Down to the wire
Our picks for president, state office and a host of measures on Tuesday’s ballot
By Kevin Uhrich 11/01/2012
The long road to Election Day is finally nearing an end — with any actual work at putting the nation and California back on a path toward peace, prosperity and the pursuit of some degree of happiness set aside for a time yet to come.
Sadly, even as people are being kicked out of their homes, laid off or being priced out of an advanced education, little else but bitter and derisive campaigning has been accomplished in the past few months of this election season. This is a time Brits call “the season of silliness,” when politicians and their opponents say and do sometimes clever and oftentimes malicious things to smear one another.
That’s been especially true in the super-heated race for the 49th Assembly District seat between Democrat Ed Chau and Republican Matthew Lin, with Chau releasing personal information about Lin’s wife, Joy, and Joy Lin suing Chau in the waning days of the campaign (Please see our Briefs section on page 8).
That’s too bad, because while all politicians have been raising lots of money and engaging in similar generally non-productive antics, once-sacrosanct institutions have been teetering on the brink of collapse — schools are closing, teachers and cops are being laid off and city and county employees are losing their jobs as more crippling cuts are being considered across a spectrum of public services once taken for granted.
In races for state and federal offices, rarely have election outcomes been so important, or so costly. And few times before have California ballots contained so many important initiatives to be decided at one time by voters.
With all campaigns doing their best to get support in these final days, chances are high that voters (if they haven’t already cast their ballots) already know — or should know — who ought to be elected and how all or most of the critical issues California voters face need to be decided.
Following are our picks in Tuesday’s election.
President of the United States:
Although they don’t like talking about it, few Republicans can deny President Obama inherited from his GOP predecessor, GW Bush, a government in flames and an economy on life-support. Obama has been forced to deal with these crises while the Middle East erupts in revolution and violence, Iran and North Korea threaten the world with budding nuclear capabilities and China continues rising as a dominant and sometimes belligerent global economic player. Although we do not agree with everything Obama has done — namely his unflagging support for the nation’s security, intelligence and surveillance communities and his administration’s ongoing prosecution of lawful California marijuana users and purveyors — we believe the president’s is the best approach to pulling America out of its lingering recession and effectively dealing with national security threats. The increasingly moderate Mitt Romney is, no doubt, a fine person. We just don’t know what he really stands for or what he might do if elected.
27th Congressional District:
We’ve been fans of incumbent US Rep. Judy Chu since she was a Monterey Park City Councilwoman. Since then, Chu, a Democrat, became a state Assemblywoman, then the first Chinese-American woman to serve in Congress, a distinction she’s carried with honor. Today, with her former district redrawn in last year’s redistricting to include Pasadena, Chu, with whom we agree most of the time, is now our congresswoman, replacing Congressman Adam Schiff, who, after redistricting, now represents Glendale.
State Senate District 25 (formerly 21):
Another incumbent Democrat, the popular and effective Liu also saw her former district redrawn in last year’s redistricting, changing from the 21st to the 25st Senate District. However, unlike her comparably competent party counterpart in the Assembly, Anthony Portantino — whose district was also shaken up but only now does not include his home in La Cañada Flintridge — Liu’s new district includes her address in that city, allowing her to run for another term. Republican challenger political newcomer Gilbert Gonzalez, with his message of bipartisan collaboration, is a strong up-and-comer in the Republican ranks. But right now, we need experience in Sacramento, especially in the field of education, and for those reasons we believe Liu, a former teacher, deserves another term.
Assembly District 41 (formerly 44):
In the knock-down, drag-out fight for the district drawn from Portantino’s former district, veteran Pasadena City Councilman Chris Holden has consistently stood head and shoulders above his competitors — literally. You see, the former Pasadena High and San Diego State basketball star is 6 feet 8 inches tall. But the affable Holden stands just as tall in the state political world, where his across-the-board connections and years of experience in office make him an easy choice for the local seat in the Assembly. We admire the spunk of Holden’s opponent, Claremont businesswoman Donna Lowe, whose city, as well as Rancho Cucamonga and Upland, are included in the newly carved 41st District. But her tea party affiliations concern us. The idea is to cooperate and make our existing system work as it should and can, not take an automatic contrarian position in an effort to tear the system down at the expense of everyone else, as tea partiers are wont to do.
Assembly District 49:
Dr. Matthew Lin
It’s been suggested that if Sacramento were an actual person, it would need round-the-clock medical care. We have part of the solution: Dr. Matthew Lin. An orthopedic surgeon by profession, Lin is the first Asian-American mayor on the San Marino City Council. Yes, he’s a Republican. But that doesn’t matter (we hope), primarily because his compassion for others, namely treating patients not always able to pay, precedes him. And if there is one thing Sacramento needs even more than a doctor, it’s someone possessed with intelligent compassion, a person who can fix complex economic problems without compromising the needs of his or her constituents in favor of satisfying political loyalties.
Measure A — Although the LA Times would disagree, there could perhaps be no better illustration of why the county assessor should not have the virtually unchecked power afforded an elected official, one who can be fired only by “the people,” than the case of embattled current Assessor John Noguez.
As of last month, few outside the world of local politics and newspapers even knew Noguez was county assessor.
And as of last week, Noguez was sitting in jail, unable to make bail on allegations that he had been taking bribes in exchange for granting tax breaks to a wealthy landowner. It seems that no sooner was Noguez elected to a four-year term in November 2010 than he was already allegedly taking money for favors.
Did this multimillionaire landowner have such deals going with anyone else in that office prior to Noguez’s election? Only time will tell, as the investigation is ongoing. But the point is “the people” have little time to manage life’s curveballs, let alone keep an eye on alleged corruption. The person in charge of that office — what amounts to a glorified department head — needs to answer to someone, a board of elected people that can order monitoring, discipline, firing or prosecution much better than “the people” ever could. This is an advisory vote only, but it gets the ball rolling. Next up: The Sheriff’s Department. YES
Measure B — Should porn “stars” be forced to wear condoms at work? Would LA County suffer even further economically if the porn industry moved away for ostensibly greener pastures and fewer restrictions on something that not all that long ago was a forbidden art form? Find out Wednesday in the next salacious episode of “STD: LA.” But seriously, have the AIDS, HIV, herpes, syphilis, and gonorrhea epidemics taught us nothing? YES
Measure J — Also known as “Son of Measure R,” Measure J is an extension of Measure R, a half-cent sales tax increase passed in 2008 and set to expire in 2039. Measure J, whose funds are supposed to bankroll a number of traffic relief programs — including ongoing studies of building gigantic tunnels through parts of Pasadena to connect the 710 and 210 freeways — extends that deadline 30 years. The extra money actually comes later. What it really buys now is credit with which to leverage more federal and state dollars for more commuter rail projects, being built with breakneck speed, at the expense of improving more widely used bus services. Refocus priorities, repair and restructure the wording, then come back for another shot at a spot at the golden — but not bottomless — public trough. NO
Proposition 30 — No matter how we got here, if Gov. Jerry Brown doesn’t get some economic relief right now by taxing the rich and hiking the state sales tax, California is in big trouble. Brown’s initiative would raise income taxes for seven years on those earning more than $250,000. And it would increase the state sales tax by a quarter-cent for four years, for about $6.7 billion annually, according to the state Legislative Analyst’s Office. Most of the money is supposed to be spent on restoring funding to K-12 schools, community colleges and state universities. Part of the funds would also be used for public safety purposes. Without it, Brown said he will have to immediately order $5.3 billion in spending cuts. YES
Proposition 31 — Wouldn’t it be nice if our local elected officials could challenge decisions made in Sacramento, and, even better, use some of the money that state officials have been squandering here at home? That’s partly what this initiative does. It also, according to Ballotpedia.com, establishes a two-year state budget cycle, puts spending limits on the Legislature, allows the governor to act unilaterally when the Legislature fails to act and requires performance reviews of state agencies and goal-setting by state and local governments. Additionally, Prop 31 requires publication of all bills at least three days prior to a vote by the state Senate or Assembly and gives counties the power to alter state statutes or regulations related to spending unless the Legislature or a state agency vetoes those changes within 60 days. We like that last part. We don’t like the part about unilateral power for the governor. But then, the governor can act unilaterally in most emergencies. Why not a fiscal crisis? YES
Proposition 32 — Proposition 32 would prohibit corporate and union contributions to state and local candidates, ban contributions by government contractors to the politicians who control contracts awarded to them and, according to Ballotpedia, ban automatic deductions by corporations, unions and government of worker wages to be used for politics. But what Proposition 32 really does is muzzle the free speech rights of unions and the working-class people they represent without truly impacting many other big special interests. NO
Proposition 33 — This proposition does one thing and one thing only: Line the pockets of Mercury Insurance chief, multi-multimillionaire George Joseph. NO
Proposition 34 — Sick of hearing about how the death penalty doesn’t work, how capital punishment is dysfunctional and how condemned men and women have been waiting decades to die at the hands of the state? This converts sentences of death into terms of life without parole. Given all those who have been falsely convicted of capital crimes only to be exonerated years later, this is a change we all can live with. YES
Proposition 35 — What Proposition 35 would do, according to Ballotpedia, is increase prison terms for human traffickers, require convicted sex traffickers to register as sex offenders and require all registered sex offenders to disclose their Internet accounts. It also requires criminal fines from convicted human traffickers to pay for services to help victims and mandates law enforcement training on human trafficking. No arguments here. YES
Proposition 36 — When you have prisons overflowing with people serving life terms for petty offenses, even the staunchest crime fighter knows something is amiss with the law that put those people there. This measure requires a third felony strike leveled against a given ex-convict be a serious crime. As outgoing LA DA Steve Cooley put it, “Make the punishment fit the crime.” We agree. YES
Proposition 37 — This proposition, which would require mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods, has the backing of an array of Hollywood heavyweights — from comedian Bill Maher to rock star Dave Matthews. Unfortunately, not only is this requirement unequally applied to various products, it would cost average consumers significantly more at the market checkout line. Certainly Maher and Matthews could afford it, but average people cannot. NO
Proposition 38 — Written by local civil rights lawyer Molly Munger, Proposition 38 would raise about $10 billion a year for K-12 schools over 12 years by taxing incomes of everyone — not just the rich, as does Brown’s Proposition 30 — on a sliding scale. That means the richest and the poorest would pay proportionally equal amounts for public school improvements. These funds would go into a separate account, away from the hands of the governor and other lawmakers, and be used exclusively to pay down existing education-related bonded indebtedness and for school improvements. While noble, the problem is Proposition 38 finds itself in competition with Proposition 30, which would raise roughly $6 billion a year in its first few years with a tax on those making more than $250,000 a year for seven years and increasing the state sales tax for four years. Without that infusion of funds, Brown has warned of immediate across-the-board cuts, especially to state and community colleges, which already would not benefit from the passage of 38. NO
Proposition 39 — The Income Tax Increase for Multistate Businesses Initiative would not affect California businesses, but instead generate $1 billion in revenue and create approximately 40,000 construction and clean-energy jobs, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office. This would be accomplished by forcing out-of-state businesses, which currently reduce their California income taxes by not locating facilities or employees within the state, to pay taxes in California based on percentages of their sales. YES
Proposition 40 — Written by opponents of court-mandated redistricting, who in July gave up the fight and declared they would not campaign against it, Proposition 40 validates the new political boundaries approved by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission. YES n