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Outsider Arnold is fast becoming a Sacramento Insider

by Daniel Weintraub Thursday, Oct. 16, 2003 at 2:30 AM
dweintraub@sacbee.com (916) 321-1914

The influence of former California Gov. Pete Wilson (Republican) on Schwarzenegger's team is evident. It is heavy on establishment figures and almost devoid of anyone who has been known to challenge the status quo.

Outsider Arnold's first moves are to the inside

Daniel Weintraub, Sacramento Bee, October 14, 2003

For a man who ran as an outsider vowing to shake up Sacramento, Arnold Schwarzenegger's first moves as governor-elect are making him look like very much the insider.

Two nights after celebrating his election with a promise to end "politics as usual," Schwarzenegger jetted to Sacramento for a cocktail party with lobbyists, legislators and longtime fixers -- including Willie Brown, the former Democrat speaker of the state Assembly.

Brown, who is soon to retire as San Francisco's mayor, also was one of the headliners on Schwarzenegger's 68-person transition committee, which the new governor had announced earlier in the day.

The list won praise for its diversity, and diverse it was, in a sense. It included Republicans and Democrats, a good balance of men and women, and people of all ethnicities and races.

But in another sense the team is not diverse at all. Almost everyone on it is either already part of government, has been part of government or has worked in close proximity to it as a lobbyist or public affairs expert for a trade or professional association. While it also included people from the business community, most of them were also safe choices from Old California, not cutting-edge executives likely to have a fresh take and new ideas.

The team appears to have been put together by aides to Schwarzenegger's political mentor, former Gov. Pete Wilson. It is heavy on establishment figures and almost devoid of anyone who has been known to challenge the status quo. If these are the people on whom Schwarzenegger is depending to recommend the "best and the brightest" for his administration, he risks surrounding himself with the Republican flip side to Gray Davis -- incrementalists who will be cautious to a fault.

In addition to Brown, who is the ultimate insider, the team also includes Los Angeles Mayor Jim Hahn, and John Hein, a lobbyist for the California Teachers Association. It's also got Susan Estrich, who helped run Michael Dukakis' campaign for president, and Tammy Bruce, the former president of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Organization for Women, both of whom defended Schwarzenegger against last-minute charges about his treatment of women.

From the other side of the aisle, the list features a Who's Who of Republican Nice Guys (and Gals) -- people who can be depended upon as loyal soldiers but are not driven by a passion to overturn the old ways of doing things. Examples: former Secretary of State Bill Jones, former Treasurer Matt Fong, former state Sens. Rebecca Morgan and James Nielsen, and former San Francisco Mayor Frank Jordan.

What's missing are true reformers. People on the inside such as Assemblymen Keith Richman, a Republican, and Joe Canciamilla, a Democrat, who tried and failed to shake up the status quo in the Legislature this year on energy, health care and fiscal issues. Or state Sen. Dean Florez, a Democrat who challenged Gray Davis more than once. From outside the Capitol, Fresno Mayor Alan Autry and Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo would have been inspired choices.

Schwarzenegger could also use some advice from people who have experience at government reform. Ted Gaebler, the new Rancho Cordova city manager who co-wrote the book "Reinventing Government" and put its principles in place in several local governments, or Bill Eggers, the former director of government reform at the Reason Public Policy Institute, who wrote "Revolution at the Roots: Making our Government Smaller, Better and Closer to Home," would certainly add a different perspective. Joel Kotkin, a Pepperdine University professor who has spent a lifetime trying to convince Democrats of the value of entrepreneurs, would also have made an excellent choice.

If Schwarzenegger needed the shock value of choosing a former state official named Brown who is now a big-city mayor, he would have been better off skipping Willie and going with Jerry instead. The Oakland mayor has come to terms with many of the mistakes he made as governor and is now a creative, born-again advocate for local initiative, including charter schools.

Schwarzenegger did make an intelligent move by asking a complete outsider, Donna Arduin, to give the state finances a once-over and guide his early decision making in that arena. Arduin has worked in Michigan, New York and Florida, and is known for pushing accountability in government operations.

The best indication that she was a good choice were the early howls from legislative insiders that it didn't make any sense for Schwarzenegger to rely on someone who was not familiar with California's budget. Actually, it makes perfect sense to get a fresh set of eyes to take a look at that mess, and the governor-elect should find more people with her credentials who are willing to assess California's government operations and recommend new approaches.

After the historic recall and the 60 percent mandate for government reform he shared with state Sen. Tom McClintock, Schwarzenegger has an unprecedented opportunity to turn Sacramento upside down and start over from scratch, questioning every old assumption and everybody who says we must do it this way because we always have.

His early moves suggest he's not entirely focused on converting that opportunity. Let's hope he reverses field quickly.

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its a game at our expense armchair protestor Thursday, Oct. 16, 2003 at 5:47 PM
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