December 2007 Archives

And A Progressive New Year!

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This is the final Speak Out California post for 2007. We're taking the rest of the year off to celebrate all that we have to be thankful for. And we wish everyone a healthy, prosperous and progressive year ahead!

2007 has been an ... uh, interesting ... year for progressives. There was...progress (sorry - a little progressive humor for the holidays,) and there was disappointment. At the very least I think we all have a better understanding of the effort that will be required to restore our vision of progressive, citizen-oriented policies in the state and country. While recent elections have shown clearly what the people want, overcoming the corporate-backed conservative stranglehold on our political process is an ongoing struggle.

In the coming year progressives can expect a tough election season. Progressives have the people, the right ideas and policies, along with truth, justice and the American Way on their side.


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The fact that the U.S. EPA refused to grant California a waiver so we can initiate our own air emissions standards is really no surprise to anyone who has watched this administration ignore science, our legal system, common sense and the Constitution. Whether waterboarding, abstinence only education, refusing to fund "No Child Left Behind", illegally issuing wire taps without court order, or refusing to honor validly issued subpoena from Congress (to name only a very few of this administration's scofflaw attitude), it is the audacity and mendacity that is so astonishing. It makes one wonder whether the right-wing extremist P.R. firms have a class in how to lie with a straight face, perhaps calling it something like "How stupid do we think the American people really are?"

The chutzpah is endless---with the President today in his own press conference exemplifying it with astonishing ease. But the lack of embarassment or apology is what really takes the cake. And when EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson claimed that the reason for the waiver denials is that and I quote here: "The Bush administration is moving forward with a clear national solution, not a confusing patchwork of state rules." , that really takes the cake.
A clear national solution??? Nothing clear about said solution. Nothing national about it. And in fact, no solution identified either. Besides which, Bush doesn't even believe in global warming. Is it a "national solution" of denial or just plain old deception that this administration is trying to foist on a not-so-unsuspecting public?


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Our ongoing series on the California budget is interrupted by an "emergency." With California state budget deficit projections rising from $10 billion to $14 billion the Governor plans to declare a budget "emergency," saying he might propose "slashing" the state's budget by 10% "across the board."

But doesn't a budget involve spending and revenues? Why is the Governor tying one hand behind our backs? Why is the Governor only proposing that the people who are in a position to really need our government's help be the ones who must sacrifice in this "emergency?"


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A weekly update on the goings-on in Sacramento

For the week ending December 15, 2007


Key bills and issues we've been following during the

Past week and beyond


While historically a pretty sleepy time of year, this past week was full of bells, whistles and continuing alarms ringing over the state of California's finances. With the governor deciding to declare a budget emergency for January and the expectation now that the shortfall could go as high as $14 billion, the politicos are gearing up for a battle royal over how we're going to reconcile our needs and our spending in the coming year.

It was also a week of other surprises, as the Speaker's health care bill that seemed as dead as a doornail last week has come back to life and is scheduled for a vote as early as tomorrow. Unfortunately, the vote will come without most of the members knowing all that is in it because it's still being finalized. And predictably there is a lot of controversy surrounding its process and provisions, but that shouldn't be much of a surprise, given the way we do business here in California.

Not only was the legislature busy, but the courts were busy as well with California scoring a major victory against the automakers in dealing with global warming and the Governor being sued by mental health advocates. The FPPC is also cracking down on spending practices and the Governor has finally coughed up information showing he's received about 1.7 million in special fund money to maintain his Hollywood lifestyle while working as a servant of the people. A busy week, indeed.

We here at Speak Out California hope to be able to keep you up-to-date on all of this in the weeks and months ahead, so

If you like the work we've been doing at Speak Out California, with our regular weekly updates which provide inside commentary and analysis on what is going on in our state capital, we hope you'll support our work by making a contribution to Speak Out California. To contribute, just click here for our website so we can keep providing this unique and important perspective on our state and its future.

At Speak Out California we provide the facts and the commentary that keeps you informed on what is really happening in our state. We don't accept any advertising or corporate sponsorships, so you know that we are not beholden to any group or special interest. Our commitment is simply to provide uncompromising reporting and analysis of what is happening in our state from the progressive perspective.

If you can pledge $10, $25, $50 a month, or send us a one-time contribution, we can continue to keep you in-the-know and keep the progressive voice alive and growing in California.

Just click here for our website to support our work in keeping California's progressive voice strong!


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With the holidays coming (and going) fast and furiously, there is little time for deep reflection. Holiday card lists needing to be updated, cards ordered, written and sent, presents to be purchased so that the economy can stay afloat (while teetering nonetheless), end-of-year commitments met, etc. But the political machinations do not stop, the news is filled with portends of difficult days ahead and questions just seem to rise from the frenzy of the "holiday season"

So here are a few of my random thoughts and ruminations. Comments, observations and explanations are welcomed:

The Budget mess:
Why is it we knee-jerk into across-the-board program cuts before asking whether the programs we've been funding have been successful? We have the Governor calling for huge cuts from every agency and program to address the fiscal down-turn of the state caused by questionable business practices and inadequate oversight (think the sub-prime market fiasco and our state's funding mechanisms). Yet there is no effort to call for accountability or analysis of whether programs and agencies have met their goals or achieved what we expect them to be doing on behalf of the people. In other words, no measurements of what they're doing, why they're doing it and whether it's working at all. Just a simplistic and likely destructive directive to cut, period.

Of course, if the goal is to emasculate the system, this is the way to go. Where we've made progress, let's stop it in its tracks; where we've got too much in one area and not enough in another, why bother to try to become more efficient and more effective? But doesn't it make better sense to redistribute, reorganize or simply terminate programs that aren't working?

Wouldn't this also be a good time to call for a complete review and potential overhaul of our funding system in California? Why is it when the national economy tanks, it hits our state's fiscal health the hardest? Could it be we are too heavily dependent on a tax base that focuses on the good times and doesn't have consistency to cushion the state when the economy slows?

The "Holidays".
When did "giving" turn into "spending"? What happened to the holiday spirit when we measured progress by spreading good cheer and good will instead of credit card debt and plastic gift cards to just about any commercial enterprise on the planet?


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The Line at the DMV

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Two previous posts explored the outline of the California state budget, and the process by which the budget is developed and passed into law. But these overviews don't directly touch most Californians in their daily lives. To begin to connect the budget and the budget process with the concerns of regular Californians let's look at one department that almost every adult in California encounters regularly: the dreaded Department of Motor Vehicles, commonly known as the DMV.

According to the DMV website, the department:


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A weekly update on the goings-on in Sacramento

For the week ending December 8, 2007


Key bills and issues we've been following during the

Past week and beyond


With little of note happening on the water and healthcare negotiations, there has been a little levity and a lot of revving up for the ballot initiative season that starts in February with the Presidential primaries taking top billing. Although of great interest to the state, the ballot measures coming down the pike are also quite momentous for the future of the state itself.

As we've promised, with the electoral season fast approaching, we?ll start taking a closer look at what we'll be voting on in February, along with a look at what the rest of the election year bodes in the way of "direct democracy." Of course, whether this is really what was intended by the founders of our direct democracy system, led by the late Hiram Johnson, or a cynical co-opting of the process by out-of-state billionaires with designs on mucking up our state, we'll leave for another time. (Or just head over to our December 6th blog entry here for a few observations on the problem.)

Before getting into the details, as a basic primer, let's recount where all the money and frantic signature gathering has gotten us for the first of our three elections this year- February 6th. According to the Secretary of State's website, seven measures have qualified and will be on the February ballot. None have qualified for the June ballot and one has qualified thus far for November, 2008. There are 41 in circulation and 26 pending at the Attorney General's office for further action. For those who need more, go to the Secretary of State's website here.

With the holidays spirit in full swing, we're including something a little on the light side. Not trying to compete with People or other intellectual magazines, we just thought our readers would be interested to know who has been chosen and now inducted into the California Hall of Fame for 2007. We'll get to that and have a little more information for you (recently disclosed by the Schwarzenegger team) as to who those wealthy billionaires are who have paid to send him on extravagant international travel during his tenure as governor. Certainly, our Governor should be able to travel lavishly while selling our great state to foreign countries, especially since we don't have an official residence for him to hang his hat and spurs when he returns from outside the state.

We here at Speak Out California hope to be able to keep you up-to-date on all of this in the weeks and months ahead, so

If you like the work we've been doing at Speak Out California, with our regular weekly updates which provide inside commentary and analysis on what is going on in our state capital, we hope you'll support our work by making a contribution to Speak Out California. To contribute, just click here for our website so we can keep providing this unique and important perspective on our state and its future.

At Speak Out California we provide the facts and the commentary that keeps you informed on what is really happening in our state. We don't accept any advertising or corporate sponsorships, so you know that we are not beholden to any group or special interest. Our commitment is simply to provide uncompromising reporting and analysis of what is happening in our state from the progressive perspective.

If you can pledge $10, $25, $50 a month, or send us a one-time contribution, we can continue to keep you in-the-know and keep the progressive voice alive and growing in California.

Just click here for our website to support our work in keeping California's progressive voice strong!


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On a recent trip to Chicago, I had the interesting good fortune of getting into a cab driven by a long-standing Chicago cabbie, complete with real Chicago accent and all. It seems he had been driving a cab for over 30 years in the Windy City and been very involved in local politics at the same time.
He regaled about the current Mayor, Richard M. Daley,, likes him alot, but finds Chicago politics so corrupt --what with neighborhood bosses and precinct captains running the show, that he has just about had it.
He lamented that it was time for term limits, but that the electeds would never vote for them and thus put themselves out of a job; he bemoaned the top-heavy and hard-balled way contracts were doled out and predicted that Hizzoner would be going the way of the former Governor and find himself in prison garb before the end of his next term, if only because 20 years as mayor leads to lots of temptation and transgression.
All this led me to thank our great state of California and Hiram Johnson's contribution to direct democracy---the Initiative process. That is, until I returned to California to be reminded how current money has corrupted this attempt to ensure that the people control the politicians and not vice versa.


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Last week I began to explore California's budget, and wrote,

Our budget reflects our values. So where do we spend our money? How many Californians even know? I didn't know so I decided to find out.
That post outlined this year's budget, with an overview of the departments and amounts.

This week I take a look at how we in California put together our budget. By understanding the process more of us can begin to get involved and work to ensure that the budget really does reflect our values.

As you consider the budget process and its limitations and constraints, compare it to how your own home budget operates. What do you do if you need a new car, or need to fix up your house -- or just repair the roof -- or provide a good education for your kids, put healthy foods on the table, and things like that. The state isn't really different, just bigger.


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A weekly update on the goings-on in Sacramento

For the week ending December 1, 2007


Key bills and issues we've been following during the

Past week and beyond


Efforts to try to get a water bond on the ballot were supposed to dove-tail with the health care proposal being hashed and hacked out by both houses of the capitol this week. Unfortunately, both have broken down to the point that the leadership, short of mopping up the floor with failed expectations and efforts have instead, called off a possible vote of the legislature for the coming week. While Speaker Nunez has sounded the alarm for his troops to be ready to return to Sacramento this coming week for a vote on the health care bill and the senate was rushing to announce an agreement on the water distribution and storage measures, it all seems to have fizzled, at least for the time being. So there will be no floor session in the Assembly- the members have gone from a certain date to the completely amorphous "call of the speaker". Just a call could happen in a week, in a month or not at all.

It seems that the devil in these details just isn't willing to make the final concession to seal the deal. And in the health care debate, that unacceptable point of contention revolves around the big hole in the health care safety net that just seems to get worse with each new compromise suggestion. For water, the problem is tied to the storage- canals to deliver water to Southern California and control the flow of money to approved projects. We're talking some significant differences and difficult choices. For our prior discussion on the basics of this debate, check out our update from last week here.


Democrats call for a third special session to address the sub-prime mess

Perhaps on the belief that three's charm, and that something can get accomplished on the third time around, several Dems met in Sacramento on Friday calling for the Governor to call a third special session to address the sub-prime fiasco that is wreaking havoc on California homeowners and our economy as a whole. As the rise of foreclosures is taking its toll on the economy, officials say the weak real estate market is largely to blame for the steep decline in state revenues. Whatever the real reason, there is little question that the current lending practices have helped create the situation where we have massive defaults on loans that are threatening our state's economy and costing the state billions of dollars in revenue.

The argument goes that with our projected short-fall already in the billions, the last thing we need is to fall further and further into state and individual debt if we can try to gain some concessions from mortgage holders to just cool their jets and work with homeowners who would otherwise be on the streets. For more on the way this is playing out with the lending community, see a first and second article from the SacBee.


Bringing on the lawsuits to protect the public

Last week we introduced a new section into our weekly update- the lawsuit. Several have been brought to address a number of inactions by the Feds: everyone from the Secretary of State suing the voting touch-screen manufacturers, to the AG suing for lead content in toys, to challenging the US EPA for allowing rotting mothballed ships from remaining and lingering in the ever challenged waters of the SF Bay.

Our Suit of the Week includes California, as one of 11 other states, suing the US EPA over new regulations that exempt thousands of companies from disclosing to the public details about their use and emission of toxic chemicals. These new requirements, not surprisingly, significantly weaken the public health by denying the public information about just what toxic chemicals are being released into the air in surrounding communities. This is just another example of the Bush administration putting profits over people---and their health. This is one we should all get behind. And we applaud our state's AG and the 11 others who are not going to allow this administration to keep moving us backward when it comes to protecting our air, water and health.

We here at Speak Out California hope to be able to keep you up-to-date on all of this and any signings or vetoes by the Governor in the weeks and months ahead, so

If you like the work we've been doing at Speak Out California, with our regular weekly updates which provide inside commentary and analysis on what is going on in our state capital, we hope you'll support our work by making a contribution to Speak Out California. To contribute, just click here for our website so we can keep providing this unique and important perspective on our state and its future.

At Speak Out California we provide the facts and the commentary that keeps you informed on what is really happening in our state. We don't accept any advertising or corporate sponsorships, so you know that we are not beholden to any group or special interest. Our commitment is simply to provide uncompromising reporting and analysis of what is happening in our state from the progressive perspective.

If you can pledge $10, $25, $50 a month, or send us a one-time contribution, we can continue to keep you in-the-know and keep the progressive voice alive and growing in California.

Just click here for our website to support our work in keeping California's progressive voice strong!


The Governor sneaks Privitization back on the front burner

While most of Californians aren't paying much attention to what's happening in the closing weeks of the year, especially while we're trying to figure out how to meet our gift expectations with the price of gasoline going through the roof, our incomes teetering and our mortgage payments keeping us awake at night. So it should be of no surprise that the Governor has floated an enormous and dangerous trial balloon out there, just to see if anyone is watching- or more importantly, if they care.

Such is the case with the Governor's call for more privatization of services. The goal of the free-marketers is to outsource just about everything, so that government is no longer in charge. With the free marketer's only interest in profit, the people will end up paying more and more for less and less in the way of services. After all, who do these companies have to answer to? Certainly not the electorate, the public or those who ultimately pay for their services. Nope. This is a system that lets the private sector, motivated solely by profit, take over the creation and control of our roads, public works projects, healthcare, schools, prisons, ports, levees, hospitals and other social and public safety services with no input from the people. We just get to pay and be quiet. No accountability, no oversight, no interests of the people to contend with ---just the bottom line success of the CEOs and some shareholders who are only trying to make a buck.

This scary but not far fetched plan was floated again this week by the Governor. For more on this story (which we have to watch very closely in the months to come and ask: Who is in charge? Who do they answer to? Who pays their expenses?) Check out the LA Times article here.

As promised, Speak Out California will be taking a close and careful look at the significant number of ballot initiatives as they are introduced for the 2008 election year. There will be a number of them that qualify as the money to gather signatures continues to be factored in as just a cost of doing business. With California becoming the testing ground for all sorts of controversial ideas, our commitment to direct democracy through the initiative process continues to encourage special interest groups and multi-millionaires to play in our sandbox. Many of these ideas are contrary to the best interest of the people of our state and we at Speak Out California will continue to speak out against those policies that do not serve our communities.


Nasty politics and the Initiative battles for 2008

While the term-limits/extension initiative continues to heats up, with cross-allegations as to who exactly is funding the nay side of the measure (looks like New York multi-billionaire Libertarian Howie Rich) the right wing is frantically trying to gather enough signatures to qualify the Electoral College split initiative for the June ballot. This is the sell-out measure that the Republicans have been dreaming about as a way to dilute ONLY California's voting process, since a Democrat has carried this state and its significant 54 electoral votes for the past four election cycles and is poised to do so again.

The right wing would like nothing better than to split our system so they can claim 20 votes (which they would likely achieve if the split were based on who wins individual congressional districts). That's enough for another Ohio and the Reps believe that gives them the White House again. Not at all shy about acknowledging in public that they don't care how they win, nor do they give much respect to the Constitution, they want to continue to destroy the country as they have done with such effectiveness over the last eight years.

The good news, such as it is, is that they're having some difficulty collecting the signatures fast enough to qualify for the June ballot. They're likely to succeed, as the number of valid signatures is only in the mid 440,000s. To ensure the qualification, they're trying to reach the magic 700,000 number. If, of course, people actually read the material, they'd likely hand them re-chewed gum instead, and not their signatures, but that's a topic for another day, as we'll have to do something about the fraudulent manner by which signature gathering is pursued and accomplished.

Of course, this system allows so many items to come before voters, measures that are either distortions of the issues, turf battles, economic warfare or other types of political warfare that really have no place on the state's ballot. But as long as out-of-state money can buy often out-of-state and otherwise out-of-work people to lie and mislead unsuspecting Californians to sign just about anything, we've got a real mess on our hands.

Well try to provide some thoughts on that as we enter this political season and beyond.

In the meantime, we'll continue updating the process as new measures qualify and news about existing measures comes to the fore.

The Rest of the Story

Our blogging offerings for the week:

Things can change

Exploring California's Budget


To read and comment on these entries just go to: www.speakoutca.org/weblog/


We hope you find these weekly updates useful. We need your help to keep reporting these stories and insights on a regular basis. To keep you informed and California moving toward a more progressive future, will you be a supporter?

Please click here and help us with a contribution of $25/$50/$100

As always, we welcome your comments and suggestions and hope you send this newsletter to your friends and other like-minded progressives. Urge them to sign up to Speak Out California, and keep the progressive voice alive and growing.

Remember you can help support the work of Speak Out California by making a contribution here


Until next week,

Hannah-Beth Jackson and the Speak Out California Team


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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from December 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

November 2007 is the previous archive.

January 2008 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.