Big Daddy

Big Daddy

Dear Big Daddy,
Am I the only one who’s troubled by all these former legislators getting appointed to lucrative board slots? As a longtime Dem staffer, I’ve had enough of the likes of Migden and Parra.
–Put ‘em out to pasture

Dear Pasturized,

If there’s one thing that politicians hate more than kissing babies, its term limits. I mean, would you want to take a job where you were told that no matter what, you’re out in a few years? Oh wait, if you’re a longtime staffer, you’ve probably done that a few times already. And if you were a Midgen or Parra staffer, the thought of a finite job tenure might have been your only reason to get out of bed in the morning.

Anyhow, every odd-numbered January, variations of the same question come up—to wit, what does Greg Aghazarian know about workers compensation (except that as a Republican, he’s probably against it)? What does Carol Migden know about the management of integrated waste (does that involve busing?)? What does Nicole Parra know about regional redevelopment…except when it comes to helping Republicans redevelop her old Assembly seat?

Now I certainly hear the argument that it’s not really right or proper that used-up legislators are so often placed in jobs that pay them more than they made in the Leg and demand far less work. But it’s funny how that argument seems to come up a whole lot more often when said legislator has made an enemy or twenty during their time under the dome. Aghazarian is making the same amount of green Parra is, but the Hottie from Hanford is the appointment you folks seem to gripe about. If she’d been a homely party loyalist who wrote a personal thank you note to every staffer who even knocked on a door for her, we wouldn’t even be discussing this.

Now Big Daddy has some other ideas about where to stash an attractive former legislator, but the governor did not see fit to consult me. And the question remains, stash her for what? Another run at elected office as a Democrat is about as likely as an on-time California budget. Though I could see Nikki and Schatzi commiserating about their post-partisan depression.

As for Migden, I’m not even going to go there. I might get pulled over.

Still, one wonders if there might be folks out there who know a bit more about these topics than someone whose main experience consists of a few years as a distracted generalist who spent more time running for re-election than actually learning the issues. True geeks who wonk out to policy, work gratefully for comparative peanuts—and who might not bring some of the outsized (read: freakin’ impossible) personalities that some former legislators carry around like a class ring.

I also understand that it would gall people that winning one Assembly race by 27 votes qualifies you for a lifetime employment contract. Okay, there are a few former legislators who weren’t given the option of a six-figure easy chair—but it also seems like you have to get caught looking for the Farm Bureau to be off the golden parachute list.

The point is, these appointments seem to go against what voters wanted when they chose term limits—that is, taking their anger out on legislators. Term limits were never really about making government better or more responsive (though if they’re the reason for the Icarus flight that was the career of one Miss Parra, they certainly made government hotter).

Electeds happen to be a privileged class in the public eye—as opposed to say, the truly rich—and as such, they make a convenient target. If disappointment, heartbreak and embarrassing skin conditions weren’t a fact of life for so many people when they’re outside the voting booth, they may never have chosen term limits when they were in it.

So what’s the real value of these board appointments? Letting me write about Nicole Parra one last time. Just like our governor, I can’t quite bring myself to say goodbye.


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