Gotta get away

Just Joshing: Everyone at times has the urge to just drop everything and fly off to some exotic land, with only a vague idea what will happen or how you’ll get by. Bites has such thoughts weekly, usually right before the deadline for this column. So it’s with much envy that Bites bids adieu to Joshua Chaffin.

Chaffin, a journalist with Capital Public Radio who has also freelanced a few pieces for SN&R, took off for Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this week—seizing an opportunity to stay in a friend’s place for at least a year and have an adventure.

He’ll be living on some savings and whatever he can pick up doing radio journalism down there, so let’s all hope that the Brazilian poor seize power in a long, drawn-out revolution so the kid can get some dough from National Public Radio and we can all hear the familiar “This is Joshua Chaffin reporting” again, this time with the sound of gunfire in the background.

United they stand: California’s largest union local—the California State Employees Association, SEIU Local 1000—is on the warpath against Governor Gray Davis, first for signing an unfavorable budget, then for allowing 14 union leaders to be arrested in his office on July 19 when they tried to talk to him about it.

Labor unions in California strongly supported Davis’ election to the governor’s office, but the once-warm feelings for the Democratic governor have cooled with the realization that Davis is more supportive of businesses and the bottom line than the plight of working people. Now, it appears that coolness has turned to open hostility.

“After he arrested our bargainers in his office, we’re through playing nice with him,” declared Jim Hard, who heads CSEA’s civil service division, and has blasted Davis on the radio and in newspaper ads.

The Hard feeling is that this year’s state budget included virtually no raises for the union’s 89,000 members, increased benefit costs and failed to address the large number of vacancies in state government that lead to a deterioration of service to the public.

Internally, Hard is still battling with the union’s old guard, people who are actively trying to oust him for trying to get tough. But word on the street is that he has a lot of support among the rank-and-file, and this battle is just beginning.

While it’s hard right now to see any serious gubernatorial challenges coming from Davis’ left, the governor has neglected or rejected issues of real importance to not just labor, but also the environmental, social justice and consumer protection movements that have been so vital to the political fortunes of Democrats.

Sure, Bill Clinton managed to prosper while playing the New Democrat game of shunning the Left, but he also had charisma. Davis is many things, but not even his most ardent supporters would call him charismatic.

Outing SM: Finally, could Bites really resist comment on demands that gubernatorial press secretary/communications director Steve Maviglio be ousted because he bought Calpine stock this spring as he was publicly talking the company up as the only good energy generator out there?

That revelation comes in the wake of Davis giving a half-dozen administration officials the ax for failing to reveal that they bought electricity on the state’s behalf from companies in which they were invested.

Frankly, the whole mess stinks, and it illustrates the “how dare you question us?!?!” mentality of this whole administration. Davis has always seemed like he wanted to be king instead of governor, and that attitude has trickled down.

But should SM “be fired immediately,” as Secretary of State (and gubernatorial challenger) Bill Jones demands? Absolutely not. His power purchase was stupid and looks bad, but Jones’ official indignation rings like a hollow political ploy. Besides, Bites just likes having Stevie Mav around. He makes such great copy.