After recently returning from vacation and catching up on 300 or so emails, one of our correspondents, JT Long, sent a link to a web page called www.RepairCalifornia.org and asked if I wanted her to cover one of the events. Not knowing what the heck she was talking about, I went to the site and, lo and behold, a solution to the state’s budget problems just presented itself.
I’ve made mention before of the need for a state Constitutional Convention to come up with a new way of governing this state. And an opinion piece in the San Francisco Chronicle on Aug. 21, 2008, started the ball rolling with the Bay Area Council and a coalition of partners announcing the formation of Repair California. (The Bay Area Council, founded in 1945, is a business-sponsored, public-policy advocacy organization for the nine-county Bay Area representing 275 of the largest employers in the region, with their CEOs or top executives as members.)
In late May, the group announced a series of town hall meetings across the state to listen to what Californians want to see come out of a convention. Based on their feedback, the suggestions that come through the website and the many concerned citizens who have reached out to the group, it will finalize the initiative language and submit two measures to the Attorney General on Sept. 25. The next step will involve gathering signatures for both measures. Those will be turned in on approximately April 16, 2010. The two measures will then go to the people in the general election in November of 2010.
The first measure gives the people the right to call a Constitutional Convention, and the second measure will call a convention and set the process. The measures require passage by a simple majority of the voters. The convention would be held in 2011, and its suggested reforms will be placed on the ballot in November of 2012 for the approval of the voters.
“We do not make this move lightly,” says Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “We have spent a great deal of time weighing the pros and cons of this idea, and after meeting with hundreds of groups and citizens across the state, we know the people are with us. Enough is enough. The severity of our problems and the unlikelihood that existing Sacramento structures can provide a solution mean now is the time for decisive action.
“We want to make one thing very clear: this effort is as diverse as the state of California. We are working with Republicans, Democrats, Greens, and Nonpartisans. We are working with every gender, ethnicity and age group. Part of our systemic failure is our dissension into narrower and narrower interests. This convention can unite us again.”
Other partners with Repair California include the Velasquez Institute, Courage Campaign, Lincoln Club of Orange County, New America Foundation and Common Cause.
Having done four town halls already, the group will be holding more beginning this Friday, Aug. 21, at the Truckee High School Auditorium in Truckee; the Irvine Marriott Sept. 2; and the Alameda County Board of Supervisors chambers Sept. 17 in Oakland.
The agendas cover pretty much the same topics – need for reform, opportunities and the legal path to a convention. In the Sunnyvale meeting on July 31, participants included Wunderman, Russell Hancock of the Silicon Valley Network, Santa Clara County Assessor Lawrence Stone, Santa Clara and San Mateo county supervisors, representatives of Courage Campaign and Common Cause, and Andrew Giacomini of Hanson Bridgett.
The website has some great links, especially in the “press” area. One story, from The New Yorker (Aug. 24) of all places, declares California to be “ungovernable.” Principle political commentator Hendrik Hertzberg says that California’s public schools, once the nation’s best, are now among the worst; its transportation and water systems are falling apart; its prisons are so overcrowded that it has to turn tens of thousands of felons loose; and its legislature is so paralyzed that it cannot pass a legitimate budget. And the recent economic situation only made everything worse.
Take a look at the story here.
So, soon it will be up to the state’s citizen-delegates, chosen not by election but randomly from the adult population, to come up with a better way to govern. Repealing the two-thirds vote requirement to pass a budget would be a good first step.