Monday, December 06, 2004

Brown For Attorney General

Ex-California governor Jerry Brown is running for attorney general in 2006. Today I received a letter in the mail, a form letter solicitation from his campaign, asking for a contribution to his election fund. The fundraising letter ended with the sentence "Feel free to contact me directly..." and offered an email address, so I sent the following:

Jerry:

Thank you for the recent letter soliciting a donation for your campaign. I am considering a contribution but have a few thoughts and questions that I hope you will take the time to consider.

Free advice is often worth what you pay for it, and I will be the first to admit that I don't know anything about politics or political campaigning. But as a financially successful registered Democrat in the middle of my wealth producing years, I suspect that I am the kind of person you would like to appeal to as a supporter. So perhaps you will find these thoughts useful in your bid to become California's next Attorney General.

First, and foremost, I am struggling to understand why you want the job. Your letter mentions the erosion of our civil liberties and points out that "our former U.S. attorney general declared whole classes of people outside the protection of the law." So I can infer that you feel that there is an important role to play, and opportunity for you to contribute, in protecting California's citizens from the perils of a federal government that seems to be infringing upon our civil liberties. But you never come out and make this statement clearly. In fact, your letter starts out that "...the job of attorney general is viewed as the most important post in California..." This leaves me wondering if you want this office in order to be important, not because you have a mission to serve the people of our state.

Civil rights is an issue very important to me and well worth the attention of our electorate. A clear statement from you that this is a reason for you to run for office at this time would help quiet cynics that see your run for this office as purely political -- merely another stepping stone in your "reincarnation" as Jonathan Curiel put it in his 4th of July article. I'd also like to understand what a state attorney general CAN do to protect our state's citizens from federal legislation and enforcement. Perhaps you can be more specific about what you intend to do.

Secondly, I'd like to believe that you are in touch with the world of 2004 (or 2006 for that matter). I wonder, for example, why you mention Earl Warren in your letter? Earl Warren passed away thirty years ago in 1974. I was 8 years old at the time, so I can't say I have any personal memories of the man. I appreciate that you are pointing out two great figures in our history who served both as attorney general and as governor of California (albeit in the opposite order to the one you propose for yourself). But how many people do you expect to know this? Or even know who Earl Warren was? Is this a sign that you are out of touch? Perhaps we should all know who Earl Warren is, but unfortunately most voters don't even know the name of the CURRENT chief justice...

On the subject of showing that you are in touch, one thing that you need to do much more effectively is use the Internet to communicate with voters. In fact, I'd like to believe that, as attorney general, you will make the Internet a much more important part of the way California government serves our citizens. It was nice to see that you had created a website, but it looks like more of a slapped-together place-holder than an effective communication tool. As one example of something you ought to fix right away: the latest article that your staff posted, "Mayor: Revisit Retrofit," used the same page template as the previous article, "The woman in Jerry Brown's life." Besides the template being unattractive, the page name "Woman in Jerry's Life," wasn't changed in the new article. The page name is used by PC browsers as the headline appearing at the top of the web browser window, announcing what the content of the page is supposed to be about. Thus the article "Mayor:Revisit Retrofit" article also appears to be about the "Woman in Jerry's Life"...

But this is a minor point, merely emphasizing the sloppiness of the site. More important is that the site is an empty monument rather than a living, breathing contribution to the dialog you could be having with California's voters. The front page is consumed with a set of links to old articles, none of which are particularly complimentary to you. The letter below is merely a duplicate of the same form letter that you mailed to me. The photos emphasize an image of you over 30 years out of date. The site does not offer a call to action, does not explain why you want this job, does not explore how the events of the last several years as mayor of Oakland may have contributed to your vision for California or for the role of attorney general, and most importantly -- does not create a dialog with me as a voter and potential financial supporter.

I enjoyed hearing you speak, on October 19th, at the Silicon Forum regarding the work you have done as Mayor of Oakland. I was impressed with the difference in the man from the myth -- the well-grounded, serious citizen interested in improving the community I and my family live in... as opposed to the image far too commonly associated with you based on your history as governor. I was, however, disappointed in the answer to my question -- you might recall that I asked as you were leaving whether there was a part of your administration focused on long term planning -- that is, what does Oakland look like in 10 years? Or in 20 years? Your short response was something along the lines of "it is hard enough to think about the Oakland of tomorrow..."

I want to elect, and support, politicians that are in step with the world of today and are ready to build the world of tomorrow -- and make it a better place for my three children. Prove to me that you are such a person and you will have my support.

best,

Edward (Ted) Shelton



p.s. let's start with a simple one -- do you read and reply to your own email or have it printed out by an assistant?




1 comment:

dan said...

This is a great, on-point letter, Ted; just the kind that at this point I probably don't have the patience, or the faith, to sit down and write. I'm dying to hear what Jerry, or Jacques, or whoever, has to say about it.

Also: Radical new Ted Shelton picture on your site. I like it!