Quantcast

Archive for 2010



Cal Forward Fee Proposal Meets Our Hawaiian Eye

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

When last we checked on California Forward’s reform proposals we saw them drifting in some Legislative backwater. But friends tell us there may still be breath in some of the proposals and the one Calbuzz thinks is most likely to be a sleeper relates — you guessed it — to whether it takes a majority or two-thirds to approve of fees.

As we noted in our last look at this damn thing, SCA 19, Cal Forward’s omnibus reform bill,  includes a provision that says:

any bill that imposes a fee shall be passed by not less than two-thirds of all Members elected to each of the two houses of the Legislature if revenue from the fee would be used to fund a program, service, or activity that was previously funded by revenue from a tax that is repealed or reduced in the same fiscal year or in a prior fiscal year.”

Jim Mayer and Fred Silva of Cal Forward said this would apply only in some specific and rare cases and would not undercut the Legislature’s ability to raise fees in most cases by majority vote.  We said we thought the measure would affect the Legislature’s power on fees because (quoting us) “every program, service and activity is funded by ‘revenue from a tax,’ and so, any place where the Legislature wanted to subvent tax funds with fee funds would require a two-thirds vote.”

Comes now someone who, unlike Calbuzz, actually understands the budget — Jean Ross, executive director of the California Budget Project, who tells us: “The language is so broad that it appears to require a two-thirds vote to impose or increase a fee that goes to any program that receives support from the General Fund.

“That would include CalFire, community college fees, everything that receives even a dime of state general purpose funding, or a dime of revenue from a tax that has been cut at any time in the state’s history.”

Oops. Another reason — along with the elimination of the two-thirds vote on the budget (which we like, BTW) — that Cal Forward’s package of proposals is ready for the fork.

Now this: Check out CBP’s latest, a detailed report on who pays taxes in California, which sh.ould come in handy the next time some candidate starts claiming the state has the highest taxes in the nation

This just in: Our Honolulu Bureau’s Big Waves and Little Drink Umbrellas Desk reports that Aloha State airwaves are crackling with ads from candidates in a May 22 congressional race, which threatens to become the latest special election nightmare for Democrats and the White House.

With the Scott Brown special election stunner still top of mind, Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s troops are facing the real possibility of losing their long-held grip on the state’s First District seat because of an all-party ballot, which makes the top vote-getter the new representative without a run-off, coupled with an all-politics-is-local internecine brawl between two Hawaii Democrats.

The scenario was set up when longtime Rep. Neil Abercrombie resigned in December to run for governor, to replace outgoing Republican Linda Lingle (who’s having big problems of her own ) amid a California-style budget mess. The Democratic Establishment, in the persons of U.S. Senators Daniels Akaka and Inouye, quickly lined up behind state senator Colleen Hanabusa, a reliable legislative hack who’s now running as a “partner” of President Obama, who won the district in his home state with 70 percent of the vote in 2008.

But Ed Case, a moderate and former Democrat House member, also jumped into the contest, raising the specter that Republican Charles Djou, a Honolulu city councilman, may split the seam and capture the seat amid the D’s feuding. Case is casting himself as an outsider by running against Washington insiders and, Mai Tai sources say, would run likely run stronger against Djou in a one-on-one matchup because of his appeal to independent voters.

But Case broke the play-nice rules of Hawaii politics by challenging Akaka in the 2006 Senate primary and payback is a bitch; the Asian-American Action Fund, strong backers of the two U.S. Senators, has warned off any national Dems of a mind to get behind Case by noting that 60 percent of the voters are of Asian descent, a not-so-subtle shot aimed at helping Hanabusa and dissing the white guy.

Gleeful Republicans meanwhile are nationalizing the race, and uniting behind Djou, a smart and boyish looking moderate with a nice-looking young  family who’s campaigning as a small-government entrepreneurial types. GOP presidential hopefuls Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney have both weighed in on the contest, contributing money to Djou and portraying him as a scourge of “Obamacare, a costly stimulus bill and cap and trade legislation.”

And Mahalo for that.

Union IE Update: Micro-Targeting Voters is Key

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

Below, you can read the story we posted Monday when it was announced that three influential union leaders will be chairing California Working Families 2010 — a pro-Jerry Brown/anti-Republican independent committee.

But after talking later to California Labor Federation ramrod Art Pulaski, it’s clear that how this IE will target voters is at least as important, if not more so, than who makes up the coalition.

According to Pulaski, California Working Families will be using micro-targeting technology developed by the Obama presidential campaign and expanded on by the Labor Federation’s Committee for Working Families. The technology makes it possible, Pulaski said, “to identify non-union voters who share our values” in ex-urban areas, places where there are few unions and weak Democratic parties.

Earlier versions of the technology allowed organizers to identify some 600 variables that distinguish voters and voter groups. Now, Pulaski said, the number of variables is virtually unlimited. Moreover, instead of just reaching people with a traditional communication sandwich — phone, mail, phone — now the Fed can use email, social networking, online advertising, local spot advertising (like signs on a bus stop bench), cable ads and more to place a message before sympathetic voters.

What message will that be? Will it be mostly a negative hit on the Republican (whom most people are assuming will be Meg Whitman)? Or a positive message in favor of Democrat Jerry Brown?

Said Pulaski: “Voters are only getting one perspective on Meg right now so this committee is going to give people another perspective on Meg.” In addition, the IE will be “reminding people about Jerry Brown and what he can do for the state.”

Calbuzz is betting that most of the effort will go into the former, not the latter.

Big Union Leaders to Chair and Fund Pro-Brown IE

SAN JOSE — Leaders of the second* major independent expenditure committee supporting Democrat Jerry Brown’s campaign for governor on Monday said their group will be chaired by representatives of the influential firefighters, construction trades and public employees unions.

The union leaders, operating as California Working Families 2010, were in San Jose Monday for a meeting of the California Labor Federation where they agreed on leadership and a strategic plan to coordinate research, polling, focus groups and a paid television and media campaign to drive the message “about why billionaire corporate CEOs with no government experience and other Republican candidates are bad for California’s future.”

“What distinguishes us,” said Larry Grisolano, chief strategist for the group, “is that these are folks coming to the table with the expectation of making serious commitments . . . An IE cannot replace a campaign or a candidate but we can give people important information for when they make their choice.”

Chairmen of the group, announced Monday, will be Lou Paulson of the California Professional Firefighters, Bob Balgenorth of the California State Building and Construction Trades and Bill Lloyd of Service Employees International Union.

Each of them told Calbuzz on Monday they will contribute at least $1 million to the effort which is modeled, as a coalition, after the drive that defeated Proposition 75 (“paycheck protection”) in 2005 with a $35 million unified campaign.

“Our number one goal has to be to elect Jerry Brown,” said Lloyd of SEIU. “The IE will compare and contrast” the Republican candidate with Jerry Brown, added Balgenorth. Paluson, too, said the goal would be to “improve the quality of California.”

But if past is prologue, the union-backed IE is likely to be mostly a vehicle for sharply attacking the Republican candidate — most likely Meg Whitman — especially for her Wall Street connections and her avowed desire to fire 40,000 state employees and cut spending on state services.

In addition to union support, the coalition expects to add environmental, women’s and other progressive groups and have been promised support from billionaire Democrat Ron Burkle, CEO of Yucaipa Companies, whose representative, Frank Quintero is serving as the IE’s treasurer.

Operatives who will run the IE have close ties to the Obama administration and former Gov. Gray Davis. Among them:

– Grisolano, a partner in the Chicago-based political firm AKPD, where Obama political strategist David Axelrod is a partner. Grisolano also ran Davis’s re-election campaign and has worked closely with SEIU.

– Roger Salazar, principal of Acosta|Salazar consulting and former press and communications meister for Davis, in whose operation Quintero and Jason Kruger of SK Impact also first cut their political teeth.

– David Binder, of David Binder Research, is doing polling and focus groups; Marjan Philhour of the California Group is doing fundraising and Link Strategies is doing research.

Another pro-Brown IE already is up and running – Level the Playing Field – with is own cluster of Democratic operatives and strategists and an active online and social media presence. While it has been a constant thorn in Whitman’s side through its online activities, LTPF has yet to put together the resources for a serious television ad campaign.

The California Chamber of Commerce, through its political arm, is likely to be part of an IE effort to counter the unions and oppose Brown. Its first effort in that regard however – an anti-Brown ad masquerading as an “issues ad” — was aborted last week because instead of being run through the Chamber’s political action committee, it was funded, crafted and placed by the non-partisan Chamber itself.

* There’s actually a third group operating independently if you count the California Accountability Project of the Democratic Governors Association.

Big Union Leaders to Chair and Fund Pro-Brown IE

Monday, April 12th, 2010

SAN JOSE — Leaders of the second* major independent expenditure committee supporting Democrat Jerry Brown’s campaign for governor on Monday said their group will be chaired by representatives of the influential firefighters, construction trades and public employees unions.

The union leaders, operating as California Working Families 2010, were in San Jose Monday for a meeting of the California Labor Federation where they agreed on leadership and a strategic plan to coordinate research, polling, focus groups and a paid television and media campaign to drive the message “about why billionaire corporate CEOs with no government experience and other Republican candidates are bad for California’s future.”

“What distinguishes us,” said Larry Grisolano, chief strategist for the group, “is that these are folks coming to the table with the expectation of making serious commitments . . . An IE cannot replace a campaign or a candidate but we can give people important information for when they make their choice.”

Chairmen of the group, announced Monday, will be Lou Paulson of the California Professional Firefighters, Bob Balgenorth of the California State Building and Construction Trades and Bill Lloyd of Service Employees International Union.

Each of them told Calbuzz on Monday they will contribute at least $1 million to the effort which is modeled, as a coalition, after the drive that defeated Proposition 75 (“paycheck protection”) in 2005 with a $35 million unified campaign.

“Our number one goal has to be to elect Jerry Brown,” said Lloyd of SEIU. “The IE will compare and contrast” the Republican candidate with Jerry Brown, added Balgenorth. Paluson, too, said the goal would be to “improve the quality of California.”

But if past is prologue, the union-backed IE is likely to be mostly a vehicle for sharply attacking the Republican candidate — most likely Meg Whitman — especially for her Wall Street connections and her avowed desire to fire 40,000 state employees and cut spending on state services.

In addition to union support, the coalition expects to add environmental, women’s and other progressive groups and have been promised support from billionaire Democrat Ron Burkle, CEO of Yucaipa Companies, whose representative, Frank Quintero is serving as the IE’s treasurer.

Operatives who will run the IE have close ties to the Obama administration and former Gov. Gray Davis. Among them:

– Grisolano, a partner in the Chicago-based political firm AKPD, where Obama political strategist David Axelrod is a partner. Grisolano also ran Davis’s re-election campaign and has worked closely with SEIU.

– Roger Salazar, principal of Acosta|Salazar consulting and former press and communications meister for Davis, in whose operation Quintero and Jason Kruger of SK Impact also first cut their political teeth.

– David Binder, of David Binder Research, is doing polling and focus groups; Marjan Philhour of the California Group is doing fundraising and Link Strategies is doing research.

Another pro-Brown IE already is up and running – Level the Playing Field – with is own cluster of Democratic operatives and strategists and an active online and social media presence. While it has been a constant thorn in Whitman’s side through its online activities, LTPF has yet to put together the resources for a serious television ad campaign.

The California Chamber of Commerce, through its political arm, is likely to be part of an IE effort to counter the unions and oppose Brown. Its first effort in that regard however – an anti-Brown ad masquerading as an “issues ad” — was aborted last week because instead of being run through the Chamber’s political action committee, it was funded, crafted and placed by the non-partisan Chamber itself.

* There’s actually a third group operating independently if you count the California Accountability Project of the Democratic Governors Association.

Brown at Google: The Value of Being Random

Monday, April 12th, 2010

We were innocently sitting in the front row the other day, listening to Attorney General Jerry Brown’s “fireside chat” (sans hearth or fire) with Google CEO Eric Schmidt, when Brown demonstrated once again why he is the most intriguing  character in California, and perhaps American, politics.

And why – if he can reach enough of them – he is capable of making  himself popular with the well-educated, middle-of-the-road, moderate, non-partisan, younger and middle-age voters who are the fulcrum of electoral victory in California.

Asked by Schmidt – whose questions were as smart and penetrating as any experienced political writer could ask – whether his “progressive” ideas from the 1970s and ‘80s are still relevant, Brown pointed to his interest then and now in renewable energy sources.

“At that time, we were talking about solar hot water. Now we’re talking about solar photovoltaic. But it’s the same thing — the introduction of new ideas,” he said.

“California is a state of imagination. And imagination is what we need to get out of the bind. We need to change the design. We need to introduce new ideas, and, quite frankly, I’ve always been interested in the creative mind.”

He then mentioned a teacher he’d once had, whom he later appointed as a regent of the University of California, and who had inscribed for Brown in one of his books, “The new comes out of the random.”

“The new comes out of the random,” Brown repeated with a smile. “I’ve been thinking a lot about that. Some people think I’m a little random. But unless you’re open to possibilities, you rarely come up with something new. If you are rigidly programmed, if you’re managing what is, you can’t create what really needs to be.”

Brown’s reference, Calbuzz learned later, was to “Mind and Nature,” by Gregory Bateson, the brilliant British anthropologist and systems theoretician (and former husband of anthropologist Margaret Mead), whom Brown, then 40, put on the Board of Regents at age 74 in 1978, where he served until his death in 1980.

“The immediate task of this book is to construct a picture of how the world is joined together in its mental aspects,” Bateson wrote in 1979 in “Mind and Nature.”

How do ideas, information, steps of logical or pragmatic consistency, and the like fit together? How is logic, the classical procedure for making chains of ideas, related to an outside world of things and creatures, parts and wholes? Do ideas really occur in chains, or is this lineal (see Glossary) structure imposed on them by scholars and philosophers? How is the world of logic, which eschews “circular argument,” related to a world in which circular trains of causation are the rule rather than the exception?

As if to prove Bateson’s theory of “circular trains of causation,” Brown described an important evolution in his thinking about the value of legislation.

Noting that he had “started a law called the Political Reform Act of 1974,” he later had the experience, as mayor of Oakland, of finding that “there was one of the provisions that would have stopped me from promoting economic growth.

“So I went to court and actually had part of the law that I wrote invalidated,” he said. “I think it’s a very salutary experience to both make laws and unmake them all in the same lifetime. Because, you see, every law has unintended consequences.”

To which, he later added:

Another thing I didn’t appreciate as governor, — ‘cause each governor signs about 800 to 1,000 new laws a year — and when you pass a law, somebody’s got to enforce that darned thing. It isn’t just “Do good.” It’s, “If you don’t do good, you can get sued and go to jail or pay a tax.”

And as attorney general, my office is often called upon to enforce these laws.
And businesses run afoul of many of them. And there’s just tens of thousands of ‘thou shalt not.’ And the density and the reach of the invasive, minute prescriptions is breathtaking. I’ve developed a very healthy distaste for legislation.

Now, with Jerry Brown one never knows (do one?) whether what he says will have any relationship to what he will do.

He ran for president not long after winning the chairmanship of the California Democratic Party; he decided to run for governor after telling people he wouldn’t leave his post as Attorney General. He was against Proposition 13 before he was for it. In one presidential campaign he wouldn’t take contributions over $100 because taking more was a sure sign of corruption; today he’s tapping every fat-cat donor he can find, hoping to have enough to compete against Meg Whitman’s multi-millions.

With Brown, certain commitments are elastic. Or as he told Calbuzz in March: “Adaptation is the essence of evolution. And those who don’t adapt go extinct.”

Still, Brown’s suggestion that he’s learned something about the unintended consequences of legislation has a certain verisimilitude or what Steven Colbert might call truthiness.

In part, that’s because Brown has shaped and observed California politics over so many years that he has an incredibly long (some might say long-in-the-tooth) view.

Asked by Schmidt to discuss the impact of Proposition 13, Brown, who re-iterated his pledge to support no new taxes unless the people vote for them, offered this compelling narrative:

Yeah, Prop. 13 passed in ’78. By the way, it attracted the highest turnout ever for a state primary election. And since that time, almost right afterwards, one ballot measure after another constraining the governor, the legislature, setting down more and more precise rules on how things need to be done

So what you have here is, you have a chess game of government with fewer and fewer moves. And that is driven by the frustration. So people have a widespread disgust at the mechanism of representation. So people then put on the ballot, often special interests, some attractive-sounding measure. And people vote for it.

But the more they embed the system with these constraints, the more difficult it is to perform, and the performance declines, and people want more and more initiatives to correct it. So we’re in a cycle, a rather destructive cycle. And to get out of that, first of all, we need to get beyond that.

And I think the way we need to get beyond it is to make the governing process more transparent, to make the key elements of government, the education, higher and K-12, the prison system, the water, the energy, the roads, the medical care, make those key elements transparent, accessible, understandable so people know, what are their tax dollars going for, what is it doing, and where are the areas where we can modify.

And, quite frankly, I think I can conduct that kind of transparent process that will reconnect the citizenry to their own government, something that I think has very much been lost in recent years.

Who knows if Brown has the skill, the focus, the commitment to actually break that “destructive cycle?” But he absolutely understands a key factor in rendering California ungovernable. Can he convince voters that he can both manage what is and create what needs to be? That’s no random question.