Fix California
The King

The Governor's Shack in Sacto


I’ve been unhappy with California for a long time, and I’m ready to suggest ways to fix it. This will be an editorial about something I have almost no expertise in, and believe me I don’t get paid enough for it.

There are many problems in California, and at the heart of each of them is money. Greed causes companies to pollute instead of spending money, and the pollution leads to government action and bills written by lobbyists, mostly for money, and legislation leads to the creation of a "Board" composed of bureaucrats, all hoping first to pay off college loans, then to buy a house and finally for retirement. Money is very powerful fuel, and it lends energy to any system it touches.

On the other hand, without money, nothing happens. Clearly, money is the fuel for the motor of government, and controlling the flow of money controls the government.

With that in mind, I’d like to talk about the five things I would fix in California. To facilitate that, I’m going to use a device I’ve found very useful in the past to correct significant problems in government and society, I’m going to: DECLARE MYSELF KING OF CALIFORNIA.

No, I’m not going to have the governor banished or killed or anything like that, Arnold would stay where he is, to catch flak for me. Somebody has to live in Sacramento, I sure don’t intend to, not even to be king.

There are the things I would fix as king:

  1. The initiative process. As a firm believer in the right of the people to govern themselves, this hurts me, but the initiative process has to be bobbed back. It’s been subverted by advertising agencies, big business, and money from outside the state. It works like this: someone has a great idea to make the state better, or make it better for some and worse for others, and they get some backers and qualify to gather signatures to see if they can make it to the ballot. If they have a lot of money, they hire people to gather signatures. If they don’t, they get volunteers.
  2. And, that’s where the process gets strange.

    If you have money, you hire lawyers to craft a nearly identical but completely opposite bill. You give it a similar name. Instead of "The Defense of Freedom Act" you call it "The Freedoms Protection Act" but everywhere the first bill says "shall" you say "shall not". The name means everything, which is why marketing agencies are so important to the process if you have money. You end up with things being called the opposite of what they are, like "The Defense of Marriage Act" which should have been called "The Restriction of Marriage Act" and might not have passed if called that.

    Then, you hire signature gatherers, and you’re on the ballot.

    Your consultants tell you to rely on the fact that very few people have the time or energy to read either the bill or the analysis or arguments for it. We get "initiative fatigue" and pretty much vote against everything.

    As King, I’m going to fix this, but how? How do we restore the clear voice of the people to this process? Even as King, I have to remember that there is always an unintended consequence, something that happens as a result of my law that I didn’t intend, or that was the opposite of what I intended. If I simply restrict the amount of money that could be spent on any proposition, there could be several unintended consequences. One is that the quality of law, the clarity and completeness, will deteriorate as people shift money from creation to marketing. Another is that marketers and corporations will find ways around the law, for example, putting forth five nearly identical propositions to simply overwhelm the voters on the issue. Restricting the amount of money might be part of the answer, but not the whole answer.

    I might create panels to review the propositions and give them proper names, and panels to clearly describe the social, environmental and fiscal impacts of the bill, but then there would be even more crap for people to read, and they’d be even more overwhelmed. There are already people doing this work, creating more paperwork won’t help. Still, clarifying the language a little further might help.

    Having thought about it, I make my decree: Hence forth all initiatives will have a limit of $50,000 spent for development. There will be no advertising for the initiatives, the state will, prior to the election, describe what each initiative is about, and host a brief debate over it. No advertising, no big budgets, greater simplicity in the initiative process.

  3. Term limits. I have always been in favor of limiting terms because our political process favors incumbents. It’s very tough to get rid of the political baronies that form when long term politicians control all the committees. Term limits solved that problem.
  4. And gave birth to a new one. Career politicians gave way to career bureaucrats. Since elected officials are never in office long enough to really learn the ropes, all that institutional knowledge is in the hands of people who really run government: bureaucrats. It also makes lobbying a nice retirement job for the politicians we forced out of office. The unintended consequence of term limits is that politicians are always angling for a new job instead of answering to their constituents, because they have to move to a different level of government to stay employed. Supervisors become assemblymembers who become congresspeople. The legislature becomes a kind of college where a new class comes in every year, to be processed, kept busy, then sent along.

    If I try to limit the terms of bureaucrats, qualified people will stop working for state government, and things would fall apart. The solution is to restore institutional control to elected officials.

    As King, I would double term limits.

  5. I would rend California in two. I would not divide it into bioregions, or climate types or political intent. I would cleave it in two at the bend, at Highway 50 to be exact. Sacramento, then, would become what it has always claimed to be, northern California. I would rend the state because it is too big, too lopsided demographically. The new state would have its capitol in Ukiah, and the first act of business would be to send Sacramento a bill for every drop of water that goes south. I would call this new state "Bliss". The legislature would meet every three years.

I would then turn California over to Arnold and retire north, to live in the state of Bliss.


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