PG&E owes an apology to virtually everyone in the state – save the broadcasters that made out on all the advertising it bought – for sponsoring the monstrosity that was Prop 16.
The measure embodied much of what’s wrong with California’s governing system — in how it sought to limit local control, impose supermajorities, and change the constitution without real deliberation or consultation with the legislature.
PG&E’s offense was so great that the apology it owes us has to consist of much more than simply words. The company should pledge to bankroll the major constitutional revision the state needs.
Since PG&E clearly has tens of millions to spend on California politics, it’s only right that the company pledge millions more to the cause "The apology PG&E owes us" has to be. Such an apology shouldn’t be confined to words. It should involve reparations – in the form of support for the deep constitutional reform the state needs.
Since PG&E can burn $46 million in the street without any trouble, PG&E should pledge $46 million to spend that money again – on a multi-year effort to fix the state’s broken system. As Richie Ross pointed out recently in Calbuzz, PG&E is a member of the Bay Area Council, whose president led the effort to call a constitutional convention.
It’s far from clear that a constitutional convention would have passed this year, but constitutional reform – either through a convention or through a revision commission – is essential. Imagine if PG&E, instead of throwing its money away on Prop 16, had spent even one-tenth of that cash on constitutional reform. PG&E, instead of gaining nothing but headaches from the defeat of Prop 16, would have saved money and would have advanced reform in this state.
How? $4.6 million from PG&E would have been enough to qualify – and probably pass — a ballot initiative to permit voters to call a constitutional convention directly – an essential leverage point in advancing constitutional reform. The idea: giving the people the power to call a convention might create pressure on the legislature and governor to put together a revision commission with real power. If the legislature didn’t create a revision commission with real teeth, a convention could be called by initiative on a future ballot.
Here’s the good news: it’s not too late for PG&E to make things right and fund just such an approach. It would be a terrific way to say sorry.