New push for Con Con: Latest player to jump into the battle for a state constitutional convention is the New America Foundation, the influential non-partisan. D.C.-based think tank, which maintains a formidable intellectual presence in California.
The foundation, which is home to big brain journalists including Calbuzz contributor Mark Paul and Blockbuster Democracy blogger Joe Matthews, is sponsoring two community forums in Southern California over the weekend. On Friday, they also released a new research report recommending that convention delegates be average folks, rather than the collection of hacks, flacks and usual suspects who are no doubt lying in wait to hijack the process.
Author Steven Hill based the conclusion on evidence gleaned from case studies of the “deliberative democracy” movement, a host of ordinary people political groups that tackled projects ranging from the rebuild of the World Trade Center to the economy of Northeast Ohio and post-Katrina reconstruction in New Orleans:
“Some have wondered if average people are capable of the kind of in-depth understanding of complex issues that will be necessary for redesigning California. But the truth is, average Californians are the only ones who can lead our state out of the quagmire of special interests and partisanship that currently is paralyzing it. That’s because average Californians bring a special quality that too many incumbents and the political class in general do not have: a pragmatic desire to solve the state’s problems, regardless of ideology, partisanship or career self-interest…
“Participants often demonstrate a ready willingness to mix and match elements from differing political approaches – market-based, public sector, ‘conservative’ or ‘liberal’– as long as the result is a solution that will work for themselves and their communities.”
On-again off-again on-again off-again oil project on-again: Enviros around the state are scrambling yet again to block the controversial PXP oil drilling project off the Santa Barbara coast (a Calbuzz debate on the issue is here and here ), amid reports that approval for the offshore plan is part of a proposed framework in the closed door, Big Five budget negotiations.
“We heard it’s back in the budget and the governor is lobbying very aggressively for it,” said one key player in the long-running fight over the project. “They would put (the project) into a trailer bill.”
If approved, the PXP project would be penciled in for producing $1.8 billion in royalties over the next 14 years, including $100 million in the current fiscal year; foes of the plan, which was defeated earlier by the State Lands Commission but resurrected by Schwarzenegger in the budget fight, bitterly complain that California could reap much more – $2-4 billion annually – and with less risk to the environment, by enacting an oil severance tax on existing production.
California currently is the only one of 22 oil producing states that does not have such a tax., according to a drill down piece by LAT business columnist Michael Hiltzik who went deep into the weeds on the issue.
Environmental groups “started (Thursday) sending dozens of alerts to tens of thousands of coastal activists letting people know that Schwarzenegger’s Vampire was up and stumbling around yet again,” one coastal advocate told Calbuzz. “How many times do you have to kill something, anyway?”
What happens in Vegas: Over at Fox and Hounds Daily our friend Joel Fox is trumpeting an editorial in the Las Vegas Review Journal that fiercely attacks suggestions the Prop. 13 be amended, and assails California for having high taxes and too much regulation of business.
As California teeters, Democrats are left to contemplate how this living laboratory of liberalism — with its smothering taxes, intrusive regulatory apparatus, generous social services and well-fed, heavily unionized public sector — could now find itself on the brink of collapse.
Rather than conclude the obvious — that decade after decade of high-tax, anti-business, anti-growth policymaking designed to sate an ever-expanding state is ultimately unsustainable — a handful of liberals have found their culprit: Proposition 13, a measure limiting property taxes passed by voters in 1978.
Not surprisingly, neither the editorialist nor Fox mentioned that Nevada closed its own multi-billion dollar deficit this year by raising taxes, that the state’s unemployment rate is higher than California’s or that the Silver State was ranked the #2 most dysfunctional government in the nation.
To his credit, Fox did acknowledge that “one of the reasons I’m reprinting the editorial here (is) because it quotes me.”
Golden Lone Star State: Perhaps the biggest humiliation for California to date is a takeout in The Economist that compares the Golden State unfavorably to Texas, ferhevvinsake. Noting that Chief Executive magazine has ranked California “the very worst state to do business,” compared to the top-of-list rating of Texas, the piece concludes that “Mr. Schwarzenegger’s lazy governorship could come to be seen not as the great missed opportunity but as the spur for reform.”