A Lt. Governor Who Could Become Government Reform Czar

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

Talk about a public private partnership – how would the issue of government reform fare if a chief architect of privately funded reform ideas holds one of the top constitutional offices in the state? It’s possible if Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger selects former Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg to be the interim Lt. Governor with a portfolio as the new czar for governance reform.

No one knows if the governor would select a Democrat for the post if it becomes vacant, but Hertzberg’s name is frequently mentioned as a possibility. It is hard to imagine Hertzberg wanting the post until you consider what he has been up to lately.

The effusive Hertzberg is co-chairman of California Forward, the foundation funded government reform project that is just now issuing ideas on how to reform California’s dysfunctional government.

There has been much speculation about whom Schwarzenegger would appoint to the Lt. Governor’s office should the current occupant of that office, John Garamendi, win a congressional seat in November.

Garamendi still has to defeat Republican David Harmer and some pundits argue the political tide is turning Republicans’ way. However, the district is solidly Democratic and Garamendi is heavily favored.

Hertzberg is close to the governor. In fact, Schwarzenegger discussed the Chief of Staff position with Hertzberg after the Recall election before Hertzberg took a key role on the transition team.

With czars all the rage with the new administration in Washington, the governor could do the president one better by establishing a czar who also holds a political office. With a portfolio from the governor to take over the Lt Governor’s chair and use all the free time that position affords to lead the charge on reform, Hertzberg might be interested.

For the governor, it may not be blowing up the boxes, but achieving some government reform before his term runs out will satisfy a goal he set when he was elected. The governor might believe Hertzberg with his credentials, contacts, and backing from the reformers might just pull it off.

There are obvious obstacles, of course. Once in office, Hertzberg would have barely a year to get the reforms onto the ballot. And, the lawyer and businessman would have to postpone his personal ventures to be a full time Lt. Governor.

The one time speaker and one time candidate for Los Angeles mayor may still harbor elected office ambitions, which he would probably have to set aside for a while. Making a declaration that he will focus his energies on reform could assuage ambitious senators with eyes on higher office who must confirm the governor’s appointment. However, as a Democrat, he may have a more sympathetic hearing in the Senate than a Republican appointee would.

With California Forward’s reform drafts nearly complete, a debate over the worth of the proposals could begin as soon as the legislature convenes. The private effort moves the reforms forward; the public effort amends, approves or defeats the proposals. If acted upon they become law. If not, Hertzberg could always take them to the people via initiative as he has already promised to do.

The unique combination of developing reforms through the private sector, then attempting to advance those reforms as a statewide office holder with a specific mandate may be a combination that could be hard for both Schwarzenegger and Hertzberg to resist.

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