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Let's Get Conventional -- California, Yes We Can

Like most of you who called, I like the idea of a constitutional convention for California -- emphasis ''idea.'' The usual devil -- or many of them -- will reside in the details. But for starters, it really would show who's serious if the delegates had to dress as they would have at California's original constitutional convention more than 150 years ago. And no AC, no pizza delivery -- just the work.

The hurdles to organizing such a convention are enormous. Let's take representation: would Modoc County have as many seats at the table as LA County? And do we let in those nasty special interests? Especially when one voter's ''special interest'' is another voter's ''voice.''

But the problems that need solving are even vaster. Does it really make sense that the biggest and most complex state in the country is the only one to require both a 2/3 legislative vote to pass a budget, and a 2/3 vote to levy a tax? That initiatives passed on a simple majority can amend the constitution -- that's why we have about 500 amendments, some of them contradictory -- but you have to move heaven, earth and the ballot box to un-amend the constitution?

I'd be tempted tothrow out the whole thing up and start again, making it more like the U.S. Constitution, which is so hard to amend that there are fewer than 30 amendments. Instead, it's a flexible and fluid document that leaves it to the courts to clarify the Constitution and the laws that Congress passes.

What California could accomplish, though, is a constitutional convention that amends and mends the institutions of governance to make sure they can ... govern, that is.

Julius Shulman died at 98. He was the seminal LA architectural photographer whose eye created, captured and defined a Southern California esthetic. His work hangs in the Getty, and it's practically the reason that coffee table books exist.

I interviewed him about a year and a half ago, which was a few months after I saw him at an exhibition here in LA of the work of French photographer Francois Marie Banier. Julius was in a wheelchair but his spirit was still running a four-minute mile. Several years before, I joined him and some of his friends for dinner at the restaurant atop the old Transamerica building downtown. He was the life and soul of the table, telling stories and jokes and twinkling like the supernova he was.

-- Patt Morrison

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