Cal 3 Derailed by Forces Californians Wanted to Fix

Martin Devine
Councilman from the City of Hanford.

Whether you are a Cal3 supporter or not, what transpired with the California Supreme Court yanking the initiative off the Nov. 6, 2018 ballot two weeks ago should disturb every California voter. The initiative qualified for the ballot with more than 600,000 signatures, with representation from every county in California. It met the qualification requirements, was approved by Secretary of State Alex Padilla’s office and was given an initiative number – Proposition 9.

But before the Cal3 campaign even got off the ground, efforts were afoot by timid Sacramento politicians and the influence-peddling “insiders” who fund them to deny Californians the right to weigh in on Prop 9. Sure enough, they struck on July 18, 2018 when the California Supreme Court pre-emptively eliminated Prop. 9 from the ballot before Californians could have a say.

Prop. 9 was forcing the status quo to address deeply troubling questions that cut to the core of California’s institutional failures and overwhelmed state power structure: Crumbling roads. Failing schools. High taxes. Exploding homelessness. Out-of-control regulations.

Three systems in the state’s power structure failed Californians on Prop. 9:

Attorney General Xavier Becerra dropped the ball, too busy with trying to make headlines with lawsuits against the Trump Administration. When Cal 3 was submitted to the Secretary of State’s office and immediately after it qualified for the ballot, Becerra had no qualms with why Californians should not be allowed to have their say on Prop 9. While Becerra was focused on making national headlines for himself, the Planning Conservation League, working in cahoots with a former Speaker of the California Assembly and now a powerful lobbyist, barked about California voters’ unfitness to weigh in on Prop. 9.

Like Becerra, the State Legislature has been focused more on playing politics with the Trump Administration than with trying to solve intractable problems facing Californians, like regressive new gas taxes and absurd fantasies about high-speed railways, when so many Californians deal with crumbling infrastructure on every morning commute. This commitment to the Sacramento status quo meant the issues of Cal3 could only be represented by an engaging and empowering public discussion about Prop. 9 between now and Election Day.

Finally, the California Supreme Court rationalized its highly unusual action by highlighting “significant questions about the proposition’s validity” and its “potential harm” if a public vote were allowed. This was an unprecedented pre-emption of the validated opportunity for Californians to express their position about state governance and our collective future. The vote on Prop. 9 alone would merely have let Californians weigh in with a minimum of self-determination that could guide the larger conversation, not to mention the many next steps of checks and balances in the process of making changes to the state governance structure.

Based on the “state of our state,” we realistically had three options: Let Californians have a meaningful conversation — and input — about the future through a vote on Prop. 9, which enough citizens supported to legally qualify it for the ballot. The second, which is becoming all too familiar, is that families and businesses leave behind a stagnant state managed by an overwhelmed state government for greater opportunity elsewhere.  The third is to do nothing and hope the same Sacramento political cabal that put Californians in this position will self-correct themselves — unfortunately, this is the option forced onto Californians heading into Election Day.

Cal3 was a chance to create a conversation about changing the status quo. Ambivalence from the Attorney General, typical inaction from the State Legislature and an unprecedented ruling from the California Supreme Court denied California voters that opportunity. The merits of Cal 3 and the power of Prop. 9 aren’t going anywhere.

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