Archive for 2009



Calbuzz Dustbin: When Jarvis Stormed the Capitol

Sunday, May 24th, 2009

jarvisThirty years ago this month, California and the nation were gripped by recession as drivers sat in long lines to buy expensive gas – and Sacramento bogged down in political warfare over the state budget.

Ushering in the Capitol’s modern era of financial dysfunction, the budget that year didn’t pass until July 13. At the time, it was an historic delay in missing the deadline to start a new fiscal year, an extraordinary event (back when) decried by editorialists around the state.

Then, as now, the Legislature was dominated by Democrats, and although Gov. Jerry Brown was of the same party, fierce battles raged between the two branches of government, between the two parties and between the two legislative houses, all focused on familiar issues – taxes, state spending for schools and local government and the governor’s proposal for a “rainy day” reserve.

Proposition 13 was just a year old in the spring of 1979, and the political and fiscal decisions with which the Capitol sought to manage – and to blunt – the impact of the $7 billion in statewide property tax cuts were still unfolding amid heated debate.

Into the volatile political atmosphere parachuted Howard Jarvis, the irascible co-author of Prop. 13 and the cranky embodiment of the tax cut movement. Jarvis and his posse came to Sacramento on June 7, the one-year anniversary of the measure; 30 years later, the episode offers a look back in time at some hints of what was to follow.

Jarvis, a burly and profane spud of a man, had come to deliver 150,000 computer-generated letters sent by tax-cut supporters to warn the Legislature, “We’re not going to let anybody get away with a new plot to circumvent Proposition 13.”

One target of his ire was Assembly Bill 8, which radically restructured California’s system of public finance and sent $5 billion from Sacramento to local jurisdictions. Still in effect in 2009, it cast the framework for many of today’s structural budget problems, by putting the state in the permanent business of financing schools, cities and counties.

Surrounded on the east steps of the Capitol by dozens of boxes containing the letters, Jarvis accused then-Speaker Leo McCarthy of a “plot” to undercut Prop. 13, and got into a beef with a reporter who asked him to be specific about the alleged conspiracy.

As a daily report of the incident had it: “Jarvis snapped angrily: ’I’m not going to list all of them. I don’t carry the bill numbers around in my pocket.’”

Among those watching in the crowd was Gov. Brown, who had strolled out of his office “to see what Howard’s doing.” Brown, who had swiftly abandoned opposition to Prop. 13 after passage, offered a few, lyrical pro-tax cut pearls to reporters before Jarvis showed up.

“As yet, the spirit of reality has not penetrated under the Golden Dome,” he said.

As Jarvis spoke, a group of mothers who’d come to Sacramento to lobby for more spending for pre-schools began shouting at him: “What about the schools? They’re ending programs to help,” a woman from Azusa hollered.

“That would be your problem, not mine,” Jarvis yelled back. “It’s absolutely not so. Prop. 13 didn’t have any effect on the schools at all.”

Jarvis then walked into the Capitol, where he and his backers dropped off boxes of letters in legislative offices. All went well until he called on Assemblyman, later Congressman, Doug Bosco, who was meeting with a county supervisor and three fire chiefs from his district.

“We were discussing why there isn’t enough money to put out the fires,” Bosco said later. “In walked Howard Jarvis and I said, ‘Good, you can explain it to them.’”

“Jarvis insisted that reduced property tax revenues allowed by Proposition 13 were more than sufficient to finance essential services,” a future Calbuzzer reported. “When the chiefs asked Jarvis what specific cuts he proposed, he told them, ‘that’s up to you,” which set off “a heated exchange that lasted 10 or 15 minutes before Jarvis left…in a bit of a huff.”

“A short time later, Jarvis wandered by Governor Brown’s office, where he received a considerably warmer reception.”

The more things change…

Stop The Presses: Difi Turns Thumbs Down on Gov’s Race

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009

dianneAlthough she just couldn’t bring herself to say the word “no,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein finally admitted, under interrogation by the Chronicle’s Carolyn Lochhead that it’s “very unlikely” she’ll run for governor.

Other things that are “very unlikely” include:

  • The sun coming up in the west tomorrow.
  • Barbara Boxer having a sudden growth spurt
  • Arnold finding a spare $24 billion under the floor boards.

Feinstein said “she is tired of being asked everywhere she goes whether she will run.” But given a golden opportunity to ensure that this would never happen to her again, however, she couldn’t manage to spit it out.

Apparently determined to keep Calbuzz from saying “toldja!” (which, let’s face it, we’re way too gentlemanly to do) Princess Difi then forced the resourceful Lochhead to revert to old, cheap reporter tricks to shake it out of her: “When asked if it is fair to say a bid is ‘very unlikely,’ she said, ‘Correct.’”

Sheesh.

Playing coy apparently was the order of the day: after opining that the actual candidates for governor should put out specific plans to deal with the budget mess, Feinstein was asked if she had any advice on that score: “Yeah, I’ve got some thoughts,” she said, “but I’m not going to tell you.”

How civic-minded of you, Senator.

Tony V Defense: LA Prof Counters LA Mag

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

mrmayorCalbuzz gave a pretty good ride to the article in LA Magazine, now available online, that complained that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has failed to come through with the progressive agenda he campaigned on in 2005.

So it’s only fair to mention the counter-argument from Occidental college professor Peter Dreier up today on LAObserved, Kevin Roderick’s all-things-LA web site.

“The appropriate way to evaluate Mayor Villaraigosa’s first term is whether he used the tools at his disposal to make significant progress in these and other areas, and how LA compares to other comparable big cities on these measures,” Dreier writes.

“On that score, Villaraigosa deserves praise for raising expectations, squeezing the city’s limited funding to address long-standing problems, and using the city’s leverage to make LA more livable.”

You can find Dreier’s whole argument at LAObserved.

Friday Fishwrap: Sifting the Entrails of the Sacramento Crowd

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

Whee the people: The Just Say No message delivered by voters on Tuesday set off a post-election scramble among politicians to denounce everyone and everything to do with Sacramento except the Camellia bushes.

Notable among the heated rhetoric were remarks by GOP guv hopeful Steve Poizner, who tried to sound as if he’d never even visited the place, but was delivering his remarks from, oh say, Bhutan, viz: “Sacramento doesn’t seem able to pass a budget…the Sacramento crowd…my message to Sacramento is simple,” etc. We’ll double check the GPS, but isn’t the Insurance Commissioners’ office in the River City?

As a quantitative matter, however, it should be noted that Poizner earned bragging rights as the biggest outsider among insiders on special election day: Stevie Wonder finished first in the pack of wannabe governors in the number of pre-election positions on the props that agreed with those of the angry electorate.

Among the GOPers, Poizner took the same stance as voters on five out of the six measures (he went no on everything, including Prop. F), while Meg Whitman got four of six right (she backed the defeated Props. 1D & 1E), and Tom Campbell batted only .333 (he supported 1A, 1D & 1E and opposed 1F).

Among Dems, Gavin Newsom led the way with three of six positions that agreed with the voters (he whiffed on 1A, 1B and 1F), while the establishment stances of Jerry Brown and Antonio Villaraigosa made each of them 1-for-6 (they both backed Prop. 1F).

This just in: Five days before the election, Gov. Arnold presented his scary budget alternatives to Californians with about as much noise and flourish a governor can muster in the middle of the day, complete with a packed-to-the-rafters Capitol press conference, videocast and reams of financial documents posted in real time.

Yet Reuters news service mysteriously delivered word of Schwarzenegger’s plan to sell off state landmarks with this weird lede, which read like a dispatch from Antarctica:

“California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is planning the sale of some state properties including the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, San Quentin State Prison and the Orange County Fairgrounds to raise cash,the Los Angeles Times said, citing a copy of a proposal.

Damn those sneaky devils from the L.A. Times and their damnable investigative reporting!

Yo Reuters! Calbuzz sez check out this whole internets thingy

Management by objective: The East Bay Express is a pretty good paper, and carried a pretty good zinger on Jerry Brown after Obama this week hired Rosie Rios to be the Treasurer of the United States. Brown, it seems, fired Rios as Oakland’s a top economic development official when he was mayor, giving the Express this kicker to their piece:

“How about this for a gubernatorial campaign slogan? Jerry Brown: Keen Eye for Talent.”

After the story published, Garry South, chief strategist for Newsom, and the hardest workin’ spinner in show business, e-blasted it, then worked the refs for good measure, complaining that no political reporters had followed it up.

Given Newsom’s history of, um, exhausting his administrative remedies with a staff member, is “Keen Eye for Talent” really the line of attack his campaign wants to take against Brown? We’re just askin’.

Everyone in the pool: Final, final tallies from the Calbuzz Election Night Pool Clambake and Crab Boil shows the winner’s circle shapes up this way:

1st Prize – Jim Sweeney.
Sweeney missed the exact order of finish for Props 1A-1E by just 0.005%, the only entrant to get more than two of the five positions right. He finished second in winning percentage for Prop. F, and his 23.5% turnout prediction just missed nailing the 23% reported by SOS Debra Bowen. A professional ranter at the Sonoma Press-Democrat, Sweeney wins a free rant here, plus two Calbuzzer buttons.

2nd Prize – Kevin Dowling
Dowling won the Yes-on-F category, as his 75-25% prediction came closest to the actual 73.9-26.1% finish. He tied for second on the other two questions. A Hayward city councilman, he wins two out-of-print books by old white guys, plus a Calbuzz button.

3rd Prize – Shane Maharaj
Maharaj had a solid ticket throughout, tying for second on questions #1 and #3 and finishing third on question #2. A legislative aide to Rep. Bob Filner, D-San Diego, who’s now based in Washington, he says he is “a Sacramentan and a Californian through and through.” He wins a Calbuzz button and maybe some out-of-print books if we find any extras laying around.

Congratulations to the winners and thanks to all for playing.

View From the Right: Curious to know how the reddest of the red-blood conservatives saw the election? Check out Jon Fleischman’s take on betting siteswinners and losers.

Budget Shocker: Things Are $3 Billion Worse Already

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

While the Big Picture Team at Calbuzz prefers to view the foibles of state government from 30,000 feet (See: Convention, constitutional), our Green Eye Shade Division is equally committed to keeping an eye on that pesky budget deficit that has Sacramento in a mighty dither.

Here’s their one word report from today: AAAAGGGHHHH!!!

Just as Governor Deltoids and Delta Force Legis were limbering up to slash $21 billion from the budget, along comes analyst Mac Taylor to clue them in that the deficit is closer to $24 billion – not to mention that a great many of Arnold’s proposed solutions are bushwah.

Greg Lucas, Calbuzz’s well-informed source about all things fiscal, blogs a complete report here.