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After the Recall, the Work

October 13, 2003

I signed the recall petition out of anger, voted no on the recall out of common sense and voted for Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante out of a lack of serious choice. Now, California needs to explore how to manage its own democracy better.

We need to explore raising the limit on terms for legislators to increase institutional memory and acumen. We need to explore limiting governors to two nonconsecutive terms, or one six-year term, to increase professional focus on the executive function, rather than on reelection. We need to force the people we pay, legislators and the executive, to do their jobs, requiring them to sit in session until they pass and sign balanced budgets. We need everyone to stop passing the buck to the initiative process, now wrongly viewed as a panacea and the people's prerogative, rather than an extraordinary measure.

The recall is a short-term Band-Aid, if it is even that, placed upon a long-term challenge: managing democracy in California to serve the long-term interests of the state's resources and its people. Everything requires guidance and oversight. Even freedom.

David Neil Saltman



After working at the polls in last week's gubernatorial recall election, I can well sympathize with Florida's predicament in the 2000 presidential race with the use of the punch-card ballot. At closing, when ballots are tallied and packed, it was disturbingly noticeable that some ballots were not punched through on the question of whether to recall the governor. The cards did not display the dreaded "chad," but were merely bulging at the perforation site and not actually penetrated, and it appeared to always be on that one particular response.

Was this a problem with one particular machine that caused this dilemma, even though voters were instructed to check their ballots for any discrepancies? It's high time for this system of registering votes to be abandoned in favor of more accurate means, before it leads to another debacle or questionable outcome.

Margaret Luckett

Long Beach


I was astounded at the thousands of California voters who took the time to register, go to a polling place and then cast their votes for candidates who had no chance at all in being elected governor. The number of votes cast for Larry Flynt and Gary Coleman alone is disheartening to the voters who actually took this election seriously (Oct. 9). I would like those voters to try to explain their decisions. They make no sense to me.

Ron Oliver

Newbury Park


Last Tuesday's recall election cost the state and counties of California between $53 million and $66 million. Clearly, then, this election was not about fixing the state's budget deficit. Instead we have sponsored and participated in more mindless "reality TV" programming. Gov. Gray Davis should take comfort in the fact that he will not have to suffer defeat alone. We are all losers in this election.

Howard Miller

Los Angeles


Being an elementary school teacher, I crossed my campus the day after the election and greeted my third-graders. Many of them asked me if I knew that Arnold Schwarzenegger was the new governor. They were elated and excited -- "Yay for Arnold!" Aside from their parents' influence, I concluded that the kids were excited about the new governor because they knew who he was, that he was famous and a movie star. I then concluded that the majority of California voters must have the mind-set of third-graders. Thank goodness Britney Spears wasn't running.

David Beckman



On Oct. 8, we woke up to news that a bodybuilder became governor of California. That evening, the Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox won games in the playoffs. If it's not snowing in hell right now, it never will.

Adam Joshua Smargon

Coconut Creek, Fla.


Re "Once the Dust Settles, Bring Back the Party of California," Commentary, Oct. 9: Kevin Starr's balanced and well-meaning plea for greater understanding among legislators and the electorate ignores the larger point that we the voters are mad as hell and we propose to send public servants to Sacramento who will lower our taxes and provide a favorable climate for businesses that come to California.

I take this opportunity to remind professor Starr of a lesson he teaches his history students: One aspect of democracy that we inherited from our Revolutionary War forebears is the flexibility to accommodate change -- and the howl of the mob, if need be. I trust that our elected representatives have received our message loud and clear.

Charles De V. Conyers II


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