Archive for the ‘California Ballot Propositions’ Category



Calbuzz Classic: Mega Thanks From Your Turkeys

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

Tom Meyer’s mandatory Thanksgiving turkey cartoon, featuring a big bird ogre whose cranium is festooned with hatchets, not only sheds a frightening bright light on the cartooning Calbuzzer’s just-below-the-surface sociopathic tendencies (which some day will likely result in us being quoted as telling some know-it-all, whippersnapper reporter that Meyer “was always a quiet loner”) but also offers a scary glimpse at the terrifying political threat that California’s  not-so-jolly giant budget deficit represents to Jerry Brown, who will have to  slay the awful monster if history is to judge as a success his gubernatorial second act.

And for those keeping score at home, that’s a crisp, three-year-old 100-word lede, three times as long as the traditional MSM  industry standard to which New Media over-the-hill guys thankfully no longer must adhere. But we digress.

Not since the Fifth Labor of Hercules, when another son of a famous political family was assigned to muck out the dung produced by a herd of immortal cows chewing their cuds in the Augean Stables, has a public figure faced such a daunting task as Brown. Even in a state familiar with chronic deficits — and with chronic, gimmick-laden “solutions” to them — the latest red ink estimate of $25.4 billion sent chills through denizens of the Capitol.

As a brilliant political analyst recently noted, Governor-elect Krusty will begin his term with policy options that are straitjacketed, both by a host of long-standing restrictions imposed by initiatives, and by a whole new batch of ballot measures just voted in by California’s have-it-both-ways voters – More services! Less taxes! – including Props 22, 24 and 26.

Add to that the disappearance of federal stimulus money, not to mention the pig-headed intransigence of Republicans to even rational new revenue ideas, and you’re left wondering why in the world Brown ever thought moving back to Sacramento would be a good idea at the ripe old age of 72.

During his campaign, Gandalf made few proposals to fix the budget, beyond a fuzzy promise to convene bipartisan kumbaya meetings, where sweet reason will allegedly replace the bitter ideological gridlock that grips the Capitol. Good luck with that.

“This will take all the know-how that I said I had,” Brown said the day after election, “and all the luck of the Irish as I go forward.” Indeed.

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Pilgrims rout Indians – lead series 2-1: As we approach the end of our second full year of publishing, our Department of Green Eyeshade Performance Based Measureables and Obscene Year-End Executive Bonuses reports that our page view total is certain to exceed the number of votes won by Meg Whitman.

Given that our little enterprise seems in much better shape than her out-of-business campaign, and that we’ve managed this feat by spending a teeny bit less on expenses than her, we feel entitled to celebrate by indulging ourselves in that hoariest of journalism practices – reprinting our annual Thanksgiving message to readers. Herewith a slightly updated version:

As Calbuzz joins in our annual national celebration of gratitude and gluttony, we recall Arnold Schwarzenegger’s famous words of blessing for this special holiday:

“I love Thanksgiving turkey. It’s the only time in Los Angeles that you see natural breasts.”

With humble hearts and heaping helpings of snark, we want to thank the Calbuzz online community for all your support, encouragement, boorish comments and vicious critiques. We look forward to the next year, and hope you’ll stay with us for an exciting and entertaining ride with Gandalf  the Wizard, Prince Gavin, Lady Difi and all the other colorful characters who populate the ever-entertaining court of California politics.

Beyond that, we sincerely hope that on this joyous day, you’ll click on our ads a whole bunch of times, and that you won’t get a wishbone lodged in your throat while stuffing your pie hole. Also: take the Saints, give the points, and bet the under.

Our Department of Living History and Living Wills tells us that it was Abe Lincoln, not Miles Standish, who jump started this whole Thanksgiving thing.

Nonetheless, Calbuzzers of a certain age remember with fondness the Thanksgiving school pageants of years gone by, when pilgrim hats made of folded black construction paper oozed gooey globs of white paste at the seams, and Pocahontas was played by the smart girl in the front row who always had her hand up, and who ended up living in Newport Beach, botoxed to the max.

We leave you with our favorite commentary on that historic period, courtesy of Calbuzzer emeritus Mark Twain:

Thanksgiving Day, a function which originated in New England two or three centuries ago when those people recognized that they really had something to be thankful for – annually, not oftener – if they had succeeded in exterminating their neighbors, the Indians, during the previous twelve months, instead of getting exterminated by their neighbors, the Indians.

Thanksgiving Day became a habit, for the reason that in the course of time, as the years drifted on, it was perceived that the exterminating had ceased to be mutual and was all on the white man’s side, consequently on the Lord’s side; hence it was proper to thank the Lord for it and extend the usual annual compliments.

Happy Turkey Day.

 

Notebook: eMeg, DiFi, Gay Rights, Pensions, Districts

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

The week’s most distressing political post comes from the Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire, reporting that Meg Whitman says she is “definitely not” running for the U.S. Senate in 2012.

Say it ain’t so, Meg.

As the rumor mongers who first proposed the notion that Her Megness should challenge Dianne Feinstein for Senate in 2012, we were disappointed beyond measure to read the piece, filed by Cari Tuna of the Journal’s San Francisco bureau. Beyond our pride of political authorship on this one, let’s face it, a Herself vs. Herself match-up between these two would be one of those once-in-a-lifetime campaigns we’d pay to cover.

Although eMeg threw cold water on our dream scenario, a close reading of the WSJ piece shows that she didn’t slam the door shut, either. Consider:

1-“Definitely not” ain’t exactly a Shermanesque statement, and it leaves her plenty of wiggle room down the road.

2-Even at that, there’s no full quote from Whitman saying she won’t run. The headline and the lede both attribute the fragment phrase “definitely not,” to eMeg, but she doesn’t utter those words inside the story.

3-In fact, her quotes suggest she remains quite interested in public office:

“I want to stay involved in public policy,” Ms. Whitman said in an interview Friday evening. “Now I see things in a way that I” had not prior to running for public office, she said.

4-The aforementioned Ms. Tuna went to Yale, ferhevinsake.  Boola frickin’ boola.

Yeah, we understand that taking on DiFi at this point looks like an absolute  fool’s errand. She’s the most popular pol in California, and the only survey taken on potential match-ups shows her skunking every possible Republican foe, including eMeg, 55-to-35 percent. Plus, the current lineup of loony tunes, losers and snoozers in the GOP’s 2012 presidential field won’t make such a run any easier.

But  eMeg is and, to us, always will be, a special case. Some key factors that make a Senate bid worth her consideration:

1-Despite spending $144 million to lose to Jerry Brown, Whitman’s net worth stayed steady, as the reliable Seema Mehta reports, leaving plenty more where that came from.

2-While Feinstein eked out a win against mega-bucks Michael Huffington in 1994, she still has scars from that campaign, and the prospect of another year-long brawl against a free-spending zillionaire at this stage of her career is not a happy one.

3-Whitman doesn’t have to hire Mike Murphy this time.

4) While eMeg got badly burned in the governor’s race because she illegally employed Nicky Diaz, Feinstein back in the day had her own, murky,  undocumented worker situation, as the late, great Susan Yoachum reported, which could neutralize the issue in a second Whitman statewide run.

5-Whitman’s business record, from eBay to Goldman Sachs, got a pretty fair airing last year, but it’s been a while since reporters and Republican oppo types took a close look at the financial dealings of Feinstein hubby Dick Blum, which could make for some interesting campaign reading, not to mention TV attack ads.

6) Most importantly, a Senate run would afford Her Megness a splendid second chance to have dinner with Calbuzz, thereby reversing the biggest blunder of her failed campaign for governor.

We’re just sayin’.

DiFi update: Feinstein meanwhile has been staking out a very high-profile position on behalf of gay rights. Our old friend Hank Plante, the former longtime political editor of KPIX-TV, reports:

“Senator Feinstein on Wednesday introduced legislation to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, a target of the gay rights movement since it was passed in 1996.

The law, which DiFi voted against when it was enacted, blocks the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages and denies federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples:

‘My own belief is that when two people love each other and enter the contract of marriage, the Federal government should honor that,’ she said.

Her move is the latest twist in her long evolution on the rights of gays and lesbians. Feinstein was one of the first San Francisco politicians to actively court gay voters when she first ran for the Board of Supervisors in 1969.

In 1982, as the city’s mayor, however, she angered many in the gay community by vetoing the city’s first domestic partners’ bill, saying the bill was poorly drafted.  Later in her term, however,  Feinstein’s AIDS budget for S.F. was bigger than President Reagan’s AIDS budget was for the entire nation.

‘Of all the big-league Democrats in the United States, Feinstein’s was undoubtedly the most consistently pro-gay voice,’ the late Randy Shilts wrote in “And the Band Played On,” his history of the AIDS epidemic.

In 2008, Feinstein became the most prominent political voice opposing Proposition 8, the ban on California’s same-sex marriages. She said that her views on gay marriage had ‘evolved’ over the years from originally not supporting it, to enthusiastically supporting it today.

At her Wednesday press conference, DiFi cited the 18,000 same-sex couples who were legally married in California before Prop. 8 passed. DOMA prevents those couples, and other legally married lesbian and gay Americans, from receiving survivors’ social security benefits, from filing joint federal income taxes and from taking unpaid leave to care for a sick partner.

Her bill now goes to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Feinstein is a long-time member.”

New Field Poll: California voters now believe pension benefits for public employees are too generous and strongly support a host of reforms – but oppose the idea of taking away their collective bargaining rights as part of a budget deal.

The new findings are certain to sharpen the Capitol debate over public pensions, which not only  is a key issue in negotiations between Governor Gandalf and Republican lawmakers, but also the focus of a war of words between Treasurer Bill Lockyer and the Little Hoover Commission, which recently recommended many of the reforms tested in the Field survey.

Field honcho Mark DiCamillo reported that a 42% plurality of voters believes that pension benefits for public workers are too generous, while 34% say they are about right and 14% that they are not generous enough. This represents a marked shift from 2009, when just 32% of registered voters told Field benefits were too generous, 40% said they were about right and 16% not generous enough.

Significantly, however, 50% of voters oppose combining a deficit reduction measure with legislation that would take away some collective bargaining rights of unionized public sector workers, a move that was taken by Wisconsin’s Republican governor, Scott Walker, and set off a volatile political battle between labor and Republican politicians across the country. In California, 42% say they would support an effort to limit public employee collective bargaining.

The complete Field Poll can be found here after about 6 am today.

Partisanship and Redistricting: While Republicans squawked at the notion of hiring Karin MacDonald of the  nonpartisan Statewide Database at UC Berkeley to draw new district lines, they’re suddenly silent about the only other candidate for the job — Republican Douglas Johnson,  a fellow at the conservative Rose Institute and the head of National Demographics, Inc. Wonder whyHere’s an idea: hire them both and make them split the contract and agree on a proposal — like newspapers do when they hire a Democratic and Republican pollster.

Sundheim: Prop 34 a Roadblock on Road to Reform

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

By Duf Sundheim
Special to Calbuzz

That renowned philosopher, Mick Jagger, gave us great political advice when he reminded us, “You can’t always get what you want.”  However, in California, we’re singing “I can’t get no satisfaction” in unusual unison.  The Legislature seldom receives overwhelming approval ratings; when they pass legislation, they usually please some and displease others.  But lately, those who think they are doing a good job is down to friends and family.  No one is getting satisfaction.

Recently California voters approved two measures:  redistricting (Props 11 and 20) and the two-tiered election system (Prop 14), that when fully implemented will make our representatives more responsive to the will of the voters.  However, Prop 34,  passed in 2000, which dramatically reduces the amount that can be given directly to a candidate, stands as a significant roadblock to this effort.

Before redistricting reform, elected officials literally picked their voters by genetically engineering their districts.  This led to outrageous results such as a district that runs from Magic Mountain in LA County to within spitting distance of Carson City, Nevada!

Under the new system, an independent commission will stop such outrages and elections will be determined not by how the lines are drawn but who local voters want.  Second, with the passage of Prop 14, an action bitterly opposed by the parties, the voters took further control away from the party bosses by enabling every voter to vote for the candidate of their choice in the first or “primary” round, with the top-two squaring off in the second.

So how does Prop 34 impact these reforms?  First, irrespective of such impact, Prop 34 is an utter failure.  The sponsors promised it would “control campaign spending” and “reign in special interests”.  It has done neither.  Since its passage, campaign spending has exploded, not decreased; over $1 billion has been spent on campaigns through 2009 alone.  In terms of “reigning in special interests”, between 2000 and 2006 there was a 6,144% increase in independent expenditures in legislative elections. Point One:  Prop 34 should be revoked because it has failed of its essential purpose.

In terms of the reforms, Prop 34 is a major roadblock because it radically shifts power towards the party bosses and special interests.   By placing severe limitations on how much individual candidates can raise and at the same time allowing parties and special interests to raise unlimited funds, the backers of Prop 34 created a perverse universe where small contributions that have limited impact go to candidates, and big contributions that often make the difference only can go to party bosses and special interests!   Thus, candidates are dependent on the party bosses for funds and the bosses have not been reluctant to use the power such dependence creates.

Recently an outspoken Democratic Latina legislator, Nicole Parra, voted against the party bosses.  The leadership changed the locks to her offices and made her relocate across the street from the Capitol.  Needless to say, her colleagues got that not-too subtle message: buck the bosses and you literally are out on the street.

The system also prevents us from seeing who is supporting the candidates.  For example, say Bernie Madoff wants to donate to Dave Smith’s race.  If Madoff gives directly to Smith, even if he “maxes out”, his contribution probably will be less than 0.004% of the funds spent on Smith’s behalf — and such contribution will be disclosed.  Smith gets little help and a big black eye for taking Madoff’s check.

But if Madoff gives millions to the party and the party runs the funds through the fifteen plus accounts the law requires, Smith gets the kind of help that makes a difference and no one has any way of making the connection between Madoff’s contribution and Smith’s campaign.  Pretty neat, huh?   Hence political parties have become the repository of all “toxic” contributions – those no candidate wants to touch.  But it is these toxic contributions that often determine elections.  Talk about a brownfields problem!

The goal of the reforms is to have the voters, not the party bosses, decide who is elected.  To do so, the candidates voters support need to be able to compete financially.  And if in raising money candidates continue to be limited to squirt guns while the parties and special interests are allowed to use fire hoses – well, you know who is going to win, and it is not going to be the voters.

Prop 34 is a serious roadblock on the road to reform — a roadblock that should be removed immediately.

Sundheim, a Palo Alto attorney, was chairman of the California Republican Party from 2003 to 2006.

Myth Busting: Latino Vote, Independents, Prop 13

Monday, January 10th, 2011

Calbuzz is here to correct two important myths from the 2010 general election in California, before they are committed permanently to history and passed along ignorantly like the so-called “Bradley Effect” and other dunderhead theories:

1) Latinos did not constitute 22% of the electorate as reported by the Edison Research exit poll and blabbed along by those who would make the Latino vote look more important than it is (for the record, our two posted references to the 22 % factor, one from a guest columnist, the other a suggestion, are here and here). Latinos accounted for 16% of the vote*,  just as the better pollsters had predicted (and just 1-point lower than the LA Times/USC poll found after the fact).

2) “Independents” did not account for 27% of the voters, as reported by the exit poll and some pollsters (we name no names) who rely on party identification – a practice Calbuzz can’t fathom when party registration is available. Actual independents, that is, decline-to-state voters, accounted for 17% of the electorate.

These facts, part of the data pulled from the final voter file by Bob Proctor of Statewide Information Systems of Sacramento*, are important because they demonstrate that Latinos were not driven to vote in historic numbers (although they apparently voted en masse for Jerry Brown over Meg Whitman), nor was there a surge (or depression) among independents.

The 2010 turnout in California was not a Democratic blow-out. Nor was there any important enthusiasm gap between the parties, as so many Republican operatives had predicted. In fact, the partisan composition of the 2010 general election was just about what you’d have expected if you had never listened to any of the self-proclaimed experts: 45% Democrat, 34% Republican and 17% independent (DTS).

Despite Mike Murphy’s predictions right up to election day, the Armies of eMeg produced no discernible bump in the GOP vote. Nor did the Democrats do much to goose the numbers. What they did do – and it was no mean feat – was get the Democrats, including Latinos, to vote heavily for the Democratic candidates.

Target mail may well have been a factor since an historic 51% of the vote was cast by mail – including 49% by those who are permanent absentee voters. And in case you were looking for some massive surge by youth, forget about it: 56% of the vote was cast by people age 50 and older while just 12% of the vote was cast by people age 18-29.

The fact that just 16%* of the electorate were Latinos does nothing to diminish their importance as a voting bloc. The fact remains that Meg Whitman, who lurched to the right on the issue of a “path to citizenship” during the GOP primary and who unceremoniously canned her Latino housekeeper, drove Latinos to Jerry Brown.

But it’s important to understand that while the Latino vote is growing in California, it still has a long way to go. The Giant is awake and pissed off at the Republicans, but it has yet to throw its weight around as it will some day.

About Proposition 13:  Calbuzz readers know that we have already laid out the Path to Normalization of the California budget in excruciating exactitude but when Anthony York of the By-God LA Times reported the other day that Jerry Brown “walked right up to the third rail of California politics,” we think some confusion may have been unleashed.

We weren’t there (what’s new) so we’re relying on York and others who reported that Silver Fox said, “Proposition 13, because it took away the power of counties to tax, for the most part, it sent the decisions up to Sacramento. So we want to redistribute all that.”

What Brown (and Senate Majority Leader Darrell Steinberg) are NOT talking about, it should be made clear, is fooling around with the property tax on homes as permanently reduced by Proposition 13 (although splitting off commercial and industrial property off for separate treatment might be in the mix).

Rather it sounds like they’re talking about giving cities, counties and school districts the ability to raise other kinds of taxes and/or bonds with a majority or 55% vote (as opposed to the 2/3 vote required by Proposition 13) to go along with taking over the responsibility for programs and services that have been paid for by the state since Proposition 13.

So note to Sacramento tax watchers: It’s highly unlikely that Brown and his allies would screw with the property tax. But they might well want to make it easier for local entities to raise taxes and bonds on their own for the services they want to deliver.

For a good wrap of Brown’s budget challenges and intentions, check Ken McLaughlin and Paul Rogers of the Murky News. And for a well-sourced look at what the governor is likely to unveil today, check out Shane Goldmacher’s lookforward in Sunday’s By-God LA Times.

And thanks to Calbuzzer Jay Johnson, who sent us this cool Photoshop of  Jerry and the upcoming budget.

So much for taking personal responsibility: While it may be over the top argue that Sarah Palin has “blood on her hands” in the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 19 others in Arizona, it’s revolting to watch Palinistas try to wash their hands of any responsibility by declaring they’re shocked – shocked! – that anyone could even hint the slightest connection to the horror  and her frequent, reckless use of violent rhetoric and weaponry images.

For Palin’s mouthpiece to claim that the crosshairs icon the loudmouth demagogue slapped on Giffords’ district last fall was really an innocent  “surveyors’ symbol”  not only ignores Palin’s own description of it as a “bullseye” but more importantly ignores her history of smirking viciousness in suggesting that those who disagree with her deserve the same fate as the caribou she delights in slaughtering:

“Don’t retreat, reload,” indeed.

And while we’re at it, we have to note our disgust with Palin apologists like the smarmy twit Howard Kurtz of the Beastly Daily Beast, who seems utterly incapable of understanding that the atmosphere of violence promoted by Palin et. al. is not just a riff on standard political fare.

Howie the Genius apparently sees poor St. Sarah as a victim of a media drive-by: “One of the first to be dragged into this sickening ritual of guilt by association: Sarah Palin. . . . This kind of rhetoric is highly unfortunate. The use of the crosshairs was dumb. But it’s a long stretch from such excessive language and symbols to holding a public official accountable for a murderer who opens fire on a political gathering and kills a half-dozen people, including a 9-year-old girl.”

Wrong, wrong, wrong. Sickening, too.

* After this post appeared, a respected Sacramento consultant passed along to us counts made by Political Data Inc. which, by adding in about 140,000 foreign-born voters who apparently did not have Spanish surnames, would increase the total Latino vote to 17%. It’s possible also, as a friend from the LA Times suggested to us, that some Latino voters, like Latinas who have married and taken their husband’s non-Spanish name, might also have been under-counted. But this can’t add much to the total percentage of Latino voters.

The Calbuzz Plan for Budget Reform and World Peace

Monday, December 20th, 2010

Thirty-two years ago, over the strenuous objections from then-Gov. Jerry Brown and nearly every Democratic and Republican official in public life, California voters passed Proposition 13 by 65-35%, slashing property taxes and requiring a two-thirds vote to increase local taxes of virtually any sort.

Brown and the Legislature swiftly rode to the rescue with AB 8 and SB 154, using the $5 billion state surplus to funnel money back to cities, counties and school districts, which meant voters did not absorb the impact of their decision through the immediate reduction of services.

So the dire consequences that the opponents of Proposition 13 had predicted didn’t happen – at least right away.

As a practical matter, a huge financial burden was shifted from local governments to Sacramento and the state’s general fund instantly ballooned by 40% — from $11.7 billion in 1977-78 to $16.3 billion in 1978-79. As a political matter, Prop. 13 opponents were easily portrayed as Chickens Little—and conservative advocates were free ever after to peddle the canard that the tax cut had no impact on local services.

While the numbers now seem quaint — in light of general fund spending plans that soared as high as $103 billion under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger – that 40% one-year increase was a financial earthquake that fundamentally transformed the political landscape of California. And while many things have happened in the intervening years – notably the narrow 1988 passage of the Proposition 98 guarantee for funding public schools — the overall mechanism to pay for a huge chunk of the operating cost of California’s cities, counties and school districts has remained a state responsibility.

It’s time to cut the cord.

The general idea is neither new nor hard to understand. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg last year proposed a partial plan to “devolve” some services and funds to local governments.

“The only alternative in this difficult fiscal environment is to rethink the roles of government at both the state and local levels and shift programs, along with the dollars to run them, closer to the people served,” Steinberg said at the time. And Gov-elect Brown echoed the theme in his campaign commercials: “We’ve got to take power from the state capital and move it down to the local level, closer to the people.”

Strategically, Brown during the campaign pointedly did NOT explain what that really meant. As Calbuzz noted many times, however, the underlying premise of Brown’s idea was that both power and responsibility must transfer to the local level for the idea to work. In Brown’s recent public hearings on the budget mess, it didn’t take long for the fullness of that implication to emerge. As reported from last week’s session in L.A.:

One dilemma, he said, was that the state tries to make sense out of competing outlooks from regions that have little in common — an argument, he said, for shifting many of the state’s responsibilities to local governments.

“When we take so many local decisions and put them all at the state Capitol, then we have all these different perceptions working on the problem,” he said. “That’s why we get a lot of breakdown and gridlock. Because people see the world differently.”

Based on recent conversations with Steinberg’s staff and Department of Finance types, it’s clear that the transfer of pre-Prop. 13 fiscal responsibilities of cities, counties and school districts back to the locals would account for about 40-50% of the state’s general fund. What’s also clear is that divesting the responsibility for those programs would require the governor and Legislature, by some to-be-determined process, to also provide cities, counties and school districts the authority to find a way to pay for them, most logically through a majority or 55 percent vote of local voters.

So if county residents want a fully staffed sheriff’s department and health services, if a city wants cops, libraries and parks, if a school district wants athletics and music, the residents would have to find the funds to pay for those services, by deciding to raise their own taxes. No more pass-through state funds, no more hocus pocus.

Precisely how California gets to this solution is a level of detail the Calbuzz Department of Management Delegation and Big Picture Thinking is prepared to leave to Sacramento’s legions of hotly talented legislative architects. In this, we associate ourselves with the famous words of the Babylonian sage Hillel who said, after declaring the Golden Rule the essence of Jewish law:  “The rest is commentary.”

No less a modern sage than Big Dan Walters has suggested a pathway to a temporary local tax solution until the full Calbuzz Modest Proposal could be enacted and implemented. As Walters explained it to us in an email, legislative Democrats could quickly pass two new budgets with a majority vote – one with taxes and one without:

“Tax bills would be framed as amendments to an existing statutory initiative that’s germane, such as Steinberg’s income tax surtax for mental health a few seasons back. The Constitution allows the Legislature to propose amendments to statutory initiatives and doesn’t require two-thirds vote to do so because it doesn’t amend Constitution.

“If done in special session, the package (which also could short-circuit election deadlines as in 2009) would take effect 90 days after adjournment of the session. Thus, if done by mid-February it could be on ballot in mid-May — say May 17 when runoffs in LA city elections would be held, perhaps boosting Democratic (pro-tax) turnout somewhat and offsetting what otherwise could be anti-tax Republican turnout.

“Framing tax measures as amendments to past initiative may, in fact, may be only legal way to place taxes before voters; that’s how 2009 measures were framed. If it’s done that’s probably how it will be done since Republicans won’t sanction taxes even going to voters . . . (and this process) is the only way legally and politically it could be done.”

All that could buy time to get to what we’re suggesting –a wholesale restructuring of the way local government is financed.

The general line for the political movement that would get us there is this: return power to the people. With its echoes of the 1960s (God, how we miss those times) those words might not be exactly the preferred slogan, but the fundamental point is clear: transfer power away from Sacramento hacks and back to local communities.

Of course, the Prop. 13 fetishists will scream to the heavens that the idea of allowing local taxes to be raised with a 50% or 55% majority (even if such tax hikes are required to include sunset provisions, which help them pass) offends the laws of nature. They’ll call it an unholy attack on the Sacred Cult of Howard and predictably go nuts.

Let them. Voters in California trust local decision-makers far more than they do the Legislature and they deserve the right to choose – by majority vote – whether to hand the power to those local officials to actually govern. Local school board members, city council members and supervisors are far more susceptible at election time to the decisions of grassroots voters than are state lawmakers representing huge far-flung districts.

Local officials with the power to determine levels of service — based on local support – will finally, and properly, have the tools to make some tough decisions about local programs and pensions – while also facing the up-close-and-personal political consequences of making them.

And when the drown-the-baby-in-the-bathtub anti-government types scream about all this, proponents can reply: We’re for democracy and for empowering local government. It’s the other guys who are for keeping all the power up in Sacramento and in smoke-filled back rooms where THEY have power. We want to return power to the people, to local communities, where you can keep an eye on how money is spent and for what.

A lot has happened in the 32 years since Proposition 13 that will have to be taken into account. The landmark Serrano vs Priest decision, for example, will require that school districts aren’t wildly underfinanced in one community and lavishly funded in another. Proposition 98 will have to be handled. All kinds of state mandates that don’t include funding will have to be altered. See Hillel: on commentary.

California state government has plenty to do to fund and repair higher education, highways, state parks, state law enforcement, prisons, state courts, environmental protection, natural resources and the like, just as state government did before Proposition 13.

But three decades after the great transfer of power to Sacramento, it’s time to fight for power to local communities, for sanity in government finance and even, we dare say, for democracy.