Bay Area Council commits $2 million to reform initiatives

Repair California, a coalition preparing two Constitutional Convention initiatives for the November 2010 ballot, will receive $2 million from its chief sponsor, the Bay Area Council.

Steven Hill, a coalition member and director of the political reform program at the New America Foundation, made the announcement a few minutes ago at a constitutional reform convention in Sacramento. It represents about half of what the group estimates it will need to run a successful initiative campaign.

Hill also outlined some of of the details of the planned initiatives, which he said will be filed with the state in the next 10 days.

The first initiative authorizes the voters to call a Constitutional Convention, an act restricted under current law to the Legislature. The second measure convenes a convention limited to the review of governance issues. Its recommended reforms would come back to voters in subsequent elections.

The measure assigns the management of the convention to the California Fair Political Practices Commission.

But one of the most discussed components of the draft measure has been how to select the delegates.

The final language is still in what Hill called the “tweaking” stage but he said the coalition is strongly leaning toward a hybrid selection of 435 delegates to a Constitutional Convention. A portion of the members would be appointed by the state’s 58 county boards of supervisors. The balance would be randomly, scientifically selected citizens from throughout the state.”

“It’s like Willie Wonka getting the golden ticket,” Hill told the group. “Everyone is going to want to participate … I wouldn’t be surprised if reality TV shows crop up around the delegates. ”

The convention would cost $1.50 per Californian or about $55 million, Hill also said.


Contra Costa misdemeanor flap set for new hearing

District Attorney Bob Kochly

District Attorney Bob Kochly

Contra Costa County’s Public Protection Committee — a subset of county supervisors Federal Glover of Pittsburg and John Gioia of Richmond — will address on Monday afternoon a new report from District Attorney Robert Kochly on how to prosecute misdemeanors.

As you may recall, Kochly sparked a firestorm earlier this month when he announced that budget cuts to his department were so severe that he could no longer punish certain miscreants.

Kochly’s report is thin on solutions. He wrote that he cannot do the job without an adequate number of attorneys. But he said that volunteer or retired attorneys are not a “reliable, ongoing substitute” for permanent staff and noted that the county already uses a significant number of diversion programs, or steps that allow small-time offenders to avoid jail through treatment or other programs.

The more interesting memo in the agenda packet comes from Deputy District Attorney Bob McMaster on whether or not the county could shift misdemeanor prosecution responsibilities to the cities and the potential oversight of Attorney General Jerry Brown.

McMaster wrote that the county could give permission to cities to handle the prosecutions but it cannot force them to do it. Given the state of most city budgets, it seems unlikely that cities want the job.

Brown could come in and prosecute misdemeanors if he determines that the county has failed to administer justice. But the state cannot force the county to do it, McMaster said. In other words, the costs would be on the state’s dime and we all know the state has no dimes.

All in all, there’s nothing in either of these memos that suggests longterm solutions to the problem of no money to pay the required number of prosecutors to go after the county’s scofflaws.

The meeting is set for Monday, May 11, 2:30 p.m., at 651 Pine Street in Martinez.

I’m sure the supervisors would love to hear your ideas.


GOP convention: Jill Buck leads CA volunteer effort

I caught up with Jill Buck of Pleasanton at the RNC’s delegate party Sunday night in Minneapolis. She was late but through no fault of her own: The police-escorted shuttles buses for the California delegation went to the wrong convention center.

The delegate party was in downtown Minneapolis; the buses went to the Xcel Center in St. Paul. The two downtowns are about 10 miles apart,

I know how that happens. My college and I believed our credentials were at Xcel but you can’t get into Xcel without your credentials. So, we went to Minneapolis. While we were in Minneapolis, McCain was doing a press conference via a live feed at Xcel.

But Buck wasn’t discouraged. She is one of the most optimistic people I know.

I persuaded her to talk on video for me about her plans to help put together a volunteer effort for Hurricane Gustav.


Dem convention: Sights and sounds of the CA delegation

Here are some video clips I shot of the California delegation section about a half-hour after the Democratic Party nominated Barack Obama as its nominee at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

You’ll see a lot of familiar faces including former California Gov. Gray Davis, California Democratic Party Chairman Art Torres, Callifornia Reps. Mike Honda and Mike Thompson and former state official Steve Westly.


Is America Ready to Elect a Black President?

By Martin G. Reynolds
DENVER _ Those who rose early Monday morning to catch the “Convention Conversations” forum at the Denver Athletic Club were treated to some serious eloquence, passion and good old fashion humor.
On the panel to discuss this very heavy question were such a formidable bunch, I almost had to do a double-take when Denver Post Editor Greg Moore and I sat down with our yogurt and coffee. On the stage were House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), former Virginia Gov. Douglas Wilder, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., television host and journalist Tavis Smiley, and last but not least, Dr. Cornel West, the Princeton professor and best selling author. Continue Reading