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The Coalition's Disintegration

In contrast to its clear and consistent strategy during the two-year effort to develop and pass Proposition 99, the Coalition had not developed a


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coordinated plan to implement Proposition 99 after the election victory. On December 15, 1988, in its first meeting after the election, the Coalition met and briefly discussed whether it should be the lead organization in securing the legislation to implement Proposition 99. Jack Nicholl, who had managed the election campaign, sent a memo to the Coalition Executive Committee arguing that the Coalition should remain together and proposing a budget for doing so: “The Coalition is the guardian of Proposition 99 as it was written. Individual organizations will use their quite substantial lobbying resources to pursue implementing legislation. The Coalition's mission is to preserve the framework of Prop 99 which the voters passed by a margin of 58%-42%. If we don't do it, no one else will. …Our principle [sic] objective will be to generate grass roots pressure on the Governor and the Legislature to head off attempts to change the direction or intent of Proposition 99.”[27] Nicholl proposed a budget of $8,000 per month to insure that over $100 million a year was spent wisely on new tobacco control programs.

The Coalition said no. Instead of maintaining a budget and staff for the Coalition, the Executive Committee decided that “each member agency could rely upon its own staff and resources from this point on, and that a core staff from key agencies (especially related to legislative activity) could provide a focus.”[28] The Coalition would be a mechanism for cooperation among the individual agencies. Money for an ongoing effort was an obstacle for the voluntary health agencies. According to Carolyn Martin, a volunteer with ALA who was active in the campaign to pass Proposition 99, “Money was a big problem. The non-profit agencies, ACS and ALA, had spent an astronomical amount of money on the Proposition 99 campaign. Obviously, CMA and CAHHS would not contribute to this effort.”[29] The Coalition met to discuss issues during the legislative session, and it was listed as a supporting organization for several bills. But it ceased to function as an effective body. Each organization pursued its own strategy and lobbied for its own bills with its principal legislators.

On January 5, 1989, the now resourceless Coalition hosted a press conference to present its Program for a Healthy California, which outlined its plans for disbursing funds from the various accounts of Proposition 99. The program recommended that at least 70 percent of the Health Education Account go toward school-based programs, with grantees to include not only school districts but also clinics, community-based organizations, local health departments, colleges and universities, voluntary health agencies, and hospitals. The remainder of the account


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was to be used for an Oversight Committee, which would be responsible for program planning, implementation, and evaluation, and for the media campaign, which would be designed to reinforce the school-based program. The Research Account was to be administered using the federal National Institutes of Health model and was to include biomedical, behavioral, social, and epidemiologic research. The Unallocated Account was to be used to fund a fire prevention program and other funding categories.[30]

The CMA was already moving to gain control of as much of the money as possible. The day before the Coalition's press conference, CMA executive vice president Robert H. Elsner sent a letter to Coalition chair Jim Nethery asking the Coalition to refrain from making statements about the Unallocated Account. He specifically urged that the press conference and the supporting materials “not include any specific recommendations or proposals for use of the unallocated funds. In the press conferences it should be made clear the Coalition has not adopted any policy on specific proposals for implementing Proposition 99. …However, if after the various proposals have been discussed by the Coalition and a consensus cannot be reached, various organizations ultimately may have to go their own way.”[31] Nethery and the Coalition ignored him. The press conference was the last major coordinated effort of the Coalition for a Healthy California as it was constituted during the election.

The decision not to stay together formally with a paid staff meant that there would be no changes in the existing institutional patterns that might disrupt the existing legislative patterns related to tobacco policy making. In particular, it meant that there would be no lobbying presence in Sacramento dedicated solely to the tobacco debate or to maintaining the integrity of the Proposition 99 programs. Ken Kizer, the director of DHS and a strong supporter of the Proposition 99 program, described the problem created by the lack of a unified coalition:

Passage of [Proposition 99] really came about because everybody worked together. It was one of the few instances where the health constituencies actually got together on the same team and worked in a coordinated way. But that Coalition seemed to unravel relatively quickly, being superseded by self-interest. …In the absence of a concerted pressure driving it in one direction, then it reverted back to the Legislature to arbitrate the disparate views of the folks who wanted to get more for themselves. …Everybody in the Legislature knows how easy it is to fracture the health community and how they are largely their own worst enemy and how they can capitalize on that.[32] [emphasis added]


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Kizer understood that with each organization following its own insider strategy in the Legislature, consensus was going to be difficult to achieve in implementing Proposition 99.

Nicholl was not the only person who felt the need for a continuing organizational presence focused on implementing Proposition 99. In 1989 the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta offered to give the Coalition $9,000 to help with public relations activities, and the money was eventually given to the Western Consortium for Public Health through Lester Breslow. (The Western Consortium was a nonprofit organization that allowed the schools of public health in California to cooperate on grants and contracts.) Breslow, a professor at UCLA, was a former director of health services and the former dean of the UCLA School of Public Health.

The Western Consortium, apparently at Nethery's request, wanted to use the money to hire Betsy Hite, who had recently left ACS.[33] According to Nethery, who continued to chair the Coalition, “I got a little heavy-handed. I didn't have a staff, and they put me in a position which I shouldn't have agreed to in the first place of operating the Coalition without a staff. And so at one point in time the public health people came along and offered me this money, and I was going to use it to hire Betsy. And I made a really dumb statement. I said, `Now I have my lobbyist'…I could have thought that and it would have been okay. But you know, keep your stupid mouth shut.”[34] Other members of the Coalition did not trust Hite because they felt she put her personal views ahead of the consensus position. ALA opposed the decision to hire Hite;[35] ALA executive director Williams wrote a strong letter to Nethery, saying, “Surely you understand that Betsy is thought controversial by some members of the Coalition. To bring her back into the fray at this date without careful preparation was I think insensitive. …why does the Western Consortium want to hire her and then expect the Coalition to take her on as a partner? The three lobbyists for the voluntaries are working well; what would the addition of Betsy contribute?”[36] In the end, Hite was not hired to work with the Coalition. Instead, the Western Consortium prepared a case study of the effort to implement Proposition 99.[37]

Nethery was in the minority in believing that a campaign-style effort would be necessary to see that the Legislature properly implemented Proposition 99. For most of those who were involved in passing Proposition 99, the degree to which the political fight would continue in the Legislature came as a surprise. David Langness, who worked for CAHHS


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but represented the American Heart Association on the Coalition, commented, “The 99 Commission was a little fractious at times before the election. But after the election, we didn't anticipate the necessity for long-term post-election work. And that was one of the big lessons that I learned during that campaign. And it's one of the lessons that I'm trying to transmit to the other people I'm consulting with, like the Arizona [Heart] Association. [Arizona passed a Proposition 99 clone in 1994.] And that is: The campaign doesn't stop on election day.”[38] When asked if she was surprised at how fast the Coalition split apart, Jennie Cook, a longtime ACS volunteer and, in 1989, immediate past chair of the board of ACS California, replied, “As soon as it was passed, we figured, `Okay, we walk away and do something else.' What a joke!…We all figured that there was no more to do, it was done. It was a law. What more could we do?…We had spent months coming up with how we wanted the money designated and we figured that that was in the initiative, so that would make it law.”[39] The voluntary health agencies assumed that because the voters passed Proposition 99, the Legislature would simply implement it as the voters wanted.

They were wrong.


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