Opinion Columns & Blogs

September 7, 2008

What do Palin, Escalon mayor have in common? Quite a bit

Ed Alves has twice been mayor of Escalon (the job rotates), and currently serves on the City Council. But I don't think he expected this question: "Were you on Senator McCain's short list?"

Alves knew where this was going before the last syllable made it into his ear. "All right," he said slowly, "I'll go there with you."

Yes, the question was sarcastic -- but only a little. After all, Escalon had almost the same population that Wasilla, Alaska, had in 2002 when Sarah Palin was its mayor. And Escalon is in San Joaquin County, whose population is about the same as the entire state of Alaska. If Palin could find herself on a national ticket as a vice presidential candidate, why couldn't the mayor of Escalon?

"She was also governor," Alves quickly pointed out. "But I don't think governors or presidents are any different than anyone who goes to work every day. They just have more and better information than the rest of us. ... I don't think being president is an extreme feat."

Considering the most recent evidence, who can argue?

But what about all those earmarks that Palin scored for her city? Could Escalon use $1.5 million in federal funds for a new sewer system? How about $500,000 for some new buses? Or $1 million for a new communications system for the police department? In all, Wasilla got at least $11.5 million from the federal government while Palin was mayor; more after she became governor.

"I don't know how that works," said Alves. "Maybe it was a payback ... (but) I'm not in favor of things being given away. Period."

He is, however, in favor of Palin becoming vice president.

"I think she's heads-up and will do a wonderful job ... she'll challenge the establishment. But I do think she'll learn that there are boundaries to what she can get done. ... It was a shock when he picked her, but I'm glad he did."

When Palin was introduced to Republican conventioneers, none of this region's state lawmakers were there to applaud her, despite what you might have heard from Gov. Schwarzenegger. He lambasted legislators for taking time off from trying to pass a long-overdue state budget to attend their party conventions. But the governor was painting with an overly broad brush. Among those who did not go to St. Paul, Minn., were Sen. Jeff Denham, Assemblyman Tom Berryhill, Assemblyman Greg Aghazarian and Senate Minority Leader Dave Cogdill, who is essential to getting anything done on this issue.

Once a budget is passed -- or should we say, if a budget is passed -- there will be plenty of time to party.

Speaking of Denham, former Bee reporter Ben van der Meer, who now works for Politicker.com, notes that the Atwater senator is considered one of the GOP's up-and-comers in California, along with former eBay CEO Meg Whitman.

Rep. Dennis Cardoza has been busy during the break, speaking at a water resources workshop in Los Banos on Friday and conducting a field hearing on the foreclosure crisis in Stockton on Saturday with Rep. Jerry McNerney. Such events are often organized to make folks back home feel as if they're being heard. But these are the two most important issues facing the valley; it's good to know our representatives realize it.

Dunbar is the associate editor of The Bee. Reach him at mdunbar@modbee.com or 578-2325.

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