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Wilson's Encore Veto Leaves Murray Singing the Blues : Legislation: Assemblyman's proposal for a jazz institute at Cal State Long Beach is rejected again for the same reason--money.

September 26, 1993|HOWARD BLUME | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LONG BEACH — It was the same old tune played just about the same old way when Gov. Pete Wilson vetoed a bill to create a jazz institute at Cal State Long Beach.

Wilson vetoed similar legislation last year. Once again last week, he cited money as the reason that he turned a deaf ear to the pleas and ploys of the bill's author, jazz lover and Assemblyman Willard H. Murray Jr. (D-Paramount).

In his veto message, the governor said he was concerned that the proposed institute could prove a drain on "scarce public education dollars." A legislative analysis concluded that the institute would cost about $100,000 a year.

For Murray, the veto was frustrating.

His bill did not call for an appropriation of funds. In fact, the bill expressly limited assistance from the California State University system to "non-monetary resources," such as donated technical assistance. And the bill required that private funding be used to set up an advisory board for the institute.

But Wilson said other language on funding in the bill was too "broadly stated and could include public funds that are intended to support the education of students."

In other words, he worried that an institute that counted too heavily on unspecified pennies from heaven would soon be serenading the state with "Brother Can You Spare a Dime?"

Murray acknowledged that he left the door open for possible public funding, but added that he would have changed it if he had understood Wilson's objections.

The veteran assemblyman did not fault the governor. "We have thousands of bills," Murray noted. "This is just one of them. A little one. This is not the workers' compensation bill."

But to the 62-year-old Murray, a lifelong jazz aficionado, the proposed Institute for the Preservation of Jazz is something of a cause. Murray worries that artifacts from the history of the American art form, such as recordings, photographs and other memorabilia, will be lost without a designated center for their storage, preservation and study.

He said he wants the music to reach the ears of future jazz fans. The mission of the institute would include providing opportunities for people to hear jazz.

"One of my primary concerns is keeping this music alive," Murray said. "It seems to be played less and less. The young people coming along don't know anything about jazz. When I was young, we listened to jazz."

After last year's veto, Murray decided to lobby the governor more directly for the bill. He solicited support from many quarters, including former Gov. George Deukmejian, who wrote Wilson that economically depressed Long Beach "needs a lot of Jazz to chase away the Blues."

Murray also got permission for artist Ed Dwight to display about 40 sculptures of jazz musicians in the rotunda of the Capitol. Dwight assumed the cost of setting up the monthlong display this summer, Murray said.

"It was designed to influence the governor, and I don't know if he ever got to see it," Murray said. "Some of the people from his office had seen it."

The governor's press office could not confirm whether Wilson saw the display. They did say, however, that Wilson likes jazz and that he enjoys singing along when his wife plays show tunes on the piano.

Officials from Cal State Long Beach, the proposed site of the institute, said they were disappointed by the veto.

"The university was committed to conducting the fund-raising that would have been required," spokeswoman Toni Beron said. "There apparently is no other institute in the country specifically geared to the history of jazz music, its performers and pioneers, and that's what would have been provided here."

Beron said the university has a strong music department with courses on jazz, but no jazz major.

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