The Hand-off Begins: The Transition from Schwarzenegger to Brown 2.0

Joe Rodota
CEO of Forward Observer, a public affairs firm with offices in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., a former communications manager in the Reagan White House, and the author of The Watergate: Inside America’s Most Infamous Address

The smoke signals were being sent as long as 10 days
ago:  Candidate Jerry Brown began
postulating what he’d do in office, while Meg Whitman fought off media reports
of unfavorable polling.  The transition
from the Schwarzenegger Administration to the Second Brown Administration had
begun.

I served as policy director for the Schwarzenegger 2003
recall campaign and as the point person in the transition on the economic
recovery portfolio, including energy, workers compensation insurance reform,
and the overall business climate.  And
about 10 days before voters went to the polls, I had already switched my focus
to preparing for the hand-off from Governor Davis.  

The first step was to prepare the official record of
Schwarzenegger’s agenda – as reflected in our policy papers, in the candidate’s
answers to questionnaires, and in his debates and prepared remarks.  It may seem obvious, but someone has to come
up with an objective checklist of promises to guard against revisionist
history, and to help educate the swarm of new players who descend on a new
Governor-elect with their ideas for what needs to be done.  That task should be high on the list of items
to be addressed by the Brown 2.0 transition staff.

Next, the Governor-elect and his transition team will need
to look under the hood of state government.

The outgoing Schwarzenegger team will establish a point
person for all matters related to the transition, and agency secretaries and
department directors will open their doors – and books – in an attempt to brief
their successors objectively.   Advisers
trusted by Brown will be taking meetings all over Sacramento, and reporting
back to him with their assessments of the major policy areas and what can be
done.  Brown should take a suggestion
from Hoover Institution political analyst Bill Whalen and make these reports
public, just as New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie did in his
transition. 

Finally, the transition team needs to develop a way to
filter through requests from the "Third House" – mostly requests for meetings
to recommend candidates for top-level jobs, suggest policy reforms, or simply
to make a connection for future conversations. 

Brown’s transition team will be inundated with suggestions
for new policies ranging from useful to ridiculous.  My favorite suggestion in 2003 was from a top
Sacramento insider, who said Schwarzenegger should take steps to amend the
state’s "crazy" recall process as a first order of business.  I suggested that since we wouldn’t be in a
transition team office were it not for the recall election, perhaps we could
agree that his part of the constitution was actually working.

Many Capitol players have been planning their pilgrimages
for weeks, assembling "leave-behinds" they hope will impact the thinking of the
new team.   I predict a shortage of
three-ring binders in the region’s office supply stores. 

The most important meetings Governor-elect Brown will take
will focus on the state budget.  But he
should ask one state official in particular, Inspector General Laura Chick, to
pay him a visit.

Chick is on a mission, recently renewed by the Legislature in
the state budget, to investigate the state’s use of federal stimulus funds.   Democrats and some Republicans have been
reluctant to expose some of their pet projects to proper auditing, but
Schwarzenegger insisted in keeping her office going.  (Historical note:  a statewide Inspector General was part of our
2003 recall platform.)

Brown should size up the situation quickly and find a way to
create an even larger role for Laura Chick. 
He’s said he won’t raise taxes without a vote of the people.  But until voters have confidence that many
eyes in Sacramento are watching how state tax dollars are spent, and
aggressively identifying and preventing waste, taxpayers will be reluctant to
make any additional financial sacrifices for the benefit of state
programs. 

 

 

 

 

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