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Posts Tagged ‘Richie Ross’



Ross Baseball Budget Plan: Now More Than Ever

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

At first glance, the Legislature’s scheduled votes on competing Democrat and Republican budget plans in both houses Tuesday looks like just one more skirmish in the endless partisan war over state finances. In fact, it could be the crucial first step in forging a long-term solution to the annual budget melt-down. When Calbuzz –- issue-driven, solution-oriented! — heard about the head-to-head budget votes, it reminded us that exactly this framework was the key to a reform of the process first proposed here 15 months ago by our pal Richie Ross. As nothing’s changed at the Capitol, the notion looks better than ever, so we’re re-offering the piece with our Seal of Approval. Anyone have a better idea?

By Richie Ross
Special to Calbuzz

I didn’t appreciate baseball arbitration until I experienced it.

In his Indian Gaming Compacts, Governor Schwarzenegger added a “baseball arbitration” dispute process to use whenever an Indian Tribe and a local government couldn’t resolve differences in negotiating an “Intergovernmental Service Agreement” to mitigate the impacts a casino could have on local government services.

In the case of the Buena Vista Rancheria and Amador County, the sides were so far apart in 2006 that the County Supervisors put an advisory measure on the ballot and 80% of the voters opposed the Tribe’s casino no matter what they offered to local government.

The “negotiations” went on for 3 years until the Tribe triggered the arbitration provision in the Compact. Baseball arbitration.

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.

The results in the Buena Vista Rancheria-Amador County dispute were fascinating — after all, I get paid to fight with people. Even though I believed the Tribe was right and the County was wrong, I found myself looking for ways to help the Tribe moderate its position to enhance its appeal to the arbitrator (and avoid a final position that could end up losing everything).

Reacting as wisely as she could based on best guesses about what the county’s final position might look like, Tribal Chairwoman Rhonda Morningstar Pope knew that winning in baseball arbitration meant giving up some strongly felt positions in order to achieve a successful deal from a County Board of Supervisors that didn’t want a deal at all.

In the end, the Tribe guessed right. Their final position never had to be arbitrated at all. The County accepted it. No one won. No one lost. Both sides moderated their positions and behavior.

So here’s how the idea would work step-by-step:

1. Institute a two-year budget process. The idea’s been around for a long time. It’s used in a number of other states. Seems to work fine.

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.

Prediction: Republican politicians will have to moderate their political position and pledges because they might win their “all-cuts” budget battle and risk getting wiped out at the polls when they stand for re-election. And Democrats will finally have to face the fact that voters may not want to cut but sure as heck won’t want to raise every tax that every interest group asks for.

I think both parties would find themselves modifying their positions on budgets because a political “victory” in one-year might mean election losses the next.

Consequences will moderate behavior. Voters will have to live with their decisions. And so will both parties. A budget process with consequences. Consequences of rejection now if you are extreme, or rejection later if you get what you want now. That just might work. It’s worth a try.

Richie Ross has nearly 40 years experience, in and out of government, as a political strategist and campaign consultant.

Where’s Wald…. uh, Political Reform in California?

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

By Richie Ross
Special to Calbuzz

Remember the dot com bust?  Lots of people invested lots of money in lots of web stuff that didn’t end up doing much.

Too many of them were selling e-stuff about selling e-stuff.  They didn’t make real stuff.  They didn’t create value.  They were based on processes. And in the end, their over-priced stocks weren’t worth anything.  The dot com bubble burst.

For the last 18 months there’s been lots of breathless chatter about the need to “reform” California government, especially the two-thirds vote requirement.

Leading the charge for reform was Waldo.  You know him. He’s the geeky guy in the red-and-white striped shirt, glasses and knit cap who’s hard to locate.  So where was Waldo?

The signs of Waldo’s reform bubble busting surfaced last year.

First, the Bay Area Council announced that their much-discussed Constitutional Convention wouldn’t address Proposition 13 and its two-thirds vote requirement.

Then on January 14, one of the Bay Area Council’s key corporate sponsors, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) announced they had qualified their initiative to expand the two-thirds vote requirement to communities seeking to establish or expand a public power alternative to PG&E’s monopoly.

Finally, on February 13, we read that the Constitutional Convention effort had “fizzled.” The Bay Area Council “didn’t have the money” to qualify the initiatives necessary to allow a vote on having a Convention.

PG&E went on to spend $46 million on Proposition 16.  Where was Waldo?

Before rushing to mount a high horse and condemn PG&E, let’s take a moment for introspection.  Was PG&E unique in their insincere association with “good government reform” throughout 2009 followed by a banal display of self-interest?

All through 2009, California Forward competed for the “Waldo Top Reformer” title with the Bay Area Council.

But when it came down to it, they too tried to put together a “reform” which would expand the two-thirds beyond taxes and apply it to fees adopted by the legislature for environmental protection.

Putting aside both their motivation or the merits of whatever they thought they were doing, California Forward put themselves in a position where they were compromised on the two-thirds vote debate… they couldn’t attack Proposition 16 even if they were inclined.

And why did the No on 16 campaign only raise $90,000?

If the campaign against Proposition 16 had a dollar for every speech ever made about the evil of two-thirds, then it would have been able to compete against PG&E.  Thank God the newspapers stepped up their game and did a good job exposing the Proposition 16 scam.  Waldo didn’t.

PG&E is a big political contributor.  They give tons of money.  Lots and lots of that money goes to politicians who give speeches condemning the two-thirds vote.  But outside of three or four elected folks who contributed to the No on 16 campaign, PG&E bought silence.  Yes, even Waldo’s.

It seems that interest groups only oppose the two-thirds vote when it hurts their own stuff, not because of some high-minded majority-rule principle.

If the two-thirds vote violates what people think is right, why wouldn’t people who’ve taken PG&E’s money have donated it to the No on 16 campaign?

In the end, everyone talked more than they cared.  And some talked out of both sides of their mouth.

Next up:  all of those who did nothing will point to Proposition 16’s defeat as proof that the two-thirds vote is unpopular and ought not apply to their “stuff.”  Hmmm.

Waldo the Reformer’s bubble has burst.  Like the dot com bubble, there wasn’t much to it.

Richie Ross’s controversial Calbuzz piece on using the baseball arbitration system to deal with the state budget is looking better and better.

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.

boxerangry

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?

mother-teresa

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 Padilla Plans to Sell Newsom to Latino Voters

Monday, July 20th, 2009

padillaFollowing Gavin Newsom’s breathless press release announcing that he has enlisted State Sen. Alex Padilla to serve as “chair” of his campaign for governor, Calbuzz was keen to find out how Padilla – a bright, young, Democratic rising star in East Valley LA politics – intends to sell Prince Gavin to California Latinos.

Clearly, the Prince of Prides has got some work to do among Hispanics who, if history is a quide, will likely comprise about 15-18% of the Democratic primary vote in 2010. Polling by JMM Research in June found that the San Francisco mayor trails Attorney General Jerry Brown among Latinos 22%- to-51%, in a two-way race.

Obviously, this is partly because Latino voters don’t know Newsom like they do Brown. The General’s favorable-unfavorable was 42-to-3% among Latinos; for Newsom it was 15-8% (that’s 77% with no opinion whatsoever). But it may also reflect, in part, some cognitive dissonance among those who do know him, because Latino voters (at 53-to- 47%) were second only to blacks (70-to-30%) in support of Proposition 8’s ban on gay marriage.

So Calbuzz was eager to chat with Padilla, the former LA City Council president who is part of an East Valley political brokerage led by James Acevedo, an ex-Brown Beret turned developer and consultant, along with LA City Councilman Tony Cardenas. (These guys supported Jimmy Hahn over Tony V in the 2001 mayor’s race but backed Antonio four years later.)

We asked Padilla what he will point to about Newsom to convince Latinos to support him instead of Brown (who was an ally of Caesar Chavez’s, signed the Agricultural Relations Act into law, appointed Cruz Reynoso to the California Supreme Court and Mario Obledo to his cabinet).

“I’m not going to say anything different to the Latino community than I will to anybody else,” Padilla told us. “Latinos care about the same things all other voters care about.”

Here’s part of Padilla’s press-release spin and what it means (Content Alert: Put on your official Calbuzz Decoder Ring to see the actual translations.)

“Mayor Newsom personifies California’s brighter future. He reflects a new generation of leadership that will bring bold, innovative ideas and a nationally recognized record of reform to the governor’s office.”

— Translation: Gavin’s the young guy, with new ideas as opposed to Jerry, the old guy drooling soup on his tie.

“Gavin’s politics reflect the majority of our state: socially progressive, fiscally responsible, environmentally active and unequivocally dedicated to the promise of quality public education and health care for everyone.”

— Translation: He’s a Democrat.

“I appreciate and admire Gavin’s fight to ensure that every man, woman and child has full access to those rights and opportunities so integral to the California Dream. His entire political career, he has followed deeply-held core principles, not poll numbers.”

— Translation: To the extent that I have to deal with it, I’ve been told to reframe the whole gay marriage deal as an act of great political courage.

In our interview, Padilla, smart and articulate, echoed these generic themes, saying that Latinos will rally to Newsom, once they know about his vision, his record in San Francisco and his plans for California.

As for Newsom’s close association with gay marriage, “I don’t think it’ll be any more or less of an issue (with Latinos) than it will be for any other voters,” Padilla said. “It’s not a concern to me that it will be an issue that will impede him in reaching out to Latino voters.”

In other words, there’s nothing about Newsom that Padilla can cite to appeal specifically to Latinos and to chip away at Brown’s history among that important cohort of voters. If the campaign has a plan to address concerns Latino voters might have about gay marriage, Padilla wasn’t letting on about it.

Still, Padilla “is a genuine future big league talent,” as Richie Ross, Calbuzz’s resident expert on Latino politics in the state, put it (Padilla’s not his client). And getting him on board “is not an insignificant deal” for Newsom; before this, Brown had everything among Latinos and now “Gavin has something,” Ross added.

Or, as one of our trench-warfare sources in Los Angeles observed: “It’s always better to have something than nothing. He now has a recognizable Latino on his team.”

On the other hand, said this LA knife-fighter, “Where Gavin is hurt in the Latino community because of gay marriage, Padilla is not going to help him.”

gavinspeakingBTW, “actual reporting” kudos to Tony Castro of the LA Daily News,  for catching up with Acevedo, the Padilla ally and patron of East Valley politics, after the Prince did a big town hall meeting at Taft High School in Woodland Hills, last week.

Boss Acevedo, who supported Brown in past campaigns, said Newsom has a challenge because the former governor remains popular in Los Angeles in general and among Latinos in particular.

“I think (Brown) is going to have a very strong constituency among Latinos,” said Acevedo. “Few people know Newsom outside his own city, and I think it’s going to be tough for him to try to create a constituency among Latinos.”

— By Jerry Roberts and Phil Trounstine