New “Citizens Council” Would Right California’s Wrongs, Group Says
The 16-member Think Long Committee thinks a 13-member “citizens council” will improve the lives of California’s 37.5 million residents by ensuring better performance from state and local government.
An initiative to create this council will be placed on the ballot, Think Long pledges in its 24-page Blueprint to Renew California, which contains a number of suggestions purporting to make the Golden State even more golden, including lowering income taxes and tacking sales tax onto services like dry cleaning, accounting and advertising.
The group has the wherewithal to wage a successful campaign to get its ideas on the ballot thanks to a $20 million nest egg from billionaire Nicolas Berggruen, chair of the 16-member committee that created the council concept.
An introduction to the Blueprint credits former Gov. Gray Davis and former California Supreme Court Chief Justice Ron George “for their work on the citizen’s council.”
Among the other committee members are former Assembly Speakers Willie Brown and Bob Hertzberg, former U.S. Secretaries of State Geroge Schultz and Condoleez as well as Eric Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman.
This council, nine of its members appointed by the governor, would be “independent, impartial and non-partisan,” according to Think Long’s Blueprint whose “integrated set of recommendations” are intended to be a “rebooting of California democracy” that leaves “gridlock behind” by creating a “bipartisan path to the future.”
The Citizens Council for Government Accountability will be a “counterbalance to the short-term mentality and special interest political culture that dominates Sacramento,” say the Long Thinkers.
It will “seek cooperation with all state agency heads,” oversee the functioning of government “at all levels,” engage in long-term planning and “provide a forum where the state’s legislative and executive branches, regional organizations, counties, cities, master plan educational institutions and leaders from business, labor and the environmental community would work together on a sustained strategy that transcends election cycles, partisanship, limited organizational boundaries and short-term thinking.”
And that’s just on Tuesdays.
By majority vote, the council’s 13 members can put an initiative on the ballot to change state law. An initiative to amend the constitution would require a two-thirds vote.
Two thirds of 13 is 8.6. Because of the difficulty in establishing that one council member is only 60 percent in favor of a proposed constitutional amendmennt, Think Long no doubt intends the two-third vote threshold to be nine of the council’s 13 members, although the Blueprint is silent on the question.
When not placing its own initiative ideas before California voters, the council can order the Secretary of State to publish the council’s comments on other initiatives or referendums on the ballot.
These comments would include the “long-term impact” of passing these other measures on the “state’s strategic priorities,” which apparently will be set by the council in a document called the Golden State Strategic Agenda.
The council would have the same subpoena powers as the existing Little Hoover Commission.
Giving the council that power, say the Long Thinkers, means the council “would not be an added layer of bureaucracy but an extended voice and proactive watchdog for the long-term public interest and for quality control of government.”
Taking Think Long at their word, the council may not be a new layer of bureaucracy but it has a guaranteed budget of at least $2.5 million.
“This amount is deemed necessary for the council to attract and maintain a high-quality, professional staff” who would be exempt from state civil service hiring rules.
Members of the council itself would be paid only per diem, suggesting independent wealth and plenty of free time would be key qualifications for membership.
Vesting these powers in this baker’s dozen “will ensure that the public’s priorities – excellence in education, world-class
infrastructure, a sustained quality of life, opportunities for good jobs and the strengthening of a vibrant middle class through boosting the state’s competitiveness in today’s global economy – remain at the top of the public policy agenda over the long-term.”
As to who California is ceding this authority to, the Think Longers say the council’s members should be “distinguished residents of California.”
In contrast to undistinguished illegal immigrants.
Merriam-Webster defines “distinguished” as “marked by eminence, distinction or excellence.” For English language learners the dictionary says “distinguished” means “known by many people because of some quality or achievement.”
Think Long suggests such people would be “prominent scholars, former governors, legislative leaders, former justices or judges, university presidents and leaders from industry, labor and community affairs, as well as young business or social entrepreneurs – who have demonstrated a commitment to the state and are broadly reflective of the economic, cultural and social diversity of California.”
Not unlike the composition of the Think Long Committee itself.
Members would be limited to two six years terms and be subject to “strict” conflict of interest laws.
Regular meetings would be held to take public input, a “social media window for direct public consultation” would be created and “available technology, including new advances in cloud computing” would be used to “render all government operations more accessible and transparent.”
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