Bye, Bye Arnie
This week marks the seventh anniversary of when Arnold Schwarzenegger was sworn in as governor of California. I remember when he was elected. I was ashamed of our state for allowing celebrity to trump qualifications. I had no idea what to expect from him.
A few years later, I found myself petitioning his office to shut down California’s abusive youth prisons and replace them with programs that work. With the Books Not Bars campaign, we called him out for being the “action Governor,” missing in action. We rallied, we e-mailed, we called. We even staged a three-day vigil outside his office in Sacramento, demanding that he meet with families of locked up youth. He refused.
But something must have stuck. Because the next year, he supported a law that cut the youth prison population in half. In 2007, low-risk youth were suddenly excluded from the failing youth prisons. Despite some kinks, it was a huge step forward for youth.
Of course, he could have (and should have) done more. When Governor Schwarzenegger proposed eliminating welfare last year, most of us knew it was just a forceful negotiating move. But he did make drastic cuts to lifelines that people depend on. Why, instead, couldn’t he propose shutting down the miserable youth prisons that are failing youth, the public, and taxpayers? And speaking of lifelines, at the same time Gov Schwarzenegger lamented California’s dire budget crisis, he devoted hundreds of millions of dollars to building a new death chamber for prisoners.
So, yeah. I have my laundry list of complaints about the Guvernator. But I also have to admit: he surprised me. He took some bold moves to cut the prison budget. I’m not sure what to expect from Jerry Brown, considering the prison guards’ union spent over $1 million to help elect him. One thing’s for sure, though: this budget crisis ain’t letting up anytime soon. So Governor-elect Brown, you can close up a nice chunk of that $25 billion hole. Replace the costly, failing youth prisons with treatment that works. Go on: surprise me.