By Dan Walters
Published: Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

Would it be churlish to say that the much-ballyhooed Think Long Committee for California fell short on fortitude?

Or merely accurate?

Billionaire Nicolas Berggruen created the committee and invited a Who’s Who of California’s political, civic and economic upper crust – including two former governors, one former chief justice and two former secretaries of state – to become members.

It issued a “Blueprint to Renew California” that advocated major changes in how government is organized and financed, to be put before voters this year.

Berggruen, the committee and the plan received loads of mostly positive media attention – including much outside California – because it appeared to be the first potentially viable effort at structural reform to cure the state’s political dysfunction. But one segment would have been an extensive overhaul of California’s cockeyed taxation system, and it interfered politically with Gov. Jerry Brown’s relatively modest proposal for a temporary hike in income and sales taxes.

Brown doesn’t want competing tax measures on the November ballot, fearing that voters could be confused and reject them all. He and his allies pressured the Think Long Committee to back off and it did.

Instead, Think Long is endorsing some relatively minor, incremental changes in governance, such as a two-year budget cycle, proposed by California Forward, another blue-ribbon civic group.

Briefly put, an organization whose declared goal was to rise above politics-as-usual and improve governance succumbed to politics-as-usual.

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