What a year!

Since the 2005 Special Election, Speak Out California has been a leading progressive voice for educating and informing California’s voters on key ballot measures and statewide and legislative races through our Voter Guide. During the three critical election cycles, we have registered over 2.6 million hits on our site. During the November 2006 election, we had over 1.6 million hits as progressives sought accurate information about the candidates and the issues.
Unlike misleading slate mailers or bought-and-paid- for voter guides, Speak Out California does not recommend candidates or issues because we’ve been paid to do so; the secret to our success is that Speak Out California is supported solely by generous contributions from those who share our commitment to restoring the California dream. Our endorsements cannot be bought, so the information you get is based upon an honest, straight-forward commitment to progressive values.
We’re proud of the unique niche we’ve established with our website. We will provide the true progressive perspective during the upcoming legislative session as Speak Out California continues to blog on the key issues of the day and provide the inside view of the Legislature similar to the exclusive series “From the Floor” posted by Assemblymember Jackie Goldberg during the last week of this year’s session.
We know there are many worthy groups competing for your financial support at this time of year. We believe that Speak Out California provides a unique and critically important role in the emerging California progressive infrastructure. To keep Speak Out California growing, we look to you, our supporters and subscribers, to help keep its vision alive and working toward a progressive future for our state and nation.
If you agree that Speak Out California has been a valuable resource, please help us continue our work by
sending your check, payable to: Speak Out CA, 1528 Chapala Street, Suite 205, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
or make a contribution here on-line.
Please note that Speak Out CA is a non-profit, non-partisan public interest organization. Contributions are not tax-deductible due to our issue advocacy work.
In addition to our #1 Ranked Progressive Voter Guide, Speak Out California has played a pivotal role in combating right wing attacks on the California dream through activating progressives to:
· Send thousands of e-mails to the Governor and Sacramento lawmakers, laying out alternatives to the Governor’s draconian cuts to social services and programs during 2005 and 2006 budget discussions.
· Mobilize successful e-mail opposition to the Governor’s attempt to appoint a former oil industry lobbyist to the California Air Resources Board. Speak Out California members sent more than 3.000 e-mails to the Senate Rules Committee urging rejection of the nomination.
· Oppose the wasteful and unnecessary Special Election called by the governor to try to advance a blatantly right-wing agenda. Speak Out California took the lead in opposing this power grab, providing the first online voter guide after the Governor called for the election. Our framing of the issues became the model for a wide variety of other progressive interest groups, including environmental protection and women’s rights organizations, and organized labor.
· Reject the Big Oil/Tobacco/Pharmaceutical//HMO attacks in key primary races by identifying the corporate interests hiding behind innocuous “Citizens For…” names. Our up-to-date blogging has become the place for progressives to get key updates on who is funding last-minute stealth attacks on progressive candidates and tracing the money trails.
· Provide information about right-wing candidates who attempted to hide their extremist views until after the important 2006 general election. By exposing their real positions on key progressive issues, we were able to educate voters on just how out-of-touch these candidates were on the issues most important to our state.
In the coming year, we hope to expand our efforts into the community and provide direct leadership by taking full advantage of the internet’s potential for getting grassroots activists mobilized and organized. As the internet expands into the world of social networking, we hope to make Speak Out California a leader in merging those capabilities.
As always, we would welcome your thoughts and ideas on the issues so important to our state. We also welcome your input on how to build on our success and expand our role in the emerging world of political internet activism.
We are very optimistic about expanding our vision and impact in the year ahead, but we need your help and support. You’ve seen what we’ve done and what we can do to assure a progressive future for California. We will appreciate your end-of-the year contribution to help us achieve these goals
We thank you for your support and wish you a very happy, healthy new year.
Hannah-Beth Jackson, President and former Assemblymember
and the rest of the Speak Out California team

Update on the CSU Faculty contract stalemate

We have been following the contract negotiations and stalemate between the California State University Faculty Association and the well-heeled CSU Administration for several weeks. (See Speak Out’s blog entry of November 16, 2006) With thousands of faculty members futures on the line and the philosophical as well as economic importance of this issue to workers and professional employees in general, we’ve asked Assistant Professor at CSU Sacramento and Speak Out board member, R. Stanley Oden to update us on the status of those negotiations as the campuses wind down for the holidays.
Here’s his update:

Continue reading

Arnold as Centrist

O.K. It’s Holiday time and to be surfing the web for political news in mid-December means you’re pretty much a political junkie. Even the politicos are off the clock at this point in time.
But for those of us who can never get enough (and I’m one of them) I’m finding the talk about centrism and bi-partisanship today a fascinating but misleading set of concepts and worthy of at least a comment.
Of course, like most media-induced hype, it’s about creating the news rather than reporting it and whatever fits into a nice neat and consistent little package that’s easiest to get out in as few words as possible in as short a time-frame becomes the reality. Granted, the post-election polls indicate the public wants everyone to get-along and work together, but that really isn’t news, is it? That’s what most people think politics should be, anyway.
So here we are with our governor now the model “centrist” working in a “bi-partisan” way with the Democratically controlled legislature. Is he a centrist, or just not a maniacal right-wing ideologue like, say, George Bush and his neocons who are systematically and intentionally destroying the legacy of The New Deal and socially responsible governance? The Republican party wasn’t always comprised of extremists like Rove, Rumsfeld and Robertson.
Just look at Nelson Rockefeller or Charles Percy or Margaret Chase Smith.
So why all the “kudos” for a guy who doesn’t ascribe in full to the handbook of the religious right and their political philosophy based on “guns, god and gays”? That has never been part of our political tradition anyway. This extremist and destructive ideology reared its ugly head in the Gingrich years of the mid-90’s and has finally been rejected by the majority of Americans in 2006. Gratefully, extremism has never had a long shelf-life in American politics. We’re by nature pretty even-keeled people who tend to gravitate to issues like quality of life, freedom, economic opportunity and personal security as really being what government should be addressing.

Continue reading

Why to bother with netroots outreach

This was a reaction to a different race: one in a different state for a different office in a different part of the country and for a different party, but this is as good a summary of the problems of not working with the netroots early as possible:

If a campaign doesn’t engage the New Media early on, there will be three major problems:
1) Unfavorable frames and narratives will be free to develop in the media seed-bed of the blogosphere. Once developed, they become conventional wisdom and are very difficult to rebut.
2) The campaign will sacrifice the opportunity to develop their own narratives, or to frame upcoming issues for the Influentials.
3) Once the campaign does enter the blogosphere, they will face an uphill battle to cultivate credibility, interest, activists and notoriety.

I doubt better netroots engagement would have been enough to save Allen. The preponderance of evidence that the guy was an out and out racist only increased over the course of the campaign. That’s a tough thing to un-spin no matter how many people you have trying to make the case for you.
Similarly, in retrospect, of course it’s terribly unlikely that netroots outreach alone would have been enough to overcome both the structural advantages that Schwarzenegger had (like $45M of free earned media) and the series of strategic errors and missed opportunities that Phil’s campaign was unable to successfully navigate. But campaigns are complex systems: they have to hit on all cylinders to run, and this was an unwise area to neglect.
The Angelides camp’s official excuse for putting zero effort towards not doing this was that they couldn’t afford it. But this rings a little hollow for two reasons. First, any campaign that’s willing to spend $30 million + – in a primary – on TV ads isn’t strapped for cash. Netroots outreach isn’t fantastically complicated: I mean, we want to be reached! Even someone part time could have pulled together a blogger list and started talking to folks. Second, this isn’t captured in the above three points, but a strategic direction for a campaign that takes the netroots into account is going to be cashflow positive. A small donor base may not be enough to fund megabuck TV ad buys, but Phil (for example) could have easily sparked enough interest to get a small donor base going that would have paid the way of the netroots coordinator and then some.
Hopefully this won’t be a discussion we’ll have to have for future candidates in this state.

The Golden Dream of the Golden State

There is one immutable fact here in California: There is no place like it on the planet.
Although there are many reasons why we live here–the weather, opportunity, our value of hard work and hard play,among so many others, California is very much a state of mind as well. The California Dream embodies the belief that life is a series of endless and limitless possibility which is why California is an amalgam of the world’s greatest optimists, dreamers, fools and risk-takers. It is this mindset that makes us so attractive to those who come here and yet, it is that very same willingness to experiment that has created such challenges and instability in the political structure we have today.
We took the model of American Democracy in the early 20th century and added the Initiative and Referendum to our electoral system to take big money and corporate influence out of the legislative and decision-making process.
We elect our judges, even though we know so little about them.
We created Prop 13—which has significantly impacted the ability of government to function.
We have advanced the status of minorities,workers and women through first-in-the nation legislation in civil and employee rights.
We established what was the best and largest public higher education system in the country.
We created term-limits that have de-stabilized our legislative process.
While at the same time, California is home to people from all parts of the globe who speak every conceivable language and follow a diversity of religious and cultural practices that require us to be open-minded and tolerant of our differences and individuality.
We honor and appreciate hard work, enterprise and originality and we have a deep sense that today’s failure may be tomorrow’s success–and vice versa. To students of California’s history like Kevin Starr, “California is the state that invents the future” and thus it is no surprise that the public’s opinion of our future can turn from glum to rosy almost overnight.

Continue reading

The New Legislature Begins

Today marks the beginning of a new legislative session and the biggest test of the impact of term limits on California’s legislature. This legislative year marks an historic event. With 36 new members of the lower house (that’s almost 50% of the entire Assembly) and just about the last of the truly experienced senators now termed out, the impacts of term limits have created an unseasoned and inexperienced legislature and a huge gap of knowledge and know-how. The question of the day is whether a state that represents the 6th largest economy in the world and 1 out of every 8 Americans can be effectively governed by people who barely know their seating assignments, let alone how to legislate around a state of 35 plus million people?
Of course, there is much posturing and pomp on this day. It is, as I can vividly recall, full of excitement and expectation. Family gathers from all points on the map for the swearing in ceremony. Good staff has helped generate at least one bill (usually directly affecting one’s district or meeting a specific campaign promise) for each new member to introduce by “putting the bill across the desk”, thereby creating a perfectly legitimate press release to send to the media in their respective districts. The new era begins with lots of hopes and dreams……and in this particular session, with alot of built-in chaos.

Continue reading

The Year At Hand

The 2006 Election was truly historic. The American people elected a Democratic majority in Congress, making Nancy Pelosi the first-ever woman Speaker of the House.
But in California, progressives can do better. This past year saw our great success in reaching California’s voters with key information about candidates and issues important to us. With over 2 million hits during the primary and general election campaigns, our voter guide has now become a leading source of information for progressive voters on state issues. But there are still too many progressive voters not engaged in state politics at all, and Speak Out California has been working to reach them as we move forward in reforming health care, addressing climate change, cleaning up the political process and creating critical new infratructure in our state.
Defining and advancing what it truly means to be a progressive, and organizing as many people as possible around those principles, becomes critically important as we head into 2008. Republican candidates for President in the same vein as Schwarzenegger — claiming to be what they aren’t — will be competing for our state’s 55 electoral votes.
With the help of our strong relationships with progressive members of the Legislature, Speak Out California continues to keep progressives informed on important state issues that will be advanced during the course of the legislative session. And of course, we are watching the Governor very carefully to expose the wide gap between what he says and what he does in the second term of his governorship.
With lots of speculation about his political ambitions, we will insure that Californians know just exactly what he’s doing as opposed to positioning himself for a run at higher office with larger than life photo-ops and political proclamations.