Sunday, October 24, 2004

The City Elf Voting Guide

I've been doing an unofficial voter's guide for quite some time for my friends, particularly those who aren't willing or able to spend a lot of time researching candidates or initiatives. They like it because they get advice on how to vote; I like it because I have more folks in my corner on Election Day. Everybody wins.

Obviously, because of the initiative process in California, most of my suggestions are specific to in-state voters. This year's bumper crop of initiatives is sort of crazy and confusing - worse than usual in my opinion - so I'll do my best to clarify what the initiative does and why I am voting for or against it.

If you'd like non-partisan information on the initiatives, I find the California Voter Foundation site and the Smart Voter Guide from the League of Women Voters of California Education Fund really helpful.

President and Vice President
John Kerry/John Edwards - D

United States Senator
Barbara Boxer - D

United States Representative
Henry A. Waxman - D

Member of the State Assembly
Paul Koretz - D

Judicial - Judge of the Superior Court
Office No. 18 - Mildred Escobedo, Superior Court Referee

Office No. 29 - Gus Gomez, Deputy Attorney General

Office No. 52 - John C. Gutierrez, Administrative Law Judge

Office No. 53 - Daniel Zeke Zeidler, Superior Court Referee

Office No. 69 - Donna Groman, Superior Court Commissioner

State Measures
1A - YES
This measure was designed to help keep local property tax and sales tax revenues with cities and counties, instead of shifting this money up to the state - unless the Governor declares a fiscal necessity and 2/3 of the Legislature concurs. It has bipartisan support, and in the absence of any other way to keep local money set aside for public safety, parks, libraries, and roads, it's a good idea.

59 - YES
This adds some additional public access to government meetings and records while keeping the existing rights and exclusions we already have. I'm for more open government.

60 - NO
Prop. 60 would keep the current primary system, which relies on 'safe seats' to keep incumbents in office, and write it into the state constitution. This measure was placed on the ballot in response to Prop. 62, which would create a blanket primary so that voters could choose a candidate of any party, with the two highest vote-getters (even if they were of the same party) would move on to the general election. Prop. 62 is the right choice, not Prop. 60.

60A - NO
This is supposed to allow for revenue generated from the sale of surplus state property to be used to pay off specific bonds. However, it doesn't require that surplus property be sold and it doesn't allow for the possibility that perhaps the money may be needed for other purposes. It was originally part of Prop. 60 but separated by the court. It's non-controversial, but that doesn't mean it's a good idea.

61 - YES
This would provide $750 million through general obligation bonds to allow for construction, expansion, remodeling, renovation, furnishing, and equipment for children's hospitals.

62 - YES
This would create a "blanket primary" in which the two highest vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation (or non-affiliation) would move on to the general election. It would create an opportunity for moderates in any party to garner support from voters of all parties.

63 - YES
Mental health services are woefully underfunded. This measure would tax income of over $1 million by an additional 1%, a small amount compared to what these individuals have received through Bush's tax cuts. The measure also has a holistic approach for mental health services (housing, job training, proactive counseling, etc.) that is widely praised.

64 - NO
Proponents of Prop. 64 say it would stop frivolous law suits from harming small businesses. The law as it stands allows average citizens to sue, even if they have not been harmed by a business. Prop. 64 would end this type of suit and force plantiffs to show not just that they had been harmed, but that they suffered financial losses. In the end, this would weaken environmental, health and safety protections in our state.

65 - NO
Unlike 1A, this measure, which would also keep local government revenues with cities and counties, would require a statewide election to approve any shift of tax revenues to the state. The original backers have decided to throw their support behind 1A and are urging a 'no' vote on 65.

66 - YES
This would amend the "Three Strikes" Law so that only serious or violent felonies would count as a third strike, instead of misdemeanors such as petty theft or check kiting. Most people thought this is what they were passing when "Three Strikes" was on the ballot in 1994. Amending the law through Prop. 66 would ensure that the worst repeat offenders are adequately punished, instead of putting shoplifters in prison for life.

67 - NO
I wholeheartedly agree that emergency rooms need more funding. I fail to see how adding a 3% tax to phone service - with a 50 cent cap on residential lines but no cap on business or cell phone lines - is the appropriate way to address this problem.

68 - NO
Prop. 68 and Prop. 70 would eventually end up allowing more casinos and more slot machines. If I wanted to live in Las Vegas, I would move there. If a serious discussion is to be had about this issue, it won't be in lobbyist-sponsored initiatives.

69 - NO
Prop. 69 would require a DNA sample from any adult or juvenile arrested or charged with a felony. My biggest personal concern with this measure is that it creates a database of potential suspects, with no structure in place to remove individuals who have been arrested or charged with a felony but are not found guilty. Others argue that it's no different than having your fingerprints on record, but people are fingerprinted for a myriad of reasons (working with children, volunteering with a public safety agency). This database would only be filled with individuals labeled as criminals or potential criminals. If Californians want this law, the Legislature should pass it with protection for innocent individuals.

70 - NO
See Prop. 68 summary for my feelings on this one.

71 - YES
Since federal research dollars cannot be used for stem cell research, this measure was written to allow $3 billion worth of bonds to be used to pay for this research. Not only does it have the worthy goal of perhaps finding a cure for diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, it could also spur new businesses, generating tax revenues and profit from patents.

72 - YES
This measure would require businesses with at least 200 employees to start providing health care coverage by 2006. Opponents say it would drive businesses out of the state. The fact is, Hawaii already does this and with much more stringent rules on employers, yet businesses have not withered and died. And Californians are already subsidizing health care for a million uninsured residents that would receive healthcare because of Prop. 72 - people with jobs that don't provide coverage who turn to emergency rooms for their healthcare needs.

County Measure
A - Los Angeles County Public Safety, Emergency Response and Crime Prevention Measure. - YES
This would add a 1/2 cent to our current sales tax to fund 5,000 police officers and sheriffs. More cops? A good idea. We have fewer per capita than any other major U.S. city. We all pay sales tax, and if this passes, we would all have more public safety protection.

City Measure
The Times gets it just right - O is unexciting, expensive, and necessary. It would fund $500 million in projects to clean up polluted beaches and rivers and upgrade storm drains and catch basins. The sad fact is that if we don't do this now, we'll be paying for it later, not just in dirtier water, but in federal fines starting in 2014 if we can't comply with the Clean Water Act.

Your comments are welcomed and may even change my mind before November 2. (Well, not on the presidential election, but maybe on the propositions.) Happy voting!

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