And if it’s pull quotes you’re after, their final assessment has plenty to choose from.
Arnold Schwarzenegger strove to do big things. In the process he had colossal failures, many of them handed to him by the people he claimed to have commune with. The state’s budget deficit is larger than when he took office, and the stranglehold of interest groups on the Capitol remains unbroken. For all of his talk of post-partisanship, the Capitol remains as bitterly divided as ever. Now, California turns to a new governor - one who understands the minefields of California politics better than his predecessor.
But it just may be that Arnold Schwarzenegger will be looked upon as the man who makes Jerry Brown’s success possible, leaving an imprint of state politics for years to come.
One of the more interesting Schwarzenegger reviews focuses on a topic for which you’d expect the greenie post-partisan governor to score an unmitigated “Fresh”: the environment. He is, after all, the signatory to the state’s landmark global warming bill AB 32, and an international voice advocating for forward movement on climate change. However, in Malcom Maclachlan’s “On environment, mixed reviews for Schwarzenegger,”—also published in Capitol Weekly—the assessment from environmentalists is not so simple.
On the one hand, they praised a governor who stuck his neck out, publicly championed environmental causes and did some of his best work on the nitty-gritty issues that don’t always get much attention.
On the other hand, they say the story behind the scenes was not always what it seemed — especially when it comes to the policy areas that Schwarzenegger has claimed as his major accomplishments.
It is a contention that leaves some on the governor’s staff bristling.
“You mean the greatest environmental legacy in the history of California?” asked Dan Pellissier, one of the governor’s chief environmental advisers.
“Is ‘legacy’ in quotes?” quipped former Senator Sheila Kuehl, a liberal Democrat who represented Los Angeles and frequently clashed with the governor on health care reform and other issues.
The points of tension in Schwarzenegger’s dueling environmental legacies are outlined in some detail (at least for a seven year review), with those on either side of the political spectrum lining up to offer their thoughts.
Certainly, the governor can point to a long list of environmental accomplishments.
This includes an aggressive target for renewable energy, protecting California’s fuel-efficiency standards, protecting the coast, permitting immense solar- and wind-energy projects, approving a low carbon fuel standard and, especially, his passionate defense of AB 32 against Proposition 23, the failed November initiative that would have suspended it indefinitely.
Many also credited his very public role championing environmental causes.
“I look at the progress California has made on environmental issue in the past seven years, and it compares favorably to any state in the nation,” said Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto.
But critics can say that he could have gone much further - but didn’t.
This includes areas such as restricting dangerous chemicals, not pursuing taxes on oil companies, a lack of support for public transit, threats to cut most of the state parks funding during budget cuts and a failure to fight another November initiative, Proposition 26, which many environmentalists say will make it harder to enforce environmental laws.
Ultimately, argues Maclachlan, Schwarzenegger’s trademark issue might also define his entire governorship.
In some ways, Schwarzenegger’s environmental legacy is like his governorship in microcosm, embracing the middle road in a partisan environment. Leading green-minded Democrats took him to task in the areas where they disagreed. Most Republicans disliked that he was taking on environmental issues at all. That, in a nutshell, can describe the Schwarzenegger governorship as a whole.
As all three note, it is history—and his successor, Jerry Brown—that will define Schwarzenegger. But in the meantime, we will be keeping an eye on the California press to see which way Schwarzenegger’s “tomatometer” tips as he begins to pack his bags.