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25th District — Ed Vincent

The third of three successive Senate districts that features a race between two Democratic Assembly members to succeed an outgoing Democratic incumbent brings us to the bottom of the barrel of the candidate pool. Veteran state Senator Teresa Hughes has been termed out of this inglewood–Gardena–South L.A. district, and the race to succeed her pits Inglewood-area Assemblyman (and former Inglewood mayor) Ed Vincent against Dick Floyd, a veteran assemblyman from a Carson–Long Beach district that isn’t in Hughes’ district at all. (Floyd has had to move into the Senate district.)

Vincent is one of the Assembly’s lesser lights; Floyd, increasingly, is its black hole. As the legislator from the district that’s home to Hollywood Park and its casino, Vincent carries the water of the gambling industry and, for good measure, Big Tobacco. The blustery and erratic Floyd carries some labor legislation, but often so clumsily that it doesn’t get through, as he did last session with his last-minute bill — ultimately vetoed by Davis — banning “big box” retailers, a serious issue, but one that needed airing and debate.

In a sense, this race is a kind of reverse image of the Kuehl-Knox contest — this one featuring two legislators you’d rather not have in Sacramento at all, that one featuring two you’d wish could both stay there forever. Still, we see one factor that tilts this race in Vincent’s favor: Almost alone among L.A.’s African-American elected officials, Vincent is actively promoting Latino political involvement and cultivating a whole generation of Latino political leaders within his district. In a time of increasing Balkanization, and pervasive insecurity within the black political elite, Vincent’s multiracialism is far-sighted and — sad to say — brave. It’s enough for us to endorse him, despite his manifest flaws.

27th District — Betty Karnette

Democratic incumbent Karnette is seeking a second term in this Long Beach–Harbor area–Palos Verdes district. This is a seat the Republicans still have designs on; chiefly for that reason, the moderate Karnette has our support.

MEMBER OF THE STATE ASSEMBLY

39th District – Tony Cardenas

Assemblyman Tony Cardenas has had a relatively unimpressive four years in Sacramento, perhaps because he’s been building a mini-TELACU (Latino L.A.’s ranking business-political machine) in his northeast San Fernando Valley district. With prompting from Richard Polanco, he got it into his head that he should run for speaker, an idea that his colleagues, fortunately, couldn’t get into their heads. He is, nonetheless, the best of the candidates in the 39th.

40th District — Bob Hertzberg

Hurricane Hertzberg continues to storm through Sacramento, a whirlwind of activity, affability, deal making and hugs. Earlier this year, he was elected speaker by an unprecedented unanimous vote. The Hertzberg speakership will certainly be more centrist than its Villaraigosa predecessor; we just hope Hertzberg realizes that absent pressure from the Legislature, the natural tendency of the governor is to do next to nothing about everything. Remember, Bob: The achievements of Davis’ first year — gun control, HMO regulations, affordable auto insurance — were forced on the Guv by you guys. Keep it up.

41st District — S. David Freeman

We mean no insult when we say that the field of candidates to succeed the term-limited Sheila Kuehl in this Santa Monica–to–West Valley district does not seem to include anyone who’s quite up to the standard that Kuehl has set. A first-rate legislator can still fall short of the Kuehl standard. What’s striking about the three main Democratic aspirants, however, is their utter experiential dissimilarity. Former Santa Monica City Council member Tony Vazquez, longtime Agoura Hills City Council member Fran Pavley, and DWP chief S. David Freeman are all mainstream Democrats, but they seem to come from different planets.

Tony Vazquez is a community activist who served on the Santa Monica City Council from 1990 to 1994, having been elected as part of the Santa Monicans for Renters Rights slate. He lost his seat in ’94 largely due to the opposition of the police, whom he’d estranged by criticizing their crack-down on non-white youth. Clearly the most progressive candidate in the current race, Vazquez has been endorsed by the County Federation of Labor and the Latino Legislative Caucus. His commitment to social-justice causes, however, is to some degree undercut by his inability to make a compelling, complex case on behalf of his beliefs. Or maybe we’ve just been spoiled by Sheila.

Fran Pavley, a middle school teacher who’s served four terms as mayor and council member of Agoura Hills, is a longtime environmental activist and has been a member of the California Coastal Commission since 1995. She’s won awards and endorsements from both the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters. She certainly brings sterling environmental credentials to the race, though her lack of familiarity with the kind of income-equity causes that Vazquez espouses is matched only by Vazquez’s lack of familiarity with some of the growth-control issues that she knows so well. The extent to which either of them is ready to represent all of this diverse urban-suburban-exurban district is not at all clear. Or maybe we’ve just been spoiled by Sheila.

 

S. David Freeman is — well, he’s not the sort of person who runs for the state Assembly. At age 74, he’s spent his life striking a balance between one great legacy of the ’30s — public power — and one great legacy of the ’60s, the environmental cause. An engineer and attorney, Freeman became an expert on energy policy, and in 1977, Jimmy Carter appointed him to chair the Tennessee Valley Authority — one of the great New Deal regional development projects that had aged badly, becoming the bane of conservationists and anti-nuclear activists. Freeman closed down its existing nuclear plants and stopped the construction of new ones. He then began moving from one power company to another, going to Sacramento to shut down the Rancho Seco nuclear plant, and eventually responding to Richard Riordan’s invitation to take over L.A.’s DWP. There, he’s put together a compact by which L.A. will help restore the Owens Valley — undoing at century’s end some of the damage that William Mulholland did there at the century’s start. For all this, he’s received awards from environmental groups and the United Nations, and praise from Ralph Nader and our own Republican mayor.

And now he’s running for … state Assembly? Beyond doubt, Freeman will bring a level of water and energy expertise to the legislative branch that Sacramento’s seldom if ever seen, and that it surely could use. We’re not sure how conversant he is with the wide range of specifically 41st District issues, but then, we feel that way about his two opponents, too.

In the end, though, we’re persuaded that Freeman’s particular talents are right for the times. California badly needs to rebuild its aging infrastructure, and the current prosperity makes this the first time in decades that such a project is plausible. We think Freeman can make valuable contributions to that end. We’re not sure he’s totally up on all the other controversies a legislator must confront. But then we’ve been spoiled by Sheila.

42nd Assembly District — Paul Koretz

The field of candidates to succeed the term-limited Wally Knox in this Westside district isn’t quite so disparate as the one for Sheila’s old seat. Of the three Democratic candidates, physician Daniel Stone certainly comes to the race from off the beaten path, but the two presumed leaders — attorney Amanda Susskind and West Hollywood City Councilman Paul Koretz — each seem to have started planning for this race when they were in utero. They’re principled, political pros, and they’re good at what they do.

Stone, the associate medical director of the Cedars-Sinai Medical Group, is founder and chairman of Phys icians for RU-486 — the group that won U.S. researchers the right to work with the drug, which would, of course, transform both the practice of abortion and the issue of choice. He’s running, he says, to bring a physician’s perspective to the Legislature, to be a physician advocate for universal health care. We think that Dan Stone would be a fine assemblyman — not so much for his medical and public-health experience, though, as for his intelligence, organizational skills, and principled liberalism. Problem is, the other two candidates share those qualities and bring a level of experience that Stone cannot match.

Susskind is an attorney who brings an almost Hertzberg-like level of energy to her campaign. Until she quit her firm to campaign full-time, she worked in a practice serving as an on-call city attorney for many smaller cities and school districts around the state, with a particular expertise in budgets and public finance. She’s also served on both the County Parks and Recreation and Housing commissions. Susskind would surely be one of the most unintimidated freshman legislators to come to Sacramento. Our one significant reservation about her is her fiscal conservatism, which we fear would only abet Gray Davis’ reluctance to invest the money pouring into the state treasury in the overdue rebuilding of the state.

West Hollywood City Council member Paul Koretz is endorsed by Gray Davis, but ironically, he would have no such reluctance. In his career both as an activist and a councilman, Koretz has demonstrated a tenacious liberalism reminiscent of Henry Waxman — and an absence of charisma that is Waxmanesque as well. The onetime Southern California director of the League of Conservation Voters and a former aide to L.A. Councilman Marvin Braude, Koretz has involved himself in just about every Westside liberal movement imaginable. Due to his leadership, West Hollywood became the first city in the nation to ban Saturday-night specials. He authored the city’s 1985 ordinance limiting smoking in public places. Perhaps most notably, he’s committed himself deeply to the battles of the new L.A. labor movement for decent wages and living standards. He authored his city’s living-wage ordinance, and took a leading role in the Westside support actions for embattled hotel workers. A stand-up guy, Koretz, and we’re standing with him on election day.

 

43rd District — Paul Krekorian

Scott Wildman is running for the state Senate, and three Democrats are in the race for his Burbank/Glendale-area Assembly seat. Moderate Democrat John Hisserich is a talented public-health professional who brings a good deal of expertise to the vexing questions of how to improve health care and increase the number of insured Californians. An associate vice president of health affairs at USC, he’s coordinated research for USC’s cancer center, opened Kaiser’s first hospice care program, and run community-clinic outreach programs in the city’s poorest neighborhoods. He’s also served as an alternate on the Coastal Commission.

Attorney Dario Frommer comes to the race from a longstanding professional relationship with Gray Davis, whom he most recently served as appointments secretary. Anyone who can survive working for Davis, a notoriously volatile boss, will obviously thrive under adversity. Should Frommer be elected, however, his willingness to push Davis in the direction of greater governmental activism is subject to question: If anyone in this entire class of candidates is a Davisite, it’s Frommer. And if California is to make the kind of public investments required to restore its former luster, it’s gonna take a lot of pushin’ on Davis.

Paul Krekorian, an attorney with an entertainment law/first amendment practice, is the most progressive candidate in the field. He’s a longtime activist and litigator in the cause of gun control, and he’s poised to take up Wildman’s fight against runaway film and TV production — a key issue in this studio-studded district. He’s also played a leading role in the political mobilization of Glendale’s Armenian community — and Glendale is home to more Armenians than any city this side of the Middle East. Politically, intellectually, and ethno-symbolically, Paul Krekorian is the right choice for the 43rd.

44th District — Barry Gordon

Jack Scott is running for the Senate against Scott Wildman, so his Pasadena-centered district, too, has a contested primary, with four Democratic candidates see king the job.

The first of the two frontrunners is Carol Liu, a longtime Bay Area schoolteacher, administrator, teachers union officer and Democratic activist who moved to La Cañada–Flintridge 16 years ago. She’s been on the La Cañada–Flintridge City Council since 1992, twice serving as mayor during that time. On the council, she’s concentrated on growth and environment issues, but her urban-activist past gives her a broader perspective on social issues than you might expect from the mayor of an upscale suburb. She’d be an excellent legislator.

Barry Gordon, however, would be a stellar legislator (and not just because he was, briefly, a child star — to some of us of a certain age, forever the kid in A Thousand Clowns). Gordon grew up to become president of the Screen Actors Guild (plainly, an incubator of political careers) and an attorney with an entertainment and business practice. In 1998, he ran for Congress against Republican James Rogan, and despite being outspent two-to-one, he came within three points of knocking off the loathsome Rogan. Gordon is a feisty progressive, a supporter of single-payer health care, of handgun licensing and registration, of worker rights and the living wage. He’d be a dynamic addition to the Assembly, and he has our support in the March 7 election.

45th District — Jackie Goldberg

The speaker, Antonio Villaraigosa, is term-limited out of Sacramento at the end of this year, and is already running for mayor of L.A. In his old Echo Park–to–Eastside Assembly district, meanwhile, a high-stakes contest to succeed him is reaching a crescendo.

The front-runner is L.A. City Council Member Jackie Goldberg, the working-class heroine of Los Angeles. Sometimes bumptious, sometimes difficult, but a brilliant organizer, a canny strategist and the most far-sighted and dedicated officeholder in city government, Goldberg has put her mark on her district and her city in her seven years on the council. She’s the author of the city’s landmark living-wage ordinance, which she steered, stunningly, to unanimous passage. She authored the city’s worker-retention ordinance, which bars new city contractors from sacking the workers they inherit. She’s set up the best living-wage enforcement bureau in the U.S., and at the Hollywood-Highland development now rising in the middle of her district, she’s developed an innovative plan that will enable the retail establishments currently under construction to pay decent wages and offer health insurance to their employees — an arrangement that sets the standard for socially responsible development in (and outside) this city. It’s hard to think of another urban official who’s done more to revive urban progressivism over the past half-decade.

 

There’s more: Goldberg also authored the city’s ban on Saturday-night specials and the ordinance establishing domestic-partner benefits. She’s added new parkland to her district and improved the parks that were already there. She played a key role in reviving the city’s policing of slum housing conditions. Her staff has organized numerous neighborhood groups throughout her district, in precisely the kind of poor, immigrant communities frequently devoid of organization. And in large part because of her diligence, Hollywood — moribund, comatose Hollywood — is showing real signs of life, with new development (paying decent wages) and refurbishment springing up throughout the district. In the Assembly, she’d be an intellectual presence and a political force for raising working-class incomes and strengthening unions, for smart growth and smart schools (she was a classroom teacher in Compton for 15 years), for universal health care and human rights.

We’re for her. Avidly.

Goldberg’s opponent, Cesar Portillo, was a kindergarten teacher and, for the past eight years, has been the director of governmental affairs for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, headed by Michael Weinstein, an old rival of Goldberg’s who lost a City Council primary to her in 1993. Portillo would surely be a good vote on most issues in Sacramento, though Goldberg’s expertise at legislation and organization is way out of Portillo’s league. He’s running to her right on several issues, contrasting, for instance, his support for the death penalty to her opposition to it. Chiefly, he’s running a slash-and-burn campaign against her, broadcasting a series of half-truths verging on lies — among them, that Goldberg is somehow responsible for the Belmont fiasco, though she had actually been off the board for several years when the key decisions were made.

The Goldberg-Portillo race also has a larger significance for the future of L.A. politics. Portillo’s chief sponsor is state Senator Richard Polanco, a centrist Latino nationalist; just as Goldberg’s chief sponsor is Speaker Villaraigosa, a progressive multiethnic coalition-builder. Polanco, a notorious player of the race card, argues that because a Latino (Villaraigosa, whom he hates) represented the district, it should not be allowed to fall into Anglo hands. Villaraigosa, and the new, Latino-led L.A. County Federation of Labor, argue that Goldberg is the elected official who’s done more for the Latino working class than anyone else. Goldberg’s candidacy is the single highest priority for the County Fed (and the United Farm Workers), which sees this as a battleground in the fight to persuade the coming Latino majority to vote on class interest rather than skin color. The battle between Goldberg and Portillo is really the battle for the future of L.A. (It is also the first L.A.-area election in a district this large where both candidates are openly gay.)

One final caveat: The last time Polanco involved himself in this kind of campaign — Richard Alarcon’s state Senate race against Richard Katz in 1998 — he put out some astonishing last-minute smear mailings containing allegations that were howlingly untrue. Last-minute mail on behalf of Portillo may be similarly creative.

Don’t be snookered. Jackie Goldberg will be a great state legislator, and she deserves your support.

46th District — Gil Cedillo

The invaluable Mr. Cedillo persuaded his legislative colleagues to enact some of the most humane and progressive legislation of the last session: expanding prenatal care to undocumented women; expanding Medicaid to 250,000 working adults; extending food stamps to legal immigrants for one more year; requiring hospital chains to get the attorney general’s approval when they take over nonprofit hospitals, to assure that patient-care standards don’t decline; prohibiting state contractors from using state funds on union-busting activities. Unfortunately, he failed to persuade the governor to sign the last two, but Cedillo’s a determined and wily guy. We support him wholeheartedly.

47th District — Herb Wesson

Freshman legislator Wesson may have been chief deputy to Yvonne Burke and a onetime staffer for Nate Holden, but in his first year in the Assembly he’s surpassed his mentors. This Crenshaw-area assemblyman is one of Sacramento’s rising stars.

49th District — Gloria Romero

With Antonio Villaraigosa and Gil Cedillo, Romero forms a trio of Latino electeds who’ve all done serious time in the labor movement. The three, along with Hilda Solis, are at the epicenter of the most dynamic force in L.A. politics today — the labor-Latino alliance. Romero is a conscientious progressive, and we emphatically endorse her.

 

51st District — Jerome Horton

Incumbent Ed Vincent is running for the state Senate, and this Inglewood-centered seat is being sought by six Democrats, some of them real lulus. A non-lulu, and the best of the bunch, is Jerome Horton, a CPA with the State Board of Equalization and a member of the Inglewood City Council. When a drive-by shooting came way too close for comfort a few years back, Horton plunged into various neighborhood improvement activities, which eventually led to his election to the Council. An expert in public finance, he was able to straighten out some of Inglewood’s many budget woes and put a better management team in place. He also assembled a community group supporting the workers seeking to organize a union at the Hollywood Park Casino. Horton’s the class act in this field.

54th District — Alan Lowenthal

Halfway through his first term representing this Long Beach–San Pedro–Palos Verdes–area district, Alan Lowenthal has distinguished himself as a fighter for both environmental justice and economic revitalization in this heavily industrial region. He’s championed the cleanup of the L.A. River and the dredging of the port, as well as stricter pollution standards on the harbor’s petroleum coke piles. He’s authored ambitious gun-control legislation barring gun sales in residential neighborhoods — one reason why the Republicans, in the person of L.A. City Councilman Rudy Svorinich Jr., are coming after him. (You may be thinking it wouldn’t be so terrible to get Svorinich off the Council by sending him to Sacramento, but remember: He’s term-limited out next year anyway.) Lowenthal is fighting exactly the right battles for his district, and he has our enthusiastic support.

55th District — Jenny Oropeza

Suddenly, the South County area has become home to a number of dynamic, progressive candidates — none more so than Long Beach City Council Member Jenny Oropeza, one of four Democrats vying to succeed Dick Floyd in this Carson–Long Beach–area district. Other candidates include R. Keith McDonald, a former pro-football player who’s the son of Representative Juanita Millender-McDonald, and Eddie Tabash, an abortion-rights activist and attorney, until recently based in Malibu. But it’s Oropeza who seems the best of all possible legi slators for this multiracial district that’s working-class to the core. Now in her second term on the Long Beach council, Oropeza secured funding for the city’s first new park in 20 years and for badly needed affordable housing. She played a key role in persuading the owners of the Long Beach downtown high-rises to recognize the union that their janitors had organized, and has assisted the various unionization campaigns in Long Beach hospitals. Oropeza is the most effective politician/organizer on behalf of economic-justice issues we’ve met in some time, and we support her unstintingly.

56th District — Sally Havice

Havice, a moderate Democrat, faces another tough fight this November in her Cerritos-area district, which has a huge Democratic registration edge but still dismal Democratic voter turnout.

JUDICIAL

Judge of the Superior Court, Office No. 31 — Katherine Mader

COUNTY

District Attorney — Steve Cooley

Clip this endorsement. Put it in your scrapbook and save it, because it may be the only time you’ll see this paper endorse a law-and-order Republican for district attorney. But what other choice is there?

Current D.A. Gil Garcetti seemed promising when he first ran for office eight years ago. A Democrat who spoke of using the office as a force for crime prevention and positive social change, he seemed willing to use the bully pulpit that goes with the office to promote those causes. He still talks the talk, particularly at election time, but his record is spotty at best.

Despite his professed belief that California’s Three Strikes law should apply only to serious felonies, for instance, he has adopted a harder line in prosecuting such cases than D.A.s in some other counties. In 1995, citing budget constraints, he dumped the D.A.’s rollout team charged with investigating officer-involved shootings, a cutback we can’t help but feel contributed to the Rampart officers’ confidence that their gun attacks on the citizenry would go unscrutinized. For that matter, we couldn’t help but notice that the budget crunch didn’t stop Garcetti from, at the same time, committing his prosecutors to pursue trademark infringement cases so important to such big-time Garcetti contributors as the Marciano brothers of Guess jeans. Time and again, he’s been loath to pursue local corruption cases, from the allegations swirling around former Councilman Richard Alatorre to the scandals associated with the Belmont Learning Complex.

 

But all these failings pale when compared to Garcetti’s handling of the Rampart scandal, which has more seriously undermined the credibility of the justice system in this county than any other event in L.A.’s history. It’s hard to tell exactly what he’s done, since he refuses to talk about most things connected to the scandal, but what he hasn’t done is glaring. He’s dragged his feet about releasing the names of defendants involved in cases brought by rogue officers; he hasn’t provided any insight into why his office failed to take action when, before any of the scandal came to light, one of his own assistants dismissed a case because Officer Perez had lied on the stand; and perhaps most egregious, he’s failed to affirm in any meaningful way to the people of this city that his office is committed to truth and justice. He has, belatedly, restarted the rollout team, but in doing so he has failed to adequately address flaws in the program that rendered it ineffective in actually rooting out officer wrongdoing.

Thus we turn to Garcetti’s contenders. Environmental attorney Barry Groveman is at first glance appealing. A Democrat who both established the District Attorney’s environmental crimes unit and helped with the drafting of Proposition 65, the state’s far-reaching toxic-chemical initiative, Groveman has demonstrated knowledge of and concern with environmental issues. But he then took what he’d learned and went into private practice, sometimes defending the very kind of polluters he’d previously tried to regulate.

As a private attorney, Groveman’s clients have also included a variety of governmental agencies, most prominently the L.A. Unified School District, where his impact has been significant. He takes credit in one instance for persuading district officials to abandon a proposed school site on contaminated land. But observers point out that Groveman also led a group of attorneys whose job it was to deflect the district’s responsibility for the cleanup of toxics near Jefferson Middle School, an action critics say had the effect of exposing the children there to unacceptable levels of risk. Working behind the scenes, Groveman helped engineer last fall’s palace coup that toppled Superintendent Ruben Zacarias, a move that, depending on your viewpoint, was either long overdue, unnecessarily cruel or both. In short, while Groveman has certainly affected change at the district, it’s tended to be of the wrecking ball variety: We’ve seen less of his ability to build things back up. We also worry that he’d be supervising an office full of attorneys with vastly more prosecutorial experience than he possesses. As a city attorney he prosecuted misdemeanors, but he has little felony experience.

Groveman, a moderately liberal attorney of intelligence and energy, might be someone worth taking a chance on in ordinary times. But these are in no way ordinary times. Whoever takes over the District Attorney’s Office must move swiftly to re-establish its credibility, making clear that its mission is to make cases fairly and honestly and to punish wrongdoing regardless of the perpetrator.

Steve Cooley, the other candidate for Garcetti’s job, has many of the qualities we’d like in a top prosecutor. A head deputy district attorney who directs the welfare-fraud unit, he’s got a reputation for honesty, integrity and effective, hands-on management. He’s outspoken about the need to re-evaluate policy in light of the Rampart scandal, promising that he’d initiate immediate action if a cop were found to be lying. And he’s been highly critical of Garcetti’s glacial slowness in dealing with the crisis.

Cooley is far from perfect. He is a Republican who talks a tough line on crime and served on a Pete Wilson judicial-appointments review body. He’s never going to be the sort of outspoken advocate for 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 positions aren’t knee-jerk. He says he would make it mandatory office policy that third-strike prosecutions not be pursued except in cases of serious felonies, and he’s opposed to Proposition 21, the draconian child-punishment law that Wilson has placed on the March ballot.

We’ve had a long string of politically ambitious district attorneys who’ve used the position as a stepping stone. At a time when the office is in crisis, we think it’s time to turn to someone — even a highly imperfect someone — who is first and foremost a good and honest prosecutor, which is why, reluctantly but unambiguously, we’re supporting Steve Cooley.

Supervisor, 2nd District — No Endorsement

Supervisor, 4th District — No Endorsement

Supervisor, 5th District — No Endorsement

This year, despite all the frenetic campaigning for other offices, the three incumbents up for re-election on the County Board of Supes — Democrat Yvonne Burke and Republicans Don Knabe and Mike Antonovich — face no opposition at all. Their free ride is certainly not due to their unassailable performance, or their unchallengeable political orientations, which, in fact, vary widely. Knabe is a moderate Republican, while Antonovich is really the sole remaining Reaganite to be found in L.A. government. (Recently, he opposed his fellow supes’ ban on gun shows on county property.) Yvonne Burke is a mainstream, at times corporate, Democrat. Zev Yaroslavsky and Gloria Molina get into more scraps for more causes (some but not all of them liberal) than Burke, and hold more liberal positions (not all of which they fight for) than Burke as well.

 

The bigger scandal here is that, alone of all the political offices in L.A., that of supervisor — perhaps the most powerful of all — now goes unopposed. By creating term limits for some offices (city and state) but not other (county and federal), we’ve created a two-tier system in which some levels of government are in perpetual turnaround while others almost never see a single electoral challenge. Being a supe these days is almost like being a lifetime peer: You can’t pass it down to your kids, but you can stay as long as you want. Supervisorial districts in L.A. now contain almost 2 million people, and insurgent campaigns need to buy TV time in the nation’s second largest and costliest media market. Such campaigns are prohibitively expensive, which again benefits incumbents, since there’s no statute on the books to forbid them from raising money from the folks, and the mega-conglomerates, who do business with the county. Consequently, anyone looking to run for office looks anywhere but the position of county supervisor — at least until one of the supes decides to retire.

In short, an entire level of government has ceased to be subject to the democratic control of elections. Just thought you’d like to know.

STATE MEASURES

1A — No

Proposition 1A, which would greatly increase Indian “gaming” (the genteel word for gambling) in California, results from a compact that California’s tribes signed last year with the governor and the Legislature. It would permit them to erect new casinos on tribal land, to enlarge existing ones and to install anywhere from 40,000 to 100,000 slot machines. Unlike 1998’s ballot measure, Proposition 1A would enable casino employees to form unions at work. Since it benefits Native Americans and creates decent-paying jobs with benefits, we should be for it, right?

Wrong. First off, the number of Native Americans it benefits is really quite small. Second, job creation, even good job creation, can never be the primary criterion for a public project’s merit: if it were, we should be supporting more funding for the B-2 bomber and Star Wars. Problem is, those weapons programs wouldn’t contribute to, and might actually imperil, national security. And in like fashion, the addition of 200 more casinos to California wouldn’t contribute to, and might well imperil, the quality of California life — and Californians’ lives.

Gambling is many things for many people, but looked at in aggregate, it is a mechanism for upward redistribution of income — the paychecks of working Californians ending up enriching Steve Wynn and his shareholders, or the 100 millionaires of the Morongo Tribe. For many people, it is an addiction; for others, an opportunity for corruption. (An opportunity enhanced by the fact that regulation of the state’s tribal casinos will be far more lax than Nevada’s regulation of its nontribal casinos, since the tribes have sovereignty.) Indeed, the only reason Davis and the Legislature were so eager to sign this compact was that the tribes had contributed millions of dollars to their campaigns the corruption has already begun. Nor are we encouraged that the minimum age for gambling at these casinos will be 18 — three years younger than the Nevada standard. All in all, 1A is a sucker bet for California.

12 — Yes

As everyone from Richard Riordan to Mike Davis has noted, L.A. doesn’t have much in the way of parks — in fact, less parkland relative to its size than any other major American city. Worse yet, since Proposition 13 passed fully 22 years ago, the funds for acquiring new parkland anywhere in California have largely dried up. Now that the state is experiencing a new birth of prosperity, though, the Legislature and the governor have placed a major bond issue on the March ballot to make up lost ground on parklands. Proposition 12 is a $2.1 billion bond measure for parkland acquisition and improvement, with about $1.16 billion going to the state for mountains, coastlands, rivers and other natural resources, and $940 million going to cities and counties to do with as they will. The cost to taxpayers will be about $4 a year per Californian for a period of around 25 years. It’s an important measure and a good deal, and we strongly recommend its passage.

 

13 — Yes

The substance of the Safe Drinking Water, Clean Water, Watershed Protection and Flood Protection Bond Act is all there in the title. This is a $1.97 billion bond issue to provide more water to Californians by increasing underground storage, promoting better conservation and recycling. It will also go to better controlling river, lake and coastal pollution. We live, let us remember, in a semi-arid climate, and we ain’t got water to waste (although moving the primary from dry June to rainy March may cause some people to forget this fact). Vote Yes on 13.

14 — Yes

And vote Yes on 14, which is a $350 million bond to build new or enhance old libraries. The tab for the libraries will be split between the state and municipalities, with priority given to cities and counties that build joint facilities with their school districts. With urban space already built up and with schools in need of more and better after-school programs, that’s a very sound priority.

15 — Yes

The sponsors of the Hertzberg-Polanco Crime Lab Construction Bond — which authorizes a $220 million bond issue to build, just as you surmised, new crime labs — argue that cops and prosecutors need better tools and technology to do their work. So they do, but funding new and better crime labs serves blind justice as much if not more than it serves prosecutorial interests, since one of the projects the funding will go to will be more DNA testing facilities. In short, Prop. 15 will better enable the system to nail the real culprits and to exonerate the innocent — some of them, as we’ve recently seen, who are doing hard time through wrongful convictions.

16 — Yes

Currently, the state operates two residential homes for elderly and disabled veterans — one in Napa County, one in Barstow (if that’s not a two-tier system, we don’t know what is). Prop. 16 is a $50 million bond issue that will enable the state to build two new residences and renovate the Napa facility.

17 — Yes

In California, church elders, PTA Pooh-Bahs and Boy Scout troop leaders are all habitual criminals. Here’s why: It turns out that raffles are illegal in California. That’s right: raffles. The things where they give you prizes if you’re holding the right number.

Nonprofit organizations are forbidden from conducting raffles, and have been for the last hundred years. Rather than encourage another century of scofflaws, the people behind Prop. 17 want you to legalize raffles for nonprofits. Now, there’s something to be said for the frisson of lawbreaking, but since no one conducting a raffle realized he or she was breaking the law, it was never much of a frisson. We can’t think of a single reason to vote against this.

18 — No

George Deukmejian is still running against Rose Bird. The purpose of Prop. 18, he tells us at the outset of the ballot argument, is to correct “two odd decisions by the Rose Bird Supreme Court.” The goal of this measure is to extend the death penalty to murderers who killed their victims after transporting them to another location, or if arson or kidnapping were instrumental to the murder. You’ve gotta give the Duke credit: It takes a real visionary to realize that the problem with California today is that there aren’t enough people on death row, and that it’s still Rose Bird’s fault. No other advanced industrial democracy has had capital punishment for years; the Republican governor of Illinois has just ordered a stop to executions because too many death row inmates were being proved innocent. But the Duke fears that California isn’t dispatching enough inmates. The fear’s understandable, since violent crime is way down. The only way to meet the Duke’s quota, it seems, is to classify more crimes as capital. This measure extends an already barbaric practice, and we strongly recommend a vote against it.

19 — No

There’s a two-tier system for second-degree murder sentences in California. Second-degree murder is generally punishable by 15 years–to–life, but second-degree murder of a sheriff or police officer is punishable by 25-to-life. Prop. 19 extends this additional police-officer protection (if it is a protection; it’s certainly not a perk) to the police officers who work for the Cal State Universities and the Bay Area Rapid Transit System. On the one hand, we certainly believe that all cops are created equal. On the other hand, we don’t think longer incarcerations are what California needs now, with existing prisons already jammed and new prisons prohibitively expensive. We also don’t think a statutory change so minuscule should have to be voted on by upwards of ten million Californians. (Note to Richard Riordan: When you’re termed out, maybe you’d like to reform the state constitution.) That’s one argument for and two against, which is enough to turn us against this somewhat silly proposition.

 

20 — No

This measure mandates that half the money going to school districts from the state lottery be earmarked for textbooks. We know there’s a shortage of textbooks in many California schools, but there’s also a glut of mandates coming down from on high — in this case, from Sacramento. This one-size-fits-all approach gives no flexibility to districts where the most pressing need may be higher teacher salaries or equipment. Prop. 20 is poorly thought out. We recommend a No vote.

21 — No

Old Republican governors never die; they just grow steadily meaner. On the heels of George Deukmejian’s Prop. 19 comes Pete Wilson’s Prop. 21 — a vicious piece of mischief from the Little Marine. It’s a hodgepodge of tough-on-crime posturing directed at young people. It requires adult trials for juveniles 14 or over charged with sex crimes or murders. It reroutes juveniles 16 or older convicted in adult court from Youth Authority camps to adult prisons. It stops the sealing of records of juveniles convicted of certain serious crimes. It increases the penalties for certain gang-related crimes, and adds to the number of felonies that qualify as “strikes” under the Three Strikes law.

Prop. 21 will come up for a vote at about the same time the number of Americans in prison passes the 2 million mark. We imprison more people than the rest of the industrial democracies combined. We particularly imprison more kids. Indeed, according to Amnesty International, only six nations have executed minors in the 1990s: Iran, Pakistan, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the U.S. All told, 19 children were executed during the decade — 10 of them in the U.S.

Many programs present alternatives to locking up an entire generation of nonwhite boys and young men. But there’s one problem: They can’t be used as political wedge issues by demagogic Republicans trying to show the Democrats as soft on crime. (In fact, Prop. 21 is so ludicrous that its opponents include Republican Senatorial candidate Tom Campbell, Republican L.A. D.A. candidate Steve Cooley, and Cardinal Mahony.) It was Pete Wilson who put this issue on the ballot, back when he still planned to run for president: It was intended to help him win the March primary. Now Wilson’s career, like Deukmejian’s, is over, but neither one can refrain from putting the kind of inflammatory initiative on the ballot that helped win elections in more violent and frightened times than these.

Crime is down, jails are overflowing, Gray Davis is more than happy to execute everyone on death row — and still Pete the Mean and Duke the Dull think they can score political points by playing the soft-on-crime card. Vote these bastards down.

22 — No

Speaking of cruel, atavistic nonsense, here’s Prop. 22, the Knight Initiative, which saves the state from the scourge of gay marriage. Never mind that state law already stipulates that a legal marriage can only exist between a man and a woman. This is just a nasty piece of gay-bashing from state Senator Pete Knight, a homophobic dimwit estranged from his gay son. If anyone’s concerned about a threat to the sanctity of marriage, they should write Knight’s fellow Republican, Rupert Murdoch, and complain about Fox TV’s Who Wants To Marry a Multimillionaire? Prop. 22 is simply a way to demean and debase gays, lesbians, people who believe in human equality, and people who believe loving couples should have the right to stay together under the umbrella of the law.

When you consider that the three initiatives placed on the ballot by Republican electeds this March are the Deukmejian measure, the Wilson proposal, and this, you can understand why the Republicans are in trouble in California.

23 — No

Another piece of nonsense, as stupid as the Knight initiative is cruel. This measure gives voters the option to vote for “None of the Above” in candidate elections in California, but the vote will have no bearing on the outcome of the election. (That is, the winning candidate could receive four votes, and “None of the Above” six votes, and the winning candidate would still win.) Like term limits and cutting legislators’ pay, the None-Above option is a non-solution to voter alienation. Voters seeking a wider range of options, or a cleaner political process, need to look toward ending winner-take-all races in favor of proportional representation systems, or to genuine campaign-finance reform. The only state that has the None-Above option is Nevada, which remains the most politically alienated state in the nation. This proposition only deepens the problem it professes to cure.

 

24 — This measure was removed from the ballot by the California Supreme Court.

25 — Yes

Californians have voted for campaign- finance reform repeatedly over the past 15 years. But the state remains one of only six states that have no spending and contribution limits at all. A series of court decisions have negated every single reform initiative, meaning that this is a state where Rupert Murdoch can write a last-minute million-dollar check to the state Republicans, or the states’ HMOs can deluge legislators with contributions to forestall a patients’ bill of rights.

Prop. 25, the handiwork of maverick Republican Ron Unz and Democratic former Acting California Secretary of State Tony Miller, is the latest stab at campaign finance reform, and unlike previous efforts, it’s been written to withstand a court challenge. The measure restricts individual and political-action committee donations to $3,000 for district and local campaigns and $5,000 for statewide campaigns. It prohibits the transfer of funds between campaign committees — historically, the way the state legislative leadership funds the campaigns of candidates in hotly contested districts. It prohibits any donations from corporations and places new restrictions on business and union PACs. It would also limit the period for fund-raising to one year before the election, so that elected officials wouldn’t constantly be trolling for dollars while in office. Soft-money donations to the parties for activities not related so specific to candidates or not involving electronic advertising (like registration, get-out-the-vote and so on) are left unregulated — that is, the sky’s the limit.

The measure also sets a series of voluntary spending limits for state and district offices — ranging from $700,000 for Assembly seats to $16 million for governor (the figures are for the primary and general combined), as well as $6 million for initiative campaigns. In return for adhering to these limits, a statewide candidate or initiative would receive state-funded credits to buy airtime, up to $1 million worth for governor and $300,000 for lesser candidates, and all state candidates, could have the state send out four bundled mailings, again, at state expense. All donations to a candidate under $100 are matched 10-to-1 by state funds for media credits.

Finally, the initiative breaks new ground on issues of public disclosure of donations and expenditures. All donations of $1,000 or more would have to be posted on the Internet within 24 hours, and all campaign ads of any kind (TV, radio, mailers, phone recordings), no matter how slanderous, would have to be posted on the Internet, too. The largest funders of every campaign would have to be listed on all ads and campaign material. When campaign ads feature individuals’ endorsements (like that of TV “consumer-advocate” David Horowitz for the utility industry’s position in a recent campaign), the fact that the individual was paid by the campaign has to be part of the ad (in Horowitz’s case, he was paid $150,000). Slate mailing, too, have to prominently list their funding sources.

Like every campaign-finance reform initiative in recent history, Prop. 25 has split the reform movement down the middle. Critics argue that its contribution caps are too high — but they were so drafted because the courts have struck down lower limits. If, in the wake of one recent court ruling, the courts now uphold the lower limits of Prop. 208, still currently being litigated, Prop. 25 specifically says that 208’s lower limits supersedes its own. Critics also argue that it does nothing to restrict millionaire candidates (an Al Checchi or Michael Huffington, say) from funding their own races, but that’s because under the terms of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ludicrous 1976 Buckley v. Valeo decision, to do so would be unconstitutional. Finally, some reformers won’t be satisfied by anything short of full public financing of campaigns. Neither will we, but there’s no plausible chance that such a measure could be enacted in California in the foreseeable future. There’s some validity to all the above objections, but in the end, they make the perfect the enemy of the good. Yes, the contribution caps are too high, but at the moment, California has no limits at all. By the same token, partial public funding is much better than none.

Our chief concern is the potential effect 25 may have on the ability of unions to wage political campaigns, particularly since, in recent years, unions have done a stellar job of getting union and nonunion working-class Californians, including many new immigrants, to the polls. The huge, last-minute campaign contributions from the California Teachers Association and the Service Employees to decent candidates would be scrapped, but, since the offsetting (or more than offsetting) last-minute contributions from Philip Morris or Rupert Murdoch to indecent candidates would also be banned, this strikes us as a wash. On the other hand, the kind of campaigns that unions have grown very adept at in recent years — those directed at their own members, and independent expenditure campaigns targeting other groups of voters — would be unaffected. Unions’ political efforts, and clout, should emerge from 25 in pretty good shape.

 

On balance, we think this measure is a significant step toward fairer elections and a cleaner political culture. We strongly urge a Yes vote on Proposition 25.

26 — Yes

Proposition 26 is the single most important measure on the primary ballot. It would end one of the most undemocratic and debilitating features of California life. Currently, when a school district asks voters to approve a bond measure so that new schools can be constructed or old ones improved, it requires a two-thirds popular vote to pass the measure. Prop. 26 reduces that requirement to a simple majority.

The current two-thirds requirement is bad law that leads to worse pedagogy. The requirement for a supermajority is rare in American law; it is something the founders consciously shunned. It takes only a simple majority of Congress, for instance, to declare war. To the opponents of Prop. 26, like the leaders of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers’ Association, however, the vote of one tax opponent can — and should — cancel out the votes of two tax supporters. How this squares with the notion that all men are created equal is not at all clear.

The practical consequences of the two-thirds requirement have been devastating for California schools, and schoolchildren. Since 1986, 94 percent of local school bond measures have received a majority vote, but only 54 percent have received the two-thirds required for passage. For years, an aging, disproportionately Anglo electorate has refused to build schools for disproportionately Latino public school children: By using the two-thirds provision, a minority has thwarted the majority’s desire, and need, for schools. Meanwhile, the scarcity of classrooms grows steadily more severe.

The two-thirds requirement may well be the single greatest threat to California’s future. We strongly recommend scrapping it, and restoring majority rule in California, by voting for Prop. 26.

27 — No

This year, half the measures on the ballot seem to have been drawn up by a splinter group of Reform Party Waco conspiracy theorists and UFOlogists. On the heels of Prop. 23’s nonbinding None-of-the-Above silliness comes Prop. 27, which permits — rather than mandates — congressional candidates to sign nonbinding — rather than meaningful — ballot declarations that they intend to serve no more than three terms in the House or two terms in the Senate. Blocked from pursuing term limits by court rulings that the Constitution lets Congress determine the terms of congressional membership, and deluded that term limits are in any way a serious effort at political reform, the proponents of this measure have offered a proposal which, if enacted, would have an impact so minute as to approach the political equivalent of absolute zero. Does the California initiative process have an affirmative-action program for flakes? Where do these people come from?

28 — No

Here’s a welcome change. Prop. 28 isn’t stupid, just evil.

This measure repeals Prop. 10, the tobacco tax that California voters enacted in November ’98. The money from Prop. 10 goes to fund childhood immunization programs, health education and smoking-prevention projects for pregnant women, and preschool programs. Prop. 28 is funded by a large tobacco chain store that distributes and markets cigarettes. The stench here is not that of cigarettes, but greed.

29 — Yes

This proposition is an alternative to 1A, the Indian Gaming measure. It, too, would authorize casinos on tribal lands, but they would be far smaller, devoid of slots, required to hold union elections for their employees, and subject to environmental regulations. It’s a far better proposal for California than Prop. 1A, but the big bucks, of course, are behind that measure. As is often the case in casinos, the fix is in.

30 — Yes 31 — Yes

Say you’re in an auto accident, and the other party is at fault, but his or her insurance company won’t pay up, or keeps offering a ridiculously small amount, or just keeps delaying. Under the Royal Globe decision of the Rose Bird Supreme Court, you could sue the other party’s insurance company. Then George Deukmejian persuaded state voters to dump Bird and her cohorts, and the conservative justices whom Deukmejian appointed in their stead reversed Royal Globe, meaning, if the insurance company stiffed you, you just had to lump it. Now, with Democrats in control of the Legislature and the Governor’s Office for the first time since the Royal Globe reversal, a bill went through last year restoring your right to sue. With that, insurance-industry giants Allstate, State Farm and Farmers shelled out for a ballot measure requiring state voters to vote the new laws up or down. Prop. 30 ratifies the law the Legislature enacted, and 31, which only kicks in if 30 passes, ratifies certain restrictions the Legislature passed as corollaries to the right-to-sue bill. The insurance companies argue that if these measures pass, the number of lawsuits against them for bad faith, holding up claim checks and the like, will soar raising your premiums. Of course, if the companies actually paid the claimants what they were owed, the number of claims wouldn’t soar at all, but it’s hard to change the habits of a lifetime. The companies have taken to the airwaves, highlighting some fraudulent claims they might be compelled to pay off if 30 and 31 pass, but the real fraudulent claims here are the companies’. They are, essentially, trying to hoodwink us into letting them continue to shortchange us. Like the state’s consumer groups, we strongly recommend a Yes vote on 30 and 31.

 

COUNTY MEASURE

A — No

At present, the directors of the county’s various departments — Health, Welfare and so on — are political appointees, which they should be, since they must carry out the mandates of the elected Board of Supervisors. All their underlings, however, are civil servants. Measure A reclassifies the department heads’ top deputies out of civil service, so that they can be political appointees as well. Since these are often policy-making positions, the proposal makes some sense; we supported an equivalent measure for L.A. city government. The workings of county government, however, are nowhere near so transparent as the city’s. The supes might very well swap deputy-director appointments (my guy here, your guy there) absent the kind of public scrutiny from which the county, in fact, has long been immune. We’re against Prop. A.


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