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Governor Hits the Road

The staged event had all the markings of a campaign gimmick, and in one sense it was. Here was Gov. George Deukmejian playing freeway commuter for an hour or so Thursday morning, traveling 32 miles from Long Beach to Beverly Hills via the San Diego Freeway. Big deal.

Riding in a state van, the governor acted as traffic reporter, making periodic comments on vehicle flow by telephone connection with several Los Angeles radio stations. The governor used much of his air time to plug Proposition 74, his billion-dollar highway construction bond issue on the June 7 primary-election ballot.

A campaign stunt, perhaps, but the normally dour governor made the event something more than that. He talked along the way about the need for changes in commuter patterns and habits, noting at one point that most of the autos around him on the freeway carried only one person each.Deukmejian urged Southland workers to join van and car pools. Employees at firms that do not offer such transportation services were encouraged to lobby their bosses to do so.

Deukmejian sounded relaxed and really interested in what he was doing. This was a change from his usual taciturn and reclusive self, other than when he is out making ponderous speeches about what a great job his Administration is doing and what a great future California has on the Pacific Rim. The future, in fact, will be very bleak for millions of Californians if freeway congestion continues to worsen.

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On Thursday this was George Deukmejian out among the people, exercising popular leadership--and doing it well. Some people turn surly on the freeways. The governor seemed to be in good humor, and became almost chatty. Maybe he should travel the freeways more often.


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