There have been a number of celebrity sightings in Sacramento this week. Halle Berry and Jennifer Garner were speaking in front of the Assembly Judiciary Committee about a bill that would impose tougher penalties for paparazzi who harass celebrities and their children. And Jason Patric, of “Lost Boys” fame, also spoke in front of that committee to testify for a bill authored by state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo. That bill would allow certain sperm donors to seek paternity rights in court if they prove levels of involvement in the child’s life.
The paparazzi bill passed out of the committee while the sperm donor bill was put on hold. However, Hill said it’s a good bill and he will continue to work on it.
So does having the attention that comes with celebrities help or hurt?
Hill said it helped in the case of the paparazzi bill because Berry’s and Garner’s presence humanized them, and made the issue seem more real. For his bill, Hill said the attention hurt because it sailed through the Senate with nary a peep and only got attention because of Patric’s custody battle with his former girlfriend, who Hill also said mounted a fairly substantial public relations campaign.
“It was just a Hollywood media frenzy,” Hill said.
In the end, Hill said it is still a good bill because it simply provides the right for someone to take their case to court and allow for a judge to decide. In this age of sperm donors and surrogates, getting a handle on parental rights is certainly warranted at the state legislative level. Perhaps as the Patric paternity battle is removed from the equation, there can be a more contemplative discussion of it.
Hill is also making waves in his proposed legislation that would curtail the ability of nonprofits to mount political campaigns with public money. On the surface, it sounds fair. However, the League of California Cities has mounted a substantial campaign against the “gut-and-amend” bill since it would hinder its ability to fight state policy that harms cities’ budgets. In years past, the league lobbied for state propositions that would ensure cities retained tax money they believed to rightfully theirs. Cities pay membership fees to the league, and the league advocates for cities. Much of that activity centers around ensuring that the state government keeps its hands off local money. Taking away that right is bad policy. And Hill should know that after cutting his political teeth on the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, and the San Mateo City Council before that.
Speaking of Hill’s former stomping grounds, the decision by Brandt Grotte not to run for a third term on the San Mateo City Council took many by surprise, though there were grumblings about the possibility for the past few months. Grotte has been a quiet councilman but he does his homework and cares about the city. The first time I met Grotte in person was at a neighborhood meeting at the Boys & Girls Club in the North Shoreview neighborhood. At issue was the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s decision to put thousands of Bayfront residents on a flood map which came with the requirement of costly new insurance. Grotte was president of the United Homeowners Association at the time and was fighting hard to right this wrong and I had talked to him over the phone for a previous story on the issue. The first thing he said to me was, “I know you. You quoted me accurately.” Little things like that carry a long time.
Through Grotte’s dedication and that of the city — including Public Works Director Larry Patterson — those homes were eventually taken off the flood map.
Circling back to celebrities, the San Mateo County Democratic Party is hosting a celebrity chef barbecue noon to 4 p.m. Aug. 24 at San Mateo’s Central Park. So who are the celebrity chefs? Bobby Flay? Tyler Florence? Guy Fieri? Nope. Hill, state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park, and Joe Ross, San Mateo County Community College District trustee. Notable? Sure. Celebrity? That might be a stretch.
If you want to see a true celebrity, no need to look further than the Redwood City Community Theatre’s performance of “Hairspray” opening tonight at Sequoia High School’s Carrington Hall. It’s one of those stories that was a movie, made into a play, then made into a movie, then made into a play. Playing Tracy Turnblad’s mother Edna (portrayed in the original movie by the cross-dressing Divine) is Steve Penna, publisher of Redwood City’s Spectrum Magazine. Admission ranges from $10-$25. And Penna’s performance should be worth the price of admission alone. For more information about the play, the theater company and performances, go to rwctheatre.org.
Jon Mays is the editor in chief of the Daily Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Jon on Twitter @jonmays.