Archive for the ‘Proposition 1A 1B 1C 1D 1E 1F’ Category



How May 19 Election Is Just Like “Rashomon”

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

rashomonbwGov.  Arnold began his budget speech to the Legislature Tuesday with a touch-all-the-bases analysis of the meaning of the May 19 special election.

“That message was clear,” he said. “Do your job. Don’t come to us with these complex issues. Live within your means. Get rid of the waste and inefficiencies. And don’t raise taxes.”

Well, two out of five ain’t bad.

Schwarzenegger’s opening line was just the latest effort by California politicians of almost every stripe to overreach and over-interpret the Just-Say-No votes on Propositions 1A-1E in the dismal turnout special.

Since May 19, the foregone election results have become like the crimes at the center of “Rashomon,” the famous 1950 Akira Kurosawa film, in which the same incident is described – in mutually contradictory ways – from four different subjective perspectives.

As a political matter, however, conservative Republicans have been extremely successful in selling their version of events. In dominating the fight to frame the narrative about May 19, they’ve not only pushed Schwarzenegger back into paddle-to-the-right, no new taxes mode, but also apparently intimidated majority Democrats (including even Dianne Feinstein back in DC) into buying into or fearing to protest their predictable, antediluvian interpretation.

So on the one hand the California Republican Party boldly declares that the election sent a “national anti-tax message,” and our friend John Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, insists that “voters were crystal clear in statement about their tax burden.” And on the other hand, it’s left to former liberal lawmaker Sheila Kuehl, who argues voters were saying Sacramento shouldn’t “keep balancing the budget on the backs of average Californians” and Democratic poll taker David Binder, who says voters actually favor some tax increases over cuts in education and other programs, to make the case on the other side.

How about this, Calbuzzers? There was one and only one overarching message from the overwhelming majority of voters who DIDN’T EVEN BOTHER TO SHOW UP: Work it out among yourselves and stop bothering us. (On this point we agree with Arnold’s analysts.)

As we wrote on the morning of May 20 the election was “a clear signal that voters are way beyond fed up with half-measures, marginal fixes and smoke and mirrors in Sacramento.” And the plain fact is that all the over-wrought interpretation of the May 19 results since then is little more than spin, propaganda and self-interested commentary.

Let’s look at the facts:

* The latest voter turnout number reported by the Secretary of State shows that 27.5 percent of the 17,153,012 registered voters (or 20 percent of those eligible) bothered to show up, which hardly scores as a broad-based populist message about anything beyond the fact that they found the ballot props incomprehensible.

* While the Sacramento establishment poured millions into passing the props, much of the money spent against them came from normally Democrat/left constituencies, like SEIU and CFT. The fact that these groups got into bed with anti-tax Republicans, normally their mortal enemies, shows that the resounding “No” vote had multiple roots and represented anything but a “clear” — let alone “crystal clear” fercryin’outloud — message about anything.

* Binder is the only guy who has anything remotely resembling quantitative data on the special. His close ties to Democrats and labor give those on the right an excuse not to even look at his research on what was on voters’ minds. But, as Binder wrote, it shows that voters surveyed before and right after the election “do not trust the leadership in Sacramento, and recognize that the failed special election was just another example of the inability to bring real solutions to voters.” And, as the pre-election Field Poll found, voters favor a blend of cuts and taxes to address the deficit. (The key here, of course, is that they want taxes that affect someone else – tobacco, oil royalties, the very wealthy, for example.)

It is an abiding mystery why wussy, wimp Dems have so passively allowed knuckle-dragging Reeps to seize control of the narrative. That aside, the over-interpretation of May 19 has gotten plain silly, and it’s well past time to throw a yellow flag.

Let’s be crystal clear: Calbuzz isn’t making an argument for or against taxes, or for or against specific program cuts or anything else to do with policy. Our mission remains unwavering: to watch the battle safely from atop the hill, then swoop in bravely to shoot the wounded.

We’re just sayin’.

Dr. Hackenflack Answers Your Budget Questions

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

dr-hackenflackWith the defeat of the budget propositions and Sacramento in gridlock, readers are feeling anxious and depressed about state finances, and have flooded the mailbox of our Chief Political Psychiatrist and Barbecue Chef, Dr. P. J. Hackenflack. With the approval of the Calbuzz Ethics and Privacy Committee, the good doctor agreed to share some of his replies.

Dear Dr. Hackenflack
I heard that Arnold is giving a big speech on the budget today to all the members of the Legislature crowded together on the Assembly floor. What is he going say?
– Howard J. in Paradise
FIRE!!!!

Dear Doc,
I read where Arnold’s Chief of Staff Susan Kennedy said California’s tax structure is “too progressive.” How is that possible?
– Miss Vicky in Marin
She’s a recovering liberal who thinks rich people pay waayyy too much in income taxes.

Dear Dr. H.,
Do the Republican legislators have any innovative ideas for cutting the budget?
– Lonesome in Folsom
Yes. They’re pretty sure we can save billions by building new prisons right next to public high schools, so graduates can go directly to jail.

My Dear Doctor,
Some blog quoted Senator Feinstein as saying Californians deserve all the budget cuts ‘cuz they didn’t vote for Props 1A and 1B. What kind of leadership is that?
– Hope in Brentwood
It’s part of her three-pronged program for California: eat your vegetables, be in bed by 9 p.m. and go directly to the principal’s office at once.

Herr Professor Hackenflack,
Someone told me the Democrats have a plan to fix the budget and the water crisis the same time. What gives?
– Worried in Weed
Once a month, taxpayers toss cash into “The Peripheral Canal of Money,” which pumps it upstream, through the Delta, and directly into the treasury. It’s for the children.

Dear Esteemed Doctor,
The governor says he’s going to close all the state parks. Will they ever re-open?
– Smokey in Shasta
Yes. Before long, the 40,000 state employees that Governor eMeg plans to fire will be living in them.

Hey Doc,
Why doesn’t the governor just come out and tell us what he wants to do to keep California afloat?
– Bruce from Pasadena
Despite all his macho and muscles, he actually has no idea how to swim.

Dear Dr. Hackster,
Isn’t the answer to this whole budget mess giving local government the power to raise taxes with a majority vote?
– Edmund from Oakland
You need to check with Howard J. in Paradise.

Friday Fishwrap: Sifting the Entrails of the Sacramento Crowd

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

Whee the people: The Just Say No message delivered by voters on Tuesday set off a post-election scramble among politicians to denounce everyone and everything to do with Sacramento except the Camellia bushes.

Notable among the heated rhetoric were remarks by GOP guv hopeful Steve Poizner, who tried to sound as if he’d never even visited the place, but was delivering his remarks from, oh say, Bhutan, viz: “Sacramento doesn’t seem able to pass a budget…the Sacramento crowd…my message to Sacramento is simple,” etc. We’ll double check the GPS, but isn’t the Insurance Commissioners’ office in the River City?

As a quantitative matter, however, it should be noted that Poizner earned bragging rights as the biggest outsider among insiders on special election day: Stevie Wonder finished first in the pack of wannabe governors in the number of pre-election positions on the props that agreed with those of the angry electorate.

Among the GOPers, Poizner took the same stance as voters on five out of the six measures (he went no on everything, including Prop. F), while Meg Whitman got four of six right (she backed the defeated Props. 1D & 1E), and Tom Campbell batted only .333 (he supported 1A, 1D & 1E and opposed 1F).

Among Dems, Gavin Newsom led the way with three of six positions that agreed with the voters (he whiffed on 1A, 1B and 1F), while the establishment stances of Jerry Brown and Antonio Villaraigosa made each of them 1-for-6 (they both backed Prop. 1F).

This just in: Five days before the election, Gov. Arnold presented his scary budget alternatives to Californians with about as much noise and flourish a governor can muster in the middle of the day, complete with a packed-to-the-rafters Capitol press conference, videocast and reams of financial documents posted in real time.

Yet Reuters news service mysteriously delivered word of Schwarzenegger’s plan to sell off state landmarks with this weird lede, which read like a dispatch from Antarctica:

“California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is planning the sale of some state properties including the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, San Quentin State Prison and the Orange County Fairgrounds to raise cash,the Los Angeles Times said, citing a copy of a proposal.

Damn those sneaky devils from the L.A. Times and their damnable investigative reporting!

Yo Reuters! Calbuzz sez check out this whole internets thingy

Management by objective: The East Bay Express is a pretty good paper, and carried a pretty good zinger on Jerry Brown after Obama this week hired Rosie Rios to be the Treasurer of the United States. Brown, it seems, fired Rios as Oakland’s a top economic development official when he was mayor, giving the Express this kicker to their piece:

“How about this for a gubernatorial campaign slogan? Jerry Brown: Keen Eye for Talent.”

After the story published, Garry South, chief strategist for Newsom, and the hardest workin’ spinner in show business, e-blasted it, then worked the refs for good measure, complaining that no political reporters had followed it up.

Given Newsom’s history of, um, exhausting his administrative remedies with a staff member, is “Keen Eye for Talent” really the line of attack his campaign wants to take against Brown? We’re just askin’.

Everyone in the pool: Final, final tallies from the Calbuzz Election Night Pool Clambake and Crab Boil shows the winner’s circle shapes up this way:

1st Prize – Jim Sweeney.
Sweeney missed the exact order of finish for Props 1A-1E by just 0.005%, the only entrant to get more than two of the five positions right. He finished second in winning percentage for Prop. F, and his 23.5% turnout prediction just missed nailing the 23% reported by SOS Debra Bowen. A professional ranter at the Sonoma Press-Democrat, Sweeney wins a free rant here, plus two Calbuzzer buttons.

2nd Prize – Kevin Dowling
Dowling won the Yes-on-F category, as his 75-25% prediction came closest to the actual 73.9-26.1% finish. He tied for second on the other two questions. A Hayward city councilman, he wins two out-of-print books by old white guys, plus a Calbuzz button.

3rd Prize – Shane Maharaj
Maharaj had a solid ticket throughout, tying for second on questions #1 and #3 and finishing third on question #2. A legislative aide to Rep. Bob Filner, D-San Diego, who’s now based in Washington, he says he is “a Sacramentan and a Californian through and through.” He wins a Calbuzz button and maybe some out-of-print books if we find any extras laying around.

Congratulations to the winners and thanks to all for playing.

View From the Right: Curious to know how the reddest of the red-blood conservatives saw the election? Check out Jon Fleischman’s take on winners and losers.

What Now, California?

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

brokengovernment1The skunking of all five special election budget measures backed by Governor Arnold and the Can’t Shoot Straight Legislature was a clear signal that voters are way beyond fed up with half-measures, marginal fixes and smoke and mirrors in Sacramento.

Like a winless team trotting out a five-lateral trick play in the final seconds of the last game of the season, Schwarzenegger and the Legislature tried to pull a fast one, hoping to avoid facing the hard reality that it’s time for fundamental political change in California.

“The public is making a statement, loud and clear, that they expect action,” said Jim Wunderman, CEO of the Bay Area Council. “The seriousness of the problem has reached a crescendo.”

Executives of the council today are scheduled to roll out the most serious call for sweeping political reform in California since Hiram Johnson – an ambitious plan for an historic constitutional convention to overhaul the fiscal, management and electoral structures and operations of a government that spends $144 billion a year, chronically fails to pass a budget and has plunged the state into a thick muck of debt it will take decades to clean up.

With recession sapping the economic strength of the state, and voters holding record-low opinions of their state leaders, the time is ripe for this kind of quantum change. In parallel with the Bay Area Council, the good government group California Forward has launched its own agenda of political reform, while partisans and policy wonks alike prepare to fight for initiatives on reforms like open primary elections and dumping the two-thirds requirements for passing budgets and taxes.

California’s challenge is deceptively simple to envision but horrifically complex to accomplish: restoring democracy where institutional chaos now reigns.

Since the 1978 passage of Proposition 13, when Sacramento took on the task of managing the impact of property tax cuts in cities, counties and special districts across the state, the on-the-fly reorganization of political and financial relations between the Capitol and its provinces, coupled with a decades-long binge of budgeting by ballot box, has steadily evolved into a Byzantine patchwork of stunted and often self-canceling imperatives and ideologies.

By now, democracy — in the sense of a government by, of and for the people — has become so completely distorted, perverted and corrupted in California that tinkering, however well-intentioned, is not enough. It’s not about “blowing up boxes,” as Arnold famously, and demagogically, promised to do. It’s about dismantling and rebuilding democratic government based on three key values: accountability, trust and modern, measurable performance of the people and programs funded by taxpayers.

None of this is entirely new, of course. As with most things about California, the writer Carey McWilliams got it right — in 1949 — when he offered this assessment in “California: The Great Exception.”

“California, the giant adolescent, has been outgrowing its governmental clothes now, for a hundred years. The first state constitution was itself an improvisation; and from that time to the present, governmental services have lagged far behind population growth. Other states have gone through this phase too, but California has never emerged from it. It is this fact which underlies the notorious lack of social and political equilibrium in California.”

But in the past 60 years, things have gotten worse. The system today is constricted, subverted and hamstrung by special-interest ballot propositions, two-thirds vote requirements, gerrymandering, term limits and raging rivers of free-flowing political cash. The governor and Legislature have been circumscribed and neutered.

California Forward, a civic improvement coalition created by California Common Cause, Center for Governmental Studies, New California Network and The Commonwealth Club of California’s Voices of Reform Project, is advocating short-term fixes for the budget and is considering long-term reforms as well.

Short term, they’re pushing for managing the spikes in state revenues, a pay-as-you-go requirement, results-based budgeting, a two-year budget and other reforms. As a bipartisan group, they have not yet been able to agree on whether to push to reduce the two-thirds requirement for passing the budget and/or raising revenues.

But California Forward co-chairman Bob Hertzberg, a former Democratic Speaker of the Assembly, personally believes the most important reform would be to return power to local governments – where accountability is most immediate — and give them the power to raise funds by majority vote.

“The key to restoring democracy in California is bringing government closer to the people,” he said. “People should be getting what they’re paying for and paying for what they want.”

The scale at which state government is trying to operate – by funding education, health care, public safety and the like for 38 million people – is simply too large. The unintended consequences of Proposition 13 – which shifted money and power to Sacramento – must be undone, he argues.

Specific solutions aside for now, fixing the fetid mess in Sacramento will require the commitment, not just of politicians who see the writing on the wall, but also of the mainstream media, which has nurtured widespread ignorance about the business of state politics and government by systematically ignoring it: Not a single TV station from a major California city has a bureau there.*

Most of all, it will require the involvement of taxpaying citizens, who must bear responsibility for choices that have yielded harmful, if unintended, political consequences.

“We need a citizen-induced fix,” as Wunderman puts it: “California government is not only broken, it has become destructive to our future.”

*CORRECTION: Nannette Miranda is the Capitol Correspondent for the ABC network-owned TV stations in California: KABC-TV Los Angeles, KGO-TV San Francisco, and KFSN-TV Fresno. She is technically and contractually a KABC-TV Los Angeles reporter. Calbuzz regrets the error.

Election Update: Sweeney Holds Lead in Calbuzz Poll

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

Jim Sweeney, veteran editorial writer for the Sonoma County Press-Democrat, held a solid lead in the Calbuzz Special Election Pool tonight, with about 50 percent of the vote counted.

It was a humiliating night for Gov. Schwarzenegger and the Legislature, who saw their quintet of budget fix propositions resoundingly voted down across the state.

But it looked like a good night for Sweeney, the only player whose pool entry matched the early vote order for the five props:

Prop.1B
Prop 1C
Prop.1D
Prop.1E
Prop.1A

But with Props. 1E and 1A less than a percentage point apart, it was still too close to call the pool, at least for a Calbuzzer who edited an early edition story electing Tom Bradley the first black governor of California in 1982. Still, Sweeney strengthened his front-runner position by also running strong on Prop. 1F, where he had predicted a 75.7 percent “yes” vote, only four-tenths of a percent lower than the actual vote at this hour.

We’ll post our analysis of the actual election at 12:01 a.m.