Keep Clean Money bill alive

The Clean Money and Fair Elections Act of 2006 will go to the Assembly Floor for a vote next week. Our grass-roots lobbying efforts have made a difference so far, and we must keep flooding legislators’ offices with letters of support to ensure that the bill makes it through this next important step!
There is no question that the undue influence of big corporate money in politics is standing in the way of real progressive change in California. Clean Money will go a long way toward fixing this broken system. It would provide for public financing of campaigns, so that those who are elected are truly accountable to the people, not the wealthy private interests who can afford to bankroll elections.
It is groundbreaking legislation for California and it needs our support. Please send a letter today to your representative in the California Assembly!


“Schwarzenegger declined to take a stand”

That was a quote in this San Francisco Chronicle story today about the Governor’s refusal to take a position on a death with dignity bill making its way through the Legislature.
The death with dignity issue is just the latest in a string of issues that Schwarzenegger, despite being the top elected leader in the largest state in the country, won’t touch. I suppose people have gotten to the point where politicians not taking a stand is the norm, but as someone who fights for the ideal, I can’t really let this point go.
Schwarzenegger’s attitude boils down to cowardice. He says that the death with dignity issue, and the death penalty, and gay marriage, and any other important issue that takes a modicum of political courage to discuss, should be taken to the people. But when does he get held accountable for not giving the people the opportunity to weigh in? He has been in office for almost three years now, and he hasn’t brought these issues to the ballot. Hhe took the opportunity to call a special election to decide a series of issues that no one but his deep-pocketed corporate donor class cared about.
If he thinks that the death penalty issue should be decided by the people, and meanwhile innocent people are still being tried and convicted on death penalty sentences, where is the urgency for putting that question on the ballot? The point here is that if Schwarzenegger felt these were important issues, and felt they should be decided by the people, he should take them to the people. Otherwise, it’s just empty rhetoric. And sadly that is something the press has not called him out on.
Also, this kills me:

On other topics, Schwarzenegger appeared disinclined to support an initiative on the June ballot that would raise taxes on the state’s wealthiest residents to pay for preschool programs. Although he declined to officially endorse or oppose the measure, the governor said the idea of universal preschool is fantastic but he opposes a tax increase to pay for it.

That is in a nutshell the problem with Schwarzenegger’s approach, and it’s one we have said from the beginning. Empty rhetoric. All style, no substance. Governors don’t just sit around and think something is fantastic. They show the leadership that is required to actually make things happen.
The Chronicle article is full of hilarious Schwarzenegger quotes, but I think this one is my favorite:

“I did not go to school to become governor — I never thought about it,” he said.

Yeah. We know.

Clean Money bill on its way to a floor vote

The California Clean Money and Fair Elections Act, AB 583, by Assemblymember Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley) has passed out of the Assembly Appropriations Committee and will eventually head to the full Assembly floor for a vote.
This legislation would be a huge step forward in our efforts to rid the current system of excessive corporate money, which has turned off so many to the system and given us politicians who are beholded to special interests rather than the public interest. Even George Skelton gets on board today.
Thanks to the hundreds of Speak Out California members who let their voices be heard by sending in e-mails and flooding legislators’ offices with calls. Assemblymember Hancock said the outpouring of support from ordinary Californians made a difference in emphasizing the importance of this reform. We also want to thank the legislators on the Appropriations Committee who voted for the bill (all of them Democrats): Jusy Chu, Karen Bass, Patty Berg, Ronald Calderon, Hector De La Torre, Betty Karnette, Johan Klehs, Mark Leno, Joe Nation, Jenny Oropeza, Dave Jones, Lori Saldana and Leland Yee.

Dear Senator Feinstein,

I know you have been hearing from a lot of us lately, and you probably have gotten to the point where you think these emails are meaningless. But this really is the best way I have to communicate my thoughts to you.
You would be happy to hear that I am a very active citizen. Since quitting my job at the L.A. Times to work on the Howard Dean campaign, I have dedicated a huge chunk of my waking life to working for political change. I have gotten very involved in local and statewide campaigns, I work for two statewide political organizations – Speak Out California and I follow state and national political news on an almost up to the minute basis.
My purpose for telling you all of this is so you realize that I feel very strongly about this, and has kindly provided me with the tools to communicate with you, my elected representative, who I happily voted for every time your name has appeared on the ballot. I am not sending you something as a knee-jerk reaction to an email I got.
A lot of smart people have been noting that there is really no good reason NOT to filibuster Sam Alito in an effort to prevent him from being confirmed to the Supreme Court of the United States. This nomination is all about politics — we’ve known that from the minute Harriet Meier was withdrawn as a nominee. If Bush is playing politics with the Supreme Court, how can you possibly not try to stop him on the grounds that it would be politically motivated?
Let me first predicate my argument by saying that I see the reality of Alito being confirmed. I don’t see a way out of it, really. What I am arguing about is strategy, given that horrible tragedy. The truth is there will be a backlash if the Democrats do not filibuster, I can guarantee you that. I will not vote for a single incumbent if the Democrats roll over on this, and trust me, that sentiment is very pervasive here in California and around the country.
Please do not give in to the right-wing’s rhetoric. You have NOTHING to lose by filibustering the Alito nomination. Your Democratic constituents will love you for it, and the Republicans in Washington can’t really hate you more than they already do. If they use the nuclear option to end the filibuster, they will be left with that decision, not you. They will be the ones explaining to the folks back home why they just ended 170 years of Senate tradition. (Nevermind the reality, which is that the fillibuster has throughout history been used mostly to stop progress, and so when we’re in charge it would be fine if it wasn’t around anymore!)
You do, however, have EVERYTHING to lose by caving in and calling him “qualified.” Your Democratic constituents will abandon you, and guess what? The Republicans in Washington will still dislike you and do everything they can to discredit you.
Please, this is a fight our country desperately needs. Make this fillibuster about the very bedrock values and freedoms that all Americans share. It is both the noble and the most politically strategic thing to do.
Jenifer Ancona
San Francisco

“Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness”

Today we remember the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. And we honor him in the only way you can honor such a great leader for the cause of peace and justice: by working toward peace and justice in our communities.
Find out which events are happening in your area. Go there. Meet like-minded people, celebrate and organize.
Let these words ring in your ears:

Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.


I smell a campaign commercial

Is it just me, or did the Governor of the fifth largest economy in the world just compare this big state he’s running to the motorcycle he just crashed? In case you missed it, this was the joke Schwarzenegger opened his budget announcement yesterday with:

“A car pulled out in front of me; it was right there in front. And I just couldn’t make a decision which way to go,” he said. “I knew, I knew if I would turn left, that the Republicans would get mad. And if I turned right, my wife would get mad, so I just crashed right into the car. I said, ‘This is a safer thing to do.'”

The irony of this statement is not lost on us, but unfortunately for the 33 million people who have to live with the consequences of his poor navigation as our leader, we think it was lost on Schwarzenegger!

Support Clean Money for California

Jan. 19, 2006: AB 583 passed out of the Appropriations Committee on a 13-5 vote! Because it’s a major financial bill, it was placed on hold while the budget process moves forward. Thank you to all who lobbied legislators, and to the Democrats on the committee who voted in favor of the bill.


The Clean Money and Fair Elections Act, AB 583, is now pending with the Assembly Appropriations Committee, and you can continue to support this important legislation by sending a letter to committee members now.
The people of this state want their government back from the corporate special interests that have such a strangle on it now. The only way to eliminate the corrosive influence of special interests on progressive public policy is Clean Money. AB 583 would create a system of public financing for campaigns so that we can eliminate the undue influence of deep-pocketed, corporate donors on our elected officials and our democracy.


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!