Friday, April 08, 2005

A Governor, Not a Terminator

(g)overnor Schwarzenegger is losing his tan up in Sacramento.

He’s backed off his proposed ballot initiative to privatize the pension plans of state teachers and other employees.
His nominee for the state teachers’ retirement board, Kathleen Smalley, was rejected by the California Senate on Wednesday. That’s because Schwarzenegger "terminated" the other four board members for voting again his plan to go 401(k) with the existing pensions.
In other words he’s accomplished nothing in the legislature since he arrived Sacramento to "blow up boxes."
George Skelton, a long-time observer and columnist on the Sacto scene published an article, the title of which says it all: "Self-Proclaimed Governor of the People is Fading as Lord of the Polls."
The utterly delightful piece of scribery says Ah-nold’s whole schtick is going "stale."
Here’s some of the numbers on polling questions that gave rise to Skelton’s piece:
"He’s doing a good job of working with legislators and getting things done." Agree 43 percent, disagree 43 percent.
"He’s right to bypass lawmakers and focus on his ballot initiatives." Agree 38 percent, disagree 47 percent.
"He’s too interested in gimmicks, public relations, and image." Agree 49 percent, disagree 41 percent.
"He should be putting more effort into working with legislators so he’d get more done." Agree 62 percent, disagree 25 percent. Even (r)epublicans agree, 49 percent to 34 percent.
Those are really crappy numbers. On top of it, only 39 percent think the state is heading in the right direction. The irony, according to the article, is that Schwarzenegger’s mediagenic talents have made him very successful in painting the state as gone awry.
He’s simply not been as adept in convincing people his ideas will fix the problem.
Allen Hoffenblum, a former (r)epublican consultant told Skelton, "We’re looking for a governor, not a Terminator."
And while the governor may have backed off his pension initiative as a calculated gamble to call the union dogs off, his close association with a "paycheck fairness" initiative won’t help matters much.
This is essentially a replay of a 1996 measure, Prop. 226, which sought to limit the use of union members’ dues for political purposes. Not only did it lose, but it created the political network and coalition later used by Gray Davis in returning the state house to the Democrats.
It’s a proposal that twice demonstrates the problem with the ballot initiative process and why it isn’t any more popular than elections won by George W. Bush.
Corporate interests with deep pockets, in this case something called the Coalition for Employee Rights, pay largely disinterested people to go out and gather signatures to put a measure on the ballot. Usually it’s a dollar per signature.
Now the unions have to spend their members’ dues trying to defeat an amendment that wants to prevent them from spending their members’ dues.
The battle taps the unions, taps the employees ostensibly represented by the Coalition for Employee Rights, and threatens to remove the last source of funding to fight these battles on the progressive side.
Schwarzenegger has not endorsed the measure, but an article in Thursday’s "Sacramento Bee" suggests he is "closely tied," to the group pushing it.
According to the article, among the contributors to this effort are Philip Morris USA, Pacific Gas & Electric, Ameriquest Captial, the Irvine Co., and for Gap Inc. Chairman Donald G. Fisher. 21st Century Insurance has also coughed up nearly $50,000.
Hey, with that kind of industrial lumber on board, why don’t these guys just "coalesce" and work out a plan to give employees their rights? They certainly lord it over enough of them to make an impact in the workplace.

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