Tag Archives: hiram johnson

Jazzy Movements Sweet Political Music

San Diego Review    April 1, 1995

 Jazzy Movements and Sweet Political Music…

by Dwayne Hunn in San Diego Review

 Underlying conditions give roots to movements, but without leadership blossoms seldom fruit. Dr. Haynes planted and politician Hiram Johnson fertil­ized a movement that bore the fruits of legislative reform in 1911.

For decades citi­zens used these re­forms to debate and vote on legislative improvements they deemed worthy. In time, however, cor­porate and moneyed interests seized the process by hiring people to do the ar­duous, time con­suming initiative work. By the 1960’s, decades had passed since true grassroots move­ments had orchestrated a successful major California initiative work. By the 1960’s, decades had passed since true grassroots movements had orchestrated a successful major California initiative.

Edwin Koupal, Jr., born in Eugene, Oregon in 1927, would change that. Ed Koupal learned about social conditions from his church-going folks, the times and jazz. By eight he was playing music in Sacramento’s Penial Mission Church. When not tromboning, he and his violin play­ing sister were helping “feed the bums and winos in what this day and age would be like a soup kitchen.” At home he worked along­side dad at fixing, building and en­gineering and fell asleep to the ten­der and prin­cipled story tell­ing of his fragile mother, Laura Ellen. Every night the three brothers and two sisters listened to classics read from Mother’s hallway chair. Their fa­vorites revolved around the Little House in the Big Woods and its eight succeeding books, which be­came the televi­sion classic Little House on the Prairie.

All the Koupal kids learned to cut through problems with hard, long and creative work. For Edwin Koupal, Jr. that mold was cut from church, the Depression, Roosevelt’s fireside chats, the War, chicken ranch-hand work, struggling busi­ness ventures, salesmanship, his wife Joyce and music.

In 1941 the youngest manager of Sacramento’s McClathchy Pool traded his balmy job for enlist­ment in the Marines. The Marines wouldn’t buy his mother’s protes­tations that this strapping guy was “only 14,” until she returned with his birth certificate. Between 14 and 16 Ed’s band, named the Mickey Donovan Band because their discount-purchased used mu­sic stands carried that name, were earning money throughout Sacra­mento. At 16 Ed left to work in the Merchant Marines as a boiler op­erator, a skill learned from his dad.

Ed’s skills on the base viola and trombone, however, kept him sweating on bandstands rather in the bowels of a steamy, liberating merchant ship. More than one music aficionado claimed “Snake Koupal was better than Eddie Safranski,” usually voted the best bassist by music magazines. Ed played plenty of “spot fills” with the bands of Phil Harris, Tommy Dorsey, Glen Miller, Tex Benecke and Teddy Jefferson. His charisma also attracted Shirley Temple— for much more than just a dance.

Exposure to good jazz often leads it to becoming people’s pre­ferred music. Jazz has rules, but more importantly it requires play­ing together, improvising and cre­ativity. In the 60’s Ed Koupal’s jazzy tenants moved people to begin making the tools of direct democracy the people’s preferred political music.




2315 DURANT #405, BERKELEY, CA 94704

(4l5) 540-0466

We find in Governor Hiram Johnson’s inaugural address in 1911 the words that best described our understanding of the initiative and recall processes:

“. . . When with your assistance, California’s government shall be composed only of those who recognize one sovereign         and master, the people, then is presented to us the question of how best we can arm the people to protect themselves             hereafter?

“If we can give to the people the means by which they may accomplish such other reforms as they desire, the means as          well by which they may prevent the misuse of the power  temporarily centralized in the Legislature and admonitory  and precautionary measures which will ever be present before weak officials, and the existence of which will prevent the  necessity for their use, then all that lies in our power  will have been done in the direction of safeguarding the   future and for the perpetuation of the theory upon which we ourselves shall conduct this government.

“This means for accomplishing other reforms has been  designated the ‘Initiative and Referendum,’ and the  precautionary measure by which a recalcitrant official can be removed is designated the ‘Recall.’ And while I do not by any means believe the Initiative, the Referendum and the  Recall are the panacea for all our political ills, yet they  do give to the electorate the power of action when desired, and they do place in the hands of the people the means by  which they may protect themselves. I recommend to you,              (legislature) therefore, and I most strongly urge, that the first step in our design to preserve and perpetuate popular  government shall be the adoption of the Initiative, the  Referendum and Recall. . . .”

“. . . Suffice it to say, so far as the Recall is concerned,        did the solution of the matter rest with me, I would apply          it to every official. I commend to you the proposition that,        after all, the Initiative and the Referendum depend on our          confidence in the people and in their ability to govern. The        opponents of direct legislation and the Recall, however they        may phrase their opposition, in reality believe the people          cannot be trusted. On the other hand, those of us who               espouse these measures do so because of our deep-rooted             belief in popular government, and not only in the right of          the people to govern, but in their ability to govern; and           this leads us logically to the belief that if the people   have the right, the ability and the intelligence to elect,          they have, as well, the right, ability and intelligence to          reject or recall; and this applies with equal force to an           administrative or Judicial officer.

“. . . Were we to do nothing else during our term of office         than to require and compel an undivided allegiance to the           State from all its servants, and then to place in the hands         of the people the means by which they could continue that           allegiance, with the power to legislate for themselves when         they desired, we would have thus accomplished perhaps the           greatest service that could be rendered our State. With             public servants whose sole thought is the good of the State,        the prosperity of the State is assured, exaction and                extortion from the people will be at an end, in every               material aspect advancement will be ours, development and           progress will follow as a matter of course, and popular             government will be perpetuated.”

The following is People’s Lobby proposal for a National Initiative Process:


“NATIONAL INITIATIVE—We, the people of the United States of America reserve to themselves the power of the initiative. The initiative is the power of the electors to propose laws and to adopt or reject them. An initiative measure may not be submitted to alter or amend the constitution of the United States.

“VOTE OF CONFIDENCE (RECALL)—Every elected officer of the United States may be removed from office at any time by the  electors meeting the qualification to vote in his state through the procedure and in the manner herein provided for,  which procedure shall be known as a vote of confidence, and is in addition to any other method of removal provided by  law.”

*In implementing this amendment, limitations on the amount of money spent to qualify each process should be built in and also limitations on money spent/donations in campaigns. In the vote of confidence procedure a president should be replaced by succession. Other federal officers should be replaced by caretaker appointments. A caretaker appointee should not be a candidate for that office, for at least one full term. The initiative should be on the national ballot. A vote of confidence should always be a special election.

Ralph Nader said in his column printed November 27, 1974

“. . . One way a democracy withers away is by excessive delegation of citizen rights and powers to remote and unaccountable business and government bureaucracies. To the extent that special interest groups buy, rent, misuse or manipulate elected or appointed government officials, democracy is overridden. . . . The revival of the initiative, referendum and recall in states which provide for them, the passage of similar measures in other states, and the adoption of a national initiative and recall would reduce citizen apathy and quicken citizen involvement in public matters.”


Initiative, the Populism’ Voguish Darling

(From the Washington Post, July 28, 1977]

                                 Initiative, the Populism’ Voguish Darling
(By George F. Will)

Professor Martin Diamond, foremost contemporary scholar of the Founding Fathers’ thought, believed the principle of representation to be the rivet securing the republican system. Unfortunately, a campaign has begun to derogate that principle.

Sen. James Abourezk (D-S.D.) proposes a constitutional amendment to establish an initiative process whereby citizens could propose and enact laws. Proposal would be by petitions containing signatures equal in number to three per cent of the voters in the last presidential election.

The nature of mass appeals, and the fact that the full text must accompany each petition, means most proposals would be simpler than most laws passed after full legislative deliberations. Proposals would tend to be spare declara­tive injunctions—for or against (for example) nuclear power, abortion or other divisive matters that cannot be handled prudently with simple stipula­tions.

Elected leaders would use the initiative as another excuse to flinch from leadership. In California, the most important of 23 states that have the initia­tive, most questions are placed on the ballot by the legislature. Abourezks amendment would not permit Congress to do that, but it would enable Con­gress to duck divisive issues by Insisting that they are “properly” problems for “the people” to resolve.

Some laws enacted by initiative would require appropriations from Congress; others would involve revenue losses. (We can assume the initiative might be used to lower, not raise, taxes.) So the initiative would violate the principle that the body that decides to spend money should be responsible for raising it.

It is said the Initiative would be therapeutic for persons too “alienated” to vote in regular elections. Even assuming that “alienation” extends beyond persons who use that word, it is unlikely that those who do not vote for Presidents will be stirred by initiative appeals. And advocates of the initiative cannot cite particular public desires that have been neglected by representa­tives and should be satisfied by Initiatives.

The Initiative proposal Is an Idea congruent with the vague populist Impulse of the day. Thus Abourezk justifies the Initiative on the ground that “our democracy is based on the notion that the people can govern themselves.” But that Is not strictly correct, even when G.K~ Chesterton says It.

Democracy, Chesterton said, Is not like writing poetry or playing the church organ, because “these things we do not wish a man to do at all unless he does them well. [Democracy Is, on the contrary, a thing analogous to writing one’s own love letters or blowing one’s own nose. These things we want a man to do for himself, even if he does them badly.”

But that is too simple and sentimental. So was Hiram Johnson, California’s populist governor, when In 1911 he endorsed the Initiative because he believed in the ability of “the people” to govern. But “the people” are not supposed to govern: they are not supposed to decide issues. They are supposed to decide who will decide.

As Martin Diamond put It, there is no source of power but the people, but the exercise of power Is the function of representatives.

Abourezk says six of the last 10 constitutional amendments “have In some way extended voting rights,” so the initiative would be just “a further step In this evolutionary process.” But the initiative would be decisively different; it would not expand the electorate, it would alter the function of the elector­ate. Only the 17th Amendment—popular election of senators—did that. And the initiative would do so at the expense of the principle of representation.

Advocates of the Initiative say representative government is “government by elites”: the representatives and the “interests” who lobby them. But any national initiative would be dominated by an intense, unelected minority using direct mail, television commercials and other techniques of mass persuasion.

As Professor Diamond understood, clear, settled opinion about policy rarely spouts spontaneously from the public. It is best given shape by representative Institutions, which, unlike “the people,” are deliberative bodies.

Martin Diamond died last week in his 58th year, minutes after testifying to the Senate against another proposed distortion of the Founders’ system; abolition of the electoral vote system. His death is a. sorrow to his many stu­dents and other friends, and a wound to the Republic that was the subject and beneficiary of his scholarship.