Saturday, October 31, 2009

You have been terminated, Mr. Ammiano

I remember learning in civics class in the 7th grade that America had the best government in the world because people who differ, like Republicans and Democrats, could debate their differences and truth would come out in the end. Once the people had heard all sides we would vote. And that was called democracy.

But that was Connecticut in 1953 and this is California in 2009.

Connecticut was a pretty good place to grow up, but politically things never went into the red zone. Here they go there all the time.

Case in point…

Tom Ammiano is a California Assemblyman representing District 13, which includes the Eastern half of the city and county of San Francisco, including the Castro, where he is a hero to many. I remember him from the 60s when he was a small-time gay stand-up comic. If you’ve seen the documentary, The Times of Harvey Milk, he’s the nelly elementary school teacher who talks about Milk’s assassination with tears rolling down his cheeks. A major issue in Milk’s day was the Briggs initiative, which would have fired not only all gay schoolteachers like Ammiano but even sympathizers of gay schoolteachers, as well.

Ammiano’s career took off in later years. Like many politicians, he started with the school board. Elected in 1990, he became president in 1994. He then ran for Supervisor, the job that Milk pioneered for gays, and won. Here, too, he eventually became president.

I mention the documentary because there’s a line in there that made me squirm the first time I heard it. Gays were furiously trying to distance themselves from the lie that we were interested sexually in children. Instead of watching his language to steer clear of the highly distasteful topic, Ammiano blurts out, “I’m not interested in getting my hand in their pants!” Man, does this guy never monitor what he says, I wondered.

Among his many accomplishments is the legislation he authored making San Francisco the first city in America to provide universal health care access.

He’s pretty much any Republican’s worst nightmare. He also authored measures to increase police accountability, he channeled millions to the public schools and millions more to subsidize child care and social service to San Francisco youth. He extended marriage privileges to domestic partners in the city when that was still a new idea. He assisted first-time home buyers and increased salaries for the lowest paid city employees.

You know he was cruisin’ for a bruisin’ with Governator Schwarzenegger. Just a question of time.

Following, unfortunately, in the footsteps of South Carolina’s Joe Wilson, who heckled Obama with “You lie,” Ammiano shouted “You lie!” at Schwarzenegger recently at a democratic party gala at the Fairmont Hotel which Schwarzenegger crashed, joking that he was entitled to show up because, as he put it, he slept with a democrat every night.

Ammiano didn’t stop there. He was heard to say, “Kiss my gay ass” as he was leaving the room.

In many places, this would have given the victim of such vulgarity the opportunity to bask in the light of moral superiority.

But this is California. What does the Governator do?

He vetoes AB 1176, the bill introduced by Ammiano and approved by the Assembly, that would improve Pier 70 and add to the beauty of San Francisco’s Embarcadero.

But he doesn’t just veto the bill. He sends a note back to the Assembly.

Here’s the veto letter. Read down the first letters of every line in the second and third paragraphs.

To the Members of the California State Assembly:

I am returning Assembly Bill 1176 without my signature.
For some time now I have lamented the fact that major issues are overlooked while many
unnecessary bills come to me for consideration. Water reform, prison reform, and health
care are major issues my Administration has brought to the table, but the Legislature just
kicks the can down the alley.

Yet another legislative year has come and gone without the major reforms Californians
overwhelmingly deserve. In light of this, and after careful consideration, I believe it is
unnecessary to sign this measure at this time.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Best part of the story, I think, is that most people I’ve talked to about this, democrats all, think the Republican governor is cool. OK, so he's a little Neanderthal, at times. Something about him is cool. And this is California, not the palace at Versailles.

And the heads turn, as at a tennis game, to see what fun might be had from the other side now.

I think we should not overlook the worthy effort of some staff worker with a sense of humor. It must have taken no small effort to line up just the right first words of each line while filling each line with just the right number of letters. True, it's pretty transparent. "...just kicks the can down the alley” is the giveaway, for me. Not the right level of discourse for the medium. “Overwhelmingly deserve” likewise. Definitely the wrong adverb. And “unnecessary” is not the word most people would have chosen in a rejection statement when the word they are after is “wrong.” But it’s an accomplishment for all that. So it's Sacramento pettiness on the taxpayer's dime. Beats watching legislators taking money to sink health care reform, I say.

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