Download Oral History Interview with Hon. Fred W. Marler, Jr. PDF

TitleOral History Interview with Hon. Fred W. Marler, Jr.
TagsUniversity Of California
File Size4.6 MB
Total Pages126
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California stateArchives
stateGovernmentOral History Program

Oral History Interview



California stateSenator, 1966 - 1974

November 3 and 18, 1987

By Carole Hicke
Regional Oral History Office

The Bancroft Library
University of California, Berkeley

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No restrictions apply to this interview, except for the following


This manuscript is hereby made available for researchpurposesonly. No
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permissionof the California StateArchives or the interviewing institution.

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personalityand a beaningvoice, a real extrovert. The epitcme

of an Irish-catholic mayor of San Francisco.

Old Guard Leadership;Third House

can you give saneassessmentof the Old Guard leadershipas
opposedto the now-p:lrtisan leadership? Did things go better

then, or nnre srroothly?

Well, it depends. There have been a lot of improvementsin

procedures. And the Old Guard, of course, in thosedays, was

malignedbecausethey ran the show with kind of an iron hand,

and with sanewhatless than derrocraticprocedures.I rrentioned

the ccmnitteevotes and how that worked. There'salso no

questionbut that they were a group of maybe six or seven

membersof the senate,primarily fran the majority p:lrty-the

Deroocratsat that time-who made lots of deals and carried

lots of things through. And saneof them were quite close to,

I guessyou could say, the "special interests." There were

always chargesof corruption. If there was corruption, I think

it was nnre in the natureof friendships than it was in any

nnney changinghands.

You had sanemembersof the Third House, as it's been

rather cynically called for years, that were quite close

friends of membersof the senate. They had all been there for

twenty years together. Their children had grown up, and they

had mingled socially, and their wives were friends. They were

just very close. And those peoplewould always have an ear of

the senator,and if he respectedthem, he could expect, if he

doesn'treach too far, to do sanegood. And they were close

that way.

I never saw any evidenceany time I was there-otherthan

hearing runors-thatthere was anything worse than that, as

far as corruption. Not that I'm saying it wasn't there. In

fact, I'd be rather wide-eyedand unrealistic to say that

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therewasn't corruption. I'm sure there was. But it wasn't

widespread. There were a very few rrembersof each house that

you could really say were corrupt. Even those fran the Old

Guard, their rrotives• They may have been doing things in an

undemocraticfashion by their roll calls, bIt they were doing

it becausethey thought it was right and they were getting

"right" results. Their rrotives were good in what they were

trying to do. And I have difficulty seeingthat the quality of

legislation caning out today is any better than the quality of

the legislationwe had in thosedays. I'm talking twenty years

ago, and maybe even a little bit before then.

At that time, it was kind of strange. Yes, the Third

Housewas very active, and there was a lot of contactbetween

the Third House, so to sPeak,and the legislature. And a lot

of it was good. They were a prime sourceof information. If we

had a bill, for example, that affected real estatebrokers, it

was rather helpful to know that here was a guy who was

representingthe real estatebrokers, and here was their

position on this p3.rticular bill: "The real estatebrokers

like this or don't like it because.. "It's a shorthand

approachto informing the carmittee. It 'WOuld have been very

difficult for Ire to say, "Gee, this bill affects only real

estatebrokers, and I don't know enough aoout that. I guess

I'd betterwrite a letter to every real estatebroker in my

district and ask them what they think of it." They were an

educationalinfluence, put it that way.

And the good ones, and the ones who were the rrost

effective, were the reliable ones. If they told you sanething,

you could rely on that being the truth. The good ones, you

could go to them and say, "Wait a minute, now, you've got this

bill up here. I notice you're pushing it, right?" "Yes, I am."

"Hew does that affect my district?" And I've had them tell Ire

this on rrore than one occasion: "You shouldvote no on it.

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Each year while I was there, as the bIdget grew and the

function of budgetsgrew, it becamerrore and rrore difficult

for the legislaturein the time allotted to put togethera

bIdget and know what was in it. It got too big. And the next

step, of course, is the evaluationof the program, see if you

want to fund it next year-theoversight, as you're saying-

and watching it.

At that time, it was done primarily for the legislature

by the Office of the LegislativeAnalyst. This was Alan Post's

function, in his office. As the legislativeprocessconsidered

the bldget each year, each item was evaluatedin terms of, is

this necessary? What has it done? Does it need to grC1N? And

the primary peoplewe would have testify on that would be

people fran the legislativeanalyst'soffice, who would, then,

give us an evaluationof the program, what it's doing, how

it's going, and as an oversight.

Now, this is the type of oversight that I have in mind

that we need to do, bIt it can't be done personally. Each year

that I was in the legislature, I had to redefinemy duties. To

keep doing the same thing was impossible. Each function I was

doing would grow, so each year I'd have to cut back a little

bit to stay within my time constraintsand abilities and

energiesas to what I could do and what I had to delegateto

staff. The next year that would grow again, I'd have to

further delineateit down to what I could do. This means that,

to a great extent, you're also doing this with oversight.

You're delegatingthis to other people to do and then report

back. The important thing is, the personyou delegateit to

has to be responsibleonly to you and not to the people that

they're overseeing,of course.

But it's a difficult process,becauseit gets to the

point it's so large and so big that even the reporting back

processtakes rrore time than you've got. And so you then start

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hitting the highlights, and the difficulty is, you tend to

rely rrore and rrore and rrore on staff, and they can save you or

they can get you in trouble. They can be good, or they can be

not so good. So you have to ensureyou've got a very, very

high-quality staff.

One of the good things in the legislaturehere is the

Office of Legislative Analyst and the fact that it has grown

on a nonpartisan-noteven on a bipartisanbut a nonpartisan

basis-andboth sides have insistedthat it stay that way, and

insistedit retain its independence. Almost like an anbudsrnan

to the legislature,becauseof the necessityof having that

form of reliable information for the oversight function that

we have. If they ever lose that, and the majority party

suddenlydecidesthey're going to get one of their guys in and

he's going to run as Legislative Analyst, you're going to lose

the great benefit of it and the ability to have an effective


I'd like to thank you very much for a rrost informative

interview session.

It's been interestingrethinking saneof thesethings and

reliving them, and reminiscing about it.

Thank you.

[End of Session]

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