Bird keeps his watch

Political activist continues his mission to oust politician

Don Bird, dressed here as a Founding Father, has kept on eye on state Sen. Jim Nielsen for the past four years, despite a temporary restraining order.

Don Bird, dressed here as a Founding Father, has kept on eye on state Sen. Jim Nielsen for the past four years, despite a temporary restraining order.

file photo by tom gascoyne

Last May, North State political activist Don Bird gave Assemblyman Dan Logue (R-Marysville) a letter requesting he introduce a bill that would require those running for elected office to prove they have lived in the district they seek to represent for “one full year.”

This was hardly anything new on Bird’s part—he began a mission four years ago to go after state Sen. Jim Nielsen, whom Bird accuses of living outside the district that Nielsen represents. The Republican senator says he and his family live in a double-wide mobile home in the Tehama County town of Gerber. Bird says Nielsen lives in a gated community in Woodland, which is about 15 miles northwest of Sacramento.

Three years ago, Nielsen took out a temporary restraining order on Bird over his repeated threats to make a citizen’s arrest on the senator. That restraining order expires in September.

Now Bird’s efforts to expose Nielsen have been revitalized with the conviction in January of state Sen. Roderick Wright in Los Angeles County on eight counts of perjury and voter fraud. The L.A. County District Attorney’s Office said Wright claimed on his candidacy filings that he lived in an apartment in Inglewood, when in fact he lived in a large house in Baldwin Hills, outside the district. Wright’s on a leave of absence while awaiting sentencing, which could include jail time.

For his part, Bird, who is 79 and lives in the town of Rancho Tehama, said Logue initially showed interest in pursuing the bill that he suggested, but in the end failed to introduce it. “I had everything there they wanted, but it turns out Logue didn’t want this to go before any committee,” Bird said. “They seem to like all the confusion about this residence issue.”

Bird said that he and his sister went to Logue’s office last May and talked with the assemblyman about the proposed bill.

“He gave us a verbal promise and a handshake that he would introduce it as long as I had it in there early,” Bird said. “I didn’t really expect it to go all the way to the governor. All I wanted him to do was attempt to put this on the legislative treadmill and get it moving.”

Logue legislative aide Vance Jarrard confirmed that Bird had approached Logue about a bill.

“We looked into it and gave it a lot of consideration,” Jarrard said, “but at the end of the day we just decided that we had other priorities we were working on, and we just weren’t going to have the time or ability to move this forward.”

Jarrard said Logue, who is termed out of office at the end of this year, has been more focused on matters of jobs and water. He said he’s not sure about the assemblyman’s concerns over an office-holder’s residency.

“I can’t say for certain he and I have ever spoken directly about that, but like I said, he did give the bill some consideration,” Jarrard said. “He did not move it forward because it was a bad subject matter or anything like that. It just wasn’t fitting into the priorities we were focusing on.”

Bird said he was at the state Capitol when Sen. Wright’s conviction made the news. In fact, he was featured in a Sacramento Bee story that mentioned his crusade against Nielsen.

“Bird has taken his complaints to the state Attorney General’s Office, the Secretary of State’s Office and a Tehama County grand jury, none of which has found any wrongdoing on Nielsen’s part,” the story said.

Nielsen, who could not be reached for comment by press time, told The Bee that he lives in Woodland while working in the Capitol, but “spends plenty of nights in Gerber, he said, taking care of his cats, tending his property or participating in events in the north end of the state.”

Bird said he talked with the FBI about Nielsen while he was in Sacramento. At the time, the FBI was looking into a case involving state Sen. Ron Calderon (D-Montebello) in which he is accused of accepting thousands of dollars in bribes.

“Even though I filed a complaint back in 2009, they are going to look seriously into the case now,” he said. “Mr. Nielsen is going to have a few people looking over his shoulders, I guarantee you that.

“Maybe someday I’ll get a phone call from the FBI and hear they’re going after Mr. Nielsen like they did Mr. Calderon. That is my hope. I’ve got a case of Southern Comfort sitting here in my cupboard just waiting for that day.”