They All Had Speeches, and They Delivered Them : Sacramento--It's a Fine State of Affairs

Times Staff Writer

With State of the State, State of the Assembly and State of the State Senate speeches breaking out all over, Sen. William Campbell (R-Los Angeles) issued a press release last week calling for a State of the Shoeshine Stand address from Benjamin Toney.

But Toney, who tends legislative soles inside the Capitol, declined.

"Everybody's getting in on the act 'cause it's an election year. It's sort of a greed thing," Toney said.

Others were not so reluctant.

Traditionally, the governor makes his constitutionally required State-of-the-State speech at the start of the legislative session. Then Senate and Assembly members respond.

But this year, in a sort of Back-to-the-Future maneuver, legislators gave their televised versions first. Still, Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) was forced to postpone his address a day when he found himself scheduled opposite a show with consistently high ratings--President Reagan from the White House. And what with Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, a gubernatorial hopeful, giving his own State of the City address (laced with references to the state as a whole), it was a somewhat confusing week.

Traveling Governor

Not quite as confusing, perhaps, as the time when Gov. John McDougal journeyed to the then-state capital of Vallejo to deliver his 1852 address, only to find that the lawmakers had decided to meet in San Jose, the even older capital. But confusing nonetheless.

Even Gov. George Deukmejian, though smooth for the most part in his State of the State speech, stumbled once. Possibly with toxic waste problems in the back of his mind, he began a discussion of an unrelated topic with the words "A major drain on odor" before quickly substituting the word "owners."

Senate Leader David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles) said of Deukmejian's address: "It was a great speech for Nebraska." Roberti then explained that he meant that Deukmejian's speech contained "little vision," although he never did explain why Nebraskans would be interested in non-vision.

One legislator-turned-lobbyist came up with a formula for keeping the speeches straight: "I'm not listening to any of them. It's gotten ridiculous," said the lobbyist, who declined to be identified. And it seems hard to believe that just nine years ago Gov. Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr. delivered an 11-minute State of the State speech.

This year's State of the State race, as it became known, began when Willie Brown announced that he would outline the Assembly Democrats' goals Tuesday, two days before Deukmejian spoke. But Roberti jumped in Monday with an "Agenda of Opportunity," resurrecting a phrase that had not been used since way back in the last session--by Republicans. Then Pat Nolan (R-Glendale) took the opportunity--to present his own agenda.

Next on stage, actually a loading dock in a Los Angeles produce market, was Bradley. Like Deukmejian, he tried to take credit for the healthy condition of the state's finances, declaring that "the economy of Los Angeles is powering the mighty economic engine that is pulling California forward."

That precipitated a sort of State of the County address from Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, a Republican who asserted that Bradley was confusing the county with the city. Antonovich added, "We're moving ahead because of Reaganomics."

Barb to Bradley

While the week lacked a State of the City address by San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein (she gives hers in October), her spokesman, Tom Eastham, commented: "I wonder if (Bradley) saw a report that said it was sales in Northern California that held up the retail end of the economy during the Christmas rush the last quarter of 1985."

Brown's State of the Assembly speech was generally conciliatory, save for accusing Roberti of "speaking for the past 48 hours on everything under the sun."

Assembly Republican members beheld Brown with somewhat less solemnity than that with which they greeted Deukmejian. Nolan said later that his colleagues joked about how they could sabotage Brown's TV appearance. "We thought it would be funny for one of us to run up there and give him a kiss right in the middle of the speech."

By the weekend, Deukmejian seemed to sense that all the speechifying might have been too much of a good thing. He joked that a TV executive had told him that his State of the State speech had made history.

Deukmejian added: "He said, 'The ratings for your speech were lower than the lottery's Big Spin program.' "

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World