Automobile Club of Southern California, whose most visible service is
rescuing members whose cars have broken down, is suffering something of
a breakdown of its own. But it is the far less visible activities of
the club in Sacramento that has produced some serious car trouble for
the board of directors. For the first time in its history, the board is
being challenged by a gritty group of rank-and-file members who are fed
up with the positions the Automobile Club has taken on measures of
direct interest to California motorists.
Board has already lost one court ruling after the challengers filed a
lawsuit against the board’s refusal to list their names on the official
ballot. The club’s 3.2 million members received a ballot with only the
names of the candidates backed by the board, along with a campaign
letter supporting them. The court ruled this was not exactly a fair
election, and ordered new ballots listing ALL the candidates – a
radical notion more commonly known as “democracy.” Publicly, the board
has accused the insurgents of attempting a “partisan take-over” of the
venerable Automobile Club, and has accused Republican officials,
including myself, of involvement.
I have not been involved with the challenge, other than to wish the
challengers well, I have privately expressed great frustration with the
positions taken by the club, which seem to be in direct opposition to
the interests of its membership. And since my name has been used
repeatedly by Auto Club officials as an “instigator” of the election
challenge, perhaps it is time to state them publicly as well.
Just last year alone, as vice-chairman of the Assembly Transportation Committee, I watched in awe as the Automobile Club:
- Opposed legislation to lift the diamond lane restrictions on our roads;
legislation to allow local speed traps, by over-riding the legal
requirement that speeds must be set according to recognized traffic
to support legislation to abolish the car tax, despite the fact that
not a dime of that tax is used to support our roads;
to support legislation to repeal the sales tax on gasoline, despite the
fact that not a dime of that tax is used to support our roads;
- Refused to support legislation to redirect the sales tax on gasoline FOR road construction;
to support legislation to give the Governor emergency authority to
expedite freeway construction on gridlocked stretches of highway.
are issues where reasonable people may disagree. But it is very
unlikely that most motorists would believe that these positions are
advocating their interests. And yet, members’ dues and the name of the
Automobile Club have been used in precisely this manner before the
transportation committees of the state legislature.
established board has accused the challengers of an attempted partisan
take-over of the “non-partisan” club. How is it that taking positions
on legislation that are diametrically opposed to the interests of
motorists is “non-partisan,” but questioning those positions becomes a
“partisan takeover.” By this reasoning, support for diamond lanes is
“non-partisan,” but opposing them is “partisan.” Opposing taxes on
motorists that don’t go for roads is a “partisan” position the Auto
Club should avoid, but turning decades of California law on its head to
re-introduce local speed traps is a “non-partisan” approach in the
interest of California motorists.
wonders how most motorists feel. Indeed, the National Motorists
Association has taken positions 180-degrees different from the
Automobile Club of Southern California.
Auto Club’s four incumbents have a special advantage in the race. They
have used vast sums of club funds to promote their candidacies, while
the challengers have had to rely upon their own resources. But many
members may nevertheless wish to question the legislative positions the
Auto Club has taken, in their name, with their money, on issues that
directly affect their interests as motorists.
for them, there are other automobile associations that offer both
roadside service AND positions that actually support the interests of
average motorists. And that is the ultimate election every member may
make on his or her own.