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The Fires: Watching The Governor At Work
by Chuck DeVore [legislator, novelist] 10/29/07

I have often been openly critical of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s fiscal, environmental, and energy policies. I have also praised his policies when I agree with them. That said I have always seen our Governor as a strong chief executive.

I spent 24 years in the U.S. Army, retiring as a lieutenant colonel in the National Guard. During that time I have worked for or observed many leaders, from corporals and sergeants up to colonels and four star generals. I was the company commander of HHB, 640th MI Battalion for three years as well. In the corporate realm I saw leadership and exercised it too. I know leadership.

Yesterday afternoon I listened carefully to a fire briefing for Governor Schwarzenegger at the Orange County Sheriff’s mobile command post in Irvine Regional Park.

Chuck DeVore

Assemblyman Chuck DeVore represents 450,000 residents of Orange County California’s 70th Assembly District.. He served as a Reagan White House appointee in the Pentagon from 1986 to 1988 and was Senior Assistant to Cong. Chris Cox. He is a lieutenant colonel in the Army National Guard. Chuck’s novel, CHINA ATTACKS, sells internationally and has been translated into Chinese for sales in Taiwan. [go to DeVore index]

Present in the command post were the Governor, State Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, Senator Dick Ackerman, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, Sheriff Mike Carona, Assistant Sheriff Jack Anderson, Orange County Fire Chief Chip Prather, state fire officials, U.S. Forest Service officials, and other local fire agencies with personnel working in Orange County, about 15 participants in all.

I watched as the Governor absorbed the situation and asked questions. I could see him considering each bit of information, then asking questions designed to not only help him lead in the current situation, but also to glean the lessons learned from the current emergency to improve our response to the inevitable next one.

For me the briefing was useful in a number of policy and budget areas. First of all, I am one of the six Assembly members on Budget Subcommittee 4 – State Administration. This subcommittee has the budget for our state fire assets, our National Guard, and the Insurance Commissioner. Any lessons learned that come out of this fire emergency will have to be funded by Subcommittee 4. I am also the Vice Chairman of the Assembly Committee on Revenue and Taxation, in that role I am introducing a bill to provide property tax relief for those who lost their homes in the fires.

As the 20 minute briefing continued, I saw each participant appropriately playing their part. The Governor asked insightful questions. He also issued praise where praise was due, even singling out President Bush for his rapid response to state requests to issue a federal emergency declaration, then a disaster declaration.

Cong. Rohrabacher praised the Governor for forcefully requesting federal DC-10 assets that the U.S. Forest Service was slow to offer. But Rohrabacher also promised to review other federal procedures or bureaucratic attitudes that may have slowed the early hours of response.

Sheriff Carona remarked at how the unified response command in Orange Country is drilled and drilled – as recently as a month before this fire disaster – and how that improves interagency response.

Insurance Commissioner Poizner spoke to how his fraud investigation teams have already used sting operations to catch bogus contractors and scammers, one of whom had an outstanding warrant for murder.

Finally, as is befitting of a leader in the middle of an emergency, Governor Schwarzenegger resisted the urge to immediately lay blame. He is determined to see this crisis through then thoroughly examine the emergency response and, only once all the embers have been extinguished, methodically seek to improve the system. In this, I am in full agreement with the Governor.

As the briefing broke, we went outside for the Governor’s press briefing. In addition to the previously mentioned public officials, Assemblywoman Mimi Walters, Assemblyman Todd Spitzer, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie M. Dumanis, and Secretary of the State and Consumer Services Agency Rosario Marin were present.

During the press briefing, the Governor warned the arsonists who started at least two of the devastating fires saying, “I want everyone to understand that we will hunt down the people that are responsible for that and we will arrest them and we will prosecute them to the full extent of the law.”

Sheriff Carona said that some 1,700 tips had come in and that authorities were looking for a white Ford F-150 pickup truck. CRO

copyright 2007Chuck DeVore




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