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Archive for 2009



LA Mag to Tony: We Hate You, Don’t Leave Us

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

lamagjune09-thumb-180x236-1912Some thoughts on L.A. Magazine’s hit piece on Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, after checking out the story:

1. The actual piece inside the magazine does not stand up the premise of the dramatic cover. Magazines sell based on their covers, and the “Failure” festooned on Tony V’s image is a boffo piece of art; but the open letter to Villaraigosa by writer Ed Leibowitz is a roundhouse right that misses: it’s a critical but by no means damning assessment of Villaraigosa’s mayoralty.

2. The argument of the piece is illogical, if not incoherent. It boils down to this: a) Villaraigosa has failed to live up to our (Westside liberal) expectations, therefore; b) We want him to stay and continue being mayor instead of running for governor. Huh? Reminds us of the famous book on borderline personality disorder “I Hate You Don’t Leave Me.”bookcover

3. Despite the weaknesses of the piece, this is still a coup for Gavin Newsom. Beyond a few hundred political junkies, it’s hard to imagine many people actually poring through the Leibowitz piece; many more, for sure, will likely see the cover image used by Newsom to attack Villaraigosa in his effort to beat him out for the role of chief foil to front-runner Jerry Brown in the Democratic primary.

Which raises the question: Will the local media in San Francisco produce a similar takeout on Newsom, who’s going around the state describing the city under his leadership as paradise on earth?

This was our original post:

Over at L.A. Observed, Kevin Roderick has the scoop this morning on an attempted takedown by Los Angeles Magazine of L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s ambitions to be governor. The left-leaning mag, which has long been pro-Antonio — see Roderick’s description of how they handled his own profile of Tony V a couple years ago — has a new issue about to hit the stands with a single word – “Failure” – emblazoned next to a smiling Villaraigosa. (And a subhead that says “So Much Promise, So Much Disappointment.” ) Gavin Newsom’s folks will no doubt have a copy in your mail box by this afternoon, but for now L.A. Observed has the best dish and excerpts. The open letter, by writer Ed Leibowitz, is an indictment of the mayor on a host of municipal items, and basically urges him not to run for governor arguing: “We are bitter because you promised us so much . . . What you now lead is an administration in which politics almost always trumps policy . . . Remind us that you once stood for something more than the political advancement of Antonio Villaraigosa, and that there is some residual greatness about you yet.”

Audacious Hope Brings Michelle Obama to UC Merced

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

michelleA Calbuzz Special Report

By Jessica Trounstine

First Lady Michelle Obama will deliver the commencement address at the University of California Merced on Saturday, honoring the first graduating class that began as freshman at the state’s newest public university campus.

This is an illustrious moment for a university with no short list of challenges.

The Central Valley has long been neglected by economic fortune, reflected in the struggle to build and sustain a university campus there. The UC Regents fought an exhausting battle to win environmental approval of the design and site; in the first year, enrollment at the campus was lackluster; like the other nine UC campuses, it now faces cutbacks, as California’s budget threatens to collapse into a black hole. And yet . . . out of the agricultural dust has risen what promises to be a brilliant future.

Michelle Obama’s acceptance of the invitation to speak at UCM represents this potential, and it represents a level of achievement that already is extraordinary. This is a collection of residents, students, faculty, staff and administrators who seem like Wild West pioneers — committed to a future that others had too little imagination (or grit) to envision.

Merced and the Valley have long been the heart of the state’s agricultural engine. For much (perhaps most) of its history, it also has been sneered at by the rest of the state. Michelle’s decision to make UCM her one and only graduation appearance has brought a modicum of respect from the outside — a little “Wow, really?!” by San Franciscans and New Yorkers alike — while drawing national media attention here, here and here.

Although this attention is what the campus needs, it also has brought to the surface some of the tensions arising from the establishment of the university at this unfortunate moment in history. It’s expensive to build a first class research institution.

The widely reported escalating price tag of the graduation — which has grown to $700,000 from an original budget of $100,000 — is just one small example of these looming costs. The fights it has engendered are not likely to go away any time soon.

Even so, the community of UCM has had the audacity to hope for it anyway, and I’m immensely proud it will be my new home.

Jessica Trounstine, author of “Political Monopolies in American Cities,” is an Assistant Professor of Politics and Public Affairs at Princeton University and incoming Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of California Merced.

Surf’s Up: Arnold’s Remake Bombs and More

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

Wildermuth_mugCalbuzz webgems of the week: In his previous incarnation, Gov. Arnold made a lot of money doing action movie sequels, but his political remake on the issue of a state rainy day fund is way over the line in its shameful stealing from the original, as John Wildermuth shows in this take-down from his Chronicle blog, COMPLETE WITH CAPITAL LETTERS.

For those still confused about next Tuesday’s ballot props, even after the 12th or 13th reading, it may help to get out of the weeds and just decide based on who’s for and against them, in which this case this new site offers a useful guide to endorsements pro and con.

One of the most frequently heard charges on behalf of Prop. 1B, and of education funding in general, is that California ranks at the bottom of per-pupil spending among all states, but GOP wannabe governor Tom Campbell brings his gimlet eye to bear in debunking that claim.

Congressional Quarterly takes an early look at the 2010 governor’s race in this state of play piece. While mostly a rehash, it does have a nice nugget in the last graf – talk about burying the lede – in noting that the senior senator from California is fronting a Capitol Hill softball team called “Never Say Di.”

Lots of excitement at UC Merced in advance of First Lady Michelle Obama’s scheduled commencement address there Saturday; unfortunately, lots of cost overruns too, as reported by Scott Jason of the Sun-Star, which may not go down well in the wake of the UC Regents raising tuition yet again because of the budget mess. UCSB students meanwhile have gotten off the beach to protest cuts in programs like tutoring and counseling.

Calbuzz isn’t sure whether our recent rant helped spur Meg Whitman to start granting more interviews, but this kissy-poo encounter with Orange County Register blogger Martin Wisckol shows her Megness is already pointing toward the general election, though how exactly her plan to run California like an overseas sweat shop will attract “women, Hispanics and 18-25 year olds” ain’t exactly clear.

Dr. Hackenflack Answers Your Questions

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

dr-hackenflack1

Dr. P.J. Hackenflack, Calbuzz staff political psychiatrist, has received a boat-load of letters from anxious Californians. At the urging of the Calbuzz Senior Executive Advisory Board, he agreed to share a few with our readers.

Dear Dr. Hackenflack,
I heard somewhere that Gavin Newsom had a bitter falling out with a former top aide. What was that all about?
— Tom A., Sacramento
They had a rather strong disagreement on the issue of heterosexual marriage.

Hey Doc,
Antonio Villaraigosa said he was too busy solving LA’s budget problems to attend the Democratic convention in Sacramento, but he found time to go to the White House correspondent’s dinner. What gives?
— John B. San Francisco
He preferred spending Saturday night with Demi Moore instead of Debra Bowen.

Dear Dr. H,
Some people say Jerry Brown is too damn old to be governor again. How old is he anyhow?
— Garry in South Park
I’ll let you know when the carbon dating results come back.

My Dear Doctor Hackenflack,
These ballot propositions are, like, totally confusing? And my little sister keeps pressuring me to, like, make up my mind about them? And she wouldn’t stop until she totally stressed me out about it? What should I do?
— Dianne in DC
Never let them see you cry.

Doc,
Am I crazy or does Steve Poizner look like the guy playing Spock in the new Star Trek movie?
— L. McCoy, Beverly Hills
Are you out of your Vulcan mind? I’m a doctor, not a casting director.

Greetings Dr. H,
Meg Whitman is coming to speak to my Rotary Club next week, but a friend said that if I try to ask her a question, I might get tasered. Should I risk trying to get an answer?
— Kevin in Cucamonga
No worries – since you’re not with the press, her advisers will probably only have their tasers on stun.

Dear Dr. Hackenflack,
What does Tom Campbell like to do for fun?
— B. Herschensohn, L.A.
He curls up with the Collected Works of Milton Friedman and swills green tea.

Sir,
Many Californians feel the Legislature showed they weren’t serious about budget cuts when they refused to axe the Integrated Waste Management board, a dumping ground that gives huge salaries to burned-out hacks. What’s your view?
— Jon in Flashattan
Where do I apply?

Dr. Hackenflack,
Governor Schwarzenegger says that if voters don’t approve his ballot props, the state will burn down. Is he really serious?
— Barbara S. Los Olivos
Serious? When was the last time you watched Terminator 2?

Poizner Attacks; eMeg Would Axe Thousands; DiFi Speaks

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

poizneradIt’s a cheap trick and a cheap date, for sure. But Calbuzz is a sucker for all things new. So we’re passing along the link to Insurance commissioner Steve Poizner’s latest attempt to get his name in the news — his first “web video” of the campaign, attacking former eBay CEO Meg Whitman for ducking next Monday’s “debate” in Sacramento.

As a campaign tactic, Calbuzz finds this only a little bit cheesier than the phantom ads that candidates “release” but never spend money on to broadcast. These are not really campaign advertising in the sense of trying to reach a mass audience. They’re video press releases, masquerading as TV ads. We’ve called on those who are monitoring and covering campaigns to find out from candidates’ handlers just how big their big their buy is. If it’s less than $1 million in California, then it’s really being done to affect media coverage, not public opinion.

That’s exactly what Poizner is doing — even if he does use quotes from Calbuzz as third-party validation of his charges. It’s a video press release.

Meanwhile, Whitman today called for laying off 20,000 to 30,000 state employees “while prioritizing public safety and teachers” as a first step in dealing with a looming state deficit of up to $21 billion. In a speech to the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce, eMeg said “We shouldn’t have to lay off teachers, we need to lay off bureaucrats.”

For a critique of eMeg’s off-with-their-heads math, check out Josh Richman’s post at Political Blotter.

Feinstein Prop Update: U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, after commissioning an exhaustive study, finally weighed in on the ballot measures today, holding her nose and supporting Propositions 1A and 1B. “I will reluctantly vote for 1A and 1B because I do not see any way to prevent a greater financial disaster for the state of California,” she said.

But she also said: “I will vote against Prop. 1C because I do not believe that taking money from future lottery proceeds to reconcile existing debt is advisable in public finance.” Also: “Voters are confronted with these bad choices because we don’t have a budgeting system that works effectively and efficiently in times of budget crisis. Ultimately, I believe major reform is necessary in order to put California back on track.”

Feinstein did not declare her position on another key state fiscal issue: whether or not to dump California’s two-thirds vote requirement to pass a state budget in the legislature.