Kindergarten cop stop
Governor comes to Chico to tout power, bully the media
At an event so tightly orchestrated that reporters were admonished for stepping a few feet out of their designated standing spots, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger stopped in Chico last week, squeezing in a visit between fund-raising events in Redding and Yuba City.
The governor, in his second trip to Chico since he was elected in 2003, was in town July 28 to congratulate Sierra Nevada Brewery on its purchase of a $7 million, 1-megawatt fuel cell power plant, which is already providing the company with cheap, low-emission power generated by the chemical breakdown of natural gas.
Schwarzenegger used the opportunity to tout his own hydrogen power initiatives, which he said would make cleaner power more readily available throughout the state. Still, it was recalled Democratic Gov. Gray Davis who actually signed the legislation allowing for rebates to companies that switched to clean energy sources. And while PG&E handed over a near-$2.5 million rebate check to Sierra Nevada owner Ken Grossman, the money for the rebate came not from PG&E but from the taxpayer-funded California Public Utilities Commission.
At least 100 protestors, most of them union members, lined East 20th Avenue in front of the brewery to express their discontent with the governor’s policies.
Rick Meyer, a school maintenance man at Thermalito Union School District, said Schwarzenegger’s policies hurt California workers. Another protestor, Randall Stone, a financial planner from Chico, said the governor was also turning his back on small businesses.
“He’s not accomplished anything he said he was going to,” Stone said. “In business he’s not performing. … The education system’s going down dismally because of lack of funding. This guy’s pulling another expensive special election—for what?”
The governor did have one lonely fan among the protestors, Douglas Green, who derided unions and their members as “special interests” addicted to “entrenched social welfare.”
“You cut them a little bit and you think they’re hurting at all? No. Absolutely not—and they’re out here crying. It’s a one-world economy and we need to be able to compete with China and India and all that. If these guys get what they want, we’ll be in another Great Depression.”
In what is becoming increasingly common for political events, the governor’s appearance was scripted and choreographed to an extreme degree. Two CN&R reporters—this writer and photographer Tom Angel—were at one point asked to leave the dog-and-pony show after ignoring several requests to stop taking photographs of the governor. Although we were explicitly told by one of Schwarzenegger’s bodyguards that we were not presenting a security risk, we were reprimanded for taking pictures from slightly different vantage points than those that had been pre-approved.
PG&E spokeswoman Lisa Randle, when asked why reporters were being herded like goats into a pen so they could take the governor’s picture from across a gravel field, adopted a tone such as one would use toward a disobedient dog.
“Do you want to be here? Cooperate! Cooperate! Josh, Cooperate!” she said.
An aide of the governor’s, when asked why the event was being so tightly controlled, told us Schwarzenegger was “not like other governors.” When asked to elaborate she said, “He’s great!”
The rest of the press on hand—some two dozen reporters, photographers and camera operators from media outlets across the state—seemed satisfied with being treated like a kindergarten class on a field trip to the zoo. They followed the governor at a safe distance of about 30 yards, asking no questions and recording his every move and gesture through long-range lenses.