Boll Weevils and bitter Republicans could be strong and mean enough to block anything good for the people or their environment in the 18th congressional district and elsewhere. If they want him to represent them, rather than the same-old special interests that want low wages and resource-destroying urban sprawl, they are going to have to fight for it. Right now, Pombo’s Ghost looks totally bought-and-sold by a few people with no interest in the people of the district or their environment, public health or safety.

Bill Hatch

Nov. 19, 2006
Stockton Record
Top Blue Dog looking to lead from the center
By Hank Shaw

SACRAMENTO - With Tracy Rep. Richard Pombo ousted, Rep. Dennis Cardoza of Merced has become the region's big dog in Congress.

Cardoza, a member of the new Democratic majority, is a leader of a conservative group of Democrats calling itself the Blue Dogs. Cardoza says he hopes the 44-member group can influence Congress from the center, much as he did as a member of the "Mod Squad" when he was an assemblyman in Sacramento.

Cardoza intends to lead the charge for California agriculture in next year's rewrite of the Farm Bill, a job left undone by the ousted Pombo. Like Pombo, Cardoza also wants to reform the Endangered Species Act, although not as radically as the Tracy Republican had wanted.

Cardoza's reach may extend beyond Pombo's by virtue of his position in the Blue Dogs, so named because they felt "choked blue" by what they saw as the dominant faction of their party's too-liberal ideology.

Newly expanded from 36 members to 44, the Blue Dogs were instrumental in getting Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, elected majority leader Thursday; Cardoza campaigned for Hoyer when Cardoza attended the University of Maryland in the early 1980s.

The group, whose focus centers on fiscal restraint in federal spending, is also expected to coordinate on budgetary matters with its Republican analog, the Tuesday Group. Combined, the two blocs represent 80 members of the 435-member House - enough to influence policy, if they stay united.

There's the rub: House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco is far more liberal than Cardoza or his colleagues, which include Rep. Ted Costa of Fresno and Ellen Tauscher of Alamo. And she has many like-minded colleagues: The Congressional Progressive Caucus has twice as many members as the Blue Dogs.

Cardoza says it will not be easy to drive policy, but then again, it was not when he and moderate Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg outmaneuvered their liberal colleagues from San Francisco and Los Angeles in Sacramento years ago.

"You have to be strong," Cardoza said. "Strong enough to stand up for what you believe in, because both sides will push you very hard. You have to be polite but immovable."

Chief among Cardoza's goals is a constitutional amendment requiring Congress to balance its budget; California and nearly every other state live under similar constraints, which forces lawmakers to live within their means.

Shorter-term moves will be to restore pay-as-you-go guidelines for federal spending, as well as rule changes making it tougher to increase the federal debt limit, insert parochial goodies into budget bills and hide votes on spending bills.

Nonfiscal goals include expanding incentives to study embryonic stem cells, a position the Blue Dogs and the Tuesday Group share with their progressive colleagues.

Personally, Cardoza wants to secure new incentives to open markets for California's "specialty crops," which in congressional parlance means everything except corn, soybeans, rice and wheat.

He may win himself a coveted spot in the Agriculture Committee as chairman of the subcommittee that oversees specialty crops. That determination is expected soon.

Cardoza also wants to craft a bill that would use federal tax receipts generated from fossil fuel production to expand renewable-energy research, such as solar, wind or biofuels. Cardoza just installed solar power at his home in Atwater.

"I'm just so committed to getting us out of the Middle East, with our dependence on foreign oil," he said. "We have to come up with alternatives."

One thing stands in Cardoza's and the Blue Dogs' path to influence: the assumption that the Democratic majority actually wants to get something done in the 110th Congress.

To do so, it must work closely with Republicans and President Bush or face filibusters in the Senate and a veto in the White House. Governing over the next two years must come from the center.

But governing is only one of the things Congress does. It also prepares itself for biannual elections, and 2008 is likely to be a humdinger. Several congressional seats won by Democrats this year are already being targeted by the GOP, including the 11th District won by Rep.-elect Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton.

And then there is the presidential election, which will be for an open seat with no heir apparent for the first time in a generation.

Claremont McKenna College political scientist Jack Pitney said he expects Congress to bog down into dysfunction rapidly. He said it is far more likely that Democrats will be happier sending legislation for Bush to veto than to accommodate him and his fellow Republicans on matters of importance.

"I am dubious that this will be a productive Congress," Pitney said. "I think there's going to be a lot of posturing."

Contact Capitol Bureau Chief Hank Shaw at (916) 441-4078 or sacto@recordnet.com.

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Cardombo the Gofer

Submitted: Nov 08, 2006

Upon receiving the terrible news of the defeat of Rep. RichPAC Pombo, not-yet-indicted-Tracy, developers were alarmed at the possible loss of the Pomboza, that giant wannabe Endangered Species Act Slayer that stalked the north San Joaquin Valley casting its dark and menacing shadow over every square foot of remaining open space and wildlife habitat.

Rumor has it the Pomboza lives on, if only in mutation.

At a recent fundraiser, Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Gofer-Merced, reportedly roasted a staffer in front of a large crowd for about a half an hour. Robin Adam, the victim, had either left Cardoza of his own accord or with an assist, to join the staff of Assemblywoman-elect Cathleen Galgiani, Blonde-Stockton. People who attended the fundraiser found the roasting distasteful in view of the fact that Adam had served Cardoza loyally since their days as lady-mudwrestling impresarios at the Cardoza family bowling alley.

This morning we may have found out why Cardoza had made room in his staff. The hush-hush inside skinny that his next chief of staff could be Pombo.

According to the unverified rumor, the developer directorate that arranged Cardoza would run essentially unopposed in this election will rename the Pomboza as they renamed Measure A of the Primary Election Measure G of the General Election.

Enter Cardombo the Gofer.

Nov. 8, 2006

Merced Sun-Star
Thanks to voters, Cardoza cruises back into Washington...Corinne Reilly
California's 18th Congressional District wasn't whether Dennis Cardoza would win, but rather by how much. By a landslide. "It's a great night for America, it's a great night for California and it's a great night for Merced," Cardoza said Tuesday night, speaking before a crowd of about 100 people at a victory party at the Branding Iron restaurant in Merced. "We have a great margin of victory and I couldn't be more pleased."... said he looks forward to serving another term in a now Democratic House, a shift that he said will mean a more fiscally responsible and productive Congress. As a popular incumbent in a Democratic leaning district who outspent his opponent by more than six times... He names his ongoing efforts to overhaul the national Farm Bill as a top local priority for his next term. 18th Congressional District includes San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera and Fresno counties.

Modesto Bee
Democrat McNerney unlikely winner over GOP Rep. Pombo...Erica Werner, AP
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Jerry McNerney was an unlikely candidate to take down a powerful GOP committee chairman. McNerney did not even have the support of Democratic Party leaders in the primary, and he lost badly two years ago to the man he soundly defeated Tuesday: House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo, R-Tracy. He beat Pombo 53 percent to 47 percent. The unconventional resume didn't matter as national environmental groups made the race a referendum on Pombo, angry over the incumbent's support for energy and gas drilling, privatizing public lands and rewriting the Endangered Species Act to add protections for landowners. The Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife and other groups spent more than $1 million to defeat Pombo and declared victory when they succeeded. After Tuesday's victory was secured, McNerney got a congratulatory call from former President Bill Clinton. His son, Michael, also spoke briefly with Clinton.

Sacramento Bee
Pombo loses his bid for eight term...Herbert A. Sample, Bee San Francisco Bureau
With nearly all of the vote counted, Democrat Jerry McNerney held a 53 percent to 47 percent lead in California's 11th Congressional District, which includes much of San Joaquin County and portions of Contra Costa, Alameda and Santa Clara counties. Though political observers rated the contest a toss-up before Election Day, a McNerney victory came as a surprise because Republican voters constitute a plurality in the 11th Congressional District. Pombo...has contended that whatever difficulties his re-election drive encountered had little to do with Iraq or Abramoff, and more to do with concerted efforts of environmental groups and other critics who targeted his race.

Challenge to habitat rejected...Denny Walsh
U.S. agency correctly designated vernal pools, judge says. The home-building industry had challenged the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's designation... U.S. District Judge William B. Shubb in Sacramento ruled that the agency's work passed muster on every point except when it did not designate as critical habitat two tracts involving ongoing public projects.

Stockton Record
McNerney topples Pombo in close House race...Hank Shaw and Zachary K. Johnson
Rep. Richard Pombo met his electoral end at The Waterloo on Tuesday night to a little-known wind energy consultant from Pleasanton. Jerry McNerney declared victory at 12:15 a.m. today, leading 52.3 percent to 47.7 percent with 90 percent of the precincts reporting, including 100 percent from San Joaquin County. For the first time in 14 years, Pombo had met an opponent able to match him ad for ad, volunteer for volunteer, issue for issue. Pombo was supposed to roll over McNerney a second time. The 11th District leans Republican; Pombo is a seven-term incumbent with a huge money advantage and an opponent considered too liberal even by the national Democratic Party. McNerney never quit. He mortgaged his house, dropped everything and set his career on hold for two years to campaign for Pombo's seat.He hired a staff skilled in running grass-roots, ground-level campaigns and tapped progressives from Manteca to Maine for more than $1 million in small checks - enough to offset Pombo's advantage with Washington, D.C.-based political action committees. And McNerney was not without friends. A slew of environmental groups, led by Defenders of Wildlife, the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters, kept up a constant attack on Pombo's environmental record for more than a year.
EDITOR'S NOTE: In the final edition of Wednesday's printed version of The Record, we made an error. We had Jerry McNerney's first name incorrect. It happened as we rushed to get the final results into the paper at about 1 a.m. While we did not catch the mistake until after the newspaper had been printed, we have corrected the story on our Web site. We apologize for the error. Mike Klocke, editor
Reader Reaction
NavyVet...November 08, 2006 11:42 AM
The election results are disappointing to me, but not necessarily surprising. Now we'll just have to wait and see if the democrats can actually put a plan in place to fix some of these problems, or if all of the political hype and rhetoric was just that. Was I the only one who found it odd that the democratic party wouldn't take any steps to make "improvements" before the election? That shows that the country and it's best iterests play second fiddle to politics and power grabs.
eyewhitie...November 08, 2006 11:34 AM
Well, richie rich pobomb, your family is going to have to find another job, unless you're allowed to funnel leftover campaign funds to them. When the Dems take the Senate, the Grand Jury will want to be talking to you soon. Your family can always go back to stealing more land in Tracy.
mike_coleman...November 08, 2006 11:30 AM
I am a life long Republican and voted for Richard Pombo many times, but not this time. Mr. Pombo forgot why we sent him there. He became more concerned with things that were important to him and his land rich family than to the people he represented. But Mr. McNerney should take note. Remember who sent you to Washington and why. Be true to the environment and to the people of this district and bring our soldiers home or suffer Mr. Pombo's fate.
chink...November 08, 2006 11:12 AM

Tracy Press
Pombo defeated...John Upton, Danielle MacMurchy, Phil Hayworth
In a night that saw Democrats sweep to power in the House of Representatives, little-known challenger Jerry McNerney unseated Tracy's Rep. Richard Pombo from his perch as one of Congress' more powerful chairmen. In a stinging defeat, voters dumped Tracy’s 14-year congressman, Rep. Richard Pombo, from power Tuesday... Robert Benedetti, University of the Pacific government and politics professor, said the campaign was fought on national issues instead of local issues. He said Pombo’s agricultural base has been eroded as more people moved from cities into the district, and said McNerney had limited involvement in local politics to tout. Pombo encouraged the formation of a coalition that’s never worked together before,” said Defenders of Wildlife President Roger Schlickeisen. “It was really Pombo that drew us into this.”

San Francisco Chronicle
Challenger defeats Pombo in a stunner...Rachel Gordon
Pombo-McNerney matchup got the most attention, due to Pombo's high-profile as chairman of the powerful House Resources Committee. The Sierra Club and other environmental groups targeted him as an "eco-thug" who once proposed selling off some national parks, led the drive to open Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, wants to let states drill for oil and gas off their coasts, and has pushed to revamp the Endangered Species Act to provide more rights for property owners. "We're thrilled," said Roger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund, which made Pombo its top target in the congressional races. "Not only was he a vote against the environment, but as committee chair he could push his agenda.''

Inside Bay Area
Pombo's defeat recharges environmental movement...Douglas Fisher
Finally the environment has a voice in Congress. Activists, emboldened by Democratic gains across the nation Tuesday, savored what Carl Pope of the Sierra Club called "the most successful mid-term election for the environmental movement" since at least 1974. And the "sweetest victory of the night" was the toppling of Republican Rep. Richard Pombo by wind-energy consultant Jerry McNerney. McNerney captured "Pombo country"...Pombo, a once-and-future rancher and real estate developer, chairman of House Resources Committee and easily Public Enemy No. 1 of Sierra Club & Co., goes home after 14 years in Congress. Pope, the Sierra Club's executive director..."This sends a clear message to those who might share (Pombo's) ideology: When it comes to elections, the environment is a giant killer." And not just in California. Environmental groups targeted more than 30 "top of the ticket" elections across the nation and came up winners in almost all cases...

Contra Costa Times
In huge upset, voters oust Pombo...Lisa Vorderbrueggen, Thomas Peele and Ryan Huff
U.S. Rep. Richard Pombo, once thought invincible in a safe GOP seat, has been turned out by voters in the Democratic storm that roared across the country Tuesday. With all the precincts tallied, Democratic challenger Jerry McNerney of Pleasanton held a solid lead of 6 percentage points and more than 10,000 votes. The race will go down in California history as a massive upset in a district... Pombo aides said they would wait until all votes had been counted. Pombo is expected to hold a press conference sometime Wednesday. But it was a bitter loss for the proud incumbent who had easily won re-election six times and rose to become the chairman of the powerful House Resources Committee, where his conservative policies made him a prime target of environmentalists.

Mercury News
Pombo defeated by challenger McNerney in House fight...Barbara Feder Ostrov
With more than 99 percent of precincts reporting at 2:30 a.m. today, seven-term Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Stockton, faced defeat by Democratic challenger Jerry McNerney..t. Political observers predicted that Pombo could be swept from office by a national tide of anti-Republican sentiment. Washington Post ranked Pombo's campaign among the 10 worst-run incumbent campaigns in the country, and the Tracy rancher faced a last-minute onslaught of campaigning by well-financed environmental groups supporting McNerney. The race looked like many across the country, with an upstart Democrat becoming a serious challenger in what previously had been considered a safe Republican district. National politicians on both sides of the aisle considered it a high-stakes battle, with former President Bill Clinton stumping for McNerney and both President Bush and first lady Laura Bush rallying the party faithful on Pombo's behalf in the campaign's final stretch. As recently as three months ago, McNerney, a left-leaning wind energy consultant, was an underdog not even supported by his own party. But more recent polls showed McNerney gaining as Pombo faced anger from voters over his stay-the-course stance on Iraq and links to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The race was an expensive one, with campaign contributions of more than $2.5 million pouring in on both sides.

Los Angeles Times
Feinstein wins 4th term, Pombo defeated...Rone Tempest and Dan Morain
In the most competitive of California's 53 congressional contests, seven-term incumbent Rep. Richard W. Pombo (R-Tracy) was defeated by Democratic challenger Jerry McNerney to represent what had been a comfortably Republican district stretching from Stockton to the Bay Area's eastern suburbs. With 99% of the votes counted, Pombo trailed his challenger by 47% to 53%. Pombo angered environmentalists last year when his committee staff proposed selling off 15 national park sites, including more than 15 million pristine acres in Alaska...also urged more offshore oil drilling, a step that incurred Feinstein's wrath...his effort to weaken the Endangered Species Act went "to the core of what we fight for," said Mark Longabaugh, political director of Defenders of Wildlife, which joined with Americans for Conservation to spend more than $1 million to oust Pombo. Texas financier David Bonderman, a business associate of Feinstein's husband, Richard Blum, gave at least $375,000 to the groups. Getty heiress Anne Earhart of Corona del Mar gave $100,000, and Julie Packard of Soquel, Calif., gave $50,000. Pombo and his supporters gathered Tuesday night at the Waterloo restaurant outside Stockton and acknowledged that the race was tight. "I wouldn't change a thing," he said, referring to his political stands. He also took a swipe at Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), probably the next speaker of the House, saying: "I hope she does a better job as speaker than she did as minority leader." According to pollster Ben Tulchin of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research...Pombo's stands on the environment were to the right of most voters in his district, one that has become less conservative as the suburban population has grown east of the Oakland hills in Pleasanton, Danville and Livermore. "The reality is that Pombo gave all the environmental groups a lot of things to work with," said Tulchin, retained by Defenders of Wildlife to survey the district.

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5:15 p.m. Election Day -- What it is about

Submitted: Nov 07, 2006

Informed Comment
by Juan Cole

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Is Bush Unhinged?
Calling Hannah Arendt

Journalist Bill Gallagher of Detroit's Channel 2 News joins Andrew Sullivan in asking the increasingly unavoidable question: Is George W. Bush Criminally Insane? Gallagher writes:

' Bush's fantasies are even disturbing his fans. In a sit-down with wire-service reporters, Bush assured them that Rumsfeld, the most incompetent man on earth, would keep his job for two more years. Maybe in the last days of the Republican-dominated Congress, Bush can get him declared Defense Secretary for Life, sort of an American Raul Castro.

Gushing over Rummy and Dick Cheney, the two principal thugs who lied to get us into Iraq and designed the disaster, Bush claimed they "are doing a fantastic job and I strongly support them."

The remark prompted conservative columnist Andrew Sullivan to raise the question of Bush's mental fitness. Sullivan told CNN Bush is so delusional, "this is not an election anymore, it's an intervention."

Sullivan, long a cheerleader for the war in Iraq, said Bush is "so in denial" he simply can't come to grips with his failure: "It's unhinged. It suggests this man has lost his mind. No one objectively could look at the way this war has been conducted, whether you were for it, as I was, or against it, and say that is has been done well. It's a disaster."

Sullivan added, "For him to say it's a fantastic job suggests the president has lost it. I'm sorry, there is no other way to say it."

The president's nanny corps -- his mother, his wife, State Department hands Condoleezza Rice and Karen Hughes -- know he's unhinged, but are too loyal to share that disturbing truth with the world. Republican House Majority Leader John Boehner tried to shift responsibility for the Iraq disaster away from Rumsfeld. Boehner quickly filled the disgraced Tom DeLay's shoes as the most loathsome member of Congress.

Boehner told CNN, "Let's not blame what's happening in Iraq on Rumsfeld. But the fact is, the generals on the ground are in charge, and he works closely with them and the president." '

My own answer: Bush is not insane, he is just not very good at putting policy into effect. That is, he is a mediocre leader who has to cover up his horrible mistakes with optimistic slogans because his lack of leadership skills leaves him with no practical alternative. Give me an example of any positive and successful accomplishment of his presidency, unmarred by substantial failures. Afghanistan? Israel-Palestine? Lebanon? Iraq? Al-Qaeda? Domestically, he has, by cutting taxes on billionaires, run up the national debt by trillions, and boasts in that insane yet just mediocre way of his that the deficit is "coming down." He put the expense of the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars off-budget, and somehow the business page journalists haven't managed to notice that the deficit is not actually less than $300 billion if you count the wars. Nor is adding even $290 billion a year to the national debt a positive accomplishment. We pay interest on that debt, folks.

posted by Juan @ 11/07/2006 06:34:00 AM

If, as is widely prophesized, the Democrats take control at least of the House of Representatives, even without a policy on the war, out of sheer partisan vindictiveness, they will remove odious Republican committee chairmen like Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Crook-CA, and James Sensenbrenner, Numbnut Knucklehead-WI, reduce the power of lunatics like Rep. Tom Tancredo, Racist-CO, and put congressmen like Rep. Dennis Cardoza -- "I never heard of Pombo," Merced, in their appropriate political broom closets. They will also replace Rep. Dennis Hastert, Graft-IL as speaker.

In the nation we live in, these are positive gains. While they will not in themselves restore democracy, they are a step toward restoring a republic.

Meanwhile, of course, the debate on the sanity of the president will rage on, begging the question of trying to establish dynastic succession in the American system of government.

Bill Hatch

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Federal court orders delay in certification of local elections in Merced County

Submitted: Nov 05, 2006

A federal district court has ordered Merced County and four cities not to certify all local elections held on Nov. 7 until a motion for preliminary injunction arguing violations of the Voting Rights Act is heard on Nov. 21. One election that won't be affected is for the 18th Congressional District. Rep. Dennis Cardoza, whose offices are on the third floor of the Merced County Administrative Building, fount of the "alleged" violations of the act.

Under the temporary restraining order written by Judge Oliver Wanger on Friday, one county-wide measure, Measure G, cannot be certified until the next hearing on the voting rights violations. The list of discrepancies and potential irregularities in this measure is growing by the day.

Local government is in a bad way when the most burning public issue is whether officials are corrupt or incompetent.

Bill Hatch

Nov. 4, 2006
Merced Sun-StarVoting lawsuit may delay local results...John Ellis, Fresno Bee
FRESNO -- Certification of Tuesday's elections in four Merced County cities could be delayed by a lawsuit that claims the cities violated the Voting Rights Act by annexing land without federal government approval. In a worst-case scenario for Atwater, Gustine, Livingston and Los Banos, mayors and council members elected Tuesday could be delayed from taking office until the matter is resolved. During a hearing Friday before U.S. District Judge Oliver W. Wanger in Fresno, the cities agreed not to certify their elections until the Justice Department grants the approvals. "That was a major accomplishment," said Joaquin Avila, an attorney and Seattle University law professor who filed the suit on behalf of Los Banos residents Felix Lopez and Elizabeth Ruiz. If that doesn't happen by Nov. 21, a three-judge panel that day will hear a request by the two plaintiffs for an injunction that, if granted, would prohibit the elections from being certified until the Justice Department approves the annexations. If the case does move forward past Nov. 21, the four cities previewed their defense Friday. That defense: They are not subject to the Voting Rights Act.

FELIX M. LOPEZ and ELIZABETH RUIZ, individually and on behalf of those similarly situated,
1:06-cv-1526 OWW DLB

Plaintiffs, Felix M. Lopez’s and Elizabeth Ruiz’s Motion for Temporary Restraining Order came on for hearing on November 3, 2006, in Courtroom 3 of the above-captioned Court, Oliver W. Wanger, United States District Judge, presiding. Plaintiffs were represented by their counsel Joaquin G. Avila, Esq. and Brian Sutherland, Esq. Merced County was represented by its attorneys James N. Fincher, Esq., County Counsel Designee and Nielsen, Merksamer, Parrinello, Mueller & Naylor LLP by Christopher E.
Skinnell, Esq. and Marguerite Mary Leoni, Esq. The Local Area Formation Commission of Merced County (“LAFCO”) was represented by its counsel Best, Best & Krieger by Gene Tanaka, Esq.
Defendant City of Atwater was represented by its attorneys Allen, Proietti & Fagalde LLP by Salvador V. Navarrete, Esq. The City of Dos Palos did not appear. Winton Water and Sanitary District appeared by its attorney Craig Mortensen, Esq. The City of Gustine appeared by its attorneys Berliner Cohen by Thomas E. Ebersole, Esq. The City of Livingston appeared by Burke, Williamson & Sorensen LLP by Sarah Peters Gorman, Esq. The City of Los Banos appeared by its attorney Abbott & Kindermann LLP, by Joel Ellinwood, Esq. There was no appearance for the following Defendant Districts: Ballico Community Services District,
California; Central California Irrigation District, California; Delhi County Water District, California; City of Dos Palos, California; East Merced Resource Conservation District, California; Franklin County Water District, California; Hilmar County Water District, California; Le Grand Community Service District, California; Los Banos Resource Conservation District,California; Merquin County Water District, California; Midway Community Services District, California; Planada Community Services District, California; Santa Nella County Water District, California; Snelling Community Services District, California; South Dos Palos County Water District, California; Turlock Irrigation District, California; and Volta Community Services District, California.

After considering the Motion for Temporary Restraining Order, supporting declarations and legal authorities and the opposition legal authorities, declarations and oral arguments of all counsel, the following order is entered with the agreement of the parties.

Certification Of Election Results
The County of Merced, City of Atwater, City of Gustine, City of Livingston, and City of Los Banos agree not to certify the results of County or City elections before the hearing of and decision on Plaintiffs’ Motion for Preliminary Injunction. If the City of Dos Palos is holding elections it shall not certify the result of its City elections before said hearing.


1. All City Defendants may certify the results of the
November 7, 2006, state-wide and federal elections, but not local elections. The County agrees not to certify any election results before hearing of and decision on the Preliminary Injunction.

2. Plaintiffs agree that if any Defendant receives
allegedly required DOJ pre-clearance or approval of all boundary change actions or other voting changes that are the subject of Plaintiffs’ Complaint prior to date of the hearing of the Preliminary Injunction, as to that Defendant, the Motion for Injunctive Relief is withdrawn and that Defendant shall be free to certify all its election results.

3. As to the non-County and non-City District Defendants
and LAFCO, no present injunctive relief is required as none of those Defendant Districts are holding elections November 7, 2006.

Order To Show Cause Re Preliminary Injunction

All Defendants, and those acting for, under or in concert
with them, shall show cause, if any they have, why they should not be enjoined from finalizing or certifying the November 7,2006, election results until there is full compliance with Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. 42 U.S.C. § 1973c.

The following schedule shall govern further briefing and hearing on the Order to Show Cause Re Preliminary Injunction:

a. Plaintiffs’ supplemental authorities and/or other
submissions shall be filed by midnight, November 8, 2006;

b. All Defendants’ oppositions to Plaintiffs’ motion for
Preliminary Injunction shall be filed by midnight, November 17,2006;

c. The hearing on Plaintiffs’ Motion for Preliminary
Injunction shall be held November 21, 2006, at 1:00 p.m. in
Courtroom 3, Seventh Floor of the above-captioned Court at 2500 Tulare Street, Fresno, California, before United States Circuit Judge Jay S. Bybee, United States District Judge Oliver W. Wanger, and United States District Judge Anthony W. Ishii, sitting as a three-judge district court pursuant to 28 U.S.C.

§ 2284.
No Testimony To Be Presented
After inquiry of each appearing party, no party intends to
present testimony at the OSC hearing.
DATED: November 3, 2006, at Fresno, California.
/s/ Oliver W. Wanger

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Comments on Measure G

Submitted: Nov 04, 2006

Members of the public concerned that Merced County and Merced County Association of Governments immediately recycled Measure A as Measure G after the Primary Election defeat of Measure A, tried repeated times, via California Public Records Act requests, to obtain accurate, complete information about Measure G. Errors and inconsistencies appeared in both the County sample ballot and Measure G Voter Information Pamphlet.

Without the opportunity to view the documents before they were published, the public was unable to spot the errors and advise the County of them. Although officials made themselves available, they did not make most of the requested material available, critics of Measure G said Saturday.

The Measure G Voter Information Pamphlet, for example, calls the measure a "1/2-cent" tax on one page and a "1/2-percent" tax on another. Which is it: a half-cent sales tax per transaction or a half-percent per dollar sales tax on all transactions? local activists asked.

This is misleading "information." If it was not deliberately misleading, the public might have provided a helpful review of this propaganda-as-information before it was sent to every registered voter in the county between Oct. 10 and Oct. 16.

The publicly funded Measure G "information" pamphlet, printed to look exactly like a sample ballot pamphlet, also informs the public that the tax will start on "Oct. 1, 2006." If Merced County retailers, going into the Christmas season, had been allowed to review this document, they would probably have objected to this retroactive, probably illegal tax, critics of Measure G noted.

Members of the public also expressed concern about the accounting of campaign
contributions for measures A and G, which appear to commingle funds from both campaigns. Measure A failed in the Primary. Measure G is a different campaign by a different name in the General Election. Yet, local researchers found, the County recorded contributions to both campaigns as one campaign fund. This may be yet another irregularity in Merced County elections administration.

Another irregularity critics point out is that MCAG or the County or both of them have appointed a citizens oversight committee to monitor the spending of Measure G funds before the citizens have even voted on Measure G, which may or may not be the same as Measure A, but no one is quite sure because neither the County or MCAG have released the actual text of Measure G to the public for review. By the way, neither proponents nor opponents of Measure G, whose comments are printed in the sample ballot, were allowed to see the official text of Measure G, on which they commented.

The public is also concerned about the accounting of campaign contributions for
measures A and G. These funds appear to be commingled. It is understandable that if a candidate wins a primary election or gets enough votes to gain a runoff, campaign finance accounting could roll over the amounts into the general election period.

However, critics are concerned that, since Measure A was defeated in the primary election, accounting that presents cumulative contribution amounts in Measure G accounts that include Measure A contributions is irregular.

Critics of the county planning process are also concerned about a transportation plan promoted by the Merced County Association of Governments that is separate and unrelated to the proposed update to the county General Plan and numerous city and community plan updates now in progress. It looks like whenever lawful planning processes threaten, developers in Merced just pile on another layer of plans and more taxes on the people.

On Friday, the federal court ruled to bar certification of the elections in four Merced cities due to violations of the Voting Rights Act. County elections irregularities appear to be multiplying. Meanwhile, Rep. Dennis Cardoza sits on the third floor of the Merced County Administration building, presumably mulling his economic options as the County administration crumbles beneath his feet, noted one critic of government in Merced County.

Critics of Measure G speculated that the campaign for Measure G might achieve $1 million in campaign funding. However, the public will not know until the last campaign finance period is reported, well after the General Election.

Measure G remains a regressive tax: an increase on sales tax that will fall hardest on the poorest for the benefit of the richest.

Bill Hatch

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Federal judge rejects developers' efforts to negate vernal pool species' protection

Submitted: Nov 03, 2006

Butte Environmental Council * California Native Plant Society Defenders of Wildlife * San Joaquin Raptor and Wildlife Rescue Center

For Immediate Release
November 3, 2006
Kim Delfino, Defenders of Wildlife, (916) 201-8277
Barbara Vlamis, Butte Environmental Council, (530) 891-6424
Carol Witham, Calif. Native Plant Society, (916) 452-5440

Court Invalidates U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Exclusion of Nearly 900,000 Acres of Vernal Pool Critical Habitat

Developers Efforts to Strip Protections Rejected

Sacramento, CA -- Yesterday, Federal District Court Judge William B. Shubb issued a major ruling overturning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) decision to omit 900,000 acres in 11 counties from its 2005 final rule designating critical habitat for 15 imperiled vernal pool plants and animals. Vernal pools are seasonal wetlands found throughout California. Judge Shubb also rejected industry’s attempt to overturn the protections for more than 800,000 acres that FWS did protect as critical habitat.

The court agreed with the six conservation organizations involved in the case that FWS failed to look at whether its decision to eliminate critical habitat protections for vernal pool grasslands in Butte, Fresno, Madera, Merced, Monterey, Placer, Sacramento, Shasta, Solano, Stanislaus, and Tehama counties affected the future recovery of the vernal pool species.

In sending FWS back to the drawing board, Judge Shubb accepted the central argument of the conservation organizations that in excluding vernal pool critical habitat within 11 California counties, FWS continued its long history of failing to consider the essential importance of such designation to the ultimate recovery of the vernal pool species. With more than 90 percent of California’s vernal pool wetlands already destroyed, meaningful habitat protection is essential to ensuring that the species not only avoid extinction, but recover to the point where they can be taken off the endangered species list. FWS has 120 days to issue a new critical habitat rule.

“This is a big victory in the longstanding effort to protect and recover vernal pool grasslands,” stated Kim Delfino, California program director of Defenders of Wildlife. “This decision makes it clear that Fish and Wildlife Service cannot ignore the recovery needs of species when designating critical habitat.”

The court also rejected almost every single argument by the building industry’s challenge to FWS’s decision to designate more than 858,846 acres of vernal pool grasslands as critical habitat. Ironically, the court did agree with the builders that FWS failed to explain adequately why it excluded UC Merced and a Highway 99 project in Tehama County from critical habitat—both of which were 11th hour exclusions directed by Department of Interior political appointee, Julie Macdonald. Macdonald—a civil engineer by training—was recently the subject of a major expose in the Washington Post for her consistent rejection of staff scientists’ recommendations to protect imperiled wildlife. Macdonald has a history of improper meddling in vernal pool issues, and a previous critical habitat rule had to be redone after she inserted economic analysis that vastly exaggerated the potential costs of designation.

“We are elated that the court rejected the challenge to FWS’s decision to designate more than 800,000 acres of vernal pool grasslands as critical habitat,” stated Barbara Vlamis, executive director of the Butte Environmental Council. “At least for those grasslands, the developers will have to ensure that their projects will not undermine the future recovery of these 15 imperiled plants and animals.”

This recent decision is only the latest in a decade long effort to protect vernal pool grasslands under the Endangered Species Act. In August 2003, the Bush Administration issued a final critical habitat rule for vernal pools in which it excluded more than one million acres and six counties on economic grounds. In January 2004, the conservation groups successfully challenging the 2003 rule resulting in the court ordering FWS to reconsider its exclusions. In August 2005, FWS issued its new final rule excluding nearly 900,000 acres of grasslands. In December 2005, the conservation organizations filed suit challenging FWS’s exclusion of the five counties.

“As vernal pool grasslands are ripped up, they are replaced by sprawl,” stated Carol Witham of the California Native Plant Society. “Designating vernal pool grasslands as critical habitat will not stop sprawl, but it will make developers and local governments think hard about how their land use decisions impact the future recovery of these unique 15 imperiled plants and animals.”

The court ordered FWS to reconsider its decision to exclude the nearly 900,000 acres and eleven counties and issue a new critical habitat rule in 120 days. The current critical habitat designation of more than 800,000 acres of vernal pool grasslands remains intact.

“Now that FWS must consider the benefits to the recovery of the 15 vernal pool plants and animals from designating critical habitat, we believe that the Fish and Wildlife Service will no longer be able to justify its decision to exclude half the vernal pool critical habitat acreage,” stated Lydia Miller of the San Joaquin Raptor and Wildlife Rescue Center.

Protein-rich invertebrates and crustaceans, as well as the roots and leaves of vernal pool plants provide an important seasonal food source for waterfowl as well as other non-migratory bird species. According to the California Academy of Sciences, Pacific Flyway migratory birds and 19 percent of all wintering waterfowl in the continental United States take respite in vernal pools.

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Biofuels: a critical perspective

Submitted: Nov 02, 2006

Most people have some trouble developing a critical point of view on an issue without a little help from critics. As it stands in the southern tier of the Pomboza (that part of the district controlled by Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Polar Bear/Shrimp Slayer-Merced) biofuel is the hottest technology since the six-foot, deep-ripping chisel, built to tear up seasonal grasslands for temporary orchards and vineyards that will become subdivisions. And we won’t get no help from the newspaper.

Now, Merced dairymen working out their Midwest corn budgets for next year, will complain to each other and their bankers about a price hike, which they are told is the result of competition with biofuel. But farmers are price takers. They are used to it and accept it and don’t try to think about it too much, particularly when milk prices are down below breakeven.

The article below is a good rundown on criticisms of the latest “ecological” fad, biofuels, and should help restore our sane view that Cardoza is the same-old, same-old, ignorant hustler he always has been despite his latest reinvention of himself as a post-Pombo environmentalist with solar panels on his roof.

Bill Hatch

Running on Hype
The Real Scoop on Biofuels
Counterpunch.com – Nov. 1, 2006

You can hardly open up a major newspaper or national magazine these days without encountering the latest hype about biofuels, and how they're going to save oil, reduce pollution and prevent climate change. Bill Gates, Sun Microsystems' Vinod Khosla, and other major venture capitalists are investing millions in new biofuel production, whether in the form of ethanol, mainly derived from corn in the US today, or biodiesel, mainly from soybeans and canola seed. It's literally a "modern day gold rush," as described by the New York Times, paraphrasing the chief executive of Cargill, one of the main benefactors of increased subsidies to agribusiness and tax credits to refiners for the purpose of encouraging biofuel production.

The Times reported earlier this year that some 40 new ethanol plants are currently under construction in the US, aiming toward a 30 percent increase in domestic production. Archer Daniels Midland, the company that first sold the idea of corn-derived ethanol as an auto fuel to Congress in the late 1970s, has doubled its stock price and profits over the last two years. ADM currently controls a quarter of US ethanol fuel production, and recently hired a former Chevron executive as its CEO.

Several well-respected analysts have raised serious concerns about this rapid diversion of food crops toward the production of fuel for automobiles. WorldWatch Institute founder Lester Brown, long concerned about the sustainability of world food supplies, says that fuel producers are already competing with food processors in the world's grain markets. "Cars, not people, will claim most of the increase in grain production this year," reports Brown, a serious concern in a world where the grain required to make enough ethanol to fill an SUV tank is enough to feed a person for a whole year. Others have dismissed the ethanol gold rush as nothing more than the subsidized burning of food to run automobiles.

The biofuel rush is having a significant impact worldwide as well. Brazil, often touted as the the most impressive biofuel success story, is using half its annual sugarcane crop to provide 40 percent of its auto fuel, while increasing deforestation to grow more sugarcane and soybeans. Malaysian and Indonesian rainforests are being bulldozed for oil palm plantations-threatening endangered orangutans, rhinos, tigers and countless other species-in order to serve at the booming European market for biodiesel.

Are these reasonable tradeoffs for a troubled planet, or merely another corporate push for profits? Two new studies, both released this past summer, aim to document the full consequences of the new biofuel economy and realistically assess its impact on fuel use, greenhouse gases and agricultural lands. One study, originating from the University of Minnesota, is moderately hopeful in the first two areas, but offers a strong caution about land use. The other, from Cornell University and UC Berkeley, concludes that every domestic biofuel source ­ the ones currently in use as well as those under development ­ produces less energy than is consumed in growing and processing the crops.

The Minnesota researchers attempted a full lifecycle analysis of the production of ethanol from corn and biodiesel from soy. They documented the energy costs of fuel production, pesticide use, transportation, and other key factors, and also accounted for the energy equivalent of soy and corn byproducts that remain for other uses after the fuel is extracted. Their paper, published in the July 25th edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, concluded that ethanol production offers a modest net energy gain of 25%, resulting in 12% less greenhouse gases than an equivalent amount of gasoline. The numbers for biodiesel are more promising, with a 93% net energy gain and a 41% reduction in greenhouse gases.

The researchers cautioned, however, that these figures do not account for the significant environmental damage from increased acreages of these crops, including the impacts of pesticides, nitrate runoff into water supplies, nor the increased demand on water, as "energy crops" like corn and soy begin to displace more drought tolerant crops such as wheat in several Midwestern states.

The most serious impact, though, is on land use. The Minnesota paper reports that in 2005, 14% of the US corn harvest was used to produce some 6 million gallons of ethanol, equivalent to 1.7% of current gasoline usage. About 1 1/2 percent of the soy harvest produced 120 million gallons of biodiesel, equivalent to less than one tenth of one percent of gas usage. This means that if all of the country's corn harvest was used to make ethanol, it would displace 12% of our gas; all of our soybeans would displace about 6% of the gas. But if the energy used in producing these biofuels is taken into account ­ the fact that 80% of the energy goes into production in the case of corn ethanol, and almost 50% in the case of soy biodiesel, the entire soy and corn crops combined would only satisfy 5.3% of current fuel needs. This is where the serious strain on food supplies and prices originates.

The Cornell study is even more skeptical. Released in July, it was the product of an ongoing collaboration between Cornell agriculturalist David Pimentel, environmental engineer Ted Patzek, and their colleagues at the University of California at Berkeley, and was published in the journal Natural Resources Research. This study found that, in balance, making ethanol from corn requires 29% more fossil fuel than the net energy produced and biodisel from soy results in a net energy loss of 27%. Other crops, touted as solutions to the apparent diseconomy of current methods, offer even worse results.

Switchgrass, for example, can grow on marginal land and presumably won't compete with food production (you may recall George Bush's mumbling about switchgrass in his 2006 State of the Union speech), but it requires 45% more energy to harvest and process than the energy value of the fuel that is produced. Wood biomass requires 57% more energy than it produces, and sunflowers require more than twice as much energy than is available in the fuel that is produced. "There is just no energy benefit to using plant biomass for liquid fuel," said David Pimentel in a Cornell press statement this past July. "These strategies are not sustainable." In a recent article, Harvard environmental scientist Michael McElroy concurred: "[U]nfortunately the promised benefits [of ethanol] prove upon analysis to be largely ephemeral."

Even Brazilian sugarcane, touted as the world's model for conversion from fossil fuels to sustainable "green energy," has its downside. The energy yield appears beyond question: it is claimed that ethanol from sugarcane may produce as much as 8 times as much energy as it takes to grow and process. But a recent World Wildlife Fund report for the International Energy Agency raises serious questions about this approach to future energy independence. It turns out that 80% of Brazil's greenhouse gas emissions come not from cars, but from deforestation-the loss of embedded carbon dioxide when forests are cut down and burned. A hectare of land may save 13 tons of carbon dioxide if it is used to grow sugarcane, but the same hectare can absorb 20 tons of CO2 if it remains forested. If sugarcane and soy plantations continue to encourage deforestation, both in the Amazon and in Brazil's Atlantic coastal forests, any climate advantage is more than outweighed by the loss of the forest.

Genetic engineering, which has utterly failed to produce healthier or more sustainable food-and also failed to create a reliable source of biopharmaceuticals without threatening the safety of our food supply-is now being touted as the answer to sustainable biofuel production. Biofuels were all the buzz at the biotech industry's most recent biotech mega-convention (April 2006), and biotech companies are all competing to cash in on the biofuel bonanza. Syngenta (the world's largest herbicide manufacturer and number three, after Monsanto and DuPont, in seeds) is developing a GE corn variety that contains one of the enzymes needed to convert corn starch into sugar before it can be fermented into ethanol. Companies are vying to increase total starch content, reduce lignin (necessary for the structural integrity of plants but a nuisance for chemical processors), and increase crop yields. Others are proposing huge plantations of fast-growing genetically engineered low-lignin trees to temporarily sequester carbon and ultimately be harvested for ethanol.

However, the utility of incorporating the amylase enzyme into crops is questionable (it's also a potential allergen), gains in starch production are marginal, and the use of genetic engineering to increase crop yields has never proved reliable. Other, more complex traits, such as drought and salt tolerance (to grow energy crops on land unsuited to food production), have been aggressively pursued by geneticists for more than twenty years with scarcely a glimmer of success. Genetically engineered trees, with their long life-cycle, as well as seeds and pollen capable of spreading hundreds of miles in the wild, are potentially a far greater environmental threat than engineered varieties of annual crops. Even Monsanto, always the most aggressive promoter of genetic engineering, has opted to rely on conventional plant breeding for its biofuel research, according to the New York Times. Like "feeding the world" and biopharmaceutical production before it, genetic engineering for biofuels mainly benefits the biotech industry's public relations image.

Biofuels may still prove advantageous in some local applications, such as farmers using crop wastes to fuel their farms, and running cars from waste oil that is otherwise thrown away by restaurants. But as a solution to long-term energy needs on a national or international scale, the costs appear to far outweigh the benefits. The solution lies in technologies and lifestyle changes that can significantly reduce energy use and consumption, something energy analysts like Amory Lovins have been advocating for some thirty years. From the 1970s through the '90s, the US economy significantly decreased its energy intensity, steadily lowering the amount of energy required to produce a typical dollar of GDP. Other industrial countries have gone far beyond us in this respect. But no one has figured out how to make a fortune on conservation and efficiency. The latest biofuel hype once again affirms that the needs of the planet, and of a genuinely sustainable society, are in fundamental conflict with the demands of wealth and profit.

Brian Tokar directs the Biotechnology Project at Vermont's Institute for Social Ecology (social-ecology.org), and has edited two books on the science and politics of genetic engineering, Redesigning Life? (Zed Books, 2001) and Gene Traders: Biotechnology, World Trade and the Globalization of Hunger (Toward Freedom, 2004).

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