Thursday, November 10, 2005


The Next Step

(I apologize for any typos, but I am in a hurry)

So, what went wrong on Tuesday? More precisely, what wrong before Tuesday?

The governor of California made three tactical errors: 1) he allowed some incompetent fool to circulate an initiative on pension reform that contained one section that could be legally construed as denying beneifts to the widows and widowers of dead firemen and policemen. By doing this, he appeared to be insensitive to some of the greatest people in the state; 2) he held a special election that no one wanted. People focused their hatred of the special election on his initiatives; 3) his initiatives were poorly thought through even though some of the issues addressed are critical to the state's future.

So what next? Scharzenegger has decided to play ball with the Democrats in Sacramento. I am not sure that this will really work, nor will it excite the Republican base during his re-election campaign. Although it may seem distasteful to suggest it, I would suggest that he include some popular initiatives to be included on the primary and general election ballots.

First, he should come out with a simple teacher tenure plan that is not an ex post facto law like the one recently proposed. Advocate that "permanent status" be granted after three years which is the common practice in most states. Arnold was unable to prove that a plethora of bad teachers existed and, hence, were the cause of bad schools and test scores. He should leave the firing process alone so that the CTA might actually be enticed to support him the next time around.

Second, and this one is more controversial, he should propose a constitutional amendment that eliminates all mandatory spending in all fields. Thus, future legislators and governors will have to balance the budget every year based on forecasted revenue. This initiative makes legislators do their job. Currently well over 60% of the budget is "locked in" and untouchable. By focusing on Proposition 98 in his attack, the governor looked like he was anti public education, and he came off as a rich Republican who did not care about the masses. If he sells the new initiative as one that makes the legislators and himself accountable every year in a very public way, the voters should be easy to convince.

Now, the CTA will most likely attack my second initiative, but the counter to the CTA is quite obvious. Since the state legislature will be dominated by Democrats for the foreseeable future, and since the Democrats are the allies of the CTA, it is highly unlikely that education will be negatively affected to any substantial degree. The governor should state that education will be the #1 priority in any budget that he is presented, and so long as the legislature presents him with a balanced budget, he cannot be blamed by reasonable people if the education budget doesn't grow at the rate it may have grown under Proposition 98.

I have other ideas, but in the game of politics, you need to play the right cards at the right time. Arnold did not do that this week. I hope he does so in the near future.

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