Schwarzenegger Gives In, But, So Far, Angelides Hasn't
I'm speaking about two reports much in the news this week. One involved the malignant influence on the state of the prison guards lobby. The other involved the "compromise" on Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's plan to take over the Los Angeles schools.
In both cases, bald politics clearly induced Schwarzenegger to take the position he has, supporting both the prison guards and Villaraigosa. In the school case, so far Angelides is holding to principle, opposing the Villaraigosa plan despite indications that an angry and ambitious Villaraigosa, a Democrat, may not back him for governor.
By supporting Villaraigosa on the schools issue, Schwarzenegger is supporting a partial takeover of the schools by the mayor, and also increasing the chance that the mayor will continue to hold to his position of no endorsement of Angelides to unseat him. Villaraigosa reportedly wants to run for governor in 2010, and by that time Schwarzenegger would be term limited out, while, if he is elected this year, Angelides would undoubtedly stand for a second term.
The school plan in its latest form does not call for any vote of the people on this major change in the schools, and the terms of the "compromise" are such that, as the L.A. Times has noted in an editorial, actual control of the schools would revolve uncertainly between the mayor and the school board, leaving outsiders to wonder where the final responsibility would lie.
I find Angelides' position, so far, the better one. Villaraigosa is attempting a power grab, and Angelides seems to be endangering his own prospects by not going along with it. That may well be a solid indication that he would be a strong, principled governor.
The Times article on the schools, by the way, was deficient. The non-politically-oriented reporters who wrote it neglected to mention either the issue of a popular vote or the politics of Schwarzenegger's position.
On the prison guards, the fine story by Jenifer Warren in the L.A. Times yesterday tells how Schwarzenegger, after saying he favored prison reform, now is supporting the guards in their opposition to it. As a result, one state prison superintendent quit, and another lasted in the job only three months.
The courts have weighed in on this issue, and they do not support the governor's new position. Judges have been concerned that the guards are backing what amounts to corrupt practices in the prisons and have had undue influence over two governors now, Gray Davis and Schwarzenegger, in the matter of salaries.
In Warren's story, we see that the governor's executive secretary, Susan Kennedy, met with representatives of the guards over lunch and subsequently the governor backed off on reform.
The prison guards have made millions of dollars of contributions to political candidates in their effort to maintain a stranglehold over the prison system. Now, that money is liable to go to Schwarzenegger for his accommodating stand.
It's just not in the interest of California, that's all, as prison conditions deteriorate. Fighting, drug use and other corruption is endemic in the prisons, and the not-so-infrequent brutality of the guards goes unchecked, because their code of silence about wrongdoing effectively keeps it from being prosecuted.
Kennedy's role is also to be lamented. This "public servant," partially paid out of the governor's campaign funds, has knuckled under to big lobbies in two governorships. First, under Gray Davis, she used an appointment to the Public Utilities Commission, to support the big utilities in their efforts at price gouging. Now, she is apparently backing the prison guards. Kennedy should absolutely never have been placed in a position of public trust.
Schwarzenegger has overall moved toward the center since his defeat in the special election last November, trying to isolate Angelides somewhere out on the liberal left.
But he is still primarily a governor of the special interests.
Angelides has supported a tax increase, a rather courageous position given the fact that he may put himself at an election disadvantage in doing so. Now, he has, so far, bucked Villaraigosa.
I'm not a liberal, but guess what, I am for honest government, and right now Angelides looks to me like the better candidate.