The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

February 25, 2009
Inspiring kids the Obama way

Here's an idea for a three-and-a-half minute video to show in U.S. classrooms.


Combine three segments of President Obama's 54-minute Address to Congress.


1. Where he explained why Americans need more than a high school diploma (30:46 to 31:50):


In a global economy where the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge, a good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity - it is a prerequisite.  Right now, three-quarters of the fastest-growing occupations require more than a high school diploma.  And yet, just over half of our citizens have that level of education.  We have one of the highest high school dropout rates of any industrialized nation.  And half of the students who begin college never finish.  This is a prescription for economic decline, because we know that countries that out-teach us today will out-compete us tomorrow.  That is why it will be the goal of this administration to ensure that every child has access to a complete and competitive education - from the day they are born to the day they begin a career.


2. Where he made a ringing call to every kid in the nation to stay in school as a matter of self-respect and patriotic duty (33:25 to 33:44):


Every American will need to get more than a high school diploma.  And dropping out of high school is no longer an option.  It's not just quitting on yourself, it's quitting on your country - and this country needs and values the talents of every American.


  1. Where he highlighted the can-do spirit of a young student from South Carolina (49:41 to 51:56):


And I think about Ty'Sheoma Bethea, the young girl from that school I visited in Dillon, South Carolina - a place where the ceilings leak, the paint peels off the walls, and they have to stop teaching six times a day because the train barrels by their classroom. She has been told that her school is hopeless, but the other day after class she went to the public library and typed up a letter to the people sitting in this room. She even asked her principal for the money to buy a stamp. The letter asks us for help, and says, "We are just students trying to become lawyers, doctors, congressmen like yourself and one day president, so we can make a change to not just the state of South Carolina but also the world. We are not quitters."

We are not quitters.

These words and these stories tell us something about the spirit of the people who sent us here. They tell us that even in the most trying times, amid the most difficult circumstances, there is a generosity, a resilience, a decency, and a determination that perseveres; a willingness to take responsibility for our future and for posterity.

Their resolve must be our inspiration. Their concerns must be our cause. And we must show them and all our people that we are equal to the task before us.

This president can do much to use the bully pulpit to reach kids and inspire them to achieve their potential for themselves and for their country. And schools can take advantage of it when he does.
February 24, 2009
Gov. Schwarzenegger rakes in DC money

At the National Governor's Association meeting over the weekend, it did not go unnoticed that Gov. Schwarzenegger skipped the Republican Governors Association dinner on Saturday and did no fundraising for the RGA's annual fundraising gala on Monday.

But, according to Al Kamen's "In the Loop" column in the Washington Post, Schwarzenegger was active in fundraising for upcoming California ballot measures at a K St luncheon:

For a mere $25,000, you and a guest can join Schwarzenegger at the head table and take photographs with the governor. For $10,000, you'll get "preferred seating" and photos. For bargain hunters, a single luncheon ticket and photo opportunity is only $2,500. The funds go toward Schwarzenegger's California Dream Team, his political action committee that supports state ballot initiatives.

Schwarzenegger also made the rounds of TV talk shows, weighing in on whether states should take money from the just-passed stimulus package (some Republican governors are threatening to reject the money). On ABC's "This Week," Schwarzenegger said: "Well, Governor Sanford (of South Carolina) says that he does not want to take the money, the federal stimulus package money. And I want to say to him: I'll take it. I'm more than happy to take his money, or any other governor in this country that doesn't want to take this money, I'll take it, because we in California need it."

February 17, 2009
A Republican legislative hero

I live in Capitol Villas downtown and heard a huge crash Monday night.  It sounded like a truck hitting a concrete wall at full speed. A little later, I heard two explosions. Then I heard a woman screaming, "My truck. My truck's been hit."

My husband and I came out and saw a smashed car that had hit a pickup truck parked on N Street, between 5th and 7th. The car must have been traveling at some incredible speed. It turns out that freshman Assemblyman Curt Hagman, R-Chino Hills, pulled two people from the car. As reported in Capitol Weekly, Hagman lives nearby, heard the crash and went down:

"Hagman helped the male driver and his female passenger from the car. The driver immediately ran off, and the woman was found later to have a blood-alcohol level of .33, Hagman said, about four times the legal limit for a driver in California. The car exploded after the occupants made it to safety. The parked pickup also blew up." 

All in a day's legislative work.  Hagman showed Monday night that he's not inclined to be a bystander. Now he just needs to help pull the state from its current wreckage -- and do the hard task of voting for a package with a mix of spending cuts and tax increases.

February 12, 2009
A smaller Sacramento Planning Commission with fewer duties?

At its 5:30 p.m. meeting today, the Planning Commission will hold a hearing on the following proposal presented to Mayor Kevin Johnson by the Development Oversight Commission and "customers" of the city's development hearing process:

--Reduce the existing Planning Commission from nine members to seven members.

--As part of this, the 7-member Design Commission would be eliminated and merged into the new 7-member Planning Commission.

--Move the majority of project decisions to the staff level. Use the planning commission only for "complex projects" (undefined) and appeals.

Key questions:

1. Have planning commissions in other large urban areas moved in this direction?

2. How would this change impact the role of the planning commission as a watchdog on the planning process and on the city planning department?

3. How would this change impact the role of the planning commission in considering public viewpoints on planning proposals?

See the Planning Commission agenda, including the proposal letter, here.

February 11, 2009
What to do about California's overcrowded prisons?

Update:  Click here to listen to the Insight segment on prison overcrowding.

I'll be appearing at 2 p.m. today on Capitol Public Radio's "Insight" show (90.9 FM) with host Jeffrey Callison and other guests to talk about the Monday federal court tentative court ruling that would limit California's prison population to 120 percent to 145 percent of capacity.  Today, the prisons are near 200 percent of capacity.

See photos of overcrowding from the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation here

If the ruling becomes final, California would have to reduce its prison population from 158,000 today to something between 101,000 and 122,000.

That means that over the next three to four years, the state would have to find alternatives for 35,000 to 56,000 prisoners.

The judges did not propose a one-time release of prisoners.  But they did propose several options to reduce prison population that would also save the state hundreds of millions of dollars. 

This seems like a win-win situation for the state:  reduce prison population and save a ton of money during a dire budget crisis.

What do you think?

You can read the view of The Bee's editorial board on the issue here.


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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