Apparently, a small demon has crawled into the skull of the governor of California and started whispering, "kill that bill!" over and over. Arnold Schwarzenegger made headlines last week by vetoing a remarkable 415 bills, or 35 percent of the total legislation passed this year. Of course, judging each veto depends on the quality of the bill itself, so Schwarzenegger's new record as the governor who killed the most legislation doesn't say anything about his actual performance. But here are a few of the more prominent bills he wiped out this year.
Currently, there exists no government body to regulate for-profit and vocational colleges, leaving the system open to the exploitation of young people. Unscrupulous "education" professionals can open a diploma mill, target unemployed youth with aggressive advertising campaigns, charge massive amounts of tuition on credit, and give a worthless diploma to anyone who walks in the door. State Senate President Don Perata had passed a bill establishing an agency to regulate and oversee such schools in order to prevent such abuse. Schwarzenegger declared that the body would be predisposed to punish schools unfairly, and killed it in short order.
Over on the housing front, Assemblyman Ted Lieu passed a bill that would have banned mortgage brokers from steering borrowers into riskier, subprime loans if they qualify for a better loan package. In addition, the bill would have banned "negative amortization" loans that offer low payments initially, but bloat the principal balance in the long term, boosting interest payments and crippling the borrower's finances. You guessed it: Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill.
The governor also vetoed a bill that would have more effectively banned health insurance companies from dropping patients who become so sick that they actually use their services, as well as a bill that would have added a fee to container shipping companies in order to finance air pollutions efforts. He did, however, sign a bill setting up a 5,000-slot-machine casino near Sacramento. So if you're desperately ill and your insurance company has abandoned you, you can always try to score on the slots.
Al Davis Melts Down
Oakland Raiders coach Al Davis treated the sports world to a bizarre, petty, and ultimately sad spectacle last week, when he held a press conference in Alameda and announced the firing of head coach Lane Kiffin. Oh, but he did so much more than that. Davis denounced Kiffin as a chronic liar, read aloud a disciplinary letter that refers to Kiffin's "immature and destructive campaign" to undermine the team, and declared that since he was being fired for cause, Davis wouldn't honor the rest of his contract.
Sportswriters around the country immediately concluded that Davis wanted to fire Kiffin in order to get out of having him through the end of his contract, and threw the entire team into chaos in order to build a case for firing for cause. As the days went by, more and more writers began to conclude that such conduct was remarkably irresponsible, and a sign that finally, Davis no longer knows how to run his own organization and should walk away from the Raiders. "When you see it coming apart so badly, so publicly, and so embarrassingly, there has to be a tinge of compassion," wrote Los Angeles Times sportswriter Bill Dwyre. "You want to shake him, tell him it is over."
So Does Wall Street
Last week's 777-point stock market drop left the East Bay's biggest public companies relatively unscathed. Chevron took a ten percent hit, probably because the global price of oil dropped precipitously. But the big retail stores that comprise so much of the East Bay's backbone largely shrugged off the panic: Safeway, Ross Stores, Longs Drug Stores, Central Garden and Pet, and Cost Plus all lost less than 5 percent of their value, and some companies lost next to no value at all. The biggest losers were tech companies Zhone Technologies and Sybase, and the telecommunications firm UTStarcom. Since the tech-heavy Nasdaq led the crash last week, this isn't that surprising. Zhone, which has been in such financial trouble that the Nasdaq threatened to delist it, lowered its estimated quarterly revenue by more than 10 percent. Sadly, the City of Oakland took shares of the company in lieu of cash for a prime piece of land near the Coliseum.
Crime Fighters Leave the Stage
Last week, Oakland Police Chief Wayne Tucker took an indefinite leave of absence to take care of his wife, who is quite ill. Some observers speculate that Tucker may not come back at all. As unfortunate as this is, the circumstances of Tucker's departure are considerably happier than those of Contra Costa prosecutor Michael Gressett, who has been arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting another deputy district attorney. The charges suggest a particularly vicious attack; Gressett has been charged with rape, oral copulation, sodomy, and penetration with a foreign object.
Shorenstein Properties broke ground on a new, 23-story tower in downtown Oakland. ... The East Bay water district, which is suffering a particularly severe shortage, announced that customers have failed to meet the goal of reducing water use by 15 percent.
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