Campaign for a constitutional convention picks up speed


By Rebecca Bowe

“One way or the other, on May 20th Californians will have to begin discussing how to fix their broken state.” This line -- referring of course to the aftermath of the special election -- appeared in an article published by the Economist last Thursday titled “California: The Ungovernable State.” The piece spotlights Sacramento’s perpetual gridlock and explores the idea of calling a statewide constitutional convention as a means of addressing the legislature’s systemic problems.

The idea is gaining momentum. The Bay Area Council, the San Francisco-based business group that initially raised the idea, hit the ground running today with the launch of a Web site,, to promote a constitutional convention. It also announced plans to hold town-hall style meetings throughout the state to solicit voter input. The BAC submitted a request to the state legislature to place two measures on the November 2010 ballot calling for a constitutional convention, but it’s doubtful that they’ll receive the two-thirds majority vote needed for approval. Instead, they'll probably have to go out and collect enough signatures to put it on the ballot independently.

The BAC isn’t the alone in promoting the idea -- nor is it the only group to roll out a May 20 plan for fixing the state. As the Guardian has reported, a coalition of organizations is actively campaigning for a constitutional convention. Signing onto the effort for a constitutional convention are the Courage Campaign, the League of Women Voters, Common Cause, the William C. Velasquez Institute and others.

While Sen. Mark Leno told us in February he thought the idea should be approached with caution so as not to "open up an entire potential Pandora's box," the idea seems to be picking up steam in the wake of the governor's failed budget measures, and with state finances in such disarray.


The problem is that Wunderman runs the Bay Area Council, a business lobbying group that is like SPUR on steroids, an economically neoconservative operation which believes that government's role is to shovel profits at private enterprise by the granting of public entitlements and contracts.

Any proposal for a constitutional convention put forth by these interests is going to screw the vast majority of Californians because it will most likely not include any significant reform to Prop 13 such as split rolls to exempt business from protections. It was really fun to watch Wunderman on Glen Beck yesterday, because the discussion did not fit the Fox frames.

What we're going to need to see included in a new governance structure for CA is more legislators so that we get the granularity of representation down to the level of most states, some sort of regional planning authority with teeth, and a way to allow regions to opt in or out of various policies so that the red/blue county divide is not allowed to paralyze the state. We'll see the red counties oppose taxation and the blue counties adopt new revenues, and eventually the red counties will realize that they come out ahead if they raise taxes because the bulk of revenue comes from the richer blue counties.

We've had a 30 year experiment on freezing taxes and that has resulted in disaster. We need to go back to that decision point, prune the options to eliminate the one that has been identified as a failure and try something else. The project of the former white majority to slam shut the doors to opportunity that they enjoyed during the golden age of the golden state to future comers as its dominance diminished must be called for the racism that it was and end immediately. A diverse California of the 21st century deserves the same opportunities as the children of the Oakies did, opportunities that Prop 13 and the tax whiners ended.


Posted by marcos on May. 22, 2009 @ 7:07 am

Californians are angry! We believe California’s system of government is fundamentally broken. Our prisons overflow, our water system teeters on collapse, our once proud schools are criminally poor, our financing system is bankrupt, our democracy produces ideologically-extreme legislators that can pass neither budget nor reforms, and we have no recourse in the system to right these wrongs. It's time to get involved

Posted by Media Desk on May. 28, 2009 @ 11:33 am