Push for constitutional convention falls short

February 12, 2010 10:19:22 PM PST
Backers of a state constitutional convention are folding their efforts to get their measure on the ballot. On Friday the Repair California organization announced it is pulling the plug on its signature gathering.

Supporters of a constitutional convention say there is no question the California's government is dysfunctional. And they add, lots of people liked the idea of reforming the constitution in order to fix it.

"So from that perspective it's certainly disappointing to have to pull back because we felt the people were really with us, we felt the measure we created was really on point," says Jim Wunderman, president of the Bay Area Council.

There just was not enough money said Wunderman, whose council started the Constitutional Convention Project.

"You know it's just one of those things and it's tough, I mean raising a few million dollars for a good government measure fast in this environment is tough," says Wunderman.

Backers say they needed $2 to $3 million to collect enough signatures to get the constitutional convention measure on the ballot and the money was not there, not even from members of Wunderman's Bay Area Council that had pledged $2 million.

"What happened was as you talked to members of the council as I did, the economy out there is just something else," says Wunderman.

"The bottom line is the Bay Area Council should've been able to raise money from business if business really wanted a constitutional convention," says ABC7's political analyst Bruce Cain.

Cain says business leaders did not give because they did not trust the idea. That a portion of delegates to the constitution convention, would be picked through a lottery, kind of like jurors.

"You're basically asking the rest of California to trust average citizens to know what to do about these very complex problems," says Cain.

Cain says he was among a number of academic experts who advised Wunderman against the lottery idea, but that is what Wunderman and the organizers decided would be the most representative way to go.

"And that's a hard sell to the business community, that's a hard sell to the establishment politicians, and that's a hard sell to academics like me who believe you know you really ought to know something if you're going to change the laws and the structure of California," says Cain.

The folks at Repair California say they are putting the constitutional convention measure on hold, if a white knight were to show up with a couple of million dollars sometime in the next 30 days, it could be revived. But next week they were facing costs of $300,000 that they do not have.