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Posts Tagged ‘education’



Arnold vs Calbuzz; eMeg’s Ad Buy; Memo to Media

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

Calbuzz contributor Susan Rose, in a post filed Tuesday, roundly bashed Governor Arnold, characterizing his tenure as “a combination of insults, bullying, threats and failures.” After the post, David Crane, Special Adviser to Governor Schwarzenegger, asked for a chance to respond:

By David Crane
Special to Calbuzz

Susan Rose’s recent attack on Governor Schwarzenegger shows an utter disregard for facts.

Ms. Rose conveniently left out the single most important fact about the state budget, namely that explosive growth in government-employee compensation is responsible for crowding out spending for all those social programs she favors.

As one example, from 2003-2010, retirement benefit costs took more than $25 billion away from higher education, parks & recreation, environmental protection, health & human services and other important programs.  As another example, the per employee cost of compensation nearly doubled over the last ten years, stripping money from programs.

All of these costs were cemented into place by contracts and legislation passed by the last administration.  Governor Schwarzenegger has fought mightily to reform those contracts and legislation but legislators in hock to special interests refuse to budge.

Ms. Rose’s column is just another example of non-fact-based partisanship designed to fulfill the wishes of one special interest or another.  The real fact is that the only way to protect programs is by reforming government employee compensation.   While Ms. Rose is happy to raise taxes in order to keep paying more to government employees, Governor Schwarzenegger is not.

Actions speak louder than words. When Ms. Rose is ready to do something about the damage being caused by out-of-control government employee compensation it’ll be time to listen to her.

All eMeg All the Time: The Calbuzz Department of Dumpster Diving & Green Earth Recycling has stumbled upon an internal report from Meg Whitman’s campaign which details the size and reach of her current advertising buy, which can be described in two words: Holy Cow.

The campaign’s Gross Rating Point report, measuring total delivery of the current week’s broadcast ad schedule in 11 markets in California, shows that eMeg’s buy is comparable to what a fully-loaded campaign might ordinarily deliver in the closing weeks of a heated race – not three months before a primary that she’s prohibitively leading.

“These are some big fuckin’ numbers,” said Bill Carrick, the veteran Democratic media consultant after reviewing the report. “She’s buying the whole shebang.”

As a practical matter, 1,000 GRPs a week means that an average TV viewer in a large market would have about 10 opportunities a week to see a Meg Whitman ad;  in smaller markets, with only two or three stations, 700-800 GRPs would be a significant buy. Here’s what the internal campaign report shows she’s doing around the state (N.B. Calbuzz did not independently confirm these numbers):

–Bakersfield 806
–Chico-Redding 603
–Eureka 631
–Fresno-Visalia 986
–L.A. 1,008
–Monterey-Salinas 635
–Palm Springs 806
–Sacramento 984
–San Diego 1,008
–San Francisco 702
–Santa Barbara 929

“With this buy, the chances of not seeing a Meg Whitman spot are pretty slim,” Carrick said.

According to the report, Steve Poizner’s current buy in various markets is a fraction of eMeg’s – ranging from 15 to 50 percent – which seems in the ballpark, based on anecdotal reports from several veteran California media consultants who watch TV incessantly.

One Republican source not affiliated with the governor’s race said he thought the eMeg strategy of going on the air so heavy so early in the campaign might backfire:

“She’s way overdoing it – she’s going to wear out her welcome.”

Meg wears out her welcome: And that’s exactly what the Great Woman did in the East Bay yesterday, when she set off a row with veteran Bay Area political reporters by once again refusing to take any questions – after inviting press coverage of her tour of the Union Pacific Railroad site at the Port of Oakland. Chronicler Carla Marinucci picks up the story:

Then came the news that Whitman also wouldn’t take questions; reporters had been called in to “see” her make statements on “how she could be helpful as governor” on jobs and the economy, Whitman spokeswoman Sarah Pompei said.

Veteran reporters, who included KTVU’s Randy Shandobil and KPIX’s Hank Plante, were among the crowd that wasn’t amused. Question: is Whitman a candidate for governor, or a museum piece to be “watched” by reporters?

Pompei told reporters Whitman said the no press tour was a Union Pacific call — that the company’s officials did not want media coverage. (Union Pacific spokesman Aaron Hunt begs to differ. He just told us that “we planned, actually, to have press talk with Meg on the tour….we understood there would be media availability and we wanted to work with that.”)

Calbuzz last year was among the first to throw a flag on eMeg’s obsessive avoidance of the California press corps as a significant campaign issue. (While Steve Poizner and Jerry Brown have both granted us extended interviews, the ticking clock on our request for a sit-down with Her Megness is now six months, three days and counting).

After Tuesday’s disgraceful performance, it seems clear that there are serious issues of  temperament and judgment – control freak arrogance, fear and contempt for reporters whose job is to serve as the eyes and ears of ordinary voters, for starters – that raise questions about her fitness to handle elected office and public life.

Here’s a suggestion for our campaign trail media colleagues: Don’t reward eMeg’s bad behavior. She’s not the governor, she’s not even the nominee of her party, she is a CANDIDATE for the nomination, and so far she has earned exactly nothing.

If Whitman is unwilling to abide by the norms and forms appropriate to a political campaign, then she should not receive coverage appropriate for candidates who do. Stop running stories on any Whitman events in which she refuses to take questions from reporters. Period.

Brown Speaks: “This Is Very Different From 1975″

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

Since his youthful days as governor, Jerry Brown told Calbuzz, he’s learned the political importance of  personalities and patience – two lessons that, if elected again, he would use to shatter Sacramento’s “specter of paralysis.”

One day after formally announcing he’s a candidate for governor, the 71-year old Democratic state attorney general told us he would “focus like a laser beam” on curing California’s chronic budget deficits by “pressing and engaging” all 120 legislators into a grinding process to find authentic solutions to the budget mess.

“This is very different from 1975 when I was in a hurry, I was impatient, I wanted to hit the ball out of the park, new ideas and bold appointments,” Brown said of his years as a brash, 30-something governor. “Now what I’ve seen is that things take time.”

In a 45-minute telephone interview from his car, Brown ranged from St. Ignatius to the Serrano-Priest legal decision on school finance, discoursing in a high-energy, low-punctuation style on everything from taxes to teaching citizenship in public education. Brown’s detailed and substantive answers to a host of policy questions showed a level of personal interest and intellectual engagement that belied the ambivalence he appeared to feel about running for governor in the months leading up his announcement.

“I like this kind of work and I think I could really make a contribution to clean up the mess in Sacramento. . . . I feel I’ve invested an enormous part of my life in understanding many of the issues that are alive today and urgent and very much call out for solutions,” he told us. “So on balance it struck me as something that I’d like to do. I’m very excited about doing it . . . I found myself, boy, I was very very excited about this opportunity.”

In the interview, Brown’s Kerouacian verbal style careened from point to point, as he marshaled facts and recalled figures from history to build and embroider his arguments without regard to the norms of periods and commas or, seemingly at times, even the need to draw breath.

Here are some highlights of the interview:

THE PERSONAL

For those who have watched Brown for years, his most surprising comments came when he talked about the personal dimension of politics. In Sacramento,  he earned a reputation as a brilliant but self-involved cold-fish with a high-handed disregard, even contempt, for the personal niceties of politics and the subjective perspectives of other politicians. His current expressed attitude, however, conjured comparisons to the style of his late father, Gov. Pat Brown, a politician of the hail-fellow-well-met old school.

Brown recalled the advice given him when he was governor by the late Brien T. (B.T.) Collins. A legendary Capitol figure, Collins was a hard drinking, foul-mouthed former Green Beret who lost an arm and a leg in combat in Vietnam –  a conservative Republican who served Brown first as director of the California Conservation Corps and later as his chief of staff. Beloved by the press corps, whom he excoriated as “scumbags of the fourth estate,”  Collins never hesitated to tell his boss exactly what was on his mind.

Another thing that I’ve learned, that I’ve really learned – personalities. I remember B.T. Collins would say, “Brown, you don’t get it. Politics is about personalities.” And I get that – it’s about the personalities of the Republicans and the Democrats. And I’m going to take that very seriously. I’m going to listen to them.

THE POLITICAL

In a 180-degree reversal from his previous tenure, Brown said that he would work to restore civility and affability to Sacramento, by entertaining with his wife, Anne Gust Brown, groups of legislators and policy makers in an atmosphere of bonhomie and open interchange.

I’d like to meet them in public, in private. I’m going to have . . . you know my father used to have dinners at the ranch and people from both parties would bring their wives over . . . I’m sure Anne will be a great hostess here, we’re going to have a lot of interaction . . .

The last time I didn’t have a wife and I had a spartan furnished apartment. Now I’ve got a wife and a beautiful home in Oakland and I’ll find an appropriate venue in Sacramento but I certainly think we can use the old mansion for dinners with the legislature to carry on the kind of camaraderie that built this state up until the recent descent into dysfunctionality.

THE POLICY

Brown said California’s need is for a governor who will focus relentlessly on ending “the charade” of years of smoke and mirrors budgeting and find a bipartisan political solution based on dragging every member of the Legislature into a process that would force each of them to “take ownership” of a solution. He’d show the Legislature exactly where the hole in the budget is and insist they help fix it (without increasing taxes, absent a vote of the people, which he said is one of his fundamental principles).

There’s no one in elected office who has spent more time on the state budget of California than I have…

But I’m not going to engage in a charade. The budget I present is going to be an honest budget . . . and we’re going to have to take several years to get it done, and I understand that now – and the patience and dealing with the personalities and no smoke and mirrors . . . starting in December. I won’t be governor yet, but if I’m elected I’ll be there and I’m going to know how to spend the time.

THE PROCESS

I’m extremely excited and I have this idea that I hope is not delusional that by engaging all 120 legislators, by starting in December, by focusing on the budget, by not going to Washington, not going to Israel, not going anywhere, (no) photo ops, but just dealing with this problem and personally engaging these people.

And I’m not talking about a couple of hours with the Big Five in January, I’m talking about starting in December with the entire legislature, asking them to send their staffs to another room and taking as long,  as many hours a week, as many hours a day, as many days a week, weeks,  months, however long it takes, I’m going to wrestle this budget to the ground and shape up a few key components that we have to deal with, after cutting the obvious and the obvious I think you have to start with the governor’s office . . .

I’m going to call in the campaign patrons of all these legislators and union and business people maybe religious activists, Tea Party people for the Republicans, and just discuss with them the future of California. Because I didn’t make this mess. I’ve been watching it, as a mayor and now as the lawyer to these people, but substantively, it’s been the governor and the legislature and they’re confronting this thing.

But you know, it’s not about brains, they’ve been balancing on the debt-fueled bubble that the people in Washington – Greenspan, credit swaps, Bush tax cuts, all that stuff, the war,  mortgages – this has created a false economy that has now been substantially reduced by trillions and we’ve got a real problem here – high unemployment, people losing their jobs, houses – and I think the key is to come in with the experience and where I am in my life and give it . . . to engage people sincerely, with empathy, with patience and we’ll do the best job we can.

THE POSTSCRIPT

And at the end of that time, I believe, whether it takes two or three months or four or five months, the people in this state are going to understand these are the choices and we’ll make whatever choices we have to make to align the spending with the revenues, because that’s what we gotta do that the end of the day.

The real motto here, which is the motto of the Oakland Military Institute, is age quod agis – which is “do what you are doing.” Do that which you are doing, focus on it entirely. And I’m going to focus on this budget like a laser beam . . . because the spectacle of a failed state is scaring away business investment . . . So I want to wrestle the budget to the ground, get it in shape, then [develop] a work-out plan,  that while it will take several years, the framework will be there to inspire confidence. That’s my goal.

CALBUZZ CAVEAT

You can admire Brown’s earnestly expressed commitment to ensuring that every legislator — Democrats and Republicans alike — has a stake in solving the budget crisis in Sacramento. But there’s problem in all this. If past is prologue, a substantial cadre of Republican legislators have made it clear — as Abel Maldonado told us they did in caucus last year — that they don’t want to solve California’s budget crisis. They’d rather see the state face bankruptcy, to hasten the dismantling of government. In other words, no matter how good his intentions may be, Brown (or any governor) may face an immovable ideological object that cannot be cajoled, cadiddled or otherwise convinced to participate in fixing the budget mess.

How General Jerry Brown Won the Sun Tzu Primary

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

“I assume most of you have read ‘The Art of War,’” Attorney General Jerry Brown said to the California Young Democrats last weekend. “The good general,” he said, paraphrasing Sun Tzu, “wins the war by not fighting. You defeat your adversary’s strategy. I’m going to do that.”

Which sent us running to the bookshelf to grab our own Thomas Cleary translation of the 2,000 year old text of the great warrior philosopher, whose writings were mandatory reading among insiders in the 1992 Clinton presidential campaign.

We’re not sure when Jerry took up Sun Tzu. We thought he was one of  Tom Paine’s  Winter Soldiers, or an acolyte of C.K. Chesterton or something. Whatever, there’s much in “The Art of War” that helps illuminate Brown’s dealings — more of which we’ll see today when he formally announces his candidacy.

If, as Mao Zedong — another student of Sun Tzu – concluded, “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun,” then we need to ratchet back a notch or two to substitute political arts for military arts, and read Sun Tzu as a guide to the modern-day partisan battlefield:

A military operation involves deception. Even though you are competent, appear to be incompetent. Though effective, appear to be ineffective . . . Deception is for the purpose of seeking victory over an enemy; to command a group requires truthfulness.

Brown has followed this advice in spades, which led the California Republican Party to spend countless hours drawing attention to Brown by constantly sending out emails wondering when he’ll enter the fray.

Whether Brown was formally a candidate or not makes a difference only in the most superficial sense, however. And while a few Democratic insiders have fretted over Brown’s late engagement in the campaign, why in the world the GOP thought  it could affect the race by wondering “Where’s Jerry?” is beyond comprehension. Brown has followed Sun Tzu’s advice that:

…those who win every battle are not really skillful – those who render others’ armies helpless without fighting are the best of all.

Also:

When you induce others to construct a formation while you yourself are formless, then you are concentrated while the opponent is divided.

And, after all, what could be more formless than Brown’s non-campaign to date, in which he has husbanded resources and waited for the right moment to leap because, as Sun Tzu always liked to say:

If you know the place and time of battle, you can join the fight from a thousand miles away. If you do not know the place and time of battle, then your left flank cannot save your right, your right cannot save your left, your vanguard cannot save your rearguard and your rearguard cannot save your vanguard.

Whether Meg Whitman or Steve Poizner – with their many millions of dollars – is Brown’s opponent, he will be outspent in the general election. Even if labor, environmental, ethnic, gay and other liberal Democratic constituencies pool their money independently from the Brown campaign, it’s unlikely as much will be spent on Brown’s behalf as either of the potential GOP rivals can spend individually.

Which means Brown must fight a guerrilla war, feeding off the masses, merging with the people, striking swiftly and withdrawing, refusing to stand his puny, small-arms militia against the clanking, armored divisions of eMeg and the Commish.

So we won’t be surprised if Crusty the General Brown soon starts quoting from another military expert and tome: Lin Biao’s “Long Live the Victory of  People’s War!”

Even lamer than we thought: More details have emerged on our report on how the big-bucks corporations of the Bay Area Council bailed on financing its own signature reform initiative for a constitutional convention.

Our sources say that council corporate members had pledged, both at the group’s annual dinner and at two board meetings, to ante up $2 million to seed the campaign. But BAC CEO Jim Wunderman, and John Grubb, a senior vice president who resigned in order to manage the campaign on behalf of an arms-length group called Repair California, were blindsided when actual contributions from council members amounted to less than $300K.

Worse yet, two-thirds of that money came from one guy – Lenny Mendonca, managing director of the S.F. consulting firm McKensie & Co., while AT&T, BofA, PG&E, et. al, sat on their hands. Pathetic.

This far and no farther: After we noted in our deconstruction of Ken McLaughlin’s good interview with eMeg that she’s all over the lot on social issues, a sharp-eyed Calbuzzer alerted us to another contradiction in her stance on immigration:

On illegal immigration, Whitman said she disagreed with her campaign chairman, former Gov. Pete Wilson, over Proposition 187, the 1994 initiative that was ruled unconstitutional.

She said it was wrong to write an initiative aimed “mostly at children” by denying them health services and an education. “The children did not come here on their own,” she said.

But she said the state has to draw the line when it comes to many other services. For example, she doesn’t believe illegal immigrants should — as is currently the law — be entitled to in-state tuition at California’s public colleges and universities.

In other words, the government should pay the K-12 school costs to educate children of undocumented immigrants – but then draw the line at affording them in-state tuition rates for attending UC and CSUs.

The policy implications for this are curious to say the least: once California has borne the full cost of primary schooling for these students, what is the self-interest for the state suddenly to impose a ceiling on the extent of their educational achievement? We’d hate to think eMeg figures that limiting the children of immigrants to a high school diploma will help drive down the costs of good help in Atherton and Woodside.

Hi, this is Osama and I’m a first time caller: Seeking to stop the bleeding from a self-inflicted wound, wannabe GOP Senator Tom Campbell challenged rivals Carly Fiorina and Chuck DeVore to a radio debate on foreign policy and, miracle of miracles, the whole thing came together swiftly and is actually going to happen.

Campbell has found himself in the free fire zone for his past links to jihadist professor Sami Al-Arian, which raised the broader question of the depth of his commitment to Israel’s security. With his debate play, Dudley Do Right clearly is trying to ju-jitsu the issue in hopes of stomping Hurricane Carly and Red Meat Chuck with his superior knowledge of national security issues.

Kudos to Calbuzz blogroller and Sacto radio yakker Eric Hogue for putting the whole thing together in record time. The debate is set to air Friday, March 5 from 12 to 1 pm on the Eric Hogue Show on KTKZ 1380 and scheduled to be real time webcast.

Arnold’s Alliterative Aspirational Adieu Address

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

stateofstate2The best commentary on Governor Schwarzmuscle’s State of the State Address came in the form of Capitol Alert’s word cloud.

Thanks to them, we know that Arnold used at least 31 words beginning with “P,” more than any other letter. For those who missed the SOS – and why wouldn’t you? – here’s the Calbuzz  15-word recap:

Pigs & pony
Persevere & prosper.
Painful priorities,
Prudent policies,
Privatized prisons,
Pension problem.
Patriotism!

The pig & pony show: Except for his opening, an endless and near-incomprehensible tortured metaphor comparing the Legislature to his household pets, the governor’s final SOS was pretty much the same as every other such address ever delivered (OCD memo:  pig and pony intro accounted for 269 of speech’s 2,947 words, or 9.1 percent). Aspirational in tone and theme, it included three mandatory elements: elevated rhetoric about the California Dream, a big heap of self-congratulation and a laundry list of legislative proposals.

The devil, to coin a phrase, is in the details, of course, so the real opening bell of this election-year session won’t come until Friday, when Arnold’s Department of Finance minions release their $20 billion deficit budget, and he runs like hell out of town.

“Every year, in spite of whatever challenges are before us,” he said in the meantime, “I stand up here and tell you how much I believe in California’s future.”

Exactly. In fact, he could have given the same speech back in 2004. Oh wait, he did.

Schwarzenegger 2010Let’s do lunch: The gov made sure to give lawmakers a little love, applauding their approval of education reform (of the small caliber variety), and of water legislation that calls for $11 billion in new bond spending (boosting the state’s annual interest payment obligation, the fastest growing item in the budget). Having invited them all to lunch at the Sutter Club, he tried not to spoil their appetites by dwelling on the unpleasant fact that they’ll once again be taking the deficit out of the hides of California’s least fortunate citizens.

“Which child do we cut? The poor one? The sick one? The uneducated one? The one with special needs?”

How about all of the above, governor?

Now there’s a thought: As for what he wants to accomplish this year, The Terminator’s best ideas were to “protect education,” whatever that means, and to put a higher priority on the UC/CSU/Community College systems than on prisons:

Thirty years ago 10 percent of the general fund went to higher education and 3 percent went to prisons. Today almost 11 percent goes to prisons and 7.5 percent goes to higher education. Spending 45 percent more on prisons than universities is no way to proceed into the future. What does it say about a state that focuses more on prison uniforms than caps and gowns? It simply is not healthy.

No duh.

Two problems with Arnold’s big, blinding insight: 1) His notion for a constitutional amendment to require this policy keeps California locked in the same old ballot box budgeting box that helped get the state in the mess it’s in; 2) why didn’t he think of this earlier?

Most of his other big ideas were based variously on lies, damn lies and statistics:

“The worst is over for the California economy.” Really?

Even if you accept the argument that the recession is technically over, the lack of real economic growth in the form of new jobs, or a decline in the state’s 12.3 percent rate of unemployment, makes the case an empty, statistical claim, as everything from retail sales to real estate is forecast to sag at least until the fourth quarter in California.

“We cannot have a robust recovery while banks are not lending,” said Bill Watkins, our favorite, hard-headed economist. “So, fixing our banks should be our first priority. Unless we do that, we’re just going to muddle along.”

The feds will pay for it. Really?

Schwarzenegger is right to bitch that the state doesn’t get our fair share of federal tax money:

When President Clinton was in office, California got back 94 cents on the dollar from the federal government. Today we get only 78 cents back…This should be more fair and equitable.

Then again, if life was fair, Calbuzz would have big biceps and six-pack abs, too.

Even if the Obama Administration decides to back a too-big-to-fail  sweetheart deal for California, the odds of Congress falling in line in an election year, particularly given growing public concern about the deficit, plus the Anybody But California attitude on Capitol Hill, are slim. Arnold surely didn’t help his case with the White House by launching a surprise attack Wednesday on Democratic health care plans as “a trough of bribes, deals and loopholes.”

The Parsky plan will save us all. Really?conan

The one true outrage in Schwarzenegger’s speech was his demand that the Legislature pass the Parsky Commission proposal for tax reform — some nasty, secretive hide-the-pig-and-pony flapdoodle to which Calbuzz devoted a fair amount of attention.

I sent you the Tax Reform Commission’s plan in late September, but it seems to have disappeared somewhere under this dome. Where is it? Maybe the pig and the pony have taken it.

Or maybe it’s a dog-ass, half-baked, secretly-concocted, serve-the-rich scheme that’s been rightly denounced from every point on the political spectrum, Conan.

Views from the grandstand: Having utterly failed to end deficits or ease gridlock, the two big promises that swept him into office, Arnold is fast running out of time to try to repair his battered image, and it’s not going to help that every candidate for governor will rightfully campaign this year by pointing to him as a fine example of what not to do.

As political scientist Sherry Bebitch Jeffe put it, in a masterpiece of tongue-biting, understated, academic self-restraint:

The best word is ‘disappointing,’ and that’s being very kind. As governor, he’s accomplished little of what he said he wanted to do.

Not so diplomatic was California League of Conservation Voters CEO Warner Chabot., whose comments suggest that environmental issues, including Arnold’s own AB32 plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, could prove signficant in the 2010 campaign.

The governor has proposed an outrageous plan to gut California’s landmark environmental protection law with the false hope of job creation. Under his plan, dozens of communities throughout California will lose their constitutional right to question the health and environmental impact of major development projects in their backyard. The notion that we can stimulate our economy by making it easier to pollute the air that we breathe and the water that we drink is just plain false.

Senior Senator Dianne Feinstein joined in, bitch-slapping Schwarzenegger for blaming the feds for California’s problems:

It sounds like the Governor is looking for someone else to blame for California’s budget. California’s budget crisis was created in Sacramento, not Washington. These problems are not going away until there is wholesale reform of the state’s budget process.

Even the enigmatic, not-yet-announced Democratic candidate for governor,  Attorney General Jerry Brown, took a sideways whack at Arnold’s idea to save money by privatizing prisons.

I view with suspicion efforts to take a traditional public sector responsibility, whether it’s in schools or in prisons or maybe even in community health, and turn it over to a profit-making appropriation, particularly when it involves the coercive power of the state.

As a political matter, Schwarzmuscle on Wednesday was speaking, in his Landon Parvin-penned, final State of the State address, to an audience outside the Capitol, not in it.

But with three of four Californians turning thumbs down on his performance, it’s pretty clear they’ve already stopped listening.