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Ruminations of a Former Supervisor / Quentin Kopp

California State Senate

A Little History, Some Future Observations and a Bit of the Usual Snark

• • • • • • • • • • July 2023 • • • • • • • • • •

It was Oscar Wilde who observed: “Hear no evil, speak no evil, and you won’t be invited to cocktail parties.” That underpins Mahatma Gandhi's judgment: “Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.”

Consider California’s so-called “Top-2 primary” election system, as rightfully analyzed last fall by Dan Walters, who began his journalistic career in 1960 at the Humboldt Times at age 16, and now expounds for CalMatters. It mostly fulfilled the promises of sponsors in the June 2010 statewide election when voters approved it as Proposition 14. Our current governor, however, utilized it in 2018 by nurturing Republican candidate John Cox, so Cox could finish second and be crushed in November. Gavin Newsom, of course, didn’t want former L.A. mayor and State Senate Antonio Villaraigosa, a Democrat, in the runoff. Cox, naturally, was “no competition” as a Republican. Walters thinks “Top Two” is a more democratic method because they must attract a broader complement of voters. As an Independent since May, 1985, I disagree. The system generates tricks like Newsom pulled in 2018.

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As a retired judge, I’m embarrassed by the spectacle of U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon in Florida, one of the indicted ex-president Trump’s 2020 judicial appointees, being designated by random assignment to preside at his trial by jury on 37 criminal counts.”

It’s now almost 15 years since California taxpayers approved that $9,950,000,000 general obligation (aka “GO”) bond for an electrified high-speed rail system from S.F. to Anaheim via L.A. Even the bellicose climate-change bastion N.Y. Times now admits the cost projections widely used by engineers and project managers prove “the train could not be completed in this century.” (Voters would be assured it’d be completed by 2020.) The High-Speed Rail Authority now concedes a $113,000,000,000 total cost. There’s no money left and President Biden can’t help with more federal funds. Hasta la Vista! As a Daily Journal reader was reminded last December, "A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.” (As U.S. Senator Everett Dirksen of Illinois once remarked!) Even Morocco in North Africa started “bullet train” service in 2018.

Mike Soltis of Ypsilanti, Michigan, asked in a letter to the Wall Street Journal, on April 29th whether President Biden would “thank and invite to the White House any Congressional leaders who defend ‘democratic values’ by shouting him down with a bullhorn during his next State of the Union message?” They could initiate Nancy Pelosi, who shredded publicly then President Trump’s State of the Union printed message after he delivered it in 2020.

I note that last month New York state legislators ended their session by voting to establish a commission to examine and report the current effects of slavery, which would then be the basis of "reparations" for blacks. New York prohibited slavery in 1827, but legislators clearly want to copy California, which was never a slave state but compelled Chinese, Japanese, and "other children of Mongolian ancestry” to attend segregated schools in the 19th Century. Whether Newsom would approve reparations legislation is unknown.

We do know our leader has proposed a US Constitution Amendment to require universal background checks, raise the minimum age to buy a gun from 18 to 21, require a “reasonable” waiting period after purchase and before taking possession of a gun, and prohibiting assault rifles in the U.S.A. An Amendment requires approval from 2/3rds of Congressional members or 33 states to vote for it and request a Constitutional Convention. I can hardly wait for our governor to lobby Congressional members from Arkansas, Texas, Idaho, Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma, Iowa, or Florida or to request approval of his nonsensical publicity act. The 27th and last Constitutional Amendment occurred after ratification by the California State Legislature on July 1, 1992, of a bill I introduced upon request from Ralph Nader, another Harvard Law School alumnus, and Paul Gann, co-author of Proposition 13 in 1978. It provides no law-varying compensation of Senators and Representatives shall take effect until an election of Representatives has intervened: It was proposed September 25, 1789 (!) with the first 10 Amendments even before North Carolina and Rhode Island ratified the Constitution, but was abated until Nader and Gann, inspired by a Texas University law student, took up the cause of allowing voters for House of Representatives incumbents to express their sentiments.

As a retired judge, I’m embarrassed by the spectacle of U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon in Florida, one of the indicted ex-president Trump’s 2020 judicial appointees, being designated by random assignment to preside at his trial by jury on 37 criminal counts. She already ruled in Trump’s favor in a case he brought last year objecting to the FBI’s search at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida and was overruled by the U.S. Court of Appeals, which opined there was no justification for treating Trump differently than any other object of a search warrant. (Two of the appellate court panel members were Trump-appointed and the third was appointed by George W. Bush). Judge Cannon should recuse herself because a federal trial court judge can preempt the jury and acquit “Bone Spur” Trump of some or all of the 37 counts against him. Remember that a judge is an official who should lay down the law, not lay down on the law! That’s why Independence Day reminds me of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s July 6, 1935 letter to Representative Samuel B. Hill: “I hope your committee will not permit doubts as to constitutionality, however reasonable, to block the suggested legislation.”

Judge Quentin Kopp is a former San Francisco supervisor, state senator, SF Ethics Commission member and retired Superior Court judge who was president of the California High Speed Rail Authority governing board, 2006-2008.

July 2023

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