By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
Schwarzenegger consigliere Bob White, Wilson’s former chief of staff and the man behind much of the gubernatorial transition, seemed less stunned if a bit bemused by the whirl of it all. No administration has had a shorter transition and no governor a more rapid shift from one field of endeavor to another than this one. White is happy that things are coming off so quickly with so few hitches. But much remains unsettled.
Schwarzenegger and Shriver’s longtime friend and confidante Bonnie Reiss, a liberal Democrat who is now senior advisor to the new governor, is still working out where she will be and when. Indeed, it was unclear on inaugural day where Schwarzenegger would be after a series of rapid-fire actions lasting till Wednesday around legislative special sessions on the budget crisis, workers’ compensation reform, and his proposed repeal of the illegal immigrants driver’s license bill. It’s also not clear where he will live when he is in Sacramento, beyond his immediate future at the Hyatt at Capitol Park. Shriver has been house hunting in Sacramento and has enlisted some friends in the effort.
Notable by his absence was recall champion Darrell Issa, the conservative San Diego congressman who bankrolled the drive to place the recall on the ballot and ended his own gubernatorial candidacy when Schwarzenegger entered the race. But 2002 Republican nominee Bill Simon, who attends the same Catholic church in Santa Monica as Schwarzenegger and former L.A. mayor–turned–Schwarzenegger education secretary Dick Riordan, was a ubiquitous presence. Indeed, one of the striking sights of the inaugural whirlwind was that of Simon, GOP powerhouse Frank Baxter, and other Republicans in lengthy discussions in a hotel bar with L.A. Senator Gil Cedillo, one of the Legislature’s left-liberal stalwarts. A key topic of discussion? Cedillo’s efforts to forge a compromise on his driver’s license bill for illegal immigrants, the passage and signing of which by Davis backfired dramatically for both the ex-governor and the Democratic replacement nominee, Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante.
As it happens, there will be no compromise by Schwarzenegger on the driver’s license bill. He demands that the Legislature repeal this bill opposed by 70 percent of the voters, and it appears likely that the Legislature will comply. A new version may appear down the line, with post-9/11 security safeguards similar to those present in the bill Davis vetoed last year but oddly absent from the bill this year. But for now, Team Arnold is insistent that there is a new sheriff in town.
In his special session on the budget crisis, the new sheriff in town will be pushing a massive plan to use bonds to take care of much of his inherited ongoing budget mess. He will ask the Legislature for $15 billion in debt restructuring bonds to place on the March ballot. Which is actually less than he wants. All but a few billion of that is to make up for constitutionally suspect bonds already issued. The Democrats will then be expected to bid up the total amount of the bonds to be placed before the voters or face the prospect of budget cuts which many would find draconian. The trade-off for such program preservation would be a new spending cap and expensive ongoing debt service, both of which would inhibit future spending growth like what brought on the current crisis.
And what of the Democrats? While lasting icons Jerry Brown and Willie Brown praise Schwarzenegger, the position of the current crowd of Capitol Democrats is less clear.
State Senate President Pro Tem John Burton was spotted by a colleague sitting alone in his darkened Capitol office Sunday night, before skipping Monday’s Inaugural in favor of a golf tournament fund-raiser. Burton, who loves movie stars and despised Davis, has issued waspishly cryptic remarks to the press after being charmed by Schwarzenegger in the election’s aftermath. The regime which he did so much to build as Senate president is crumbling, with the Democratic-controlled Legislature held in equally low repute as the former governor, its budgets and policies such as the driver’s license bill rejected by most voters as excess.
Director Rob Reiner, rumored to be considering a run for governor in 2006, attended Schwarzenegger’s private party for 600 guests Sunday night at the Sheraton Grande. The longtime Democratic activist will campaign for a teachers union–backed initiative to raise business property taxes for more education spending, which the former bodybuilding champion opposes. Reiner would not discuss his own political future. (He was not the only mum’s-the-word Democrat there. "I’m not here," said one Democratic moneyman, though he clearly was.)
The Democratic field may be more open than anticipated, with the expected front-runner, Attorney General Bill Lockyer, having neatly tied himself in knots by revealing that he voted for Schwarzenegger, then saying that he was troubled by the L.A. Times’ late-breaking charges of sexual misconduct against him. Was he for Arnold now? Was he against Arnold now? Should he debate himself about all that stuff?
That left Treasurer Phil Angelides as the Democratic alternative. But even some of the most Arnold-hating members of the press corps say they don’t like Angelides much, either, considering him a grandstander. It is true that Angelides, who condemns Schwarzenegger’s increasingly apparent plan to restructure the debt with massive borrowing, was resistant to criticizing the similar though smaller-scaled approach of Davis and the Democratic Legislature during the recall election.