Friday, June 26, 2009

California: Take 2

An idea I have been discussing for some time, which I believe originated from reading on a blog somewhere, is that the only way to save California from fiscal and political collapse is to have a constitutional convention and retool the entire process by which the state governs itself.

Many of you aren't from California, so let me outline a couple key problems with our state.  First of all, we're practically bankrupt.  Secondly, it's almost impossible to fix... as a 2/3 vote is required to pass any tax increases or to even pass a budget.  This is incredibly stupid, as it gives the minority party basically all the power in budget/tax negotiations, and means that we haven't passed a budget on time in... well, I don't even know.  The legislature can't change this, because it's in our freak'n constitution.  And basically our voters are idiots, who think this is a good idea.  They don't want to pay more taxes, yet they don't want the state to go belly up.  I'm not saying it's necessarily one or the other, but giving 1/3+1 of our representatives control over this process is just asking to get nothing done.  And so, we'll have to resort to the ballot initiative process, again, if we want it changed.

Every single election, California has a series of ballot initiatives (e.g. Prop 8) which go before the voters.  Most people don't even understand what they mean, yet they vote on them, and the ones that pass don't just become law--they become constitutional amendments.

In short, the way we govern the state of California is essentially the same way winners are picked on American Idol.  The ignorant masses read a paragraph-long summary about something they don't understand, and then vote according to whatever they think will piss off Simon the most (in this case, Simon being our state politicians).  It's a fucking train wreck.  The process came about years ago after a period of notorious corruption in California politics.  The ballot initiative process was supposed to be a way for the public to put a check on their elected officials if they were getting out of hand.  It sounds good, but in reality it's a disaster.

Maybe this makes me sound elitist, that I don't think the average Joe is smart enough to know how to write freak'n legislation... but really; that's why we have representatives to begin with!  When representatives get out of hand, the check the public has on them is a general election!  Of course, that's practically useless too these days, as our State Assembly/Senate districts are so gerrymandered that it's essentially useless to run a candidate from another party against the incumbent.

California's gubernatorial election is in 2010.  Would I like to see a Democrat win? Sure... but in reality, it doesn't matter who wins, Democrat, or Republican... because the system is inherently broken.  Democrat Gray Davis was booted from office because of the same problems the Governator is now experiencing, proving my point perfectly.  The one (only?) candidate who has announced so far is Gavin Newsom, current mayor of San Francisco.  He's an interesting guy who has made some real progressive reforms in the city (universal healthcare for one).  I'll be paying close attention to his evolving campaign, but in all honesty I will vote for any candidate, Democrat or Republican, who declares his/her support for a Constitutional Convention to reform our broken state.  Short of that, I'll settle for a detailed and comprehensive proposal for fixing the major problems at the root of the system (here's a good start)--which unfortunately, may have to come down to more f-ing ballot initiatives.

I set out today to do a bit of research on this topic, and maybe submit an op-ed.  Guess I should have done that months ago when I first wanted to, because the Times beat me to the punch.  So instead I settled for this brief rant, and point you to that Times piece, and also this outline of what the Constitutional Convention process might look like, by repaircalifornia.org.

What are your thoughts?  An over reaction, or is this a necessity? 

1 comment:

J D said...

I couldn't agree more. CA's government lends itself to dazzlingly shortsighted irresponsibility. Without reform things will simply keep getting worse.