How the People Can Fix California

The deadline to file citizens initiatives for the November 2022 state ballot is this August, and not nearly enough has been done so far. Active measures submitted to the California Attorney General include the highly necessary proposition to “prohibit slavery and involuntary servitude,” along with one to “require earth sustainability training in public schools.” Because apparently we’re still coping with slavery in California, and our public schools are not already inculcating sufficient climate change panic.

Other active measures carry more substance, for example, affecting child custody cases, gambling, and medical negligence lawsuits. But even these, while important, are nibbling around the edges of policy. They will affect the lives of some people, and that may be good or bad, but everyday life in California will not change.

Meanwhile, in a state that once offered hope and opportunity to everyone, most Californians now struggle to survive. The privileged classes – seniors in homes they bought two generations ago, tech workers who learned to code, and the upper strata of public sector employees – exist to serve the elites, a generous handful of billionaires and centi-millionaires. For everyone else, life is tougher every year.

For every essential – homes, rent, tuition, gasoline, electricity – Californians pay the highest prices in America. Californians endure the most hostile business climate in America, and pay the highest taxes. The public schools are failing, crime is soaring, electricity is unreliable, water is rationed, and the mismanaged forests are burning like hell. And all of this can be fixed.

How the People Can Fix California

There is one option available to Californians that can bypass the state legislature, and that is via state ballot initiatives. The legal fees necessary to draft a ballot initiative vary depending on the complexity of the measure, but often run under $10,000. The fee charged by the California Attorney General is $2,000. That’s all it takes to get a state ballot initiative cleared for circulation.

If professional signature gatherers have to be hired, which is typically the case, the cost to gather signatures from voters onto petitions to qualify an initiative to appear on the state ballot is likely to cost over $5.0 million. But that cost must be weighed against the transformative potential of an initiative if it is approved by voters. California permits not only laws, but constitutional amendments to be changed via the initiative process. When you change the California constitution, you change fundamental rules. You not only enact new laws, but you can supersede existing laws that have done harm.

As conditions worsen in California, the arguments against ballot initiatives are increasingly unconvincing. Yes, a campaign to win voter approval of a ballot initiative in a general election can run in the tens of millions. But every two years, 20 senate seats and all 80 assembly seats are up for grabs in the state legislature. And every election cycle, the winning and losing campaigns dump millions into each of the races for these 100 contested seats.

Why bother? The machine is going to stay in control, whether it controls a mega majority in both houses of the state legislature, which it currently does, or a mere supermajority.

And then there are the higher offices. Who can forget Meg Whitman’s hapless 2010 campaign for governor, where she blew through a reported $178 million?

The money is out there. Whitman, along with Steyer, Zuckerberg, Hastings, and dozens of other wealthy Californians have made that abundantly clear. So at a cost of $12,000 apiece, put some options on the table in the form of ballot initiatives. Give the big dogs a bone to carry. They can’t pick it up if you don’t put it out there. Don’t worry about the bad guys emulating this strategy. They don’t have to. They own the machine.

If Meg Whitman had wanted to truly change California, for $178 million she could have sponsored an entire slate of initiative constitutional amendments. If the voters had liked what they were being offered, we would be living in a different and better state today.

New Volunteer Armies Defray Millions in Campaign Costs

Something that proponents of initiatives for November 2022 have available that was not present even two years ago is an awakened, bipartisan army of volunteers who mobilized to qualify the Newsom recall for a special election.

There are now hundreds of trained volunteer managers spread across the state, and thousands of trained volunteer signature gatherers. Their learning curve was steep on the recall, but by the end they had the hardware – booths, tables, signs, petitions, and a thorough understanding of the process. A little known fact is that in the final month before the signature gathering deadline, these volunteers had ramped up to a statewide production of over 100,000 signed recall petitions per week.

This prospect, the ability for trained, motivated volunteers to gather signed initiative petitions at a rate of up to a half-million per month, is a game changer. Skeptics have to consider the fact that the technology available, social media, emails, and websites for communicating and organizing, including the ability for any registered voter to download and print a petition, is only getting more powerful. And now, millions of Californians are aware of how to use this technology. More important, more than ever, they are motivated to use it.

The ability to conceive of ballot initiatives, do the legal research, and file them for title and summary, is a task that even small grassroots organizations can afford. The ability to get them on the ballot can be coordinated by multiple armies of signature gathering volunteers if they merely follow two rules, (1) don’t promote more than one ballot initiative on any particular issue, and (2) use identical petition forms and chose one firm to do the preliminary signature verification and manage the deliveries of signed petitions to the 58 county registrars.

Everything else is negotiable. Various grassroots groups competing for donors and volunteers is bound to be a fractious and challenging process. But as long as they aren’t circulating competing petitions, or trying to juggle two different petition processing firms, everything else can be worked out.

Imagine if Meg Whitman had used her considerable resources to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would repeal water rationing, and authorize a water infrastructure bond that would not leave implementation to the California Water Commission, but would instead limit their authority to actually funding specific, named projects: the Sites Reservoir, the Temperance Flat Reservoir, more desalination plants and water recycling plants on the Southern California coast, repair the Friant-Kern canal, and while we’re at it, detox the Salton Sea and turn the Los Angeles River back into a river.

Californians can and will realize that ballot initiatives can improve their lives. Creating water abundance instead of water rationing is just one example. What about a ballot initiative that would require the state to again sell logging rights to commercial timber companies and fast track the permitting process for new lumber mills, and do it in 12 months or less? Suddenly there is revenue to the state, free maintenance of the fire breaks and power line corridors, good union jobs, lower prices for lumber, and fewer fires as the forests are thinned back to healthy densities. What’s not to like, unless you’re a Sierra Club litigator who has gotten filthy rich destroying what once worked so well?

At present, the only transformative initiative that appears to be headed for submittal to the California Attorney General in time for 2022 is a school choice proposition. That’s a commendable effort, guaranteed to put the teachers union into a fight for their lives. But what about something to fix California’s mismanaged water supply and mismanaged forests? What about an initiative to stop in its tracks the burgeoning “anti-racist” racist industry that’s destroying the character of our youth and crippling the competitiveness of our industries? Ward Connerly of the American Civil Rights Institute is working on that, but more people need to offer him their support.

The possibilities are endless and inspiring. What about another try by the proponents of the failed Prop. 20, which would have allowed Californians to take back control of their streets? What about a thoughtfully crafted reform of California’s homeless policies, which to-date have merely poured billions into the pockets of corrupt bureaucrats, powerful “nonprofits,” and construction developers, while making the problem worse?

We are running out of time. Why aren’t establishment Republicans, trade associations, and grassroots leaders working together, right now, to put together a slate of initiatives for November 2022? The filing deadline, late August of this year, is nearly upon us. How many ways will voters have a chance to fix California, before they have to wait another two years?

This article originally appeared on the website of the California Globe.


  1. Really??? says

    This is a good piece, and clearly focuses on issues.

    What I see is the post WWII indoctrination on “government” is the answer. There was still enough private enterprise and personal initiative in the State and Nation that allowed the “fix” for a problem was not government. Remember “I like Ike?” When in office his answer to the lingering recession post Korea was have the private sector increase spending. Buy a car, a dining room table, an extra set of towels, etc.

    The outcome? The economy recovered and the government at all levels spent very little. Far less tax money used, keeping taxes lower.

    When Kennedy was in office his answer was “reducing taxes” ironically increases government tax revenue.

    The current party that calls itself Democrat today has little resemblance to the Democrats of John Kennedy. It is radicalized on the Communist template, Exceptionalism always associated with the United States has no room in the radical, revolutionary Left of today. Either the voters get it or we are definitely out of time.

  2. tremors1 says

    The one thing that would go the farthest at “fixing” California would be passing a citizen imitative to move the state back to a part time citizen legislature. Prior to passage of Proposition 1A in 1966, the Legislature met in general session (at which all subjects could be considered) in odd-numbered years and in budget session (at which only state budget matters were considered) in even-numbered years. These sessions were limited in time. The other thing would be to ban public employee unions which would be difficult. Next best thing to the elimination of public employee unions would be to pass an imitative making California a “right to work” state that includes public employees.

  3. Robert Gibson says

    While I certainly agree with Mr. Ring’s suggestions for possible initiatives, one other comes quickly to mind. Currently, states are struggling with voter fraud/verification of legitimate votes. Although it has not been completely and factually proven that there was significant voter fraud coming from all angles in November of 2020, a majority of citizens suspect that there were concerted efforts to take the voting away from the people and give that power to political groups to increase/maintain their power in America. Even if election fraud can’t be proven, it certainly seems like a nationwide effort to protect the vote would be in order. With that in mind, it seems that it would be fairly simple to add to special papers, watermarks, and other protections a simple process of assigning legitimately registered voters either a alphanumeric password or a location to put their thumbprint on a ballot that could be scanned by voting machines, checked against a state or national database for two things, that the voter is registered legitimately and that there is only one ballot cast by this individual, before further scanning for individual’s preferences on the ballot. Ideally, with the problems that have been popping up in the Dominion systems, the ballots should be paper and checked by hand. With such a system, dead people’s passwords or thumbprints could be removed from the database, there would be no voters voting more than once, states could use their records to remove those who have moved (or transfer their registration record to the appropriate jurisdiction), and when using thumbprints it would be difficult for somebody to steal a ballot and vote. Motor-voter laws would have to be tightened up so that non-citizens would not be automatically accepted to assure that persons here illegally would not be in the database. Assigning an alphanumeric password could be a part of the registration process and that password would be on the voter’s ballots in every election process, if thumbprints were to be used, most voters already have a thumbprint on record or they could be taken during the registration process. During voting, along with the ballot information sent out a simple “one time” sealed pad (similar to an “inked” bandaid) could be included with instructions for use with absentee or mail in ballots. Both the alphanumeric password and the thumbprint would be protected like PIN numbers for credit cards are so that no undue pressure could eventually be exerted on any individual as the identifiers would not be easily connected to the voter by election departments, politicians, or anybody else except as necessary for a ‘forensic audit’ of an election. If some process like this or similar is not instituted in California and across the nation, there will continue to be suspicions of voter fraud in our elections.

  4. The people can’t fix California. They are the ones responsible for bringing us to this point.

    These Socialist politicians didn’t just walk in one day and sit in the offices and physically throw out the opposing side so that they could dominate the legislature. It was done by VOTERS! And that’s especially frightening because the voters today are orders of magnitude more ignorant and uninformed than those a couple of decades ago.

    Our problems are self made and can no more be fixed by the creators of them than they can stop a case of explosive diarrhea.

  5. By design voters have been made dependent on the entitlement gravy train to the point they mirror crack addicts. Add that voters have been made irrelevant and, are now willing cogs in a machine that is insane and deviant. Corruption at all government levels has grown to a point where more than ballot initiatives will be required. However that requirement has a steep price so, normal and moral people simply leave.

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