So who was the leader of this movement demanding so drastic a reform of our broken state government? His name is Jim Wunderman. And here, in a letter to the San Francisco Chronicle, he published his mission statement:
California's state government is broken. This dysfunction has left our state unable to deal with the serious issues of our time in a good economy or a bad - whether it's the K-12 education system, broken budgeting, our rapidly disintegrating public higher-education system, overflowing prisons, traffic-choked regions, local governments hobbled by unfunded state mandates, or a host of other problems.
Now that is a pretty good start. A regular laundry list of easily identifiable woe. Kind of reads like your average day here on The Tattler. But how exactly did Mr. Wunderman propose to solve all of these things? Here Jim discussed what exactly he'd be going after to make things better again:
Repair California, a group of reformers and advocacy groups, has turned in ballot language to call the first California convention in more than 130 years. The measures would call a limited convention to reform four areas of the Constitution:
-- the budget process;
-- the election and initiative process;
-- the balance of power between state and local governments;
-- the effectiveness of government, and creating systems to improve it.
Again, reasonably good boilerplate, and I'm sure some of the more easily stimulated out there thought it was a good idea. But what exactly where these guys really after? Rewriting the state constitution is pretty serious business, and shouldn't be taken lightly. It just might be a pretty good idea to check out the folks that want to carry this notion out. Gauge their motives a little.
Late last October we decided to look into the man leading this charge. And in an article entitled "So Who Exactly Is This Jim Wunderman Guy?" we made a rather shocking discovery. It turns out that Jim was one of the big Sacramento players responsible for the passage of SB 375, also known as the "Destroy Small Cities Act." A major redeveloper out of San Francisco who understood exactly how such a law would benefit him and his industry, and went for it.
But maybe I've understated Jim's role in this SB 375 thing. He was more than just a major player. Outside of Governer Schatzi, and maybe Darrell Steinberg, he was the most major player of all. Certainly the most influential figure who was not an elected official. So influential that on the day SB 375 was signed into law by Arnold, he was singled out and cited for his great importance in the process. Here is how the majestic moment played out:
And then the last speaker before the actual signing itself 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 there's a bill but I want to thank you ... "
When I was a kid my mom would have called that apple polishing. But my friends outside would have used a very different term.
So it turned out that our friend Jim Wunderman was actually responsible for the law that now threatens cities such as ours with massive state mandated redevelopment. Along with taking away our ability to control our local planning processes, plus the right to defend ourselves in court should we be sued by some developer looking to build things we don't want here. Which puts Wunderman's notion to reform "the balance of power between the state and local governments" into a whole new perspective. Obviously it wasn't giving us more power that he had in mind. I'm not sure Jim quite understood the difference between "repair" and doing even more damage.
So it was with happiness and a sense of considerable vindication that I read the following article in the SF Chronicle:
Cash woes hit bid to rewrite state Constitution: Backers of a campaign to overhaul California's Constitution have suspended their efforts because of a lack of money ... The campaign was working to put two measures on the November ballot to call for a constitutional convention as unrest about state government and the overall direction of California deepens among voters. However, money pledged to the campaign by businesses and others never came through, according to people backing the effort ... "I'm very sad we have to call it quits because of the financial situation," said Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council, a business consortium that started the effort ... Despite support from a wide variety of good-government organizations, political leaders and others in the state, the campaign has raised only about $1 million and gathered 100,000 signatures. More than 1 million valid signatures would be needed to put the initiatives on the ballot.
You know, just when you're about to lose faith in the ability of people to see through all the Orwellian subterfuge, something like this happens and restores your faith in humanity. Somehow people saw through the attempts by some of the ultimate Sacramento insiders to portray themselves as angry outsiders ready to lead the people in an assault against Babylon on the Sacramento River. People really do figure things out some times.
Of course, now that Repair California has gone down in flames, the gentlemen behind this failed effort need to find something to blame for their debacle. After all, they have some very prestigious fannies badly in need of cover. So who is it that gets assigned the role of reform wrecker here? Would you believe Haiti?
Campaign officials said they would need at least $3.5 million for a successful signature-gathering effort, plus millions more for the actual campaign. They blamed the tough economy and people focusing charitable efforts on Haiti for the lack of donations to their effort.
But as far as the real villain, Repair California has now fingered a truly insidious bunch. You got it, petition signature gatherers. Here is how the Sacramento Business Journal describes it:
California constitutional convention backers allege blacklist attempts: California reform backers are planning to sue over alleged attempts by professional signature-gathering firms to blacklist them ... Repair California wants signature-gathering firms to "immediately cease the improper, unethical, and illegal boycott of the Constitutional Convention movement, and stop the threats, intimidation, and other dirty tricks that are interfering with California citizens' rights to collect signatures for the Convention campaign."
Now isn't that something? People weren't interested in signing their petitions, so now they want to sue the people who stood in front of places like Wal*Mart attempting to gather those signatures. How pouty of them.