Gray Davis watch

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on July 10, 2002

The news is a little old, but when the economy tanked and the California government was faced with a large budget deficit, Gov. Gray Davis announced a hiring freeze. It turned out the freeze wasn't exactly real, and since then the state has hired about 9,000 additional workers.

According to a report in the Sacramento Bee, the announcement of the hiring freeze, as far as Republicans are concerned, was mainly a PR move.

My reaction is that, like many things the governor does, it seems to be all about public relations and nothing about substance," said Assemblyman John Campbell, R-Irvine. " ... Freeze means you stop. This is clearly not stopping. Call it a slowdown."

The problem goes beyond perceptions, Campbell said: A real freeze would have put the state in a better position to deal with a budget shortfall now estimated at $23.6 billion.

"I don't think the governor or the Legislature have taken this thing seriously," he said.

Davis administration officials have said that the hiring freeze was never intended to apply to any agency providing essential government services. Of course, in some people's view, every government agency provides essential services.

Interesting fact: While the rate of hiring at most government agencies decreased during the "freeze," the rate of hiring of prison guards actually increased during this time period. It was the prison guards' union that was at the center of an apparent quid pro quo earlier this year with the governor.

If all of that isn't bad enough, Fox News is reporting a new development. In that same news article, the publisher of Capitol Weekly, Ken Mandler, attacked the Davis administration for advertising the inappropriately-named "hiring freeze" because it hurt his newspaper, which makes much of its money on government job ads.

Nine out of 10 people will say there's a state hiring freeze," (Mandler) said. "They just saw the headline. Politically, that's the only thing the governor needed."

Well, Mandler got more than he expected for his comment. According to Fox News (last item), the Davis administration has pulled all state advertising from Mandler's newspaper. The administration claims it's a cost-cutting measure, but if those "essential" state jobs really need to be filled, Capitol Weekly is one of the best places for that advertising.

It smells a whole lot more like petty, small-town politics. It's also not like Gov. Davis. If you'll recall, earlier this year Davis noted that he saved the San Diego Union-Tribune (aka "this friggin paper") during the California energy crisis. And now he's used his vast powers in an attempt to destroy a different paper.


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July 2002



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