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The Good Deed That's Punishing Poizner

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The Good Deed That's Punishing Poizner

Gene Cubbison reports

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This is Meg Whitman's new TV ad, just out this morning, attacking her Republican gubernatorial rival Steve Poizner (see below).

It's a thoroughly unfair ad, claiming that Poizner sought to hurt seniors and homeowners without bothering to mention the name of the measure or what Poizner -- and a host of business leaders and Republicans -- were trying to do.

So here's the back story. A decade ago, California's school facilities were, by all accounts, in shambles. Prop 13's provision requiring a two-thirds to raise taxes had made it very difficult to win approval for school bonds. (A slim minority of the community -- yes, often the seniors and older homeowners mentioned in this ad -- could block new school construction fairly easily).

So business leaders (including several in the Silicon Valley, where Poizner had built companies) and unions got together to qualify Prop 39, a ballot initiative that asked voters to reduce the Prop 13 two-thirds rule to 55 percent, thus making school governance more democratic. (Why not all the way to a simple majority? Polling suggested that it would be easier to convince voters to adopt the change if a small supermajority was preserved).

And you know what? Prop 39 worked. The past decade has seen a surge of school construction around the state. Take a drive around Los Angeles sometime, and you'll see new school buildings. Prop 39 also helped spark the growth of charter schools -- public schools that are held exempt from some regulations in order to promote innovation -- by giving charters a shot at facilities fund that had previously been reserved for regular public schools.

Charter schools, by the way, are championed by none other than... Meg Whitman. So how should Poizner respond to this misleading ad? Why not fight fire with fire, and put up an ad showing the sad state of California's school facilities in the 1990s and saying, "Meg Whitman wants to keep your kids in decaying schools. Steve Poizner donated some of his time and money to give them better places to learn."

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