WatchSonoma Watch

GOLIS: Wary voters watch and wait


As California winds down another lackluster campaign season, you can sense the mood of voters in the angry letters to the editor, the guarded promises of candidates and even the lack of political talk at your favorite coffee place.

Californians are worried about the future and discouraged about state government’s inability to make it better.

Among likely voters, 68 percent believe the state is headed in the wrong direction, according to a poll published last week. Sixty-five percent believe the state is headed for bad times, and only 20 percent approve of the work of the state Legislature.

It’s no fun reciting these findings, but they speak to a larger issue: California isn’t just suffering an economic recession, it’s suffering a crisis in leadership.

When you travel to other locales, people still view California as a magical place, but Californians seem to be missing that same appreciation, that sense of home state pride.

Don’t be afraid to think big, Jerry Brown admonished Californians last week in remarks that almost no one noticed. At the 75th birthday party for the Golden Gate Bridge, the governor praised the pioneers who built the bridge and sought to rally support for his own projects, including a bullet train that stretches from San Francisco to Los Angeles and a tunnel system to transport water from the Sacramento River Delta.

“Suck it in,” he declared, “we got to do it right, we got to build. And this bridge I think really expresses that sense.”

Suck it in? Brown may not be the most eloquent of politicians, but we should value his willingness to testify for big ideas. Big ideas, after all, engage the need to find common ground and to invest in a better future.

Those were the impulses that made California great.

Over the past decade, legislative politics in California has been defined by other things — by pettiness and self-interest, by corrosive partisanship and shortsightedness.

The trouble began when the state was flush with revenue and lawmakers decided that there was more money where that came from.

It was as if the state inherited a windfall from a third cousin in Dubuque, and then assumed another unlikely benefactor would turn up next year and the year after. No need for savings. No need for a rainy-day fund.

Even before the economy tanked, the state was cranking out deficits

Along the way, people who seemed to be well-meaning steered California into the ditch and then kept on stepping on the gas pedal.

No need here to recite the damage being caused. In one way or another, the hardships turn up in the newspaper every day.

The reforms that take effect with Tuesday’s election are designed to put an end to this run of bad government. Together, redistricting reform and the so-called top-two primary are supposed to generate a more representative and responsive Legislature — a Legislature less polarized by ideologues on the left and right.

In Sonoma County, the cast of candidates this year features many of the usual insiders, but Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters reported last week that races in many state districts are challenging the political status quo.

Of course, more than new laws will be required to get California moving again.

In February, I wrote about the coming anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge and about the courage and optimism required to build it.

In the middle of the Great Depression, taxpayers in six counties voted to underwrite the debt, fight back against critics and confront wind, rain, fog, tides and dangerous conditions to build the most beautiful bridge in the world.

The task required leadership and people with faith in the future.

Better late than never, the reforms that take effect with this year’s elections promise California a more representative, responsive and contemporary Legislature — and a state government actually capable of doing things.

Along the way, maybe the rest of us will find new resolve as well.

We still live in a place like nowhere else on earth. We are still surrounded by smart people. We still have great wealth.

In other places, folks would be astonished that we would waste so much time bickering and feeling sorry for ourselves. We live in California, for crying out loud.

Pete Golis is a columnist for The Press Democrat. Email him at golispd@gmail.com.

11 Responses to “GOLIS: Wary voters watch and wait”

  1. bear says:


    To the best of my knowledge, the BOS have considered themselves “full-time employees” since at least 1983.

    This means they have received all the health, pension and other benefits of full-time rank-and-file employees. Those who actually do the work, which is spoon-fed for BOS consideration.

    So the easy thing is to blame unions for our current fiscal issues. Were we not supposed to ask for stuff? The BOS could have disagreed, but didn’t because management and the BOS get what the rank-and-file get, to their personal profit.

    All depends on when you served, how long, and what was your exit salary. Notice how BOS salaries have increased dramatically. Did this happen for rank-and-file employees? Ummm…no.

    But I’ve seen it written that Ernie Carpenter is now getting a $17K annual pension. The price of having served back in the $60K days.

    If he wins, he gets the $127K current salary for BOS, and let’s not forget the county car, and the cheap health insurance that the BOS allows only for Sonoma County residents.

  2. GAJ says:

    In 2000 the Board of Supervisors’ individual pay was $64,852.

    In 2010 it was $147,252 according to the information on the home page of Watch Sonoma County.

    That’s a 127% increase.

    In the early 2000′s the Board of Supervisors granted themselves a Pension increase that allows them to collect at age 60 and vests at 3%/year.

  3. Larry says:


    I have been trying to find out what year did the Sonoma County Supervisors go from “Part Time” to “Full Time” and at same time vote to increase their salaries by over 250 percent. I do remember when they were only paid less than $60,000 per year but do not remember how they got from Part to Full Time! If I am correct that they changed from Part Time to Full Time, what was the process, i.e. legistive action, voter action or by their own vote. I was able to find records where they voted to increase their own salaries without voter approval. If you could provide a link to a “timeline” on this subject, I would appreaciate it!

  4. Thank you for Voting! The CA State Assembly should be about vision, goals and putting the people of Sonoma first above parties, money or groups.

    If anyone has any questions on the CA State Assembly race contact me at drgunderson@hotmail.com. Thank you


  5. Grapevines says:

    Golis states “We are still surrounded by smart people”

    Where are these smart people when it comes time to vote?? Because sending weasels like Evens and Allen to Sacramento is accomplishing NOTHING!!

    Two weasels eating at the public troth, spouting what they are told to spout, voting how they are told to vote, and not capable or a original idea on their own. Marching in lockstep as California goes down the drain they are opening wider and wider.

    And they keep being voted in, why?? I ask again, where are the smart people this author claims live here? Because I sure don’t see them using the brains it is claimed are here

  6. Steveguy says:

    Pete, Close the Parks, Libraries, ya-da ya-da.

    Can you ever listen to the wanna-be ‘whistleblowers’ that are afraid to come forth ?

    Or us ‘disgruntled’ ones.

    Why does the PD keep recommending those that have financially ruined us ? Yes, financial ruin, just wait. Not long.

    Hey Pete, let’s just say a certain Government function was under tight restraints and was sooo poor that they have a backlog of ‘work’. THAT would be the court, where they seem to have to spend $160 MILLION on a new workplace, especially with the outrageous fines they are imposing.

    Hey Pete, You guys beat the County in court, why not start exposing the waste, and yet proclaim to everybody that the rank and file can be proud of their jobs, and we can be proud of them ?

    Hey Pete, toss a few interns on the waste at SRJC. A close friend was let go decades ago for being a whistleblower. Try some real fiscal journalism. We need that desperately, so do your kids.

    Maybe when the sweetheart deals and ‘team building retreats’ out at the Marconi Center are revealed, you can finally focus the wrath on the true leeches.

    When the well runs dry, quit pumping and get rid rid of some of the pigs. Flush years do not mean decades long obligations. I really don’t see anywhere but down, down, down. When does a newspaper call it like it sees it, especially when advocating gravel roads and no rural development ? Do we want the Farmer’s Market produce delivered from a dust-laden road ?

    Do we want 6 suits with hardhats watching over one guy with a shovel ? I don’t know what can be done Pete, without the press doping it’s job. You endorse some 1/2 a Billion train, and other very skeptical positions and recommendations.

    No disrespect, but are you a lapdog or a watchdog ? Sell papers, expose, be a watchdog please, as we mere citizens are powerless. Please.

  7. Canthisbe says:

    “CA governor wants environmental waivers for high-speed rail project.
    The Brown administration is preparing a proposal to limit environmental challenges to California’s high-speed rail project, heightening legal standards under which a court could block construction.

    The proposal could shield the $68 billion project from court-ordered injunctions that might otherwise be issued under the California Environmental Quality Act. Except in the most serious environmental cases, the proposed legislation would let construction proceed while the California High-Speed Rail Authority fixes any environmental flaws identified by a judge.”

    Do as I say; Not as I do. Those pesky laws are for the little people, not the government.

  8. Doodles says:

    Yes, it requires leadership—that is honest with the electorate and says “we can’t afford it.” “The leadership” is only half the equation; they are pandering to an electorate that gets swept up in a “wouldn’t it be wonderful if….” mindset, then votes for expensive projects like the bullet train with fee/tax hikes which we can not afford now or later when they have to be subsidized. Voters have to take some responsibility for this mess. Ballot box-budgeting is a major part of the problem.

  9. J.R. Wirth says:

    “We still live in a place like nowhere else on earth. We are still surrounded by smart people. We still have great wealth.”

    No, wealth that is encumbered a thousand times over, even the lotto is encumbered.

    The GG Bridge didn’t require courage and optimism, it was the natural progression of the bay area, a place that, at the time, was on the upswing and uniting two peninsulas was the right thing to do.

    We still have the best weather on earth. The only difference between now and then is that a whole generation of baby boomers was born, grew up, and then wrecked the place.

    Golis doesn’t even have the courage to say that the bullet train to nowhere is a terrible mistake. So much for courage.

  10. GAJ says:

    Here’s your answer Pete:

    “Both chambers of the California legislature have been dominated by the Democratic Party since 1959 except in 1969 to 1971 when the Republican Party held both chambers and from 1994 to 1996, when the they briefly held a majority in the Assembly.”


  11. Disaffected Voter says:

    This is end result of a one party state with one party newspapers supporting the inbred, small minded politicans who continue to dominate Sacramento and Sonoma County.

    What else could be expected? Keep electing those that want a bigger and bigger welfare state with all that goes with it like huge budget deficits, more government bureaucracy, more government interference in our lives and huge government employee wages and pensions that are unsustainable.

    The only thing that will fix this disaster, is a complete redo of the system and much more democratic government where the politicans work for the people and not the other way around.