The Auros Endorsements: General Election, November 7, 2006.
Lieutenant Governor: John Garamendi. A solid progressive, and a friend and former aide of Al Gore. While I was out canvassing on Saturday, I met a resident of my neighborhood who credits Garamendi with saving his life. Shortly after he came into office as Insurance Commissioner, he shut down an insurer that was particularly known for finding ways to drop coverage for anyone who actually got sick. Any insurer that wanted to continue to do business in CA had to pick up some of the policies from that insurer. Three months later, my neighbor got seriously ill -- his new insurer ultimately picked up the tab for $250k in treatment.
Tom McClintock fits right in with the new-model, Bush Republicans -- completely opposed to any sort of environmental regulation, a global warming denialist, radically anti-choice (opposed the stem cell initiative), opposed to having a minimum wage at all, wants to privatize our schools and universities, supports Prop 90 (see below)...
Bear in mind that the LtGov position is surprisingly powerful in CA -- the office has major powers in governing the Institute for Regenerative Medicine (stem cell research!), enforcing our environmental laws, running the public university system, and more.
This is a frighteningly close race, and there's serious worry about Arnie having coattails. The fact that he's actively campaigned as a "ticket" with this guy really should put the lie to his claim to being a "moderate".
Secretary of State: Debra Bowen. One of the finest politicians in our state, Debra has a razor sharp mind. A neighbor of mine who does contracting described testifying about materials-flammability issues before a committee she was chairing in the late '90s; he said she was the only person in the room who had clearly done her homework -- she asked tough questions, and understood the answers. Since 2000, she has systematically set about trying to ensure that voting in this state is trustworthy and free of fraud. It's hard to imagine a more qualified candidate.
Bruce McPherson, though one of the more reasonable, moderate Republicans, has consistently served the interests of companies like Diebold, Sequoia, and ESS. Closed source, paperless, un-auditable machines? Fine with him. He's also blatantly lied about Bowen, claiming that her policies would somehow disenfranchise disabled voters. He's been endorsed by a lot of papers, partly because he comes from a newspaper-owning family (the Santa Cruz Sentinel), and partly because a number of the registrars have expressed dismay that they might have to roll back their investments in crappy machines. The papers that actually understand these issues (e.g. the SJ Merc and the SF Chron) have recognized that making trouble for those registrars would be a good thing, and endorsed Debra.
Attorney General: Jerry Brown. Chuck Poochigian is running on a straight law'n'order platform. Jerry has promised to bring Elliott-Spitzer-style activism to our state's A-G office. The Pooch has, incidentally, made a fool of himself by letting supporters try to have Jerry thrown off the ballot. (Link is to the moderate-to-conservative Bill Bradley, who has been, let it be noted, strongly and consistently anti-Angelides.)
Treasurer: Bill Lockyer. Lockyer would continue Angelides' policies of using the office's financial resources to invest in our state, advance the interests of our citizens, and promote transparency and fairness in corporate boardrooms. Parrish, aside from being a wing-nut, would be an embarassment. Not quite up to the level of Duke Cunningham, perhaps, but certainly up there among the worst.
Insurance Commissioner: Cruz Bustamante. I'm still not particularly persuaded that he's a great guy. He's done a lot of sketchy things in terms of fundraising, particularly in regard to casino money during the recall. On the other hand, I do appreciate the innovative approach he's taken to the IC office -- focusing on prevention (nutrition and health, trying to find ways to reduce drunk driving, incentives against building in areas at high risk for fire/flood/quake, etc).
His opponent, Steve Poizner, is a relatively moderate, Bay Area, tech-industry guy. If you're a moderate Republican, you may well find him agreeable, and honestly, in some ways I think it'd be nice if more of the GOP was like him, so I'd sort of like to see his moderation rewarded. On the other hand, I still can't quite forgive him for the swift-boat-style crap he tossed at my Assemblyman, Ira Ruskin, in '04, especially when considering how hypocritical he was being. Ira has since gone on to prove himself as one of the best members in the Assembly -- he was one of the authors and primary sponsors of AB 32, the greenhouse-gas regulation bill (which Arnie has already started trying to undermine, with the ink barely dry from his election-stunt signature, calling to mind Bush's policy of countermanding Congress with "signing statements").
Controller: John Chiang. Aside from the fact that he has had far more relevant experience in finance and tax law, a record of catching major tax cheats, and a leading role in reforms made under Steve Westly (the outgoing Controller and former gubernatorial aspirant, who has been gracious and supportive after his loss this past June), Chiang is just an all-around nice guy, and has worked hard to get more Asian/Pacific folks involved in politics. One of the big problems in our state is that the electorate doesn't actually reflect the population of eligible voters -- as a result, our politicians are considerably more conservative than our people.
Tony Strickland's campaign claims he will be able to close California's deficit by aggressively rooting out waste and fraud inside the government (the non-partisan legislative analyst disagrees), but he doesn't mention the part about how he's fine with waste and fraud by business. He wants to drastically loosen the accounting standards to which businesses are held in reporting cash streams for tax purposes -- which is practically begging for the kind of shenangians that allowed Enron to make taxes a net source of income over the ~5 years leading up to its accountant-fueled implosion. Also, Strickland has made corrupt use of campaign cash.
Board of Equalization, District 1: Betty Yee. Currently in the office, having replaced Chiang when he went off to campaign for Controller. She has the support of Chiang and Westly.
US Senator: Dianne Feinstein. I'm not an enthusiastic supporter of DiFi, as I explained during the primary. (Sponsoring the flag-burning amendment?! Augh!) But none of the third-party candidates are sane enough for me to feel comfortable supporting them. (They're saner than usual... But still. Batty.)
US Representative, District 14: Anna Eshoo. I ♥ Anna. Name an issue, I'll lay you good odds she's on the right side. When can we get her to replace DiFi?!
Just to mention a recent positive experience I had with her -- I wrote her a note a month or two back about the idea of subsidizing first-responder training (after an unusually friendly exchange with a conservative member of Slate's Fray), which could have been answered with platitudes about supporting good use of Homeland Security funding. Instead, I got a letter that showed she (or, at least, her staff) had read and thought about the idea, and she'd consider introducing a bill (or budget amendment) on the topic in the next Congress. It had a real, pen-written signature (as opposed to the printed replica signatures that show up on most of the form-letters).
Three other California candidates for the House worth mentioning: Charlie Brown in the Sacramento/Roseville area, Francine Busby in the San Diego suburbs, and Jerry McNerney in the outer East Bay, southern Santa Clara County, and Central Valley. I'm particularly enthusiastic about Jerry, a wind-energy expert who won a contested primary over a guy the DCCC had picked out, through grassroots organizing, and putting in the effort to make a personal connection with the district's voters.
Mountain View City Council: Margaret Abe-Koga, Ronit Bryant, Jac Siegel. This isn't on my ballot, but may be on some of yours. All three of these folks are solid progressives with experience in local government and strong working relationships with other officials and activists. Margaret is the top priority -- former aide to Anna Eshoo, organizer of the A/PI community, and an expert on immigration issues (which is increasingly important in Mountain View -- you may've noticed that the downtown is kinda dominated by Asian businesses).
Member of the State Assembly, District 21: Ira Ruskin. As I mentioned above, Ira is great.
Member of the State Assembly, District 22: Sally Lieber. Also an excellent Assemblywoman -- and very likely to be the second-ranking member of the Assembly next term (possibly even first-ranking), bringing more clout to the Bay Area contingent, relative to the more conservative Los Angeles crowd. (District 22 includes Sunnyvale; I think Mountain View is split between 21 and 22.)
Santa Clara County District Attorney: Karyn Sinunu. Karyn is currently an assistant DA, and her opponent Dolores Carr, a family court judge, has less experience as a prosecutor, and a much less pragmatic attitude towards managing the DA's office. Sinunu has a proven record in improving the operations of the DA's office.
Judge of the Superior Court, District 13: Tim Pitsker. Pitsker and McKay-McCoy are both basically qualified, but Pitsker looks to be advertising himself in a way that appeals more, to me at least; he's a veteran prosecutor, but believes strongly in rehabilitation for nonviolent offenders. McKay-McCoy has chosen to emphasize clockwork, procedural jurisprudence. It's interesting to see how Pitsker's self-promotion has evolved since the primary, when he was focusing as much on the law'n'order thing as his current opponent, referring to his experience at the "New Mexico Military Institute". I don't think he's doing it dishonestly, though -- after all, the third candidate in that race lost on a softer-justice platform, and that was with an electorate more Democratic than the one expected for this election, due to the contested Dem Gubernatorial primary.
Judicial votes of confidence...
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court -- Joyce L. Kennard: Yes. She's been on the court since 1989, and as far as I can tell is non-controversial.
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court -- Carol A. Corrigan: Yes. She's a relatively moderate conservative, whom Arnie tapped to replace lunatic-Lochnerist Janice Rogers Brown; and he passed over another black Lochnerist (whom the 'wingers were aggressively promoting) to tap Corrigan. I'd rather keep her than risk what might replace her.
Presiding Justice, Court of Appeal, 6th Appellate District -- Conrad L. Rushing: Yes. A relatively recent (Davis appointee), but highly respected addition to the court.
Associate Justice, Court of Appeal, 6th Appellate District -- Nathan D. Mihara: Yes. Longstanding, non-controversial.
Associate Justice, Court of Appeal, 6th Appellate District -- Richard J. McAdams: Yes. Another Davis appointee, and non-controversial.
Associate Justice, Court of Appeal, 6th Appellate District -- Wendy Clark Duffy: Yes. Another moderate conservative from Arnie; one of the major accomplishments she claims was founding a drug-treatment diversion program in Monterey County.
Not on my ballot, but on the ballot for people in the counties of Alameda, San Mateo, and San Francisco: William R. McGuiness: No. Why? Because, when posed with the gay marriage issue, rather than writing a narrow opinion saying that he hadn't been given adequate grounds to overturn Prop 22; or punting by saying that gender is a suspect class and equality is required but the legislature has to figure out exactly how to resolve the problem; he actually came out and said that "[b]y maintaining the traditional definition of marriage while simultaneously granting legal recognition and expanded rights to same-sex relationships, the Legislature has struck a careful balance to satisfy the diverse needs and desires of Californians." See also.
Yay, we're up to the propositions now! I'll note up front that Pete Stahl appears to be making all the same calls I do this year. (I didn't start looking over his site til after the end of our review session; I integrated a few points from his arguments in with the notes I'd taken earlier. The only place he disagreed with what I had in my notes was 88, and between that and further research, I changed my endorsement from a lean-No to a lean-Yes.)
1A: NO. Forces all gas taxes to go to transportation funding. There are two types of gas tax -- an excise tax, and the regular sales tax. Excise taxes, charged per gallon, are already 100% dedicated to transportation. Sales taxes, charged per dollar, are supposed to be a generalized consumption tax, and should go to the general fund. But, because we passed proposition 42 four years ago, sales tax from gas is mostly dedicated to transportation, but can be diverted to the general fund during periods of fiscal difficulty. As Pete puts it: "I opposed Prop 42 because it amounted to a raid on the General Fund by the road construction industry." 1A takes this raid further, requiring diversions to be repaid with interest in three years, limiting the number of suspensions to two in any ten years, and banning suspension in any year in which a previous year's suspension has not yet been repaid. This is yet more ballot-box budgeting, tying the hands of the legislature, making it harder to deal with real fiscal crises.
1B, 1C, 1D, 1E: YES. This is a gigantic bond package resulting from a compromise between Arnie and the legislature. The bad news is, we're punting our taxes out into the future; bonds always have to be repaid sooner or later, and, as Milt Friedman put it, "To spend is to tax." OTOH, these are all for major projects -- the kinds of thing one expects to finance with bonds. On the other other hand, the impact on our debt service is pretty ugly; the non-partisan analysis says it pushes us up to having 6% of our revenues going just for debt service, which is generally considered dangerous (and could, if we face a recession, result in our bond rating being dropped to junk levels, which in turn can drive up debt costs even more). The package is endorsed by everyone but the anti-tax nuts and has already been approved by the legislature and governor. Basically, unless you think that in the near future we'll be able to enact a massive tax reform and increase revenues, this is pretty much the only way we're going to address a variety of pressing issues. 1E -- to fix the levee system along the Sacramento river so that it's -- is particularly critical. Currently, much of the region along the river from Richmond back up to Sacramento is at risk of Katrina-style flooding.
84: YES. Also a bond measure, related to the 1B-1E package, but apparently lacking the nod to be included in the specially-numbered package. It covers water quality and supply projects -- drinking water and agriculture. Again, this is stuff that has already been approved by the governor and legislature, and it's endorsed by everyone except the anti-tax nuts. (Well, and Bill Leonard, a right-winger who wrote a bill "extending First Amendment rights to college students," protecting them against professors who insist on actual science in the classroom, instead of students' opinions -- Intelligent Design, stuff like that.) A portion of Prop 84 also goes to levees, but focused on water quality issues (preventing road and agricultural runoff from getting into drinking water), as opposed to protecting property.
83: NO. GPS tracking for life on all sex offenders (even minor ones -- folks who had a 15-year-old gf at age 18 or 19, or people who committed a "lewd act" like having thrill-sex with an SO in a public park at 2am), and increased restrictions on where they can go or live. Offenders -- including those minor ones -- would basically be driven out of urban and suburban areas entirely (take a look at this map showing how little of San Jose would be accessible). I wouldn't mind the tracking concept, if it could be done affordably and sensibly -- it could allow more freedom. However, this is not a sensible implementation. It's spending a massive amount of money, which will then not be available for mental health services or finding and prosecuting new, previously unknown offenders. And it just won't do much good -- most sex offenses are committed in the home, by people known to the victim, and sex offenders who are considered high-risk for recidivism can already be held, long-term, in mental facilities. Karyn Sinunu is opposed to Prop 83. It's going to pass by a massive margin, unfortunately.
85: NO, again! Parental notification for minors seeking abortion. We voted this down last fall as Prop 73. The only thing they changed was rephrasing it so that it would not write "personhood" for fetuses into law. It still has huge problems in terms of restricting options of girls who may have abusive parents, or who may be victims of incest. Its purpose is, clearly, to prevent minors from getting abortions, full stop. It would drive people into back-alley abortions, and seeking "herbal remedies" (the anti-choicers have started spreading misinformation online, identifying lethal plants as abortifiacients; the BitingBeaver wrote about this a month or so ago, IIRC).
86: YES. This hikes the tobacco tax, and funnels the money to healthcare -- ERs, children's care, smoking cessation, etc. The tax level will still be lower than the tax in NY. On the one hand, these are both things I support -- Pigovian taxes on tobacco save lives, and reduce healthcare costs. On the other, it's yet another earmark, and I'm concerned about what happens if we're successful in getting less people to smoke -- we have to turn around and find more funding for healthcare. It encourages the duct-tape and baling-wire approach to budgeting. (Of course, I also think we ought to just have a single-payer healthcare system, and solve the whole problem, rather than poking at it in small pieces.) But, as with the 1B-1E package, unless we think that a better solution is coming soon, doing something about the problem in the short term might be better than waiting.
87: YES! Imposes a "severance tax" on extraction of oil from California land and water. We are the only state producing significant amounts of oil that does not charge such a tax -- Oklahoma, Alaska, and Texas all charge a tax similar to what 87 imposes. Severin Borenstein, director of University of California Energy Institute (and the foremost energy economist in our state) holds that it will have no impact on consumer prices, because there aren't enough marginal oil producers in the state to affect the world supply of oil. Most of our wells remain very low-cost (relative to the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska, Venezuela, etc). The money will basically come out of the oil companies' profit stream. I'm fine with that -- it discourages more oil prospecting (there are lobbyists trying to get offshore oil drilling) and encourages transitioning to a different energy source! And Prop 87 does all kinds of good things with the money it raises, from offering transition training for oil workers to get into alt-energy, to investing in energy efficiency in our public facilities, to making venture-capital style investments in alt-energy (with the expectation of reaping royalties). Also, 87 is nicely complementary with AB 32, the greenhouse-gas regulation bill mentioned earlier.
88: Currently leaning towards YES. This is a state-wide parcel tax for school funding. It imposes a flat $50 tax, regardless of the size of the parcel. Pete points out that property taxes are already unrelated to the size or value of the parcel, so in some ways going flat is better than what we have. It's opposed by the Democratic party, the teachers' unions, and the PTA -- not folks who usually oppose school funding. The California School Boards Assocation opposes 88 "because the initiative would impose severe penalties for 'misuse' of funds -- a term not defined to distinguish between inadvertent errors and intentional illegal behavior -- place new constraints on the use of the class-size reduction funds; and expand the role of the state Board of Education in 'approving' textbooks." But, I'm OK with that last part (having a clearer statewide curriculum doesn't seem like a terrible idea), and if by "restrictions" they mean, "you actually have to spend the class-reduction funds on hiring more teachers so you can reduce class sizes," that sounds good too.
Pete makes a pretty good case that we've been having a lot of trouble raising parcel-tax funds with local measures, and that the successes have come in affluent areas that don't need the money as much anyhow. Doing it statewide and funneling the money to where it's really needed may in fact be better... mickle, do you have any info? (Also, I was sorry not to see you and your boy tonight!)
89: YES! I've discussed this before. 89 sets up the "clean money" system already in place in Arizona and Maine. Here's how it works: You can run your campaign exactly the way you would today, with private money. Or, you can collect signatures, each with a $5 donation, to prove your campaign has the backing of a certain number of people, and then get a budget from the state. If your opponent is not a "clean money" candidate, and his budget rises past the allotted clean money level, your budget will be increased to match; if your opponent is a millionaire who pours in personal funds, the matching budget rises still higher. All of this would be paid for by restoring our corporate profit tax to its 1996 level.
Prop 89, under a different name, was very nearly passed by the legislature. In hearings, there was testimony from a Republican AZ legislator who had opposed it, but after seeing the system at work, changed his mind -- he got to spend time with his constituents, instead of at fundraisers.
The one argument I've heard against it is that the portion that reforms funding for initiatives leaves unions with more of their current ability to spend money than corporations. OK, so maybe we need to turn around and close one more loophole -- there was already an intitative last year trying to target unions while leaving corporations be, and I'm sure there will be more efforts, on the ballot or in the legislature. The whole initiative process is overdue for an overhaul (and in fact there's a major initiative-reform initiative in the works). This is a very minor concern compared to the major reform of the candidates section of the ballot.
90: NO! The Eminent Domain / Kelo portion of this is good. The other part is absolutely insane -- it sets up perceived reduction in property value due to government regulation as a legitimate cause for litigation. So, say you own a piece of property in the middle of a mixed agricultural and residential zone, and you feel like setting up a gravel mining business. The neighbors point out that the city's zoning laws prohibit your mine. Under Prop 90, you can sue the city for the "lost" profits from the mine, and if they can't pay up, well, you can set about mining. And no, I'm not making this up -- it's exactly what happened to a town in Oregon. Ugliest, the measure invites straight-out extortion -- even if a property owner has no intention of engaging in some zoned-against profitable use, he can claim he planned to, and sue. Note that, of course, the reduction to your property value thanks to the noise and pollution from your neighbor's actions is not set up as a cause for litigation. Prop 90 would end environmental and quality-of-life regulation, rolling back the regulatory state to the 19th century.
Santa Clara County Measure A: YES. The measure has been in the works for years, and is backed by a wide variety of environmental groups, farm groups, and cities. Peter Drekmeier, who has worked on local environmental issues for most of his career, and was recently elected to the Palo Alto City Council, is a major force behind Measure A. The SJ Mercury News has made a good effort to discuss the issues and debunk the lies of opponents. The opposition is, according to KGO, almost entirely funded by the California Association of Realtors -- real estate brokers stand to lose if the breakneck construction of cheap, ugly, indistinguishable housing subdivisions gets slowed down.