All bark, no Quack

Where’s Chuck?: When Chuck Quackenbush was exposed two years ago for using his insurance commissioner post to subvert effective regulation of the insurance companies that financed his campaigns—and to feather his political nest in the process—Bites and many observers thought he was headed for prison.

At the very least, we figured that his political career was over. Or to use an old cliché: that he’d be lucky to be elected dogcatcher again.

Well, Chuckie Baby has defied the pundits. Not only has he managed to avoid both the slammer and any criminal punishment whatsoever, but the word from his new home in Oahu, Hawaii, is that he has, indeed, been elected dogcatcher.

OK, maybe not dogcatcher, and he wasn’t exactly elected, but Quackenbush has begun a dogged political comeback of sorts. Bites’ minions have discovered that Quackenbush has been working for Hawaii Assemblyman David Pendleton on reforming that state’s restrictive dog quarantine laws.

Sure, it’s unpaid volunteer work, but any grunt at our Capitol will tell you that’s how you work your way into positions of power. And Pendleton has nothing but praise for Quackenbush’s dogcatching efforts, telling my minion that our ol’ boy is “certainly overqualified for the position.”

Mass attack: Critical Mass is confrontational by design. On the first Friday of every month for the past year, dozens of bicyclists have been gathering to ride through Sacramento’s central city, forming a mass that clogs the street and slows traffic.

The idea is to send a message that cars are bad and cities should facilitate cleaner forms of transportation. On one level, it’s just a bike ride with lots of bikes that are as legally entitled to use the lanes as cars. But this is really about civil disobedience, intentionally irritating drivers and the powers-that-be for a political purpose.

Unfortunately, last Friday, one woman reacted with a bit of vigilante road rage. Tired of following the mass of bikes down Broadway, she veered into oncoming traffic, then drove over the raised concrete island into the mass of bikes, running over Tyrone Slothrup’s foot, then hitting Josh Nichol on his bike, stopping for a moment, then driving away over the top of Nichol’s bike, crushing it, all the while arguing with the bicyclists as a young girl sat in the passenger’s seat.

If you don’t believe the several cyclists who conveyed this unlikely tale to Bites, then maybe you’ll believe your own eyes. That’s right, the whole thing was videotaped. Just check out

The cyclists say police officers ignored their reports of the hit-and-run, and a Sacramento Police spokesman hadn’t returned calls by press time. Neither is surprising, because the cops have shown a disdain for both Bites and Critical Mass. Dissent is never easy.

Test time: Sacramento Assemblyman Darrell Steinberg has only been chairman of the important Appropriations Committee for about a month. But he’s already facing some defining choices.

Sometime this month, Steinberg’s committee will vote on AB 2160. The controversial measure allows textbook decisions to be part of teachers’ collective bargaining process.

The bill narrowly passed the Assembly Education Committee last month after Governor Gray Davis declared his opposition to the measure—in the process defying the powerful California Teachers Association (CTA), which has given big bucks to Davis, Steinberg and other Democrats.

Democratic sources in the Capitol say that Steinberg isn’t likely to support the measure, in part because of intensive lobbying by Jim Sweeney, superintendent of Sacramento Unified School District. Sweeney last month in the Los Angeles Times called it “the most dangerous piece of legislation I’ve ever seen.”

And if Steinberg kills the bill, he’ll be doing a big favor for Davis, who Steinberg hopes will sign his main bill for the session, AB 680, which would regionalize some of the Sacramento area’s sales tax revenue. The two men have become a little closer recently, as evidenced by Steinberg’s reading of the Torah at a Davis prayer breakfast last month.

Maybe the CTA ought to be saying a few prayers, too, because at this point, it looks like divine intervention is the only way AB 2160 will become law.