Monday, October 06, 2008

Right on Point

I've been bemoaning the lack of media coverage about the upcoming Constitutional Convention vote for some time now, so I'd be remiss not to give credit where credit is due. And in this case, it's to the Chicago Tribune, which had an excellent editorial in support of a Con-Con in Sunday's edition.

The editorial succinctly encapsulates the issue from the very beginning:
Decide right now that you'll vote yes Nov. 4 on what could be the most important ballot measure you've ever encountered. Then relax as the establishment foes of a constitutional convention do their best Halloween act to scare the bejabbers out of you and every other citizen of Illinois.

And when their goblins fly at you, heads spinning, with their best "Bwaa-Haa-Haa!" about the dangers of a con-con, don't flinch. They'll screech that convention delegates—your fellow citizens—could try to raise tax formulas, or repeal individual rights, or steer planet Earth into the sun. Answer the bloodcurdling spirits with the mantra they cannot refute: Before our constitution actually would change—We . . . have . . . the . . . final . . . say. All of us. In another referendum. We have to vote proposed revisions up or down.
It then delivers one of the best lines I've heard to date regarding this issue:
You cannot challenge the interests that own too much of Illinois if you don't climb into the ring with them.
I've known from the beginning that getting a convention approved was going to be an uphill battle. But every now and then, even uphill battles get won.


At October 7, 2008 at 5:29 PM, Anonymous lake county democrat said...

The Sun-Times came out against it today. I'm still undecided, but the tone of this editorial is obnoxious. Look what Arizona and California voters did with harsh anti-immigrant propositions -- would you really bet against similar things winning here? And if I were gay, I'd be very anxious about what the voters would do with an "up or down vote" on an amendment effecting their rights. Has a single gay marriage/civil union referendum ban *failed* to pass anywhere in America to date? The one in California has a good chance, but even Illinois isn't that blue a state. Speaking of California, remember Propostion 54? I completley don't get the mocking of such worries as "bwaa-haa-haa" boogeyman.

What troubles me most about a convention is it's a bit like pascal's wager: risking unlimited harm against finite good. That's why this isn't analogous to an "uphill battle" -- with the pay to play bill there was a floor: the status quo. There's no floor here. And it's not like we haven't seen craziness in off-year elections -- or were those not Lyndon LaRouchies who won the Dem primary not so long ago? There may be a compelling case for this convention, but I think it would be helped by promoting the positive amendments that proponents are seeking (if any have been written yet) more than by mockery.

At October 8, 2008 at 2:17 PM, Blogger Dan Johnson-Weinberger said...

Here are three positive amendments.

1. Eliminate the right-wing dream of a constitutional requirement that we use a flat-rate state income tax. This is what Steve Forbes and the Wall Street Journal wing of the Republican Party have been advocating for for the federal tax code for decades, and our state constitution mandates it! This is at the heart of our fiscal problem and the constitution should permit the General Assembly to use a federal-style progressive income tax.

2. Our redistricting rule comes down to random selection. The constitution lays out a process for drawing new maps for political districts every decade. If the General Assembly and the Governor don't agree, a Comission is formed with 4 members of each party. If they can't agree, a ninth member is random. That's all in the constitution. And that's a joke. That needs to be fixed. An amendment to do that passed the House this year but not the Senate. It would probably pass through the constitutional convention.

3. Poor children in poor school districts have poor teachers, by and large, because there isn't the money to pay for them. Lots of states give every child the right to a public education paid for predominantly by the state, not their local community, so that kids who are in poor communities aren't trapped with a poor education. This is a constitutional fight and while it hasn't passed the General Assembly, I think it might pass a constitutional convention.

We haven't talked about our property assessment regime (totally broken), the lack of term limits or the right to recall officials (potential improvements -- certainly worth debating), a return to three-member districts in the House with cumulative voting rights or other democracy-enhancing reforms that have not passed the General Assembly.

Thanks to John for his leadership on empowering citizens more on improving Illinois government through a constitutional convention.

At October 8, 2008 at 3:28 PM, Anonymous lake county democrat said...

Ok, let's take a poll. Here are six proposed amendments to the state constitution presented to the voters. Predict which ones pass:

1) Ban all use of taxpayer dollars to illegal immigrants (including mandatory audits of public school children and workers of any business receiving state business) to verify citizenship.

2) Require currently valid state-issued photo identification to vote in elections.

3) "All legal incidents of marriage" limited to man-woman.

4) Permit the state legislature to enact a progressive income tax.

5) Give governor veto-power over "home rule" cities with populations over 1,000,000 (anti-corruption measure).

6) Creation of a commission to break any "ties" for redistricting (though why not a mandate against gerrymandering and requiring neutral district drawing algorithms?)

7) Change school financing from local to state-based.

My prediction: 1-6 pass, 7 fails.

At October 9, 2008 at 8:48 AM, Anonymous lake county democrat said...

Update: at present the gay marriage ban in California is ahead in the polls (

Again, somebody explain to me why minorities aren't at grave risk in this Constitutional Convention? I mean, addressing the reality of recent history, not mocking the argument saying "bwah-ha-ha!"


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