Calif. Gov. Among Several Who Vow Focus on Public-Safety Issues
Gov. Pete Wilson told California lawmakers last week that increasing violent crime has made prison spending an unpleasant priority, a theme that was sounded across the country as governors began delivering their annual State of the State speeches.
Hiring 500 new state troopers, passing $2 billion in bonds for six new prisons, and making criminal sentences stiffer should be the first matter of business for the state, Mr. Wilson said.
"Our streets are being stained with the blood of our children and it's got to stop. Damn it, it has got to stop,'' he implored. "New jobs and safe streets are the twin pillars on which we must build California's future.''
"This is not a matter of choice,'' the Governor explained, noting that he would much rather see the resources directed toward higher education or other areas.
Pitching his crime program as one that has children at its heart, the Governor mentioned the recent abduction and murder of young Polly Klaas.
"Does anyone want to tell me how much a child's life is worth?'' he asked. "We must prevent these crimes by building the prisons we need to put violent criminals away.''
Mr. Wilson called for prosecuting perpetrators of "vicious, violent'' crimes as adults if they are 14 or older; life sentences for convicted arsonists, rapists, and child molesters; and lesser sentence reductions for well-behaved inmates.
"We must also prevent children from becoming involved in gangs and crime in the first place,'' said Mr. Wilson, who faces his last legislative session before what is expected to be a tough re-election campaign. "I remain committed to the concept of preventative government--that giving a kid a good start in life is the best ticket to a bright future.''
Voinovich Proposes School-Technology Program
In his address to lawmakers, Gov. George V. Voinovich of Ohio was joined by a human anatomy and physiology class at the Beaver Local High School in Columbiana County, hooked up through the computer system used by the state's distance-learning program.
The Governor used the class as an illustration of the capacity of distance learning to put more meat on the bare-bones curriculum of small rural schools. He pledged to expand that effort, seeking $95 million to wire and equip classrooms, beginning in poor school districts.
Governor Voinovich's five-year "SchoolNet''program would equip every Ohio classroom for voice, video, and data transmission and install a compact-disk-equipped computer and modem in each, as well as launching an extensive teacher training program.
"It's time to bring the 21st century to all Ohio schools,'' he said. "Technology is quickly becoming part of an educational revolution that can improve classroom productivity, student results, and school-district financial equity.''
The Governor also called for $70 million in renovation and construction funding for poor school districts.
Mr. Voinovich, who also faces a re-election campaign this year, also highlighted the problem of rising violence, including the need for increased attention to school safety. He said his budget would include funding for metal detectors and security equipment. He also has authorized sweeps by drug-sniffing dogs in schools when local boards ask for assistance.
Mr. Voinovich said he will once again push for an overhauled teacher-licensing program that regularly evaluates performance and prescribes intervention and ultimately removal for teachers who do not improve.
Cuomo Pledges Regulatory Relief, Education Summit
Crime and safety were declared the state's top issue by Gov. Mario Cuomo of New York, who delivered his 12th State of the State Address last week while putting off an announcement on whether he will seek a fourth term.
"We are threatened by one of the most grotesque explosions of criminal violence in our lifetime,'' Mr. Cuomo said in a speech in which he called for special police squads targeting illegal guns.
But he said lawmakers cannot be distracted from improving prospects for children.
"If we condemn our children to dirty streets filled with degradation and violence; if they have no good reason to believe that they can earn for themselves--with their own honest efforts--a full and rich life, aren't we inviting disaster?'' he said.
"They need streets without drug dealers, schools that excite their interest in some promising work or career; they need a real sense that they can dream and aspire as you and I did,'' he said.
To that end, the Governor said he would propose expansion of several youth programs and push for implementation of a report recommending school-based management and less state regulation.
He also promised a summit on education that will explore reform concepts ranging from public-school choice to longer school years.
"Let's allow individual schools to scrap virtually every educational
mandate handed down by the state, except a clear standard of
high-quality education,'' he urged.