The Traveling Constitutional Convention Show Hits Orange County

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

I went to Orange County yesterday to see if the reaction to a constitutional convention was similar there to what I witnessed in Sacramento a few months ago.

The Sacramento event filled a hotel ballroom with hundreds of people and the support for constitutional change was strong. It was also clear that the reforms most favored by the majority in that room would be those making it easier to raise taxes and pass the budget.

The Orange County crowd, a bit smaller in numbers to Sacramento, also brought out people who agreed California governance was a mess and needed reform. However, what to fix and how to fix it took on a different hue.

Color it orange, shading toward red.

The tax reform ideas coveted by the Sacramento audience barely registered in Irvine. Instead, public employee unions and their influence in Sacramento captured the spotlight. FlashReport publisher Jon Fleischman, one of the event’s sponsors, argued that no reform would be possible until the power of the public employee unions is eclipsed.

Michael Capaldi, representing the host Lincoln Club, may have summed up the feelings of many in attendance when he said the idea of a constitutional convention produced both “great hope and great fear.”

The issue of who would serve as delegates to the convention captured much attention, as usual at these sessions. Former Governor Pete Wilson argued that there is “not an absolute need” for a constitutional convention. He said he had his doubts about the delegate selection process and safeguarding the process from special interests. Reacting to a suggested delegate selection idea that would put 400 citizens picked at random in charge of re-writing the constitution, Wilson said that he had heard the argument that if you locked “a thousand monkeys in the British library with typewriters they could produce a work of art,” but he didn’t want to test the idea.

Former Democratic state senator Joe Dunn supported the convention and also spoke up for experience in choosing delegates. He thought retired legislators who don’t have to be concerned with future elections, but know the strength and weaknesses of the system would make ideal delegates. Dunn used as examples the strange bedfellows of former Orange County Republican state senator Ross Johnson and former San Francisco Democratic legislator John Burton as a winning ticket for reform.

But even then, Dunn predicted the voters would defeat the proposed constitutional changes when opposition arose from another set of strange bedfellows. Dunn said the defenders of property tax cutting Proposition 13 and the school money guarantee Proposition 98 would link up to defeat a new constitution.

If the proponents of the constitutional convention want to have citizen delegates they could find plenty of volunteers in Orange County. A show of hands indicated many people in the ballroom would like to serve at a constitutional convention.

Concerns about California government are wide spread. But, can places as far apart as Sacramento and Orange County, which represent not only geographical differences, but philosophical differences as well, agree to changes in California’s basic law?

They’re not on the same page, yet, but everyone is still reading.

And the traveling show moves on ….

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