March 3, 2024 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Arnold Evaluation: Not a Promise Keeper:

Arnold Schwarzenegger made many promises while running for governor in 2003 and kept one. He made many more during the more than seven years his smoking tent sat outside his office in the state Capitol’s “horseshoe” suite of executive offices – and kept virtually none. First, the promise kept: Schwarzenegger said he would immediately roll back the vehicle license tax restoration ordered by the ousted ex-Gov. Gray Davis, and he did. It proved to be one of his biggest mistakes, costing the state about $5 billion yearly, funds that were collected through the late 1990s, but deemed not necessary during the boom years of the real estate and dot.com bubbles, when capital-gains tax revenue was plentiful.

Schwarzenegger’s cancellation of the vehicle license tax restoration is one reason for the annual budget stalemates that plagued California through his entire administration, impasses that consistently made this state look incompetent and comical to outsiders.

Then there were all the promises not kept. Start with the first one: On the evening he declared himself a recall election candidate to replace Davis, Schwarzenegger pledged never to take a nickel’s worth of campaign donations from special interests. There is always a price to pay for those, he said. No one donates big bucks to a candidate without expecting something in return, he intoned, and Schwarzenegger would have nothing to do with anything like that.

Almost immediately, his political committees began taking money from special interests: auto dealers, land developers, oil and chemical companies, chiropractic associations… the list goes on and on. Schwarzenegger, of course, never recognized any of these outfits as special interests. Only labor unions and other types of outfits that donated to his political opponents qualified for that term.

It was an Alice-in-Wonderland approach to politics and political definitions. But there was nothing make-believe about the way Schwarzenegger’s policies tracked closely with the interests of his big donors.

The governor refused to answer questions on that topic seriously, always claiming anyone who supported him was out to create jobs, while opponents were job killers.

But it was plain early on who Schwarzenegger would favor: whoever gave him the most money. SBC Communications donated $400,000 to the governor’s committees. Opponents of its takeover bid for the better-known AT&T Corp., complete with adopting its name, gave nothing. So the deal went through and, oddly enough, AT&T has not been a major donor since.

Schwarzenegger kept on former Southern California Edison president Michael Peevey, originally a Davis appointee, as head of the powerful state Public Utilities Commission, and made a former Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. executive head of the Energy Commission. PG&E and Edison have been donors. His Housing and Community Development Department director was a former member of the executive committee of the Building Industry Association, a major Schwarzenegger donor.

So donations didn’t merely affect policy, they impacted personnel, with myriad foxes guarding henhouses.

He promised balanced budgets and to “throw away the (state’s) credit card” – but produced one deficit after another, always resolved with gimmicks and borrowing.

But few in the media ever pointed out this kind of thing the way they did while Davis was governor and conducting himself similarly. The reasons for this press failure are complex, involving layoffs, reduced staff, green-as-grass reporters given complex assignments, and a star-struck mentality.

For if Schwarzenegger’s administration has had nothing else, it has been replete with what Hollywood calls “production values,” leading incoming Gov. Jerry Brown to observe that “little more humility is in order in the governor’s office.” Schwarzenegger was always the star. Sound systems were perfect for every event. So was lighting. Some of this year’s candidates for governor possessed at least as much money as Schwarzenegger and his committees, but lacked the presentation savvy of the former muscleman movie star. So their events usually seemed dull and pedestrian compared to his, even though it was clear they were far less beholden to campaign donors than Schwarzenegger.

The bottom line on Schwarzenegger is that most of his policies – and donors – weren’t very different from Davis’. You could almost sum it up with a lyric from the 1970s song “Won’t Get Fooled Again” by The Who, “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss…”

The polls showed Californians were fooled by Schwarzenegger for quite awhile, but by the end they saw through him and gave him ratings about as low as the rejected Davis’s ever were.

If there’s anything to regret here, it is that it took Californians so long to see they had a Potemkin governor, one who always looked and sounded terrific on the surface, but had little or no substance.

in Opinion
Related Posts

S.M.a.r.t Column: Gelson’s Looms Large

February 22, 2024

February 22, 2024

Our guest column this week is by SMCLC (the Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City). SMCLC is a well-established...

S.M.a.r.t Column: Top Toady Town

February 18, 2024

February 18, 2024

Throughout history, from the ancient Romans and Assyrians to Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, siege warfare has served as an...

S.M.a.r.t Column: The Sunset of Home Ownership

February 11, 2024

February 11, 2024

We are watching the sunset of our historical and cultural American dream of home ownership as we now are crossing...

SMa.r.t. Column: B(U)Y RIGHT

February 4, 2024

February 4, 2024

“By Right” state housing laws that give developers, in certain projects, the ability to ignore codes ‘by right.’ Well, that...

S.M.a.r.t  Column: Serf City

January 28, 2024

January 28, 2024

Homelessness is a problem in California, and nowhere is this more evident than in our fair city, where the unhoused...

S.M.a.r.t  Column: Bond Fatigue

January 22, 2024

January 22, 2024

Last week’s SMart article,  described two critical problems faced by our Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD): the declining...

S.M.a.r.t Column: Peace on Earth

December 27, 2023

December 27, 2023

We are all, by now, saturated with jingles, holiday cards, “ho ho ho’s,” countless commercial advertisements, and exhortations to feel...

S.M.a.r.t Column: On the Clock with Mayor Brock

December 17, 2023

December 17, 2023

I became Santa Monica’s Mayor on Tuesday, December 12, 2023, following a simple “switch of the chairs” transition with outgoing...

S.M.a.r.t Column: SANTA MONICA CITY COUNCIL 2024

December 10, 2023

December 10, 2023

Position:Seeking Santa Monica City Council Candidate(s) Introduction:Exciting opportunity for the right candidate(s) to work with like-minded Council members committed to...

S.M.a.r.t Column: ARB (NOT Ready to Build!)

December 3, 2023

December 3, 2023

Santa Monica City’s Architectural Review Board (ARB), established in 1974, acts “…to preserve existing areas of natural beauty, cultural importance...

SMa.r.t. Column: We are thankful for….

November 27, 2023

November 27, 2023

SMa.r.t. would like to wish you all a great Thanksgiving with friends and family and also to thank its readers...

S.M.a.r.t Column: Make the City New Again

November 19, 2023

November 19, 2023

When the COVID crisis struck, it cut the city’s income in half, demolishing many businesses and causing widespread layoffs and...

S.M.a.r.t Column: Four Futures

October 29, 2023

October 29, 2023

As well described by Paul Krugman, all cities have a core competency: things they do well or better regionally or...

SMa.r.t column: Beautiful Quartz Countertops Are Hurting Workers and Should Be Banned

October 9, 2023

October 9, 2023

Quartz countertops are super popular because they’re tough and can handle stains, scratches, and heat. But there’s a big problem:...

S.M.a.r.t Column: Architect’s Son Reflects On Civic Auditorium

October 2, 2023

October 2, 2023

Welton (David) Becket (1902-1969), pictured above, backed by a picture of our Civic Auditorium, was the designer of that famed...