Did Attorney General Kamala Harris read the memo supplied by pollsters who conducted a union sponsored poll on the pension reform initiative? As the Sacramento Bee reported last month, the  Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group suggested some messages that would bury the pension reform initiative. The group emphasized that the use of the word “eliminate” in reference to public pensions would be potent in killing the measure. “Note that ‘eliminating’ fosters a visceral negative response from voters,” the memo said.

The Attorney General’s summary of the proposed pension reform initiative begins with the word: “Eliminates” in referring to pension protections.

As the Bee noted, after the first questionable title and summary on a pension reform proposal supplied by the AG’s office, “Editorials and political columnists from both sides of the aisle blasted Harris for politicizing the process.”

Give the Attorney General credit for writing a straightforward title to the new measure: PUBLIC EMPLOYEES. PENSION AND RETIREE HEALTHCARE BENEFITS.

No complaints there. However, the summary contains buzzwords beyond the word “eliminate” that came in for criticism when the AG wrote the previous summary for the earlier pension reform measure.

A Los Angeles Times editorial advised the AG’s office to play it straight with the new pension initiative and criticized the previous pension reform summary this way: “She even chose to define public employees as “teachers, nurses and peace officers” — who, according to polls, just happen to be among the most respected of all public employees. She neglected to mention the parking enforcement officers, tax collectors and DMV clerks who would also be affected by pension changes.”

The AG ignored the newspaper’s advice. The new summary states that public employees affected by the measure include “teachers, nurses, and peace officers.” No mention of tax collectors or parking enforcement officers this time, either.

Both sides in the pension fight have complained about the title and summary. However, inclusion of the key buzzwords gives proponents a stronger case.

Over two years ago, I participated on a panel discussing direct democracy co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Los Angeles and the California Supreme Court Historical Society.

At the end of the session, each panelist was asked what one thing he would change about the current initiative process. As a reporter for Zocalo Public Square recorded my answer in an article on the event, “Fox recommended taking the power of title (officially naming the initiative) and summary (describing what it does) away from the office of the attorney general, who is likely to be partisan.”

My opinion hasn’t changed.