January 2006 Archives

Keep Clean Money bill alive

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The Clean Money and Fair Elections Act of 2006 will go to the Assembly Floor for a vote next week. Our grass-roots lobbying efforts have made a difference so far, and we must keep flooding legislators' offices with letters of support to ensure that the bill makes it through this next important step!

There is no question that the undue influence of big corporate money in politics is standing in the way of real progressive change in California. Clean Money will go a long way toward fixing this broken system. It would provide for public financing of campaigns, so that those who are elected are truly accountable to the people, not the wealthy private interests who can afford to bankroll elections.

It is groundbreaking legislation for California and it needs our support. Please send a letter today to your representative in the California Assembly!

TAKE ACTION NOW »


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Too futuristic?

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With a $200 Billion (mostly pavement, not a dime for transit) bond on the table, now the one silver lining - that we might get some rail out of this mess, too - appears to be fading:

"In a word of finite choices, when you combine what you know you need and haven't done with what the public wants done, high-speed rail sounds too futuristic and does not generate the kind of enthusiasm any number of other projects do," Perata said.

Note to Senator Perata: this is California, remember? You can not be "too futuristic" here, OK? We like the future, we want it to happen. We want it to be easier to get from LA to SF without having to deal with airports or be stuck in our cars for six hours! We want to be like other modern and industrialized countries! We don't want to do nothing but build roads!


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That was a quote in this San Francisco Chronicle story today about the Governor's refusal to take a position on a death with dignity bill making its way through the Legislature.

The death with dignity issue is just the latest in a string of issues that Schwarzenegger, despite being the top elected leader in the largest state in the country, won't touch. I suppose people have gotten to the point where politicians not taking a stand is the norm, but as someone who fights for the ideal, I can't really let this point go.

Schwarzenegger's attitude boils down to cowardice. He says that the death with dignity issue, and the death penalty, and gay marriage, and any other important issue that takes a modicum of political courage to discuss, should be taken to the people. But when does he get held accountable for not giving the people the opportunity to weigh in? He has been in office for almost three years now, and he hasn't brought these issues to the ballot. Hhe took the opportunity to call a special election to decide a series of issues that no one but his deep-pocketed corporate donor class cared about.

If he thinks that the death penalty issue should be decided by the people, and meanwhile innocent people are still being tried and convicted on death penalty sentences, where is the urgency for putting that question on the ballot? The point here is that if Schwarzenegger felt these were important issues, and felt they should be decided by the people, he should take them to the people. Otherwise, it's just empty rhetoric. And sadly that is something the press has not called him out on.

Also, this kills me:

On other topics, Schwarzenegger appeared disinclined to support an initiative on the June ballot that would raise taxes on the state's wealthiest residents to pay for preschool programs. Although he declined to officially endorse or oppose the measure, the governor said the idea of universal preschool is fantastic but he opposes a tax increase to pay for it.

That is in a nutshell the problem with Schwarzenegger's approach, and it's one we have said from the beginning. Empty rhetoric. All style, no substance. Governors don't just sit around and think something is fantastic. They show the leadership that is required to actually make things happen.

The Chronicle article is full of hilarious Schwarzenegger quotes, but I think this one is my favorite:

"I did not go to school to become governor -- I never thought about it," he said.

Yeah. We know.


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They really just don't get it

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I came across the following snarky little tidbit over at CalRaces (the blog site for some conservative consulting group)...

My guess is this is her latest attempt to fire up her ultra liberal base with a touching story about kitties, but at the end of the post I found that I had more questions than answers about what her point is.

Clearly changing world by chasing stray cats is over my head.

The post in question is from candidate for Secretary of State Debra Bowen, who has already been doing a great job keeping an eye on current Sec. McPherson and keeping absurdly insecure Diebold machines as far away from California as possible. (and whom I did not realize is a fellow alum of University of Virginia!) It's cute. Go read it. Isn't helping the less fortunate and powerless one of the basic tenets of living a reasonably fulfilling life? Maybe I'm being uncharitable, but how come it seems like conservatives just don't understand this so often?


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The California Clean Money and Fair Elections Act, AB 583, by Assemblymember Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley) has passed out of the Assembly Appropriations Committee and will eventually head to the full Assembly floor for a vote.

This legislation would be a huge step forward in our efforts to rid the current system of excessive corporate money, which has turned off so many to the system and given us politicians who are beholded to special interests rather than the public interest. Even George Skelton gets on board today.

Thanks to the hundreds of Speak Out California members who let their voices be heard by sending in e-mails and flooding legislators' offices with calls. Assemblymember Hancock said the outpouring of support from ordinary Californians made a difference in emphasizing the importance of this reform. We also want to thank the legislators on the Appropriations Committee who voted for the bill (all of them Democrats): Jusy Chu, Karen Bass, Patty Berg, Ronald Calderon, Hector De La Torre, Betty Karnette, Johan Klehs, Mark Leno, Joe Nation, Jenny Oropeza, Dave Jones, Lori Saldana and Leland Yee.


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Dear Senator Feinstein,

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I know you have been hearing from a lot of us lately, and you probably have gotten to the point where you think these emails are meaningless. But this really is the best way I have to communicate my thoughts to you.

You would be happy to hear that I am a very active citizen. Since quitting my job at the L.A. Times to work on the Howard Dean campaign, I have dedicated a huge chunk of my waking life to working for political change. I have gotten very involved in local and statewide campaigns, I work for two statewide political organizations - Speak Out California and PowerPAC.org. I follow state and national political news on an almost up to the minute basis.

My purpose for telling you all of this is so you realize that I feel very strongly about this, and MoveOn.org has kindly provided me with the tools to communicate with you, my elected representative, who I happily voted for every time your name has appeared on the ballot. I am not sending you something as a knee-jerk reaction to an email I got.

A lot of smart people have been noting that there is really no good reason NOT to filibuster Sam Alito in an effort to prevent him from being confirmed to the Supreme Court of the United States. This nomination is all about politics -- we've known that from the minute Harriet Meier was withdrawn as a nominee. If Bush is playing politics with the Supreme Court, how can you possibly not try to stop him on the grounds that it would be politically motivated?

Let me first predicate my argument by saying that I see the reality of Alito being confirmed. I don't see a way out of it, really. What I am arguing about is strategy, given that horrible tragedy. The truth is there will be a backlash if the Democrats do not filibuster, I can guarantee you that. I will not vote for a single incumbent if the Democrats roll over on this, and trust me, that sentiment is very pervasive here in California and around the country.

Please do not give in to the right-wing's rhetoric. You have NOTHING to lose by filibustering the Alito nomination. Your Democratic constituents will love you for it, and the Republicans in Washington can't really hate you more than they already do. If they use the nuclear option to end the filibuster, they will be left with that decision, not you. They will be the ones explaining to the folks back home why they just ended 170 years of Senate tradition. (Nevermind the reality, which is that the fillibuster has throughout history been used mostly to stop progress, and so when we're in charge it would be fine if it wasn't around anymore!)

You do, however, have EVERYTHING to lose by caving in and calling him "qualified." Your Democratic constituents will abandon you, and guess what? The Republicans in Washington will still dislike you and do everything they can to discredit you.

Please, this is a fight our country desperately needs. Make this fillibuster about the very bedrock values and freedoms that all Americans share. It is both the noble and the most politically strategic thing to do.

Sincerely,

Jenifer Ancona
San Francisco


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Today we remember the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. And we honor him in the only way you can honor such a great leader for the cause of peace and justice: by working toward peace and justice in our communities.

Find out which events are happening in your area. Go there. Meet like-minded people, celebrate and organize.

Let these words ring in your ears:

Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

Motivate.


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technology and social goods

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In general I'm a skeptical techno-utopianist. It was a phase I and a lot of other folks went through during the Clinton Boom, but I think most techies are over it now. In general there's been a fascinating shift from a general libertarian-bordering-on-anarchist gestalt to a center-left or very left approach. I still haven't seen any quantitative data on this, but watching the changes in the tenor of conversations on slashdot and other techie sites over the past few years illustrates it clearly.

Techies understand first-hand the need for society to invest in itself. Most of what we do every day simply wouldn't exist without that investment. They're still powerfully libertarian on social issues; they find the bizarre sexual- and bodily- control impulses (from the drug war to gay marriage to abortion) of the right utterly repulsive. They're pro-small business and largely in favor of public spending on everything from public transit to open source software.

I no longer personally believe that working in the technology industry alone is a sufficient positive contribution to society. I strongly believe that everyone in a democracy ought to be involved in the broader aspects of our society. No exceptions. But I do still believe in technology as a force for moving society forward at least occasionally.

The recent wide adoption of earth browsers seems to be a breakthrough for just that. Wednesday's story from the Chronicle is a good start:

But for environmentalists, Google Earth has turned out to be much more than another gee-whiz software development. Instead, it's starting to look like a killer app that could change the power balance between grassroots environmentalists and their adversaries.

There's a little techno-utopianism here, for sure. But if you've got a new-ish computer and haven't seen them, try both the outstanding Rachel Moore logging visualization and the Sierra Club ANWR one. Visualizations have a way of drawing people in and creating experiences, and as such they have a way of going beyond just the presentation of information. There's even a new partnership forming to examine exactly these issues.

The Chron article touches a bit on the use of this technology for planning. One of the numerous problems with what the Governor proposed this weeks is that building lots of roads generates exactly the wrong kind of growth. The kind of pavement based growth is exactly the kind of growth that many Californians spend enormous quantities of energy fighting in their local communities. Of the more than $200 billion he proposed, not a dime was for urban transit systems.

The positive alternative is smart growth and community-based planning. This is the new California Dream. We want to live in walkable, safe, efficient, participatory and transit-served communities. Visualizations like the kind that Google Earth provides can play a role in creating these communities. But we need forward-looking political leadership to get there, too.

I've put some further ruminations on this convergence of the research field I've worked in for most of my career and the political system in the extended entry. Click for more...


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I smell a campaign commercial

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Is it just me, or did the Governor of the fifth largest economy in the world just compare this big state he's running to the motorcycle he just crashed? In case you missed it, this was the joke Schwarzenegger opened his budget announcement yesterday with:

"A car pulled out in front of me; it was right there in front. And I just couldn't make a decision which way to go," he said. "I knew, I knew if I would turn left, that the Republicans would get mad. And if I turned right, my wife would get mad, so I just crashed right into the car. I said, 'This is a safer thing to do.'"

The irony of this statement is not lost on us, but unfortunately for the 33 million people who have to live with the consequences of his poor navigation as our leader, we think it was lost on Schwarzenegger!


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Jan. 19, 2006: AB 583 passed out of the Appropriations Committee on a 13-5 vote! Because it's a major financial bill, it was placed on hold while the budget process moves forward. Thank you to all who lobbied legislators, and to the Democrats on the committee who voted in favor of the bill.

*****

The Clean Money and Fair Elections Act, AB 583, is now pending with the Assembly Appropriations Committee, and you can continue to support this important legislation by sending a letter to committee members now.

The people of this state want their government back from the corporate special interests that have such a strangle on it now. The only way to eliminate the corrosive influence of special interests on progressive public policy is Clean Money. AB 583 would create a system of public financing for campaigns so that we can eliminate the undue influence of deep-pocketed, corporate donors on our elected officials and our democracy.

TAKE ACTION NOW »


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Thanks to all of you who sent letters to the Assembly Elections Committee in support of AB 583 -- word is it passed, 4-3, and is now on its way to the Appropriations Committee.

This was an important first step in our effort to enact real progressive change in California, and we will be keeping you posted and giving you opportunities to take action as the bill moves through the process.

And of course a big thank-you to the Democrats on the Elections Committee who showed real leadership by voting in favor of the bill: Assembly members Johan Klehs (D-Hayward), Betty Karnette (D-Long Beach), Mark Leno (D-SF), and Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys).


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More spending, no new solutions

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Gov. Schwarzenegger's budget is out today, and it amounts to more spending with again failing to resolve our state's structural deficit. It's great that we have $5 billion more to play with, but imagine how we could fix things if for once we could leverage that money with a steady stream of increased revenues from making our tax system more fair.

We haven't delved into the proposal very completely yet, and we will, but right now it looks like more surface-level spending (a marketing campaign to try to enroll more kids into Healthy Families is nice, but it won't do much for the other half of uninsured kids who aren't eligible) with a lot of grandiose rhetoric. The best news I've seen so far is equalization of funding for community colleges, which will help many of those that were very near to total collapse due to lack of funding, and the forced efforts to reform California's youth prisons.

I feel like a broken record at this point, but I will say it again: we need to have a conversation about what services we want in this state and what we're willing to do to pay for them. Anything else falls short of what we deserve as a state.


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Ed Mendel of the San Diego Union-Tribune is probably the best reporter in the Sacramento press corps right now. He seems to be the only one lately willing to tell us some unvarnished truth, and he often provides good historical context to political events happening in the Capitol. So today, while most of the other major papers are still busy fawning all over Schwarzenegger and his "Big, Bold Plan" (As the Alliance rightfully pointed out, George Skelton's column in the L.A. TImes is quite barf-worthy), Mendel looks at the bond proposal from an objective viewpoint. Oh, right! That's what journalists are supposed to do all the time. Well, it's been so long since we've seen it, it really does jump right out and grab you!

The basic idea pushed by Schwarzenegger in his State of the State address Thursday -- that as the population booms, the state has done little to expand infrastructure for decades -- is nothing new.

Two former governors, Gray Davis and Pete Wilson, acknowledged the problem by appointing panels on infrastructure and growth, only to have their reports ignored when they were issued during economic downturns.

Davis, who was ousted in the recall, may have had a flashback as he sat in the Assembly gallery Thursday while Schwarzenegger rolled out his plan.

"Estimates of our unfunded needs for traffic, schools and other public facilities are at least $40 billion, some say as much as $90 billion," Davis said in his first State of the State address in 1999.


He then goes on to get into the political implications of the timing of this proposal in the beginning of an election year.


The lawmakers must act quickly to place a plan on the June ballot. Nunez said he has been told that the deadline is Jan. 26 to Jan. 28 for the regular ballot pamphlet and Feb. 12 for a supplemental pamphlet.

The interest of legislative leaders in infrastructure and tax revenue from a growing economy that's narrowing a chronic budget gap might by themselves seem like a sign of good timing for the governor's proposal.

But Schwarzenegger is running for re-election this year, raising the question of whether a Democratic-controlled Legislature will let the Republican governor lead the way on infrastructure or decide to wait until next year.

"If they can't make the June ballot, I'm not sure they would give him a program for November that he could run on," Business Roundtable leader Hauck said.

This bond plan is an old idea. We need investments in infrastructure, but this state has big problems, and they will not be solved by throwing a ton of money into a plan that is being rushed onto the ballot for reasons that are purely political. If this is Schwarzenegger's answer, his compelling reason for us to vote for him again, we should be able to beat him handliy, as long as we are able to articulate a clear and better alternative. We're working on it, and we sure hope others are, too.

Of course, there is the media. But reporters like Ed Mendel give me hope!


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Update: The Clean Money bill passed the Elections Committee 4-3 today, Jan. 10. Thanks to all of you who send letters to committee members -- it paid off!

* * * * *

A crucial vote on a bill that would bring real campaign finance reform to California is scheduled for Tuesday, and members of the Assembly Elections Committee need to hear from as many Californians as possible to ensure the legislation passes this important step.

The California Clean Money and Fair Elections Act, AB 583, by Assemblymember Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley), is modeled after clean money laws already adopted in Maine and Arizona. Recent studies in those states have shown that the systems have worked to restore voters' faith in the election process, dramatically improved diversity among candidates running for public office and substantially reduced the amount of money spent on campaigns.

After the last statewide special election, in which a staggering $300 million was spent by various campaigns, it is clear that a new system is needed for California. Public financing of campaigns will elect candidates who are accountable to the people and the public interest, rather than those who are beholden to corporate, wealthy or special-interest donors.

Show your support by sending a letter today to Assembly Elections Committee members and Speaker Fabian Nunez!

Phone calls are also needed to the Elections Committee Chair, Tom Umberg, and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez. All you have to do is call and say "I'm calling to ask that Speaker Nunez strongly support AB 583, the Clean Money bill."

Speaker Fabian Nunez
(916) 319-2046 or (213) 620-4646

Assemblymember Tom Umberg
(916) 319-2069 or (714) 939-8469

TAKE ACTION NOW »


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The 2006 Primary Election

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Not sure who to vote for in California's Primary election, coming up June 6, 2006?

Check out our 2006 Primary Voter Guide for more information on statewide races and a few key State Senate contests around California, including the candidates vying for the Democratic nomination to take on Gov. Schwarzenegger this fall. Primaries are historically low turnout elections, so help do your part to get people involved by reminding them of the election, and pointing them to Speak Out California as they make their ballot-box decisions.

In addition to the voter guide, Speak Out California will be publishing the results of candidate questionnaires, as well as following the money -- particularly what comes in late from big oil and development interests -- on the weblog.

READ THE 2006 PRIMARY VOTER GUIDE »


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Wondering what the deal is with Schwarzenegger's State of the State address? Check out Speak Out California's response here.


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One of the reasons it's nice getting involved locally, and not just on-line, is that every once in a while, you have an experience or hear someone speak that completely restores your faith in the democratic process and your hope for where our poor, battered country is headed. Sometimes you even get a couple of these at one meeting, which is how last night's Noe Valley Democratic Club meeting went.

Mary Hughes, a local consultant, was the headliner, and she gave a concise but thorough overview of the House & Senate landscape for this year. Her main advice to candidates was to stick to the big issues and not get distracted by the day to day headlines, even if those headlines are that of an ongoing series of Republican scandals and implosions. Just because they're falling apart doesn't mean we're improving.

But the high point came in response to fielding a question about what Democrats stand for. Her answer focused on the Democratic belief in investing in people, society and the future, and how they're better caretakers of our reputation in the world. She was much more eloquent than that, but her pitch had the main thing that makes pitches successful - heart - in spades.

Later in the meeting, there was an impassioned yet civil discussion of the Green vs. Democratic parties and strategy. One of the particpants made an impressively strong, historically grounded case for why chartering grassroots Democratic clubs according to the bylaws of the state party matters, even if that inconveniences some Green party members at times. The party is the coalition was the crux of her argument.

I was struck by how great it is to be in the presence of those who can think quickly and speak clearly about these incredibly complex issues. It's a skill I don't have; perhaps this makes me even more appreciative of it. As great as on-line communications are for this stuff, there's something fundamentally right about a bunch of smart, experienced people in a room dropping science.

Go to the website of the party of your choice and find a local group to hook up with. The CDP's is here. Do something local, something state, and something national.


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Privatization

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From the Department of Stupid Ideas (via Dan Weintraub, who has endorsed this idea): this president of a private university in Ohio is calling for privatization of all public universities, to free up more money for subsidizing lower income students to go to the school of their choice.

The assumption is that public funds for universities are doomed and never coming back. But this assumption rests on the belief that people are never going to wake up and stop voting for representatives that don't understand the value of a state investing in it's children. Especially since we're in a brain-based economy now, this seems like a shaky proposition at best.

The Campaign for College Opportunity released a study last year that quantified this: for every dollar invested in public universities, California's taxpayers get three dollars back in expanded economic growth for the state. Not a bad deal! The report with all the details is availabe on their site. It's really too bad that the leaders of a state like Ohio - that's been hit so hard with manufacturing and outsourcing losses - still aren't able to connect the dots on how to accelerate the shift towards an information economy.

Publicly funded universities are the crown jewels of this country. Yes, they can be inefficient, but the process of education and research, of pushing back the boundaries of ignorance, is intrisinically inefficient at times. But they exist to the benefit of everyone and ought to be paid for by those in our economy who have benefitted the most from their existence. The great storehouses of human knowledge that we've simply developed are simply too important to be subjected to the whims of the marketplace.

Random link I came across while trying to remember the name of the Campaign for College Opportunity: The American Presidency Project at UCSB. Very nice!


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This page is an archive of entries from January 2006 listed from newest to oldest.

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