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Posts Tagged ‘John Myers’



Jerry’s Challenge, Tony V’s Play, Arianna’s Aura

Monday, December 13th, 2010

Gov.-elect Jerry Brown’s Budget Teach-In last week in Sacramento was refreshing in its openness — with Brown and other presenters warning that the state’s budget shortfall is now estimated at about $28 billion between now and July 2012. No smoke. No mirrors. Just cold ugly facts.

But the gathering at Memorial Auditorium only took about 12 seconds to demonstrate anew that the fundamental conflict in Sacramento will not be solved by gathering everyone in a room together, sitting around the fireplace and singing kumbaya. Collegiality and civility certainly have been in short supply among the locusts fine men and women California voters have sent to the capital on their behalf.  But the principal contradiction is not a matter of congeniality — it remains political and ideological.

Most of the Democrats, and all of their leaders, believe the state’s budget shortfall is a revenue problem. They think taxes aren’t properly distributed and that solutions will be found by increasing revenues.

Most of the Republicans, and all of their leaders, believe the state’s budget shortfall is a spending problem. They think cutting unnecessary and overly generous state spending is the road to salvation.

KQED’s John Myers outlined the conflict nicely last week under the headline: “Jerry, Meet Gridlock; Gridlock, Jerry.”

Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger did no better — and some would argue a lot worse — than his Democratic predecessor, Gray Davis, at placing California on a firm financial footing. As he skips town, he leaves behind a huge mess that former-and-future Gov. Brown now must try to clean up.

Rumors abound that Jerry is planning to craft an austere budget which he will use as Exhibit A to obtain from voters some sort of temporary tax increase in June, or perhaps even a measure granting voters in cities, counties and school districts the authority to raise taxes with a majority vote or at least something less than two-thirds.

That would certainly return decision-making to local communities, “closer to the people” as he said in his campaign commercials. This of course could only succeed if Republicans and conservatives did not wage war against it. Which brings us back to the principal contradiction, which is a matter of ideology not civility.

To a cartoonist, like our Tom Meyer, it’s all a huge pile of garbage that’s been left behind by the previous administration and Legislature.  It’s hard to argue with that.


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What does Tony V want (don’t ask the LAT): Not since M.C. Escher has there been such a perfect image of bizarre and inescapable bureaucracy as the By God Los Angeles Times displayed over the past week in its  mishandling of an important political story involving hometown mayor Tony Villaraigosa.

Villaraigosa was in Sacramento on Tuesday to deliver the opening speech of the big conference on the state’s future sponsored by the Public Policy Institute of California, which drew about 600 political and policy types, including the likes of such national names as Judy Woodruff, Van Jones and Dan Balz of the Washpost.

Despite an early morning speaking slot that preceded the day’s first panel, focused on education, Tony V promptly made news: Villaraigosa, whose labor organizing and Sacramento political careers featured fierce advocacy for teacher unions, surprised his weed whacking audience by issuing a harsh denunciation of those very unions:

What is stopping us from changing direction?

Why, for so long, have we allowed denial and indifference to defeat action? I do not raise this question lightly, and I do not come to my conclusion from a lack of experience. I was a legislative advocate for the California Teachers Association, and I was a union organizer for United Teachers of Los Angeles. From the time I entered the California State Assembly and became Speaker, to my tenure as Mayor of Los Angeles, I have fought to fund and reform California’s public schools.

Over the past five years, while partnering with students, parents and non-profits, business groups, higher education, charter organizations, school district leadership, elected board members and teachers, there has been one, unwavering roadblock to reform: UTLA union leadership. While not the biggest problem facing our schools, they have consistently been the most powerful defenders of the status quo…Regrettably, they have yet to join us as we have forged ahead with a reform agenda.

Tony V’s deliberately provocative comments, coming from California’s most prominent Latino politician, not to mention a lifelong union goon, were a big deal, voiced at a time when teacher unions are increasingly embattled by national education reform efforts, starting in the White House.

And that’s how the matter was treated – by almost everyone except Hizzoner’s hometown paper.

Within minutes, David Sanchez, president of the California Teachers Association, had fired back at the mayor during a panel discussion that followed his speech. The relentless Jack Chang filed a post about the conflict on the Bee’s Capitol Alert blog not long after, as did the invaluable John Fensterwald on his state education blog .

By the next morning the reform-minded Joe Mathews had characterized Villaraigosa’s remarks as “the most significant speech given by a California politician this year,” and a variety of broadcast and wire reports, along with several newspaper editorials strongly supporting the mayor’s sentiments, were circulating.

And amid all the urgent buzz over the next two days, the L.A. Times produced . . . radio silence.

Not a word from any beat, anywhere on its far-flung editorial depth chart, which is rivaled only by the forces that gathered for the invasion of Normandy for organizational complexity and resources.

Our motto: if it’s news, it’s news to us.

Finally, on Friday morning, Times editors managed to clue their readers into what their mayor had been up to that week. A double byline story by Patrick McDonnell, who writes about labor, and City Hall reporter David Zahniser,  which also included reporting by Teresa Watanabe and Jason Song of the education desk, finally caught up with the news – a full 72 hours after Villaraigosa spoke.

“I knew it would cause a firestorm,” Villaraigosa said in an interview Thursday, two days after the speech.

This just in: Big firestorm slowly heading toward L.A.

In the end, it was left to Cathy Decker,  the paper’s ever reliable state politics editor, to clean up the elephantine mess with a Sunday thumbsucker that addressed the key question puzzling Calbuzz readers: WTF is Tony V up to?

“For a Democratic politician who is presumed to have ambitions once he is termed out of office in 2013, Villaraigosa’s moves were intriguing,” Decker wrote.

To those more Machiavellian in nature — say, the entire political establishment — other possibilities came to mind: Villaraigosa was angling for an Obama administration job. He was declaring independence from party positions and powers in preparation for a future statewide run. Or he was trying to redefine his mayoralty in a way that could reap benefits down the line, were he to decide to exercise options one or two….

Part of the difficulty in divining what Villaraigosa was trying to accomplish last week is the parallel difficulty in figuring out where he might be going.

Decker seemed to hit upon the nut of the matter when she noted that, regardless of Tony V’s secret aspirations, he needs to bump up his profile, now, to avoid being generationally squeezed out, between California’s Democratic Geezer Trio and its cool new Dynamic Duo:

When he first ran for mayor in 2001, Villaraigosa was seen as one of the Democratic Party’s up-and-comers. Now the senior Democrats — Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer and Gov.-elect Jerry Brown — are in their 70s. Villaraigosa will be pushing 60 when the next big race occurs — Feinstein’s Senate seat is up in 2012, though she has said she plans to run again. Catching up with the mayor is a younger group of Democrats, personified by the incoming lieutenant governor and attorney general, Gavin Newsom and Kamala Harris. Both are in their 40s.

For upward momentum, or just a legacy, Villaraigosa has to make good on his basic pledges: to lower crime, improve schools and increase jobs. Crime has been down, but joblessness is high. Voters can cut mayors slack during national downturns, but no such slack is likely when it comes to the state of the schools. Villaraigosa himself said years ago that voters should “absolutely” hold him responsible for reforming schools, and unless he can convince voters that the unions are to blame, they are likely to hold him to it.

Today’s sign the end of civilization is near: Remind us again why she gets to be on “Meet the Press”?

Calbuzz, Web Partners Ask Gov Rivals to Debate

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

Three of California’s leading political websites have invited the two major-party candidates for governor to participate in the state’s first Blogosphere Debate.

Calbuzz, FlashReport and Calitics, in partnership with the College of Social Sciences at San Jose State University and the Commonwealth Club Silicon Valley, today sent a letter outlining the debate to Mike Murphy and Steve Glazer of the campaigns of Republican nominee Meg Whitman and Democratic nominee Jerry Brown.

Here’s the letter that was emailed today:

Dear Mike and Steve,

On behalf of Calbuzz, FlashReport and Calitics, we are pleased to invite Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown to participate in a two-person, first-ever California Blogosphere Debate. The College of Social Sciences at San Jose State University and the Commonwealth Club Silicon Valley will also serve as debate sponsors.

As you may know, the Washington Post has named Calbuzz, FlashReport and Calitics the three leading political web sites in California. Collectively we provide on a daily basis a full range of political perspectives and analysis, from conservative to moderate to progressive.

We have secured Morris Dailey auditorium at San Jose State University for the afternoon and evening of Monday September 13th (with back-up possibilities on the 14th and 15th). The specific time of the debate would be decided later in consultation with the campaigns, but we anticipate a 60-minute event, scheduled at a time between 4 pm and 7 pm. The format, with final details to be determined, would likely include the following:

– Moderator: John Myers of KQED (pending approval from KQED)
– One questioner each from Calbuzz, FlashReport and Calitics
– Two-minute opening and closing remarks from candidates
– One question for both candidates from each panelist with two-minute responses
– Two questions for each candidate from each panelist with two-minute responses
– One minute rebuttal from each candidate for each question
– Introduction, follow-ups as permitted by moderator and closing statements.

This means each candidate would field six questions: three common questions for both candidates and three questions specific to each candidate. Both candidates would have an opportunity for rebuttal on every question.

We envision candidates standing at podiums with television lighting. Neither candidate would use scripts, notes or props although they may take notes during the debate. A pre-arranged coin toss would determine the order, with the candidates given the option of opening first or closing last. We would offer a live feed to any television or radio station or online broadcaster interested in carrying the debate. We anticipate one pool camera crew to shoot the debate.

As you’re aware the news industry is in a state of radical transformation, with the internet steadily playing a larger and more significant role in setting the public agenda. We believe that our proposal offers a unique and historic opportunity for your campaigns to play an important role in shaping that agenda, and we hope you will give this invitation your most serious consideration. Please respond by 5 p.m., Friday, June 25.

Very truly yours,

Phil Trounstine, Jerry Roberts, Jon Fleischman, Brian Leubitz, Robert Cruickshank

Fishwrap: Jerry Gets Cosmic, Meg Prez Fever Grows

Saturday, June 12th, 2010

There are doubtless many reasons why Meg Whitman won’t accept Jerry Brown’s invite to 10 town halls around the state – strategy, scheduling and skittishness, for starters.

While she’s now agreed to one cheesy debate a couple weeks before the election, eMeg’s unwillingness to commit to more clearly derives from the knowledge that, in a sustained series of match-ups, she’s simply got no answer for Brown’s Zen Jesuit epistemological style.

Which was on full display the day after the primary in an interview conducted by ABC’s Diane Sawyer who, among other things, elicited this improvisational analysis of the deeper meaning of politics:

Well, at the end of the day, what really is this all about? The fundamental quest is: How do we touch our spirituality? How do we touch that innermost part of our being? And how are we open to that same thing in other people?

That’s the intimacy, the spirituality, that you don’t normally find in politics.But it’s the other side. After everything quiets down, you’re still yourself. And there’s still life and death. When I was studying in Japan, before you’d mediate … in the evening, someone would hit a block a few times. And then someone would intone: ‘Life and death is a serious matter. Time waits for no man. Do your best.’ And that, I think, could be the spirit of this campaign.

Or not.

When does eMeg leave for Iowa? Lost amid the well deserved criticism Brown is taking over the comparison he drew between Whitman and Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels are some other comments he made during his “jogging talk” conversation with Doug Sovern of KCBS:  his recycling of the Calbuzz theory that eMeg’s pursuit of the governorship is really about her desire to be president.

She wants to be president. That’s her ambition, the first woman president. That’s what this is all about.

For those who want in on the ground floor of this deal, there’s already a Meg Whitman for President 2012 (four years too early in our view) Facebook page. Remember you read it here first.

Politics of pensions: To date, Brown has spent much time talking about issues that are of great interest to him – town hall meetings, Meg’s massive financial advantage in the campaign, his alleged roots in the “mean streets” of Oakland  – but not so much about things that might actually affect actual voters – say, jobs, the economy or some specific ideas for dealing with the sorry state of the state’s finances.

On the latter point, Brown at some stage is going to have find a way to address the festering problem of public employee pensions: while his allies in labor would no doubt much prefer that he didn’t, there is growing resentment about the disconnect between the cushy retirement benefits that many government workers receive and the cat food prospects  available to what you like to call your ordinary people.

Exhibit A: voters this week in San Francisco – the only city where people actually like paying taxes – approved a ballot measure that requires increased contributions from new public workers and that begins to address the scandal of “spiking” pensions by which benefits are pegged to  often inflated salaries earned in the last year on the job.

Governor Schwarzmuscle has already made pension reform a centerpiece of this year’s budget battle, ensuring it will be a high-profile issue for months, at a time when reporters around the state – most notably Dan Borenstein and Ed Mendel – keep churning out reporting on excesses, and eMeg hammers on the problem every time she gives a speech.

That’s not to mention the related outrage that many labor agreements detailing pension benefits are top secret in jurisdictions around the state, as noted by the First Amendment Coalition:

Public unions in California turned distrustful of voters and ambivalent about government transparency. In the mid-1990s unions backed improvements to the Brown Act, California’s open meeting law, but also inserted a provision assuring that the public would have no access to collective bargaining agreements negotiated by cities and counties—often representing 70% or more of their total operating budgets—until after the agreements are signed.

What happens when voters and the press have no opportunity to question elected officials about how they propose to pay for a lower retirement age, health care for retirees’ dependents, richer pension formulas and the like? The officials make contractual promises that are unaffordable, unsustainable (and, in general, don’t come due until after those elected officials have left office). In the case of Vallejo, in northern California, this veil of secrecy, and the symbiotic relationship it fosters, has led to municipal bankruptcy.

Memo to Jerry: Add pensions to “Jogging Talk” file.

Press Clips: Don’t miss Tony Quinn’s excellent analysis of the right-wing’s historic primary losses. Karen Tumulty is worth reading on why CEOs struggle as electeds. Dan Walters takes the first stab at sorting out the Meg-Jerry exchange on Brown’s first incarnation budget record.

John Myers cuts to the heart of the eMeg-Krusty leadership argument. Lance Williams offers a post-Prop. 14 historic look at non-partisan voting in California. Rep. Anthony Wiener gets gored by a goat.

Team eMeg: Dem Ad is a Plot to Pick a GOP Loser

Saturday, May 8th, 2010

Meg Whitman’s campaign pushed back on a new $800K Democratic TV attack buy Friday, charging that the state party’s new ad is a cynical,  underhanded, union-financed effort to help Steve Poizner win the Republican nomination for governor.

And anyway, they insisted, it’s not an effective spot. All righty then: the food’s awful and the portions are too small.

Twelve hours after Calbuzz first reported that Jerry Brown’s campaign and the CDP had collaborated on the new hit, whacking eMeg as a sleazy Wall Street insider,  two of her strategists launched a two-track counter-attack on the effort:

They said it was not only “proof positive that the unions are trying to influence the Republican primary,” because they fear Whitman’s campaign promises to dump 40,000 state workers and cut public employee pension benefits, but also evidence that Poizner is a useful idiot who is the Democrat’s “clearly preferred candidate…. (because) they know he’s unelectable and they can beat him.”

Whitman communications director Tucker Bounds and senior adviser Rob Stutzman told political writers that their information, based on checks with TV stations around the state, was that the Dems were spending $800,000 on a buy that would run at least over the next four days.  Tenoch Flores, the CDP’s communications director, said the buy was “over $800,000” and would run for five days; the spot, among other things, hits eMeg for evading taxes through “an offshore shell game.”

On one level, the new CDP ad — authoritatively narrated by Peter Coyote — seeks support for legislation sponsored by Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich) that aims to recover an estimated $100 billion in tax revenues lost by the United States each year as a result of corporations and citizens who dodge taxes by holding funds in offshore accounts in places like the Cayman Islands and Bermuda. But that’s just in the last six seconds of a 30-second commercial. The first 24 seconds are used to attack eMeg, mostly for her connections to Goldman Sachs.

So any fair minded person viewing this ad would see it as an assault on Whitman, who is Exhibit A for “wealthy Wall Street insiders.” Calbuzz wanted to discuss the strategic political purpose of the ad, so we rang up CDP Chairman John Burton. He insisted the purpose of the ad is to support Levin’s anti-tax haven legislation (as if this were the No. 1 priority for the California Democratic Party).  When we said we were hoping to have an honest discussion about the political strategy of the ad, Burton exploded: “Are you calling me a liar? Fuck you!” And he hung up the phone. Hey Burton! Thanks for nothing, you jackass.

Brown’s spokesman Sterling Clifford (or Clifford Sterling, as our Department of Dyslexic Proper Names knows him) dismissed the notion that the Democrats want to help Poizner at Whitman’s expense. “The Republican party has two candidates who have rushed to embrace the extreme wing of their party,” he said. “Whichever one eventually gets the Republican nomination, we’re confident the people of California will choose Jerry Brown in November.”

BTW: Calbuzz predicts the CDP’s initial air time buy is just rope-a-dope (trying to avoid a Whitman counter assault) and that they’ll keep up the buy for a few more weeks.

What it all means: Poizner’s camp, basking in a momentum shift in the GOP race, dismissed the Whitman spin with its own, disdainful spin: “The Whitman Campaign has become a very expensive Humpty Dumpty,” said communications director Jarrod Agen, “and all of the Goldman Sachs money and all the hacks in Sacramento can’t put Meg’s campaign back together again.”

In a week when the Republican campaign was finally joined, after months in which Her Megness had the field to herself, the latest three-way exchange  makes clear that Whitman:

1-Will be forced to fight a two-front war over the next four weeks.

She’s now being whipsawed in an intriguing political dynamic, getting whacked from the right and left simultaneously on the very same issue – her close ties to Goldman Sachs.

Whistling past the graveyard, Bounds and Stutzman insisted that the Goldman-Sachs attack line is “not terribly effective” – while taking pains to point out Poizner’s own ties to the scandal-tainted investment bank (which Calbuzz reported on earlier this week), challenging reporters to put “sunlight on his investments” and point out his “hypocritical” stance on the issue.

No one has yet challenged the validity of the  extremely scientific Calbuzz calculation that Whitman scores 80% on the Goldman Sachs Taint of Scandal chart compared to just 15%  GSTS for Poizner and 5% for Brown.

2-Has lost control of the campaign narrative.

After months of stiffing the press – when a Wall Street Journal reporter asked eMeg a few months ago about her aversion to reporters, she answered that Some of these newspapers, as you know better than I, will not be around in the near termTeam Whitman has now convened two conference calls in three days in an effort to shape reporters’ stories, an attempt to redirect the emerging campaign meme that her once-big lead was based on soft support that’s quickly eroding.

3-Is being pushed hard to the right.

For much of the campaign to date, Whitman has been trying to position herself for a general election race. But with Poizner pressuring her hard on issues like immigration and his sweeping tax cut proposal, Bounds acknowledged Friday that eMeg will be more aggressive in efforts to portray her GOP rival as a demon sheep liberal and herself as “truly the most conservative candidate.” (HT to Steve Harmon of the Coco Times for raising the issue.) The negative comparative is  the point of her new spot ripping Poizner as a Prop. 13 supporter out to harm senior citizens.

Final word to Bounds: “There is plenty of evidence to suggest that…(Poizner)  is part of the Sacramento problem.”  Watch for more of this.

Press clip: Belated kudos to John Myers of KQED radio, who did a superb job of moderating the eMeg-Poizner smackdown the other night at San Jose’s Tech Museum.

Myers was firm but not overbearing in keeping control of the event throughout, did nice work in following up and forcing answers to questions from the panel the candidates ignored  – especially when he pressed eMeg to say whether  she did anything wrong on stock spinning (surprise, surprise, she said she didn’t) and tossed a gotcha question that put both candidates in Bambi-in-the-headlights mode. All this, plus he had the best tailored suit and crispest tie knot on the stage.

Just because: The slide show with this NYT piece is a riot.

Calbuzz Snubbed in GOP Debate; Payback Looms

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

This just in: Calbuzz was not chosen to be on the panel of reporters in the Great Debate between Republican candidates for governor Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner. We’re shocked – shocked! -  outraged and distraught. Cold revenge is on the menu.

For now, the debate is scheduled for 2 pm Sunday, May 2 at the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, with KQED’s John Myers as moderator and panelists Carla Marinucci of the San Francisco Chronicle, Josh Richman of the Oakland Tribune, Jack Chang of the Sacramento Bee, Michael Blood of the Associated Press and Santiago Lucero of Univision. A solid enough lineup except for, well, you know . . .

Now Poizner is tweaking Whitman by arguing that she’s trying to limit exposure, and the California Accountability Project, sourcing a KTVU-TV report, is suggesting eMeg is lying about who picked the time. According to Sam Rodriguez at Comcast, the actual start time is still being discussed – by the campaigns.

Not that it’ll make much difference. Comcast is going to make the coordinates available to any TV station that wants them and they can broadcast it whenever they want to; Comcast will air it live on its Hometown Network, where it will be replayed many times; the California Channel is scheduled to air it live, as will others. Whether it’s at 2 pm or 5 pm on a Sunday makes little difference. More people will see it in the clips and the re-broadcast than will see it live no matter when it airs.

Why? Because it’s a “debate” between Steve Poizner and Meg Whitman ferheavensakes!

Which is why, for the entertainment value alone, Calbuzz is rooting for Jerry Brown’s drive – with a petition campaign started about 5 pm Sunday – to get eMeg to agree to join him and Steve in a series of three-way debates. Now that could be fun to watch.

So far, Meg’s not budging. (And why should she, really?) Even though Brown had racked up 4,500 signatures in the first 24 hours. “We’re hoping eventually to get 100 signatures for every million Meg Whitman has spent on her campaign,” said Brown flack Sterling Clifford. “We have 1,400 to go.”

Press clips – rant of the week: When we launched Calbuzz a little over a year ago, our Department of Churning It Out and Doing It Daily wrote that our role models were “Boys on the Bus” Hall of Fame partners Jules Witcover and Jack Germond (as noted at the time, we had little choice but to view ourselves as “the fat man in the middle seat,” the title of one of Germond’s campaign memoirs).

So we were delighted to find an online version of a dead-trees-and-ink column by Witcover, bringing his famed analytic powers  to the task of dissecting, um, online journalism.

Taking as his point of departure the recent announcement that the Library of Congress intends to start archiving hundreds of million of Twitter tweets, Witcover thundered against the evils of modernity, weaving into his screed the disgraceful case of CBSNews.com fronting a blog post that contained a quickly discredited assertion that Solicitor General and possible Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan is a lesbian:

The tweet, which seems too often to be an unedited burp from the mouth of a diner overfed with trivia, strikes me as a poor cousin of the blog, that unlimited and too often also unedited vomiting of opinion, diatribe, rumor or just plain bigotry and hate.

The magazine Wired quoted one Matt Raymond, identified as the Library of Congress’ blogger, saying: “I’m no Ph.D., but it boggles my mind to think what we might be able to learn about ourselves and the world around us from this wealth of data.” One also can only wonder, however, what we might be able to learn from more fully expressed ideas, particularly when submitted to responsible, professional editing…

When rumor, prospective slander, libel or just plain inaccuracy gets through, the credibility of all journalism suffers.

We have no argument with our hero on that point. Despite Witcover’s lament that it was otherwise, however, the plain fact is that in the Wild West world of new media, it’s the content consumer who’s running the show, not the content provider. So the bottom line is: let the buyer beware, while the market sorts it all out.

Three reasons we love newspapers: Margot Roosevelt’s report detailing the big bucks efforts of oil giants Valero, Tesoro and Occidental Petroleum to qualify an initiative rolling back AB 32;  fellow LATimeser George Skelton’s takedown of PG&E over Proposition 16, its outrageously phony rip-off measure that would enshrine a monopoly for the utility under the guise of the “taxpayer’s right to vote act”;  the SacBee’s Kevin Yamamura’s smart takeout on eMeg Whitman’s proposal to eliminate the capital gains tax, likely to become a campaign issue.

Three reasons we love the Internets: The Oracle of Cruickshank’s trenchant, from-the-left post-game analysis of the Democratic convention over at Calitics;  Steve Malanga’s from-the-right indictment of the role of public employee unions in California’s budget mess, at the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal;  Danielle Crittendon’s ordinary folks look at what a shameful dog-and-pony wheeze Sarah Palin performs for big bucks in the hinterlands

We wish we’d said that: Better late than never kudos to Chronicler Debra Saunders for a clear-eyed look at the dust-up at San Jose’s Mt. Pleasant High School over Steve Poizner’s memoir of the year he spent teaching there.

Today’s sign the end of civilization is near: Jamie Jungers and Bombshell McGree, together again.