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Chantal Sicile-Kira Headshot

Open Letter to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger

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Dear Arnie,

I hope you don't mind me calling you Arnie, but I feel like we have a lot in common. My family also immigrated from Europe to follow the American Dream, and a couple of years ago I had the pleasure of meeting one of your wife's relatives -- Anthony Shriver -- when we were both invited to speak at the Shafallah Center for Children with Special Needs in Qatar. Also, your oldest daughter, Catherine, was born the same year as my son, Jeremy, and my daughter is a few months younger than your Aurelia. And did I forget to mention? We live in the same state. So, I feel close to you.

Arnie, I'm writing to you today in regards to a topic I know you are sick of hearing about. I promise, I'll keep it short. It's about the budget. I just want to know, have you forgotten the nice things about living in the old country? I'm not sure about Austira, but I know from personal experience that in France, Germany and the UK, they take care of their young, their sick, their old, and their disabled -- those who are now who are suffering the most from the budget cuts here in California. By the way, I'm still trying to figure out how we got into this position; I heard that if California were a country, it would rank among the ten largest economies in the world, interesting, huh?

Speaking about budget cuts, my friends are always picking on me about the French only working 35 hours a week and how the system over there is going broke. Well, now all my friends working for the different California state departments aren't laughing anymore -- they are being forced to work as little as the French (you know, those unpaid furlough days they have to take?) -- and our beautiful state is still broke. Big difference -- in France -- the same workers are getting health care and 5 weeks paid vacation, nice pensions, can you beat that? Weird, huh?

Granted, Europe is not perfect and it was hard to be a self-made man back then in the old days, (easier now, so I have heard). When I was over there working in TV and film, I could not get an education for my autistic son (I hear that, too, is beginning to change). But when I was pregnant with my daughter, Rebecca, the French doctors realized from the pre-natal care that they had insisted in providing me, that she was going to be born with a certain medical condition. Rebecca required shots, blood tests, medication and frequent monitoring. They gave her excellent medical care (all for free) for a year and continued to monitor her afterwards. Thanks to that preventative and early intervention, today she is healthy, and on her way to becoming a productive member of society.

My French grandmother lived in Paris till she was 96, bless her heart, and she did not have to worry about having a roof over her head and enough food to eat (what with rent control and all). Memere had health care workers visit once a day, and when she could not climb the stairs anymore she went to an old age home which was an old Victorian house -- where many of her former neighbors lived. She enjoyed the last of her days without worrying about how she could afford to eat and sleep. Memere was a factory worker, and she had her pension, and medical care, too.

In comparison, my mom has Parkinson's, she is stuck in a wheelchair and lives in a nursing home down the street from me, and believe me -- you don't want to now how much it costs. I'm not sure what we are going to do when Maman's money runs out.

Meanwhile, I have raised my son, Jeremy, despite his severe autism as best I could, and he has become an inspirations to many in the autism community. You can see for yourself on MTV's True Life, in "I Have Autism." In fact, his story was picked as the one of the tops 5 most inspiring moments for overcoming challenges from a couple of hundred True Life Stories. Last fall, he passed the California High School Exit Exam, all by typing with one finger. Pretty amazing, huh?

Arnie, I love the whole self-made man and the "American Dream" that made you move here years ago in the first place -- which is why I was so thrilled when the state of California started some self-employment projects for people with developmental disabilities. My son and I have been involved in a few of these projects; he is all for pulling his own weight. 'Course now with all the budget cuts, I'm not sure what is going to happen to him and his American Dream.

Which reminds me -- right now, my husband still has a job, although it is in construction project management, so who knows how long that will last. I kinda worry sometimes what will happen to our family -- our nice middle class tax-paying family if the construction business completely dries up. And I'm sure we can't be the only ones losing sleep and worrying over stuff like this.

Now, I know I am rambling here -- I'm almost done -- but did I tell you about my Rebecca? I'm very proud of her, too. She is going to be a senior in high school and we are going on a road trip next week to visit some University of California and State College campuses in California. I don't have the heart to tell her it is probably a waste of time -- with all the budget cuts I'm not sure she will get in (even though she is an excellent student) because they are admitting less people next year -- what with the budget cuts. Even if she gets in, I'm not sure how we can afford it, seeing how Rebecca's brother and her grandma are going to be depending upon us more and more this coming year.

Hey, I read yesterday in the Sunday New York Times that Tom Arnold says he is making a movie with you in 14 months -- it's going to start shooting the day after you leave office? He says there is no plot or script determined yet. He said, "It's not going to be called 'True Lies II,' but it might as well be..." Well, that's pretty funny, though I don't think he meant it quite that way.

But actually I have an idea for your first movie when you leave office -- it goes like this: you take a wealthy state like California, and you take away the social supports in place for the children, disabled and elderly; you force those who have government jobs to close their offices a few days a month and take a cut in pay; drive the unemployment rate up to 10%; you mix in a few natural disasters like wildfires in San Diego, Los Angeles and Santa Barbara; add an earthquake in San Francisco; and -- but wait! Didn't these things happen already? LOL -- I guess it can be a reality TV show!

Actually, I think we could all use a good, funny comedy when you are back in Hollywood, don't you, to take our mind off our troubles? Come to think of it, going to the movies is not in our budget anymore. Hope it doesn't effect your children's future if most Californians can't afford movie tickets anymore, either. Actually, it probably won't even make a dent a your finances. "Funny the way it is, if you think about it, somebody's going hungry and someone else is eating out." Dang! This darn Dave Matthews song keeps playing in my head! So annoying.

Now please, Arnie, don't get the idea I'm blaming you for all this. I understand it takes more than a few years and a few people to get us into a mess like this. But, right now, you're the top man -- "the buck stops here." Which reminds me -- I read the other day in my local San Diego Union Tribune that LA City Hall paid an estimated $1.4 million on police protection and other services at Michael Jackson's memorial, including $48,000 on sandwiches brought in for police from 70 miles away. Those must have been some sandwiches! (You know, sometimes I'll go that extra mile for a cheeseburger from In-and-Out, but I digress). Anyhow, I'm a big fan of Michael Jackson, but where did all that money come from to pay for this?

Well got to go -- need to write a letter to President Obama. Gotta let him know I can't afford to volunteer for the community anymore. Got to spend every free moment earning money or taking care of my mom and son. By the way, I've spent money traveling around to advise different autism taskforces around the state these last few years -- do you think I can get reimbursed for expenses? I could use the gas money now.

Please give my best to your lovely wife, Maria. I really do appreciate all that she and her family have done for the developmentally disabled -- Special Olympics, Best Buddies. God knows we need these volunteer programs now more than ever.

Thanks for all you do,