Direct democracy, in an effort to wrest California from control by the railroad Big Four, was brought to California in 1911 – along with Hiram Johnson as Governor. The form by which direct democracy came included the adoption of initiative, referendum and recall as instruments by which to correct or supplement the activities of elected officials.
In summers when I taught California History at Chabot College, my comment on these instruments was mostly positive. For one thing, their advent seemed to curtail the power of the Big Four. True, I've regretted the use of the initiative to pass Proposition 13 – feeling it took too much out of state revenues needed for our infrastructure. And I've felt over the years there have been some deceptively worded initiatives put on our ballots to get people to vote for the opposite of what they thought they were voting for. It's significant though that we Californians have retained these instruments for the 108 years since we adopted them. I'm glad we have. The remedy for whatever defects they have is solidly in the hands of the public – they have simply to be willing to pay attention.
So lately, I've been surprised by voices in our townhall meetings that seem to express a kind of blanket aversion to these instruments. Granted, I don't think I've heard even one suggestion to throw them out. We are all good Californians in this respect. I've heard though the most amazing contempt for those who collect signatures. One would get the impression these collectors have all slithered up out of the sewers and have no other purpose than to ruin Livermore by telling lies. They seem to be the wretched of the earth. Some of them even get paid for their collecting! What further proof do we need that they're up to no good?
I remember in the past when we'd gather together in Bob Baltzer's garage to collect signs to post around town promoting John Marchand for Mayor. You know, I think we paid the people who printed the signs. These were possibly people who didn't even live here! What an atrocity! By today's townhall ethics, I guess greedy ole power-hungry Bob should have constructed those signs himself with cardboard and crayons. Then the signs would have had integrity.
Sarcasm aside, seems some who "come to meeting" are like people who love circles but hate radii. I've never met a circle that didn't have a radius, and I'm not aware of any way to have an initiative or referendum veto without collecting signatures.