Prop Zero
The Starting Point for Commentary and Coverage of California Politics

Give CSU Gig to Lockyer

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    NEWSLETTERS

    If he's nuts enough to want the job, why not give it to him?

    That should be the response to state Treasurer Bill Lockyer's apparent interest in becoming chancellor of the California State University system.

    The job is nearly impossible.

    California's governance system makes it easier to cut higher education, including Cal State, than other parts of the budget. That's led to years of cuts and resulting tuition hikes, with no end in sight.

    Students and faculty are in full revolt. The legislature is trying to micro-manage spending and salaries.

    No person in their right mind would take a job that, at its essence, is at best about slowing the dismantling of a great institution.

    Lockyer knows all this, and his interest suggests he thinks he could have a fighting chance at reversing this course.

    The obvious objection to his candidacy is that he's not an academic, but Cal State doesn't need an academic. It needs a skilled politician who can bring together the CSU's own interests -- and lead them in a war against the legislature and the governor.

    Such a war would be to get more resources for CSU. And if tha'ts impossible, Lockyer would know how to make lawmakers and the governor pay a political price for cutting support.

    Lockyer, of course, would be likely to fail at this, since CSU's real enemy is its governing system.

    But perhaps he could take on that system as well; higher education could use its own ballot initiative to give it some of the constitutional protection that other pieces of the budget enjoy.

    There are sure to be personal objections to Lockyer.

    He's angered labor in recent years. He's going through a difficult divorce. He's 71 years old, a tough time to take on new challenges.

    But even with all those caveats, it's worth rolling the dice. He could be good. And he wants an impossible job.

    So why not?

    Lead Prop Zero blogger Joe Mathews is California editor at Zocalo Public Square, a fellow at Arizona State University’s Center for Social Cohesion, and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (University of California, 2010).

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