Golden statesman

Californians take a shine to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In November, California's Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, won his re-election bid against Democratic opponent Phil Angelides with 55% of the vote -- a victory characterized by some as "a landslide" against the challenger's 39%. As the culmination in a flat-out political campaign, it was sweet success indeed, following on the heels of the 2003 recall election in which Schwarzenegger derailed incumbent Gray Davis.

To commemorate the governor's second term, inauguration festivities kicked off yesterday with a "Leading the Green Dream" curtain-raiser at Sacramento's Capitol Park. The activities will be capped with a sold-out black-tie gala tonight at the Sacramento Convention Center, where Paul Anka and Donna Summer are on the entertainment ticket.

But it hasn't all been fun and games. A tumble on the ski slopes Dec. 23 resulted in a broken leg and surgery for the governor. On doctor's orders, Schwarzenegger announced that he'd be missing the preinauguration events; as of Wednesday, he was planning to attend the gala as well as today's inauguration -- the swearing-in ceremony starts at 11 a.m. PST at Sacramento's Memorial Auditorium, with former Assembly speaker Willie Brown scheduled to emcee and Jose Feliciano set to perform the national anthem.

It will be as much a celebration of the accomplishments to date as well as an opportunity to look forward. "When I took office, the first thing was to fix the economy and put people back to work. We've done that. The economy is booming. Revenue is coming in more quickly than anticipated, and we put 750,000 people back to work," Schwarzenegger proclaims.

"But at the same time," he continues, "we realized that if we're really serious about fixing things -- not just to be a politician but to really make things better -- you get into things that haven't been fixed for decades. For decades -- such as infrastructure: our roads, our universities. People have just looked the other way."

Clearly, Schwarzenegger is not planning to rest on his laurels this second term. November's election saw the passage of the statesman's "Rebuild California" bond measures, which will funnel tens of billions of dollars into infrastructure initiatives such as highways and affordable housing. Looking ahead, the second term also includes such lofty goals as making health care available to all Californians, reforming the state's prisons and negotiating an ambitious financial-incentives package that the governor envisions will provide relief for the state's manufacturing base as well as address things like runaway film production.

His future plans build on the sizable accomplishments of a whirlwind first term. Already, the Schwarzenegger administration has advanced environmental initiatives by leaps and bounds with the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 -- just one of several green initiatives on his watch. And the Republican governor earned points with Hollywood -- and defied his own party -- when he endorsed Proposition 71, a $3 billion stem-cell research bond measure that passed muster with voters in 2004, only to get mired in legal challenges. Schwarzenegger responded to the latter by immediately authorizing state loans of up to $150 million to kick-start fledgling research efforts. And through Proposition 98, the state has invested billions in rebuilding schools.

As California's ambassador, he has traveled throughout China, Europe and Mexico to promote the "made in California" concept as well as encourage local tourism, which brings in more than $5 billion in state and local revenue. Schwarzenegger also reinstated a $7 million marketing budget to help promote California as a travel destination.

On the Hollywood front, he reinvented the California Film Commission, which plays a critical part in supporting one of the state's biggest industries. In addition to bringing in millions of tourists to the state every year, filming in California generates an estimated $34 billion annually and 250,000 related jobs, according to the commission.

"Gov. Schwarzenegger revitalized the California Film Commission when he appointed a group of entertainment industry veterans with a wealth of experience both above and below the line -- studio and independent," says the CFC's Amy Lemisch, commending the Hollywood veteran's commitment to "keeping (California's) signature industry vibrant."

Gov. Schwarzenegger inauguration