Monday, November 1, 2010

Voting in 2010

My phone has been ringing off the hook. Martin Sheen called me. So did Leonardo di Caprio. I forget now what they wanted of me. I remember, though, that they already had it. It was nice to hear their voices, anyway. I tried to get a word in edgewise and ask them if we might get together for coffee, but they just kept on talking and hung up when they were done. I found that kind of rude, but I’ve got a tough skin.

I’m glad they’re on the right side. Which is to say the left side. I just went through my sample ballot and voter information pamphlet in preparation for voting. Usually I vote for the main folks and don’t bother with dogcatcher, but this time I decided I needed to line my actions up with my attitude that people who don’t vote are responsible for letting the foxes back in charge of the henhouse. The paper this morning already announced as fact that we will now have John Boehner running the House instead of Nancy Pelosi.

If that’s the case, it will mean Americans will have reached a new low in stupid. This guy is almost perfect sleaze, and leader of such tricks as blaming democrats for the bailout which was Bush’s idea, and saying it hasn’t worked when it has, blaming democrats for a healthcare program which was basically the Republican plan, and a whole host of lies and misrepresentations. We need to get ready for such things as tax relief for the richest Americans so that the need to pay for basic services will be shifted to the middle class. But since the middle class doesn’t seem to care all that much, what’s wrong with that idea?

Think I’m kidding? David Sirota’s column this morning cites a survey done by some Harvard guys recently showing Americans believe the richest 20 percent own 59 percent of the wealth, when, in fact, they own 84 percent of the wealth. But that’s OK, too. After all, they’re smart, and someday if I work hard I’ll be rich and I won’t have to pay taxes either. That’s because America is still the best land of opportunity in the world, no matter how much the democrats try to make it socialist. They can’t fool us. We’re voting Republican.

I went to a conference on the Tea Party at UC Berkeley last week. Didn’t learn much new, but it was nice to see a bunch of academics getting into the nitty gritty of the movement. Problem is, when somebody asked the question at the end of a long day of talks, “What do we do about it?” there were no answers, other than to vote.

Keith Olbermann had a lovely rant the other day on the Tea Party, a 19-minute, 33 second special in classic Olbermann form. Have a look if you can.

Looks like this is what’s coming. Nothing left to do but lie down in the road and let the tanks roll in over us. Just went to a Tea Party site (in Fremont) to see their recommendations and note that they are supporting Prop. 23. That’s the move by Texas oil companies to suspend California’s air pollution control law, AB 32. Not only is the money coming from oil, the line is it is to save California jobs, when in fact the opposite is true. Future jobs in the green industries would be shut down by this bill. You’ve got to wonder what the hell the Tea Partiers are thinking. Oh… Right.

Anyway, as I said, I’m looking at all the candidates and issues this time around with more care than usual. I know most of this is of little or no interest except possibly to my neighbors who, most of them, would largely concur, making this just one more case of preaching to the choir.

It took much less time to make up my mind. Mostly, I simply sought out the guys that I trust and let them show me the way. Not in all cases, but in most. Often, as when the entire city council, liberals and conservatives (or what passes in this town as a conservative), throw their weight behind an issue, it becomes a no-brainer. I did dig a little further to see what, if any, arguments I could find on the other side on a couple contentious issues, like the marijuana legalization proposal

In any case, here’s how I’m voting and why.

1. Partisan offices: Jerry Brown, Gavin Newsome, Debra Bowen, John Chiang, Bill Lockyer, Kamala D. Harris, Dave Jones, Betty T. Yee, Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, Nancy Skinner. Unless I can find a reason not to, I always vote a straight democratic ticket. My arm would fall off if I voted Republican, and giving a vote to the Peace and Freedom, Green, American Independent or Libertarian candidates, much as I would like to in some cases, strikes me as throwing my vote away at a time when Republicans have gone totally obstructionist, and ceding any power to Republican candidates only helps them on their way. As long as things remain polarized, I’m voting straight Democratic when it comes to politicians.

2. Judicial offices: Judges are another story. Here I have to say I’m influenced by the fact that in Iowa there’s a move to get rid of their Supreme Court justices who voted for same-sex marriage. Never mind they all voted for same-sex marriage, the ones being targeted are the ones up for approval after their first year. Mean. Nobody is considering what other thoughtful decisions the justices have made; they are being attacked for this one decision. That makes me want to go along with the appointments, and assume the vetting process done before they were appointed separated good justices from bad. But there’s no good reason for that assumption and we’re back where we started, making choices on a partisan basis.

So what to do? Do I just go right down the line and vote against anybody appointed by Republican governor Schwarzenegger? Or do I consider that they are likely to be moderate Republicans – no tea party type would rise to this position – and take the trouble to poke through the record of each of them?

A good rule of thumb, I think, is to find out what the Judge Voter Guide has to say about these appointments – they love the word “activist judges” to refer to anybody they find too far to the left – and vote the other way.

I started with Peter J. Siggins. Now here’s a guy, Republican, who illustrates the dilemma of partisan voting. The guy has a sterling record. He was appointed by Attorney General Bill Lockyer, a democrat to make democrats proud as well as Diane Feinstein. Recognized by California lawyers as lawyer of the year, and recognized by the Western States Attorneys General as exceptional. He is not recommended by the 2010 Christian Voter Guide despite the fact he is actively involved in Jesuit education, and the Judge Voter Guide, which finds him insufficiently conservative. So I’m giving him a yes.

Then there’s James R. Lambden, another Republican. What’s the yes, but? He left the Boy Scouts after thirty-five years as a Scoutmaster when they launched their anti-gay discrimination policy. That alone should do it for me, but the Judge Voter guide is against him, so that’s a vote in his favor. Also, he’s about to head up the California Voter Access Commission, which seeks to bring justice to more people who can’t afford it. Sounds like a Republican I can support.

And that’s it. Some or all of the other Republicans may have good things going for them, but I’m saying no to Kathleen Banke, Robert L. Dondero, Martin Jnkins, Timothy A. Reardon, Terence L. Bruiniers and Henry Needham, because I’m hoping Jerry Brown gets elected and will come up with somebody more likely to piss off the folks down at the Judge Voter Guide.

For Superior Court Judge, I’m voting for Victoria S. Kolakowski over John Creighton because Kriss Worthington, Tom Ammiano, Dennis Herrera, Mark Leno and Nancy Skinner all endorse her as well as a whole bunch of gay organizations such as the Harvey Milk Club, Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club, Equality California, which I worked for briefly.

For State Superintendent of Public Instruction, google “Endorsements” for Larry Aceves and then for Tom Torlakson and you’re flooded with names – dozens and dozens and dozens. Both seem like good guys. Aceves has the edge, apparently, on school reform. They both reject the “Race to the Top” bullshit. They both say the system is badly broken. Aceves seems to have the greatest number of school principals behind him, and he has the San Francisco Chronicle and LA Times behind him, but I’m voting for Tom Torlakson because I know more of the endorsers. I suspect these are both good men.

When it comes to City of Berkeley candidates, I am following the recommendation of Kriss Worthington and other local people I trust and voting for Townley, Webster, Blake, Stephens, Dodsworth and Harr for Rent Stabilization Board Commissioners and Wilson, Daniels and Hemphill for school directors.

Joel Young
is endorsed by just about everybody, good guys and bad guys, for AC Transit District Director, and nobody has anything bad to say about Andy Katz for EBMUD Director, so they get my vote.

Now to the main reason for voting, besides keeping billionaire Meg Whitman from buying her way in to the governor’s seat and Carly Fiorina, Sarah Palin’s endorsement from taking Barbara Boxer’s seat. That’s the State measures – the referenda issues.

I’m voting

Yes on 19 to legalize marijuana for two reasons - even though it's badly written, it's the camel's nose in the door. Once we get used to the idea of decriminalization we can tinker. The other reason is the argument I've heard for decades - it's time we freed up law enforcement for more important things [and thanks to my friend Dustin who is concerned a badly written law may actually do more harm than good. He put me back up on the fence over this;

No on 20 (see 27 below), which would redistrict the congressional districts;

Yes on 21 to add an $18 vehicle licence surcharge to pay for state parks and wildlife programs;

No on 22, which would prohibit the state from borrowing funds from Peter to pay Paul. I don’t like the smell of this, but both the People for the American Way and the San Francisco Chronicle are against it, so I suspect there’s something wrong with it;

NO NO NO NO A THOUSAND TIMES NO on 23 – which would allow Texas oil to trash California green energy;

Yes on 24, to bring in $1.3 billion in taxes, countering a previous Republican type no tax effort responsible for bringing the state to financial ruin;

Yes on 25, to change the 2/3 majority requirement for budget issues – the reason the California legislature has become totally dysfunctional;

No on 26, because it would make a 2/3 vote necessary to slap a fee on businesses that cause harm to the environment, obviously a Tea Party notion of a good thing. Bankrolled by oil, tobacco and alcohol; and

No on 27. Both 20 and 27 have to do with how districts are drawn in California. Currently there is a move to take that power out of politicians’ hands, since they, both parties, work to gerrymander the state, and put it in the hands of a citizen commission. Problem is, 20 and 27 seem to be at odds, nobody knows what the citizen commission would do, and how the current plan is working – so I’m voting no on both, effectively saying leave things alone here.

On Alameda County measure F, I’m voting yes to slap a $10 fee on vehicle registration to build streets and roads. Why would people say no to fixing the roads? They’re a mess. And why shouldn’t the money come from car owners and not the public at large?

Finally, I’m voting yes on H – money for schools; yes on I, ditto; no on R, the mayor’s downtown development plan that isn’t a plan at all, but a chance to overturn the previous downtown development plan which he didn’t like; yes on S, a small tax on medical cannabis, because nobody I know has come up with an argument against this, and yes on T, which would allow for cannabis collectives but keep them away from schools – because my friend Karl and the mayor, whom he can’t stand, both say so.

There. That’s the end of probably the longest thing I’ve ever written which I expect absolutely nobody to read.

It might have made more sense if I’d done this earlier, and given people a chance to challenge some of my choices, but I didn’t get around to it.

Why do I feel I've just come off eight hours of jury duty?



Christine U'Ren said...

I've been struggling through the judicial slate--I appreciate your help!

Christine U'Ren said...

I just found this on Henry Needham, which in my opinion shows good reason to vote "no" on him. I looked up the recent status of the case, and it looks like the conviction was upheld, and Needham's recommendation was thrown out.