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Posts Tagged ‘Richie Ross’



Cacophony of Whining; Still Computing Latino Votes

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

So much for Josiah Royce.

It was barely a week ago that Jerry Brown delivered a terrific inaugural address in which he cited the “philosophy of loyalty” propounded by Royce, a California pioneer sage, and called for a new era in our troubled state, shaped by communitarian shared sacrifice.

“We can overcome the sharp divisions that leave our politics in perpetual gridlock, but only if we reach into our heart and find that loyalty, that devotion to California above and beyond our narrow perspectives,” Brown said.

His speech won widespread kudos, from the bar stools of Sacramento saloons to the editorial pages of newspapers around the state, for its inspiring tone, its commonsense ideas and its urgent call for an end to the brain-dead politics of  rote partisanship and polarization.

But all the expressions of earnest and emotional admiration for the values and principles declaimed by Brown evaporated in an instant on Tuesday, as pols and special interests across the spectrum started screaming to the heavens as soon as he released his budget plan.

As promised, Brown provided a full and honest accounting of the state’s budget woes, along with a smart and balanced plan for easing them, free of the  full menu of cheap tricks, phony fixes and fiscal sleights of hand employed for years to cover up the mess.

Turns out shared sacrifice means: You sacrifice and I’ll take what’s left.

From dawn to dusk on Tuesday, a cacophony of caterwauling assailed the Calbuzzer Gmailbox, as one lobbyist, elected hack and do-gooder after another urgently let us know that business owners/children/university professors/old folks/real estate developers/union workers/your constituency goes here were under attack, to the great peril of the very future of the republic.

It must be said that some level-headed lawmakers and groups evinced at least a modicum of open-mindedness and willingness to do their far share in their early responses to Brown’s proposal. But a leisurely stroll through the thick wad of budget reaction messages, aided by a splendid compendium assembled by the Sacbee’s resourceful Torey (The Tulip) Van Oot, disclosed that most of these special interest pleadings followed the same script:

1-An introductory lie claiming that the sender “understands the tough choices facing the administration.” (In some cases, they “appreciate” the aforementioned tough choices instead, an equivalent canard, given that they wouldn’t have sent the damn email if they actually did).

2-A follow-up, phony compliment for Brown, declaring that the governor  no doubt did his best under the circumstances (despite his total short-sightedness in not recognizing the over-arching importance of the constituency now seeking special attention).

3-A hyperbolic assertion that this constituency, unlike all others, is being unfairly picked upon and so must be spared the cavalier and benighted treatment that Brown, apparently unaware that this issue is of “the highest priority,” is attempting to deliver.

So UC President Mark Yudof solemnly pronounced it “a sad day for California,” while Lakesha Harris of AFSCME Local 32 called the plan “devastating to the workers we represent” and state schools chief  Tom Torlakson protested that, as schools are “scraping the bottom of the barrel,” the governor’s budget proposal “extends the financial emergency” facing education (never mind that K-12 was about the only area largely spared).

On the other side, the head of the California Redevelopment Association insisted Brown meant to “cripple the local economy in cities and counties statewide” because redevelopment boards might have to compete with local agencies for budget dollars, as Board of Eek member George Runner decried the proposed abolition of the “enterprise zone” business scam as “irresponsible” and newbie GOP state senator Doug LaMalfa worked himself into a full lather to thunder that Brown “must remove government’s boot heel from business’s throat.”

Sheesh.

Actually, LaMalfa’s over-the-top rhetoric captured the spirit of most Republican legislators, whose big contribution to the important budget debate is to sit around in a circle, beat the ground with sticks and endlessly chant “No taxes, no taxes,” in a manner that recalls nothing so much as Jack and the boys in “Lord of the Flies” tromping through the woods and shouting “Kill the pig. Slit her throat. Spill her blood.”

Hey, we understand that Republicans need to oppose taxes on general principle. But nobody’s asking them to support taxes – just to give the voters of California the right to make the decision about them. What’s the big problem here, fellas? Inquiring minds want to know.

People! Listen up! Yes, you’re getting screwed. No duh. So is everyone else. Know why? BECAUSE CALIFORNIA HAS A BUDGET DEFICIT THAT’S MORE THAN $25 BILLION! So take the hit and let voters have the final say about keeping the tax rates now in place. Otherwise, you might as well start packing your bags for Mississippi.

How many Latinos on the head of a pin: Figuring out how many Hispanics are registered to vote in California and how many actually voted in any particular election is about 95% science and 5% art. The data are not actually in the Secretary of State’s voter file but the science is simple: there are sophisticated name screeners that identify Spanish surnames and are sensitive enough to distinguish Latinos from Portuguese and Filipinos.

The art is fuzzier. For example, how or whether to count foreign-born voters – say those born in Mexico or Latin America but who do not have a Spanish surname — is a fair question about which pollsters, consultants and advocates may honestly disagree.

It doesn’t make a big difference – about 1% is all. But for those who are intensely interested, it matters.

Calbuzz was lucky enough the other day to receive from pollster Jim Moore the first analysis of the voter file from November 2010 that had been done by Bob Proctor of Statewide Information Systems, one of the most respected voter file vendors in California. It showed that of 10,211,396 voters who cast ballots, 1,627,967 or 16% were cast by Hispanics – that is, those identified as Hispanic by a name screener.

Our Department of Weights, Measures and Obscurata thought it was important to make the data public as quickly as we could, in hopes of knocking down what appeared to be on its way to becoming myth: the incorrect assertion that 22% of the electorate had been Latinos, as found in the Edison Research exit poll that the networks and major news outlets had commissioned.

After our post appeared, however, consultant Richie Ross (who had written a piece for us citing the 22% figure in the exit poll) informed us that we’d been both right and wrong. The percentage of Latinos wasn’t 22%, he agreed – it was 17%.

How’d he come up with that? From an analysis of the voter file done by Political Data Inc. of Burbank, the fountain of all voter file data, that he’d asked for. It showed that of 10,237,578 voters who cast ballots, 1,634,244 or 16% were cast by Latinos – as identified by their name screener. But the number was 1,740,878 or 17% when taking into account those who were foreign-born but who had not been counted by the name screener.

So who’s right? First of all, according to the Secretary of State’s Statement of Vote, 10,300,392 voters cast ballots or voted by mail in the election. Both of the data vendors had vote totals less than 1% off from the official count. No problem there.

By counting foreign-born Latinos who were not picked up by the name screener, the PDI total – 17% — takes into account the possibility of a Latina, born perhaps in Mexico, who is married to an Anglo and has taken his last name. (Like the wife of a consultant we know, for example.)

On the other hand, the name screener (which both systems employ) already takes into account a non-Spanish-surnamed woman who has taken the name of a Spanish-surnamed man to whom she is married. She’s counted as a Latina whether she is or not.

Since the name screener is common to both systems and computes the same result – 16% — and already is increased by women who take the Spanish surnames of their husbands, it seems to us that it risks over-counting Latinos to also add in the foreign-born Latinos who were not picked up by the name screener.

Calbuzz — dancing, as we are, on the head of a pin — goes with 16%. (Until we hear a better argument.)

Richie Ross Talks to Dead People; Garry’s Oops

Friday, December 24th, 2010

As an engaging and entertaining literary form, political memoirs typically run the gamut from A to B. Witness recently published, self-serving snoozers from alleged authors such as George Bush, Sarah Palin and Meg Whitman.

In contrast to these banal and bromidic tomes, California political consultant Richie Ross has just penned “My Letters to Dead People,” a lively little volume which is one-part personal history and one-part professional perspective about some of the biggest personalities and events of the last four decades in state politics.

As befits an operative who not only once ran a guy for governor by chronicling his weight loss online, but who also organized a campaign for county supervisor by having the candidate rebuild an old lady’s house, Ross’s book is an original.

Quirky and eclectic, it’s a kind of kaledioscopic, quick-cut narrative framed as a series of wish-I’d-had-a-chance-to-tell-you messages to three-dozen members of the deceased community.

His  recollections and reflections are addressed to the politically famous and  influential (Cesar Chavez, Phil Burton and Jess Unruh); the infamous and the victimized (Michael Prokes, the tormented onetime spokesman for the Rev. Jim Jones and Chandra Levy, the  murdered intern of former Rep. Gary Condit, a longtime client); the unpretentious and unnoted (his own parents and the unborn baby of a farm worker whose miscarriage motivated him to push for agriculture laws banning toxins in the fields).

It’s written in a crisp style, packed with anecdotes and private remembrances recounted by a veteran backroom player. The letters are chatty conversational essays which on one level trace Ross’s personal evolution from idealistic Catholic seminarian (“I never remembered wanting to be anything but a priest”) to hard-ass sardonic insider (“Ross, your job is to spend all the fucking money you can get your hands on to keep me as speaker,” he recalls Willie Brown telling him, in the note addressed to Unruh).

Beyond this, however, it also provides a full-tilt, historic tour of California’s ever-changing political landscape: “The other day I had dinner with Jerry Brown – he’s running for governor again,” Ross informs the ghost of his ex-boss Leo McCarthy, another former Speaker. “I gotta tell you his crazy ideas are better than the no-ideas government we’ve had.”

Ross enjoys a well-earned reputation as a brash, cynical and ruthless political warrior, and it’s on full display, as in his farewell message to the erstwhile Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo, whose cops routinely arrested and beat on him and his union colleagues sent to that city in the early 1970s to work on UFW boycotts and protests.

Dear asshole,
You’re dead. I’m not. You were such a fucking creep when you were police chief I can’t believe that decent people would elect you mayor…you fucking fuck.

But he also employs a surprisingly poignant and emotional voice that shows the flip side of the ferocity with which he plays hardball. In his letter to the slain Harvey Milk, for example, Ross expresses regret for the take-no-prisoners approach he took in managing Art Agnos’s winning bid for the Assembly in the famous “Harvey Milk vs. The Machine” campaign in 1976.

At the time it was all about survival for me, a roof over my wife and kids’ head. But for you, it was about something much bigger. Looking back, I know that now…

I feel bad today about running around the city at night, tearing down your campaign signs. At the time it was fun. Me and another guy would spot one of your signs on a telephone pole, pull over, he’d squat down, I’d climb on his shoulders, he’d stand up, and tear down your sign. What the fuck, Harvey.  Didn’t your guys ever figure out that they needed to put them up another two or three feet and you’d have won the sign war?

But it was like were being the bullies. And I hate bullies.

The basic premise of the book, Ross told us, “is an attempt at capturing our era and also exposing folks to the power of writing letters (to dead people) themselves.” As part of the roll-out, those who write such letters can post them on the website for the book.

Full disclosure: Richie is a longtime friend of, and occasional contributor to, Calbuzz. All that aside, for political junkies, his book is a truly interesting and funny good read.

It’s available at Amazon, and he’ll also be signing copies at Sacramento’s Chicory Coffee Shop at 3 p.m. on Monday, January 3 (inauguration day) with proceeds going to the United Farm Workers. Calbuzz says check it out.

Garry Owns His Error (Not Really): When we saw the headline on his commentary at Capitol Weekly – “OK, I was wrong about the elections” – we thought our friend, Democratic consultant Garry South, was going to explain how wrong he’d been throughout the election season to constantly suggest (without ever saying so exactly in public) that Meg Whitman was going to kick Jerry Brown’s ass because Krusty was running an underfunded, understaffed, lackadaisical, meandering, arrogant and amateurish campaign.

But in his tongue-and-cheek article, Garry merely argues that California has become too Democratic for a Republican to win statewide and he “apologizes” to the GOP for suggesting they field a diversity ticket (which they did to no avail). It’s the same argument Whitman Field Marshals Mike Murphy and Rob Stutzman have been peddling, as if to say nothing they could have done would have made any difference because California is too blue.

We don’t buy it. Pete Wilson and Arnold Schwarzenegger demonstrated that if they appeal to the middle-of-the-road California voters Republicans can indeed get elected statewide at the top of the ticket. eMeg and Sister Carly the Fiorina didn’t do that on a host of strategically crucial issues, especially immigration and the environment, which matter mightily to Latinos and independents.

Meanwhile Brown — by intelligence or necessity, take your pick — ran the right campaign, with the right messages on the money he had (with more than a little help from labor over the summer) and with the timely appearance of Nicky Diaz, eMeg’s housekeeper.

By arguing that the election was only a matter of political geography, South, Murphy and Stutzman let the Armies of eMeg and Hurricane Carly (and themselves) off the hook too easily.

BTW: When lots of others were predicting that Barbara Boxer would lose to Fiorina, Garry wrote a piece for Politico more than two months before the election, telling why he believed Babs would win. And she did.

Untold Story: How the Latino Vote Hit Critical Mass

Monday, November 15th, 2010

By Richie Ross
Special to Calbuzz

Back in 1992, the first “year of the woman,” both Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein were on the ballot for election to the United States Senate.  They both won.  The Los Angeles Times exit poll calculated that they each received 52% of the Latino vote.

In 1994, then-Governor Pete Wilson put Proposition 187 on the ballot.  It was the nation’s first anti-immigrant initiative.  The hallmark of the campaign was the famous television ad with images of undocumented people running across the border.  The announcer intoned, “They keep coming.”

If he only knew!

In the just concluded election, Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer captured 65% or 80% of that vote (depending on which exit poll you believe). More importantly, it was a bigger pie – 3 times larger than back in 1992. It was one of the major factors that kept the red tide out of California – and a factor that will only get bigger.

Here’s the story of how that happened…

Beginning in 1994, California began to change.  The numbers of immigrants who became citizens grew exponentially each year.  According to the Department of Homeland Security’s statistics, prior to Proposition 187, the number of new citizens in California each year had been a steady 50,000 to 60,000.  In 1994, the number jumped to 118,567.  In 1995, it was 171,285.  In 1996, 378,014. You get the idea.

Also in 1994, a husband and wife team, Miguel Contreras the leader of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and Maria Elena Durazo, then the leader of the Hotel Workers in Los Angeles (now Miguel’s successor at the Labor Fed) began something new: they linked organizing immigrant workers to organizing immigrant voters.  And they hired a young immigrant-rights firebrand, Fabian Nunez, as he protested Proposition 187 by carrying the Mexican flag down Broadway in Los Angeles.

Nunez served as L.A. Labor’s political director and eventually became the Speaker of the Assembly.

The campaigns we developed broke new ground, organized new union workers, and increased the political impact Latino voters have had on California politics – simultaneously tripling their number of registered voters, increasing the Democratic share of that vote by 50%, and doubling the percentage of the total votes cast in California from Latinos.

Through the rest of the 1990′s our campaigns focused on legislative races in Los Angeles.  We succeeded.  But it was all small.

In 2000, Maria Elena pushed for something bigger…

In 2000, our message was controversial (until it worked).  “If you want to make a difference, voting isn’t enough.  Don’t bother voting unless you sign our pledge to get 100% of your family to vote.”  Latino turnout rose… and accounted for 14% of the votes cast according to the State’s voter registration and voting history records.

In 2005, over dinner with some friends, Maria Elena heard a successful Latina businesswoman bemoaning the low Latino turn-out for Antonio Villaraigosa in March of 05. The woman told Maria Elena that it was “Imperdonable” (Unforgivable).

The City’s voting records show that the L.A. Labor Fed’s “Imperdonable” campaign increased Latino turn-out in the Mayoral run-off by 50%.

In May this year, Maria Elena called us together.  Her message was clear.  Latinos would end up voting for Jerry Brown.  That would be easy.  The challenge was how to motivate them to vote at all.

Fortunately, the Republicans in Arizona wrote a new law.

When we conducted focus groups, people brought the issue up to us.  When we polled it, we found 93% of California Latinos knew about it, 84% said it was more about profiling than immigration, and 73% thought it could happen in California. That view became more  believable when Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner in the Republican primary tried to outdo one another as anti-immigrant politicians.

So instead of a campaign where our candidate was a 72-year-old white guy, Maria Elena and the L.A Fed ran a campaign on behalf of “Tuesday” – Martes – and against an opponent – Arizona – that research told us Latinos were motivated to defeat.

And Fabian?  After he met with Maria Elena this summer, he decided to fund the “Martes Si, Arizona No!” television ad campaign. [Which not coincidentally included a pitch in favor of Prop. 25, the measure for a majority vote on the state budget -- Ed]

Latinos accounted for 22% of the votes cast in California.  None of us know how much bigger this trend will be.  We do know that Pete Wilson’s TV ad got one thing right… they keep coming… to the polls.

Editor’s note: For more on labor’s 2010 mailings to Latinos, including prayer cards of Jerry Brown with Mother Teresa and Cesar Chavez, check this out.

Excloo: Inside Labor’s Bid to Boost Latino Turnout

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

A coalition of Southern California and Central Valley labor groups plans to spend $2.5 million over the next three weeks on a coordinated, Spanish language multi-media campaign to boost turnout among occasional Latino voters for the Nov. 2 election.

Led by Maria Elena Durazo, executive secretary-treasurer of the L.A. County Federation of Labor, and former Speaker Fabian Nunez, the group has invited Spanish language news organizations to a press conference today to unveil details of the program, which includes TV advertising, a direct mail effort and a get-out-the-vote operation.

Based on the slogan “Martes (Tuesday), si, Arizona, no” the campaign uses the specter of Arizona’s controversial law targeting illegal immigrants as a pitch for Latinos to vote because “Los republicanos quieren traer la ley de Arizona a California” – Republicans want to bring Arizona’s law to California.

Although the group is operating independently of Jerry Brown’s campaign,  their effort strongly attacks his GOP rival Meg Whitman. One mail piece places her photo alongside shots of Sarah Palin and Arizona Governor Jan Brewer;  above a headline on another piece reads, “Meg Whitman ayudo a Sarah Palin y Sarah Palin* apoyo la ley de Arizona” – Whitman helped Palin, who supports Arizona’s law.

Another piece is a letter signed by labor leader Durazo that calls Brown “un verdadero amigo a nuestra communidad” – a true friend to our community – and says that Whitman has two faces – “tiene dos caras” and describes her as attacking immigrants in English while saying on Spanish television that she is a friend – “En la television Ingles ataca a los immigrantes. En la television espanol Whitman dice que ella es neustra amiga.”

The letter is to be folded around one of several holy cards – one of them features a photo of a young Brown walking with Cesar Chavez and another has an image of him speaking to Mother Teresa; each includes an inscription saying that “El democrata Jerry Brown ayudo” Chavez and Mother Teresa  – the Democrat helped the two Latino community icons.

The voter turnout campaign is being managed by consultant Richie Ross, who said it is based on focus group and polling research of “occasional Latino voters,” defined as those who did not vote in the 2006 election for governor, but did vote in the February 2008 Democratic primary battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

“That was the sweet spot,” Ross said. “We tried to pick a universe where we had a high chance of success and the numbers could make a difference.”

The campaign is being financed jointly by the L.A. labor group, the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council and political committees controlled by Nunez and by Democratic state Senator Dean Florez, who represents a large swath of the Central Valley. It targets 500,000 households, with a goal of bringing an additional 200,000 Latino voters to the polls.

Among the elements:

–A 30-second spot that cuts between images of protests against the Arizona law and campaign leaders Durazo and Nunez saying directly into the camera that Republicans are attacking schools and families, and that Latinos should vote to prevent Arizona-style legislation in California.

–A series of mail pieces, to include two posters, two postcards and Durazo’s letter with the holy cards inserted. One of the postcards shows a photo of a triumphant Whitman laughing with fists clenched and arms raised: “Nunca!” reads a large headline – Never! One of posters pictures Whitman, Palin and Brewer over a headline that reads, “Estas Republicanas estan unidas en contra de nosotros” – These Republican women are united against us.

–A labor-backed ground operation that includes phone banking and door-to-door organizing in L.A., San Diego, Imperial and Central Valley counties.

Latinos represent about one-third of California’s adult population, but only about 18 percent of likely voters, according to a study released last month by the Public Policy Institute of California. PPIC reported that about 65 percent are registered Democrats, 18 percent Republicans and 14 percent decline-to-state independents, and that about 75 percent live in Southern California or the Central Valley.

The labor group’s goal of bringing an additional 200,000 Latino voters to the polls, if successful, could represent as much as 3-4 percent of the November electorate, depending on overall turnout, a number that could be determinative in the tight Whitman-Brown race.

The 500,000 households were targeted after focus groups, conducted in June, that included second and third generation Latinos as well as more recently arrived citizens and that focused on discussions of the Arizona law. A poll, including 600 Latino respondents defined as occasional voters, followed in July.

As described by Ross, the findings showed that 93 percent of those surveyed had heard of the Arizona law, 86 percent opposed it and 73 percent believe a similar law can occur in California.

The research for the campaign was done months before the story broke about Nicky Diaz, Whitman’s undocumented housekeeper, and none of the campaign materials refer to that controversy.

“Nicky may convince some people to vote for Jerry Brown,” Ross said. “We’re just trying to convince them to get up and go vote that day.”

P.S. Harold Meyerson has a good take on the importance of Latino turnout here.

*Department of Corrections: In an early version of this post, we mistakenly omitted the second use of Palin’s name in the Spanish text of the mailer, which confused the meaning of the sentence. The mailer reads: “Meg Whitman ayudo a Sarah Palin, y Sarah Palin apoyo la ley de Arizona.”  Translation: Meg Whitman helped Sarah Palin, who supports Arizona’s law. Sorry for the confusion.

Brown Proposes Baseball Arbitration Budget Plan

Monday, September 20th, 2010

On a recent appearance on “Good Day L.A.,” the popular morning show on KTTV Fox 11, Jerry Brown endorsed the framework of the “Baseball Arbitration Budget Plan,” first proposed by political consultant Richie Ross on Calbuzz.

The proposal is designed to short circuit the annual bitter and sustained gridlock over California’s finances, if no compromise budget agreement can   be reached in a specified time; at that point, Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature would each put forth their own version of a spending plan and both plans would be presented to voters, who would select one or the other as the state’s fiscal blueprint for the next budget cycle.

This either-or process is similar to that used by Major League Baseball to resolve contract disputes between players and teams.

In the version presented by Brown, responding to questions posed by Good Day L.A.’s Jillian Reynolds and Dorothy Lucey (pictured below), the governor could also prepare a third budget document, which he said should be on a special election ballot.

The interview took place last Wednesday,  with Brown motor-mouthing as if someone had spiked his green tea. The interview began with a discussion of the TV ads being aired by him and Republican rival Meg Whitman; the hosts did not appear to be aware of  Ross’s Calbuzz proposal.

Reynolds: …but when do you get to the (crosstalk), I hear you, but I’d like to hear the issues.

Brown: Okay, the issue, the issue is, that the state, the Republicans and the Democrats can’t work together, they’re just in polar opposite positions. One says ‘don’t cut,’ one says, ‘don’t tax.’

Lucey: But how are you going to pull them together? I asked Meg this, Schwarzenegger obviously couldn’t do it.

Brown: I’ll tell you how. The governor usually waits and releases their budget in January. Then they come back in June and start talking to the leadership. I’m going to start in November – the week after the election I’m going to call all 120 (legislators) together and I’m going to work them, every day if I have to, until we get the budget solution .

If they can’t agree on a solution, I’m going to ask the Republicans, ‘give me your best offer,’ and I’m going to ask the Democrats, ‘give me yours,’ and I’m going to put mine in – we’ll go to the people and get a vote at a special election. (cross talk) That’s how we’ll resolve it.

Majority rules: Brown also confirmed that he supports Proposition 25 on the November ballot. The initiative calls for the current requirement that a budget must receive a two-thirds vote of the Legislature, a state constitutional provision dating to the FDR era, be reduced to a majority vote.

Following up Brown’s special election remarks, Steve Edwards, the program’s host, noted that Whitman opposes Prop. 25, which Brown answered by saying:

Well, she doesn’t believe in the majority. I’m going to vote for it. It’s not a cure-all, but I say, ‘yes, the majority rules in this country’ – that’s the budget, not taxes – and when the people of Oakland voted for more money by 70 percent, Meg said the people of Oakland were wrong, they don’t have a right to vote because Meg says, ‘I know best,’ and I don’t think that’s the right answer.

Taken together, Brown’s statements on Prop. 25, and on the statewide vote process for resolving budget deadlock, represent the most substantive commentary by either candidate about their ideas for resolving the now-routine delays in passing a budget; in the current impasse, the longest in history, Schwarzenegger and the Legislature do not seem close to a solution nearly three months past the July 1 start of the fiscal year.

The Ross Reform Plan: Ross, a longtime Sacramento-based consultant, first raised the innovative idea of using a baseball arbitration-style popular vote to settle partisan differences over the budget in a Calbuzz guest commentary on May 18, 2009.  In his piece, he noted that Governor Schwarzenegger had used the process in helping to resolve disputes over Indian gaming casinos between tribes and local governments.

Unlike most arbitrations, in which a neutral finder of fact weighs the two sides, looks for middle ground, then crafts a solution to impose on the parties, baseball’s version is an all-or-nothing proposition. The arbitrator looks at the final position of each side and chooses one. Each side only knows its own final position, not the other. One side’s position is chosen in its entirety. The other is rejected…

Saying he believed the idea would work best after adoption of a two-year budget cycle, Ross proposed three steps that would follow:

2. Start the fiscal year on December 1. There’s nothing magical about the current July 1 start. The Feds start in October. A lot of businesses start in January. So let’s move the state’s to December 1 of the even-numbered years.

3. Make Republicans and Democrats write a complete budget. Right now, Republicans hang on to the 2/3rds majority requirement because they say it’s the only way they can be relevant. But they never have to write a complete budget plan, they just potshot the Democrats’ plan. That’s an accountability-free zone. And Democrats tell their groups how they wish they could raise the taxes to save programs but the Republicans won’t let them.

4. Put both budgets on the general election ballot — baseball arbitration style. Neither needs a majority. The one with the most votes wins.

Voters and the “winners” will live with the outcome for two years. If we like the budget we had, we’ll reward them with re-election and another budget. If they sold us on a turkey, we’ll punish them at the polls and probably give the other side’s budget a chance.

Noting that nothing changed in Sacramento in the nearly year-and-a-half since his piece first ran, Calbuzz re-published it on August 31, under a headline that said: “Ross Baseball Budget Plan: Now More Than Ever.”

What would eMeg do: David Siders’ strong piece in Sunday’s SacBee examined the crucial question about Whitman’s candidacy: whether the command-and-control management skills of CEO are useful, or even suitable, for an executive position in government, which requires more persuasion, tact and consensus-building.

It’s instructive that during the campaign, Whitman has done plenty of bashing of the governor and legislators for being late with the budget, but offered no solutions much beyond threats to crack heads. Siders reports:

When asked in Folsom how she would address the state budget impasse, one of the most persistent problems in Sacramento, Whitman said, “I would have chained them (legislative leaders) to the desk to get this done.”

“This is about leadership,” she said.

Corzine never knew what hit him: The killer quote in the Siders piece came from recently ousted New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, who was first elected to office on bold promises that he would bring his private business skills to bear on government, after a successful career at Goldman-Sachs:

Jon Corzine, the former Goldman Sachs executive, senator and one-term governor of New Jersey told Newsweek this year that he, like Whitman, thought “the managerial skill set would be helpful.”

It wasn’t, he said.

“The idea that you’re accountable to a bottom line and to a payroll in managing a business – it gives voters the confidence that you have the right skills (to govern),” Corzine told Newsweek. “But it’s 20,000 people vs. 9 million. I don’t think candidates get the scale and scope of what governing is. You don’t have the flexibility you imagined. There’s no exact translation.”

Are you listening, Meg?