The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

February 6, 2011
Howard Ahmanson, now a conservative Democrat, holds forth

Howard F. Ahmanson, Jr., has been the subject of many articles over the years, including this one. He also is fairly reclusive, though he did tell Kathleen Parker in this 2009 column about his decision to quit the Republican Party.

Knowing that Ahmanson has a deep distrust of redevelopment, as described in this column, The Swarm posed a few questions to him, and he answers in writing.

Q: As I understand it, you became interested in politics and government because of an experience with redevelopment. Please provide me a few details about that project, including when it happened, and where.

A: In 1978 or approximately, the City of Santa Ana decided that the Orange County Rescue Mission, which was doing an effective work with the homeless, was a "blight" in every sense of the word, and determined to use the power of government to run it out of town. As a young Christian who was struggling to understand what Christ's commands concerning the poor meant, I was outraged to find that government power could exclude Christian service to the poor from a community. The poor could be considered to be "blight" by their very existence, if you want to look at it that way!

Q: What is your view of Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to abolish new redevelopment projects?

A: I think it is a marvelous opportunity for both social justice and limited government. Where is the Tea Party on this? Why are they not in the streets applauding?

Now I have to say that there are a few things like prettying up town centers with brick sidewalks and gas lamps and other cute stuff that I do like. But I think there are other vehicles to do that, like Business Improvement Districts. I like Old Pasadena and San Diego's Gaslamp, though I'm afraid of chain restaurants and stores driving out local business in those places - that's another issue.

Q: What is your assessment of your impact and that of the Allied Business PAC on the GOP in the 90s?

A: A very strong and good impact. Our agenda was a broad one of social conservatism and economic prosperity, unlike today's Republican orthodoxy, which seems to be confined to NTSEBREE (No Tax Shall Ever Be Raised Ever Ever) which is very shallow. The high water mark, the Pickett's Charge, was in January of '96 when we trimmed the powers of the Speaker and installed Curt Pringle in the office. But the charge was doomed. Pete Wilson, whom we could not control, had made the fatal decision (after a pro-immigrant history) to throw his weight behind Proposition 187 in 1994. This alienated the Latinos, a culture in which respect and signs of respect are very important.

By the way, the strictly Religious Right has never been particularly anti-immigrant. Most immigrants are conservative on the social issues. Once the Latinos had been alienated, the locus of social conservatism in California shifted from the Republican Party to the Latino and black sections of the Democratic Party, and the Republican Party became basically an ethnic-minority party, irrelevant on a statewide level.

Q: Have you called or communicated with any of the politicians you helped elect to ask them to support Gov. Brown's proposal to abolish new redevelopment projects?

A: We are looking at ways to do that.

Q: What caused you to quit the Republican Party?

A: They decided to make their sole litmus test of orthodoxy NTSEBREE, as I said above. I can't accept that. I'd like to see a much higher gasoline or carbon tax, (not cap and trade though) a state income tax less progressive and less dependent on the wealthy for income, and a higher tax on luxury items, for example. I also think either the two-thirds vote for tax raises should be done away with, or if not, that ballot initiatives that set budgeting priorities, like Prop 98, should require a two-thirds majority for passage. And make that retroactive!

Q: Are you a registered Democrat and for whom did you vote for governor?

A: I am a registered Democrat. However, I voted for Meg Whitman. The reason is that the leadership of my party is on the wrong side on social issues. And the judges that Brown would appoint are likely to be on the wrong side of constitutional issues. A large section of my party, the people of color, as I've said above, is socially conservative and will vote that way on ballot initiatives, but they won't cross party lines in partisan elections. I will. I'm not really very liberal even now; I don't support highly progressive taxation, and I also don't believe in NESEBREE (No Entitlement Shall Ever Be Reduced Ever Ever), which is as bad as NTSEBREE or worse. I am very concerned about public sector unions, but I'm not particularly hostile to private sector unions.

 

About Comments

Reader comments on Sacbee.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Sacramento Bee. If you see an objectionable comment, click the "report abuse" button below it. We will delete comments containing inappropriate links, obscenities, hate speech, and personal attacks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. See more about comments here.

What You Should Know About Comments on Sacbee.com

Sacbee.com is happy to provide a forum for reader interaction, discussion, feedback and reaction to our stories. However, we reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments or ban users who can't play nice. (See our full terms of service here.)

Here are some rules of the road:

• Keep your comments civil. Don't insult one another or the subjects of our articles. If you think a comment violates our guidelines click the "report abuse" button to notify the moderators. Responding to the comment will only encourage bad behavior.

• Don't use profanities, vulgarities or hate speech. This is a general interest news site. Sometimes, there are children present. Don't say anything in a way you wouldn't want your own child to hear.

• Do not attack other users; focus your comments on issues, not individuals.

• Stay on topic. Only post comments relevant to the article at hand. If you want to discuss an issue with a specific user, click on his profile name and send him a direct message.

• Do not copy and paste outside material into the comment box.

• Don't repeat the same comment over and over. We heard you the first time.

• Do not use the commenting system for advertising. That's spam and it isn't allowed.

• Don't use all capital letters. That's akin to yelling and not appreciated by the audience.

You should also know that The Sacramento Bee does not screen comments before they are posted. You are more likely to see inappropriate comments before our staff does, so we ask that you click the "report abuse" button to submit those comments for moderator review. You also may notify us via email at feedback@sacbee.com. Note the headline on which the comment is made and tell us the profile name of the user who made the comment. Remember, comment moderation is subjective. You may find some material objectionable that we won't and vice versa.

If you submit a comment, the user name of your account will appear along with it. Users cannot remove their own comments once they have submitted them, but you may ask our staff to retract one of your comments by sending an email to feedback@sacbee.com. Again, make sure you note the headline on which the comment is made and tell us your profile name.

hide comments

On October 14, The Sacramento Bee will temporarily remove commenting from sacbee.com. While we design the upgrade, we encourage you to tell us what you like and don't like about commenting on sacbee.com and other websites. We've heard from hundreds of you already and we're listening. Please continue to add your thoughts and questions here. We also encourage you to write Letters to the Editor on this and other topics.



About The Swarm

The Swarm is written by members of The Sacramento Bee's editorial board. They meet daily and are separate from the newsroom. Views included here are those of individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect those of a majority of the board or the positions expressed in The Bee's editorials.

October 2013

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
    1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31    

Stuart Leavenworth on Twitter

Follow "SacBeeEditBoard" on Twitter