Endorsements 2008: The Weekly editors "recommendations for Tuesday" primary.
Thursday, January 31, 2008
DEMOCRAT: Barack Obama
Democrats have a difficult decision to make on Tuesday—good news if you’re a Democrat.
While the Republican field closely resembles a clown car, Dems have two rock-star politicians to choose from (and had three until Sen. John Edwards dropped out of the race Wednesday). Both Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are smart, effective leaders and understand the need for change in U.S. politics and policies, from health-care reform to phasing U.S. troops out of Iraq. Most importantly, they have plans to meet those goals. We believe either of the candidates would make a great commander-in-chief and would do much to repair U.S. relationships and the country’s reputation.
Because the candidates are so well-qualified, we believe Democrats have the luxury of endorsing a presidential hopeful who will do more than set priorities for the nation and push important policy decisions. We want to support a candidate who inspires us, and that candidate is Obama. He’s both a policy wonk and a brilliant orator who has a vision of hope and change for America, and the ability to motivate—qualities we hunger for in a leader. Some criticize his youth and short time in office as inexperience. We think the fact that he’s not an entrenched politician allows Obama to dream big, and he inspires us to dream big with him.
REPUBLICAN: No endorsement
This marks the first time in a generation in which the presidential primary selection in California is meaningful in the national contest. This newfound status presents a challenge to our editorial board: how to simultaneously endorse candidates in both major parties when their values and strategies are so at odds.
So, while we applaud public service, and think any of the leading contenders for the GOP nomination would be an improvement over President Bush and his administration, we cannot endorse any of them for the highest office in the land.
TRANSPORTATION FUNDS: No
Prop. 91 no longer is needed. Its authors, the California Alliance for Jobs and Transportation California, urge a no vote. What happened: In 2006, the groups collected signatures to put Prop. 91, which would prohibit state gasoline taxes from being used for purposes other than transportation, on the ballot. Later that year, voters approved Prop. 1A, which stopped the Legislature from using gas tax dollars for non-transportation purposes—exactly what Prop. 91 intended. By the time Prop. 1A passed, it was too late to pull Prop. 91 off the ballot. Bottom line: Prop. 91 is redundant.
COMMUNITY COLLEGES: No
This is a tough one. Prop. 92 would give community colleges funding separate from K-12 schools. We would love to see more (stabilized) money for community colleges, and both Monterey Peninsula College and Hartnell say they need the boost—$2.6 million for MPC and $2.3 million for Hartnell, annually. Lowering community college fees from $25 to $20 per unit and restricting the state’s ability to hike future fees sounds like a good idea, too, and likely would make higher education more accessible to more Californians. All of these are noble goals, which is why it pains us to say vote no.
As we look ahead at the state’s $14.5 billion budget shortfall, we can’t endorse this huge spending increase—an average of $300 million per year from 2007-08 through 2009-10—without a way to pay for it. Prop. 92 doesn’t include a new funding source, which means legislators likely would have to cut other state-funded programs or raise taxes. Despite the state’s budget crunch, the governor has vowed not to raise taxes and instead has proposed a 10-percent cut for all state departments. Prop. 92 would make California’s financial problems worse. And while we believe our elected officials should set education as a top priority, and, as such, give it top dollars, we don’t like the idea of locking another spending mandate into the state constitution.
TERM LIMITS: Yes
Prop. 93 is sneaky, back-room, self-serving politics at its worst. It’s a proposal that allows current legislators—Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez and Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, included—additional years in office so they can consummate their real power grab: redistricting, to occur in 2010.
The new U.S. Census will be published then, showing population growth and changes statewide. Legislative districts then will be redrawn, as legally required. And the powers that be will extend their power, gleefully, creating more partisan districts that reward party loyalty. Those who are in good with their party will have new districts that ensure easy re-election, diminishing competition in state races. And those who don’t kowtow to party leadership will be pushed out, like our former star assemblyman, Fred Keeley, painfully learned in the 2000 redistricting process. He should have become our state senator. Instead, he was drawn out of the district, and coastal Monterey County ended up with a Republican state senator who lives 150 miles south. Prop. 93 should have been attached to redistricting reform as originally promised.
Despite all of this, we urge a yes vote on Prop. 93.
The measure would reduce the amount of time a lawmaker may serve in the state Legislature, from 14 years to 12 years. And it would permit lawmakers to serve all 12 years in the Senate, or the Assembly, or a combination of both chambers (currently, they are limited to six years in the Assembly and eight years in the Senate.) It also includes a “transition period” that would allow 34 legislators who would be termed out at the end of this year to run for re-election, allowing incumbents to serve in their current chamber for a dozen years, regardless of how much time they already have spent in either chamber. In this way Prop. 93 is a power grab by the current leadership. But in the long run, we believe it will benefit the state.
Prop. 93 might balance the power somewhat—lobbyists, special-interest groups and staffers aren’t limited to 14 years in Sacramento. It takes time to learn how to be an effective public servant, and this measure might enable legislators to become policy experts. We need that. The state’s budget problems will only get worse if the economy slows and fewer taxes are collected. California is among the world’s 10 largest economies, and has an infrastructure begging for improvement. In addition, our multi-cultural, multi-lingual state is a bear to manage.
PROPS. 94, 95, 96 AND 97
INDIAN GAMING: No
These measures would accomplish virtually the same thing for four Southern California Indian tribes. Prop. 94 would allow the Pechanga tribe to increase the number of slot machines it operates in Riverside County from 2,000 to 7,500—more than any one Vegas casino. Prop. 95 would allow the same for Riverside County’s Morongo tribe. Prop. 96 would allow San Diego County’s Sycuan tribe to grow from 2,000 to 5,000 slots. Prop. 97 does the same for Riverside County’s Agua Caliente tribe. The agreements also would increase money the tribes would pay to the state, and would require revenue sharing with non-gaming tribes. Proponents, including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, say the addition of 17,000 slot machines would create thousands of new jobs and would mainline billions of dollars directly into California’s general fund.
But with little state oversight of the sovereign tribal lands and, thus, the casinos, California has virtually no way to monitor what money comes in or goes out. As a result, the nonpartisan legislative analyst predicts the new cash cows will generate less than 0.5 percent of the state’s entire general fund.
To date, the four affected tribes have spent more than $65 million to get the propositions passed—not including the millions they’ve contributed to campaign coffers of California legislators over the past decade, Democrat and Republican alike.
There are too many holes in these measures. When the idea of big gaming sprawl undergoes a decent patch job, we’re willing to evaluate it again. Until then, we say no, no, no and no.
This tax measure would increase the sales tax in Seaside from 7.25 percent on the dollar to 8.25 percent, and requires a simple majority for its approval. The city, like most California municipalities, needs new sources of revenue. (See Local Spin, pg. 15, for more information.)