Fishwrap Friday: Goo-Goos Gone Wild (Not)


Will It Be California Forward or Backward? California Forward, the good government group with name-brand backing and top-drawer credentials, will be meeting in Sacramento next week to decide whether to become irrelevant.

Okay, that’s not exactly on the agenda Wednesday. But as the Bay Area Ccafwd_logo1ouncil aggressively forges ahead toward a constitutional convention, its weak brother reform group is moving closer to beside-the-point status — despite backing from the California Endowment, the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the James Irvine Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

The bi-partisan group, headed by former Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg, and Southern California Automobile Association executive Thomas McKernan, has a whole bunch of proposals for Kumbaya stuff like better representation, smarter budgeting and fiscal management.

All of which boil down to: Managing the status quo.

Unless the group resolves next week to take a clear and strong stand on something controversial – say, undoing the two-thirds vote requirement to pass a state budget — the consensus-obsessed California Forward might as well rename itself California Backward.

It’s ironic. The guy who had been heading up the group was former White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta, until he got called on by President Obama to go to DC to run the CIA. And the group’s roster remains impressive: after Hertzberg and McKernan, it’s got Bob Balgenorth, President of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, AFL-CIO; Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, Chief Executive Officer, Green For All; Bill Hauck, President, California Business Roundtable; Antonia Hernández, President and CEO of the California Community Foundation; Fred Keeley, Treasurer, Santa Cruz County; Stewart Kwoh, President and Executive Director, Asian Pacific American Legal Center of Southern California; Donna Lucas, Founder, Lucas Public Affairs Group; Sunne Wright McPeak, President and Chief Executive Officer, California Emerging Technology Fund; Bruce McPherson, Former California Secretary of State; Chuck Poochigian, Former State Senator and Assemblymember; Cruz Reynoso, Former Associate Justice, California Supreme Court and the Third District Court of Appeal; Constance Rice, Co-Director, Advancement Project and Gene Voiland, Principal, Voiland Enterprises LLC.

But by dithering and doddering about whether to take clear stands on big issues, California Forward risks squandering its stature and taking a permanent back seat to the Bay Area Council on the government reform front . . .

Inmates Push for Asylum Management: Having the Legislature seize control of the University of California from the Board of Regents “is like having the management of GM take over Microsoft.”

That was the best line making the rounds Thursday, one day after Senator Leland Yee trumpeted a whacky proposal for a constitutional amendment to exchange UC’s 141-year old practice of independent governance for an exciting new future hunkered down in the Capitol muck of petty politics.

“It’s ridiculous, silly stuff,” Board of Regents Chairman Dick Blum told Calbuzz. “The people in Sacramento are going to tell us how to run the UC?”

In an interview, Blum vigorously defended the Regents’ management, contrasting the system’s balanced budget with the state’s $25 billion deficit and its AAA bond rating with the state’s, um, ZZZ rank. He also noted UC’s ability to attract top academic and administrative talent, portraying the regents’ hiring of President Mark Yudof a year ago as a milestone in improving the system’s management. Yudof is a nationally recognized leader of the accountability movement, which stresses the use of measurable results systems for universities: “You won’t find a better, proven manager of a hugely complex, public higher education institution anywhere.”

Yee and his allies have attacked the recent approval of mid-six figure salaries for campus chancellors as just the latest outrage of out-of-control executive compensation at UC. Blum said that the average income for the top executives of the system’s 10 campuses are “35-to-40 percent below market” and that the biggest problem for the $18-billion UC is that the state keeps cutting its share of the overall budget, which now amounts to less than $3 billion.

“There is such a thing as the marketplace, there is such a thing as reality,” Blum told us.

Yee’s chief of staff, Adam Keigwin, said the senator is not seeking “day to day management” of the UC system, just more “oversight” that would give the Legislature greater authority over what he described as abuses involving pay for top university officials. Which sounds kinda like a distinction without a difference . . .

The Meg and John Show: Having captured a smashing 37 percent of the vote in California last November, Arizona Senator John McCain will give Republican wannabe governor Meg Whitman some tips on running strong in the Golden State today.

Her Megness is scheduled to appear with Joe the Plumber’s best friend at a Town Hall meeting in Orange County, followed by a “private event” (i.e. fundraiser) in Fresno, according to her campaign. For media mavens desperately seeking a rare opportunity to pose a question to the elusive eMeg, she’ll have a press avail at 2:50 pm (and that’s not 2:51 p.m., either, mister!) in the Executive Room of the Piccadilly Inn. The release on the event says it’s for “Credentialed Media Only” and that part is in BOLD CAPS, so don’t even try sneaking in if you’re some kind of low-rent blogger or something…Wait a minute, credentialed by whom? . . .

Offshore Plan Sinking Fast: Look for a whole lotta pushback on Arnold’s controversial plan to raise revenue by drilling for oil offshore of Santa Barbara, when the State Lands Commission meets Monday in Santa Monica. It’s the first meeting of the group since Governor Deltoids announced the proposal, which would end run a commission vote turning down the project last January . . .

Today’s Sign the End of Civilization is Near: Four states now prohibit drivers from smiling for the photos on their licenses, according to a USA Today report. Arkansas, Indiana, Nevada and Virginia all require you to wipe that grin off your face because it messes with their high-tech, face-recognition software. Bring on the Vulcans! . . .

Spell Check: Congratulations to Kavya Shivashankar, 13, of Olathe, Kansas, who won the National Spelling Bee Thursday by correctly spelling “laodicean” which means lukewarm or indifferent in religion or politics. Pronounced “lay-ah-di-see-an,” this is NOT what makes a good Calbuzzer.

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There are 8 comments for this post

  1. avatar Anonymous says:

    While California Forward could be more aggressive in its positions, I give them credit for not jumping on the bandwagon that says the problem lies only with the 2/3 issue. There are many systemic problems that need to be addressed in California, and California Forward is bringing those issues and ideas forward. While I don’t oppose a Constitutional Convention, I still have not seen a plan for one. A Convention is a simply process, not a solution in and of itself. Until we see specifically what the proposals will be at such a meeting, I remain unconvinced that it is the way to address California’s problems.

  2. avatar Bill Bradley says:

    I think a con-con is a nice idea, and maybe could accomplish a couple of years from now, assuming it wasn’t hijacked by the various fringe elements.

    California Forward is a nice idea, too.

  3. avatar Shawn Casey O'Brien says:

    Thanks Gentlemen,

    For calling California Forward what it really is — backwards!

    Their "solution" to redistricting (financed by the Republican Party) has left the whole process firmly in the hands of the Chamber of Commerce and allows for no public input until after the districts have been drafted.

    Some reform. The Governor sure picked Common Cause's pocket.

    Sad to say, Common Cause's current "leadership" is politically naive, celebrity obsessed and in over their little star struck heads.

    Both California Backwards & Common Cause will never take a firm stand on anything. Because they view popularity with the political elites as much more important then the very real civic concerns of most work-a-day Californians, i.e. getting rid of the 2/3rds requirement & term limits.

    The two structural and undemocratic impediments that create this budget mess in the first place.

    A con-con may fix the problem, but don't expect much from California Backward — except for another con-job.

    Talk about mediocre…

  4. avatar Anonymous says:

    Working Californians want to get rid of term limits? What data is there to support that?

  5. avatar Bill Bradley says:

    And yet, the available evidence — in both election results and the two remaining major public polls in California — tells us much of what many of us do not want to hear …

  6. avatar Bill Bradley says:

    BTW, here is a thought, Jerry and Phil.

    Why not have the time stamps for comments reflect when they are made, not when you get around to approving them?

  7. avatar Roberts and Trounstine says:

    bill, the time stamp refers to when they arrive on our dashboard. this one, for example, is stamped 6:28 which is when it came in, although we didn’t post until 6:56.

  8. avatar Anonymous says:

    R&T = I have only one question for this early in the morning: In the above morgue photo of "One Flew Over …" – why is Danny DeVito the only one smiling? Did Marty Scorsese promise him a cameo role in the new Frank Sinatra authorized biopic? BETTER Danny should reprise his role in "Get Shorty!". << DRUM RIM SHOT and CYMBAL >>… OOPS – THIS JUST IN: Bill Bradley above 'had a thought' – SO, let's all assume the Buddhist meditation position in what is known at Esalen as "omphthalokepsis" – contemplation of one's individual [NOT Thy neighbor's] navels! -30-

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