“We haven’t had an interesting governor in a long time,” said Dan Walters, a Sacramento Bee columnist who spoke at the Yuba College theatre. That Governor Schwarzenegger has brought interest back to the Capitol was signaled by the estimated 100 persons in attendance at Walters’ March 31 presentation, billed as “The Governor’s First 120 Days.”
The presentation was a Yuba-Sutter Chamber of Commerce Education Committee Scholarship Fundraiser. Tickets selling at $35-a-seat, the presentation raised money for two scholarships awarded to students in the Yuba Community College District each year, according to Randy Paige, chair of the Business and Education Partnership Committee.
Murphy Gant, a Yuba College freshman and recipient of last year’s Chamber of Commerce Scholarship, gave a brief speech before the featured speaker took the stage Wednesday night. Gant talked about his experience in college so far and his goal to attend UC Berkley and major in electrical engineering and computer science. Despite all his hard work, he came to a harsh realization in college. “In college everything has a price,” Gant said.
Gant concluded by describing how much the scholarship meant to him, saying, “It showed me that there are people out there who care for you, who are supporting you.”
Walters, inspired by Gant’s comments, announced that he would give half his $3,500 speaker’s fee back to the scholarship fund. He said Gant’s speech moved him to make the donation.
Walters then began his speech commenting on the governor’s administration. He called Governor Schwarzenegger the “most unpredictable governor since Jerry Brown.”
According to Walters, Schwarzenegger has a unique ability to solve the state’s problems due to his inherent charisma. He also described the governor as “ruthless” and “sneaky,” citing his ability to fool the public and his own staff into thinking he would not run for governor during the recall. That strategy reduced the pressure on California Senator Dianne Feinstein to run against him, Walters said.
“If Dianne Feinstein had run, Arnold probably would not have run and in all likelihood Dianne Feinstein would be governor,” Walters said.
Still, despite Schwarzenegger’s abilities and his will to dominate, Walters said California faces a “crisis of governance” so severe that the governor cannot possibly solve it alone.”California will only remake itself if Californians remake themselves,” Walters said.
Some problems that come with the territory, Walters explained, include the state’s diversity, which makes it hard to reach a political consensus. Population growth creates an enormous demand for jobs and housing, he said, and the economy is rapidly moving from agriculture and industry to technology and communications, creating still more political pressure.
Walters said Schwarzenegger has a different style of problem-solving than previous governors. Rather than avoid controversial issues and do a little bit of work on a lot of different issues, Walters said that Schwarzenegger prefers to attack one major issue at a time and focus all his resources into that “issue du jour.” For example, last month the governor focused on the bond measure, and this month his focus is worker’s compensation. “Will it work? Don’t know,” Walters said.
Schwarzenegger still has not “faced the monster” of capitol bureaucracy, Walters said, “so the jury is still out on Mr. Schwarzenegger.” The citizens, Walters concluded, would ultimately decide the fate of California. He said, “The acid test will be whether the anger of California transforms into a resolve to become civically involved.”
Only with strong civic leadership and community involvement could the state overcome this crisis, Walters said. “If Arnold can’t do it, no one can,” he concluded.
After the presentation, during the question-and-answer segment, Walters also commented on the effect Schwarzenegger’s budget would have on community colleges. Other things like health and welfare were in greater danger, he said, because Proposition 98 protects education from major cuts.
“Nothing happens to education unless education lets it happen,” Walters said.
“There is no inherent value in Sacramento,” Walters said. He added that the chancellor must partake in political power plays in order to serve the colleges.
Dennis Hinz, Chairman of the Board for the Yuba-Sutter Chamber of Commerce, provided a few closing remarks before the event ended. Sponsors for the fundraiser were Don McCullough, Keenan and Associates, Russ Clark of Carl’s Junior Restaurant, the Tri-County Regional Occupational Program and the Yuba College Management Association and Yuba-Sutter Disposal.
Flavors, the Yuba College student operated restaurant, supervised by Rick Prondzinski, catered the event. Marisela Arce, Associate Dean of Yuba College, and Randy Page, chair of the Business and Education Partnership Committee, coordinated the fundraiser.
The fundraising event was first held two years ago, featuring Tom Sullivan, the talk radio host from KFBK. Last year Kevin Johnson, the former Phoenix Suns basketball player, was featured. This year, Walters’ presentation covered a wide range of issues facing Governor Schwarzenegger and the people of California.