Posts Tagged ‘Hiram Johnson’

Meyer Nails PG&E’s Prop 16; Poizner Bites eMeg

Saturday, May 1st, 2010

There’s rich irony in the fact that the man who gave California the initiative process — Hiram Johnson — fought against what was then the dominant utility in the state: the Southern Pacific Railroad. And that he’d be rolling over in his grave today to see another dominant utility — Pacific Gas and Electric Co. — using the initiative process in a naked bid to further entrench its monopoly power in half the state.

Tom Meyer’s take on Prop. 16, the June 8 primary initiative backed by $35 million from PG&E., won’t get much argument from a group of local public utilties, which are suing to get the measure off the ballot, charging that it’s an illegal effort by PG&E to destroy competition. Whether it’s illegal or not, Calbuzz is not equipped to judge. But there’s little doubt that seeking to require a two-thirds vote for communities that want to create their own public power is a pure-bred play to kill competition.

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Not so subtle: vulture picking at carrion

Poizner Flips Meg the Bird: His bird of choice just happens to be the vulture, as in “Goldman Sachs Vulture Funds” to which Steve Poizner links Meg Whitman in his first truly populist hit on Whitman in a 30-second TV spot. Calbuzz prediction: if he puts enough money behind this ad, he will take Whitman down several notches. Whether it’s enough to close the gap is doubtful, but this is the toughest ad we’ve seen out of the Poizner camp.

“This type of pathetic distortion is exactly what Republicans expect from Team Brown and it’s convincing evidence that Steve Poizner has joined it,” replied Whitman spokesvolcano Sarah Pompei. “The truth is that Jerry Brown’s union allies and Steve Poizner will say and do anything to try and defeat Meg Whitman who is the only fiscal conservative running for Governor.”

Both Sides Now: Great catch by our friend Anthony York of Capitol Weekly and the LA Times Blog who noticed that Goldman Sachs has hired Mark Fabiani to defend the investment bank’s reputation while his partner, Chris Lehane, is a principal in the  anti-Whitman group Level the Playing Field which has attacked eMeg viciously for her ties to . . .  Goldman Sachs.

A Guy Who Studies Ballot Props for Fun, Friends and No Profit

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Pete Stahl, the Cincinnatus of California, may be the only man in the state opposing Prop. 1F who is not an elected official.

The measure on the May 19 special election ballot calls for a ban on raises for state officeholders in any year when the not-so-Golden State is in deficit. At a time when California politicians rank lower in public esteem than bankers, reporters and possibly lawyers, look for 1F to pass by a margin not seen since Kim Jong-il was last re-elected Dear Leader in North Korea.

The 49-year old Stahl is a Mountain View web designer who’s devoted a fair chunk of his adulthood to closely, if not obsessively, deconstructing California initiatives, then publishing his analyses as (warning to consultants: close your eyes) a public service. He considers Prop 1F a cheap shot; his hyper-developed good government gene was deeply offended when he read about it, so he dashed off a written argument to the Secretary of State.

“Legislators won’t change their voting behavior just because of a threatened salary freeze,” reads his 48-word statement in the voter handbook. “This petty, vindictive attempt to punish the Legislature will give us no relief from budget stalemates, while unfairly penalizing innocent bystanders such as the Secretary of State and Board of Equalization.”

Innocent bystander or not, SOS Debra Bowen miffed Stahl by allowing only one business day for arguments to be submitted for the hurry-up May 19 special: “One business day to submit arguments pro and against,” he complained, in a tone that someone else might use after, oh say, witnessing a hit-and-run. “This election was really slapped together quickly.”

Stahl plans to have his views on Props. 1A-1E posted on his web site, Pete Rates the Propositions, at least a month before the election. Given that the five budget-related measures are about as complicated as string theory, it’s good to know that somebody is taking the time to actually read and understand them, unlike the legislators who put them on the ballot.

His site is a kind of Hiram Johnson treasure trove, featuring recommendations for every state ballot measure going back to 1994. Among other things, he has a “best of” section which categorizes his views on memorable props in four color-coded categories, including an annual argument on one prop that he offers in the style of a different poet, including not only Blake, Coleridge and Poe, but also Masaoka Shiki, Ernest Lawrence Thayer and Dr. Seuss.

For Prop. 44, a March 2002 initiative about disciplining chiropractors, for example, he wrote a knock-off of W.S. Gilbert:

“Here we have the very model of a modern proposition,
One to which — as you’ll discover — there’s no cogent opposition.

We need laws to stop insurance fraud by doctors chiropractic.

But a ballot proposition? Seems a bit anti-climactic.

There are laws preventing fraud for both physicians and attorneys,

But not those manipulating patients’ muscles upon gurney.”

It goes on for a while, but you get the idea.

Stahl has been distributing his dissections of props since 1980, beginning with Xeroxes of typed pages given out to friends and family members (the process of scanning in his old stuff, he says, is “going to take me the rest of my life”).

“The first issue was 20 copies,” he recalled. “By 1985 the printing went to more than 100 people. I left them on library tables, passed them out to strangers and at a Stanford football game. Most people who bothered to read it said, ‘I need this.’”

These days, he gets about 20,000 unique visitors per election cycle who check out his stuff, which he thinks will be in demand in advance of the Einstein Election on May 19. “Fewer people will vote,” he said, “But more of those who will depend on my blog.”