It’s Time to Change the Initiative Process and Restore Accountability

Michael Hiltzik seems to have missed some important points in “Look at the Initiatives Money Can Buy” (Golden State, Nov. 4).

First of all, according to the results reported in The Times the same day, Proposition 68 went down with 84% against, and Proposition 70 was rejected with 76% against.

I would venture to say that a lot more cash was thrown at these two measures to get them passed than defeated. And they still went down. The people aren’t stupid.

Second, and more to Hiltzik’s point, when elected officials are faced with term limits, they become unable to process any issues into the system that they will not gain any political clout from. Things like stem cell research and Indian gaming.


So they sit and let anyone with enough cash do the real work. The brave ones will take a position on these measures but not one that will haunt them in the next election. And whom do we count as responsible? Whom do we vote out of office next year or the year after when the new law backfires or, worse, does nothing?

All the more reason that those we vote into office should be responsible for making the decisions that are complex, not just cashing their checks and moving on to the next office.

Hiltzik is right when he says the initiative process has been warped over time by the big money. But the money has always been there -- it’s just shifted. If you really want to make a change, remove term limits on elected officials and increase the number of signatures required for initiatives to get on the ballot.

These two things will bring back to the process of governing some accountability, and it will be interesting to see where the money goes then.


Tom Ross