Cautious left turn

Fellowship of the caucus: Bites is intrigued by rumors of a new progressive caucus at the Capitol. From what we gather, Jackie Goldberg and recently resurrected Democratic dinosaur Merv Dymally are Assembly ringleaders of the group, whose 20 or so members elected Dymally chairman at their second meeting a few days ago. “It’s mostly a forum to do advance planning for progressive ideas and open up more opportunity for that,” Assemblywoman Sally Lieber told Bites.

Another co-conspirator, Assemblyman John Laird, said, “It’s an informal group, a study group designed to let us bounce ideas off each other.” The caucus will focus on the environment, civil rights, labor and other issues and will weigh in on the budget, of course. Most members of the unofficial caucus, Bites is told, are also part of the women’s caucus or environmental caucus.

But Bites can’t get anything out of Dymally, a former state lawmaker, congressman and lieutenant governor whose recent election to the Compton seat puts him back in the Assembly where he started out 40 years ago. Even with all that experience, Dymally sounds like he’s consumed with work. A staffer said he wouldn’t be able to call us back until January 29.

No more Cheetos: Huzzah to the San Francisco Unified School District, which soon may follow the lead of a few other California school districts (most notably Oakland and Los Angeles) and ban the sale of high-fat and mega-sugar snack foods on campus. (See “The Junk-food Wars” by Melinda Welsh; SN&R Cover; November 14, 2002.)

As childhood obesity soars, schools across the country have come under fire from parents and public-health advocates for providing children easy access to junk food in campus vending machines and school cafeterias. It’s not so easy banning the stuff, though, because many school administrators are loath to jeopardize super-lucrative Pepsi or Coke contracts like the ones held by all of Sacramento’s public high schools and many of its middle schools. Administrators also don’t want to mess with the school cafeteria profits that pour in from the sale of Twinkies and Doritos. San Francisco officials predict that eliminating the sale of fatty or sugary foods might cost the district upwards of $600,000, but the district seems ready to consider it anyway. Bites can only hope Sacramento’s school leaders will show similar guts someday, no pun intended.

Meanwhile, on another battlefield of the junk-food wars, Senator Tom Torlakson announced his plan to introduce three nutrition bills in the California Legislature this session. One would “increase public awareness and involvement” when schools sign contracts to place soda vending machines on campuses. Another would require Arnold Schwarzenegger’s before- and after-school programs (last November’s Proposition 49) to fund healthy snacks and exercise programs. And the final bill would require that healthy products make up at least half of all food and drinks sold from vending machines in state buildings. Now, if someone would only go after those deep fryers …

Healthy Big Apple buzz: Images from the Sacramento area were plastered all over New York in the last few months thanks to the just-closed Richard Avedon retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In fact, Avedon—known for his stark black-and-white photos of artists and intellectuals—always considered a shot he took in Davis to be one of his signature photographs.

Promotional posters, billboards and ads throughout New York this past fall featured “The Beekeeper,” a photograph of a pale, shirtless beekeeper named Ronald Fischer, who Avedon shot at a Davis tomato farm in May 1981 with the assistance of UC Davis entomologist Norman Gary. The image shows the thin, white torso of Fischer, partially robed in an ad hoc blanket of bees. Also in the house at the Avedon show were two other images of familiar Sacramento characters: then-Governor Jerry Brown, as shot for an assignment from Rolling Stone; and longtime Sacramento solon Tom Hayden, as shot decades ago with the infamous Chicago Seven, a group tried for inciting demonstrations against the Vietnam War.