Governor Schwarzenegger sent a message to every one of his appointees this week by effectively firing the chair and vice-chair of the California State Parks and Recreation Commission. Bobby Shriver, chairman of the Commission, is a Santa Monica City Councilman and the Governor's brother-in-law. Clint Eastwood, vice-chair of the Commission, is Clint friggin' Eastwood. Earlier in the week, both men learned they would not be asked back to their chairs, despite both having submitted requests to be re-appointed.
Schwarzenegger must be feeling lucky. Either that or butt-hurt.
Shriver and Eastwood both actively oppose the Foothill-South (241) toll road extension, a project proposed by Irvine's Transportation Corridor Agencies which would bisect the inland portion of San Onofre State Beach. Eastwood released a video criticizing the project in the build-up to last month's Coastal Commission hearing on the project, and Shriver testified at that hearing in opposition to the project. The Coastal Commission overwhelmingly vetoed the road, despite Governor Schwarzenegger's support for the project.
Despite his canning, Shriver is surprisingly chipper. If anything, he sounds proud. "I guess they felt Clint and I were being effective," Shriver told the Weekly. "Earlier in the year he reappointed commissioners [Paul Witt and Caryl Hart] who had opposed the toll road; there's also precedent for people serving more than two terms." As far as potential for reappointment is concerned, "it depends on the person."
At the end of the day it's all just politics, something Shriver has known for most of his life. Just business, nothing personal. "I've known Arnold since before he met my sister," said Shriver. "He's an old buddy." But still Shriver and Eastwood, an actor-turned-politician like the Governor, stand by their vote, "and we would do it again," asserted Shriver. He joked how the pair might go on tour together - "Clint and I have decided we're going to go on the lecture circuit and conduct our own hearings as independent citizens. We'd go all over Orange County, speaking to parks groups about why [the 241] is a bad idea."
The 241 is more than just a bad idea; "That project represents everything bad about our society, without any redeeming value whatsoever," said Joel Reynolds, counsel for the Natural Resources Defense Council. "The fact that Schwarzenegger supports it means that he is no green governor."
"It's outrageous what Schwarzenegger has done," Reynolds told the Weekly. He described both Eastwood and Shriver's work as outstanding - "They were appointed to protect our parks, and that's exactly what they've done. The fact that Governor Schwarzenegger has a different opinion about the Foothill-South  Toll Road should be irrelevant when commissioners are performing with integrity, with dedication, and with a commitment to their mandate."
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Clint Eastwood told the San Francisco Chronicle he didn't know why he was not reappointed, but he had a suspicion or two:
"When you appoint people to the commission, you appoint people who have a soft spot for the parks, so I would think 99 out of 100 would vote against putting a highway through a state park," Eastwood said. "But maybe they are going to look for that guy."
Eastwood's suggestion, that Schwarzenegger is simply replacing those commissioners capable of independent thought with mindless yes-men, is clearly ridiculous. There's no reason the Governor wouldn't be just as interested in replacing them with yes-women.
The writing is on the wall, in letters thirty feet tall: either toe the Governor's line, rebel ineptly, or say goodbye to your public service opportunities. "Shriver and Eastwood have done their jobs with courage and dedication, and deserve not to be fired but re-hired," said Reynolds. "This is a warning shot from Governor Schwarzenegger to all his appointees. 'Do what I say, no matter how stupid and destructive that may be.' It's simply not an effective approach to leadership."