Tag Archives: roger telschow

Roger Telschow remembers

Roger Telschow on Ed:

Roger ran the Northern Californian PIRG office at Santa Clara.  Ed recruited him while on one of his political crusades.  This is from a January 5, 1994 phone conversation I had with Roger.

“I have fond memories of Ed..” Roger started with and continued by saying, “Citizen Lawmakers by David Schmidt has excellent chapter on Ed…

“Ed convinced me that the only way to get anything done in the country was through the national initiative…

“Kemp was present during the hearings (Senate Judiciary Hearings of 1977) on national initiative.  Months ago I read in US NEWS that Kemp was going to make the National Initiative part of his Presidential Campaign in 96. I have been hearing those rumblings for awhile.”

“Sometimes it just takes longer doesn’t it?” I said.

“Yes, a lot longer,” Roger replied.

“Originally we got him (Kemp) interested during the hearings, and he was one of the co-sponsors…

“We, John Forester and I,  left the crusade in early 80’s.  There was just no money in it.

”Nader soured on John and me… John and I created an office and living space in one of the buildings we bought… One of his staffers lived there with us and John and he had some bad vibes and that seemed to sour Nader’s relation to us. Talked to him 4-5 times since and sensed his coolness… Schmidt worked with him.”

Ed anecdote:

“Once we were in a press conference in Colorado or San Francisco.  These reporters were gathered and Ed went in the room treating them like a bunch of students,  “Okay, guys I got some good stuff for you today…” Ed would say.

“And he carried on about the anti-nuclear initiatives and he would say something important and then say , ‘The last physics I had was XLax…’ and they’d laugh…

“They liked him and when he got ready to give them some serious stuff one of the reporters said, ‘Wait a minute, I got to get a pencil.’ Ed stopped, gaxed at this guy, hung the audience out to dry and said, ‘What?  You’re a reporter and you don’t have a pencil?…   That’s like a prostitute without a pussy….”

“The placed cracked up. They just loved him.  He was great.”

“Ever since meet I Ed getting national initiative passed became my main interest.

“Luckily, my first contact in Washington was Senator  Abourzek of South Dakota.  Walked into his office and told them what we were about and the aide said,  ‘Yeah, I think my boss would be interested in that…’”

Regarding. National Init:

“Haven’t seen anybody yet lay out a strategy to make that happen…

“Perot organization – proposed it to them.   With their national town meeting it seemed like a good fit…  Since then, and I don’t know if I had anything to do with it or not, the National initiative is in their platform…”

Regarding Gravel’s Philadelphia II approach:

“We’re a nation of laws and how do you get around not doing it through the Constitutional amendment route… May be spitting in the wind if set up a major court case to determine if can do it outside of amendment process.  Can you do national initiative through a process that isn’t sanctioned by our laws… Then having the court throw them out?..


Case for Law by Initiative

The Washington Post,  Friday, January 20, 1978


Roger Telschow

The Case for Law by Initiative

Just 58 years ago, American women were still denied the right to vote. Fighting to the last, opponents of wo­men’s suffrage no doubt argued that this constitutional change ran contrary to all the wisdom of the Constitution’s framers. After all, they argued, if women were supposed to vote, the right would have been granted by our forefathers in the 18th century.

It is now 1978 and the same faulty logic is advanced (in an op-ed column by Michael Malbin on Jan. 7) to oppose the right of Americans to vote on fed­eral issues.

The proposal in question is the Voter Initiative Amendment, sponsored by James It. Jones (D-Okla.) and Harold S. Sawyer R-Mich.) in the House, and James Abourezk (D-S.D.) and Mark O. Hatfield (R-Ore.) in the Senate. It would give citizens the power to place pro­posed laws on the national ballot, after petitioning about 2% million registered voters. A majority vote would directly enact the proposal into law.

Malbin’s main opposing argument — ‘ that the framers didn’t provide for initiative, so why should we? — is somewhat shortsighted, to say the !east.  The fact is, the framers failed to include many rights in the original Constitu­tion, not the least of which were voting privileges for over half  the adult popu­lation. To quote noted constitutional scholar Arthur S. Miller on the subject, “The Constitution has never been inter­preted in ways to give sole authority to the views of the Founding Fathers, even if those views are ascertainable; usually, they are not.”

Continuing this testimony, delivered to a Senate Judiciary subcommittee, Miller said, “I fully support [the Voter Initiative Amendment] and believe that its adoption by the Congress and three-fourths of the state legislatures would be a salutary and. progressive addition to the Constitution.”

Far from being a radical idea, public votes on policy questions have tradi­tionally played a key role in American government. In most states, school taxes, bond issues and state constitutional amendments are considered too important to enact without a public vote.

Initiative has an impressive track record in the 23 states now authorizing its use.  According to research done by the Library of Congress, in the 80 years of initiative use some 1200 issues have been voted on. Many landmark reforms were pioneered by initiative. Direct election of senators, abolishment of poll taxes, workmen’s compensation, and tax and political reform are just a few of the issues tackled by voters at the ballot box, in the face of an unre­sponsive legislature.

It is remarkable that our present method of selecting presidential candi­dates was first adopted by initiative In Oregon in 1910. Voters in other states followed Oregon’s lead and used initiative to establish our modern presidential-preference primary system.

Despite the creditable history of ini­tiative, however, myths still surround the process. For instance, Malbin attri­butes the complex California ballot to initiatives, when in reality that state has voted on an average of fewer than two citizen initiatives a year in the last decade. This compares with an average of over 10 measures a year put on the ballot by the legislature itself.

Even when initiatives do reach the ballot, the public votes with restraint by passing only about one in three proposed laws. Because initiatives are so widely debated and subjected to far greater public scrutiny than laws considered in the legislature, the people are “tricked” by special in­terests probably much less often than politicians. Miller summed this up by stating:

“There is no reason to believe that the quality of legislation [produced by initiative] would be inferior to that produced by Congress. As everyone knows, or should know, congressional statutes are often hammered out on the anvil of compromise, and thus tend to reach a low common denominator. On the other hand, it seems plausible that ini­tiatives could be drafted in ways that would eliminate many of the lacunae now lurking in federal statutes [be­cause of those compromises]. The expe­rience in those states that now have ini­tiative procedures would tend to sup­port that position.”

As a means for more precise commu­nication between the people and the in­stitutions of government, voter initia­tive will inject our federal system with greater accountability and citizen par­ticipation. With the further check and balance of the public’s proposing~ and enacting its own laws, our elected officials will begin to represent the peoples more accurately and responsively, thus strengthening our representative system as a whole.

The writer is a national director of Initiative America.

(Added as explanation by People’s Lobby:  In the mid-70’s People’s Lobby obtained an old yellow school bus and set Roger Telschow and John Forster, who were later joined by David Schmidt, chugging across country to educate people on the need for Initiative America.  Their work resulted in 1977 Senate Judiciary Hearings on the proposed Voter Initiative Constitutional Amendment.)