A Question For Assemblyman Garrick: Why Can’t We Talk about the Budget?

Posted on 20 September 2010

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By Nancy Berlin
California Partnership

Last week, I joined over 500 Californians from all over the state to rally at the Capitol and meet with the 42 legislators who had voted no on the latest budget proposal.  This proposal included revenue solutions as a way to balance the budget and protect critical programs for seniors, disabled people, families and children.  We especially sought to meet with Senators Hollingsworth and Dutton and Assemblyman Garrick, as these leaders have been particularly vocal and extremist in their opposition to budget solutions throughout the summer.

I was assigned to a team of 4 whose mission was to visit Assemblyman Garrick’s office and request a meeting with him.  I knew it would be difficult to get an appointment with him, since the organization I direct, California Partnership, has been attempting to get a meeting with him, or anyone in his office, since the spring, to no avail.  But I was unprepared for another obstacle in our path – simply walking through the door into Assemblyman Garrick’s office.

As we approached the Assemblyman’s office (2 social work students, a senior citizen and myself), we were met with a guard who informed us we could not enter the office.  But wait, isn’t this the office of a public servant?  Yes, I was told, but his office was off-limits for the day.  When asked how we might be able to get an appointment with the Assemblyman, the guard suggested that we try calling the office.  He would not, however, give us the phone number for the office, but instead directed us to another part of the Capitol where we could find the phone number.

Fortunately, one of our resourceful students had the phone number in her folder.  Then, standing just outside the office, I called on my cell phone, explained our predicament, and asked if we could come in.  Assemblyman Garrick’s receptionist was not sure that was possible, especially she said, since there were 4 of us (!).   

Finally she explained that if we could wait for 5 minutes, we could meet with a staff member.  We waited about 15 minutes and then crowded into the office of the Assemblyman’s budget consultant, Almis Udrys.   He was polite and well-informed on the budget, but woefully helpless when it came to how to get an appointment with his boss.  Udrys insisted that we could handle the matter with him and that he would relay our concerns to Garrick.  We firmly replied that we felt we had a right and a need to speak directly to the Assemblyman.  After a lengthy discussion, he gave us the card of the scheduler and suggested we call her.

We left the Capitol, and on the lawn outside, I renewed our attempt to get a meeting with Assemblyman Garrick.  However, when I called the scheduler, she had a new set of hoops for us to jump through. I was informed that we had to meet with the Budget Consultant first. When I explained that we had already met with him, the scheduler claimed that unless there was a new matter to address, an appointment with Garrick would not be possible. Ah, I said, there is something new, and that’s the fact that we have never met with the Assemblyman himself, so it would be new to do so!  The scheduler seemed unimpressed and slightly annoyed and instructed me to submit a written request  for a meeting.

While we wait for this request to be considered, my question is:  Why won’t Assemblyman Garrick meet with low-income Californians?   Is he afraid or simply unwilling to tell us to our faces that he wants to take away essential services for children, elderly and disabled people and struggling families?   Assemblyman Garrick is certainly solidifying his reputation as an obstructionist, both in budget negotiations, and in guaranteeing a budget process that is democratic and open to all Californians.


Nancy Berlin is Director of California Partnership and can be reached at nberlin@communitychange.org. California Partnership is a statewide coalition of community-based groups, organizing and advocating for the programs and policies that reduce and end poverty. We are spear-heading exciting campaigns to develop electoral power in low-income communities, give a voice to local communities in creating a more just state budget and building a movement for healthcare for everyone. For more information, please visit www.california-partnership.org

Martin Garrick attitude about meeting with his constituency is typical of most Sacramento Politicians today. His agenda was never to serve the citizens he represents or to represent their ideas of how government should serve their needs. In fact Martin Garrick serves only those special interests that are willing to support his own agenda and campaign coffers. This story leaves little doubt that Sacramento does not represent the people of the state but of the special interest willing to pay to play. Over the last decade I have repeatedly attempted to meet with my assemblymen and State Senators to express my view on public policy that affects myself and my neighbors. Never have I ever been able to meet face to face with the person that represents me in Sacramento. I also have been given the run around or have been handed off to a young intern that overall has no idea about the issues I have concerns over. The overall arrogance of our representatives in Sacramento is appalling and I suggest to everyone to become involved in the process. We must have access to the legislature.

Of those Republican legislators voting against the budget, 37 of them are actually voting against the interests of their own district's constituents, according to figures from the Legislative Analyst's Office.


We've been showing the breakdown on the individual legislators here: http://www.canow.org/canoworg/economics/ and we'll continue until we have a state budget that protects our needed safety-net programs.

I applaud the diplomacy and tact Ms. Berlin and her group showed. I sure wish it would produce results.

Perhaps this Assemblyman has already envisioned a logical next step: viewing this obstructionism as affecting civil rights and related issues, and organizing sit-ins in (or in front of?) the offices of those preventing the State from having a budget and moving forward.