Tag Archives: Politics

Governor Brown’s Most Important Legacy

Gov Brown


dog_withboneDuring Governor Brown’s time in office, those in the Capitol community trying to assess his support or opposition of legislation have often factored one big question into the mix:
How will he view his decision in terms of his legacy?

 This was on full view in his State of the State address, which confirmed the long-held conventional wisdom that Brown wants to leave a lasting legacy for the Golden State on par with his father, Governor Pat Brown, whose contributions to the state’s infrastructure are legendary. This helps explain the Governor’s fixation on building the Delta tunnels, high-speed rail and zipping off to Europe for climate change summits.

Whether he is able to have success with those lofty global ideals is hard to say, which is a polite way of saying he may fall far short. Time will tell.

But Brown’s legacy has been astonishing and praiseworthy for something far more mundane: He simply has been the adult in the room more often than not.

His concern about the fragile nature of the California economy, his attention to the ticking time bomb of public pension obligations and his disciplined focus on building a rainy-day fund for the state is a major accomplishment – especially when he has had to deal with a liberal Legislature that thinks it prints money and seemingly believes every problem – real and imagined – requires new laws, bans or an expensive government program.

Governor Brown has not been perfect. He has signed some serious anti-business measures into law that could very well come back to haunt the state. Many of his agencies are rogue fiefdoms wildly running amok without checks and balances. But the fact at one time or another he has upset those along the entire political spectrum suggests he has been entirely beholden to few, if any, special interests save Californians and California.

The state’s moderates and independents should be grateful for his fiscal restraint and ability to balance the books. Hopefully, the next governor has been taking copious notes on this vital yet hardly sexy topic.

Governor Brown should be proud of his legacy and contributions to California no matter what happens to his massive pet projects.









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Panetta: Partisanship A Major Threat to National Security


The San Francisco Chronicle’s Carla Marinucci had a nice profile recently on Leon Panetta, a native Californian and statesman par excellence.

I’ve always thought of Panetta, who recently retired from a long and distinguished career, as someone who always viewed his responsibilities the way all elected officials should: as public servants. From congressman and White House chief of staff to director of the OMB or CIA, here is a man who has always seemed to act and speak with a profound respect for our nation and its democratic institutions. Pragmatism over ideology. Policy over politics. Respect over vitriol. Duty over personal aggrandizement.

What really jumped off the page of Marinucci’s piece was Panetta’s concern over extreme partisanship and how it poses one our country’s most serious threats to national security. This, remember, is coming from a guy who was in charge of the CIA and Department of Defense. He knows a little bit about what the United States is up against. When he says one of our greatest dangers is ourselves, that bears attention.

Leon Panetta

 If you wonder why we need more people like Panetta in government, check out this passage from the Chronicle piece:

“The avuncular Panetta gets deadly serious when he talks about what he believes is one of the greatest dangers to America’s future – political partisanship that, he said, has never been more divisive or discouraging.

Washington “has really become dysfunctional,” said Panetta, who began his political career as a Republican, “and when that happens, in many ways that becomes a greater national security threat than almost anything else.”

“I’m sensing that – for whatever reason – we’re in a testing period now as to whether some of this can change,” he said. “Unfortunately, I think this is a time when change is going to happen – not from the top down – but from the bottom up.”

His mission now, Panetta said, is “to get young people who are not trapped by partisanship to recognize that things can be different – if they’re willing to take the risk involved with getting elected to public office.”

He’s encouraged, he said, because the new crop of students who hope to become public servants is less attached to “strong ideological edge” of their parents’ generation.

“They’re much more pragmatic; they’re much more willing to see if problems can be solved,” he said. “I don’t see them as being tied to the kind of party label as you see playing out in Washington – and in Sacramento for that matter.”

Let’s hope Panetta is as successful with this mission as he was throughout his career. We need more leaders like him.

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No Cliffhanger: The GOP’s Lemming Leadership

This Bites



Let’s get serious about the English language. Seems we in Sacramento are pretty cavalier about the term “leadership.”

Is it true leadership if the leader is taking you off a cliff a la the final scene in Thelma and Lousie?  That’s the question any thinking moderate Californian should be asking in light of comments from the State Senate’s freshly-minted Republican “leader” Dennis Hollingsworth.

The Senator came into the spotlight yesterday, telling the Sacramento Press Club that his words were twisted out of context when,  during the budget impasse, he reportedly urged fellow Republican Sen. Abel Maldonado to let California “go into bankruptcy, let it go off a cliff, we need to prove a point, that it’s the majority’s fault.”

Hollingsworth’s “context” defense carries about as much weight as a Twinkie for anyone who has ever worked inside the Capitol, where pettiness knows few bounds.

[Note: Democrats are just as guilty of factoring into the mix how certain proposals and votes will “jam” the other party. But at least they haven’t of late been as blatant or tone deaf in public as Hollingsworth. They and the Governor actually appear to be trying to solve a serious problem by making difficult choices. What a concept.]

Since the new minority leader is the one who opened his mouth, he’s the one under the microscope. Which brings us back to the question of leadership and Hollingsworth’s utterances on Proposition 1A.

The May 19 ballot measure is the brainchild of the Legislature and the Governor.  Sure it has unsavory elements, but they are spread around. Extended tax increases for spending caps. 

Perfect? Far from it. But it’s not like this is some leftwing conspiracy. Special interests on the hard right and left hate both hate the ballot package. That should tell us something. The California Chamber and Farm Bureau Federation are supporting the initiative. Hardly radical groups. That says even more about this measure making enough sense to vote for it.  Even if its a Hail Mary pass play, who the hell cares at this point? 

Hollingsworth’s assurances he won’t be campaigning against Prop. 1A and the other ballot measures were mighty big of him. Just tell the entire capitol press corps and millions of Californians through the news media that the package sucks and is doomed to defeat. But no campaigning! The needle on the Blue Dog’s BS meter almost spun off the dial over that one.

Rather than standing with the entire Army, taking some bullets and showing a united front against a common enemy, Hollingsworth is taking his platoon AWOL and running for the cliffs, scorching the earth with flamethrowers as they bolt away. How sadly predictable.

The Blue Dog Dictionary doesn’t count this as leadership.


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Rumor Mill: Canciamilla Making Run for Congressional Seat

main_dogWhile the Blue Dog considers himself  more of a policy guy than a hardcore observer of candidate maneuverings, he isn’t above sharing some grist for the Capitol rumor mill when it lands on his plate. 

A well-placed source in the building offers this unsubstantiated scoop:

“Ex-Mod Squad Assemblymember Joe Canciamilla is preparing to run for the Congressional seat being vacated by Ellen Tauscher after she goes to the Obama Administration. He has $$$ in the bank and is being supported by a group of Silicon Valley types who supposedly will provide funding.
“Tom Torlakson has said that he will not enter the race and will instead be sticking with his run for Superintendent of Public Instruction. He has endorsed current State Senator Mark DeSaulnier for the seat, so there could be an expensive primary shootout between Canciamilla and DeSaulnier.” 

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The Beast with Two Backs

dog_withboneThe Blue Dog applauds the Sacramento Bee’s Dan Weintraub for his clarity in exposing  the odd bedfellows snuggling together beneath the sheets of Proposition 1A. The May 19 special election measure, an outgrowth of this year’s big budget compromise, asks Californians to approve short-term tax hikes in exchange for spending caps.

In the real world, these are called tradeoffs. Hard choices. Balancing competing interests. Gray areas. But, predictably, these are alien concepts for the black-and-white crowd.  

 “It contains elements that are very distasteful to both the hard right and the hard left of the political spectrum,” writes Weintraub, who wonders if voters in the middle (that’s us) will “split the difference between the extremes and chart a centrist path for their troubled state.” 

Let’s hope so. The Blue Dog thinks this is a no-brainer for moderates of both parties. On one hand, we have the lunatics on the right who see taxes everywhere — just like M. Night Shyamalan sees dead people. On the other, we have the liberal maniacs who think of government as a giant ATM that is morally obligated to generate taxpayer dollars as responsibly as the OctoMom spits out babies. 

This odd pair of special interests claim nothing is going on between the two. No hanky panky. They’re just staying on their respective sides of the bed, spineless backs toward one another, heads gently resting on their ideological pillows. The Blue Dog suspects something a bit more unseemly – a little political dry humping perhaps, making the beast with two backs at worst. This bedroom needs some air freshener and even more sunlight from the capitol press corps. 

Do the polar opposites really believe the rest of us wouldn’t notice how bizarre this relationship is and what it suggests to moderate Californians who want solutions and reform, even if imperfect and difficult as they may be?

Meg Whitman’s op-ed yesterday against Prop. 1A was disappointing in this regard; instead of staking out the middle ground, she used the issue to pander to the anti-tax zealots in advance of her 2010 gubernatorial run. (Whitman, it should be noted, is a distant third in a CalBlueDog poll behind Dianne Feinstein and Tom Campbell as the best moderate candidate for California). Hey, Meg, did you realize the California Chamber of Commerce supports Prop. 1A?

While the Blue Dog is still checking out the fine print, if the extremists on both sides of the political divide loathe Prop 1A, there’s a 99 percent likelihood the measure is a sure-fire measure voters should pass. If you’re sick in bed  (no matter who you are sleeping with), do you really expect the doctor’s medicine to taste like honey?

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No Bull: More Legislators Needed in Sacramento

main_dog1California legislators are out of touch for a very good reason: they represent too many people. 

Our state possesses the dubious distinction of being the least democratic and representative of any state in the union. So when a free-thinking voice in the Capitol is bullied, stifled or silenced by either Republican or Democratic party leadership, Californians living in those districts are disenfranchised in massive numbers. Each Senator represents about 847,000 Californians; each Assemblymember 423,500 constituents. 

To put this in perspective, Senators in other states represent a rough ballpark average of 120,000 — anywhere from 16,459 (Wyoming) to as many as 672,000 (Texas). For Assemblymembers in the rest of the nation, it’s an average of about 47,000 — from 3,089 (New Hampshire, which has 400 Assemblymembers) to 139,00 (Texas). 

The Blue Dog pulled this data from the National Conference of State Legislatures; it is a real eye opener because California’s numbers are so grotesquely out of whack in comparison –even with large states like New York, Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Massachusetts, Washington and Minnesota. 

So here’s an idea the Blue Dog wants to put out for discussion: Californians should consider more legislators in the Capitol as a solution to gridlock. Yes, you read correctly. More of those same people who have crippled and disgraced our government? The Blue Dog realizes this sounds crazy and counterintuitive.  After all, how can more of a bad thing be good? 

One word: accountability. 

More legislators would mean smaller districts. Smaller districts would mean our elected officials would be responsible for smaller geographic areas and fewer constituents. We might even know who they are and be able to recognize them so we could bend their ears at a Home Depot or Safeway or Olive Garden. Smaller regions could mean more affordable campaigns. More affordable campaigns would likely result in a larger pool of candidates less beholden to the parties. 

The millions of moderate California Republicans and Democrats — and smaller parties themselves, like Green, Libertarian, Independents and Peace & Freedom Parties — deserve a voice more in line with their numbers. Micro legislative districts could be part of the answer if they diluted the polarized party political power and gave Centrists more representation, greater leverage and the ability to play a role in influential coalitions. 

Sure this is a simple concept. But it has some merit. So why isn’t this reform idea in play? Splitting California into three states sounds intriguing, but is really a pipe dream. Redistricting is a necessary reform that needs to happen. But changing boundaries doesn’t get at the root problem. We know the banking system got too big for its own good. The Blue Dog wonders if the same isn’t true for the California Legislature. He’s going to have a cigar now and chew on this bone some more. What do you think?


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The Bass-O-Matic: Leadership or Abuse of Power?


Years ago, Saturday Night Live’s Dan Aykroyd performed a skit about the Super Bass-O-Matic 76, a blender that churned up raw bass for a fish shake. Speaker Bass this week delivered her own version of the concoction she makes with the Super Bass-o-Matic 09. Instead of raw fish, her blender mixes bullying, intolerance, immaturity and questionable ethics to gin up a drink that is just as distasteful and even more putrid than Aykroyd’s fish beverage.

A few days ago, the Blue Dog lashed out at the Neanderthals in the Republican Party who ostracized the “Sane Six” after voting for the budget and tax hikes. Apparently Speaker Bass-o-Matic shares this inability to distinguish punishment from true vision and leadership. If you don’t think like Big Brother or Big Sister, goodbye committee chairmanships; that’s what the Bee Capitol Alert reported Bass did to three Dems who broke with the party caucus on spending caps and budget trailer bills. It’s like she knows just enough about Willie Brown to be dangerous.

Indeed, it’s a sad commentary when the Democrats so readily disrespect and drop the torch of tolerance. But Bass has reinforced the notion that free speech and tolerance — the once proud domain of the Democratic Party — is a total sham and feel-good myth. As a moderate Democrat, the Blue Dog is disgusted. Witnessing these Thought Police trampling all over moderates and free speech, I can’t help thinking Bass and her ilk are on their way to a book-burning street party. This is precisely what galls moderates from both parties.

And as long as everyone is playing hardball: What is the difference between this brand of leadership and vote trading, blackmail and bribery? The Blue Dog would be interested in what the Fair Political Practices Commission has to say on the matter. And what about you?

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In Praise of Breaking Ranks

dog_withboneThe Blue Dog offers kudos to the Republicans with the guts to break ranks and vote as they saw fit — not as they were ordered to do. The Sane Six: Roy Ashburn, Abel Maldonado, Dave Cogdill, Mike Villnes, Roger Niello and Anthony Adams — realize people are elected to solve problems and represent their constituents — not the simple-minded edict of political party.

And this goes for Dems too.  The Blue Dog would be on a beach in Hawaii if he had been paid a buck for every time he’d heard that a piece of ill-conceived legislation had been voted out of committee or sent to the Senate/Assembly/Governor as a favor to a colleague who shared a “D” after his or her name. So, Dems, how about taking a page from the Sane Six and vote your own convictions this session?

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