Solution sought to California goverrnment
August 22, 2009
TRUCKEE – Constitutional convention advocates and local representatives gathered at Truckee High School on Friday to discuss ways to fix what they perceive as California’s broken government.
The meeting, and others like it around the state, aim to create a groundswell behind a convention to change the California constitution, and fix many of the state’s problems along with it.
“The state constitution has been amended 512 times and is the third longest constitution in the world behind India and Alabama,” said Jim Wunderman, president and chief executive officer of the Bay Area Council, organizers of the talk. “We’ve got quite a mess. Legislators’ hands are tied.”
Goals of tackling the constitution could include budget changes and issues like term limits and the power balance between state and local government, he said.
It isn’t the people in government who are the problem, Wunderman said, it’s the system created by the constitution.
“It’s very, very frustrating,” said Assemblyman Ted Gaines. “We’re always in the 11th hour, always in emergency mode, and we don’t have time to read the bill.”
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Gaines said he supports putting more power back into local government like cities, counties and school districts.
Nevada County Supervisor Ted Owens echoed the sentiment, and said that’s why it will be important for rural Sierra Nevada towns, counties, and districts to have a strong voice in a constitutional convention effort.
“It is time for us to enact a constitutional convention so the environment in Sacramento can function again,” Owens said.
El Dorado County Supervisor Norma Santiago said the state budget situation will continue to hurt local government services until the way things work are fixed.
“They can take funds from critical programs and yeah, the budget is balanced, but in the long term it is far more costly,” Santiago said.
The benefits of a constitutional convention, rather than a series of ballot measures, would be a more inclusive process, avoiding conflicted interests, and the chance to create a comprehensive solution, said Derek Cressman, western states regional director of state operations for Common Cause.
To do this, language for two ballot measures would have to be submitted by Sept. 25 to go to a vote in the November 2010 election. One would amend the constitution to allow the people to call for a convention, and the other would limit the issues to governance and budget, said John Grubb of the Bay Area Council,
“We’ll need 1.6 million signatures between November and April,” Grubb said.
The constitutional convention would then take a couple of months in 2011, ending with a newly changed constitution up for another vote in 2012, Grubb said.
Grubb said the convention could cost $60 million, but when each day of budgetary delay cost $25 million during the last budget cycle, a fixed system could pay for itself in three days.