The talk of the Capitol lately has been the rift between fellow Democrats Gov. Gray Davis and Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante.
So maybe Bustamante shouldn't have been surprised when he arrived for work last week and found that nine of his aides no longer had parking spaces.
The Davis camp called the timing mere coincidence, explaining that the construction of new state office buildings nearby will cause the closure of parking lots.
Although they won't say so publicly, the lieutenant governor's aides speculate privately that their disappearing parking spaces amount to a payback for their boss' harsh words.
Much to the ire of Davis' aides, Bustamante recently unleashed a broadside of criticism when the governor asked the courts to mediate Proposition 187--the voter initiative outlawing government services to illegal immigrants. Bustamante had wanted Davis to drop the appeal of the initiative, letting stand a federal court ruling that gutted the measure.
Timothy Bow, chief of the General Services unit that oversees state-allocated parking, said the governor's office, which controlled the lieutenant governor's nine spaces, sent him a notice last Monday indicating the governor was giving them up.
"The only thing we did was process the paperwork," Bow said. "The governor's office has an allocation. . . . If your department has an allocation, how you assign that is totally up to you. How you notify people is totally up to you."
Davis spokesman Michael Bustamante--no relation to the lieutenant governor--blames the loss of the spaces on 1997 legislation authorizing construction of new state offices near the Capitol. Many of those buildings will rise atop what are now parking lots, he said.
Michael Bustamante noted that, eventually, he too will lose his coveted spot. "Basically, we're all out of luck. We're all going to have to fend for ourselves," he said.
How the parking dispute will play out remains to be seen. The governor and governor-in-waiting have yet to have open discussions about anything. Cruz Bustamante himself is not affected. He gets a ride to work, as does Davis.
Into this intra-party spat walked Senate President Pro Tem John Burton (D-San Francisco), the veteran and often volatile lawmaker who in this instance is taking on the solemn mantle of peacemaker.
How about, Burton suggested, spending a few million bucks to build a mansion for the governor, so long as the governor can find seven or eight parking spaces in the Capitol garage for the lieutenant governor.
"We want," Burton said of his suggested political horse-trading, "to bring closure to the issue."