Controversial movie director/initiative promoter Rob Reiner has resigned his long expired term as chairman AND member of the California Children and Families Commission (aka First 5). Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has appointed Para Los Ninos chief operating officer Hector Ramirez to replace him. Para Los Ninos is a very well-respected nonprofit family service organization in the Los Angeles area which receives funding from First 5.
I will update today and have the full story tomorrow morning. There is a story I’ve been holding back as the lead item this week as the immigration story played out.
UPDATE: Support for Reiner’s Preschool for All initiative, Proposition 82 on California’s June ballot, has spun downwards to barely more than 50 percent in new polling, a perilously low level of support for a complex fiscally-oriented ballot measure. The controversy over Reiner’s tenure at the California Children and Families Commission — created by Reiner’s earlier 1998 initiative, Proposition 10 — was not going to go away, I can assure you. There is simply too much material there.
Reiner, whose previous half-measure around the controversy was to take a leave of absence from his chairmanship, resigned in part to remove himself as the focus of controversy. This had been suggested to him earlier when he made the decision to take a leave as chairman, but he declined the suggestion. The role was important to him, and he hoped to return to it after winning his initiative campaign in June.
Prop 10 is funded by a 50 cent a pack tax on cigarettes. Prop 82 would be funded by an income tax surcharge on high-income Californians. In both cases, Reiner’s stewardship of taxpayer money is at issue.
UPDATE: Schwarzenegger may have created another controversy for himself with the appointment of Hector Ramirez as First 5 Chairman. Ramirez is a political associate of Reiner’s. The Proposition 82 campaign was launched at an event outside Para Los Ninos.
Ramirez served on the executive committee of the First 5 LA’s Preschool For All Initiative, which was, as I reported earlier, Reiner and First 5′s initial attempt to institute a publicly-funded universal preschool program and served as a model for Prop 82. After it was discovered that the Prop 10 tobacco tax money was inadequate for the task, Reiner’s thoughts turned to a new statewide initiative to fund Preschool For All at the state level. That initiative is now Prop 82.
Ramirez is also a leading member of the National Council of La Raza (“The Race”), an advocacy organization on a variety of issues, including immigration reform, in which it is frequently opposed to Schwarzenegger’s policy. In the context of Latino politics, “La Raza” can also mean “The People.” In some circles, it has a rather poetic and mystical connotation as “La Raza Cosmica,” in which, to quote Wikipedia, “traditional concepts of race and nationality can be transcended in the name of humanity’s common destiny.”
Ramirez, according to his bio, serves as co-chair of the California Region Education Committee for the National Council of La Raza. The Packard Foundation (based on the Hewlett-Packard Co. fortune), which has worked closely with Rob Reiner on the First 5 program in general and Preschool For All in particular, is a major funder of the National Council of La Raza.
UPDATE: Mark Fabiani called a little while ago. Fabiani has very recently come on board as public relations counsel to Rob Reiner. Fabiani has extensive high-level political and PR experience. He is perhaps best known for serving as special counsel to President Bill Clinton handling the Whitewater controversy. We will be talking throughout.