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Posts Tagged ‘SEIU’



Reform Won’t Cut It; We Need Legislators With Guts

Saturday, February 12th, 2011

By Gary Delsohn
Special to Calbuzz

Some very smart people, many of them friends of mine, have created a cottage industry arguing that California is in desperate need of political reform.

We’ve seen books, opinion page essays, incessant blogging and groups like California Forward offer insightful analyses about the laundry list of structural fixes needed to stop the constant bickering and budget crises that paralyze the Capitol year-in, year-out.

We even have a European billionaire talking about reform who seems to have captivated the media and other good government folks, not for anything he’s done or proposed, but because he’s so rich he likes to fly around the world in his jet and live in posh hotel suites instead of residing in any one place.

Of course, we need a tax code that reflects our 21st Century economy, one that is more broadly based and is not held hostage to the vagaries of Wall Street.

Sure, we need fair, competitive elections and honestly drawn legislative districts.  We need to ditch term limits, or at the very least refine them, so we can again have a legislature with wise old hands.

Everyone knows the state is not well served when self-serving lobbyists and consultants are better informed and more experienced than our legislators.

It would be nice if we could count on legislators to spend no more than the state takes in, but since we cannot, we also need a spending cap like the one already slated for the 2012 ballot.

These will all help future governors and legislators do their jobs more effectively.  Maybe we even need some of the other reforms floating around like pay-as-you-go and two-year budgeting.

But none of these will fix our state.

What California needs more than anything else are elected officials with — to use a polite term — guts and vision.

How about Democrats willing to stand up to the public employee labor unions?  Democrats who will tell their labor donors without equivocation that California can no longer afford overly generous pensions and other lifetime benefits.

We need those same Democrats to tell the unions, “Sure you hate privatizing even the most obscure state service, but that’s too bad.  California is broke. We need to be more efficient and competitive.  If you don’t like it, vote me out of office.  This is about saving our state, not your union.”

We need Republicans with the courage to act as adults about the state’s revenue crisis and not be intimidated by what right-wing radio shows or the Flash Report will say if they do the right thing. Because every Republican in the Legislature who is intellectually honest knows you cannot solve a $25 billion budget shortfall by cuts alone.  Unless, of course, you want to decimate state government.

We need the same Republicans to wake up and realize California’s environment is arguably its most precious asset, so stop scheming to undermine or delay every piece of legislation that seeks to protect and enhance it.

No constitutional convention, initiative or reform love-in will give us any of those kinds of politicians. We need our elected officials to rise to the occasion, show some guts and vision and do what’s best for the state, not what’s best for their political parties or resumes.

The media have an important role to play here, too. It requires more than just parroting what the zealots say under the guise of fair reporting.

When Yvonne Walker, head of SEIU’s Local 100 tells a Sacramento TV reporter after Gov. Brown’s state of the state speech that Gov. Schwarzenegger declared war on state workers because he needed an enemy, which she did, it would be nice if the reporter knew enough or cared enough to push back.

All that was needed was a simple, “But the state’s broke. Social services and programs for the needy are being axed. Taxpayers are paying more. If California is busted, don’t state workers have to expect some cuts, too?”

It’s not difficult to see the outline of a deal that can be struck between Gov. Brown’s quite reasonable proposed budget solution of cuts and taxes and Republicans’ unreasonable no-tax obsession.

Approve the cuts and tax extensions that Brown has proposed, craft lasting pension reform and some honest regulatory relief for business that gets the state’s economy out of the deep freeze. Then have Democrats and Republicans stand together to explain it to voters.

Compared to what we’re watching as people sacrifice their lives to fix broken governments in the rest of the world, this is small potatoes.

And I’m sorry, the need for civil discourse notwithstanding, we should not even be talking about the goofy notion of countering Brown’s proposed tax package with an alternative proposal to cut taxes by the same amount.

I spent seven years at the Capitol — four as a reporter for the Sacramento Bee and three as Gov. Schwarzenegger’s chief speechwriter — and that idea is as lame as it gets.

Brown was right when he said, “Further tax cuts take us further down the road. You got to get real here. Don’t say, ‘I’m going to solve this problem by creating a whole bunch of newer problems.’”  The tax cut idea is childish and counter-productive.

My fondest hope for California is that we continue the reform momentum we have seen the past few years.  But it will never take the place of leaders with backbone who are willing to make the tough, unpopular decisions our current state of affairs require.

Those people need to step up and be heard right now.

Gary Delsohn, a private media consultant, is a former reporter for the Sacramento Bee who served as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s chief speech writer from 2006 to 2009. He is currently working with Schwarzenegger on a variety of writing projects.

Jerry’s New Ads; Meyer on Meg; R = eMeg Squared

Saturday, October 2nd, 2010

With Team Whitman furiously trying to spin away the story about Meg Whitman’s undocumented housekeeper and both sides preparing for today’s Univision debate in Fresno, Jerry Brown unloaded two new ads designed to keep Whitman on defense.

One is a positive saying Brown balanced budgets without raising taxes and took on Wall Street banks, mortgage scammers and public officials. “Knowledge and know-how that works for you” is the slogan — a subtle suggestion that he has it and she doesn’t.

The negative ad is far more compelling, saying the “real Meg Whitman” was caught reaping millions for insider stock deals when she was on the board of Goldman Sachs, using the words “conflict of interest” and “corrupt,” charging that she paid herself $120 million while laying off 10% of eBay’s workforce, and asking, “Shouldn’t character matter?”

As Calbuzz noted Friday, demonstrating character is exactly Whitman’s challenge, after it was revealed she had employed an illegal immigrant in her home for years — knowingly or not — before she started talking tough about cracking down on them. And with his pals in the SEIU on the air with an ad speaking to that issue, Brown attacked Whitman as a greedy Wall Street predator.

Whitman’s response was fast and furious. Said spokesperson Andrea Jones Rivera:

“This ad is an outright lie. Meg’s salary was under a million dollars and it was approved by the eBay board of directors.* After swearing that voters would ‘always get the truth’, Jerry Brown has abandoned his promise in favor of a smear campaign that intentionally distorts the truth. In the ad, Jerry Brown goes so far as to cynically attack Meg’s brief service on the Goldman Sachs board, despite the fact that Brown’s own sister is currently a high ranking executive at Goldman Sachs. The truth is Meg Whitman was rated one of the top bosses and CEOs for her time at eBay and we will put her business record up against Jerry’s 40 year political career anytime.”

Meanwhile, Whitman continues to pummel Brown as a tax-and-spend liberal who opposed Proposition 13 and drove up unemployment and the state deficit. Surely that’s why Brown argues himself in his positive ad: “As Governor, I’ll cap government salaries and pensions. On the budget – we have to face reality. Make do with what we have, and no taxes without voter approval.”

Polling suggests voters appreciate Whitman’s business background but they aren’t sure they like her or that she’s got the skills and experience (“knowledge and know-how”) to command California government. On the other hand, they know Brown has what it takes to be governor and they like him pretty much; they’re just not sure they can trust him not to pick their pocket.

Although jobs, budgets, environment, water, education and public safety are kinds of issues governors actually must confront, the curbside political world is wondering today how eMeg’s housekeeper issue will come up in the Univision debate — with an expected audience of millions of Latinos — and what Whitman and Brown will say about it.

No doubt, Whitman would like to be asked why, after hammering on the issue of illegal immigration, did she not report Nicky Diaz to the authorities after learning that she was here without documentation. That way she can come across as sympathetic (although she has to be careful not to sound too condescending).

She likely would not like to be asked why she didn’t use a teensy weensy portion of her vast wealth to hire Diaz an immigration attorney or whether she actually said, “You never have seen me and I have never seen you,” as Diaz recounts the conversation. (Of course, denying it is calling Nicky a liar, so that’s tricky, too.)

Brown, the betting suggests, will keep his trap shut and let Whitman stew in her own juices unless Meg charges to his face that he was behind the whole episode. At which point, it’s hard to predict. He could cooly note that it was not he who hired an illegal immigrant to work in her house.  Or he could fire back at how outraged he is to be accused of the “politics of personal destruction.” We’ll know soon enough.

* Thank you Steve Harmon for this reportorial note: “Salaries are rarely the true measure of a CEO’s net worth in their rarified world of dividends, stocks and bonuses. Forbes Magazine, in September, 2008, and the New York Times, reported that Whitman received a $120.4 million, in salary, bonus and the value of her excercised options in her final year, despite eBay’s stock plummeting 49 percent.”

Meyer Carefully Evaluates Meg’s Skills

The slashing pen of Tom Meyer, world renowned editorial cartoonist and dressed-to-the-nines Calbuzzer extraordinaire today examines the deeper political implications of eMeg’s using the famous phrase, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result,” multiple times during her Tuesday night debate with Jerry Brown.

Us, we’re still wondering why Her Megness used the aphorism over and over and kept expecting a different result; like, maybe somebody might actually laugh when she repeated it, oh say, the 13th or 14th time. Must be that exquisite sense of comic timing she has to go with her wonderful ability to laugh at herself and her highly-developed sense of self-awareness.

All that aside, a wide-ranging Calbuzz investigation of more than 10 minutes worth of Googling reveals that there is not a single shred of citable evidence to support her attribution of the quote to Albert Einstein (not a big week for Meg and documentary evidence). There is , in fact, a considerable debate around the internets about the original source, with the current conventional wisdom crediting Rita Mae Brown, who actually did write it down in a book once. You could look it up.

And speaking of misusing hoary phrases: Calbuzz was appalled this week by the widespread misuse of the phrase “October surprise” to describe the bombshell news about Whitman’s housekeeper, which Gloria Allred dropped on the candidate’s head on Wednesday morning.

In his essential “Political Dictionary,” the late great William Safire traced the phrase back to the 1980 presidential election, when then Republican vice presidential candidate George Bush the Elder warned that President Jimmy Carter “is a politically tough fellow, he’ll do anything to get reelected, and let’s be prepared for some October surprise.”

Of course, it turned out that the surprise was on Carter, as the Iran hostage crisis that had bedeviled him for much of his term was instantly resolved when the Ayatollah Khomeini ordered the release of the hostages shortly after Mr. Jimmy lost to Ronald Reagan. Safire continues:

By 1991, the noun phrase was being applied to any controversial or unpleasant event in October. (emphasis ours)

Let’s be blunt: The Allred-Nicky Diaz press conference triggering the Meg and the Maid drama took place on Wednesday, September 29; while it might qualify as a “September Shocker,” it most definitely was not an “October Surprise.”

And while we’re at it:  Let’s make it perfectly clear that eMeg’s big laugh line at the debate – making Jerry governor is like “putting Dracula in charge of a  blood bank” – is a total rip off from none other than…Jane Fonda. Hanoi Jane used the line in whacking Carter for his appointment of James Schlesinger as Energy Secretary about the same time that October became so surprising:

“Putting Schlesinger in charge of nuclear power is like putting Dracula in charge of a blood bank,” Jane Fonda orated to the cheering demonstrators at the foot of the Capitol steps.

Mega-kudos and H/T for that catch to Calbuzzer Debra Hall who, besides being brilliant, eagle-eyed and ever-alert, also has the buffest arms of any marketing consultant in California.

Polly Wolly Doodle: Our old friend Steve Lopez of the LA Times has cleverly lined up a polygraph expert, LA PI John Grogan, to give eMeg a polygraph test on whether she ever knew about that letter from the Social Security Administration. After saying she’d be glad to take a lie detector test, Meg backtracked and said she’d do it only if Jerry and Nicky would, too. But what the heck, Meg — this could be a great moment in gubernatorial leadership. All expenses paid!

The Latino Vote: Why Brown Crushes Whitman

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

After Meg Whitman’s appearance the other day at the Greater San Jose Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, a 30-year-old account executive from Univision told Julia Prodis Sulek of the Mercury News she was “wowed away.” This led to a story suggesting eMeg would be trying to round up votes from Latinos.

Which got the Calbuzz Department of Historic Factoids and Demographic Analysis pretty worked up for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that one of eMeg’s campaign chairmen is former Gov. Pete Wilson (once known on the streets of Mexico City as “Hijo de Puta”) for his pioneering role in using illegal immigration as a wedge issue in California politics.

Although Whitman would eliminate “sanctuary cities” and is opposed to amnesty for undocumented immigrants, she certainly comes across as less antagonistic to immigration than her GOP rival Steve Poizner:  she says she would not have voted for Prop. 187, which sought to deny services to illegal immigrants, and would not deny medical services or education to the children of illegals.

But try as she might to keep anyone from noticing that she is seeking the REPUBLICAN nomination, the chance that she could capture even a quarter of the Latino vote is far from certain.

Even before he has campaigned among Latino voters — who are expected to comprise 15% of the November electorate – Crusty the General is in a lot better shape among Latinos than eMeg is.

In the January Field Poll, Brown’s favorable-unfavorable ratio among Latinos was 43-22% and in March it was 36-22%, By comparison, Meg’s ratio was 17-16% in January and 31-18% in March. And while Brown led Whitman 52-29% in January among Latinos, he was ahead of her 54-25% in March.

In other words, while eMeg picked up some positive ID among Latinos from her TV ads between January and March, Brown’s lead in the vote among Latinos increased from 23 percentage points in January to 29 points in March. And the only thing Brown had done was his announcement media tour.

And that’s before the Brown campaign has made clear a few actual facts about Jerry Brown and Latinos, including:

1. Former Gov. Brown made Cruz Reynoso the first Latino on the California Supreme Court.

2. He named Mario Obledo in his Secretary of Health and Welfare – the first Latino in a modern-day California cabinet.

3. Brown marched with Cesar Chavez in support of the National Farmworkers Association and later the United Farmworkers Union.

4. Brown signed into law the Agricultural Relations Act, giving farm workers the right to unionize and provide state oversight of labor relations in the agricultural industry.

5. He hooked up with Linda Ronstadt.

Case closed.

ABC (Always Believe Calbuzz): The emergence in Brown’s weekend speech to the SEIU of an overtly and aggressive populist tone, as alertly reported by the SacBee’s Jack Chang, fulfills the prediction we made after the surprise election of Scott Brown to Ted Kennedy’s old Senate seat:

We hear from a lot of conservative circles: It’s the people who work for the people, the firefighters, the nurses, the hospital workers, the janitors, these are the people who caused our problems – not true,” Brown told a gathering at Oakland’s Marriott City Center hotel and hundreds more around the state via a video link.

“The folks of Wall Street who cost the United States over $11 trillion, they’ve created the problem,” he said. “And we are the ones who suffer.

As we reported in January, in a year when Brown, and other incumbent Democrat officeholders, face enormous risk in being portrayed successfully by the GOP as political insiders, the smart play is to position himself as an insurgent scourge of big business greed heads of all types:

In both the Senate and governor’s race, we expect the Democrats to sound a lot like one of the roving 1886 lecturers cited in “The Populist Movement” by Duke historian Larry Goodwyn:

“We have an overproduction of poverty, barefooted women, political thieves and many liars. There is no difference between legalized robbery and highway robbery . . . If you listen to other classes, you will have only three rights . . . to work, to starve and to die.”

Boxer and Brown — we predict — will run against the banks, the corporations and the oil companies — all of which will be lashed to their GOP opponents.  Whether voters will buy it is anyone’s guess.

Commish pounds immigration: Proving that he has little  interest in the Latino vote, Steve Poizner’s campaign plans to unveil a new TV spot today, in which he declares himself the only candidate with “the guts” to stop illegal immigration.

Stepping up the pitch to GOP conservatives he rolled out at the Republican state convention, promises to “stop taxpayer-funded benefits for illegal immigrants,” or to bring a new initiative before voters to do so.

Down but not out in his battle against GOP front-runner Meg Whitman, Poizner ends the ad by doing a superman act with a Buick, representing California, that’s about to fall over a cliff. Preview the ad here.


The Envelope Please: Winners and Losers from State Dem Meeting

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

If there’s one thing Calbuzz can’t stand, it’s that whole self – esteemy, kissy-mama “We’re All Winners” thing, where every rug rat who shows up for after-school league soccer practice goes home with a red ribbon and a cheesy trophy. Politics is all about winners and losers and there were plenty of each at the California Democratic Party state convention last weekend. Here’s our user-friendly guide to both:

Capitol Creaturesdebra-bowen-official-photo

Winner: Debra Bowen. The SOS, a young, smart and very competent rising star, got one of the weekend’s warmest receptions from the delegates. Not to mention, she’s one of the few denizens of Sacto without a single fingerprint on the budget debacle and the looming special election disaster.

Loser: Darrell Steinberg. In his maiden voyage into statewide visibility, the Dems’ state senate leader bet the house on the budget deal embodied by the May 19 ballot props. On Sunday, he lost the pot, when SEIU and AFSCME outmaneuvered him to block an endorsement of Prop. 1A; Steinberg’s post-game effort to declare victory was beyond lame, and only made matters worse.

Event Planner Optics

Winner: Tacos. Assemblyman Hector de la Torre, who’s running for Insurance Commissioner, showed a political talent that approaches sheer genius by throwing all his resources at the key feature of campaign organzing: free food. Hector’s taco giveaway on the K Street mall was mobbed by convention goers who made it among the best-attended events of the weekend.

Loser: The Blue Plymouth. The surprise appearance of AG Jerry Brown’s 1974 powder blue 150 hp, 318 cu. in. V8 Plymouth Satellite (list price $3,342), the iconic image of his first turn as governor, was sweet and sentimental, but it served to underscore the historic set piece nature of his event at the Governor’s Mansion, which itself is a museum, ferhevinsake.


Gubernatorial Gumption


Winner: Gavin Newsom. S.F’s pretty-boy mayor did everything he needed to do to introduce himself to party regulars and insiders in a big way, instantly establishing his credibility as a statewide candidate. If Prince Gavin learns to turn down his constant charm offensive a notch or two, he could be formidable.

Loser: Antonio Villaraigosa. We’re still searching for the urgent, this-just-in bulletins on the big “crisis” budget talks that forced the L.A. Mayor to stiff the convention at the last minute. Tony V’s already hampered by his inability to raise money for a gov’s race before late summer, and skipping what traditionally is the kickoff event didn’t help establish him as a force in the contest.

Special Interest Sweepstakes

Winner: SEIU and AFSCME. Fearful that Prop. 1A’s spending cap will mean lost jobs and wages for their members, the two public employee unions, with an assist from the liberal netroots, out-organized and out-hustled the Democratic legislative leadership to deny the 60% vote needed for a party endorsement of their deal-with-the-devil initiative. If 1A goes down, though, these same union leaders will be on the hook should the prop’s supporters be right in their sky-is-falling prognosis of more and worse budget cuts to come.

Loser: California Teachers Association. The teachers are in a truly awkward position, in bed with Arnold on Prop. 1A, in order to win approval for Prop. 1B, which is what they really want. The Demo delegates endorsed 1B all right, but it was a hollow victory for CTA ‘cause all bets are off unless 1A passes first. Despite heroic efforts by their consultants to fashion a silk purse, CTA is stuck with a sow’s ear.


Comic Relief

Winner: Tony V’s press guys’ line: “Antonio Villaraigosa is not going to Twitter while Rome burns.”

Loser: Bill Lockyer. To his credit, Mr. Treasurer tried to lighten things with a Power Point presentation of the Top 10 movie remakes to come out of the recession. But Good Lord, man, stop the droning and watch some Letterman re-runs: Top 10s only work if they’re short and punchy to the point.

Media Mavens


Winner: Carla Marinucci.
Watching Chron teammates take buy-outs by the score, the Chron’s political chief does it all, racing around and schmoozing at warp speed while covering all the bases, in print and online. She scored a coup by video-blogging Brown giving her a tour of the governor’s mansion, a scoop that turned Calbuzz green with envy.

Loser: Liberal bloggers. We love the energy, smarts and passion of our netroots colleagues on the left, but seriously, guys and gals, there’s no cheering in the press box. The sycophantic questions for Barbara Boxer were bad enough, but the applause at the end of her press avail was truly over the top.

Marketing Strategy

Winner: Ben Tulchin, of Tulchin Research in San Francisco, who dropped a governor’s race poll into the mediasphere just before the convention opened, guaranteeing that it would generate buzz –- positive and negative, alike — for his newly-established survey firm.

Loser: Traditional news media. If their survival depends on making themselves indispensable to their hometown readers, the newspapers demonstrated anew that they’re 24 hours late and $14.95 a month (or whatever the going subscription rate is) short.