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Carl Boyer: We must not fail to work on a new California Constitution

Posted: August 29, 2009 7:01 p.m.
Updated: August 30, 2009 4:55 a.m.

On Aug. 14, California Secretary of State Debra Bowen announced that Repair California may begin collecting petition signatures for two measures designed to rewrite California's Constitution.

Sen. Tony Strickland has said that a proposed new state constitution is an "end run to circumvent Proposition 13." Assemblyman Cameron Smyth supports Proposition 13, and a convention if the people want it.

Those who fear tax increases may not be aware that a new constitution must be approved by the voters.

The difference is that the convention can put the proposal on the ballot without interference from politicians.

In 1992, I remarked at a meeting of the Revenue and Taxation Committee of the League of California Cities that our constitution did not address problems between state and local government.

To that one member said, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

At the next committee meeting, I distributed copies of the constitution, then 153-pages long, and a list of some of its weird provisions.

After debating details, the committee passed a resolution calling for a shorter, simpler constitution.

I went to the Local Government Commission and the California Contract Cities Association, and when the League passed my resolution on the floor of its annual convention, I could say honestly that all the statewide organizations of cities had backed it unanimously.

I testified at the first meeting of the bipartisan Constitutional Revision Commission appointed by Gov. Pete Wilson and others.

Favoring no specific change, I simply asked that they "think outside the box."

They certainly did.
However, the commissio
n could only make recommendations to the California Legislature, and the politicians buried them.

The people of our state deserve to have a voice that cannot be stifled.

California was a large-area state with a small, rural population in 1879, when our present constitution was adopted.

The document intended to form a representative government for all of the people.

In 140 years, we have amended this miserable document more than 500 times, an average of three times a year.

Many of these amendments removed onerous provisions, but more were adopted to benefit specific individuals or groups.

In the 1960s, a commission recommended that several large referenda be placed on the ballot, and by 1970 no individuals were mentioned by name and the document was much shorter.

However, it has been amended many times in the past 40 years.

Only recently have the voters begun to reject initiatives placed on the ballot by special interests and multimillionaires who can afford to hire signature-gatherers to collect a million names.

Some have even learned to ignore the signature-gatherers unless they know what the petition is about.

They refuse to sign something just to appease a stranger with a misleading pitch.

No, I really don't have an axe to grind - except that state government does not work.

No, I could not keep my home if the limitations on property taxes were scrapped.

Yes, when Repair California has petitions to circulate calling for a state constitutional convention, I will volunteer to gather signatures, just as I did when we formed the city of Santa Clarita.

I look forward to the day we can elect 400 delegates to represent the people in drawing up a better system of government.

Carl Boyer was chairman of the city of Santa Clarita Formation Committee in 1987, served three terms on the City Council, including two terms as mayor, and retired in 1998. His book "Santa Clarita, the Formation and Organization of the Largest Newly Incorporated City in the History of Humankind," is available in local libraries and provides greater detail and documentation. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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