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The L.A. Weekly’s Endorsements

President and Vice President

John Kerry and John Edwards

With the possible exception of Jefferson Davis, and for some of the same reasons, George W. Bush is the most dangerous president our continent has known. Like Davis, Bush has amassed a stunningly divisive, parochial and belligerent record. In an era demanding international coordination simply to ensure a decent defense against terrorists, Bush is a militaristic xenophobe (and a careless one at that, as our troops in Iraq discover on a daily basis). At a time when corporations are abandoning the wage-and-benefit practices that once made American workers the envy of the world, Bush wants government to abandon its own responsibility to our citizens, leaving Americans to their own inadequate devices to pay for health care, college, retirement and other such incidentals. Just as a mental exercise, try imagining a worse president than this cosseted brat. It ain’t easy.

John Kerry is a Democrat in the center-left mainstream of the party, who’s led significant battles on behalf of environmental and energy causes, and who would re-assert government’s role in enabling Americans to receive health coverage, college educations and union representation. By any measure a more credible commander in chief than Bush, Kerry knows that an America that stands only for military force and that undermines its own best values in so doing has the moral and political firepower of a pop gun. The Massachusetts senator believes in civil liberties and a woman’s right to choose — beliefs his Supreme Court appointees would share, as George W. Bush’s would not. Kerry may not be the ideal liberal candidate (none such exists this year), but he has the makings of a more-than-decent president, and his victory would enable liberal groups to move from defense to offense.

George W. Bush is a threat to the republic and the planet. The only way to stop him is to vote for John Kerry, a course the Weekly recommends more fervently than any endorsement we have ever made.

United States Senator

Barbara Boxer

Now seeking her third term in the Senate, Boxer has won herself a reputation as the Senate’s foremost feminist and one of its leading liberals. On every one of George W. Bush’s key proposals — the tax cuts and the war, most notably — she has resoundingly voted “no.” (Would that the same could be said of Dianne Feinstein.) Should the Democrats retake the Senate, Boxer would play a key role in shaping environmental law, which would be good news indeed for the environment and the people who inhabit it.

Her opponent, Republican Bill Jones, was a better-than-decent California secretary of state, but in the Senate he’d be a reliable vote for every Bush folly or against every Kerry initiative. We enthusiastically recommend Boxer’s retention.

United States Representative

26th District

Cynthia Matthews

As chairman of the House Rules Committee, otherwise affable Republican David Dreier is a key enforcer of Tom DeLay’s one-party Republican rule, making it impossible for Democrats to offer floor amendments to any significant legislation. We support Cynthia Matthews, the environmental-management consultant who is his Democratic opponent.

27th District

Brad Sherman

More centrist than most other L.A. Democratic members, Sherman voted to authorize the war in October 2002, but then so did John Kerry. In a closely divided Congress, however, the Democrats need their wimps no less than their heroes, and Sherman’s nowhere near the wimpiest.

28th District

Howard Berman

Heavyweight Howard remains the leader of the congressional forces for humane immigration reform, and, like Kerry and Paul Samuelson, he’s moved a bit away from free-trade orthodoxy in recent years.

29th District

Adam Schiff

The relatively centrist Schiff has been a leading proponent for stem-cell research and sane homeland-security policies.

30th District

Henry Waxman

Waxman has been brilliant and tireless in exposing administration misdeeds and follies. He lacks subpoena power, but he’s built the best investigative and legislative staff on Capitol Hill. With Ted Kennedy, he’s one of the most effective liberals in American politics.

31st District

Xavier Becerra

His local political battles against Antonio Villaraigosa have been counterproductive, but Becerra is a solid progressive vote in Congress — except, occasionally, on trade.

32nd District

Hilda Solis

Solis was a brave and push-the-envelope progressive while a legislator in Sacramento, and her tenure in the House coincides with Bush’s presidency and DeLay’s dominance of the Hill. With a President Kerry and a Speaker Pelosi, Solis would be dynamite.

33rd District

Diane Watson

Sometimes addled, usually liberal, Watson soldiers on.

34th District

Lucille Roybal-Allard

The member from perhaps the most immigrant-heavy district in Congress, Roybal-Allard remains a consistent champion of immigrant rights.

 

35th District

Maxine Waters

An articulate leader of left causes — both noble and crackpot — Waters has been a source of opportunistic mischief in local politics for the past decade, playing the race card to help Jim Hahn and Bernie Parks, successively. Her ultimate role in the emerging mayoral race is not yet clear.

36th District

Jane Harman

As usual, the centrist Harman has cast her occasional infuriating vote (this time, against the amendment prohibiting police access to library records), but she’s been a leading and generally positive force on intelligence reform, helping from behind the scenes both the 9/11 Commission and the Kerry campaign.

37th District

Juanita Millender-McDonald

Millender-McDonald is a liberal vote, and not much more, from this south-county district.

38th District

Grace Napolitano

An undistinguished though reliable Democratic vote.

39th District

Linda Sanchez

As a Democratic freshman in Tom DeLay’s House, Sanchez hasn’t had a lot to do except vote, and she’s done that well enough.

46th District

Jim Brandt

In the 2002 reapportionment, the Orange County district of veteran GOP Congressman Dana Rohrabacher was redrawn so that it now snakes into L.A. County along the south coast up through Palos Verdes. Rohrabacher’s Democratic opponent in this heavily Republican district is software engineer Jim Brandt, who has our support.

State Senator

21st District

Jack Scott

He’s a talented, folksy lawmaker with particular expertise in education and gun control. Scott’s never afraid to take on the NRA and has done so successfully over and over again.

23rd District

Sheila Kuehl

She’s smart and professorial with extensive knowledge on health-care reforms and the will and patience to get them through.

25th District

Edward Vincent

Vincent’s an unremarkable talent of middling ethical virtue, but he’s usually a reliable Democratic vote. That counts for something with a Republican governor in the Statehouse.

27th District

Alan Lowenthal

Lowenthal is looking to make the jump from the Assembly to the state Senate because of term limits. He’s a keeper. A dedicated progressive, he has focused needed attention on the deadly air pollution generated by the ports of L.A. and Long Beach.

Member of the State Assembly

37th District

Ferial Masry

You gotta like Ferial Masry, a 55-year-old history and government teacher at Cleveland High in the Valley. She’s vying to become the first person from Saudi Arabia to hold elected office in this country. In her native land, she wouldn’t even be allowed to vote. Masry won the Democratic nomination as a write-in candidate, but she’s even more of a long shot for the general election in this strongly Republican district. Her opponent, Audra Strickland, is the well-funded, 30-year-old wife of termed-out Tony Strickland. Husband Tony has the look of a rising Republican, and Audra, also a teacher, is no cipher either. Husband and wife are both hard-right conservatives. Against this juggernaut, can the effusive and proudly liberal Masry pull off the upset of the year? One can always hope.

39th District

Cindy Montañez

She’s got the heart and fight of a 30-year-old liberal, which she is. What’s not to like?

40th District

Lloyd E. Levine

Two years ago, we endorsed Levine against a talented Democratic primary opponent in hopes that we would get a hard-working, conscientious and astute legislator in the bargain. We were right.

41st District

Fran Pavley

Pavley’s a leader on environmental issues. Notably, she authored the state’s groundbreaking legislation to limit greenhouse-gas emissions from cars.

42nd District

Paul Koretz

A workmanlike progressive, Koretz pushed through a ban on .50-caliber sniper-style rifles, which Governor Schwarzenegger signed.

43rd District

Dario Frommer

Frommer is a progressive legislator whom we agree with most of the time. His bills included a health-care measure that makes it harder for hospitals to price-gouge patients.

44th District

Carol Liu

Schwarzenegger vetoed some of her most interesting bills, including one that mandated rest periods for hotel workers and another that required government contractors to certify that they would not offshore state work.

45th District

Jackie Goldberg

Goldberg remains a fiery, unapologetic liberal. Schwarzenegger vetoed every one of her substantive bills on this round. But Goldberg’s also smart enough to realize when she needs to change tack to get some wins.

46th District

Fabian Nuñez

Nuñez fared only slightly better than Jackie Goldberg when it came to getting his bills past Schwarzenegger’s veto. Nuñez is still finding his way as the Assembly’s new Democratic leader, but his history as an effective lobbyist for L.A. Unified and for powerful unions suggests that he’s got the skills.

 

47th District

Karen Bass

Bass, a highly regarded, longtime community activist, is poised to try life as a political insider. She’ll be replacing termed-out Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson. We expect Bass to make the transition effectively.

48th District

Mark Ridley-Thomas

Ridley-Thomas quietly got some useful things accomplished, including legislation that would allow cities to sell blighted, abandoned land sooner and a redevelopment bill that helps keep Exposition Park in the game for a future NFL team. But Schwarzenegger vetoed his bill that targeted wasteful and abusive tax breaks.

49th District

Judy Chu

An effective legislator, Chu had mixed success this year getting the governor to sign bills aimed at lowering Medi-Cal costs and protecting the rights of Medi-Cal patients. Another bill that didn’t make it would have prevented domestic corporations from establishing phony parent companies in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. That one never made it to the governor — not that he would’ve signed it.

50th District

Hector de la Torre

De la Torre was one of the heroes of South Gate’s successful recall of corrupt officials. The contentious state Legislature ought to seem like a garden party after the roiling in South Gate.

51st District

Jerome E. Horton

He’s an unremarkable legislator but a generally reliable Democratic vote to offset Schwarzenegger and his more conservative fellow Republicans.

52nd District

Mervyn M. Dymally

Dymally offers an unusual combination of experience, savvy and a feel for community populism — as evident in his hearings on the shuttering of hospital services in poor communities. At age 78, the crafty Dymally still has something to offer — as long as you make sure he isn’t also picking your pocket or cutting a side deal.

53rd District

Mike Gordon

Gordon, the former mayor of El Segundo, is best known for opposing plans to expand Los Angeles International Airport, which is what you’d expect from the mayor of El Segundo. Gordon hopes to replace termed-out Democrat George Nakano. Gordon’s a solid Dem, and on good terms with local business interests, which probably helps him in this South Bay swing district that could go Republican.

54th District

Betty Karnette

Karnette is termed out of the state Senate and is seeking to trade places, more or less, with fellow Democrat Alan Lowenthal. Karnette faces tough opposition in this Long Beach–area swing district from businessman Steve Kuykendall. The Dems want to hold this district; Karnette, at least, offers voters a name they’ve seen on the ballot before.

55th District

Jenny Oropeza

Oropeza is a former Long Beach school-board member and City Councilwoman who brought consistently progressive views with her to the Legislature as well as experience with transportation and budgeting issues.

56th District

Rudy Bermudez

He’s an unremarkable legislator but a generally reliable Democratic vote to offset Schwarzenegger and his more conservative fellow Republicans. (Yes, that’s also what we said about Jerome Horton. Were you expecting a lineup of Abe Lincolns?)

57th District

Ed Chavez

Chavez moved up the line as an elected official, from local school board to La Puente City Council to the Assembly, where he’s a pro-business Democrat whose résumé is thin when it comes to progressive achievements.

58th District

Ron Calderon

The most intriguing thing about Calderon is that he managed to blow a huge campaign war chest on staff trips to Las Vegas, not to mention consulting fees and campaign contributions to other Calderons. It’s all legal, but enough to make our endorsement as tepid as possible.

Ballot Measures

Proposition 1A — YES

A good chunk of the taxes that shoppers and homeowners in Los Angeles — maybe even you — pay to the county, which are supposed to be divided up between your city (to pay for cops, sweep the streets, open more libraries, plan and redevelop blighted areas, run an arts program or two), your county (more public safety, probation officers, health, parks, etc.) and your school districts, is grabbed each year by Sacramento to balance the state budget. The county taxes pay for important things in Sacramento, too — roads and bridges, more health, more public safety — but the Legislature and the governor have to learn to pay with what they have, and plan accordingly. This initiative would allow a raid on local funds only if the governor declares a fiscal emergency and if two-thirds of the Legislature approves. And then the money must be repaid within three years. We urge a “yes” vote, to make sure a fair share of local taxes is spent on local things by local officials. Locally. Where we can keep an eye on them.

 

Proposition 59 — YES

Should the people have the right to find out what their public officials are talking about with each other, how they are spending your tax money and what’s in the various government files they have squirreled away? Uh, yeah. No kidding. Vote for this. It moves to the state constitution several key laws that protect public access to state and local government meetings and records. The only official opposition comes from a guy who says it doesn’t go far enough. We can deal with that later. In the meantime, elected officials need a little reminder that their business is your business.

Proposition 60 — YES

See Proposition 62.

Proposition 60A — NO

This proposition requires that proceeds from the future sale of surplus state property be used to retire the bond debt voters authorized in March. Using the money this way could result in slightly faster repayment of that debt, thus saving a few million dollars. Of course, it’s also possible that there would be better uses for this money. Making that determination should be the job of the Legislature, not the subject of an initiative. This measure doesn’t belong on the ballot. It’s just political fluff for its backers. Vote “no.”

Proposition 61 — YES

Nearly all the state’s hospitals are confronting critical infrastructure challenges, children’s hospitals among them. This measure funds $750 million in bonds for construction at children’s hospitals. That sounds good to us, even though a more wide-ranging initiative, say, to retrofit all hospitals for earthquake safety, would have been welcome.

Proposition 62 — NO

Is the center in California not holding? Are our Democratic elected officials too liberal, our Republicans too conservative? Some centrist politicos (Dick Riordan, Steve Westly and, now, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger) are proposing a solution that will surely help them and their ilk come election time, but at the cost of damaging the prospects for progressive change in California, and without really addressing the problem of Sacramento gridlock.

Prop. 62 would eliminate the current party primaries except for president, substituting a primary ballot that includes all candidates regardless of party, among whom voters could choose, with the top two finishers, no matter their party affiliation, running off in November. The process favors centrists, and third-party options would disappear from the runoff altogether. Should 62 pass, the Legislature’s not likely to enact the kind of liberal-sponsored health-insurance extensions or clean-fuel standards we’ve seen in recent years. If Californians want more competitive districts, they should have the courts do our reapportioning; if they want less gridlock, they should eliminate the two-thirds requirement for passing budgets. Prop. 62 advantages a particular political tendency in the guise of election reform. We oppose it.

Instead, we support Prop. 60, which ensures that the winner of each party’s primary will appear on the November ballot. That’s the current system. Prop. 60 is necessary only if Prop. 62 passes. In that case, Prop. 60 would nullify Prop. 62 if it gets more votes.

Proposition 63 — YES

Proposition 63 would fund mental-health programs by taxing any income over $1 million by an additional 1 percent. So a person who earned $1.5 million would be taxed an additional $5,000. Someone who earned $2 million would pay $10,000 more. Both figures are a fraction of what these wage earners have saved through the tax cuts of President Bush. The ballot measure would bring in an estimated $800 million a year after a few years.

Prop. 63 would go a long way toward curing the ugly legacy of Governor Ronald Reagan’s decision to empty the state’s mental institutions. This emancipation came without sufficient community-treatment programs, accelerating a homeless crisis that exists to this day. Moreover, mental health is the crisis within the health-care crisis. It’s always last in line during good times for government-funding increases or for health-plan coverage, and often the first in line to get cut in tough times.

Just as important, Prop. 63 seeks to provide the entire range of services that a client needs, including provisional housing, lessons in how to be a tenant, job training, and proactive counseling before a psychotic episode takes over. This whole-person, long-term approach has achieved widely praised results in a handful of pilot programs. All told, Prop. 63 is simply the right thing to do.

Proposition 64 — NO

This ballot measure addresses a real problem — shakedown lawsuits filed against business over spurious fraud claims. But this take-it-or-leave-it ballot measure goes much too far. This initiative would limit lawsuits to parties damaged by a company’s illegal behavior. That sounds reasonable on its face, but the underlying targets include consumer, civil rights and environmental organizations. These groups frequently file lawsuits in the public interest against corporate crooks and polluters, and Prop. 64 would seriously undermine this proven tactic.

 

Proposition 65 — NO

It’s unanimous. Even the people who wrote this one are voting “no.” It was the brainchild of angry cities and counties who used it to get Arnold Schwarzenegger to the table at budget-crunch time early this year. Now, its ex-backers treat it like it’s radioactive. And they’re almost right. It would do what 1A does, but with far less flexibility. This measure would require a cumbersome statewide vote before lawmakers could deal with a crisis by using local funds. If it passes, the state could one day wind up in worse financial straits as a result.

Proposition 66 — YES

Voters passed the Three Strikes Law as a response to several well-publicized horrors perpetrated by evil ex-cons who never should have been set free from prison. The best-known was the killer of young Polly Klaas. The idea was that if you committed two violent crimes, a third conviction would put you away for 25 to life. But that third conviction didn’t have to be violent or serious, and prosecutors around the state began using the law to seek life sentences for people like the guy who got caught swiping a slice of pizza. This reform keeps Three Strikes, but puts people away only for three violent or serious crimes. It also toughens penalties for sexual crimes against children.

Proposition 67 — YES

This initiative taxes phone use to pay for emergency health care. Emergency rooms are closing all over the state, and people are dying as a result. Hospitals just can’t afford to treat the uninsured patients who keep showing up, so the deadly trend is likely to accelerate. Prop. 67 would help to the tune of about $500 million a year. Residential customers would pay an extra 50 cents a month. Cell-phone and business lines would be taxed at 3 percent for in-state calls. The money raised would become a sort of piggy bank of last resort to pay doctors and hospitals for patients who don’t pay them. Community clinics also get money, in hopes that many costly emergency-room visits could be avoided.

If it passes, Prop. 67 cannot cure the entire financial shortfall in health care — that would require even more money. Nor would Prop. 67 halt the rise of medical costs — although it could help. If the skyrocketing price of health care rises faster than phone use, this funding boost will buy less and less. Too bad lawmakers can’t offer better solutions than Prop. 67, including universal health coverage, affordable medications or reliable federal assistance. But they haven’t. Until they do, something like Prop. 67 is necessary.

Proposition 68 — NO

Voting “no” on this prop is like shooting bullets into a corpse, as its wealthy backers have already given up their campaign. But kill it again, just to make sure. While parading as a fair-share measure that would increase state levies on Indian casinos, Prop. 68 would, in reality, expand legalized gambling statewide (something we hardly need if you count up the 50-odd casinos already sopping up loose change). By breaking the Indian monopoly on Nevada-style gambling, Prop. 68 would allow some 30,000 slot machines to be installed in racetracks and card clubs. No wonder the measure was backed by Churchill Downs, which owns our local Hollywood Park, and by card-club operators such as Larry Flynt. This is a no-brainer. Discard this losing hand.

Proposition 69 — NO

This ballot initiative would establish a DNA database to solve crimes, but it goes too far. It would require authorities to obtain samples from anyone arrested for a potential felony, making perpetual suspects even of people who are never convicted of or even charged with wrongdoing. Such an approach is ripe for abuse, especially given that minorities endure higher arrest rates for such offenses as Driving While Black. Or how about a person arrested at a war protest? Does anyone really want to give John Ashcroft such easy access to this information? And once you’re in this database, Prop. 69 makes it difficult to get out. California already requires those convicted of serious felonies to provide DNA samples. That takes things far enough.

Proposition 70 — NO

Don’t be suckered a third time. In 1998 and 2000, California voters responded overwhelmingly to Indian pleas to legalize casino gambling. Voters thought they were giving back a fair measure of justice to the tribes. What flourished instead was a runaway, unregulated and largely untaxed multibillion-dollar industry that, in turn, birthed a powerful political lobby. A bipartisan coalition led by the Governator has finally brought some order and reason to the mess by negotiating new and mutually beneficial agreements with leading tribes. They get controlled expansion. The state and local communities get some revenue and some oversight roles. Prop. 70, financed primarily by the fabulously wealthy and anti-union Agua Caliente tribe, would overturn those agreements and impose a 99-year period of virtually unfettered and unregulated Indian gambling expansion. It’s a deceitful and noxious measure that requires an unflinching “no” vote.

 

Proposition 71 — YES

You have to like a ballot measure that so openly thumbs its nose at the opportunistic morality of the Bush administration. So what if Bush places a chokehold on stem-cell research? We’ll fund it in California instead, through the $3 billion in bonds promised by Prop. 71.

We consider Prop. 71 a good investment that fills a research gap created by Bush’s intransigence. Ironically, Prop. 71 is a better deal for California because Bush is making stem-cell research so difficult elsewhere. In the end, research funded by Prop. 71 could save lives by leading to medical breakthroughs. It also could make California a world leader on the business side of stem-cell research. This effort is that rare example of state funding that also could lead to state royalties and thousands of new jobs. Of course, Prop. 71 is still a gamble. The breakthroughs may not happen or may happen elsewhere. And one day we may read about how for-profit firms turned this funding source to greedy ends. But the potential upside justifies the risk.

Proposition 72 — YES

This initiative is a referendum on a landmark health-care reform passed last year and signed into law by Gray Davis during his waning days as governor. It’s perhaps the penultimate achievement of state Senate leader John Burton (D–San Francisco). Burton, who has long championed the less fortunate, faces the end of his Senate career because of term limits.

Prop. 72 would require large and medium-size companies to contribute to their employees’ health insurance. These employers could choose either to provide health insurance or to pay into a state fund for that same purpose. Companies with 200 or more employees would have to comply by 2006. Smaller firms with 50 or more employees have until 2007.

A “yes” vote ratifies this law; a “no” vote would nullify it. The measure deserves a resounding “yes.”

County Measure A: Public Safety, Emergency Response and Crime Prevention — YES

Sheriff Lee Baca can’t seem to keep his jail inmates from killing each other. Mayor Jim Hahn can’t seem to hire the 300 more cops he keeps promising. The federal government can’t seem to give the LAPD the resources it needs for terrorism response. Should we bail them out by imposing an additional half-cent sales tax on almost everything we buy in the county? Yeah, we guess so. An oversight committee will make sure the money is spent properly. So will we. You should too.

L.A. City Measure O — YES

According to a 1996 EPA inventory of watersheds and sources, 40 percent of the nation’s water bodies fall short of EPA standards for water quality, and a leading source of the pollution comes from storm water pouring down concrete culverts, flushing garbage, fertilizer, motor oil, feces and countless other foreign substances into rivers, lakes and estuaries. The effect of that pollution on our coastal waters has been known for decades, causing illness in surfers and swimmers and rendering some local fish too toxic to eat. Measure O, a clean-water initiative put forward by the Los Angeles City Council last July, will help to address the region’s water-quality crisis by allocating $500 million in bond money for projects to redirect the city’s storm water from concrete drains to parks and greenbelts. The measure requires a citizens’ oversight committee and regular audits to make sure the money is well spent on water-quality projects — some of which may yield side benefits over time, such as drought relief, better flood control and a greener, more livable city. A “yes” on O is the obvious right choice: It needs a two-thirds majority to pass. But even if it fails, the EPA is on a judicial schedule to clean up L.A.’s water, and the city will eventually face stiff fines and litigation if we continue to allow our storm water to recklessly pollute our coasts.

Judge of the Superior Court

Office 18 Mildred Escobedo

Office 29 Gus Gomez

Office 52 Laura F. Priver

Office 53 Daniel Zeke Zeidler

Office 69 Donna Groman


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