So you have a lot of corporate power guys running around lately talking about how California's Constitution needs to be changed. And it all sounds plausible enough. After all, things haven't gone very well in Sacramento lately. The debt is growing at a frightening rate, the economy is shot, our education system is in a constant state of crisis, and our elected officials are hopelessly incapable of solving these or any other problems. So maybe some kind of rearrangement really is in order.
But if California and its voters are going to embark upon the daunting path of rewriting this state's constitution, we should probably at least take a look at the guy who is apparently the great leader in this historic effort. And that would be the expensive suit pictured emoting above, a gentleman with the rather presumptuous name of Jim Wunderman.
In a Contra Costa Times op-ed piece reprinted this week in the Pasadena Star News, columnist Steven Harmon dressed the bird this way:
Hundreds of ordinary residents would band together with a bunch of governmental experts to attempt a major revamping of California's beleaguered capital if voters agree to call for a constitutional convention ... "We will unite the values of everyday Californians with the best expertise our state has to offer," said Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council and member of the ballot measure committee, Repair California. "We have the opportunity to transform California from a nearly failed state to a beacon of prosperity for all the world to see."
A little heavy on the bombast, and if properly captured I'm sure this speech could cause a hot air balloon to soar high above the landscape. But this next paragraph from Harmon's column did pique my interest a bit:
The convention would be limited to four areas of reform: the budget; the relationship between local and state government; government efficiency; and campaign finance.
Now that relationship between state and local governments bit is a theme we like to discuss on The Tattler from time to time. Particularly in light of the recent property tax confiscations, plus Sacramento's usurpation of city control over planning and development through SB 375. So would this convention move towards re-establishing the powers that have traditionally been the purview of local government? Or merely the last nail in a coffin currently being crated up and prepared for final shipment to Sacramento.
Wunderman's bio can be found on the Bay Area Council site. And it looks like he is a major dude up there.
Jim Wunderman serves as the president and chief executive officer of the Bay Area Council, a business-backed public policy organization in the San Francisco-Oakland-Silicon Valley Bay Area. Led by its CEO members, the Bay Area Council is the strong, united voice of more than 275 of the largest Bay Area employers, representing more than 500,000 workers.
I'll bet they have nice offices and a large meeting room as well. The catering alone would probably make a trip worth while. Here's some more happening info from Jim's bio:
In addition to his work at the Bay Area Council, Wunderman is an active member of the community and serves on numerous boards and commissions ... He also serves on the board of Bridge Housing Corporation, the Advisory Board of the Keston Institute for Public Finance and Infrastructure Policy, the Advisory Board of the Partnership for America's Economic Success, the Bay Center, the Community Advisory Board for KB Home and the Policy Advisory Board of the Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics. Wunderman serves as a member of the SB 375 Regional Targets Advisory Committee ...
Well, that pretty much clears up the mystery. Click on the Bridge Housing Corporation link and check out the kind of crap he builds. DSP all the way. Wunderman, my friends, is a redeveloper. A kind of Bay Area belongs to everything doppelganger of our good friend Bart Doyle. And being a member of the "SB 375 Regional Targets Advisory Committee" has got to be convenient for a gent in the redevelopment game. That way he gets to pick and choose what neighborhoods he wants to build in. And that he also runs the company that will do the building? Naw, no conflict of interest there. All backed up by compliant Courts and with not a CEQA review in sight.
And as you can see by hitting this link, the "SB 375 Regional Targets Advisory Committee" is proudly listed on the SCAG site. As is Jim's name.
On October 1, 2008, the most undemocratic governor in California history held a press conference. The occasion for this celebration of himself was the signing of SB 375. On the dais with Arnold Schwarzenegger were a collection of characters (referred to in planner talk as "stakeholders") who played a key role in bringing SB 375 to fruition. They were:
State Senator Darrell Steinberg: The Godfather of SB 375. The man who gave the redevelopment (BIA) and realty lobbies (CAR) their biggest payoff ever.
Mike McKeever: Mike is the executive director of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments. This would be the equivalent of the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments, a subset of SCAG and yet another organization that is working hard to enforce SB 375. Until recently Joe Mosca headed the committee there tasked with enforcing this ugly power grab.
Layne Marceau: Layne was representing the California Homebuilder Group. No surprise seeing him there. Layne oversees an umbrella organization of building trades lobbies that worked so hard to win this boondoggle for their, um, stakeholders.
Heather Fargo: Heather is the Mayor of Sacramento, but also serves as the President of the League of California Cities. You might recall that "The League" was instrumental in putting on the ballot last year the measure that sidetracked the passing of a real statewide law banning Eminent Domain. A law like that being the last thing SB 375 advocates would want to see on the books. How else would they get any work done? The irony being that the LCC, which purports to be a kind of union of cities, is a key player in the removal of planning and development control from cities and turning those powers over to Sacramento. Where they can be better used to payoff lobbyists for their kind patronage. BTW: John and Joe are dedicated League guys.
And then the last speaker stepped up. And since this was no ordinary figure in the SB 375 pantheon, he was introduced by the Adonis of the Alps himself.
Governor Schwarzenegger: "And our last speaker, Jim Wunderman, or Wonderman. I call it in German Wunderman. Nice to see you."
Jim Wunderman: "Just call me, Governor. Thank you. Thank you very much. Governor Schwarzenegger, I want to thank you. First of there's a bill but I want to thank you ..."
Obviously apple polishing is something The Governator has no problems with.
The authors of the Oakland Tribune op-ed piece we cited at the beginning of this post apparently has seen right through this Constitutional Convention charade, and spells out their doubts about Wunderman clearly.
Also, we are skeptical that Wunderman will be able to achieve the convention's goal of keeping special-interest groups shut out. After all, his Bay Area Council could be viewed as a special interest for business ... It seems the only way to keep special interests out of any political activity as critical as a constitutional convention is not to hold one.
To put it mildly. SB 375 represents one of the biggest and most undemocratic power grabs in California history, effectively confiscating the control cities have traditionally held over development and planning within their borders. And apparently the agenda of those responsible is now the rewriting of the California State Constitution. Something that would likely make that power grab permanent and beyond challenge.
In other words, they want it all.