Bye, bye Brian

We hardly knew ye: Bites would like to give a muss of the hair and a soft chuck under the chin to Brian Kettenring, head organizer for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now in Sacramento. In the three years since Brian arrived, ACORN has grown from having no members to having more than 1,600 members in a half-dozen chapters around the city and has proven to be a powerful tool for regular folks who want to change their community. Along the way, the group has chalked up a number of victories, including heading off the infamous Kawamoto evictions in Citrus Heights and winning passage of two strong renters’-rights bills in the state Legislature. ACORN was also instrumental in the campaign for the regional tax-sharing law AB 680 and in crafting a “living wage” proposal that will go before the Sacramento City Council on January 9. For all his hard work, Brian has been promoted to head up the state ACORN office in Florida, if you can call being exiled to Jeb Bush country a promotion.

But when Bites called to ask about the move, Brian hemmed and hawed and generally tried to get out of talking about his accomplishments here. “It’s not about me,” he said. He even tried to throw Bites off track by ending the interview and insisting that we talk to some ACORN members about the group’s success. That backfired, though; Chris Jones, chairman of the group’s Oak Park chapter, couldn’t resist showing some love.

“I feel really lucky to have worked with the No. 1 organizer in the whole country. He deserves all the praise he can get,” Jones said.

Boxer briefs: Senator Barbara Boxer blew through town last week, stopping briefly at UC Davis Medical Center for a press conference with state Senator Deborah Ortiz. In lieu of revealing some kind of earth-shattering announcement to the news hounds and bigwig docs crammed in the room, the two mainly congratulated one another for promoting stem-cell research. The diminutive Boxer took to her soapbox—actually, a small wooden box she uses for a little extra height behind the podium—to bash President George Bush and congressional Republicans for their opposition. She even called the president “an extremist” on the issue. As stem-cell research fans know, California now allows use of cells from any source, thanks to an Ortiz bill that became law last year, which paved the way for Stanford University’s recent entry into the stem-cell game.

Boxer, however, is going nuts in Washington, where Republicans who call the shots have allowed only a trickle of cash for research on existing cell lines. Accordingly, Boxer said, her real dream is to—ahem—replicate the Ortiz bill at the federal level. Though that won’t happen anytime soon, Boxer vowed to keep California’s law intact and oppose religious conservatives like her nemesis, Senator Sam Brownback, R-Kansas. Brownback introduced an anti-cloning bill that failed last year, though it faces better odds this year. “We will stop them—this administration—from overturning what Deborah has done,” Boxer said. She said it’s important to distinguish that stem-cell research and human cloning are different things entirely. “No one I know favors cloning,” Boxer said, “though maybe there’s a senator or two who wants to replicate himself.”

Start spreading the news: Anybody see that rousing profile of Sacramento a few weeks back in the New York Times? “Good Times Continue To Roll In Gold Rush Capital City” gushed over the Kings (yeah, of course) but also Tower Café, the Golden State Museum, Frank Fat’s and UC Davis’ new Mondavi Center. Penned by longtime Sacramento-guy-turned-New Yorker and former SN&R arts editor Rob Turner, the article boasted, among other things, about how “Sacramento is on the right side of the San Andreas fault.” Well, Bites can’t argue with that! A former Smart Money staffer, Turner now writes freelance articles—about Sacramento and other subjects—for the lofty likes of Fortune and the Wall Street Journal.