Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger plans across-the-board cuts to state services to balance California's $21 billion deficit after voters soundly rejected five budget compromise measures last week. Schwarzenegger is interpreting the voters' decision as a mandate to not raise taxes. "I think that the message was clear from the people," he said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. "Go all out and make those cuts and live within your means." Schwarzenegger is likely to propose cuts to education, healthcare for the poor, and law enforcement, according to the San Jose Mercury News. For Alameda County, the defeat of the ballot measures will mean an additional $70 million shortfall, on top of the $178 million budget hole the county already has. The Oakland Tribune also reported that the state's budget mess likely would severely impact the City of Oakland and its public schools, along with other local school districts.
State voters knew the cuts were coming if they turned down the measures, but didn't seem to care. In fact, the election featured a strange alliance between anti-tax conservatives and left-wingers who appeared to welcome another budget crisis in apparent hope that it would lead to meaningful government reforms. But for now, the anti-tax side appears to have won the day, because it's highly doubtful that California Republicans are going to roll over and agree to overhaul state government. As for the call by liberals and progressives for a statewide Constitutional convention to change how Sacramento does business, don't hold your breath.
Indeed, Schwarzenegger's belief that the election results mean voters prefer service cuts to higher taxes or a radical change in how budgets are passed is likely to be pervasive in Sacramento — especially among conservatives who view the defeat of the measures as a victory for their side. The propositions, after all, were most unpopular in right-wing strongholds. In conservative San Bernardino County, for example, most of the measures lost by more than 40 percentage points. Statewide, Propositions 1A through 1E lost by about 25 percentage points. In the liberal East Bay, by contrast, the vote was much closer. Alameda County voters, for instance, nearly approved 1B (50.5 percent to 49.5 percent) and 1A wasn't that far behind (56-44).
Oakland Gets New Supe
The Oakland school board selected Tony Smith, a top administrator in San Francisco public schools and a supporter of small schools and charter schools, to be the district's new permanent superintendent. The board's vote was unanimous. Smith, an Oakland resident whose child will attend Crocker Highlands Elementary, a public school, beat out two other finalists. He also is a former superintendent of the tiny Emeryville school district and once worked for the Bay Area Coalition of Equitable Schools, a primary backer of the small-schools movement. According to the Trib, Smith said at a town hall meeting last week that he also was "a pretty big backer of the charter movement."
Smith is Oakland's first permanent superintendent since Dennis Chaconas in 2003, and he will replace interim Superintendent Roberta Mayor on July 1. But the question now is whether state schools Chief Jack O'Connell will finally relinquish his power over the district's finances, and let Smith and the school board actually run the city's school system.
CHP Nabs Two East Bay Snipers
The California Highway Patrol arrested two 21-year-olds for a series of shootings along Interstate 680 in Fremont. The CHP says the young men, Shawn Philip Wagner of Mariposa and Rojelio Samuel Gomez of Fremont, shot at more than forty cars with a BB gun and a pellet gun. The cops booked both men on 42 counts of felony assault with a deadly weapon and 43 counts of felony vandalism. No one was injured in the shootings. Let's hope the CHP got this right, because the last time the East Bay was terrorized by a sniper or snipers in 2004, the CHP arrested the wrong guy, and no charges were ever filed.
The El Cerrito Speakeasy Theater shuttered its doors last week, following the closure of Oakland's Parkway Theater earlier this year. Kyle and Catherine Fischer, who owned both movie houses and who hadn't paid rent in months, had asked the El Cerrito City Council for additional financial aid and had offered to help in a search for new owners of the El Cerrito Theater, but then apparently gave up.
The state's budget problems also will affect state legislators. A state commission voted to slash the legislators' pay by 18 percent, which means lawmakers' salaries will drop to just over $95,200. ... A brazen West Berkeley murder, followed by a high-speed police chase into North Oakland, resulted in the deaths of two innocent bystanders. ... Oakland police demoted Deputy Chief Jeffrey Loman two ranks to lieutenant in the wake of a sex harassment investigation. But then Oakland brass made an odd move and reassigned Loman to the investigative team, even though he came under criticism for his handling of the Chauncey Bailey murder case. ... President Barack Obama nominated former top Oakland city official Rosie Rios to be the next United States treasurer. Rios had been fired by then Mayor Jerry Brown in 2003 for her work in trying to build a downtown stadium for the Oakland A's. ... And finally, Obama decided to copy California's anti-global warming efforts, by announcing new fuel efficiency mandates for cars, SUVs, and light trucks.
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