Passing a major reform in Sacramento has the same odds as a novice knocking out the champ at a martial-arts competition. This is particularly true when it comes to reforming ballot-box budgeting. I’ve introduced eight measures on this topic over the past 2 1/2 years, and people often ask me why I bother. Changes to the status quo are long shots that require heavy lifting. Complex constitutional amendments are not easily explained in sound bites. And many of these bills don’t exactly ingratiate a legislator with special interests. I always respond that I am lucky enough to have been made to see the big picture, and that the big picture imparts in me a sense of martial duty.
When I first ran for state Assembly, I sought the endorsement of former Speaker Robert Hertzberg, whose encyclopedic knowledge of our government and involvement in various reform groups made him a prime candidate to teach this karate kid a thing or two. In true Mr. Miyagi fashion, he wanted some wax-on, wax-off. “You can’t have my endorsement until I know you’re prepared for the monumental task before you. And you cannot be prepared until you’ve studied the roots of California’s problems.”