Schwarzenegger Unveils Transition Team, Plans for California

October 11, 2003 - 0:0
LOS ANGELES (AFP) -- Governor-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger unveiled a diverse team of aides to help him take control of the politically divided state of California and "terminate" its economic woes.

The Republican movie star-turned-politician appeared to go out of his way Thursday to soothe concerns over his leadership and create political unity.

In his second news conference since being elected governor Tuesday, Schwarzenegger introduced a 65-strong transition team that includes 16 women, a prominent rabbi, a top Hollywood producer, a radio talk-show host and a raft of senior Democrats.

"I want to reach out, I want to be the people's governor," said the action movie hero, adding that his cabinet would be equally representative after he takes power by mid-November.

"I want to have the best and the brightest people come and work in my administration," he said of the all-embracing lineup. Apart from a budget deficit of up to 38 billion dollars, Schwarzenegger will also have face-off with a Democrat-dominated state Legislature and a Democratic deputy governor when he moves to Sacramento, the state capital.

While appealing for unity after a bitter election campaign, Schwarzenegger, however, warned he would not tolerate lawmakers blocking his plans, and threatened to circumvent them and launch popular initiatives if they tried.

"You can be assured that I will go directly to the people because the people of California have made it very clear that they want change. They don't want business as usual anymore," he said.

The movie star's transition team is headed by Republican southern California Representative David Dreier.

Other team members included liberal former Democratic San Francisco mayor Willie Brown, building tycoon Eli Broad, Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center -- a leading Jewish lobby group -- a right-wing radio talk-how host from Los Angeles, Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, and movie producer Ivan Reitman, famous for such comedies as "Ghostbusters," "Twins" and "Kindergarten Cop," the last two starring Schwarzenegger.

The team is "part symbolic and it's part genuine outreach," said Jack Pitney, a government professor at Claremont McKenna College.

One prominent outsider is Donna Arduin -- on loan from the staff of President George W. Bush's brother, Governor Jeb Bush of Florida -- who will oversee his promised independent audit of the state's red-ink stained books. "The only way that you can make good decisions is if you have good information available," Schwarzenegger said. "We have to open up the books and let the sun shine in."

Schwarzenegger said he will slash spending, eliminate waste and seek federal assistance to tackle California's woes.

One issue Schwarzenegger wants to fully "terminate" are the allegations of sexual misconduct that dominated the final weeks of the campaign.

As he exited the press conference, a reporter yelled out when Schwarzenegger would address specifics of the sexual harassment allegations.

"Old news," he quipped.

Senior Democrats were already casting doubt on his economic plan.

"You cannot cut taxes and expect to meet the needs of the public, unless you have an economic plan to grow the economy," said U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a Californian legislator. Outgoing Governor Gray Davis, meanwhile, held an emotional meeting with his staff and urged them to "extend the hand of cooperation to this new administration."

Analysts said Schwarzenegger may enjoy a honeymoon period after taking power, and may be able to borrow money from the federal government to tide the state over because he enjoys better relations with Bush than Davis did.

"The Republicans have always played the role of the opposition -- voters want to see now what the Republicans can really do," said Professor Bruce Cain of the University of California at Berkeley.