Delay Is Good When Your Name Is Think Long

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In California's small community of good government advocates, there is considerable gossip about the Think Long Committee, a group of big names convened by homeless billionaire Nicolas Berggruen to study the state's goverance problems.

The gossip is the product of two things. The first is the feeling that Think Long hasn't worked all that closely with other good government groups. The second is the delay in the release of Think Long's recommendations for fixing California's troubles. Think Long was originally supposed to release its recommendations in June. Then the date slipped to September. Then October. Now it's November, and word is: they're close.

The delay matters in the minds of reformers because of the good government fixation on the initiative process as the only way to fix California. The conventional wisdom is that, if Think Long wants to make changes, it needs to have initiatives drafted in time to qualify for the November 2012 ballot. And, practically, one should file now and begin the process of getting a title and summary and gathering signatures.

My take is different. Think Long should delay as long as it likes. Producing recommendations that fit together and would actually fix the state's core governance problems should be the goal -- not qualifying measures for a particular ballot. It would be even better if Think Long ignored the ballot initiative process entirely and instead urged that its recommendations be taken up in a constitutional convention, which is the better way to stitch together a new system of governance (as opposed to doing what Californians always do -- trying to fix things with one-subject-at-a-time initiatives that are sold as silver bullets but often have unintended consequences, and can't be fixed once they are passed).

Plus, when your name is Think Long, you have every right to procrastinate. The virtues of names like this are clear -- I've always thought it wise that my former Baltimore Sun colleague David Simon, who created HBO's The Wire and other TV series, named his production company Blown Deadline.

So to Think Long, think longer.

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