Is Proposition 31 really a U.N. conspiracy?

The California Democratic Party opposes Proposition 31, a measure on the Nov. 6 ballot to change the way budgeting is done at the state level while reframing the relationship between Sacramento and local governments. The California Republican Party supports it.

No surprise. Democrats run California and have a vested interest in retaining the status quo. In the game of politics, they’re winning here. They have mastered the rules. They will resist efforts to change them.

Republicans are a shrinking minority. Playing harder won’t work; they are losing the game, and they want to change the rules, which they claim work against them because they are written and implemented by Democrats.

It’s like redistricting reform. Republicans saw it as their way back into the game. Democrats hated it because it changed the rules they had mastered. Voters went for it -- and to the surprise of Republicans, it didn’t help them much, at least not right away; and to the even greater surprise of Democrats, it gave them a boost.


So of course the state Republican Party is backing Proposition 31.

But what is that sound coming from the GOP’s right flank? Some conservatives, especially those aligned with the “tea party” movement, are attacking Proposition 31 as an elitist, Eurocentric move aimed at undermining property rights and self-determination. How? By imposing regional government run by unelected bureaucrats following the dictates of that boogeyman of populist conservatives, the United Nations’ Agenda 21. Principles that fiscal conservatives generally promote, and that initiative backers number among the leading benefits of Proposition 31 -- holding government accountable for performance, applying success metrics to programs, coupling new spending with new oversight and reporting requirements -- are framed as attempts to subject California to U.N. dictates, or at least principles that emerge not from voters but from somewhere else.

So is this noise merely the everyday squeak of wingnuts being loosened and tightened, or will a Stop 31 movement pull conservatives into the same orbit as the labor unions, liberals and Democratic leaders who are already mobilizing a “no” campaign?

Check out this article in the Halfway to Concord blog reporting on the No-on-31 position taken by the East Bay Tea Party. Party founder Heather Gass is quoted as calling the measure an assault on personal liberty, property rights and local government control. “We support free markets and equal justice,” Gass is quoted as saying. “This proposition uses the U.N. Agenda 21 Sustainable Development 3 E’s (Economy, Equity and Environment) violating those principles.”

Here’s a report from Nevada County, and a critique from National Review Online writer Stanley Kurtz, who stays away from Agenda 21 fear-mongering but does warn of “de facto regional super-governments,” in which citizens “will come under the thumb of officials unelected by the public they control. We’re looking at redistribution without representation, an Americanized version of the undemocratic financial and political arrangements currently killing the European Union.” Writing in Flash Report, Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, a Republican whose district includes parts of the Claremont and Victorville areas plus the mountains in between, does zero in on Agenda 21.

As always, Joe Mathews provides a touch of perspective and sanity.

Mainstream conservatives who want to be reassured on Proposition 31 may want to check in with good-government groups of the sort that joined them in support of redistricting reform. After all, the measure is a product of California Forward’s political arm, and who is more good-governmenty than the bipartisan, reformist California Forward? Maybe the League of Women Voters of California. But look: The league has come out against Proposition 31 (although not, of course, because of anything having to do with Agenda 21).

Even the Bees aren’t flying in a straight line on this one. The Fresno Bee is for it; the Sacramento Bee is against it.

Are we just dealing with the orthodox liberals’ fear of change, flavored by a little populist craziness? Or is it the conservatives’ time-worn and very reasonable suspicion of things that sound too good to be true?

The Times’ editorial board has met with the Yes-on-31 folks; our session with the No-on-31 people is coming up. But our reporting and deliberations necessarily will go beyond those meetings before our page makes its recommendation. This is a complicated and in some ways messy measure, with potentially far-reaching impact, even absent any threat of U.N. troops readying to storm across the border from Oregon.


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