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Posts Tagged ‘Bay Area Council’



The Death and Possible Re-Birth of Negotiation

Monday, March 7th, 2011

Whether or not the dozen California Republican legislators (more than enough for a minyan!) who have refused to join the politically suicidal Taxpayers Caucus are all modern day Pharisees, Gov. Jerry Brown was not far off the mark comparing them to Nicodemus ben Gurion, the prominent Jewish elder who is said to have met with Jesus under cover of night to avoid the risk of ostracism.*

“I’m not going to blow their cover,” Brown said of the individuals he’s been meeting with – those who have declined to drink the Kool Aid being dispensed by the Grover Norquist-inspired Ostrich Phalanx and henchmen, like our pal Jon Fleischman.

The small band of savvy Republicans appear to get that a) they are in a position to extract at least some of their cherished goals in exchange for merely voting to put Brown’s tax extensions on the June ballot and b) their old world is rapidly changing, because of the new rules of redistricting and the top-two primary system, so they can’t afford to stand in the doorway and block up the hall.

As Rob Stutzman, the Republican strategist who advised Meg Whitman’s campaign for governor, put it: “They have more leverage than they’ve had at any time arguably over the last decade.” But then guys like Stutzman and Jim Brulte, the former legislative leader, are old-school pols who believe, like Ronald Reagan did, that you negotiate to reach agreement and that agreement – i.e. governance — is a good thing.

At a time when “compromise” has been stricken from the actions and vocabulary of Tea Partiers in Washington and the intransigent governor of Wisconsin (except as a pejorative to attack those who disagree with their rigid stances), the efforts to strike a deal by a handful of GOP legislators in Sacramento is a smart and responsible move, both as policy and as politics.

By bucking the unrelenting pressure of no-compromise apparatchiks and no-tax ideologues in their party’s extremist wing, these Republicans – like Sam Blakeslee, Anthony Cannella, Bill Tom Berryhill, and Bob Huff, to name a few — have set the stage for a political counter-narrative to the bitter union-busting drama being played out in Madison, and the looming threat of a federal government shut-down by Congress under Weeper of the House John Boehner.

If the GOP’s Responsible Caucus can wring enough legislative concessions from Brown to justify the intraparty flak they’ll take for helping him pass the key element of his plan – a statewide vote on extending $12 billion in temporary higher taxes and fees – they also will have a dealt a major blow to the politics of deadlock that have dominated California for a generation.

Urging them on – with visions of business-friendly reforms dancing in their heads – are groups like the Bay Area Council, Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and even the California Chamber.

It should be noted, by the way, that Brown’s problem is not just with Republicans. Forces on the Democratic left are extremely upset about the massive spending cuts Brown has already extracted and, if the Republicans seeking a deal overplay their hand and some interest group – the California Teachers Association, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, Service Employees International Union, or any other – decides to oppose whatever deal Brown negotiates, the whole thing could explode.

A way out — our sources are betting — is at best a 50-50 proposition.

As Steve Glazer, Brown’s senior adviser told Calbuzz over the weekend: “We’re sitting on bar stools in a foot of gasoline and everybody’s got a match.”

The ossification of Sacramento was created by a battery of political circumstances, including some so-called “reforms,” that together had the unintended consequence of bogging down the Capitol in the gridlock of polarization and partisanship. The key ingredients in hardening the political cement are 1) diminished party registration 2) non-competitive elections and 3) term limits.

Add to these closed primaries, campaign contribution limits that don’t apply to interest groups and a cable-driven coarsening of political dialogue and you have a recipe for impasse. That’s how we arrived at a situation where negotiation is seen as collaboration and compromise is regarded as capitulation.

Ironically, the sudden willingness of at least a few members of the minority to consider compromise, negotiation and deal-making to be useful and acceptable tools, in place of the just-say-no obstructionism that has long marked the GOP position, may itself have been triggered by two new reforms: a new, non-partisan citizens commission that is redistricting the state and a new “top-two” primary system are both designed to encourage more moderate politics; they may be working even before they’ve fully taken effect.

“With open primaries in redistricted seats in a presidential election all the old rules are out the door,” said Brulte.

Diminished party registration, wherein moderates and those with loose party affiliations have registered in ever greater numbers as Decline to State (independent of a party), has meant that those who still vote in their party primaries are the most ideological, the most partisan and the most intractable voters in any particular political jurisdiction.

In October 1994, Democrats had 49% of registration, Republicans 37% and DTS 10%. In October 2010, Democrats were 44%, Republicans 31% and DTS 20%. Who left the Democratic and Republican parties (or chose not to join them)? Moderates who didn’t want to be part of the left and right wings of the electorate.

So those who won their party primaries – and thus those eventually elected to the Assembly and state Senate – reflected (and shaped) the ideological cast of their districts.  Legislators who refuse to negotiate toward an agreement are, in many cases, perfectly reflecting the narrow electorate – in existing districts — who sent them to Sacramento. It’s the hard core who’s voting.

Non-competitive seats, partially a function of gerrymandering and partly a function of living patterns of the California population, have ensured the election, re-election, and re-re-election of the same voices and interests year in and year out.

One liberal may replace another; one conservative may follow a predecessor, but the ideological shape and tone and color remains the same. The general election means little in most cases because all the action is during the primary. If an incumbent – or a candidate who appears to be an incumbent because he or she served in a different office – is in the race, you can all but forget about it.

Few seats are actually competitive and where they are, it’s almost always just in the race to see who gets to represent the party in November.

Term limits have a compounded negative effect. On the one hand, they drive those just elected to spend ever greater amounts of time planning for their re-election and advancement to another seat in a different house. On the other hand, they leave Sacramento with a neophyte corps of legislators who have no institutional knowledge, no long-term commitment, no real power base in their own communities and less knowledge than the permanent legislative staff and the army of lobbyists who are always on the case.

Moreover, leadership is a joke: it’s almost impossible to enforce caucus discipline, it’s increasingly difficult to speak with one voice for either party, “leaders” are in place long enough to get a cup of coffee and replaced before they’ve found the secret drawer in the big desk or learned the name of the janitor who empties their trash can.

Coupled with campaign contribution limitations that don’t apply to interest groups, term limits mean that instead of the special interests needing the lawmaker, it’s the other way around – legislators need the special interests more than the pleaders need them.

And Now for Something
Completely Different

The handful of GOP legislators who are quietly (secretly) negotiating with Gov. Brown just may get this: by the end of August, the non-partisan redistricting of California legislative boundaries should be completed and the next round of elections will not involve party primaries but a top-two system of electing candidates.

We may even see big labor begin to play a role in what used to be Republican districts. Sources tell Calbuzz there’s talk in the labor community about spending in districts where particular legislators have made it a point to work against their interests.

Candidates who are identified as obstructionist or worse, responsible for massive teacher layoffs, shorter school years, public safety cutbacks, closed state parks, etc., are going to have one hell of a time picking up enough moderate and independent votes to keep their offices. They will NOT be running in tailored districts and they won’t have a free shot at a party position.

You gotta wonder how smart it is to rely on right-wing operators, who ask, like FlashReport’s Fleischman, if “The CalChamber is Ready to Betray Taxpayers Again?” As a Republican, just exactly what is your base if you can’t include the Chamber of Commerce?

No wonder Flash and his cronies on the right are hoping at the GOP convention to change the Republican Party’s rules to give central committees the power to dub candidates official GOP standard bearers. That may their only weapon and frankly, we’re not sure, even if they can adopt this Soviet Rule, that it would do the trick for their people.

As Steve Harmon of the Contra Costa Times so ably noted, the notion that Republicans who voted for tax hikes under Gov. Arnold Schwarzmuscle were driven from office is mostly bunk. “Of the six Republicans who voted for taxes (in 2009), only one later went on to defeat in a Republican primary. Two captured GOP nominations in statewide contests, another was elected to a county post and two others dropped out of politics.”

And that was before redistricting and the top-two primary system. And before Brown, who was allowed to dispense his vows of poverty and chastity in order to leave the seminary, offered dispensation to any Republicans who signed the GOP anti-tax pledge.

* It was to Nicodemus, as reported in the Gospel of John (3:16), that Jesus, after saying that man must be reborn in faith, offered this central concept: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Fishwrap: Mac Attack, Goo Goo Guide, Hot Sex

Friday, May 28th, 2010

Betting the farm on illegal immigration (as Calbuzz predicted), Steve Poizner on Thursday launched a new TV spot, featuring GOP rock star Congressman Tom McClintock (as Calbuzz suggested) explicitly appealing to Republicans to reject Meg Whitman.

“This time our choice for governor matters,” McClintock says directly to the camera. “And it comes down to this: Steve Poizner supported Arizona’s law to stop illegal immigration; Meg Whitman cut and ran.

“This time, let’s have a governor from the Republican wing of the Republican Party – Steve Poizner.”

Up until now neither candidate has put money into television ads appealing directly to partisans, but Poizner, who is running behind in every public poll, now is seeking to rally the GOP base with an explicit partisan pitch. (Poizner, for example, has until now appealed to conservatives and occasionally referenced “Republican”  on the screen, but this ad takes partisanship to a new level.)

Does it mean he’s desperate to rally his base or is he within striking range and needs to peel away a few more conservative Republicans? Or both?

Clip and take to the polls: Kudos to California Choices.org for coming up with a nifty comprehensive grid that shows who’s for and against what ballot measures in the June primary.

The ultimate non-partisan goo-goos, the group has collected and collated  the initiative endorsement picks of more than 40 newspapers, non-profits, unions and other political groups. California Choices is an academic collaboration focused on political reform in the state which includes Cal’s Institute of Governmental Studies, Stanford’s Bill Lane Center, Sac State’s Center for California Studies and Next 10, a non-profit funded by venture capitalist F. Noel Perry.

For fans of the cui bono school of political analysis, or those who are just too bored or lazy to read the voter handbook, the endorsement guide provides a useful means for preparing your own ballot cheat sheet, simply by aligning yourself with the groups that most reflect your views.

Example: the guide shows clearly that Prop. 16, the zillion dollar initiative financed by the greedheads at PG&E, which is aimed at killing in the crib any new attempts to approve public power in the state,  is opposed by all right thinking people everywhere; virtually everyone on the list except –- surprise, surprise — the state Chamber of Commerce, the Republican party, the conservative California Taxpayers Association and the corporate-dominated Bay Area Council (we’re not sure how the L.A. Daily News, none of whose readers are served by PG&E, got in there) — is agin it.

And Prop. 14, the open primary initiative, which has set off a furious, dithering debate among members of the High-Powered Calbuzz Executive Board of Senior Executives and Maintenance Engineers, is backed by almost every newspaper editorial board in the state — but opposed by every political party and union on the list.

We figure that anything the Republicans and Democrats agree is terrible might be really good, although the determinative signifier for us, as usual, is the AARP, which casts an “aye” vote on Prop. 14.

Life in imitation of art: Not since the Great Tiger Woods Mistress Count have we wasted as much time cruising the internets as we’ve frittered away in recent days following every twist and turn of South Carolina’s Nikki Haley (maybe-maybe-not) Sex Scandal.

In the wake of the infamous Argentina-Appalachian Trail dalliance of Mark Sanford, Will Folks, a political blogger and former aide to the Palmetto State governor, has offered up a bizarre confession in which he admits to a purported affair with Haley, a state representative who’s the Palin-Tea Party favorite to succeed the Luv Guv.

Folks, who’s been backing Haley in the governor’s race, on Monday put up a post on his FITSNews.com blog (“Unfair. Imbalanced.”) that he’d had “an inappropriate physical relationship” with state Rep. Haley, saying that he was doing so only because he’d been “pressured and threatened” by unnamed political consultants and reporters, and he’s too chivalrous to say more:

I will not be discussing the details of that relationship, nor will I be granting any additional interviews about it to members of the media beyond what I have already been compelled to confirm.

Well, not exactly.

After Haley immediately and categorically denied the allegation, FITSNews.com started dribbling out a non-stop series of archived text messages, cell phone records and hints of “compromising” photos in an effort to stand up his claim; to date, his documentation has gone right up the edge of confirmation but not quite made it.

As the muggy Body Heat mystery of this incestuous redneck political drama deepens, there are a few things that have become clear:

1-There’s something really weird in the water in South Carolina.

2-Haley is what you call your Rather Striking Woman, while Folks looks like an oaf, not your most common recipe for sultry romance.

3-The non-stop posts that FITSNews keeps putting up have seriously spiked his traffic.

In light of this, Calbuzz is now duty-bound to inform our readers that Dr. P.J. Hackenflack, our staff psychiatrist, recently confessed, in the course of an emotional and tearful meeting with our stockholders, that he for some time has carried on “illicit, horny-toad relations” with at least one prominent candidate for an important statewide office in California.

Unfortunately, we can’t tell you more. But keep checking back (and click on the ads!) anyway, just in case we do.

Read of the week: E.J. Dionne on how red state anti-government warriors learned to stop worrying and love socialism.

Lingerie to Lite Gov: Top 10 Quotes of the Week

Saturday, February 13th, 2010

From the Saints’ Superbowl win to the smash mouth campaigns for governor and Senate and the Assembly’s goal line stand against Abel Maldonado’s nomination for lite gov, it was a week of thrills and spills in spectator sports of all kinds. Here’s a look at the most memorable things anyone said about what happened.

We’re going to take a hiatus on this issue.
- Jim Wunderman, CEO of the Bay Area Council, pulling the plug on the group’s planned initiative to convene a state constitutional convention, because of a lack of money.

It would mean a great deal to Bikram if, in lieu of giving him a birthday gift,that you instead make a donation to Jerry Brown’s 2010 Exploratory Committee for Governor of the State of California.
–Invitation for a birthday celebration tonight from multi-millionaire yoga mogul Bikram Choudury, creator of Bikram Yoga, in which practitioners – including California’s Attorney General – perform a series of poses in a room heated to 105 degrees.

It’s just incredible. The Legislature is broken. It’s chaos.
Sen. Abel Maldonado, discovering news that stays news, one day after the Assembly, more or less, rejected Gov. Schwarzmuscle’s nomination of him as lieutenant governor.

It is now very clear that the entire Republican Party must unite behind Meg’s campaign. We have an outstanding party standard bearer. Since last summer, Meg has led among GOP voters in every independent poll by enormous margins, and those same polls show that she is the strongest Republican candidate against Jerry Brown.
Former Governor and Meg Whitman campaign chairman Pete Wilson, attempting to cancel the June 7 primary, and forgetting the oldest cliches in politics:  “The only poll that matters is the one on election day.”

I’ll pay you with a pair of autographed panties.
Angelyne, famous-for-being famous L.A. billboard model and newbie candidate for governor, thanking Chronicler Joe Garafoli for explaining the meaning of the word “secession” to her.

What did Tom Campbell know and when did he know it?
Julie Soderlund, campaign manager for Carly Fiorina, getting waaayyy carried away with an unconfirmed report that rival Campbell cut a sleazy deal with Whitman to switch from the campaign for governor to Senate.

Just one thing – what’s NASCAR?
Calbuzzer Cicero, channeling Steve Poizner after our memo recommending The Commish go down-scale blue collar in his bid for the Republican nomination for governor.

Before last night, I never really understood how horrible and unfair it must be to be a man. Having a job. Dressing oneself and taking out the recycling. Practicing basic human hygiene. A devastating existence made more trying by the presence of a demanding, overbearing woman. You might even have to carry her lip balm. The horror.
–Huffpost bloggers Jehmu Greene and Shelby Knox bemoaning a series of anti-feminist Superbowl ads featuring henpecked husbands.

Change out of that skirt, Jason.
–Sportscaster Jim Nantz, narrating a Superbowl Ad in which a guy goes lingerie shopping with his girlfriend instead of watching the game.

We were very impressed with the job her hand did at the Tea Party Convention.  And we said to ourselves, let’s give Sarah Palin’s hand a job.
–Fox News Chief Roger Ailes, as channeled by Andy Borowitz, extending a job offer to the former Republican vice-presidential nominee after she used her left palm as a cheat sheet before a live interview.