Proposition 81, Library Bonds: YES. This is the sequel to two previous bond issues, which have established a process of screening applications and lining up local matching funds. The one criticism I've heard of this process is that it's easier for wealthier communities to get the matching funds set up. But, from the list of previous projects at the LWV site, it does look like plenty of funding has gone to urban and rural projects, not just suburban upper-middle-class sites. This bond issue is tiny, in the scope of our budget and debt service, and it will go towards improving facilities for adult literacy classes, after-school programs to keep kids out of gangs, etc.
Proposition 82, Preschool Education: Undecided. I've been leaning towards NO, because as much as I think this is a worthy goal, it seems like a stupid way to fund it. The problem seems to be that we can't even get the state to properly allocate funding in the school system we already have, so we're saying, in this Prop, that we don't trust them to properly fund preschool if we start that up through the regular Dep't of Ed.
I don't in general like earmarks -- if a dedicated tax brings in too little or too much money at some time in the future, we should have the flexibility to respond intelligently. The $400k bracket doesn't appear to be indexed (which means we'll see bracket creep over the next decade). It seems like a pretty significant portion of the funds involved would be going to pay for preschool for the kids of people who can already afford it. Of course, there's the point that "programs for poor people are poor programs" -- if middle class people receive the benefits of a program, they want it to continue being well funded. But, in the traditional model for that kind of successful program -- Social Security -- the program didn't just benefit the largest possible cross-section of society, it also was funded by the largest possible cross-section -- not a tiny subset with highly volatile, and highly manipulable, incomes. Pete Stahl has a more detailed, but similarly structured, argument against.
OTOH, mickle, whose opinion I take fairly seriously on school-related issues (since she's up close and personal with 'em), is in favor. She says:
82 is not a perfect solution. 82 will, in fact, significantly benefit poor children of color more than it will benefit rich white children (I don't know why we have such a problem admitting this. Education success is largely measured through scores on standardized achievement exams. These exams most definitely test facility with a certain cultural background (at least in reading/ELA): white upper middle class, that is. Children of color and poor children do not grow up receiving this background. An extra year of school would help. Additionally, wealthy white children ALREADY go to preschool. Poor children of color are less likely to go, because despite what the Mercury says, NOT EVERYBODY WHO QUALIFIES GETS TO GO TO HEAD START).
Also, I want to bash at that 62% figure that's being thrown around, as in "But 62% of California's children go to preschool already!". Okay, one, you get that number by conflating semi-structured day care and two-afternoon-a-week programs with half-day, five-day-a-week preschool. That's a little sketchy. Two, it will suprise no one to know that preschool saturation is lower in urban areas and among children of color. This year was a banner year in my kindergarten. I had six students (30%) who went to preschool. There just aren't enough slots and programs in the area. And because preschool is privately sourced, undocumented children of undocumented parents may not go, because their parents are afraid to pass over documents. (I have at least one kid for whom this appears to be the case.)
I wish this issue could be rationally debated in the legislature, because I feel underqualified to decided it. Bleh. This is why I dislike the ballot-proposition system.
Governor, Democratic nominee: Phil Angelides. If you're just tuning in, I've been volunteering with the Angelides campaign, and I admire him greatly. He has a thirty year history of being a visionary leader, understanding what the "next big thing" is going to be in progressive Democratic politics: green design, sustainable development and anti-urban-sprawl work, in the late '70s and early '80s; listening to the grassroots in the '90s, mobilizing the state party to change CA from red to blue, getting us Bill Clinton in the White House and two Democratic Senators; and, through his work in Socially Responsible Investment as Treasurer, showing us how global capitalism can be kept compatible with our small-d democratic civic values, rather than devolving into feudalism. Phil's activism as Treasurer has been praised by NY A-G Elliot Spitzer; the two have worked jointly on a number of corporate accountability issues.
I always supported Phil for positive reasons, but I'm also pretty upset with Westly, now, because his campaign started running a negative ad that just goes too far. Visit Vote The Coast for details.
Lieutenant Governor, Democratic nominee: John Garamendi. This was a tough choice. Jackie Speier is an extremely strong candidate as well -- she's fought hard for consumer rights in the banking and credit industry, for better public health insurance, for humane administration of the prisons... the list goes on. She also can make a credible argument that, given that she's outraised Garamendi thus far, she might have a better shot at beating Tom McClintock, the extreme right-wing Republican who will be on the ballot in November, and has been stumping for Arnie to keep the base in line.
Nonetheless, Garamendi clearly has more experience in executive-branch positions, dealing with the issues that land on the LtGov's desk, especially the trade issues that are so critical to CA's economy. He's been endorsed by Al Gore -- he used to work for Gore, during the Clinton years -- and if he's nominated, he may get an opportunity to tap into Gore's nationwide network of friends and supporters, to fundraise for the general. Garamendi has also committed to fighting for universal healthcare, through the LtGov's position as President of the State Senate. (Phil has also made universal healthcare a stated goal, and I expect he and John would work well together.)
Secretary of State, Democratic nominee: Debra Bowen. Debra deservedly won over 80% of the votes in the endorsement contest at the CA Dem Convention. She has focused heavily on the technical issues around trustworthy, verifiable voting -- she speaks intelligently about the benefits of open source software.
She's worked closely with the Clean Money campaign, which is trying to replicate the success of Arizona in using public financing. She brought in a Republican AZ assemblyman to testify on behalf of the Clean Money initiative; he had opposed it when it was going through the AZ leg, but had a change of heart after he experienced how the system freed him up from owing favors to special interests.
On a personal note, she was also very nice to me when I, seeing her large Bowen button and thinking she was a Bowen staffer, addressed her in the third person on the convention floor.
Controller, Democratic nominee: John Chiang. This is another office where we have an embarrasment of riches. Joe Dunn is a fantastic nominee as well. He was an important participant in the CA tobacco industry suit, and he took the lead in untangling Enron's accounting fraud and capturing the documentation necessary to show that they manipulated the market. He has been a model public servant, and it's a crying shame that our term-limit system is taking him out of the State Senate. (We need to change things so that the rules are something like: you can serve a combined 20 years in both chambers.)
And yet, Chiang is even more qualified. His entire career has revolved around tax issues, he currently serves on the Board of Equalization (which is sort of like the legislative body that matches the Controller's executive position) where he has taken part in (credit where it's due) Steve Westly's successful program to capture taxes that had been going unpaid through a mix of auditing/enforcement and short-term amnesties, and he has a reputation for being preternaturally gifted at making accurate financial projections.
I also am warmly inclined towards Chiang because he offered up the best description I've heard of the distinction in leadership style between Westly and Angelides. Chiang's ability to work closely with either candidate for governor -- he's already been working with Westly, and he has a strong relationship with Angelides -- may be valuable if the tax system changes in significant ways.
Treasurer, Democratic nominee: Bill Lockyer. Running unopposed. I'm still mad at Lockyer for abandoning Gray Davis in '03. But he does have a strong record as A-G, reallocating resources to get the state's law offices working more on enforcing our environmental laws, pursuing issues of corporate accountability and transparency, and so on.
Attorney General, Democratic nominee: Jerry Brown. Jerry is a titan of California Democratic politics. He has committed to following the model Lockyer has pioneered, and possibly pushing further towards the Elliot Spitzer model. His opponent, Rocky Delgadillo, is running on a more simplistic law-and-order platform, and, down in the polls, has resorted to nasty negative advertising alleging that Jerry's soft on crime and unsupportive of law enforcement, a charge that the Oakland police have angrily refuted.
Insurance Commissioner: Cruz Bustamante. Oh, how it pains me. Cruz is widely seen as a creature of machine politics. But he's still far better than his opponent, Kraft Foods millionaire John Kraft, an anti-tax Republican-lite type. On the bright side, he seems to at least be taking an interesting approach to the insurance commissioner job -- planning to use the position in part as a bully-pulpit from which to encourage Californians to reduce the risks that drive up their insurance rates.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction: Does it even matter? Jack O'Connell is pretty clearly going to win in a landslide. He has strong bipartisan support, and it seems like his record isn't terrible... My impression, though, is that he is more supportive of the managers and standardized-test-mongers at the Dep't of Ed, than of the actual teachers trying to instill some love of learning and avoid the "teaching to the test" treadmill. And he hasn't done much to break the bureaucratic inertia.
mickle likes Sarah Knopp, who's focusing on the inequalities across poor/ethnic schools vs rich/white ones, and on the teaching-to-the-test problem created by the testing craze.
I also thought that Grant McMicken (whom I met at the convention), though eccentric, had some interesting ideas for reform -- in particular his idea of getting graduates to mentor in their own schools in exchange for tuition to the UC/CSU schools, seemed to have a lot of merit, and he'd done the work of laying out realistic figures on how much it would cost. He also was interested in shaking up the bureaucracy to make schools the primary recipients of funds, which they would then spend on services from the central Dep't of Ed. (Grant was, incidentally, the recipient of a Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics Teaching, from Bill Clinton.)
United States Senator, Democratic nominee: Diane Feinstein. As much as I dislike some of the stuff she's done, I'm sufficiently party-loyal, and sufficiently willing to rallying around a senior Democratic Senator who's fighting to help us take the Senate this fall, that, after some consideration, I'm throwing in my support. (There's not really any serious alternative on the ballot, in any case.)
Colleen Fernald is a bit moonbeamy, but given that the nomination is a lock anyhow, if you feel like registering a protest against DiFi's lapses of judgement (sponsoring the flag-burning amendment?!), take a look at her.
The third candidate in the race, Martin Luther Church, appears to be running in the wrong party -- he's to the right of Joe Lieberman.
United States Representative, District 14, Democratic nominee: Anna Eshoo. Running unopposed. I adore Anna. I wish DiFi had run for Governor in the recall, opening up the Senate seat, so Anna could've filled it.
Member of the State Assembly, District 21, Democratic nominee: Ira Ruskin. Ira's been working hard on a wide variety of issues, and deserves another term. And in any case, he's running unopposed.
State Board of Equalization; District 1; Democratic nominee: Betty T. Yee. Running unopposed, with an impressive list of endorsements.
Judge of the Superior Court, County of Santa Clara, Office 8: Undecided. All three candidates seem qualified. William J. Monahan clearly has the most impressive slate of endorsements, but a couple of people I've met in my neighborhood, while out canvassing, like George S. Cole, who's a local patent attorney -- the argument for him is that there's a shortage of technologically-savvy judges to deal with the increasing number of intellectual property issues that end up in court. I'm leaning towards Cole, but would welcome input from anyone more familiar with the candidates.
Judge of the Superior Court, County of Santa Clara, Office 13: Shawna Schwarz. Timothy Pitsker advertises his hardline positions and his prosecutorial experience, and cites his education at the "New Mexico Military Institute". Michele McKay McCoy is a "victims' rights" advocate. Both of them sound like they'd further the tendency of our criminal justice system to devour innocents unable to afford representation. Schwarz has been working as a legal advocate in the juvenile justice system, and is endorsed by several current Superior Court judges.
Santa Clara County District Attorney: Karyn Sinunu. An experienced prosecutor who has invested time and effort in Innocene Project work, getting wrongly-convicted people out of jail. Sinunu has run on a platform of openness and accountability in the practice of prosecutions. She's supported by a long list of elected officials (including Anna Eshoo) and law-enforcement figures. I've also seen several people on the Silicon Valley Dean Democratic Club list recommending her.
Santa Clara County Sheriff: Laurie Smith. Incumbent, running unopposed.
That's all, folks. It's almost 1:30am, and I still need to brush my teeth.