Dems get their war on

Across the United States, veterans are running as Democrats in a number of congressional races, picking up the mantle of the “Band of Brothers.” Two local incumbent Republican congressmen will face veterans on the ballot in November: John Doolittle is challenged by Charles Brown in the 4th District, while Dan Lungren will face Dr. Bill Durston in the 3rd.

Political analyst Barbara O’Connor, the director of the Institute for the Study of Politics and Media at California State University, Sacramento, thinks that the move for Democratic veterans to run on their service records is a reaction to the mistreatment of veteran candidates by the Republicans. The candidacies of veterans are coming, she told SN&R, “from a sense of the mistreatment of [Senator John] Kerry and [former Senator] Max Cleland.” Veterans are no longer willing to cede issues of national security to the Republicans, she said, and “they’re approaching it with an attitude of ‘Let’s not make this partisan; let’s make it about patriotism.'”

It’s not solely a national phenomenon. In California’s 10th Assembly District, which includes parts of Elk Grove, California Department of Corrections parole officer Jim Cook, a retired Marine Corps colonel, will be taking on incumbent Republican Alan Nakanishi.

Cook’s not your typical Democrat. He’s a pretty conservative guy, but he’s hot about veterans’ issues, including support for California National Guard members who are currently serving in Iraq. He wants to make sure that their families are taken care of here in California and says that the state hasn’t done enough about providing health care for the dependents of service members.

“Guardsmen get called up, and the first thing to go is their health benefits from their jobs,” he said. There’s a 90-day gap between the loss of their work-related benefits and the beginning of federal benefits, which means their families are uninsured. “They qualify for COBRA, but there’s a huge co-pay,” Cook said. Then there’s a state program to assist these families, “but it’s got a debt ceiling. It’s a program most people can’t access.”

And that’s only the tip of the iceberg, as far as Cook is concerned. He’s disappointed—well, disgusted would probably be a better term—that Nakanishi, an Air Force vet, hasn’t addressed service members’ and veterans’ issues more fully.

“Some folks seem to love to support the troops, unless the troops are veterans who need health care,” Cook said.

—Kel Munger

City wants new Wi-Fi proposals

Sacramento’s effort to build a citywide Wi-Fi network stalled last week, when Internet provider MobilePro announced it was pulling out of negotiations.

The city appeared close to hammering out a deal back in the fall. The proposal would have given the company free access to city-owned buildings and utility poles, in exchange for some free Wi-Fi accounts for public agencies and nonprofit groups. The plan would have included some free Wi-Fi access to the public, but only at slow connection speeds and only for one single log-on of two hours or less. (See “Wi-Fi follies,” SN&R Editorial, January 19.)

Community groups and some council members began to question whether the city was getting a good deal in exchange for the public’s right-of-way.

“I’d like to see the vendor provide everyone with pretty-good-speed connection, 24 hours a day, and unlimited access,” said Sacramento Vice Mayor Rob Fong, who added that he believes that such universal free service could be supported by advertising, while the company charged for ad-free browsing and faster connection speeds.

MobilePro, however, balked at this idea and has now pulled out of the negotiations. No problem, said Councilman Kevin McCarty, who thinks the city can get a better deal. “San Francisco, Portland, Philadelphia, all have received better deals than what MobilePro was offering,” McCarty said.

Fong said the city will release another request for proposals to potential vendors in the next four to six weeks. The delay is unfortunate, Fong said, “but once it gets installed, that’s what we’re going to have to live with. We should do it right.”

—Cosmo Garvin