Category Archives: Reform

Think Small, Californians

Bone They say takers eat well, but givers sleep well. Maybe it’s time we start focusing more on our sleep. 

Given the enormity of the challenges facing California, it is easy to become fatalistic and cynical. The problems are so daunting and our leadership so dysfunctional that it leaves us feeling totally helpless and impotent. Perhaps we should adapt a new personal survival strategy: downsize our expectations of government/others and demand more from ourselves. 

Yeah, its easy to rail on the status quo and bark for reform. The BlueDog will continue to howl, attracting a growing cadre of like-minded California moderates in the process. But for today, let’s focus on pointing the finger at ourselves. What can we do to improve our own little corners of the world? The people we encounter as we go about our lives? How can we assume more personal responsibility for our fellow man?

There are a zillion things we can do that don’t involve giving money or too much of your time:  

* Donate clothes, furniture and appliances to charities. Donations are down and demand is up at local thrifts.

* Spend some time talking to a friend or acquaintance who has lost a job. Ask what you can do to help.

* Be a considerate driver

* Turn off the Blackberry and spend genuine time with your kid.

* Stop cursing. 

* Instead of scorn, indifference or subsidizing an addiction with loose change, look a homeless person in the eye and say hello. Better yet, extend yourself and buy him or her a sandwich.

* Pick up somebody else’s litter or trash.

* And because the BlueDog can’t resist: Maybe we should call for a freeze on all pending legislation for a year. In the meantime, requiring all legislators and their staffs to leave the Capitol so they can apply all their state-paid time to doing something tangible and meaningful in their communities — instead of being marginalized by a process that encourages division, problem-creation, mediocrity and gridlock. One would think that a more gratifying application of public service. 

If we did any one of these things every day, California’s collective soul might lift us out of the morass in some weird, cosmic way. At the very least, we would all sleep a bit better . . . even as California burns itself to the ground.

Leave a comment

Filed under California Legislature, Politics, Reform

Trivial Pursuits & Greed in the Bag

dog_snarling“Give Me Men to Match My Mountains,” begs a caption chiseled into a building across from the State Capitol. It’s a majestic call for leadership from another, less cynical era. Here’s something more apt for today: “Give Me Men & Women to Build Our Mole Hills.” 

From all quarters, the inane seems to be the only arsenal available to our elected officials:  To wit:  Sacramento County Supervisor Roger Dickinson, who thinks the critical issue of our time centers on banning plastic bags – a plank in a platform he obviously thinks will catapult him into the state Assembly next year. Way to go Roger, you probably do belong in the Legislature, a place where every day seems disproportionately focused on playing trival pursuit on the malodorous tongue of a frothing, volatile multi-headed leviathan known as the budget crisis, health care crisis, unemployment crisis, homeless crisis, education crisis . . . 

But those matters can wait while our elected officials dicker around with things like Assembly Bill 68 (Brownley), which seeks to impose a 25-cent tax on plastic shopping bags. Proponents trot out “Bag Man” at news conferences where they twist facts like taffy. A preponderance of science and research shows plastic bags to be a non issue. There is even a strong case to be made they actually are better for the environment than paper (note earlier posting here and again full disclosure that the Blue Dog has performed consulting work for firms that produce plastic bags and packaging materials).

Bag Man: A Capitol Policy Maker

Bag Man: A Capitol Policy Maker

The BlueDog- an avid recycler – is old enough to remember when paper bags were evil because they were made by raping our forests. But who the hell cares about  historical perspective? Or  pesky details associated with life cycle analysis, consumer choice, financial impact on shoppers or the Legislature’s abrupt abortion of its nascent plastic bag recycling program? 

This is, after all, California, land of endless opportunity to do something well-meaning, but ultimately amounting to a public policy mole hill. Someone should scratch at beneath the surface in search of motivations. Frustration on the part of our elected officials at their own self-evident impotence in solving what truly matters? A desire to distract us from reality? Control issues? Or is it something less cosmic and more base, like greed?

If you read the fine print of AB 68, you’ll see a provision that allows grocery stores and retailers to keep 5 cents for each bag they tax. Wow. The bag itself probably costs less than a penny. Bag bashers like Dickinson and Brownley claim “19 billion” plastic bags are sold annually. So if we do the math, that’s a $4.75 Billion reach into the pockets of Californians — of that, about a Cool Billion will go to grocery stores and retailers. Can they possibly need that kind of jack to administer the program? In an industry with razor thin profit margins, it’s no wonder their associations are on board with measure. Seems like an incentive to push more bags.

The winners in this game of trivial pursuit certainly aren’t average Californians, who have bigger worries on their minds and loftier expectations of their elected officials. Where is our Sir Edmund Hillary? Where are our fearless, dutiful Sherpas?

Leave a comment

Filed under California Legislature, Environment, Media, Politics, Reform

Circling the Drain @ 14 Percent

main_dogThe BlueDog is still chomping on the latest Field Poll released last week about the California Legislature’s appalling approval ratings from the very people it purports to serve.  To realize just how truly abysmal the numbers are, let’s put them into a broader, more historical context of polling “lowlights”:               

Governor Schwarzenegger     33%
George W. Bush           29%
Gray Davis                   25%* 
Richard Nixon                       24%
Harry Truman     22%
California Legislature 14%

It’s a jaw dropping perspective. Can it get any worse? Unfortunately, the answer is probably yes, especially if we peer into the mind of the legislators themselves.

“You know, the Legislature is generally unpopular, but people tend to like their own legislator, ” Senate Pro-Tem Darrell Steinberg said in Kevin Yamamura’s coverage of the poll in the Sacramento Bee

The BlueDog about choked on his English muffin upon reading this. After all, Steinberg is one of the best and brightest in the Capitol. By all accounts he is as decent and dedicated a public servant as they come.  While there’s a kernel of truth to his conventional wisdom, it comes across as cavalier and tone deaf. Nuancing the  sentiment of 86 percent of California voters seems like a risky proposition.  

This is exactly the type of mindset that insulates legislators from reality  . . . along with a highly deferential workplace environment in which they are fawned over, catered to and not always told the harsh truth by those around them as they travel up and down in their own private elevators.  Safe legislative districts and a broken political system only reinforce the illusion of being in sync with their constituents.

But this being a blog for Moderates, there is a one positive takeaway from the poll: the putrid view of the Legislature may be serving as a unifying bipartisan force.

“What’s remarkable about his job rating numbers is that there’s no differentiation between the two parties,” Field Poll Director Mark DiCamillo told the Bee: “I can’t think of another elected official who, when getting negative ratings, scores just as poorly among his own party as among the opposing party.”

Sounds like a catalyst for reform. It won’t be long until the Legislature succeeds in flushing itself down the drain, and the 86 percent of us can commence the business of reforming California government.

* (Based on an online figure stating Davis’ approval ratings were in the “mid-20s” around time of recall election)

Leave a comment

Filed under California Legislature, Media, Politics, Reform

Centrists Rising

dog_withboneWhile the phrase “groundswell of moderation” may seem like an oxymoron, the robust and quiet center of California is mobilizing to offer an array of reform measures intended to help fix state government.  In case you missed it, check out the piece today from the Sacramento Bee’s Dan Walters, “Two Strategies to Change California Government.”

Here’s a choice excerpt from his column: 

“California’s never-ending budget crisis has, if nothing else, solidified broader acceptance of what until recently had seemed to be a radical notion – that the state’s governance is deeply flawed and needs fundamental overhaul.

“Two centrist, bipartisan civic groups – California Forward and the Bay Area Council – are pushing two different and somewhat competitive reform strategies, both aimed at asking voters next year to take action of some kind, and both appear to be picking up steam.”

The message to California Blue Dogs: you are not alone.

Stay tuned.

Leave a comment

Filed under California Legislature, Media, Politics, Reform