By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Then there’s the Rampart scandal, surely the biggest threat in Los Angeles history to the integrity of the justice system. Garcetti has utterly failed to provide the kind of leadership needed in a crisis. He’s dragged his feet, he’s whined, he’s hoarded documents and refused to cooperate with the defense attorneys whose clients may have been affected by the misdeeds at Rampart. He’s made no systemic changes to deal with the problem of officers who lie. And he hasn’t once used that bully pulpit he was so eager to occupy to reassure the city’s poor and nonwhite citizens that he will expose and eliminate police corruption.
Steve Cooley is not a perfect candidate. A Republican who only tepidly supports gun control and talks a traditional tough line on crime, Cooley will never be the sort of outspoken advocate of crime prevention we’d like to see; nor will he give much thought to the underlying economic and social conditions that breed crime. But his reputation is as an honest and smart prosecutor. He’s vowed to prosecute only serious felonies as third strikes. And he says he will put additional resources into prosecuting corrupt public officials.
We need change. We hope Steve Cooley will bring the right kind.
SANTA MONICA CITY GENERAL MUNICIPAL ELECTION
Proposition 32: Yes
This proposition authorizes the state to sell $500 million in bonds to provide home loans to 2,500 California veterans, who themselves would pay off the bonds over 25 years. In the abstract, preferential treatment for veterans is an idea we don’t always endorse, not with all the other unmet needs in the state. But, as anyone who looked at the pictures or read the obituaries of the sailors killed on the USS Cole should realize, the members of our all-volunteer armed forces are disproportionately working-class and nonwhite. Precisely the people for whom home ownership in this state is out of reach. California has one of the lowest rates of home ownership in the nation, and a mind-boggling lack of affordable housing. This measure is one of the precious few programs that could enable non-affluent Californians to buy homes. For that reason, we’re for it.
Proposition 33: Yes
In 1990, Californians passed an initiative which established term limits for state elected officials and, as a kind of malicious afterthought, abolished the state-run Legislators’ Retirement System. Unlike every other full-time state employee, the 120 members of the Legislature have no pensions. The only conceivable purpose this serves is to keep people of modest means from seeking public office. Proposition 33 allows legislators to join the state’s Public Employees Retirement System by directing a portion of their paychecks into the fund. It ends a discriminatory and spiteful policy, and we clearly support it.
Proposition 34: No
Now here’s an oxymoron: a campaign-finance-reform proposition written in part by Gray Davis. As initially drafted by state legislative leaders, this measure set a $10,000 limit on individual contributions to gubernatorial candidates, to take effect for the next election. The governor gently suggested raising the ceiling to $20,000 and having it take effect after the next election, an idea the drafters apparently thought was just peachy.
To understand this odd measure, you need to understand its genesis. In 1996, state voters enacted by initiative Proposition 208, which set very low contribution limits for state offices — $250 for legislative offices, $500 for statewide ones. Since its passage, though, Proposition 208 has been tied up in the courts — leaving the state with no limits on donations whatsoever. Then, this summer, it suddenly looked as if a U.S. district judge was going to reinstate 208. This plunged the legislative leaders into a flurry of closed-door activity. They emerged with Proposition 34, which establishes far higher contribution limits — $3,000 for individuals for legislative races, $5,000 for statewide races, and, as noted, 20 big ones for aspiring governors. It allows for undisclosed donations to political parties and does not limit the parties’ spending of “soft money.” And one more thing: It specifically nullifies every provision of Prop. 208.
We are concerned that wealthy candidates could benefit from 208’s low contribution limits. We are worried also by its limitations on some of labor’s campaign spending (though it doesn’t affect the unions’ foot power). Nonetheless, Proposition 34 does almost nothing to diminish the huge role that big money plays in California politics; it was conceived in stealth and relies on a strategy of deception — campaign-finance reform intended to thwart campaign-finance reform. For these reasons, we recommend a No vote on Proposition 34.
Proposition 35: No
This is one of those inside-ball measures on which a special interest spent a lot of money to place on the ballot. The Civil Engineers and Land Surveyors of California, a private association, objects to language in the California constitution that directs state and local governments to use their own engineers and surveyors on public works projects. However, as the Civil Engineers don’t tell us, it does allow those governments to go to the private sector in many instances: This year, Caltrans alone will spend $150 million on contracts with private-sector engineers. Nonetheless, the engineers want more, so they put this measure on the ballot to require that all such contracts be selected through competition. Curiously, there is no obligation that governments have to solicit bids, which sure sounds to us like a prescription for all kinds of shady practices. We’re not at all convinced that privatization of the work on these projects is such a hot idea (remember all those friendly private contractors who built the Red Line through Hollywood). We are convinced that dealing with so narrow a concern by submitting it to the voters is an abuse of the initiative process.
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