Hasta la vista, governor 

Our last action hero as governor is acting mighty strange these days, with calls for building prisons in Mexico. Sinking poll numbers can do that to a man, but it also points to a larger issue: If he can’t move mountains, does anyone believe the next governor can?

It’s easy to remember the steamroller that was Arnold Schwarzenegger bursting onto the state’s political scene not long after he coyly announced, on Jay Leno’s show, that he was going to run for governor against a weakened Gray Davis. And it looks like both those franchises — the one-time film star and “The Tonight Show” — have lost their fan bases.

Schwarzenegger had a 65 percent favorability rating shortly after coming into office following his historic recall election, and he entered with brash statements about a new type of politics that would eschew partisanship and end the annual budget squabbling in Sacramento. Does anybody really believe that Meg Whitman or Jerry Brown will make a difference?

Whitman is betting $39 million of her own money (so far) that she can, and I would have taken that wager. Ditto for Brown, the other presumptive favorite, who’s trying to mentally channel his way into the Governor’s Office for the third time (hey, it’s a charm).

In times of crisis, political goodwill crumbles faster than a battered foundation. President Barack Obama, just one year into a term brimming with hope, all but admitted he was completely stalled in his attempts to move the country during his State of the Union address and couldn’t even get Republicans in Congress to applaud his plan promoting tax cuts.

Almost every major initiative he has pushed — health care reform, capping carbon emissions, instituting new regulatory rules for financial institutions — has been assailed by critics, proving that gridlock may be the only constant in Washington, D.C.

Likewise, Schwarzenegger, in his last year, finds himself atop a government with almost no allies and a ballooning list of enemies as he deals with a dire budget deficit and a 27 percent favorability rating. That will help explain his Hail Mary heave regarding prison reform, saying California could save billions by building prisons in Mexico, which, the last I looked, was not part of the United States.

Maybe he’s still popular down south. Perhaps the pollsters should take Mexico’s pulse while the governor still has one.



Luxury liner’s visit exposes grim terminal

People will probably be traveling in flying saucers by the time it’s complete, but plans for a new cruise ship terminal were buoyed this week with the announcement that the Port of San Francisco had sold nearly $40 million in revenue bonds to get the long-delayed project under way.

Mayor Gavin Newsom and Port officials, along with members of the Cunard cruise ship family, were on hand for the announcement aboard the massive Queen Victoria, which was docked at Pier 35 amid heavy security. It turns out you would have to be a ninja to be a stowaway these days, with more checkpoints than a demilitarized zone.

I toured the ship with the mayor, and the juxtaposition between the worn-out ferry terminal and the glitzy 90,000-ton Victoria couldn’t have been more pronounced. The communal sections of the cruise ship look like the interior of the Four Seasons Hotel, and you’d have to admit that having a string quartet of blondes from Eastern Europe would class up any gathering.

At the same time Port officials were making merry announcements about new jobs and futuristic designs, anxious travelers were being hoarded through the chilly, hangarlike warehouse that serves as our port of entry, about as unattractive as tourist greetings get.

San Francisco has been talking about a new cruise ship terminal for 20 years, with each plan running aground for different reasons. With the Port now acting as the developer, the terminal plan may no longer be berthed at Fantasy Island.


Insistent assemblyman pushing ski-helmet bill

I’m all for pushing for safety regulations, but there are limits — and I think one Sacramento legislator has reached his.

That would be Assembly Democrat Dave Jones, who wants to establish a wide range of safety rules for ski resorts, including requiring workers there to enforce helmet requirements for minors and make it a criminal offense if employees do not wear one.

What’s next, requiring headgear for surfers?

You might say that Jones is a little over the top on this issue, especially when you realize that he’s running for state insurance

Some people are better left to manage the activities of minors in recreation areas. I believe they’re called parents.

Making resort workers act as de facto ski police is about as useful as putting miles-per-hour limits at the top of mountains. Jones submitted similar legislation last year, only to see it tumble and fall courtesy of his colleagues.


Despite warnings, city ignores erosion issue

After parts of Great Highway south of Sloat Boulevard started falling into the ocean, San Francisco officials declared a local emergency, but the surfers and dog walkers still wonder what took the politicians so long to react — winter storms not exactly being a new phenomenon in these parts.

I called City Hall more than a month ago to relay reports from the beach-goers, and I was told that officials were aware of the situation. It turns out that they literally couldn’t keep up with the tide.

“It was not unexpected that we’d experience some erosion,” said Christine Falvey, spokeswoman for the Department of Public Works. “But what was unanticipated was that we would lose more than 30 feet of the beach in one storm season in less than two months.”

That chunk of beach is gone and the lanes south of Sloat Boulevard are now closed — quite possibly for months — while officials huddle with contractors and engineers to seek both short- and long-term solutions. Falvey said they hope to respond in earnest within the next two weeks.

The same thing happened years ago during a similar storm-laden El Niño season. Maybe when they hear the term “El Niño,” city leaders should think “big ocean.”






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Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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