Posts Tagged ‘Jim Wunderman’

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.

Flea Market: Budget Bingo, Babs Growls, Meg Ducks

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

navaBudget winners and losers: While it’s hard to say there were any winners in the latest budget debacle, Democratic Assemblyman – and Attorney General wannabe’ – Pedro Nava certainly scored major political points.

Nava, whose Santa Barbara district would have been directly affected by passage of the governor’s proposed approval of the Tranquillon Ridge offshore oil project, led the push-back against it within the Legislature that resulted in its defeat in the Assembly on a vote of 28-to-43.

A leader of the Coastal Caucus, Nava worked furiously over the last few days to help rally more than 50 environmental organizations to pressure Democrats to oppose the measure, despite some complex internecine politics among coastal protection advocates about the project.

When the deal went down, he’d scored an impressive triumph over Arnold that is certain to raise his visibility and his political stature, as he campaigns for the Democratic nomination for AG against San Francisco D.A. Kamala Harris and a pack of fellow Assembly members.

California BudgetThe list of political losers, much easier to identify in the battle, was led by Senator Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker Karen Bass. They can’t be proud of the front-page photo in Wednesday’s L.A. Times, which pictured them looking almost star-struck, yukking it up with Schwarzenegger as they announced a budget agreement in which he took them to the cleaners. While Steinberg and Bass get all puffed up about how “responsible” and statesmanlike they were in reaching a deal, the plain fact is that they gave away the store in terms of Democratic priorities and values.

Looking at the outcome, it’s hard to believe that the Democrats enjoy huge majorities in both houses; sure the two-thirds vote makes things tough, but the Steinberg-Bass performance of caving in every time the Republicans threaten to hold their breaths until they turn blue strikes Calbuzz as little more than appeasement.

After the shameful spectacle of the Legislature pulling yet another adolescent all-nighter, deciding and disposing of heaps of substantive policy in the dead of night without a pretense of serious deliberation, all Calbuzz can say is: Richie Ross was right. Bring on baseball arbitration.


Babs Blowing It? Politico files an intriguing piece reporting angst, anxiety and concern among Capitol Hill insiders over Sen. Barbara Boxer’s handling of landmark climate change legislation in the Environment and Public Works Committee, which she chairs.

The combination of Boxer’s ideological certainty and personal abrasiveness underscore “the danger of having an outspoken partisan liberal in charge of making the kinds of compromises needed to get cap and trade through the Senate,” write Lisa Lerer and Manu Raju.

“One of the criticisms that comes down on Boxer a great deal is that she takes it to really a very personal level,” said one Democratic staffer.

As a political matter, Boxer’s success or failure in getting a climate change bill through the Senate will have a big impact on her re-election campaign next year. Characteristically, Boxer sees absolutely no merit in the views of those who criticize her performance: “That only revs up my people,” she told Politico.

EGBrown3Mayor Jerry Miracle Worker?: Now that the Chronicle has begun examining Gavin Newsom’s campaign claims about his accomplishments as mayor of San Francisco, the Oakland Tribune, armed with the resources of the mighty Media News chain, will surely want to take a look at what Jerry Brown is saying about his tenure as mayor of that city.

In Brown’s case, his mayoralty is less of a pressing issue since he’s not basing his campaign for governor on his record during those years. Still it’s worthwhile truth testing such statements as, “During his tenure as Oakland mayor, Brown successfully reversed decades of neglect and economic decay and made Oakland one of the top ten green cities in America.”

That’s one of the assertions on the Attorney General’s “Brown 2010” web site.  Other claims: Brown brought “10,000 new residents to the heart of the city” and created “a new urban vitality of art galleries, restaurants and festivals” while “personally” founding the Oakland School for the Arts and the Oakland Military Institute.

Oakland: City of Gold? Inquiring minds want to know.

Historic summit falls in forest: With local governments across California lining up to sue the state over the seizure of some $5 billion in the budget, it’s instructive to note that five hundred local officials, representing the cities, counties and school boards hardest hit by California’s budget mess, managed to slip in and out of Sacramento last weekend and  miraculously escape notice by the hyper-vigilant forces of the political press corps.

The state’s first-ever “Local Government Summit,” organized by a coalition of top-rank advocacy groups*, convened at the Hyatt Regency for two days of working meetings aimed at forging a collective strategy for navigating both the current economic mess and the state’s burgeoning movement for political reform.

“It was the first time in history these groups gathered together,” said Santa Barbara county Supervisor Janet Wolf, who flew in for the event. “It was something like I’ve never been to before.”

Among other briefers, the group heard from Fred Silva of California Forward and Jim Wunderman of the Bay Area Council, the two organizations pushing the hardest to fix the state’s broken system of governance; the locals also heard about a new Maslin, Maullin and Associates poll on statewide attitudes toward state and local government.

The group concluded by identifying four key reforms on which there was broad agreement – changing term limits, reducing the two-thirds vote requirement for local taxes, requiring ballot initiatives to identify funding sources and protecting local funds from raids by the state, that last an issue that gained considerable importance with the new budget agreement, which seizes some $2 billion in local redevelopment funds, property and gas taxes.

Despite the high stakes for local government in both the budget crisis and reform movement, the summit was blacked out in the media; except for one brief advancer in the Bee’s Capitol Alert feed, the only media coverage we found was in a few small, community papers.**

* (The summit was organized by the League of California Cities, the California State Association of Counties and the California School Boards Association).

** Timm (Old School) Herdt, the indefatigable Capitol correspondent for the Ventura County Star, notes that he reported the conference, folding his stuff into a Monday situationer on local government outrage about the budget. Calbuzz regrets the oversight.

Hold that line: We’re gushingly grateful to our friends over at Flashreport for their links to our stuff, but respectfully object to the teaser they attached to our recent post about governor wannabe Meg Whitman kicking another gazillion dollars into her campaign: “Clearly these guys don’t like eMeg. LOL.” We like the LOL part all right, but where in the name of Zeus did they ever get the notion we don’t like Her Megness?


Fact is, we don’t know enough about Whitman to like her or dislike her. She could be the incarnation of Mother Teresa for all we know, since her handlers have spent months rebuffing our efforts to interview their candidate, treating the broken down old newspaper hacks at Calbuzz like the second coming of Woodward and Bernstein. Their stance leads us to employ a journalistic shibboleth straight from the editorial writers handbook: What does Whitman have to hide?

Sure, we’ve proferred eMeg a few gentle love taps, not because of who she is or what she stands for, but precisely because she hasn’t provided enough information about herself or what she stands for so that a reasonable person can make an informed judgment about her. Meg Checchi instead seems determined to float about the gritty give-and-take of politics, air months of ads picturing her with her horse and then parachute into the governor’s mansion as the natural-born heiress to Ronald Reagan.

How Con Con Could Change Prop. 13

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

jimwundermanAfter reading, at Capitol Weekly and Calitics, that the Bay Area Council’s proposal for a constitutional convention would take Proposition 13 off the table, Calbuzz was limbering up to smack the BAC around as a bunch of chicken-livered wusses.

But first we thought we’d do what we like to refer to as “actual reporting.”

And after a wide-ranging investigation, involving two telephone calls and a couple of emails, Calbuzz determined that while the council is suggesting limits on how the convention could change Prop. 13, it is not suggesting a complete ban on changes, as the Capitol Weekly headline says: “Constitutional overhaul would omit Prop. 13 property tax changes.” .

You can understand the confusion, however. There are at least three key elements of Prop. 13 that are often discussed in debates about amending the 1978 tax cut measure: the process for fixing residential rates; the possibility of a “split roll” that assesses residential and commercial properties differently; the two-thirds vote requirement for new taxes.

Here’s what the BAC’s working draft of a convention call says:

“Delegates to the convention shall be prohibited from considering and propose (sic) revisions to the Constitution that would affect
a. Property taxes associated with Proposition 13.
b. Any other direct increases in taxes”

According to Jim Wunderman and John Grubb of the BAC, the proposal — a working draft document — is meant to suggest that delegates to the constitutional convention would not have authority to propose property tax increases as part of their agenda. In other words, property tax rates as established by Prop. 13 would not be on the table.

This means that, at least in the council’s version of a convention call, delegates could not change Prop. 13’s prohibition against a tax increase except when properties change hands. So the oft-reported, two-adjoining houses-pay-very-different-tax-bills situation, in which one neighbor’s taxes are pegged to 1% of a 1975 assessment and the guy in an identical house next door pays 1% of 2009’s assessment, would not change.

Nor would the convention address the notion of splitting the property tax roll, allowing residential rates to remain in place but recalculating commercial and industrial property tax rates based on current values. “It’s an equity issue,” says Wunderman, the BAC chief exec – speaking for his corporate constituents.

But the BAC proposal would not prevent convention delegates from proposing a change in the system by which local jurisdictions are now required, under Prop. 13, to obtain a two-thirds vote for special-purpose tax increases.

“Our view is that local governments don’t have enough authority to fulfill their missions and mandates,” Wunderman said. “We generally believe thresholds (for passing tax measures) should be reduced.”

Wunderman said the current proposal – which would not make property tax rates a part of a convention’s agenda – is designed to minimize political opposition on an issue that is not as serious a structural problem as others that need to be addressed. “That’s the way we see it,” he said.

How Wannabe Govs Stand on Constitution Do-Over

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

wigs_41Meg Whitman embraced the call for a constitutional convention by an influential business group Wednesday, while Republican gubernatorial rival Steve Poizner scoffed at the idea as “one more excuse” for Sacramento politicians.

Democratic front-runner Jerry Brown gave the convention call the old paddle-on-the-right, paddle-on-the-left treatment, while S.F. Mayor Gavin Newsom gussied up his longtime support for the idea with a brand new branding message. And L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, more focused on licking his wounds from a stinging surrogate election defeat, gave the world’s shortest answer when asked for his take on the constitutional remodel.

One day after California voters (well, about a quarter of them who bothered to participate) delivered a deafening roar of disapproval to Capitol electeds by overwhelmingly rejecting a propositional package of alleged budget reforms, the political atmosphere crackled with the lexicon of political change, as vows to “overhaul” and “restructure” a “failed system” and a “broken government” echoed throughout the state.

In Sacramento, the corporate good government group Bay Area Council formally unveiled their plan to call a constitutional convention for the purpose of revamping state government, the most sweeping proposal put forth on a day that politicians devoted to recalibrating California’s political zeitgeist.

jimwunderman1“If ever there was a tipping point in history, this is it,” Bay Area Council CEO Jim Wunderman told a Sacramento news conference, apparently figuring that if ever there was a day for rhetorical excess, this was it.

Wunderman brought along state senator Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, who said he would carry legislation to try to push the Legislature into convening a convention; if that fails, the council is prepared to mount an initiative campaign to do the job. A check of the groups’ web site yielded who, what, where, when and how details of the convention call, along with this third deck dinger answer to the question of “why”:

“We think it is undeniable that California’s government suffers from drastic dysfunction – our financing system is bankrupt, our prisons overflow, our water system teeters on collapse, our once proud schools are criminally poor, our democracy produces ideologically-extreme legislators that can pass neither budget nor reforms, and we have no recourse in the system to right these wrongs.”

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

Amid such grim political prognoses for the Good Ship Golden State, your crack Calbuzz political team (whose members have done more than their share of scrambling for day-after election stories) set out to survey the contenders in the 2010 governor’s race about the con-con idea, which ranks as the most ambitious reform proposal now on the public agenda.

GOP front-runner Meg Whitman, who’s been busy wooing Silicon Valley and other business groups with her CEO-to-the-rescue pitch, was swift and unequivocal in staking out her position:

“I support the concept of a constitutional convention that can update California’s governance structure. I believe it can be a catalyst for reform that helps California move forward,” eMeg said through a campaign flack. (Yo Meg! Have we mentioned that whole interview thing?)

Not so fast, countered Insurance Commissioner Poizner, who spends most of his waking hours bashing and disagreeing with Whitman:

“The state constitution was written over 100 years ago and could be improved in many ways. But the problems facing California have more to do with the mistakes of the last 100 months than the limitations of a 100 year old document,” he said in a written statement. “At this time, Sacramento doesn’t seem able to write a budget, much less a constitution. Focus on a new constitution will sadly be used by the Sacramento crowd as one more excuse they can’t do their jobs . . . My message to Sacramento is simple: do your job and then let’s talk about a new constitution.”

Tom Campbell, the third Republican in the race, sent a late night email to say he “strongly supports” the convention proposal because revisions of a “fundamental nature” are needed. One crucial constitutional change, he said, is to require ballot initiatives that call for new spending to identify the source of money needed to implement them – either a cut in an existing program or a new tax or fee; that claim should then be validated by a neutral third party, like the Legislative Counsel.

On the Democratic side, Attorney General Jerry Brown, growing more cautious in what some (we are not among them) might describe as his old age, kinda’, sorta’, maybe endorsed a constitutional convention:

“I haven’t seen it but I’m open to the idea,” Brown, who has this quaint, old school thing about taking his own calls, told Calbuzz. “I’d want to see the terms of the call and how they’re going about doing it.

“It’s an idea that ought to be considered, given the crisis and dead end that the state finds itself in,” the general added. “We need some kind of catalyst for change, that’s for sure.”

Newsom, who months ago (when it wasn’t yet fashionable) stated his support for a convention as a preferred pathway for restructuring government, was too busy rolling out a new campaign slogan – “Buck the System” – to give us a fresh quote. As Chronicle whirling dervish Carla Marinucci blogged it:

“The San Francisco mayor has sent out a fundraising letter, talking up the special election, and suggesting it underscores a populist desire for (you guessed it) change you can believe in, California-style. . . . He’s asking support to “Buck the System” — not strong enough to change that “B” to an “F,” we note — and send him some bucks for the campaign coffers.”

One inconvenient truth Newsom’s letter ignores, however, is that he actually supported Prop. 1A, the centerpiece of the disgraced quintet of measures on the special election ballot. Before launching his latest brave crusade to Stand Up to Da’ Man, in fact, Newsom told a roomful of bloggers at the Democratic convention that he had decided to back 1A because he “had to be responsible” in considering how failure of Arnold’s pet measure would impact city budgets.

(Now that he’s Bucking the System, does that mean Prince Gavin was actually being irresponsible in supporting 1A, or was his endorsement just his own special brand of insouciant, irresponsible responsibility? Inquiring minds want to know.)

Which leads us, finally, to Tony V, who may or may not run for governor – but who, if he does, better shape up his L.A. political base, which opened a can of whupass on his man in the city attorney’s race Tuesday, ignoring the mayor’s foursquare support of City Councilman Jack Weiss in favor of outsider attorney Carmen Trutanich.

When we checked in with the mayor’s office to ask if Villaraigosa supports the constitutional convention call, spokesman Matt Szabo offered the most trenchant comment of the day: “Yes.”

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.