Clean Money bill clears first hurdle

Thanks to all of you who sent letters to the Assembly Elections Committee in support of AB 583 — word is it passed, 4-3, and is now on its way to the Appropriations Committee.
This was an important first step in our effort to enact real progressive change in California, and we will be keeping you posted and giving you opportunities to take action as the bill moves through the process.
And of course a big thank-you to the Democrats on the Elections Committee who showed real leadership by voting in favor of the bill: Assembly members Johan Klehs (D-Hayward), Betty Karnette (D-Long Beach), Mark Leno (D-SF), and Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys).

More spending, no new solutions

Gov. Schwarzenegger’s budget is out today, and it amounts to more spending with again failing to resolve our state’s structural deficit. It’s great that we have $5 billion more to play with, but imagine how we could fix things if for once we could leverage that money with a steady stream of increased revenues from making our tax system more fair.
We haven’t delved into the proposal very completely yet, and we will, but right now it looks like more surface-level spending (a marketing campaign to try to enroll more kids into Healthy Families is nice, but it won’t do much for the other half of uninsured kids who aren’t eligible) with a lot of grandiose rhetoric. The best news I’ve seen so far is equalization of funding for community colleges, which will help many of those that were very near to total collapse due to lack of funding, and the forced efforts to reform California’s youth prisons.
I feel like a broken record at this point, but I will say it again: we need to have a conversation about what services we want in this state and what we’re willing to do to pay for them. Anything else falls short of what we deserve as a state.

Arnold’s bond plan won’t solve our problems

Ed Mendel of the San Diego Union-Tribune is probably the best reporter in the Sacramento press corps right now. He seems to be the only one lately willing to tell us some unvarnished truth, and he often provides good historical context to political events happening in the Capitol. So today, while most of the other major papers are still busy fawning all over Schwarzenegger and his “Big, Bold Plan” (As the Alliance rightfully pointed out, George Skelton’s column in the L.A. TImes is quite barf-worthy), Mendel looks at the bond proposal from an objective viewpoint. Oh, right! That’s what journalists are supposed to do all the time. Well, it’s been so long since we’ve seen it, it really does jump right out and grab you!

The basic idea pushed by Schwarzenegger in his State of the State address Thursday — that as the population booms, the state has done little to expand infrastructure for decades — is nothing new.
Two former governors, Gray Davis and Pete Wilson, acknowledged the problem by appointing panels on infrastructure and growth, only to have their reports ignored when they were issued during economic downturns.
Davis, who was ousted in the recall, may have had a flashback as he sat in the Assembly gallery Thursday while Schwarzenegger rolled out his plan.
“Estimates of our unfunded needs for traffic, schools and other public facilities are at least $40 billion, some say as much as $90 billion,” Davis said in his first State of the State address in 1999.

He then goes on to get into the political implications of the timing of this proposal in the beginning of an election year.

The lawmakers must act quickly to place a plan on the June ballot. Nunez said he has been told that the deadline is Jan. 26 to Jan. 28 for the regular ballot pamphlet and Feb. 12 for a supplemental pamphlet.
The interest of legislative leaders in infrastructure and tax revenue from a growing economy that’s narrowing a chronic budget gap might by themselves seem like a sign of good timing for the governor’s proposal.
But Schwarzenegger is running for re-election this year, raising the question of whether a Democratic-controlled Legislature will let the Republican governor lead the way on infrastructure or decide to wait until next year.
“If they can’t make the June ballot, I’m not sure they would give him a program for November that he could run on,” Business Roundtable leader Hauck said.

This bond plan is an old idea. We need investments in infrastructure, but this state has big problems, and they will not be solved by throwing a ton of money into a plan that is being rushed onto the ballot for reasons that are purely political. If this is Schwarzenegger’s answer, his compelling reason for us to vote for him again, we should be able to beat him handliy, as long as we are able to articulate a clear and better alternative. We’re working on it, and we sure hope others are, too.
Of course, there is the media. But reporters like Ed Mendel give me hope!

Support Clean Money for Fair Elections

Update: The Clean Money bill passed the Elections Committee 4-3 today, Jan. 10. Thanks to all of you who send letters to committee members — it paid off!

* * * * *

A crucial vote on a bill that would bring real campaign finance reform to California is scheduled for Tuesday, and members of the Assembly Elections Committee need to hear from as many Californians as possible to ensure the legislation passes this important step.
The California Clean Money and Fair Elections Act, AB 583, by Assemblymember Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley), is modeled after clean money laws already adopted in Maine and Arizona. Recent studies in those states have shown that the systems have worked to restore voters’ faith in the election process, dramatically improved diversity among candidates running for public office and substantially reduced the amount of money spent on campaigns.
After the last statewide special election, in which a staggering $300 million was spent by various campaigns, it is clear that a new system is needed for California. Public financing of campaigns will elect candidates who are accountable to the people and the public interest, rather than those who are beholden to corporate, wealthy or special-interest donors.
Show your support by sending a letter today to Assembly Elections Committee members and Speaker Fabian Nunez!
Phone calls are also needed to the Elections Committee Chair, Tom Umberg, and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez. All you have to do is call and say “I’m calling to ask that Speaker Nunez strongly support AB 583, the Clean Money bill.”
Speaker Fabian Nunez
(916) 319-2046 or (213) 620-4646
Assemblymember Tom Umberg
(916) 319-2069 or (714) 939-8469


The 2006 Primary Election

Not sure who to vote for in California’s Primary election, coming up June 6, 2006?
Check out our 2006 Primary Voter Guide for more information on statewide races and a few key State Senate contests around California, including the candidates vying for the Democratic nomination to take on Gov. Schwarzenegger this fall. Primaries are historically low turnout elections, so help do your part to get people involved by reminding them of the election, and pointing them to Speak Out California as they make their ballot-box decisions.
In addition to the voter guide, Speak Out California will be publishing the results of candidate questionnaires, as well as following the money — particularly what comes in late from big oil and development interests — on the weblog.


Why getting involved locally completely rocks

One of the reasons it’s nice getting involved locally, and not just on-line, is that every once in a while, you have an experience or hear someone speak that completely restores your faith in the democratic process and your hope for where our poor, battered country is headed. Sometimes you even get a couple of these at one meeting, which is how last night’s Noe Valley Democratic Club meeting went.
Mary Hughes, a local consultant, was the headliner, and she gave a concise but thorough overview of the House & Senate landscape for this year. Her main advice to candidates was to stick to the big issues and not get distracted by the day to day headlines, even if those headlines are that of an ongoing series of Republican scandals and implosions. Just because they’re falling apart doesn’t mean we’re improving.
But the high point came in response to fielding a question about what Democrats stand for. Her answer focused on the Democratic belief in investing in people, society and the future, and how they’re better caretakers of our reputation in the world. She was much more eloquent than that, but her pitch had the main thing that makes pitches successful – heart – in spades.
Later in the meeting, there was an impassioned yet civil discussion of the Green vs. Democratic parties and strategy. One of the particpants made an impressively strong, historically grounded case for why chartering grassroots Democratic clubs according to the bylaws of the state party matters, even if that inconveniences some Green party members at times. The party is the coalition was the crux of her argument.
I was struck by how great it is to be in the presence of those who can think quickly and speak clearly about these incredibly complex issues. It’s a skill I don’t have; perhaps this makes me even more appreciative of it. As great as on-line communications are for this stuff, there’s something fundamentally right about a bunch of smart, experienced people in a room dropping science.
Go to the website of the party of your choice and find a local group to hook up with. The CDP’s is here. Do something local, something state, and something national.


From the Department of Stupid Ideas (via Dan Weintraub, who has endorsed this idea): this president of a private university in Ohio is calling for privatization of all public universities, to free up more money for subsidizing lower income students to go to the school of their choice.
The assumption is that public funds for universities are doomed and never coming back. But this assumption rests on the belief that people are never going to wake up and stop voting for representatives that don’t understand the value of a state investing in it’s children. Especially since we’re in a brain-based economy now, this seems like a shaky proposition at best.
The Campaign for College Opportunity released a study last year that quantified this: for every dollar invested in public universities, California’s taxpayers get three dollars back in expanded economic growth for the state. Not a bad deal! The report with all the details is availabe on their site. It’s really too bad that the leaders of a state like Ohio – that’s been hit so hard with manufacturing and outsourcing losses – still aren’t able to connect the dots on how to accelerate the shift towards an information economy.
Publicly funded universities are the crown jewels of this country. Yes, they can be inefficient, but the process of education and research, of pushing back the boundaries of ignorance, is intrisinically inefficient at times. But they exist to the benefit of everyone and ought to be paid for by those in our economy who have benefitted the most from their existence. The great storehouses of human knowledge that we’ve simply developed are simply too important to be subjected to the whims of the marketplace.
Random link I came across while trying to remember the name of the Campaign for College Opportunity: The American Presidency Project at UCSB. Very nice!