With Obama way ahead in California polls, the Golden State might become the epicenter of voter complacency on November 4. But that would be wrong. We’ve got a crucial race for an all-powerful county supervisor to decide. And with a full dozen of those pesky, and crucial, ballot propositions up before us, you should vote early — and often. The initiatives are an ideological and fiscal mish-mosh, often deceptive in their wording. But because voting wisely on this package of statewide props is likely to tick off party hacks on both sides, this also offers a unique opportunity for freethinkers, reformers, libertarians, progressives and contrarians to unite and do a little bit of good.

Here’s how I’m voting and why:

Let’s get rid of the easiest of the propositions first. These are literal no-brainers. I’m voting yes on Prop. 1A, Prop. 2, Prop. 3, Prop. 5 and Prop. 12. That’s because we all should be absolutely for, respectively, construction of high-speed rail, more humane treatment of livestock, more funding for children’s hospitals, more drug rehab and treatment instead of more prisons, and more funding for veteran home loans. Anybody who opposes these will be sent for a week of isolation on Grumpy McCain’s Sedona ranch.

Likewise, I’m voting no on Prop. 4, Prop. 6, Prop. 8, Prop. 9 and Prop. 10 because I oppose more government restrictions on the right to choose an abortion, because we, indeed, don’t need more prison construction or longer prison sentences, because we don’t want the government overturning the right to gay marriage, and because we oppose a $5 billion taxpayer boondoggle for Swift Boat financier and all-around billionaire huckster T. Boone Pickens.

That leaves two more problematic propositions, around which there is a lot of confusion. So let’s settle those once and for all. Prop. 7 sounds great. It promises aggressive steps toward more solar and wind energy. But I stand with the opponents of this bill, including the League of Conservation Voters, in arguing that the measure is fundamentally flawed and full of loopholes, and in the end will cause more harm than good. Yes, we need to aggressively fight global warming. But this is not the way. No on Prop. 7.

Last, but not least, is the contested Prop. 11, a measure that would reshape the ways legislative districts are drawn in California. Now, be careful, as your mailbox is filling up with heated pleas from California liberals and Democrats demanding you oppose this measure. They also point out that it’s led by the Governator himself. But check out the fine print and you’ll see that on this one, Arnold is joined by the League of Women Voters, Common Cause, the ACLU and other serious reform groups. The politicians — of both parties — are going bonkers over this proposal because it would strip their power to draw the very districts from which they are elected; i.e., it would end the blatant gerrymandering that has rendered the entirety of California’s legislative districts noncompetitive. That means that the status quo effectively nullifies the need for any election for the state Assembly or Senate. The reform plan envisioned by Prop. 11, which would transfer redistricting power from the legislature to an independent and multipartisan panel, isn’t perfect by any means. But it beats the hell out of our current system and is a big step down the right road to reform. Yes on Prop. 11.

As for that heated county-supervisor race between former LAPD Chief Bernard Parks and state Senator Mark Ridley-Thomas, I’m going with the latter. In case you’ve recently returned from living on Mars, note that the five county supes are among the most powerful pols in the entire state. So, please, take this one seriously. They preside over a basketful of crucial matters ranging from the county jails and hospitals to local welfare systems, fire operations and a gazillion other things that affect our daily lives. And once they get elected — forget about it. They’re there forever.

I don’t know how he did it, but Parks has put together a fairly impressive list of endorsers ranging from the weasly Herb Wesson to local power broker Representative Maxine Waters and a smattering of public-employee unions. It’s sort of a miracle given Parks’ record. He was simply a disgrace as LAPD police chief, an obsessive Captain Queeg–like tyrant who busted out street cops for not shining their shoes while he closed his eyes to the corruption and mayhem as Rampart Division imploded. Many of the root problems at Rampart were incubated when Parks ran Internal Affairs, apparently while blindfolded. As a City Council member, he has consistently represented the interests of big business and landlords (at least when he’s found the time to stop his petty feud with his LAPD successor, Bill Bratton).

I’ve never been gaga about his opponent Ridley-Thomas. His strongest suit is that he’s not Bernie Parks! Ridley-Thomas is a liberal machine Democrat who has skillfully lined up the party apparatus and funding behind him. But he’s made generally good and reasoned decisions and has demonstrated an earnest investment in his responsibilities. He’s running an impressive ground campaign with the help of the massive L.A. County Federation of Labor, with whom he has forged close ties. In this case, that’s something I’m comfortable with. It’s a better group of friends than Parks has rallied and represented. Ridley-Thomas has shown serious commitment to the economic redevelopment of South Los Angeles and he has distinguished himself as someone fully able and willing to cross racial lines, adding a measure of harmony to some of the more rough-edged shifts of power among L.A. blacks and Latinos. Mark Ridley-Thomas for county supervisor.

Now let’s take a look at that alphabet soup of eye-glazing local Los Angeles measures. They seem boring, but they are important to sort through. Here’s an easy rule of thumb: Anything the ultra-NIMBY Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association is against, you should be for. Likewise, whatever position the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association (architects of Prop 13) takes, you should assume the opposite. Now, into the broth:

Prop. A is an easy yes. It’s a $.75-cent-a-week increase in property taxes to fund anti-gang after school programs. I think we can find it in our hearts, and pocketbooks, to say yes.

An affirmative ditto on Prop. B, which makes it easier to construct tens of thousands of low-income housing units. Not a bad idea in times of economic melt-down.

Voting yes on Proposition U, as you should, will reduce county tax rates on communications and utilities but will expand its base to include cell phones and other digital media, as it well should. The new revenue will be invested in more Sheriff deputies and in our libraries. An easy yes on U.

Then there’s the Big Kahuna among this year’s obscure local votes: Measure R. Anyone who votes against this measure should be sentenced to 10 years confinement on the 405 (or maybe something worse, as every rush hour on the San Diego Freeway seems a lifetime). By raising the county sales tax a half-cent for the next 30 years, billions of dollars would be generated to fund more subways, rail lines and mass commuter systems to reduce, um, traffic and smog. The usual suspects have lined up against this one: the suburban NIMBY tax-phobes and a smattering of parochial pols in the outlying parts of the county. Opposition from that first group derives from its class-based scorn for all things public – be it schools or subways. The resistance from the little-town pols is that the tax would fall unfairly on their constituents since the transit projects would more directly benefit L.A. urban smog dwellers rather those happy residents of such pastoral splendor as Long Beach and Pomona. Right. Sounds like a good argument, but it has a big hole in it. There’s a failure to recognize that these suburbs are, sorry to say, dependent on the overall socio-economic health of the urban core. They exist only because Los Angeles is at their center. Of the Big City strangles itself in ever-mounting traffic and smog, the ‘burbs will succumb with it. Life’s not fair. Yes on Measure R.

Marc Cooper Endorsement List

Prop. 1A: Yes

Prop. 2: Yes

Prop. 3: Yes

Prop. 4: No

Prop. 5: Yes

Prop. 6: No

Prop. 7: No

Prop. 8: No

Prop. 9: No

Prop. 10: No

Prop. 11: Yes

Prop. 12: Yes

Prop. A: Yes

Prop. B: Yes

Prop. U: Yes

Measure R: Yes


Correction: Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky has not endorsed Los Angeles City Councilman Bernard Parks for the Second District Board of Supervisors race. The Weekly regrets the error. This column has been amended to reflect the correction.


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