The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

January 28, 2009
Jerry Brown: More delay on dealing with aging, sick prisoners

In a Sunday editorial, "Brown blocks the way on prison health," the SacBee editorial board posed a question to Attorney General Jerry Brown and other California officials: "If you don't like [Federal Prison Health Receiver J. Clark] Kelso's plan or don't want a federal court-imposed solution, where's your plan?

Well, now Brown has a plan.  Sort of.

He has filed a motion in federal district court in San Francisco to end the federal takeover of California's prison health system. He wants the court to return the prison health care system to the state and simply appoint a Special Master to evaluate the state's compliance with federal constitutional standards. Blah, blah, blah. Been there, done that. 

Brown also wants the court to terminate the receiver's proposed plan to construct facilities to house 10,000 chronically ill, physically impaired, feeble prisoners.

Surely, Brown must know that U.S. District Court Judge Thelton Henderson only took the drastic step of putting the federal receivership in place precisely because the state was making no progress on its own.

Does Brown really believe that Judge Henderson would clip the wings of the only entity that has a 3-4 year plan -- and deadlines for a return to the state -- only to replace it  with a Special Master with little authority to achieve results? This would drag things out for another 10, 15 or 20 more years. 

 The fact is, neither the Attorney General nor the Governor's Office has been willing to sit down with J. Clark Kelso, the federally appointed receiver, to figure out ways to reduce prison medical care construction costs or provide an alternative that reduces the population of older, chronically ill, physically impaired, feeble prisoners.


 Now that might get us somewhere, unlike this latest delaying tactic.
January 28, 2009
A new tune on taxes for Republicans

Bruce Bartlett, a well known advocate of "supply-side economics" and domestic policy adviser to President Reagan, has some trenchant advice for Republicans on taxes.  Though his remarks are addressed to Republicans in Congress, what he says is even more appropriate to Republican lawmakers in the California Legislature.


Bartlett's whole piece, written for Politico, is worth reading.  But here's a snippet:


There is simply no appetite for big spending cuts or the radical restructuring of programs that benefit a huge percentage of Americans, especially when there has been a severe downturn in the stock market that has wiped out trillions of dollars in retirement savings. 

Historically, Republicans have come back from electoral losses by accepting the fact that Americans mostly like government spending. Rather than make a futile effort to take away something most voters want, Republicans have instead worked to make the welfare state function efficiently, target benefits to those that play by society's rules and finance those benefits without additional debt. ...


I think conservatives would better spend their diminished political capital figuring out how to finance the welfare state at the least cost to the economy and individual liberty, rather than fighting a losing battle to slash popular spending programs. But this will require them to accept the necessity of higher revenues. ...

If conservatives refuse to participate in the debate over how revenues will be raised, then liberals will do it on their own, which will likely give us much higher tax rates and a tax system that is more harmful to growth than necessary to fund the government. Instead of opposing any tax hike, I think it makes more sense for conservatives to figure out how best to raise the additional revenue that will be raised in any event. ...

 Are California Republicans listening?

January 23, 2009
What you don't know about Obama

The guy can speak Bahasa Indonesian.


This came out during his appearance Thursday at the State Department.  After giving a speech on the Middle East and challenges in Afghanistan and Pakistan, he worked the assembled crowd of diplomats.  Charles Silver, who had served in Indonesia, shouted "Good afternoon" in Bahasa Indonesian. Obama, not skipping a beat, responded in Bahasa Indonesian. The two then had a short conversation in English about the neigborhood where Obama lived in Jakarta.


Obama, you'll recall, lived in Indonesia from 1967 to 1971 (until the age of 10).


These language skills surely are a plus.


Indonesia, little known or understood in the United States, is the world's 4th most populous nation, with the world's largest Muslim population (more than all the Middle East Arab nations combined). It is strategically located between the Pacific and Indian Oceans.  It is a front-line nation in confronting terrorism.


Indonesia has the largest economy in Southeast Asia. Perhaps Californians, sharing a Pacific Ocean link, can capitalize on the new attention to Obama to drum up business with this pivotal nation. Hey, use every advantage you've got.

Watch the exchange here.

January 20, 2009
Di Fi sets tone for Obama inauguration festivities

Californians can be proud. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who led the inaugural committee, opened Tuesday's ceremonies with a wonderful two-and-a-half-minute speech (Watch it below):

Welcome to the inauguration of the 44th president of the United States of America. (applause)  The world is watching today as our great democracy engages in this peaceful transition of power.  Here on the National Mall, where we remember the Founders of our nation and those who fought to make it free, we gather to etch another line in the solid stone of history. The freedom of a people to choose its leaders is the root of liberty. In a world where political strife is too often settled with violence, we come here every four years to bestow the power of the presidency upon our democratically elected leader. Those who doubt the supremacy of the ballot over the bullet can never diminish the power engendered by nonviolent struggles for justice and equality, like the one that made this day possible. No triumph tainted by brutality could ever match the sweet victory of this hour and what it means to those who marched and died to make it a reality. Our work is not yet finished, but future generations will mark this morning as the turning point for real and necessary change in our nation. (applause) They will look back and remember that this was the moment when the dream that once echoed across history, from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial finally reached the walls of the White House. (applause) In that spirit, we today not only inaugurate a new administration, we pledge ourselves to the hope, the vision, the unity and the renewed call to greatness inspired by the 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama. (applause) Thank you and God bless America.



January 15, 2009
Mayor Kevin Johnson after 44 days...

Sacramento's new mayor met with the editorial board Thursday afternoon.  His impatience with business as usual stands out.

  Thumbnail image for JV JOHNSON TEAM 02.JPGPrime example: With the city experiencing declining revenues in the current budget year (requiring mid-year cuts) and looking at a deficit of $45 million to $50 million in 2009-2010, Johnson proposed bringing in a national firm to do an independent review immediately. "This was a no-brainer in my mind," he said.  "We are in desperate times here."  An outside audit would have provided "extra eyes and ears" to look for savings.

The council defeated it on Tuesday, Johnson's first major defeat. He explained why he chose not to pursue a bid process - the need was urgent to garner any savings during the mid-year cutting process and the 2009-2010 budget process (with March 15 decisions). A bid process of six to eight weeks would be too late - helping only for future years. City staff, he noted, recommended the proposal.   The defeat, he said, means that Sacramento won't have an audit to help with mid-year cuts or the 2009-2010 budget.

He minced no words, believing that Tuesday's council vote signals that "The Old Guard is still in charge" and that it is yet another example of Sacramento being "against everything and for nothing."

He has no regrets. He expects to "ruffle feathers" and he insists, "I do not want to scale back on my vision."

Other items on his agenda:
A crime summit on February 28, bringing together law enforcement and prevention/intervention folks across the region.  He has a staff person, Chris Young (who was Barack Obama's Deputy Finance Director for Northern California), devoting time to public safety and finding ("leveraging") resources to reduce violent crime.

An education summit at the California Museum March 9.  He wants to elevate the profile of the city as a place of innovation.  He'll have local folks and a few national speakers to address the following issues: how to attract high quality teachers and principals (including alternative credentialing); school choice (including attracting providers to Sacramento); accountability and data (the state's API, he believes, is "not transparent" and is "convoluted" as a way of identifying good schools); performance pay; and how to bring additional resources to Sacramento. Hear any feathers ruffling? 

On the strong mayor initiative:
He wants "responsive, nimble government."
He's building relationships with mayors, current and former, in Fresno, San Francisco, Oakland, Anaheim and Long Beach.

He says he still likes the job...

January 5, 2009
Kick-off for strong-mayor campaign

Newly elected Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson has made a proposed change from a weak-mayor to strong-mayor system in Sacramento his first priority.  Organizers have a kick-off meeting today (6 p.m. at The Grand, 1215 J Street).

Here's the list of organizers for the campaign:

Detective Mark Tyndale, Vice President, Sacramento Police Officers Association
Randy Paragary, Owner, Paragary Restaurant Group
Jeannine English, Former Executive Director, Little Hoover Commission
Lina Fat, Small Business Owner, Sacramento
Mark T. Harris, President and Managing Partner, Pineapple Group LLC
Amador S. Bustos, President & CEO, Bustos Media LLC
Maeley Tom, CEO Tom & Associates
Kim Mack, Community Organizer
Georgette Imura, Sacramento API Community Activist

They also have a Web site:

About The Swarm

The Swarm is written by members of The Sacramento Bee's editorial board. They meet daily and are separate from the newsroom. Views included here are those of individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect those of a majority of the board or the positions expressed in The Bee's editorials.

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