After eighty days of agony, negotiation, and the occasional compromise, Arnold Schwarzenegger and the state legislature have finally agreed on a budget, ending one of the worst fiscal crises the state has ever seen. The governor threatened a last-minute veto if some of his pet reforms weren't enacted, but since the legislature already had the two-thirds majority needed to override it, no one was terribly worried. But then Schwarzenegger threatened to veto every bill the legislature had passed that was presently sitting on his desk, and that got people's attention.
The specific reform he demanded — that the rainy-day fund could only be tapped when state reserves fell below a predetermined amount, rather than by the action of two-thirds of the legislature — is arguably less important than the profound hubris the Austrian bodybuilder showed in being willing to destroy years of legislative work. On the other hand, California finally has a budget. At the tail end of a truly low moment in state politics, perhaps we should just focus on the fact that it's over.
Cal Looks for Money All Over
Seems like someone has noticed that California isn't the most reliable of financiers these days. Officials at UC Berkeley have announced a $2 billion fund-raising campaign to remain competitive with private universities such as the hated Stanford, which have taken advantage of their sizeable endowments to offer breaks to students of modest means. Cal intends to raise $940 million for financial aid, and $600 million for capital and construction projects. Hey, if Cal's so hard up for cash, why doesn't it just sue the tree-sitters who cost the university so much in security and delayed construction of the Memorial Stadium sports training center? Funny you should ask, 'cause that's just what university officials are doing. Cal is filing legal action against some fifteen tree-sitters, seeking to land a $10,000 judgment per respondent. Looks like direct action's gotten a lot more expensive lately.
Oakland Seeks to Avoid Future Edgerlygates
Stung by the disaster of Deborah Edgerly this summer, the Oakland City Council voted to fund two mechanisms to end the plague of nepotism and venality that has made the city a national joke. Councilmembers agreed to audit the hiring practices of each city department, dating back to 2003. In addition, the council voted to set up a program to protect whistleblowers who come forward with stories of financial malfeasance. Since city Controller LaRae Brown was fired shortly after doing just that, this seems like a problem that needs solving. On the other hand, the city is wrestling with an unprecedented $50 million deficit, and no one really knows where the money is going to come from. Hey, speaking of the budget, guess who doesn't have a plan to deal with it? That's right, councilmembers are scheduled to address one of the worst fiscal crises in the city's history this week, and everyone's been waiting for a proposal from Mayor Ron Dellums. So, of course, he hasn't given them a damn thing. We hate to say we told you so, but ....
Gay Marriage Ban on the Rocks
Shortly after the tribe of people who get squirmy around homosexuals submitted enough signatures to put a measure banning gay marriage on the November ballot, Attorney General and Oakland prominent citizen Jerry Brown went to work on the language of the ballot measure. Soon, the knuckle draggers were crying foul, as the measure asked whether voters should "eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry." You see, they preferred that the language read "limit marriage," because euphemized hatred always goes down the gullet a little easier. But Brown prevailed, and a new Field Poll shows that when confronted with the newer, blunter language, fully 55 percent of them reject the initiative. Now, even Hayward's getting into the act, as the city council voted to oppose the ballot measure. On to November!
Everyone got a treat last week, when the real estate research firm MDA DataQuick reported that Bay Area homes lost almost one third of their value in the last twelve months. Contra Costa County was hit particularly hard, as the media home price dropped to just $330,000. ... Fleet Management, Ltd., the company that owns the tanker that smashed into the Bay Bridge, poisoned the waters, and killed thousands of birds, has offered to plead no contest to numerous criminal charges. But federal law enforcement officials have asked a judge to reject the offer, claiming that they want a flat-out admission of guilt. ... And metering lights have officially started on on-ramps leading onto westbound Interstate 580. Critics claim that Caltrans is just pushing the congestion problem onto city streets, where they don't have the legal responsibility to deal with it.
Seven Days - January 21, 3:06 PM
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