Newsom explains CA govt. for you

Alphaville posterApril 15, 2013

By John Seiler

Promoting his new book, “Citizenville,” Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom spoke to Fortune magazine. His last line was the best, explaining how he’s eager to write articles, “I’m available, and I’m cheap because I’m in government, so you can’t pay me. I’m a good deal.”

He also has a lot of free time because the Lt. Gov. positions is superfluous. As with other states such as Arizona, it could be eliminated. If the governor leaves office early or is incapacitated, the secretary of state could become the governor, as has happened twice in Arizona in recent decades. Unlike the president, a governor does not hold 10,000 nuclear weapons.

The book title apparently is a play on “FarmVille,” a Facebook game I have avoided.

Instead, I thought of “Alphaville,” Jean-Luc Goddard’s creepy 1965 science fiction-film noir that has stuck in my mind after seeing it 10 years ago. Goodard’s films are like that, even the absurd ones.

According to one description of “Alphaville”:

“Alpha 60 is a sentient computer system … which is in complete control of all of Alphaville. Alpha 60 has outlawed free thought and individualist concepts like lovepoetry, and emotion in the city, replacing them with contradictory concepts or eliminating them altogether. One of Alpha 60’s dictates is that ‘people should not ask “why,” but only say “because”.'”

Sounds a lot like California 2013.


Newsom is asked: “You see rating site Yelp as a role model for government.”


“I love competition. I’m in the restaurant business, and when Yelp (YELP) came along, it was disruptive. As a consequence, we had to get better. We can begin to rate our DMV services compared with your DMV services in your neighborhood, or rate the interaction at the parks department.”

He’s another businessman, like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Meg Whitman, who wants to “run California government like a business.” At least those two Republicans were naive, never having held elective office.

But having been mayor of San Francisco and now Lt. Gov., Newsom should know better. Yelp works because it concerns competing businesses. But government, especially the DMV, doesn’t care because it doesn’t have to. There’s no competition. If it messes up, so what? You can’t go anywhere else.

When Schwarzenegger became governor 10 years ago, he cajoled the DMV and threw some more money their way to improve service. I went to the DMV then and things had improved greatly. That didn’t last. Soon Arnold was on to other things, and the DMV lapsed back into lassitude.

Ten months ago I went to register a used car at the Auto Club of Southern California, which is a private alternative that works much better. But they depend on the DMV’s computers, which were down. I waited an hour, then gave up. I came back the next day to the Auto Club and the computers were working. But the DMV wasted an hour of my life even though I never entered their drab offices.

Yelp just isn’t going to help with government.

Nothing helps except sharply reducing government. That only happens after a crisis, which we haven’t had yet, but could get soon.

Meanwhile, we’re stuck in Alphaville.

Tags assigned to this article:
Gavin NewsomJohn SeilerAlphavilleCitizenville

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