Saturday, October 11, 2003

If you want to know what kind of person Wendell Williams really is ...

Check out the lede to this story in Friday's Las Vegas Sun:

Assemblyman Wendell Williams went on television to clear his name Thursday. When he pulled into the lot at Las Vegas ONE, he parked his silver BMW in a marked handicapped spot.

It didn't get much better after that ...

Read the whole thing here.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Re-call-ifornia

Mickey Kaus, Roger Simon, and Dan Weintraub, get it right: Democrats who dismiss this election as either an aberration or the consequences of a right-wing plot do so at their own peril. The recall was a complete repudiation of the politics of tax/spend/regulate/pander. Dems who don't acknowledge this, or who try to vent their anger via obstructionism or threats of further recalls may be marginalized. I wish I had Simon's optimism.

On MSNBC, Jill Stewart said she had heard that the network affiliates in California's major population centers actually planned to re-open their Sacramento bureaus. The fact that these stations ignored the capital in the first place is an outrage of the first order. But even though the Schwarzenegger administration might not exactly appreciate all that additional scrutiny, if the stations commit serious people and resources to reporting state politics, Californians will be the winners. Don't hold your breath, though.

Launching pad?

Arnold's selection of GOP Rep. David Dreier, the smart, affable congressman from the San Gabriel Valley, to head his transition team is good news to the extent that the Wilsonistas recede into the background. (The Reason Foundation, where I used to work, has published the Citizens' Budget -- a "road map" to reform which the new governor should peruse frequently.) Arnold and Dreier would do well to have some Democrats on the team and in the administration: former state Controller Kathleen Connell (who co-authored this Wall Street Journal op-ed with former GOP Treasurer Matt Fong) would be a great choice. Now that the campaign is over, the more the Wilsonistas are pushed to the back, the better.

If the transition and the early days of the new administration are successful, this period could serve as the launching pad for Dreier to challenge Barbara Boxer next year. As Virginia Postrel has pointed out, it's nearly impossible for GOP House members to advance to a statewide, top-of-ticket race. California is too big and fragmented, the media markets too dispersed. The simplest pathway to a top spot for Republicans has been to be richer than God (Bill Simon, Michael Huffington), the mayor of a big city (Pete Wilson) or the winner of a lower-level statewide race (Dan Lungren). Dreier has been all over the airwaves throughout the recall campaign. He's telegenic and funny. The intense statewide interest in the recall may have boosted his recognition factor enough to make him a credible challenger to Boxer in '04. If Arnold succeeds, the Democrats should worry.

More Williams

The litany expands. It turns out that Wendell Williams filled out phony timecards that amounted to $6,700 in salary for the time he was in Carson City, and his bosses in Las Vegas want the money repaid. (Of course, Wendell being Wendell, he'll get to repay his embezzled funds on the installment plan, to the tune of $290 per paycheck.) To make matter more hairy for the city, his immediate boss Sharon Segerblom failed to tell the Review-Journal the payment plan had been arranged when she turned over his personnel records to the paper.

As always, it gets better. In an interview with the R-J's John L. Smith, Williams claims that he really was doing work for the city the entire time and that he agreed to take the $6,700 reduction to "squash" stories in the media. (He also claimed to have "no relationship" with Briget Jones -- see below.) Listen. This guy is a serial liar, an embezzler, and a potential extortionist (again, see how he mau-maued university employees on the Jones employment matter, below). He ought to be fired immediately, and then indicted.

Yet guess who's defending him? The Las Vegas Mercury, the alternative weekly owned by the same company that publishes the Review-Journal. The current issue's cover story (here's the link) plays kissy-face with the potential felon, claiming that he's merely the victim of a racist conspiracy by the corporate media, which can't abide the existence of an effective liberal lawmaker, particularly an African-American one. Bring on Art Bell and the black helicopters, folks. This is seriously demented stuff. Reputable alternative weeklies certainly have a different attitude than your mainstream media publications, and they don't mind throwing a few elbows. But the good ones at least do an honest job of reporting, don't entertain delusional conspiracy theories (unless they're used as a source of ridicule), relish hardball journalism, and rarely apologize for, let alone defend, corrupt public officials. (Interestingly enough, Las Vegas City Life, the alternative weekly where the Mercury's current editor once toiled, took a much more skeptical look at the Williams story.)