Archive for 2009

Campbell’s Budget Term Paper Challenges Whitman, Poizner Rhetoric

Sunday, May 17th, 2009

campbellStaking a claim as the candidate of substance and specificity, wannabe Republican governor Tom Campbell Sunday night released a 3,131 word proposal detailing how he would deal with the state’s budget mess.

The moderate Campbell faces an uphill fight against party rivals Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner, two candidates who are expected to be far better funded and who are competing with each other to run to the political right to pander, er, um, woo the very conservative GOP primary electorate. His calculation in setting out an extremely specific budget plan, always a problematic campaign play that can trap a candidate in his own numbers, is that it positions him to challenge and scoff at the tough talk of Whitman and Poizner as empty rhetoric that does not stack up to his straight-talking, real world proposals.

“I challenge anyone who wishes to lead our state out of this crisis to offer at least as much detail as I have,” Campbell said in the statement posted on his web site. “This is not a time for vague generalities, or declaring anything off limits.”

Although similar in many ways to Governor Schwarzenegger’s most recent proposals, Campbell’s term paper is notable in:

  • Calling for a 15 percent salary giveback from state employees, for a savings of nearly $3 billion; if public employee unions do not agree with the reduction, he said he would furlough as many state workers as necessary to get the same result.
  • Raising the gas tax by 32 cents a gallon for one year, in the event Propositions 1C-1E do not pass on Tuesday, deepening a $15 billion deficit to $21 billion, in order to avoid deeper cuts in K-14 schools and community college districts.
  • Rejecting the governor’s proposals to sell off state properties, “borrow” $2 billion from local governments and accelerate tax payments, all of which he described as one-time gimmicks that will not address California’s structural deficit.

Campbell is scheduled to debate the special election budget props with Insurance Commission Poizner in Sacramento Monday. Whitman declined to join the debate, presumably to have drinks with Fred Barnes.

Calbuzz Election Poll: Win Big Prizes, Plenty of Free Parking

Sunday, May 17th, 2009

With the special election carrying less suspense than a Globetrotters game, here’s a contest designed to give Calbuzzers a rooting interest to stay awake through the 11 o’clock news Tuesday.

Email your answer to these three questions (mail to: Calbuzz) to qualify for Big Prizes; you need not (in fact you better not) be present to win; friends and family members of Calbuzz employees are TOTALLY eligible to win.

1-List the order of finish for Propositions 1A-1E, with the measure with the highest “yes” vote first and the measure with the lowest “yes” vote last. Include your guesses for the percentage of “yes” votes for each.

Prop 1C – 97% Yes
Prop 1D – 95% Yes
Prop 1A – 93% Yes
Prop 1E – 91% Yes
Prop 1B – 3% Yes

2-What is the final, election night, statewide percentage vote on Proposition 1F? Example:

Yes 12%
No 88%

3-(Tiebreaker) What will be the statewide turnout figure provided by Secretary of State Debra Bowen?

1st Prize: 1 free rant. Overall winner gets 500-word “I’m just sayin’” rant on the subject of his or her choice published on Calbuzz. Plus: 2 Free “I’m a Calbuzzer” buttons.

2nd Prize: 1 copy each of “Movers and Shakers: The Study of Community Power” and “Never Let Them See You Cry: A Biography of Dianne Feinstein” by Calbuzzers Phil Trounstine and Jerry Roberts, respectively. Plus: 1 free “I’m a Calbuzzer” button.

3rd Prize: 2 copies each of “Movers and Shakers” and “Never Let Them See You Cry” or 1 free “I’m a Calbuzzer” button, depending on what the judges feel like giving away.

All entries must be received at Calbuzz World Marketing Headquarters and Storm Door Company by 6 pm Tuesday, May 19. Thanks for playing!

Surf’s Up: We Read This Stuff So You Don’t Have To

Sunday, May 17th, 2009

surferNeed to get away? Amid the endless sky-is-falling media situationers on the budget mess published elsewhere, sometime Calbuzzer Greg Lucas looks closely at Arnold’s new alternatives and concludes that Demos will find about $15 billion worth of politically palatable moves there – enough to get them 70 percent of the way to the gov’s worst-case $21B scenario…

As one door closes: One of the all-time top 10 clichés in the Political Writer’s Handbook is that every crisis represents both risks and opportunities. Over at Flashreport, our friend Jon Fleischman manages to be positively Reganesque about the big chance for change presented by the budget mess, in a nice piece that combines the usual bromides about markets with compassionate concern for the folks who will be hurt. Meanwhile The Economist brings big picture perspective to Tuesday’s election, concluding that only a constitutional convention aimed at rebuilding state government from scratch can save “ungovernable” California.

Michelle Speaks: Calbuzzer Jessica Trounstine stirred up a lively debate here about UC Merced a couple days, using Michelle Obama’s commencement address as a point of departure. For those who missed the First Lady’s actual speech Huffpost has complete text and video here.

Conspiracy Theorist Alert: Not sure what it means but Barron’s reports that liberal uber money man George Soros recently took a stake in Houston-based PXP, the oil company that would benefit from the gov’s bid to approve a new offshore drilling lease in Santa Barbara.

Calbuzz gets results: The NYT discovers the California governor’s race in a dozy rehash that’s mostly notable for the fact that it’s the first major MSM piece on the campaign that doesn’t even mention the possibility that Difi will run. Calbuzz gets results!

Forest and the trees: Big Bad Dan Walters has a good one that argues persuasively that California is largely responsible for triggering the global banking crisis and puts in appropriate context the pathetic “fantasyland” effort by GOP legislators to solve the state’s economy woes with a couple cheesy bills about business regulations.

Fred Barnes Smitten: Conservative Writer Lionizes eMeg

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

emegcoverIt takes veteran Beltway journalist and Fox News bloviator Fred Barnes only three sentences of his hot-on-the-web, 3,500-word profile of Meg Whitman in the conservative Weekly Standard to compare her to Ronald Reagan.

Then he gets really complimentary.

The Barnes cover piece, titled “eMeg: eBay Republican Meg Whitman bids to save California” (to his credit, he sorta credits Calbuzz for our coinage of our favorite nickname for Her Megness), not only portrays her as a strong front-runner for the GOP nomination, but also casts her as the vessel of all true Reagan virtues, from an unstinting belief in free markets to an easy way with people.

The piece concludes by launching a Meg-for-President boomlet:

But let’s assume Whitman is elected. She’d be governor of the biggest state, a brainy, conservative, accomplished woman at the top of the Republican ladder with precisely the experience that Sarah Palin lacks. That she’s a social moderate may be worrisome to conservatives. She’s pro-choice on abortion but voted for Proposition 8 last year, which barred gay marriage. When Reagan was elected governor in 1966, the speculation about national office–president, vice president–erupted instantly. If Whitman is elected in 2010, it will erupt again.”

Hold on there Fred, she may have have three conversations with you, but she’s still gotta make it past her first Calbuzz interview! In the meantime, Calbuzzers, check it out.

L.A. Muckraker: Tony V’s Governor Bid Won’t Get Off the Ground

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

By Ron Kaye
Calbuzz Special Report

I lunched with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa over corned beef sandwiches at a San Fernando Valley deli in 2006 – days after the City Council approved a $3 million settlement with a black firefighter who was tricked into eating spaghetti laced with dog food.

The idea of paying that kind of money for a stupid fire station prank stirred a heated controversy in L.A, even if the Fire Department had a record of racially discriminatory practices. Villaraigosa appeared ready to sign off on that settlement.

As he climbed into his SUV to leave, I couldn’t keep myself from teasing him by saying, “Whatever happened to that punk from East LA? He never would agree to pay $3 million to a guy for eating dog food.”

Antonio turned around with that great grin of his and said, “We’ll see.” A few days later, he vetoed the settlement, just about the only time he’s overruled the council in the go-along, get-along world of LA City Hall.

Three years later, though, I’m still asking the same question: What ever happened to that punk from East LA?

Antonio Villaraigosa brought a sense of excitement and hope for change to a troubled city when he was elected mayor in 2005. His charm and charisma brought large crowds to meetings where he spoke. Even conservative business people lined up to shake his hand and wish him well.

Today, it’s hard to find anyone who’s in love with Antonio. Even mayoral insiders are often disparaging, at least in private. As one prominent civic leader told me recently, “He’s never asked me or anyone else I know for advice and help. He’s gone his own way and we’ve gone ours.”

Running for re-election in March against a bunch of nobodies with no money, Antonio got just 55 percent of the vote and community activists defeated his heavily-financed solar energy measure — an ill-conceived and costly boondoggle – that was to be the heart of his claim to be the “greenest big-city mayor in America.”

Saying what so many people now believe, LA Magazine this week created a stir by putting Antonio on its June cover with the word “Failure.” Beneath that were the words: “So much promise. So much disappointment.”

Editor Kit Rachlis asked a lot of people, including me, what advice they would give the mayor for his second term.

I offered this: “I keep thinking he’ll wake up one morning in his mayoral mansion and wonder what he’s doing there as if it were just a dream, that he’ll remember where he came from and who he once was and realize he’s just a punk from East LA who doesn’t put the rich and powerful and famous on a pedestal and take such pleasure in having become one of them.”

Antonio never stood a chance in the governor’s race, and with the stigma of “failure” haunting him, I don’t see how his campaign can ever get off the ground.

LA’s massive budget deficit that could well bankrupt the city as it worsens in the next three years and the groundswell of discontent against him make it all but impossible to explain why he’s the right man to fix what’s broken in Sacramento.

With his fancy suits and love of fine wine and food, his servants and bodyguards, his multi-millionaire’s lifestyle, Villaraigosa has lost connection with his roots, where he came from, and the ideals he once held dear.

He’s become a showman and his politics all show business. He provides us with theater about great schools, gang-free streets and a green revolution, but little or nothing really changes. The schools remain a dismal failure; crime is down but the gangs deal drugs with impunity, and LA still has the nation’s most polluted air, worst traffic congestion and dirtiest power plants.

Change, if it ever comes, is still far off in the future but the entertainer in him performs as if the applause of flattering audiences is the same as achieving something grand.

It’s a pity, a waste of a talent that could have brought the people of LA together to do great things, create a great city. Many now dismiss the mayor as a man without substance, a narcissist driven by his ego and need for self-aggrandizement.

That’s true enough, but it’s true of a lot of other politicians too. In my heart of hearts, I still cling to the notion that there is more to him, that the man I’ve had long rambling chats with is capable of rising above the users and sycophants who surround him.

His ego need won’t be served by running for governor. His real opportunity is to finally get down to work as mayor, trying to make life a little better every day for the four million people who call LA home.

Ron Kaye is the former editor of the Los Angeles Daily News, where he spent 23 years helping the paper become the voice of the San Fernando Valley. In the year since he left the Daily News, he has blogged about city issues at ronkayela.com and helped found the Saving LA Project, a loose-knit coalition of community groups citywide. He is working on the launch of OurLA.org, a non-profit online community-based newspaper.