Injured Schwarzenegger backs out of inaugural appearance

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Sacramento Bee (California)

SACRAMENTO, CA — Sidelined with a broken leg requiring more rest than previously thought, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger backed out Wednesday from his only scheduled public inaugural appearance despite earlier assurances he would attend all events to kick off his second term.

The Republican governor said in a statement he now needs to rest and elevate the right femur he broke in a Dec. 23 skiing accident “for as long as possible,” though he still intends to be sworn in Friday at Memorial Auditorium.

Schwarzenegger changed course Wednesday as a schedule developed to have the governor make three major appearances next week to define his agenda, including his State of the State address.

Communications director Adam Mendelsohn said the governor’s recovery is on track and emphasized that orthopedic surgeon Kevin Ehrhart considered the governor’s hectic schedule while deciding he should take extra rest. Mendelsohn declined to say whether the governor is on pain medication or considered using a wheelchair for the event.

Schwarzenegger has not appeared publicly since his accident, and his only form of public communication has come through written statements. His office last week issued pictures of the governor working in his hospital bed but did not allow media to interview or photograph him directly.

He was supposed to make his first post-accident appearance at a three-hour celebration Thursday in Capitol Park to promote environmentalism and kick off his second term. The event will go on without the governor. First lady Maria Shriver, former Sacramento Kings basketball star Vlade Divac and comedian Bob Saget will appear.

The governor also cancelled an appearance at a donor reception at Mason’s Restaurant in downtown Sacramento, a move expected to dampen turnout.

Schwarzenegger underwent surgery Dec. 26 that required cables and a metal plate held in place with screws to join the two main fragments of his right femur. It will take another estimated seven weeks for the bone to heal.

“Gov. Schwarzenegger is recovering from significant surgery on his femur,” said Ehrhart, in a statement. “His recovery has been extraordinary and I am adamant he not do anything that could jeopardize that recovery. I will continue to advise him on his health through his swearing-in, inaugural speech, state-of the state, and budget presentation.”

Schwarzenegger still plans to be sworn in Friday at Memorial Auditorium in an invitation-only ceremony open to elected officials, donors and campaign supporters. He plans to attend two more private events that day, a “Legislative Lunch” with lawmakers and donors at the Capitol and a $500-a-ticket evening ball at the Sacramento Convention Center.

The inaugural committee has raised at least $1.35 million for the two days’ worth of events starting Thursday. Much of that money has come from corporate donors, including health care organizations and construction firms that stand to gain or lose billions of dollars in the Capitol this year.

Those donors received tickets to the swearing-in ceremony, the private reception at Mason’s, a Capitol lunch with elected officials and the evening ball.

Few free tickets were given out for the formal evening event; even staff and lawmakers have to pay $100 per person to attend the sold-out ball.

None of Friday’s events are open, so the public will not get an opportunityto see the governor except via a large-screen television outside the Memorial Auditorium. Inaugural planners announced Wednesday that they would provide the television and rotate entertainers outside the auditorium so the public could enjoy the swearing-in ceremony.

Doug Heller, executive director of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, said the governor should have found more ways to open his parties and ceremonies to the public. He said the closed nature of the events — and attendance by donors at all of them — gives the impression that special interests have more access to Schwarzenegger than regular voters.

“It seems to me that he has created such a bifurcation between the powerful interests and the people,” Heller said. “The public doesn’t even get a chance to hear him speak live. We have to watch it transmitted.”

Schwarzenegger broke his femur Dec. 23 in a skiing accident at Sun Valley, a posh Idaho resort near where the governor owns vacation property. The governor was standing still and caught his pole under his ski, according to a ski instructor who was with him.

Ever since, the governor’s aides had said he would go through with all of his scheduled inaugural events before his last-minute cancellation Wednesday.

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