Are initiatives crazy?

San Diego Review May 1, 1995
Are initiatives crazy?

By Dwayne Hunn

Yes, Dr. Haynes and Governor Hiram Johnson provided the tools of direct democracy for California’s  citizens use..  In fact from 1912 through March 1992:

* 786 initiatives were titled and summarized for circulation.

*  229 of the total number attempted qualified.

*    72 qualified and were approved by voters

* 153 qualified and were rejected by voters.

Early initiatives saw the poll tax abolished, prize fights allowed, land title laws established, university and highway bonds passed, government consolidated, prohibition prohibited, usury laws enacted, alien land laws implemented and chiropractic and osteopathic work supported…. Yes, for awhile the tools were probably used quite often by citizens and citizen groups.  But as the  comfortable 50’s cushioned most Americans lives, the involvement, activity, and  initiative that direct democracy requires seemed to wane.  By the 60’s the initiative process had fallen into the domain of the paid  — by corporate or wealthy interests –signature gatherers.

Then in the late 60’s , into the tool shed where the people’s tools of direct democracy were being manipulated by the smooth hands of gray suits, struts a jazz crazed boiler operator who can sell used cars to sweet grandmothers. Next issue we’ll talk about the noise he and Joyce began creating for those from corporate wheeler dealers to the likes of Ronald Reagan.

Till then look at how initiatives followed the ebb and flow of America’s history…  Have Californians been conservative or radical in their enactment of initiatives into law?  Are authors like David Osborne and Ted Gaebler, the Tofflers and Martin Gross right in seeing the initiative process as a needed wave of the future?



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