Archive for 2012

Live from San Diego: The Demo State Convention

Saturday, February 11th, 2012

[Brilliantly updated below] The Calbuzz National Affairs desk is in place at the San Diego Convention Center, and chairman John Burton has just hit the stage: “Jesus,” is the first word out of his mouth, as he engages in a brief wrestling match with the podium microphone.

“Good morning, Democrats, as we’re supposed to say,” he says with only slightly less enthusiasm than the crowd in the half-filled hall responds to him.

Jerry Brown is supposed to speak at 10:30 but – surprise, surprise – the Dems are already behind schedule.

There’s a small rebellion building at the press table, where members of the Sacto press corps are grumbling because Governor Gandalf snuck in and attended some breakfast at the Hilton and nobody from his staff bothered to notify the media, which is a routine screwup by the press office in its ineffectual efforts to deal with Jerry’s meandering approach to time and space.

10:40 – Burton is introducing Nancy Pelosi, saying she was the greatest Speaker next to Sam Rayburn.

Nancy: “How many times have you heard this – ‘this is the most important election of our generation’ – they just keep getting more important – – the other side keeps getting more outrageous….the road back to the House majority runs through California.”

The theme of the weekend: “Battleground California.”

Gets applause for putting a tax surcharge on the wealthy. Bigger cheer for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United (but she also told reporters yesterday that Obama is absolutely right to have a super PAC since so much is being spent against him). See her funny attack on Steven Colbert.

We’re the party of new politics, free of special interests…We will win back the House of Representatives…re-elect Sen. Dianne Feinstein, President Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden, Pelosi says. Ground-breaking stuff here.

11:00 am –– She’s gone and Burton is back up…Controller John Chiang about to take the stage…The excitement is palpable.

Chiang talking about CA’s fiscal health an initiatives…July 9, 2007, last date CA operated in the black, he says…he sits on 81 boards and authorities!…Calbuzz searching for coffee…

11:10 — Burton yells at protesters and marchers outside the hall, tells them to pipe down. “You’re not doing your cause and good, unless it’s something I agree with.” Then introduces U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, praises her vote against going into Afghanistan.

She thanks and praises Nancy, Jerry and Kamala — no mention of Gavin, who’s been everywhere here, working the caucuses and receptions like a three-legged dog.

Says Democrats are the voice of the 99% — got that OWS people?

Hey — we just noticed: the Democrats seem to be on the same message — something they seldom do — all using the battleground theme (except for Barbara Lee’s call to book the battlefield in Afghanistan). Her foreign policy seems to channel Ron Paul.

11:20 –– Burton loves Barbara Lee…”She is the goddamn best.” Now he’s introducing Assembly Speaker John Perez…

Touts his middle-class scholarship act… to make college affordable again, he says. Predicts that Republicans will oppose him..says Bob Dutton is quoted saying he’s oppose to it, “regardless of the merits.” Evokes FDR –” It’s a sobering thing to be a soldier in this cause.” Puts in word for Jerry’s tax plan.

11:32 — Burton up again…introducing Jerry Brown…defeated “moneybags Meg Whitman”…the person that’s gonna take us out of the mess we’re in…

11:34 — Jerry thanks the Democrats…as of Labor Day, Whitman outspent him 100 to 1…you don’t start firing until you see the whites of their eyes…I was raising money and collecting interest while Democrats (and IEs) kept attacking eMeg throughout the summer…

Says the Dream Act is alive despite “those radio guys” (Ken and John) whose dreams are now nightmares…mentions the Forgotten Souls of Purgatory…in the prison system, for example…keeps noting that “not one Republican” has helped with the Dream Act or realignment…

Despite the bushy eyebrows, which are back, Jerry is stoked.

The people who know about teaching are the people who teach…you gotta have tests…but this whole testing business hasn’t always been the way it is today…it was a new idea in 1977 that the SAT would be a requirement to get into University of California…tests have become an obsession…too much of a good thing becomes a bad…salt, calcium, tests…I want to put teachers in charge of the schools…(Is he speaking to the California Federation of Teachers which is backing one of the tax-raising measures that threaten his own proposal?)

Praises Tesla — not in Texas or Arizona — that’s the future…high speed rail…Spain, China, France, Germany — they can build it — it’s cheaper than the alternative — and make California the only place you can take a high speed rail up and down the state…

We have a few issues on taxes — you’ll get your marching orders on that soon enough…[Nothing else?]…Hopefully we’ll get two-thirds in the Legislature…

Overall: Lot more heat than light; tough, loud, lots of finger pointing. Nada on the only thing everybody wanted to hear about – the tax initiatives.

The minute he finished, nine reporters covering the convention dashed behind the curtain to catch him on the way out and get a comment about why he completely blew off any discussion of  why his tax measure is better than the Molly Munger or CFT proposals that threaten to crowd the ballot and kill his.

In a total chicken-shit escape, covered by security, Jerry refused even to comment substantively and rushed away from the press. What a weak look. Dem Party flack Tenoch Flores then reprimanded reporters for chasing after the governor. As if! Biggest dick of the day, however, was Steve Glazer, who tried to body block reporters and demanded to know what they were doing there behind the magic curtain. Uh, working for a living?

12:05 — Calbuzz now officially out to lunch

Upstairs from the convention hall, US. Sen. Dianne Feinstein was the main act at a lunch featuring over-cooked chicken filets with a sliced almond crust, with micro-portions of steamed broccoli, carrots and red potatoes. No sign of dessert.

DiFi’s speech, while characteristically wonky (who else would call for a new “methodology for funding modern infrastructure”), also leaned left: among other things, she called for a new federal tax on big banks, a state initiative to regulate health insurance rates and require insurance companies to make public data supporting their efforts to raise rates and, in her biggest applause line, legislation to prohibit indefinite domestic detentions of U.S. citizens (isn’t that in the Constitution somewhere?)

Best moment came at the beginning of her speech, when Feinstein noted the difficulty Republicans are having coming up with an A-list challenger to her this year; then she acknowledged the Democratic statewide officeholders in the room — “all these great leaders hopefully not wanting to run against me,” before breaking into a weird laugh that seemed a cross between Ed McMahon and Santa Claus.

Ho, ho, ho.

This news flash: “This is in fact a great democracy.” Also, DiFi hates partisan deadlock in Congress, caused by “outliers who think compromise is a dirty word.” And she’s strongly opposed to “stasis” which, she helpfully explained, “on the highway is called gridlock.”

Feinstein told us she supports Brown’s tax initiative but none of the competing measures out there.

After the speech, Difi was mobbed by folks who wanted their picture taken with her, while members of her longtime posse – Dick Blum, Bill Carrick, Jim Molinari and the incomparable Percy Pinkney – hung. It was good to see Carrick, who usually avoids Democratic conventions like smallpox, but also sad to realize he was there only because the late Kam Kuwata wasn’t to do the honors on behalf of the campaign.

Berman vs. Sherman Chapter 65: After the lunch, one high-ranking member of the National Affairs Desk asked Burton why he introduced Rep. Howard Berman from the podium, but not his chief rival in the 30th CD, Brad Sherman.

“Was he here?”

“Why was Howard at the head table and Brad wasn’t?”

“Ask Dianne.”

“Did she put together the head table?”

“Fuck you.”

A few minutes later, a second senior national affairs honcho tried again:

“How come Brad Sherman wasn’t at the head table?”

“Because he wasn’t. What’s the big fucking deal?”

“But Howard was.”

“I’ve known Howard for 45 years. His people gave a lot of money to the convention. And he sat there. Is that gonna get him a lot of votes? I don’t think so. Anybody here from the Valley? What do you guys got, a slow news day?”

“A good item.”

“The good item is I go back to the Young Democrats with Howard Berman, 1961.”

Walk off.

1:45 — State Senate majority leader Darrell Steinberg and Treasurer Bill Lockyer spoke after lunch, but we missed most of what they said because we were standing in line at Starbuck’s.

But Steinberg had a riff on how his problems trying to deal with Republicans in Sacramento makes him feel great sympathy for Obama and his failed effort to, um, transform politics. Lockyer appears to have lost some weight and also has a new dye job up top.

Our old friend Alice Germond, secretary of the DNC, is giving an old school stemwinder. So old school that she actually mentions the “L word” out loud, as she applauds “California…where liberal politics begin.”  Sean Hannity take note.

Are you kidding me dept: Germond does a shout-out for “your great Senator, Dianne FeinSTEEN.” Seriously? She’s only been in the Senate for two decades – why would you expect anyone in the Beltway to know how to pronounce her name. Alice knows better.

Speaking of liberal oration, Gavin Newsom just gave the best speech of the day, a pugnacious call for Democrats to be more aggressive in defending its principles of fairness and social justice and quit wimping out in ideological conflicts with Republicans.

“The left ends up on the right side of history” when Democrats fight instead of wilting, sez Prince Gavin, who adds a big-shout – “I want to thank the Occupy movement,” that results in a lot of younger delegates doing that wiggle your fingers in the air thing. Inquiring minds want to know: Does Gavin have more or less products in his hair than Calista?

Kamala speaks: Oops — best speech until Attorney General Kamala Harris wrapped up a terrific speech outlining how she recovered $18 billion for Californians from unscrupulous mortgage banks. I’ll tell you what’s too big to fail, she said, as the crowd leapt to their feet:

The middle class, the California Dream, the promise of public education, the greatest university system, environmental protection, inclusive society, marriage equality, the rights of women, immigrant communities, healthcare for everyone — that’s what’s is too big to fail. “And California Democrats, when we pull together, we are too big to fail.”

Huge standing ovation.

2:50 — Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones has the unenviable task of following Kamala…He’s doing a nice job and getting support for his hope someday to see single-payer health insurance…

Party controller Hillary Crosby wants to know why Democrats all just can’t get along.

State labor boss Art Pulaski exhausts the dictionary of cliches introducing Secretary of Labor and former state senator Hilda Solis.

Big boo when she mentions former governor Pete Wilson. Talk about a gimme. She also describes Burton as “modest.” Hmmm.

You gotta admire Hilda, who came from nothing to be in the White House cabinet, but we wonder: Is the Labor Secretary really just the No. 1 Business Rep for Big Labor? Good point: that while jobs have grown in the private sector under Obama, 400,000 public sector jobs have been eliminated.

Solis fired up delegates but not sure about her wisdom in calling congressional Republicans “some fools in Washington.” Doesn’t she have to testify to them sometimes?

3:30 — Burton introduces Debra Bowen as “the only person who’s ever run for secretary of state because she wanted to be secretary of state.” Bowen comes to the podium with a toothbrush for reasons that remain unclear. Since we mentioned Lockyer’s new ‘do and Gavin’s products, we should also point out, in the interest of non-sexist personal appearance commentary, that Bowen really needs a new hairstyle. Just sayin’.

Pats herself on the back for outlawing “touch screen voting in California.” The toothbrush thing becomes clear: Says we all need to teach kids to vote just like teaching them to brush their teeth. Sheesh.

Now Burton’s mumbling about “flossing after every meal.” Calbuzz is getting close to hitting the wall.

3:55 — Add union bosses: Dean Vogel, president of the CTA, is ranting. Something about Republicans “coming after our families…You come after our families – you have to go through us.”  Somebody hose this guy down.

State superintendent of schools Tom Torlakson is talking to the 12 people still in the hall. Bashing Gingrich Junior Janitor proposal: Newt doesn’t want our kids to read Charles Dickens, he wants them to live Dickens.

Burton thanks Torlakson and says he’s “definitely something else.”

We’re outta here.

Late night add: For you junkies who have to know the outcome — Berman got enough votes at the 30th CD caucus to prevent Sherman from winning the CDP endorsement. A big win for Berman.





Dems in San Diego: Calbuzz Poses the Big Questions

Friday, February 10th, 2012

Three big questions hover over this weekend’s California Democratic Party convention in San Diego:

1. Will Jerry Brown go negative on Molly Munger and the California Federation of Teachers?

2. Will Howard Berman keep Brad Sherman from getting the state party endorsement in the 30th Congressional District?

3. Will John Burton’s head explode when we ask him if his alleged ballot measure for an oil extraction tax is just a pipe dream?

Of course, there are other items to watch for: Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi might let us know what kind of resources she plans to raise for seats Democrats hope to pick up in Congress; Sen. Dianne Feinstein might tell us whether her bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act stands a prayer of passing in the Senate; Can Al Franken still tell a joke?

These are just some of the earth-shaking matters that the entire Calbuzz National Affairs, World Peace and Vodka Martini Desks will be watching for this weekend as we and about three other hopelessly addicted political glue sniffers follow the action in San Diego.

According to party spokesman Tenoch Flores, the Democrats – assembling under the banner “Battleground California” — believe they have a genuine chance of picking up a handful of congressional seats in 2012, helping to return Pelosi to the Speaker’s chair in the House. If that seems in the cards, it’s possible President Obama just might show up to rally the troops this fall in Sacramento, Stockton or San Diego instead of just using California as a cash machine in LA, San Francisco and Silicon Valley.

Get off of my lawn:  Gov. Brown, who once was chairman of the California Democratic Party (before he ran for president in 1992 and before he dropped out of the party and rejoined), will speak to some 3,000 attendees Saturday morning, although none of his top advisers have a clue what he’s planning to say.

We’ll be watching to see if he takes on the competing tax-raising ballot measures sponsored by millionaire civil rights attorney Molly Munger and another by the California Federation of teachers, California Nurses Association and the Courage Campaign?

If he does, he risks getting booed by the left-liberal activists who tend to dominate CDP conventions, which some analysts will interpret was a sign of weakness and a suggestion that Gov. Gandalf is on shaky ground. (Others, btw, might well read this like Feinstein getting booed at the party’s 1990 convention for supporting the death penalty: in other words – get it on video for a future commercial showing Brown’s independence.)

On the other hand, if Jerry passes up an opportunity to call on California Democrats to reject competing initiatives and rally behind his ballot measure, he will look like he was afraid to seek support from the party faithful.

Thus far, Brown himself has not been particularly confrontational in public about the competing tax measures. But his top adviser, Steve Glazer, has warmed to the task. “Welcome to the circular firing squad,” he said the other day. “When voters are offered choices among competing measures, it depresses the support for each of them. The likely result will be all of them failing. That’s not just Steve Glazer’s theory of political life. It’s a truism.”

He’s not alone in this assessment. Mark Baldassare, the polling guru at the Public Policy Institute of California, told the Senate Democrats pretty much the same thing last week.

As he explained to Calbuzz: “It’s all about the perception that there might be a disagreement about what’s the best way forward. All tax and spending measures are confusing to people anyway and voters are looking for some semblance of agreement among experts that respect. If they don’t get it, then it’s very easy to say `no’ to all of it.”

Berman v. Sherman: As Calbuzz reported, in the definitive piece on the 30th CD to date, this is a race between a small-p politics congressman and a big-P Politics congressional macher for what’s essentially an open seat in a newly created district.

Sherman is a grassroots guy, who works the garden clubs and local Democratic Party barbecues while Berman is a heavy-hitter in D.C., with people like Jerry Brown and Steven Spielberg pitching for him. Sherman knows your daughter’s Hebrew name; Berman has no idea who you are but gets shit done.

Sherman’s consultant, Parke Skelton, is an accomplished campaign organizer, who understands how to get delegates to rally around his guy. Berman’s team, anchored by his brother Michael, of the Berman & D’Agostino campaign consulting firm, are specialists in mass mail (Calbuzzer/delegate OC Progressive tells us the tally so far in mail for Berman is Dolores Huerta, Antonio Villaraigosa, Gloria Molina, Betty Yee and Barney Frank.)

Sherman will be trying to get at least 60% of the delegates at a Saturday evening caucus of the 30th CD to vote for him. That’s enough for the state party endorsement – a highly prized imprimatur in a primary contest – even if this is an open, top-two primary. Berman will be trying to keep Sherman under 60%.

F**k you, you f**king f**k: Back in December when Krusty was telling reporters why it is important that there be only one tax measure on the ballot – his – Democratic Party Chairman John Burton was busy filing his own tax initiative — an oil severance tax to help fund higher education.

As John Myers reported, “Burton’s proposal (PDF) is pretty straightforward, and would assess a 12.5% tax per barrel of oil, with exceptions made for low-producing oil wells. But only one-third of the tax revenues would be earmarked for for higher education (including community colleges); the remainder going back in the state’s general fund, which would ostensibly float all boats — including the general fund’s contribution to colleges and universities. For the money specifically earmarked, the Burton initiative would establish a new oversight committee for higher education that would have a say in doling out the revenues.

“`It’s a statement of what we want to do,’” says Burton, who admits that the “we” is pretty much — for now — limited to him. However, the state Democratic Party has endorsed a so-called oil severance tax.

We asked Burton, through Flores, whether he will be seeking party support (he can’t get official approval because it wouldn’t be on the next ballot after this convention) for his proposed measure.

“It’s still in the Attorney General’s office awaiting title and summary,” Burton said. But will he raise money to get it on the ballot?  Said Burton: “You can’t raise money ’till you got something to raise it for.”


Hank Plante on Prop 8: The Arc of History is Clear

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

By Hank Plante
Special to Calbuzz

Tuesday’s court victory upholding same-sex marriage in California should come as no surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention to changing public opinion on gay rights.

And judges pay as much attention to these shifting trends as the rest of us, whether they like to admit it or not.

[Photo by Shutterstock] The fact is, few issues break down by generation as much as this one, with younger millennials favoring gay rights by 20 points more than seniors.

“All we need is one good flu season,” one gay rights leader told me, “then we’ll get everything we want.”

The most recent Gallup Poll on gay marriage (done in May of 2011), found, for the first time, a majority of Americans (53%) favor same-sex marriage.

This is a broad jump from the year 2000, when the big controversy was over civil unions for gays. Vermont’s supreme court and then-Governor Howard Dean made theirs the first state to offer such unions, which provide some of the same rights as marriage.

Now, civil unions have become the Republican default position, easily supported by people like former President George W. Bush, who much prefer them to marriage.

But Tuesday’s ruling by the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals found that civil unions or domestic partnerships are not the same as marriage, as clearly shown by the most memorable line in the 128-page ruling:

“Had Marilyn Monroe’s film been called ‘How to Register a Domestic Partnership with a Millionaire,’ it would not have conveyed the same meaning as did her famous movie, even though the underlying drama for same-sex couples is no different.”

The right side of history: Not only judges are paying attention to changing public attitudes.

Last November 70 of America’s top companies, including Microsoft, CBS and Nike, filed legal briefs opposing DOMA – the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage.  The companies said DOMA is bad for business and it costs them money because of extra paperwork.  Clearly, these big corporations are betting that they’ll be on the winning side of history after DOMA is decided.

Just this week, Lloyd Blankfein, the chairman of Goldman Sachs, became a corporate spokesman for marriage equality.  What does gay marriage have to do with Wall Street?  No doubt Mr. Blankfein is sincere, but also consider that Goldman Sachs – lightning rod that it is – could use a few friends.  Besides, this is a firm that knows how to bet on the future.

No one personifies the shift in public opinion on marriage equality more than the woman leading the charge in Congress to repeal DOMA, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

She’s come a long way since 1982 when, as Mayor of San Francisco, she vetoed a Domestic Partnership bill passed by the Board of Supervisors.  (A popular joke in the gay community at the time was:  “Mayor Feinstein must think Domestic Partners is a housecleaning service.”)

Feinstein’s position on the subject has evolved so thoroughly that she is now the leading advocate for gays and lesbians in the U.S. Senate.

To the east of us, six states and the District of Columbia now have same-sex marriage, with the next battles headed for Maryland, New Jersey and the state of Washington – where Starbucks, Amazon and Microsoft support the gay side.

California, the usual trendsetter, has been left in the dust since the botched $43.3 million dollar campaign opposing Prop. 8 four years ago; it’s worth noting that we could have had gay marriage if Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger hadn’t vetoed it twice after it was passed by the Legislature.  (Only later did we learn just how cavalierly he takes the whole marriage thing).

So the fight had to take place in the courts, and it was notably led by three straight men:  Hollywood liberal Rob Reiner, who retained two heavyweight lawyers to fight the Prop. 8 case, liberal David Boies and conservative Ted Olson.  Olson is an old-fashioned conservative, from the days when their position was that the government should stay out of your bedroom (and your medical clinic).

In an interesting side note, Olson & Boies went to court to prevent three gay-friendly legal groups from joining them in the current case, because of those groups’ opposition to taking this case to federal court (all sides now say they’ve patched-up their differences).

Whither the Supremes? Boies, Olson and the other lawyers on the case will be busy if, as expected, it now goes to the U.S. Supreme Court, where an outcome can’t be predicted.

After all, the High Court upheld Georgia’s anti-sodomy law in the 1986 “Bowers vs. Hardwick” case.  But then, in 2003, the court reversed itself and struck down a similar Texas sodomy law in the “Lawrence vs. Texas” case.  With that, the Court essentially decriminalized homosexuality in the United States.

What changed in the 17 years between those two cases?  Time and public opinion.  And that’s what continues to change.  Any political consultant can tell you, the thing to watch during a campaign is not just today’s polls, but which way the poll numbers are trending. And the trend line on gay rights is very clear.

As Jon Davidson, from the pro-gay Lambda Legal Defense Fund, put it after Tuesday’s ruling, “The tide is not turning; it’s turned.”

(Hank Plante is an Emmy and Peabody Award-winning reporter who covered the Prop. 8 trial for KPIX TV in San Francisco).

Jerry’s Fast Train: A Big Idea That Could Crash

Monday, February 6th, 2012

Photo collage by David Trounstine for CalbuzzWith the California Federation of Teachers, the California Nurses Association, the Courage Campaign and civil rights lawyer Molly Munger all mucking up his plans for a ballot measure seeking a temporary tax hike (not to mention some disgruntled unions bitching about where he’s getting funding for his measure), you gotta wonder why Gov. Jerry Brown has also taken on high speed rail as a cause.

But he has. He’s even suggested that failure to build an 800-mile high-speed rail (HSR) line up the spine of California would reduce the state to the status of a third-world country.

It’s pretty clear he sees HSR as the Next Big Thing – akin to the interstate highway system, the Panama Canal, landing on the Moon and Lady Gaga’s meat dress. “Just like Lincoln built the transcontinental railroad during the Civil War … you’ve got to think big,” he said the other day on KCBS radio.

But tipping the scales at over $100 billion, with Republicans in Congress threatening to prevent federal funds from being used for the project at all (although, or maybe because, it’s a favorite of President Obama), and with the state auditor questioning the project’s financial feasibility, HSR looks to critics like a giant (hash) pipe dream.

As our old friend Steve Lopez at the LAT put it in a column the other day:

“When you can’t figure out how to pay for schools and colleges, road improvements, support for the elderly and disabled — not to mention a hundred other things — should you begin building a railroad no one is sure how to pay for? Especially when several recent reports, including one by the railroad authority’s own peer review group, suggest there’s a huge risk of financial disaster?”

So in addition to getting input from Calbuzz catroonist Tom Meyer, we asked our Calbuzz Advisory Board of Leading Authorities on Practically Everything (slogan: The Best Damn Political Panel on the Net) whether high speed rail is a winner or a loser for Brown, substantively and politically.

Surprisingly, our panelists were conflicted, and not exactly along party lines, although more Democrats than Republicans said HSR is a winner for Brown and among those who said it was a winner, more were Democrats than were Republicans.

There were also a few in our Consultanate who see both positives and negatives for Brown. “It cuts both ways,” said one Democratic panelist. “It makes him look visionary and forward-looking with a positive message regarding planning for the future, creating jobs and reducing pollution. But it also reminds voters of his Gov. Moonbeam reputation and he could lose points he’s built up being a fiscal conservative.”

“If the Republicans lose Congress and Obama is re-elected, it is a winner,” agreed a conservative Republican on the panel. “Otherwise, without federal money, it is a white elephant.  He has gotten carried away with the vision thing.”

Some suggested HSR will give opponents of Brown’s tax-hike measure further evidence to persuade voters that Brown is a tax-and-spend liberal who wants to get in your pocketbook and thrown your quarters into the gutter.

That’s not an argument that worries Brown’s advisers: they see a balanced budget, jobs and schools as much more pressing issues for voters than HSR. And even though they’ve just raised $2 million in five-and-a-half weeks, they’re much more concerned about whether other tax measures get funding and make the ballot. HSR is just commentary in the big political picture, in their thinking.


Here’s what the Calbuzz Consultanate had to say:

HSR is a winner

Republican: It is a winner politically, because the spending lobby is part of his core constituencies.  It is a loser substantively, because voters will reject the tax increases and the legislature and Governor will have lost one more year to get their budget in line with income.

Democrat: Here is a great example of California’s political process getting in the way of a good idea. The clock is ticking on the days of easily available, inexpensive air travel from San Francisco to LA. We’re going to need another option and high speed rail is it. There is always opposition to transit projects, in part because if you wait to build them till you need them, it’s too late. 

But the Rail Authority is a disaster, and the even the most ardent supporter of rail can’t look at what the authority has done or where the project now stands and say “this is how things should be.” The governor is right to want to build it, and right to reign in the Authority. In an interview in early 2010, Brown was answering questions about his father and he said “my father is known as a builder, and if I could do anything, I’d want to be known as a builder too.” This is his chance. Substantively, he’s right, but he might not get credit for it until well after his time in office has expired. From communication satellites to trains, a good indication that Brown is on the right track is if Republicans are making fun of him for it.

Democrat: High speed rail is a long term winner for Brown on both policy and politics.  High speed rail could be Brown’s most far-reaching and lasting accomplishment for the state. It’s the only thing on the table that could match the impact of the first Gov. Brown.  By the time it is built, California roads are likely to be even more congested, making high speed rail more needed and more popular.   

 In the short term, if Brown manages to take charge of high speed rail and get a positive message communicated, he could turn things around for this troubled project.  That translates to a big political win for him with labor, environmentalists and eventually the public.  A majority of California voters want more investment in infrastructure and more mass transit.  People have lost faith in the project in part because they’re only hearing negative news.  

The California high speed rail effort has suffered from a weak public relations effort, too much planning and too little action, and the incomprehensible decision to make the first link a train to nowhere.  Brown has a chance to rebuild public support by making some real changes at the agency, streamlining costs, and telling the positive story of how the project would create jobs and keep our economy moving.

Democrat: Brown inherited a mess: an understaffed agency trying to bite off more than it could chew, the Ogilvy PR fiasco, and provisions built into the ballot measure (like a peer review committee with inherent conflicts of interest) that limit flexibility in making high speed rail work. Add to that the shelling coming from DC simply because this is an Obama priority, along with the typical NIMBY crowds in the Bay Area and Central Valley. But give Brown credit for his attempts to reboot the project. He’s installed smart, no-nonsense commissioners (Dan Richard being the top gun), been creative with long term funding options (cap and trade revenue), and is insisting on a cheaper, more logical project. High Speed Rail fits perfectly into Brown’s longstanding reputation for looking beyond the next election. And though the project is taking its lumps — just as the California water project, I-5 construction, and other megaprojects have — it’s a smart move for the long haul.

Democrat: Winner – it is optimistic and future oriented – every project worth a damn was the object of contemporary derision. 

Democrat: Long term, high speed rail will be a reality.  Whether Jerry Brown gets the credit, is too early to tell.  It shows that he is still visionary and not willing to govern exclusively by poll results.

Republican: Ultimately it’s a winner, because it gives Brown a chance to do what California needs — kick us in the pants.We’ve been taking it on the chin — high unemployment, companies leaving, right-coasters smugly charting our demise.  All this bad-mouthing has taken a toll on the state psyche.  Instead of feeling cool, we’re shuffling around like losers.

This lets Brown remind us of our past glory and encourage us to start dreaming big dreams again.  Hell, we built the rocket that put a man on the moon, we can certainly build a high-speed train.  It’s a jobs creator and a good infrastructure investment.  But even more important, it’s a forward-looking vision for what California should be. It gives us something to achieve.

Of course, if we had built it 25 f**king years ago like we should have, we would have saved about $90 billion.

Democrat: Twenty-nine years from now Californians will realize Jerry Brown was ahead of his time and right again.  People will be either happy he succeeded in moving the project forward, or wondering why there isn’t high speed rail and asking who were the idiots who opposed it.

On the fence:

Democrat: The answer depends on whether you think it’s better politics to aim too low and make it than aim too high and miss it.  Governor Brown’s leadership here burnishes his reputation as an outside-the-budget-box visionary and puts him on the right side of business leaders, building trades, green jobs and the White House.

HSR is a Loser:

Republican: The state goes broke in a couple months and he wants to build a train to replace Southwest Airlines. I like Southwest. I can drink a beer and eat peanuts just as easily on Southwest as I can on a train, and it won’t raise my taxes. 

Democrat: I have no idea why Gov Brown has decided to take this on.  Of so many incredibly important things the Governor could be championing, this sure does NOT rise high, especially because like the water issue, the state is so divided.  Quentin Kopp’s original running of this is now being proven to be so corrupt and fraught with mismanagement it’s surprising to me Jerry would want to attach himself to its current iteration.

And if it were to go on the ballot for any type of reason, I believe the voters would kill it dead.  When teachers are being laid off and fire stations and libraries are being closed, voters see High Speed Rail as a luxury we just cannot afford right now. 

Democrat: This high speed rail deal has more problems than Newt Gingrich. It is a big distraction and a total waste of the Governor’s time and political capital.

Republican: This is a loser for the Governor. For his own sake, I wish he’d drop it.  It drains his political capital and really screws up his narrative for raising taxes.  Right or wrong, HSR is increasingly seen as a complete incompetent boondoggle.  So how do you ask voters to raise taxes when you’re building a wasteful train to nowhere?

Republican: It’s a dog with fleas.  How can he credibly argue that taxpayers should pay higher sales and income taxes while defending a multi-billion dollar waste of money.  With a millions behind this message on TV and Jon Coupal’s handsome mug, Brown would lose, in part, because of his own decision on HSR.millions behind this message on TV and Jon Coupal’s handsome mug, Brown would lose, in part,  because of his own decision on HSR.

Republican: Interesting — with Jerry Brown embracing HSR, he is opening himself up for criticism and gives opponents of his tax plan a powerful argument that Brown wants more taxes for more wasteful spending. On the other hand, it allows the governor to tilt at windmills and be the futurist in a way that defies political expediency. An analysis would suggest he is engaged in a net negative.

Democrat: Oh, I’m sure Brown has thought this out down to the last detail, like he does all of his grand ideas.  It’s clearly an attempt by Brown to burnish his legacy and overcome the “small is beautiful” mantra of his previous governorship by latching onto a big project.  Pick a big project, any project . . .