The Sad State Of California – Why We Are Where We Are.

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Why? It’s because of the poor quality and caliber of the politicians that run the state.

Exhibit A: The speaker of the State Assembly, John Perez. He was appointed the assembly leader, even though he had been in office for only a year. His lack of experience showed in spades this last week, as documented by the always superb Dan Walters:

Schwarzenegger unveiled this year’s version of what the Capitol calls the “May revise” on Friday and ordinarily, legislative leaders quickly react, not wanting the governor to have the media stage to himself. Accordingly, the president pro tem of the Senate, Darrell Steinberg, listened to the governor’s presentation and then quickly issued sharp criticism.

Pérez, however, was absent because he was attending a big bucks “golf tournament” in Pebble Beach to raise campaign money from special interest groups. That may have been a little unseemly, but Pérez would have been well-served to take whatever criticism came his way silently.

Instead, he decided to play the victim card. “I don’t think the timing was coincidental,” Pérez said when asked about his absence. “I think it was proven to be really a good opportunity for the governor to make ugly proposals and dump the trash on a Friday and then try to distract you into talking about where I was instead of what the substance of his proposals are.”

It was a hanging curve ball that the governor’s flack, Aaron McLear, knocked out of the park, quickly pointing out that state law, not the governor’s whim, dictated the May 14 deadline for a budget revision.

Once again, Pérez should have kept his mouth shut, but he continued to insist that he had been dissed, and then compounded his faux pas by offering the ludicrous rationale that raising special interest money – as much as $60,000 per donor – was just serving the public.

Yes, he’s the Speaker of the Assembly, yet he doesn’t even know that May 14th is a specific deadline to submit a budget revision. Walters goes on to expose that this Assembly Speaker is in his own world when it comes to common sense. So, how does California end up selecting such an inexperienced person to occupy the highest seat in its Assembly? It could be his strong ties to labor, but that’s not quite enough.

The crowd in the Assembly chambers clapped and shouted as John Perez (D-LA) entered to take up the post as the next speaker of the Assembly. As he took the oath of office, some of his powerful predecessors watched – among them, Willie Brown, Fabian Nunez and L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa – who’s also John Perez’s uncle.

OK, there is some nepotism. But, more than likely, it’s because of this:

The Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles roused the crowd to its feet with a rendition of “A Brand New Day” from the Broadway musical “The Wiz.”

And it is “a brand new day” in the state capitol in some respects. John Perez is the first openly gay speaker of the California Assembly.

You see, our Democratic politicians in this state (and beyond, obviously) just can’t resist the temptation of playing identity politics. They live and breath it. Perez’s predecessor, Karen Bass, was the first African American and woman to be Speaker. Fabian Nunez, her predecessor, may not have been a first as far as identity politics goes, but he does have a rather unique “first” on his resume. From his Wiki:

While serving as Speaker in 2004, Núñez made the controversial decision to not allow a 4th of July ceremony featuring a talk by retired Rear Admiral Jeremiah Denton to take place on the floor of the California State Assembly.

Why, may you ask?

In 1966, Denton, a Vietnam War veteran and POW, and former US Senator, was interviewed during his confinement and blinked in Morse code to spell out the word “torture.” Following his retirement from the Navy, Denton accepted a position with the Christian Broadcasting Network as consultant to his friend, CBN founder Pat Robertson, a position Denton held until 1980. Assemblyman Jay LaSuer had invited Admiral Denton to speak, but Nunez claimed that there wasn’t time for to celebrate America’s Independence Day on the floor on the Assembly. However, time was made to hold a ceremony honoring a retiring Los Angeles Times reporter on the day of the planned 4th of July ceremony. While Cinco de Mayo, St. Patrick’s Day and Chinese New Year’s had been celebrated on the State Assembly floor for several years in a row, the 4th of July had not been.

Yes, Denton was THAT guy, maybe the most famous Vietnam POW this side of John McCaine.

All three Speakers also have something else in common – all are from the LA political power base, and all are associated with that Antonio Villaraigosa guy.

Back to Perez. Lets not ignore the other reason that the newbie legislator was shoved into the Speaker position.

Democrats expect him to be a more powerful budget negotiator than his predecessor Karen Bass because of his strong labor and business ties.

You may as well ignore the “business ties” reference in that sentence. In this state, it’s all about labor unions. They rule the roost. Notes Walters:

The most important contributors to Democratic campaigns are public employee unions and, one presumes, they were heavily represented at Pérez’s fundraiser in Pebble Beach last Friday.

City Journal Columnist Steve Malanga sums up the end result of the corrosive Union control of our state government this way:

The unions’ political triumphs have molded a California in which government workers thrive at the expense of a struggling private sector. The state’s public school teachers are the highest-paid in the nation. Its prison guards can easily earn six-figure salaries. State workers routinely retire at 55 with pensions higher than their base pay for most of their working life. Meanwhile, what was once the most prosperous state now suffers from an unemployment rate far steeper than the nation’s and a flood of firms and jobs escaping high taxes and stifling regulations. This toxic combination—high public-sector employee costs and sagging economic fortunes—has produced recurring budget crises in Sacramento and in virtually every municipality in the state.

Whither California.

PS. Did I forget to mention that our politicians tend to be petty and vindictive if you step out of the party line? Bass kicked fellow Dem, Central Valley Representative Nicole Para to the curb, literally, for refusing to vote yes for a flawed budget that she knew would lead to a bigger budget deficit, and that did nothing to fix the growing water crisis here in the Central Valley. And as we have seen in the last two years here in California, Parra was absolutely right. Prior to the Bass / Parra flap, Nunez did something similar to another Central Valley Democrat, Juan Arambula.

Back in 2006, Arambula failed to toe the party line on an infrastructure bond package. Then-Speaker Fabian Núñez, D-Los Angeles, stripped Arambula’s committee chairmanship (it was later returned) and crammed Arambula and his staff into “the doghouse,” the Assembly’s tiniest office space.

In the last five years, Parra and other politicians have made attempts to tackle our states problems, but they, and the possible solutions that could have helped avoid / get us out of this mess, were kicked to the curb.