According to the Associated Press, California prison guards now want to recall Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger using the same procedure that removed the previous governor, Gray Davis. What great wrong has Arnold Schwarzenegger committed that he should deserve such an ignominious end? He didn’t give them special treatment, when he cut pay while the budget dispute there drags on.
The job of a prison guard is a miserable one, there can be no question. Some of the people who take the job aren’t far from the people their guarding in mentality. But their unions have been a huge force in California politics, with strong mobilization efforts.
By handing themselves to him on a silver platter, the unions have provided the governor exactly what he needs right now: a big target that people can dislike more than him. Not only will they succeed in their recall efforts, but by failing they will be politically neutered with their loss, making it possible for anyone to get elected without them. Now those are handcuffs worth throwing off.
Voting in California is perhaps one of the closest experiences one can have to true democracy in America. Anything of substantial importance is presented to voters as a ballet initiative. And this is true for cities and counties within the state as well. I remember in November of 1992 voting on whether or not Officer Robert Geary should be able to bring his puppet Brendan O’Smarty in his patrol car. In 1988, my first year in California, the citizens rejected the abusive behaviors of insurance companies and voted themselves a rate cut.
When we left California for Switzerland I knew that as an American I would be able to vote for President and for Congress. What was less clear to me was whether I could vote as a Californian. As it turns out I could continue to vote in the California elections, just as I had in the past, but there is a catch: California would like their share of my income. And so I wondered: is this fair? I came to the conclusion that it was.
I wanted to continue to be part of the community in which I had immersed myself in 1998, but California has a justifiable concern that only those who are actually impacted by their choices of laws should have a say. Otherwise, since I’m not there, I could vote any which way with no consequence to myself or my family. I miss California, and it saddens me that I can’t be a part of the solution to the many problems Californians face. And those problems are substantial: the transportation network is failing, electricity and water supply is short, the education system remains strapped, and pollution remains a challenge.
Part of the reason for this blog is to share some of the experiences I’ve had in Switzerland so others might be able to apply them. I was in particular thinking about my friends in California.