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Daniel Weintraub

California Insider

A Weblog by
Sacramento Bee Columnist Daniel Weintraub

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« March 7, 2006 | | March 9, 2006 »
March 8, 2006

Bond deal?

The governor today dropped by the Assembly Republican Caucus to pitch the latest iteration of his emerging deal with Democrats on infrastructure. I hear he spoke for about five minutes and then left, after which the sentiment among the members was not exactly warm. The details of what he laid out:

A $48 billion package for the 2006 and 2008 elections.

$38.6 billion in 2006, with $10.3 billion for schools, $19.35 billion for transportation, housing and air quality, and $9 billion for flood control, water and natural resources. Another $9.1 billion for schools would go on the ballot in 2008.

The transportation piece by istelf is about $18 billion, with $6.5 billion going directly into roads and highways. Another $5 billion or so goes to rail and transit, $2 billion for goods movement, $1.8 billion for air quality and environmental mitigation, $1.8 billion for safety, including seismic retrofits, and about $950 million for transit oriented development and infill incentives.

Reportedly, the governor struck out in his call for reforms on environmental and contracting laws.

The plan is to bring the package up for a vote late Thursday. Let the arm-twisting begin.

Posted by dweintraub at 5:48 PM

Conflicting conflicts

Strange goings on at the legislative Audit Committee hearing today on the First 5 money. The committee did vote to proceed with the audit, which even Rob Reiner at this point says he supports. But the commission's director, Kris Perry, oddly said that the attorney general's office, which normally represents the agency, had bowed out due to a conflict of interest. Yet earlier this week, Atty. Gen. Lockyer declined a request to investigate First 5 and referred it to the local DA because, he said, he represents the agency and so investigating it would be a conflict. So now he has declined to investigate and declined to represent it, saying both times that doing so would be a conflict. The upshot was that Perry refused to answer questions from the committee because, she said, she will have to hire outside lawyers to represent her and, in the meantime, the attorney general had advised her (depsite its conflict) to say nothing.

Unfortunately, the audit is going to take four or five months from the time that it starts, and no one knows when it will begin. A vote to expedite the audit fell one vote short of passage in the committee.

Posted by dweintraub at 4:21 PM

Using public dollars to change minds on preschool

The controversial preschool-for-all ad campaign paid for with public funds and timed to coincide with the unveiling of Rob Reiner’s universal preschool initiative had its roots in a 2002 memorandum that laid out a detailed strategy for changing the public’s mind on the issue.

The memo, which you can see in pdf form here, was prepared by GMMB, the same ad firm whose principals have close ties to Reiner and created the $23 million campaign that began airing late last year just as Reiner and his allies began to seek signatures for the initiative that will appear on the June ballot as Proposition 82.

The memo is filled with references that are likely to inflame passions on this issue, including:

--The authors saw as a problem the fact that polling had revealed that most Californians didn’t want universal preschool.

“There is considerable support for and understanding of the importance of the early years, but little demand for the state to do more,” the memo says. “The needs of children ages zero to five are ranked as a lower priority than the needs of adolescents, seniors and children with disabilities. These findings are consistent across ethnic groups. Even parents of young children say the needs of seniors and adolescents are greater than the needs of children zero to five.”

--The opinion research zeroed in on why this was the case:

“People see the early years as primarily the responsibility of parents,” the memo says.

To change that opinion, the authors said, “We must break the constantly reinforced impression that ‘education’ starts at the age of five. In many respects, our biggest challenge is the fact that most people unquestionably believe that everything before the age of five is ‘preparation’ and therefore the responsibility of parents, and ‘education’ does not start until five.

--Those people who did support a government role in preschool thought that subsidies should be directed only at the poor.

“Right now, there are strong predispositions to believe that state programs should be means-based. And of course, in an era of scarce resources, it makes sense to prioritize low-income families. However, if the long-term goal is universal availability of early education programs, we must begin to lay the groundwork now.”

--Women, blacks and Latinos were most likely to be moved by the arguments of an advertising campaign. White men seemed “relatively disinterested” in the issue.

“While it is tempting to respond to this finding by treating them as a prime target, we believe it makes more sense to devote resources to moving the groups most likely to be moved. Our goal for white men should be acquiescence, not activism.”

--The memo suggested continuing an existing education program aimed at showing parents and caregivers how they could make a difference in the lives of children. The commission should do this, the memo said, “not just because it is important in and of itself, but also because it will also help to create more demand for improved programs from the state.”

That idea – using public dollars to “create demand” for a new state preschool entitlement – was at the heart of the strategy and is repeated throughout the memo.

The benchmarks for measuring success were whether the campaign increased “the perceived need for California to do more” and whether the advertising was able to “reduce the age at which people believe the state should offer” organized education.

“If we can move those numbers,” the memo said, “it will mean we are both creating demand and changing the perception that formal education begins at the age of five. Accomplishing these goals will pave the way for making the case on behalf of a greater state role for children in their first five years of life.”

Note: Bill Bradley had a blog post Tuesday on the advertising contract with the same firm that discusses some of these same themes.

See the Bee’s story here on the resignation of Prop. 82’s campaign manager, who was also being paid with public funds as a consultant to the Reiner coimmission.

Posted by dweintraub at 10:27 AM



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