Props 74-77 Debate Analysis

by Ken Werner, Trinity Plaza Tenants Association (TPTA) on October 26, 2005

Monday night, KTVU and the Contra Costa Times sponsored a “debate” on Props 74 through 77 featuring State Senate President pro tem Don Perata, California Nurses Association (CNA) Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro, and Governor Schwarzenegger. In all, 28 Bay Area residents asked the three panelists questions regarding the ballot measures, and KTVU’s Political Editor Randy Shandobil moderated the discussion.

Sen. Perata and Ms. DeMoro fielded questions without the governor on-stage, who appeared separately and who apparently forced the agreement with KTVU so he would not appear in a potentially contentious format. Nichols Research of Sunnyvale recruited the residents which included 14 Democrats, 8 Republicans, 5 who declined to state party affiliation, and 1 resident registered as American Independent.

The debate lasted nearly an hour and a half and panelists were limited to a 90-second response. Mr. Shandobil stopped Sen. Perata once for running over the 90-second limit, three times for Ms. DeMoro, and seven times for the governor. Sen. Perata and Ms. DeMoro politely stopped their responses, but Schwarzenegger continued to talk even after Mr. Shandobil several times had to repeatedly admonish the governor that his time was up.

In summary, Sen. Perata and Ms. DeMoro appeared to intently listen to the questions, with one exception, and answered the questions intelligently and accurately. However, the governor appeared to be nonresponsive to a number of questions deciding instead to use spin as a response. I tallied the number of times Schwarzenegger invoked certain phrases to frame the debate around his Republican ideology, and here are the tallies.

When talking about unions, the governor invoked the phrase “union bosses” in a derogatory manner 8 times. He used the phrase “power grab” 4 times in the context of either claiming his opponents envisioned that’s what the governor was attempting to do or as a disclaimer that his party was not attempting a power grab. The governor claims he sees himself as the people’s governor trying to return power to the people, which was confirmed as spin by the head of the California Republican Party, Duf Sondheim. But the phrase the governor spun most often was the use of “broken system” either referring to the educational ‘system’ or the California political ‘system’ as a whole: Schwarzenegger spun the phrase 9 times, and insinuated the concept another 4 times.

Prop 74 – Teacher Tenure

Judging from some of the questions asked by Bay Area residents, there appears to be a misconception that it’s impossible to remove poor-performing teachers, who Schwarzenegger claims are existent in EVERY school in the state. The governor insultingly called this the “Dance of the Lemons” whereby poor-performing teachers are moved from one school to another.

Ms. DeMoro believes 74 was placed on the ballot to punish teachers for speaking out against the governor and referred to a newspaper report calling 74 “a solution in search of a problem.” Ms. DeMoro also views this measure as forcing teachers to be at a school without job security that would last for five years and be demoralizing to teachers.

Sen. Perata responded to questions that “there is a process in place to make sure that teachers who should not be tenured aren’t” and summarized 74 as divisive. “It is not going to improve education; it simply pits the teachers of this state against the governor.”

Prop 75 – Union Dues

As Executive Director of the CNA, here is where Ms. DeMoro is at her best. Regarding nurse/patient ratios, she referred to the disrespect shown by the governor of nurses and union members as a whole and reminded viewers of Schwarzenegger’s bragging that “he kicked their butts.” Ms. DeMoro pointed out the Republican agenda of framing the election pitting corporations against working-class people, a ploy that has recently been the status quo of the right-wing agenda which seeks to discredit the opposition. She pointedly asked viewers, “How did teachers, nurses, and firefighters become the enemy all of a sudden in the State of California?”

Sen. Perata observed that “the governor has called teachers and nurses, firefighters, senior citizens, who organize, ‘special interests’ while Schwarzenegger aims to raise $50-million from corporate donors for his political agenda.

It’s during the questioning on 75 that Schwarzenegger went into tirades of “union bosses” and claiming that “we don’t want to silence anyone … that’s the last thing we want to do.”

Mr. Shandobil pointed out to the governor that corporations don’t ask their shareholders for permission to contribute to his campaign to pass his political agenda to which Schwarzenegger claimed that next year he would support an initiative to limit political donations from corporations, which shows his hypocrisy given the amount of money he’s raised from corporations which include out-of-state contributors.

Prop 76 – Spending within Our Means

Sen. Perata referred to 76 as not being a solution to the state’s budget problems. “It’s an antiseptic way to cut spending without really having to have the consequences staring you in the face.” The senator aptly noted that “the problem with 76 is it requires across-the-board cuts.”

Ms. DeMoro pointed out that 76 “vests all power in the governor, and we see what the governor does with power, and who his priorities are: taking millions and millions from corporations.” She observed that “the solution isn’t to give the governor more power. The solution, honestly … is to make corporations pay their fair share” referring to the problems created when voters passed the faulty Prop 13 that lets corporations off the hook when it comes to paying taxes.

Schwarzenegger claimed that “I have no interest to have more power” yet touts 76 as being the fix-all for California’s “broken system.” The governor claimed that he is the first governor to return money to cities and counties when in fact his repeal of the vehicle license fee has driven local governments to desperate acts of having to cut much-needed social justice programs because of the loss of revenue from the fee. (San Francisco alone has and will continue to lose nearly $98-million a year, permanently, because of Schwarzenegger’s repeal of the vehicle license fee.)

Prop 77 – Redistricting

Schwarzenegger touts 77 as necessary to fix the “broken system” and that retired, nonpartisan judges are the cure to voters having no power while all the power is in the politicians’ hands: the governor claims that his opposition is using scare tactics, but his arguments are the real scare tactics.

Sen. Perata pointed out that judges are NOT nonpartisan, they belong to political parties, and are appointed sometimes because of their partisanship. The senator used George Bush’s nomination of US Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts and Harriet Miers as perfect examples. While Sen. Perata believes we need to invest in efforts to redistrict the state but that we need to wait for the 2010 Census demographics to fairly carry out the concept. Sen. Perata referred to 77 as “it’s really not a solution that’s very thoughtful,” while Ms. DeMoro aptly pointed out that “this is a Tom DeLay strategy.”

Summary and My Recommendations emailed their endorsements Monday night based on a poll of California members, and I completely agree with the following: NO on Props 73-78 and YES on 79 and 80. While there is a minority of MoveOn members favoring 73-78 and opposing 79 and 80, the overwhelming majority favor defeating Schwarzenegger’s and the conservative element’s ballot measures.

The right-wing plan is to get conservatives to vote using the emotionally-charged Prop 73 as the incentive for voting; Democrats are a majority in the state, and November 8 is NOT a day for exhibiting apathy. Moderates, liberals, and progressives must get out and VOTE to defeat what I believe is a concerted effort to change California from a Blue State to a Red State by denying working-class people the ability to contribute to campaigns while Republicans like Schwarzenegger continue to rake in tens of millions from wealthy corporate donors.

Relying on polls showing the Republican agenda being defeated is not an approach to take: polls don’t win elections, YOU WIN ELECTIONS! Call or email everyone you know in California and motivate your friends to VOTE.

On November 8, VOTE dammit!

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