Friday, September 19, 2008

The Rodda Project: An introduction

It was my great privilege in 1979 to join the staff of state Senator Albert S. Rodda, a Democrat who represented the Sacramento region in the upper house of the California state legislature. I had been awarded a Senate Fellowship and Rodda's aides selected me from among the new cohort of Senate Fellows for a position in his office. Although it unfortunately turned out that Sen. Rodda would leave the state legislature at the end of 1980, I ended up continuing to work for him in various capacities for the next several years. When he took over in 1981 as executive officer of the California Commission on State Finance, an agency of the State Treasurer's Office, I was the only staff member from his State Capitol office who accompanied him (the others all had job offers!).

The drastic downsizing of the Senator's staff in that transition from dean of the State Senate to executive officer of a small state agency resulted in my becoming a useful thread of continuity between the old and the new, the keeper of many papers and files left over from his 22 years in the legislature. While the California State Archives has several feet of storage space dedicated to Senator Rodda's papers, my transitional role (together with my notorious pack-rat tendencies) has preserved a large and informal collection of the position papers and essays of Albert S. Rodda. With this posting, The Back Bench is inaugurating the Rodda Project, my modest effort to make available a trove of thoughts and writings from one of California's keenest participants in the policies and politics of a crucial quarter century. The Senator took office the year that Pat Brown was elected governor and he left the senate in Jerry Brown's second term. You may recall that in the middle somewhere was another governor named Ronald Reagan.

Albert Rodda focused on public education and state finance, in particular because he was a long-time faculty member at Sacramento City College, but he was involved in every major state issue during his more than two decades in office. Rodda was a remarkably self-effacing individual, especially considering that he rose to become chair of two vital senate committees, Education and Finance. However, it was always his nature to work quietly and without bombast. His writing style, as you will see from the postings to follow, had an academic bent, but he came by his scholarly tendencies honestly, having earned a Ph.D. from Stanford after his service in World War II.

The Rodda Project, by the way, is not in itself a scholarly endeavor, although I would be delighted if someday it were to inspire scholars of state politics. I will not be annotating the Senator's writings in any significant way, nor will I edit his words. I plan to limit my interventions to minor technical points, such as turning the underlined text of the Senator's typewritten papers into italics or correcting one of his exceedingly rare misspellings (not, however, “correcting” his sometimes idiosyncratic usage or word choices). When I have ready access to books or papers he directly quotes, I check the quotes for accuracy; as expected, departures from cited texts are both rare and minor. In some cases, I provide context with some introductory paragraphs.

As the Rodda Project slowly grows in content, I'll maintain and update a sidebar that will serve as a quick guide to the Senator's papers. I have no great overarching scheme in mind, although I plan to identify each document as specifically as possible. Since Sen. Rodda was very good about dating his papers and labeling them with the venue in which they were delivered (as speeches or position papers), it will be easy in most cases for me to include those labels in each post. As you can tell, these are the first tentative steps in a work in progress.

Albert Rodda is alive at the time of this writing, a frail and genteel man of 95 years who resides quietly in his home in Curtis Park, close to Sacramento City College and the campus administrative and classroom complex that bears his name.

1 comment:

H. James Hasrper said...

When I walk on the Sacramento City College campus occasionally, I find that students often mispronounce Senator Rodda's name, call him Roda, when they ask for Roda Hall. It time to let the new generation of students at SCC to know more about the great teacher and statesman who walked their halls and has the building named for him and his contributions to education. It was my honor to be an intern in the Senator's office, while a grad student at U C Davis. He became a mentor and in two careers, one as an education association executive and the second as a teacher, I always carried with me the lessons I learned from his example. So, lets consider the concept of a project to move toward providing more information concerning Senator Rodda to the new genearation.