Governors in the news: As 2010 winds down, governors look to tie up loose ends in state business
By Eileen McGuire-Mahony
California Lieutenant Governor-elect may delay taking office
Gavin Newsom, the Democratic Mayor of San Francisco, is due to begin serving as California's Lieutenant Governor on January 4, 2011. However, he may push back taking the oath of office until January 8, 2011, in order to ensure his appointed supervisor will meet with his approval. It is the duty of the Board of Supervisors to name Newsom's successor. However, so long as he is the sitting Mayor, he may veto their choise. Newsom has publicly said that if the Board does not name a successor he approves of before January 4th, he will stay on until the new Board, with four members elected in November, holds its first meeting four days later. The composition of the incoming Board is far more likely to name someone Newsom favors to take over his office.
New Hawaii Governor announces plans to target lingering rumors of Barack Obama's U.S. citizenship
With the First Family vacationing in Hawaii and Democrat Neil Abercrombie, who campaigned in part on his closeness to Obama, newly in power, the President's status as a native-born American is going to get some attention from the Governor. Long a favorite charge of Obama's political opponents, the question of whether the President's Hawaiian birth certificate is authentic troubles Hawaiian voters, who chafe at being viewed as not fully American. Abercrombie cited the burden on the state government as it deals with endless open records requests for the Obama birth certificate.
While he did not announce exactly what steps he will take to put the conspiracy theory to bed for good, Governor Abercrombie expressed disappointment at the political agenda motivating the 'Birther” movement. A copy of the birth certificate, released in 2007, was deemed genuine by FactChecker and PolitiFact. However, the original 1961 document is exempt from open records requests, as are all original birth certificates. Meant to protect the privacy of individuals, the exemption has already been the target of multiple lawsuits.
Mississippi Democrats assail Governor's use of private jet
Republican Haley Barbour, who ends his gubernatorial tenure in 2011, is squaring off against state Dems, who charge that his frequent use of a Cessna Citation, a luxurious model favored by executives, amounts to taxpayer funded private travel. State records indicate that Barbour's use of the Cessna has cost $500,000 in the past three years, before factoring in security costs. Barbour has reimbursed the public purse for some of those trips, but members of his rival party say it isn't enough.
Democrats claim Barbour makes a habit of scheduling obscure state business and brief official meetings to coincide with private travel and political trips. As the Union's poorest state, Mississippi is heavily dependent on Federal aid and Barbour's spokesman says much of what Democrats are characterizing as political fundraisers is really well within Barbour's job description of pursuing support for his state.
Outgoing New York Governor makes contentious pardon in racially charged murder case
Only weeks away from leaving office, Democrat David Paterson pardoned John White, sentenced to 15 months to four years in March 2008 for the shooting death of 17-year-old Daniel Cicciaro Jr. The release of John White, a black man, brought praise from many of the same groups who described the original conviction as a racially motivated act. Cicciaro, shot August 9, 2006, had provoked a confrontation with White outside the latter's home, allegedly over comments White's son had made about a female friend of Cicciaro.
In the trial's aftermath, jurors publicly said they had felt pressured to deliver a conviction and advocacy groups called for Patterson to commute the sentence before leaving office. Following White's return home from prison, members of Cicciaro's family declined to speak to the press. Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota , who handled the case, called out Governor Paterson for decling to hear from the victim's family before commuting the sentence.
- San Francisco Chronicle, “Mayor puts swearing-in off a while”, December 23, 2010
- Los Angeles Times, “For Hawaii governor, discrediting anti-Obama 'birthers' is a top priority”, December 24, 2010
- Politico, “In tough times, Barbour flies high”, December 27, 2010
- Newsday, “Strong reactions to John White's release”, December 25, 2010