Outsource the budget process already!

Public Affairs Consultant specializing in Issue Advocacy and Strategic Communications

Once again, it’s August and state lawmakers haven’t adopted a new budget yet. It’s time to talk about outsourcing.

Like many of the redistricting reforms floated over the years, I propose that, if the budget has not been adopted by the July 1 constitutional deadline, a panel of financial experts be appointed by the CA Supreme Court to draft the state’s spending plan for the next fiscal year and let the voters text their votes in like millions do on “American Idol” until a majority have approved the budget. (OK, maybe not text messaging).

Although there is plenty of blame to go around (including we voters who have committed the sins of ballot box budgeting), I am not pointing fingers at anybody. Term limits are not the culprit as budget approval deadlines were regularly missed before Prop. 140 passed. I don’t blame anyone in particular either.

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Thirst for Water Bond on Nov. Ballot

Public Affairs Consultant specializing in Issue Advocacy and Strategic Communications

It seems like there is a bond for everything this year except for addressing California’s most pressing need—water.

The Sacramento Delta, which serves 25 million Californians, is one sizeable earthquake or storm from disaster. New Orleans suffered extensive levee failures during Hurricane Katrina, but levee failures in the Delta area could be more devastating because of the higher numbers of people served by and dependent on this single source of water.

According to the governor’s Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force, $12-$24 billion is needed over the next 10-15 years just to restore the environment and strengthen the region’s physical infrastructure. It could take more to improve the water delivery system throughout the state. And, yes, there should be a peripheral canal to ensure that all Californians have access to a safe supply of water and so that the natural environment can be restored.

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Prop. 13 and our failure to communicate

Public Affairs Consultant specializing in Issue Advocacy and Strategic Communications

Michelle Steele’s response to my post yesterday asking why Speaker Bass has placed Prop. 13 off limits for discussion about fiscal reforms reinforces two common perceptions among folks in my age group:

  • Republicans love gag orders
  • Baby boomers, now that they’re the status quo, don’t like being challenged by younger generations

Yesterday, I asked why Prop. 13 is off limits for discussion in Speaker Bass’s task force. Ms Steel responded “because it works.”

I am fully aware and appreciative that Prop. 13 protects homeowners from escalating property taxes. My question is why my generation of home buyers has to pay so much more in property taxes for homes that are typically smaller than the homes we grew up in. That question was not addressed and since we’re not allowed to discuss Prop. 13, I suppose it will go left unanswered.

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Why is Prop. 13 off limits?

Public Affairs Consultant specializing in Issue Advocacy and Strategic Communications

California does not need another study on tax reform. Nonetheless, with term limits having reduced lawmakers’ institutional memories in Sacramento I’ll go along with Assembly Speaker Karen Bass’s call for a blue ribbon task force on this topic.

At the risk of being permanently blacklisted from Fox & Hounds, I am disappointed that Speaker Bass told the Los Angeles Times’ George Skelton that Prop. 13 is off the table because it’s “too divisive.”

I was in second grade in LAUSD when Prop. 13 passed and remember the quality of the schools I attended somehow eroding after that (obviously due to a lot more than just Prop. 13). At the same time, I appreciate that many members of my family have been able to retire in the homes they purchased before Prop. 13 due to affordable property taxes. I also appreciate that Prop. 13 has helped commercial property owners stay in business. For me, however, Prop. 13 means that my generation is paying far more in property taxes for homes smaller than older property owners (and usually empty nesters) living in larger houses.

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Battle of the Bulge in South L.A.

Public Affairs Consultant specializing in Issue Advocacy and Strategic Communications

Despite working next door to Burger King and being tempted daily with the smell of charbroiled burgers, I only eat there about twice a year. I have a soft spot for Taco Bell, but I hardly ever go there either—unless there are no other options, and I’m desperately in a hurry and hungry. I was raised not to eat fast food, so I normally avoid it.

But a renewed effort at L.A. City Hall to permanently ban any more fast food outlets into South L.A. strikes me to be about as effective as banning chocolate or beer. Neither is particularly good for you when consumed in mass quantities, but many of us will find a way to buy them no matter how expensive or readily available they are.

The effort is being made in the name of fighting obesity, a noble cause. However, I think it is more effective when parents show their kids healthy foods to eat, how to prepare them, and where to buy them. It’s also on the heals of other proposals to ban trans-fats in L.A., but not lard.

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Gay Weddings & Wedding Crashers

Public Affairs Consultant specializing in Issue Advocacy and Strategic Communications

In a Forest Gump moment, I happened to be in Mayor Villaraigosa’s office waiting for a meeting with his staff yesterday when I noticed a gaggle of reporters in his press room and champagne glasses near the podium.

As it turned out, I was about to witness the mayor preside over his first same-sex marriage when I was escorted to a conference room for my meeting. Apparently, I missed the rude wedding crasher who calmly stepped up to the podium after the ceremony and announced her opposition to gay marriage and added some inappropriate comments about the mayor.

This self-described “angel of the Trinity” later informed reporters that California would soon be punished for our Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriages through a series of earthquakes and floods. (Thankfully, my homeowners’ insurance covers both).

Unlike some of the “bridezillas” you see on TV these days, this happy couple laughed it off. Good for them in not letting this uninvited guest ruin their wedding day. Like anyone, I am sure that they were annoyed with the intolerant tone of the interruption, but they handled it with class.

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19th Amendment still on the books

Public Affairs Consultant specializing in Issue Advocacy and Strategic Communications

Like a college freshman needing to learn some smooth lines to connect with co-eds, the GOP needs to better learn how to connect with women voters.

The latest example of the GOP missing the boat on attracting women voters is from a Santa Ana city councilman’s comment after the Orange County Board of Supervisors yesterday selected Sandra Hutchens as the new sheriff:

As reported in the Los Angeles Times’ lead paragraph on the story, "I kept telling the chief," he said, referring to Santa Ana Police Chief Paul Walters, who narrowly lost the sheriff’s job, " ‘Maybe we should get you some implants. Or a water bra.’ "

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Instant Runoff Voting Revisited

Public Affairs Consultant specializing in Issue Advocacy and Strategic Communications

Since my post last week about instant runoff voting being worth considering, primarily due to the cost savings for election officials, I have received several comments, including one from L.A. City Councilman Greig Smith who is widely recognized as a reliable business vote.

In a recent blast e-mail to various folks in L.A., he says:

Instant runoff voting unfairly hampers candidates that fight for Los Angeles’ business community.  As someone who has run for office, I can attest that I would have to incorporate practically all of the expenses of my runoff into a single instant runoff election. 

Under this scenario, only unlimited independent expenditure campaigns will possess the means to afford the high costs of campaigning in Los Angeles.  This provides powerful special interests who regularly oppose Los Angeles’ business community a significant advantage over independent-minded candidates.

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Has the time come for Instant Runoff Voting?

Public Affairs Consultant specializing in Issue Advocacy and Strategic Communications

Here in Los Angeles, an effort is underway to place an "instant runoff initiative" on the city’s Nov. 4 ballot.

As in San Francisco, L.A.’s instant runoff election would allow voters to vote by ranking their choices in numerical order. If no candidate earns a majority of the first choices, the last-place candidate is eliminated and votes are re-tallied based on voters’ preferences. The process is repeated until a candidate has received a majority of the votes for candidates who have not been eliminated.

Sound confusing? Yes, but it’s a system worth considering.

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How will Court ruling impact Nov. 3 ballot items?

Public Affairs Consultant specializing in Issue Advocacy and Strategic Communications

The CA Supreme Court ruling to legalize same-sex marriages could be just what the GOP ordered. National support for Republican Party leadership ranks only slightly higher than support for measles, and John McCain has not yet succeeded in rallying the religious wing of his party.

But now religious conservatives have a mission and that is to overturn the court’s decision with a state constitutional amendment that will likely qualify for the Nov. 3 ballot. How will those voters (not to mention Democratic constituencies that oppose gay-marriages) impact the other items on the same ballot?

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