tv This Week in Northern California PBS January 8, 2011 1:00pm-1:30pm PST
closed captioning of this program is made possible by the fireman's fund foundation. >> belva: as the new year begins, jerry brown makes history by becoming the oldest governor sworn into office after serving as the youngest governor in state history. outgoing governor arnold schwarzenegger's final act creates controversy. gavin newsom delays his swearing in as lieutenant governor to hand-pick his replacement. and in washington democrats and republicans trade leadership roles. norman solomon on new challenges for freshman democrats. norman solomon on new challenges for freshman democrats. coming up next. captioning by vitac, underwritten by fireman's fund
♪ ♪ >> belva: good evening, and welcome to "this week in northern california." i'm belva davis. tonight we focus on politics in the new year. joining me on our news panel are rachel gordon, city hall reporter with the "san francisco chronicle." paul rogers, environment writer for the "san jose mercury news." and scott shafer, host of "the california report," on kqed public radio. well, scott shafer, this week jerry brown was sworn in as governor of the state, and he seemed to have lots of good ideas. what direction do you think he's going to take this day? >> a very different direction
than arnold schwarzenegger both in terms of style and tone and substance. that became very clear. arnl was the big hollywood action star with the big entourage and the klieg light. jerry brown is stripped down. he walks to work. he goes across the hall to meet with legislators. he walked across a few streets to go meet with some county officials this week to talk about re-alignment and the budget. he's much less imperial than arnold and very much hands-on. if you think about it, jerry brown has been in public life for his entire life. and it would be hard to imagine a meeting he's in where he doesn't know more about public policy and issues than everyone else in that room, especially with term limits these days. so it's going to be i think very hands-on, very substantive, and a little bit unpredictable. on friday already he announced some serious cuts. he closed three field offices in fresno, riverside, san diego, all counties he lost, by the way, in the election. he closed the office of first lady. he's not going to have an
education adviser. so he's going to be more of the person in charge. there's going to be fewer people around him, fewer bureaucrats kind of filtering the information that he gets. so i think it's going to be -- it's going to be very interesting. >> belva: i just have to talk about one thing. you said he closed the office of first lady. but he did appoint his wife special counsel. >> he did. and she is a very powerful, influential person. she was essentially his -- in charge of the campaign. she was the gatekeeper. ann gus brown is her name. she's a former attorney with the gap. and by all accounts she's going to be the go-to person, essentially the chief of staff in the governor's office. but she won't be paid, and she probably won't have a whole lot of staff, now that they've closed that office. but she will be in i think on most important decisions and polts discussi policy discussions. >> let me ask you about the republicans in the equation of jerry brown. he did one thing republicans have been demanding. that's shrinking the size of government. he did it right off the bat.
but he's also going to be demanding of them that they have to look at some new revenue sources and taxes and we heard coming right out of the gate on the day he was sworn into office if he wants us to raise taxes he'd better think twice. do you think, though, just with his demeanor, his style he's saying look, i'll give you this if you give me, that that there might be room for negotiations? >> well, it depends on what this and that are. the devil's always in the details. but yeah, they're going to want something. it's unclear whether or not he needs any republican votes to get things on the ballot. he's going to be in june asking voters to extend some taxes that are scheduled to be rolled back. income tax, sales tax, vehicle license fee, those kinds of things. so sure, the republicans are going to want something. it's also -- jerry brown is the first time around and now as well you're seeing he's very frugal. he's not someone that's going to be throwing money at problems. of course there is no money. but i don't think he's going to have any problem with rolling back pensions, demanding unions roll back pensions and benefits and all kinds of things.
>> that may be the problem. this is a democratic state. every constitutional office holder is democratic. they voted overwhelmingly for brown. he beat meg whitman by 13%. and the legislature's dominated by democrats. but he has a $28 billion deficit that he's going to try to cut. and that represents a third of the state's general fund. so he's going to have to do massive cuts to programs that democrats hold dear. schools. closing state parks. all the things that arnold tried to do. and if he's going to have to get any republican votes to put these tax increases on the ballot in a special election in june, they're going to demand a large pound of flesh. not only pension reform, maybe all kinds of other things. charter schools, privatization of a lot of government jobs. what's he going to do if his left says no? and then can he even get any taxes passed to voters right now? that just sounds really difficult. >> in the last election voters rejected an $18 surcharge on the car tax to pay for state parks. i think one of the most important things jerry brown has
to do in the coming months and he has to do it by the time the special election happens is to rebuild trust. i think voters are so disenchanted with sacramento, i don't think they believe that things legislators say they're going to do with money, whether it's the car tax or gas tax, that they're going to do it. so i think he needs to rebuild that credibility so that when he goes to the voters in june they have faith that what he's telling them is actually going to happen. >> does jerry brown have sacred cows? are there some things he says absolutely we will not touch? the prisons, the schools, the parks, whatever the initiatives might be? or do you think he's open to looking at remaking everything? >> well, we don't know that yet. i think we'll know more on monday. he's going to be releasing his budget. which of course will be the blueprint for everything that's going to happen in the coming year. he doesn't seem like a sacred cow kind of guy. we know he cares deeply about the environment, and he's shown that this week with some of the appointments he made as former assemblyman john laird to head up the resources board and keeping mary nichols on the california air resources board.
we don't know yet. but it's not -- i don't think we're in the kind of climate where you can have sacred cows. everything's going to be on the table. certainly prisons. i mean, the three biggest parts of the budget are education, prisons, and health and social services. all those things have to be up for discussion. >> belva: you're ending talking about some of the people that he's bringing into government. we're going to move now to the man who's just moving out of government. but he too brought some people into government. we're talking about arnold schwarzenegger, the outgoing governor. part of his final act -- >> and that was one of his more controversial acts in the seven years he spent in office. in his final hours as governor, governor schwarzenegger issued a number of pardons and commutations. and one of them that really has drawn a lot of controversy was he reduced the sentence of a 21-year-old named esteban nunez. and mr. nunez stabbed a man from san diego in the stomach in a fight two years ago. he pled guilty to manslaughter -- or attempted
manslaughter. and he was sentenced to 16 years in prison. the governor commuted his sentence to seven years. and it turns out that mr. nunez is the son of former assembly speaker fabian nunez, who was the author of ab-32, the global warming bill which was arnold's signature event. and a lot of people on the right and left said how many other 21-year-olds who stabbed somebody in the stomach and then hid the evidence would governor schwarzenegger have pardoned? >> isn't there a little confusion about that? didn't someone die? >> he was with another guy. >> belva: that's the one who killed -- >> well, the guy he stabbed didn't die. another guy was stabbed and died. and that guy was sentenced to even more. but they both went and tried to hide the evidence. that was very controversial. and that's actually staining his legacy the same way that bill clinton's pardons like the sentencing of mark rich and people like that was a stain on the end of his term. >> let me ask you. you say it just so happens he's the son of this --
>> right. >> did that surprise anyone? that's their ability to do -- as an office holder. >> that's what critics are saying is the problem, that arnold came into office saying he was going to clean up sacramento, he was going to blow up the boxes, stop this crazy deficit spending, bring common sense and clean up the place, and he's leaving doing the same sort of cynical act that undercuts people's faith in politicians. the critics are saying. now, in terms of his legacy, you know, which a lot of people have been talking about this week, you can sort of sum it up i think in one sentence, which is green laws and red ink. arnold will be known for the next 100 years in california as the governor who got california on track ahead of the rest of the united states to reduce greenhouse gases. he had landmark ocean policies to preserve fisheries. he did the million solar roofs initiative, you know, which has expanded solar all over the place by offering people to pay a third of the cost of solar. a lot of things like that.
but he never could fix the budget. >> i would add to that that political reform. and it's yet to be seen how that plays out. but he pushed very hard for the open primaries, which he says and others who support the open primaries will lead to more moderate candidates and members of the legislature. and then the citizens commission. >> redistricting. >> redistricting. he really pushed for that. and they're about to begin their work drawing -- now the congressional lines have been added to that as well as the state legislative lines. yeah, that's something that is yet to play out, but i think he can make take credit or maybe blame depending on -- >> well, in a lot of ways he was o positioned as the perfect california politician. he was someone who came in, at least at the beginning, without a lot of allegiance to sacramento, without a lot of, you know, history up there. he came in as an outsider. he was someone who was moderate on social issues, pro environment, and he said conservative on the budget, which is where most voters are in the polls. but he chickened out, frankly, in his first year on the budget.
gray davis handed him a $10 billion deficit. arnold left office with a $28 billion deficit. arnold left office with a 23% approval rating. gray davis left office recalled with a 22%. the same. and the question is why didn't arnold -- that historians will ask. why didn't arnold fix the budget in the first year? he had a higher approval rating in his first year than ronald reagan and pat brown when they were governors, at any time in their term. he did not use that political capital. the democrats were afraid of him. they gave him what he wanted at first. they gave him workman's comp reform. he took away driver's licenses for illegal immigrants that davis had given. and then instead of making the hard cuts and raising taxes and fixing the budget, what he did, he put it all on the credit card with that $15 billion bond. >> democrats were afraid of him but the republicans didn't like him. he was in a no win situation. >> that's exactly right. >> he came in as a moderate republican in california. we see that doesn't work too well -- >> he did not build coalitions with republicans well or democrats. and in the end republicans liked
him less. >> belva: is it possible for anyone to build coalitions with -- >> that's a great question. >> -- the republican bloc votes that are solid as a piece of ice? >> well, for much of arnold's -- for awful arnold's tenure he needed 2/3 to pass the budget. now, you don't need 2/3 anymore to pass a budget. you still need it to raise taxes. so one thing that you could say about schwarzenegger's tenure is that he basically tried everything. as one commentator, joe matthews, has said, he was a heroic failure. that he raised taxes in 2009. he lowered taxes. he raised spending, he lowered -- he tried everything. and in the end his legacy might be that he proved that sacramento is broken. >> you know, one thing he did do is he appointed an awful lot of democrats to positions, including judges. >> as many as republicans. >> talking about the difference with jerry brown, all his appointments so far have been democrats. but it does beg the question what did all that bipartisanship get him? >> in the end if you don't have
any friends on either side then you're at 23%. >> belva: well, in san francisco they don't wear labels, but it has been very difficult for the ruling class to get along in the city. down to the fact that the appointment of an interim mayor has had great drama. >> not just great drama but fun drama as well, belva. but it looks like on late friday that they're closer to getting an interim mayor in san francisco. now, mayor gavin newsom was elected lieutenant governor in november. he was supposed to be sworn in this past monday. he said uh-uh, i'm not going to do it, i'm going to delay my swearing in until the new board of supervisors with four new members out of 11, a little more moderate than the current board, is in place. they're sworn in saturday. he wants them to pick the interim mayor, not the current board. but the current board went you know, what we're going to try to do it anyway. and on friday they voted 10-1 to appoint city administrator ed lee. now, if ed lee gets this final vote on tuesday when the new board will be voting on it, he's going to be the first chinese
american mayor in san francisco, historic, as we've just seen, in oakland with jean quan. now, earlier in the week it was a huge fight, who was going to get the board's endorsement on this? it came down to sheriff michael hennessey and then city administrator ed lee. now, hennessey kind of had the more left in sacramento support, the progressive bloc. ed lee had gavin newsom, former mayor willie brown, and the moderate bloc on the board. he had their support. but we can't ignore who ed lee is. he's a civil rights attorney before he came into city government about 21 years ago. >> progressives saw this as a great opportunity to put someone in there who was progressive, someone who could possibly win in november. and i just wonder how did -- they didn't equip themselves particularly well. there was a lot of name calling. and chris daly in particular kind of stormed out of the board meeting threatening people. i just wondered does that have any long-lasting impact on voters in the sense that they
got a chance to see how progressives would perhaps govern if they had more responsibility? or is that just an isolated thing? >> no, there's a tremendous amount of infighting with progressives. a lot of them want to vie to be the top, the kingmaker, the top person in office. they haven't been able to settle. we saw when gavin newsom ran for mayor for his second term the progressives couldn't really rally around one candidate to challenge him. matt gonzalez four years before that came in at the last minute to challenge gavin newsom. the board has been split. with a progressive slate, progressive majority we might see that shift a little bit. board of supervisors president david chiu, ton get too insider in this, he came in as a progressive in city government, and now it seems he might be going a little bit more toward the center. and his vote for ed lee this week showed he's willing to say to his progressive brethren, you know, what i'm willing to at least look the other way. >> to what extent do you think you can give newsom credit or
blame for bringing city politics more to the middle? he ran as the moderate himself. he's done some things that also made liberals happy. but how much of it is because of the influence he's had? >> it's been subtle. but you have to look that in san francisco in the last 19 years there's actually been moderate mayors starting with frank jordan, the former police chief, who's probably the most conservative of the moderates, and then eight years of willie brown. and anywhere else in the country they'd go are you joking saying willie brown's a moderate? but he's very pro development, pro business in san francisco. and gavin newsom coming in. and people would say are you crazy? he's pro gay marriage, universal health care, he wants to do tied power, going down the list. i don't think it was just for gavin newsom. i think for a citywide office that san franciscans have said at least for the past two decades, we kind of want a moderate in that seat, board of supervisors have your way, do what you want. >> belva: we'll get back to the mayor, but we should talk about kamala harris, who made history too this week. >> so kamala harris was the district attorney of san francisco who was just sworn in as the state's attorney general.
the first southeast asian, african-american woman in that job. the question is good for her. we know she's going to be the new state a.g. but who's going to replace her in san francisco? the clock's tick onniing on tha. gavin newsom says he wants to make the pick, the mayor gets to do, that he's still mayor of san francisco. he's not saying who it will be at this point. he has a short list, and sometimes that short list has been shifting. but we think by saturday, possibly sunday we might have the answer to that question. >> does it strike you as odd that it's such a difficult -- it seems to be a difficult spot for him to fill? it's a prominent job. you could certainly, as kamala harris did, parlay that into smk el something else, run for mayor. yet david chiu said he didn't want the job. there's a lot of talk of him moving over there. what do you make of that? >> the job is going to be before voters like the mayor for a four-year term in november. do you want a placeholder? newsom was insistent to have a,
quote, placeholder in place for the mayor's job saying i want to put someone in there who's not going to run in november. he might be looking for a similar thing in november for the district attorney's position as well. i think there's so many people that want that job. what political capital could he gain by picking one over another? >> belva: and ed lee. what kind of guy is he? >> he's a fix-it man in san francisco a lot of ways. what's a city administrator? well, let's just go a little bit. he's been the city purchaser over his career. he's been the head of the whistleblower program. civil rights attorney. head of public works. fills potholes. he's a person a lot of people send stuff to. he doesn't like making a lot of controversy but he's known to kind of reach out across all factions much san francisco and say okay, here's a problem, let's see what we can get to solving. >> belva: my thanks to all of you. all the stories are interesting. thank you so much for sharing your insight with us tonight. well, in a moment a discussion with norman solomon on the future of the progressive movement and the new congress in washington.
♪ ♪ >> belva: well, this week the new 112th congress is convened in washington with republicans taking control of the house by a wide margin and increasing their numbers in the senate. journalist exact visit norman solomon joins me now for a look at the future of the progressive democrats. welcome, norman. i think right off the top we ought to separate the progressives in san francisco from the progressives that you're addressing. now, you are -- what is your organization? you are the progressive democrats of america is your organization.
right? >> right. and as we know from the voting patterns and who's elected particularly to the congressional delegation from the bay area, a lot of progressives who answer to that term or left or liberal are in the bay area, and i think it's been a pretty tough two years. i would call it cascading disappointment. we don't know when we're going to hit bottom. but we may not have yet. >> belva: so what is it that you're most disappointed about? or who is it you're most disappointed with? >> let us count the ways. the obama administration. i should say i was an elected obama delegate from the 6th congressional district in the north bay, marin and sonoma county, has continued and escalated the war in afghanistan. obama promised to help main street as much as wall street. he has cornel west, another former enthusiast for obama pointed out, the white house has turned its back on poor people. helped wall street very much. not really dealt with foreclosures. made conscious choices as paul
krugman, joseph stieglitz, many other economists have pointed out, to not fight unemployment with anywhere near the vigor that the administration has expended to help big business. just in the last couple days here again, emblematic of this administration unfortunately, bringing in a new chief of staff who, hey, he was a $5 million a year top executive for jpmorgan chase. and i was thinking about that. i've got a neighbor who just had her and her husband's house foreclosed on by jpmorgan chase. so there's something about this administration that keeps moving more and more in a corporate direction, leaving many progressives increasingly unhappy. >> yeah, the business community say they've gotten a cold shoulder from -- >> voracious. always want a bigger hug, more of an embrace. it's always compared to what? and the reality is that the republicans in congress, last term in this, are like a brick wall. and the obama administration has continued to try to split the difference, accommodate,
ameliorate the differences. i think it's very clear that the policies, and this has been true since the mid-terms as well, have moved more and more in a corporate direction. that leaves the open question for progressives. obviously, on the one hand, when november comes along, we want to stop right-wing republicans so, we're going to vote democrat. but how do we achieve the two overarching goals that progressives have? which are first to fight the right wing and second to implement at the policy level progressive prescriptions for the future. and ironically, although they're supposed to be so savvy in the oval office and at the white house, they failed on both counts. they have empowered rather than blocked the right wing with this sort of ameliorating moderating policy of the white house and failed to implement the kind of progressive policies like a green new deal that were within the grasp of this administration. this president has squandered his political capital. and we are paying the consequences with education, housing, lack of green transportation. we're in big trouble as more
than $2 billion a day is still being spent on the u.s. military. >> belva: well, the republican party is one of the -- at one of its most organized points in its history that may seem to be able to really control the vote of their representatives. and now they're in the big majority. in the congress. who -- or how do you break that? >> well, you have to have a political will and desire. i've spoken to everything from democrat clubs to the rotary to sierra club in the north bay over the last couple of years. and increasingly i hear are we bamboozled by this guy obama? what does he believe in? what is he willing to fight for? and that again comes down again and again, what is this administration willing to fight for? >> well, what methods would you suggest that they use other than trying to do what the voters said and that's seek compromise? >> well, unfortunately, a couple years ago when the obama administration had a pretty
solid majority in the house as well as the senate, we had a lot of squandering of that political capital. and now democrats are generally behind the 8 ball and the congressional delegation from the bay area, which really reflects i think generally the politics of the region, for instance, barbara lee, lynn woolsey, to a certain extent the former now speaker nancy pelosi, hail from the progressive end of the spectrum, and yet they're somewhat muted by the fact that there's a democrat in the white house. so i think we have an opportunity to speak more clearly but progressives are realizing it's not going to come from the elected democrats so much as those at the base who need to speak loudly and clearly. >> belva: but if the progressives are disheartened to a degree, you've not said one good thing that obama has done. >> well, he's done a few good things, but it's always compared to what is possible and what our real goals are. and ironically, he hasn't really been able to blunt the right-wing charge in the way that a stronger president would be able to do if he had been willing and able to have a kind
of public works jobs program, for instance, to bring the unemployment down. >> belva: yet we had a republican -- we have a republican majority. that no one could have thought of two years ago. what does that say about america and what it wants? >> well, i think a lot of the swing votes are going to deal with the realities of the economy. and when you don't have an opening and momentum for progressive populism to respond to this rule from wall street and corporate profits, which are at record high, then the only half left, unfortunately, is right wing xenophobic blame the immigrant sort of tea party pseudopopulism that unfortunately is now at the ascendancy at the electoral level. >> belva: and where are you, the progressives? >> well, i think we're retrenching and reorganizing. we've got a lot of work to do at the grassroots. >> belva: and you think it's taking place? >> oh, yeah. we're doing the organizing. we're going to come roaring back in 2012. >> belva: ah. okay. starting with the democratic -- the new delegates for the democratic convention, i suppose. that's what's going on now. >> right. >> belva: thank you so much,
norman. >> thank you. >> belva: we really appreciate having you join us and getting a different perspective on the obama administration. and that's all for tonight. visit kqed.org/thisweek anytime to watch complete episodes and segments. subscribe to our newsletter and our podcasts. and share your thoughts about the program. i'm belva davis. good night. ♪ ♪