MEMBER OF THE STATE
In the race to succeed the term-limited Tony Cardenas
in this Northeast Valley district, Yolanda Fuentes was a last-minute recruit.
This Cardenas staffer was managing her boss’s campaign for the L.A. City Council
when it became apparent that no one else from the Cardenas–Alex Padilla machine
would oppose Cindy Montanez, the young mayor of San Fernando who’d earned the
machine’s ire. And abruptly, Fuentes — a well-meaning young woman of no particular
depth — was transformed into a candidate.
Montanez was elected to the San Fernando City Council three years ago, at
a ripe old 25. There, she opposed a large downtown development — then used her
considerable community-organizing skills against that development until the
city was up in arms. That won her the machine’s enmity, since the project’s
consultant was James Acevedo, Cardenas’ lead henchman. Montanez then established
the historic- homes preservation program and promoted businesses like coffeehouses
and bookstores. This remarkable young leader claims the backing of virtually
every L.A. progressive institution. She surely has ours.
Andrei Cherny is a wunderkind-and-a-half. While
still a Harvard undergrad in 1996, he became a writer for the Clinton re-election
campaign, and ended up contributing some lines to Clinton’s second inaugural
address. Ten days after graduating, he was an official speechwriter for Vice
President Gore, and then he went on to edit Blueprint, the magazine of
the centrist Democratic Leadership Council. Two years ago, he authored The
Next Deal, in which he ruminated on big ideas, then became a protégé of
term-limited Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg, who tapped him to run to succeed
him in this Van Nuys–Sherman Oaks district.
Unfortunately, while the 26-year-old Cherny is an affable and brilliant exponent
of big ideas, they’re not invariably good ideas. His is a litany of New Democrat
nostrums — school choice (verging on vouchers), Social Security partial privatization,
and the kind of deregulatory nonsense that led straight to the Enron debacle.
Even worse, he became Hertzberg’s guy on the board of Valley Vote, that nest
of secessionist yahoos whose collective IQ Cherny probably exceeds all by himself.
Cherny’s primary opponent is Lloyd Levine, the legislative director for San
Bernardino–area Assemblyman John Longville. Levine is a solid liberal and a
skilled legislative craftsman. In a contest between a brilliant champion of
some second-rate philosophies and a workmanlike champion of some deep progressive
values, we’re opting for the latter: Lloyd Levine.
In her first term, this Westside–West Valley member
has lived up to expectation as a champion of the environment, and exceeded it
as a voice for economic justice.
This first-term chair of the Assembly Labor Committee
authored a law curbing aggressive credit-card marketing to college students,
and a bill establishing Vermont-style civil unions.
In his first term representing this Glendale-centered
district, Frommer has shown impressive legislative skills, particularly in the
cause of urban parks.
And in her first term, Liu has authored a range
of valuable, second-generation civil rights legislation — the most memorable
being her bill legalizing the sale of room-temperature Korean rice cakes.
The invaluable Goldberg authored laws creating
a statewide landlord registry (to help track down slumlords) and requiring an
additional 45 minutes of kindergarten in multitrack schools.
The race to succeed Gil Cedillo as Assembly member
from this district in the heart of immigrant L.A. pits Pedro Carrillo, a staffer
for Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, against Fabian Nunez, a onetime union
strategist and all-round political phenom of the new Los Angeles. Carrillo has
attempted to gain some mileage by portraying Nunez as a tool of unions. Nonetheless,
the Central City Association (of downtown businesses) has backed Nunez — a testament
to Nunez’s deep familiarity with community needs, since the merchants had to
overcome their reservations about his labor bona fides.
Those bona fides run deep. In his 20s, Nunez became a leader in One-Stop Immigration,
and helped assemble the campaign against Proposition 187. Later, as a staffer
for the Utility Workers, he became one of a handful of voices in Sacramento
trying to stop the disastrous energy deregulation of the mid-’90s. Shortly thereafter,
he became the political director of the L.A. County Federation of Labor, which
is to say, a key player in the transformation of Los Angeles into the home of
an urban progressivism. In the cauldron of local Latino politics, his was an
eloquent voice for class-based, rather than race-based, politics. More recently,
he’s been the Sacramento lobbyist for the L.A. school district, and he succeeded
in defusing some of the Legislature’s animus toward the district.
In the Legislature, Nunez would be the champion of the working poor — an advocate
of affordable housing and funding for the most disadvantaged schools. All in
all, he’ll be a worthy successor to Gil Cedillo, and we endorse him wholeheartedly.
HERB WESSON JR.
Ah, term limits! Without actually amassing any
notable legislative achievements, Herb Wesson has just become the new Assembly
speaker. May his good acts increase with his power.
In his years on the L.A. City Council, Mark Ridley-Thomas
has usually been a liberal vote and occasionally a liberal force. His district
Empowerment Congress has been a model for elected officials seeking to build
a regular dialogue with — and a structure of accountability to — constituents.
In the last mayoral election, Ridley-Thomas was the key figure in black L.A.
to mobilize support for Antonio Villaraigosa — a move totally in keeping with
his careerlong commitment to multiracial progressivism.
Ridley-Thomas has long been on the outs with an older generation of more ethnocentric
African-American pols. They in turn are backing the candidacy of longtime Maxine
Waters and Yvonne Burke staffer Mike Davis. No, not the author: This Mike Davis
is a journeyman political functionary of decidedly limited horizons and no discernible
agenda for state government. Ridley-Thomas would be a bright addition to L.A.’s
When she was mayor of Monterey Park, Judy Chu
was a most effective opponent of nativism and xenophobia. Since going to the
Assembly last year, she’s become that body’s leading author of anti-hate-crime
legislation, and an altogether sterling progressive. We support her enthusiastically.
Firebaugh authored one of the state’s most remarkable
new laws — granting in-state tuition rates at California public colleges to
longtime resident students who also happen to be undocumented immigrants.
Horton is a legislator of modest talents, but
at least he uses those talents on behalf of the low-income Californians one
finds in abundance in his Inglewood-centered district.
The presumed front-runner in the race for this Compton-area
seat was first elected to the state Assembly some 40 years ago. Mervyn Dymally,
a onetime pioneer of black politics in California, is not just a former assemblyman,
but also a former lieutenant governor of the state and a former U.S. congressman.
Now, at 75, he’s seeking office yet again.
Not that Dymally hasn’t kept busy during his decade in retirement. La-mentably,
he’s sold himself again and again to some of the most morally repugnant entities
on the planet. He’s been the registered lobbyist for two nations under attack
for permitting the practice of slavery: Sudan and Mauritania. He’s also lobbied
for the People’s Mujahedeen, the Iraqi-funded underground in Iran. Closer to
home, he’s signed an amicus brief for Lyndon LaRouche against the Democratic
National Committee, and a petition urging Bill Clinton to hire LaRouche as an
economic adviser. Closer still, he was a front man for the Cato School of Reason,
a chain of charter schools that collapsed in scandal after the Weekly
disclosed in 1998 that it was collecting public-education funds for students
who were actually paying to attend private schools.
Dymally could win this election because black voters are loyal and because
Dymally remains active and respected in the community. More amazing still, the
Democratic Party seems unconcerned that Dymally might win. Fortunately, there’s
a clear alternative. Alexandra “Alex” Gallardo-Rooker is a 23-year activist
in (and now vice president of) Communications Workers of America Local 9400.
In that capacity, she helped coordinate the remarkable effort of harbor truckers
to win recognition from the steamship companies, and has run a number of successful
organizing drives and political campaigns. She’d bring to the Legislature a
keen sensitivity to the needs of California workers. We shudder to think what
Merv Dymally would bring.
In the last session, this Torrance-area assemblyman
authored a bill that upgrades the testing of coastal waters for pollution.
The two-term incumbent from this harbor-area district
has emerged as an effective tribune for environmental justice and economic equity.
The new chair of the Assembly Budget Committee
remains a dedicated champion of California’s working poor.
CHARLES “CHUCK” FUENTES
Longtime Democratic Party activist Fuentes may
not boast the most distinguished record, but his opponent, Ron Calderon — brother
of incumbent member Tom Calderon — is, like his brother, funded chiefly by the
insurance industry. If the Calderons want to work for insurance companies, do
they have to do it while in public office?
JUDGE OF THE SUPERIOR COURT
Office No. 2
Office No. 39
Office No. 40
Floyd V. Baxter
Office No. 53
Office No. 67
Paul A. Bacigalupo
Office No. 90
Office No. 100
Richard F. Walmark
The race to succeed Delaine Easton in the nonpartisan
position of state superintendent of public instruction features two term-limited
state legislators — Dem-ocratic Senator Jack O’Connell of San Luis Obispo and
Republican Assemblywoman Lynne Leach of Walnut Creek — and two long-shot candidates.
Since this is a nonpartisan race, any candidate who wins a majority in the primary
wins the office outright.
Leach is a Republican moderate, generally (but not always) opposed to vouchers,
and almost always opposed to gun-control legislation. O’Connell, a mainstream
Democrat, is a longtime legislative advocate of class-size reduction, as well
as of lowering the requirement for passing a local school-bond measure to 55
percent. He has our support.
COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES
Auerbach has endeavored to make the workings of
his somewhat mysterious office more accessible online and by phone to L.A. taxpayers.
Lee Baca continues to impress. No local law-enforcement
leader has done remotely as much to break down the “us vs. them” mentality that
has enduringly characterized L.A. policing. Of his own volition, he’s established
a cultural-sensitivity program for deputies and, more far-reaching, an Office
of Independent Review, consisting of six civil rights attorneys, to investigate
and adjudicate alleged officer misconduct. This office not only goes well beyond
anything the LAPD has contemplated; it marks a welcome departure in big-city
policing virtually anywhere. Lee Baca is one of America’s foremost police reformers
— and a welcome, if all too anomalous, addition to the L.A. law-enforcement
SUPERVISOR, 1ST DISTRICT
Though Molina is still on occasion a gratuitously
difficult figure for her colleagues to get along with, she has fought effectively
to improve the access of the indigent to medical care in the San Gabriel Valley.
She has also led the county’s program to develop a master plan for greening
the L.A. River.
SUPERVISOR, 3RD DISTRICT
Zev Yaroslavsky remains the indispensable figure
within county government. Whether he’s working to impress upon his MTA colleagues
that the future of local transit is buses, or looking ahead to consolidating
specialized services in L.A.’s chronically underfunded health system, he has
become something of a one-man reality principle in the county. And though we
might differ with him on certain county labor issues, he played a key role on
behalf of L.A.’s striking janitors two springs ago. Of the five county supes,
Yaroslavsky is one we generally trust with the workings of the county.
LOS ANGELES CITY SPECIAL MUNICIPAL ELECTION
MEMBER OF THE CITY COUNCIL, 2ND DISTRICT
The race to succeed Joel Wachs in this far-flung
and diverse Valley district has come down to a runoff between term-limited Assemblyman
Tony Cardenas and DreamWorks SKG public-affairs executive Wendy Greuel, a onetime
aide to Mayor Tom Bradley and two of Bill Clinton’s HUD secretaries. Both candidates
are L.A. centrists. Greuel, unfortunately, has taken a wait-and-see attitude
toward Valley secession that must have her mentor, Mayor Bradley, spinning in
But the most significant difference between the two candidates is in their
records — and there’s a good deal in Cardenas’ record that should give the city
the shakes. His rise to power in the Assembly and as a player in local politics
has been fueled by his cultivation of wealthy special interests, most especially
California’s Indian casinos. At their behest, he’s made it more difficult for
casino workers to unionize. In return, they’ve dropped major bucks into Cardenas’
favored campaigns. Last spring, out-of-town tribes spent a cool $350,000 on
a scurrilous independent campaign against mayoral candidate Antonio Villaraigosa.
Until several weeks ago, Cardenas steadfastly denied any responsibility for
the attacks — until District Attorney Steve Cooley documented the contrary.
As an aide to Bradley, Greuel created the city’s first AIDS task force and
helped shape L.A.’s Best, the after-school program for low-performing schools.
At DreamWorks, she worked with the L.A. Metro Alliance on a program of inner-city
hiring. Despite DreamWorks’ Playa Vista controversy, she’s backed by the Sierra
Club and the League of Conservation Voters. Greuel is our clear choice.
40 — YES
This $2.6 billion bond measure would provide money for
open-space preservation, river protection and inner-city parks — programs we
41 — YES
This is the first of two No-More-Florida measures on
the ballot. Prop. 41 floats $200 million in bonds to help counties buy voting
equipment and scrap those punch-card machines that spelled Al Gore’s demise.
With bipartisan support, this measure strikes us as a small price to pay to
ensure majority rule.
42 — NO
What price transportation? Currently, the state levies
an excise tax on gasoline and diesel fuel, and two distinct sales taxes, one
on diesel fuel and the other on gas. The proceeds from the first two taxes go
to roads and transportation needs, but the proceeds from the gas sales tax go
to the state general fund. Proposition 42 redirects this last tax to specified
transportation uses only — which would cause a reduction (of about $1.2 billion,
currently) in spending on other state programs, such as health care and emergency
services. We like roads as much as the next guy, but not at the expense of other
43 — YES
No-More-Floridas, Part 2. This measure creates an explicit
state constitutional mandate to count every vote. The practical consequences
of this measure are murky, but it at least would create constitutional sanction
for the state to go into overtime to finish tallying everyone’s ballot.
44 — YES
About 80 years ago, Californians passed an utterly ludicrous
initiative requiring that all changes in laws governing chiropractors be submitted
to the voters. Hence, Proposition 44, which requires the state Board of Chiropractic
Examiners to revoke for 10 years the licenses of practitioners convicted of
at least two counts of insurance fraud. We’d feel even better if the Legislature
could decide this kind of thing without bringing us into it.
45 — YES
At best, term limits are a mixed curse. As enacted by
California voters in 1990, Californians may serve no more than three two-year
terms in the Assembly, two four-year terms in the state Senate, and two four-year
terms in statewide office. This has transformed the Assembly into a rolling
amateur hour — a body with no collective memory and few legislative skills,
where brand-new members become committee chairs, and speakers are unable to
serve much longer than one year — with predictable consequences. It was the
newcomer Legislature of the mid-’90s that voted to deregulate the state’s electricity
market, and the newcomer Legislature of the past year that has been largely
unable to fix things. Nor have term limits reduced the sway of money in politics;
indeed, by compelling many newly arrived pols to plan their campaigns for their
next seat almost as soon as they take office, term limits have actually provoked
more fund-raising than existed in the ancien régime. On the plus side, we should
note, the frequent turnover has led to a much more diverse Legislature.
Proposition 45 proposes to tinker a bit with this dysfunctional system. It
permits Assembly members to seek two more two-year terms and senators one more
four-year term if a specified number of their registered-voter constituents
sign a petition requesting it. The required number of signatures is 20 percent
of the total number of voters who voted for that office in the preceding general
election. In short, it gives voters a right to keep voting (for four more years)
for state legislators they like. Sounds good to us.
A — YES
Measure A places a limit of three four-year terms on L.A.
County’s elected officials — the supervisors, sheriff, district attorney and
assessor. We’re for it.
Wait a minute, you protest. You guys just made the case — not 50 words north
of here, in your Prop. 45 endorsement — against term limits. Now you’re
for them. What gives?
The electoral politics of L.A. County, that’s what gives. In L.A., to be elected
to county office usually means to be elected for life, to never even have a
serious opponent. Consider the supervisors: On Tuesday’s ballot, Zev Yaroslavsky
is running unopposed, and Gloria Molina has one token, utterly unserious opponent.
Essentially, the most powerful elected officials in Los Angeles no longer stand
for re-election. And this isn’t because they are perfect in every way.
Rather, it’s because the county has grown so huge that their districts cannot
be contested unless a challenger has a gazillion dollars to drop on the race.
A supervisorial district today encompasses nearly 2 million people.
There are far better solutions than term limits, but either voters have rejected
them or they stand no chance of enactment. Smaller and more numerous districts
would surely help create more competitive elections, but county voters have
kiboshed such proposals. Which leaves term limits — in this case, of the 12-year,
non-draconian variety — as the only remaining way to make supervisor an elected
As with the supervisors, so with sheriffs, who tend to die on the job here.
Only district attorneys seem to draw real opponents for office — we suspect
because D.A.s, like football coaches and baseball managers, are held responsible
by an aroused public if they lose a big one.
The fact is, an entire level of government in Los Angeles — the county, which
is responsible for health, welfare, law enforcement and much else in our community
— is no longer democratically accountable. Term limits are a rather blunderbuss
approach to restoring accountability. But they’re all we’ve got.
B — YES
Measure B enacts the same three four-year term limits
on county supervisors as Measure A, but stops there — exempting the sheriff,
D.A. and assessor. We supported A in the belief that the sheriff, no less than
the supes, shouldn’t be allowed to govern for life, but if we can’t get A, we’ll
settle for B.
Measures A and B were reluctantly placed on the ballot by supervisors, to
settle a lawsuit after the county mistakenly disqualified an earlier term-limits
petition. If both measures pass, Measure A would prevail because it is more
C — YES
This measure enables the Sheriff’s Department to increase
the number of assistant sheriffs from two to three and the number of division
chiefs from eight to 12, and permits hiring civilians for some technical positions.
For arcane reasons, these modest proposals require a county charter amendment
and thus a popular vote.
LOS ANGELES CITY SPECIAL MUNICIPAL
Q — YES
This $600 million bond measure would provide money to
improve fire stations and build new police stations, costing the average city
homeowner $3 monthly.
R — YES
This measure moves city elections up a bit: primaries,
from the second Tuesday in April to the first Tuesday after the first Monday
in March; runoffs, from the first Tuesday in June to the third Tuesday of May
— in both cases, of odd-numbered years.
By moving the runoff to mid-May, it lengthens the time between the election
and the beginning of the term for the newly elected mayor and other city officials.
Currently, the new mayor et al. have about three weeks between winning the election
and entering office. Jim Hahn ran on a promise that he was ready to take power,
after all those years at City Hall; in fact, it’s taken him many months to get
his administration even half-staffed. It takes time to get ready to govern L.A.
Prop. R buys our leaders, and us, a little more time.