Saturday, September 1, 2012
The Wall That Talked
Meet Gloria Romero, a teachers union's worst nightmare.
Former Los Angeles Lakers Coach Phil Jackson once referred to Sacramento as a "cowtown," but Gloria Romero, a pro-labor Democrat who served as California's Senate majority leader from 2001 to 2008, takes exception to the belittling description. The capitol building in Sacramento, she says, has "the eighth most powerful economy in the world under that dome," and it operates not unlike other wealthy kleptocracies. "There's no other way to say it politely. It's owned."
Topping the list of proprietors is the California Teachers Association, which she calls the most muscular union and political player in the state. Then there are the unions for nurses, prison guards, firefighters and police. Call them California's "deep state."
Ms. Romero now heads the California chapter of Democrats for Education Reform, a large tent of liberals who are as diverse as an Occupy encampment but united by a common desire to improve accountability in public schools. The group supports Democratic school reformers running for political office and promotes legislation that toughens standards.
But before taking up her current charge, Ms. Romero served a dozen years in the legislature, where she was known for trying to clean up the capital's cronyism and corruption.
It wasn't exactly glamorous work, but it was eye-opening. "I've sat in all of those backroom meetings," she says. "That thing, if walls could talk, well think of me as a wall, and I'm talking. I've had it."