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2020 Decision: CityWatch Voter’s Guide

GELFAND’S WORLD(Political Perspective: Center Left) When the editor of CityWatch asked me to be the other side of Jack Humphreville’s ballot recommendations, I wondered a bit about calling us left and right.

After all, we both attended college in Cambridge, Mass in the late 1960s at the height of the Viet Nam War (Hint: I’m not the one who went to Harvard). I seriously doubt that very many of us from that time and place came through it with a strong attachment to the hard right. And as for myself, I came through it with some distaste for the hard left. So I think that even now, you CityWatch readers will be getting recommendations from people who are generally centrists, even if center-left and center-right. 

  • My first recommendation comes from a colleague: 

Mark your ballot for Biden and whoever happens to be the Democrat running for the House of Representatives. Vote for whatever other offices you like, and get your ballot turned in. 

This is particularly important if you live in Congressional District  25 and can vote for Christy Smith, District 39 and can vote for Gil Cisneros, District 45 for Katie Porter, or District 48 for Harley Rouda

I have pretty much the same advice for your state legislative races: Vote the straight ticket for Democrats this time around.  

  • BALLOT INITIATIVES 

I’d like to give a brief explanation for my recommendations. The first point I want to make (strenuously) is that the television commercials don’t tell you what the initiative actually does. They just find something to complain about or some teensy little good thing that the measure will do in order to buy your vote. For example, an initiative that raises some property taxes has a few teasers inserted about victims of wild fires etc., and that’s all you are hearing about from the proponents. 

The second point is that I checked on recommendations from two sources. The first is Kevin Drum, who is a careful thinker and researcher, and also represents a political position pretty close to my own. I also looked into the Courage ballot guide as representative of a fairly liberal point of view. My recommendation is the same as the Courage pick in most cases, but differs for propositions 18, 21, and 23, where they said yes and I said no. On the other hand, my recommendations mesh with Kevin Drum’s in all cases except one, where he left it as a tossup (Prop 19). 

Finally, I am on the same page as Kevin Drum in opposing most ballot initiatives on general principle, for the following reasons: Some are special interest pleading in which some wealthy interest buys its way onto the ballot by paying those signature gatherers to stand in front of your supermarket and lie to you about what the proposition actually says (“Sign here to keep child abusers locked up!”). Second, I prefer that the state legislature and the governor deal with ordinary items – which can be reversed or modified as times change – rather than see items get locked into the state constitution. This state has had a tendency to pass some pretty awful initiatives over the years, for example the one which undid the fair housing law which the legislature had passed (Prop 14), or Prop 13, which was written to be as extreme as possible and succeeded in its intent. 

  • COUNTY SUPERVISOR – DIST 2 

For sure, Holly Mitchell 

  • I’d like to offer a couple of recommendations for the Community College District Board of Trustees. These are personal recommendations based on direct knowledge of the candidates.

For Seat 5, Glenn Bailey

For Seat 7, Nancy Pearlman 

Glenn Bailey has participated in citywide neighborhood council work for more than 15 years. He comes to meetings (and now Zoom meetings) on time, knowledgeable, and highly prepared. In short, he knows what he is doing and has the right level of composure to deal with contentious issues. 

Nancy Pearlman made a name for herself in environmental activism a good long time ago, which is where I knew her from. She comes recommended by others besides myself. 

  • DISTRICT ATTORNEY 

We have an incumbent, Jackie Lacey, who is not accused of being incompetent or crooked, which is already ahead of the curve if you compare her to the City Council. In short, we seem to have a normal DA in office right now. Her opponent, George Gascon, also has experience, both as a police officer and as a DA. He has been recommended by a number of people on the grounds that he will be the one to make needed reforms in law enforcement. Lacey’s loudest critics complain that she doesn’t prosecute police officers who shoot people. I suspect that this demand is placing her in a bind that may be a little unfair. But this is the time for real reform, so Gascon marginally gets the recommendation. 

  • THE JUDGES 

Everybody recognizes that a system which puts judges on the ballot is full of problems. The example that people like to cite involves judge Dzinta Janovs, a highly experienced and competent judge, who was defeated by somebody who had made her living mostly by running a bagel shop, but had a more Anglo-sounding name. 

In order to partially remedy this problem, the County Bar Association evaluates judicial candidates and rates them from unqualified to extremely well qualified. The Los Angeles Times considers these recommendations (sometimes two opposing candidates both come up well qualified) and provides its own recommendations. Here are the L.A. Times recommendations for three of the judicial races: 

Office 72: Steve Morgan

Office 80: David Berger

Office 162: David Diamond 

  • LA CITY COUNCIL DIST 4 

David Ryu will win easily, but it’s still appropriate to recommend him as somebody who has represented honesty and integrity in the City Council. It’s a council that has been questionable at best. I’m making this recommendation in spite of, not because of, his support of a new rule that will impose even more useless (but mandated) training on us unpaid neighborhood council volunteers. David: you should rethink this one. 

  • LAUSD BOARD OF ED SEAT

As a resident of this district, I have been getting scads of slick mailers, not one of which comes out straight about which of the two candidates supports charter schools. Here is what I have been able to figure out: 

Tanya Ortiz Franklin is endorsed by the LA Times as the more energetic and more informed of the two. She has been supported by a particularly nasty mailer campaign that is funded mainly by Bill Bloomfield and Reed Hastings. Hastings has been an advocate of charter schools, so we can probably guess where Franklin is on this issue. 

Patricia Castellanos is endorsed by the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, the L.A. County Federation of Labor, and Mayor Eric Garcetti. Her mailers are paid for by, among others, the local teachers’ unions and the California Teachers Association. It seems likely that Castellanos would be less likely to support the certification of new charter schools than her opponent. 

Note that most of what the Board of Education does has little to do with the creation of charter schools. 

It’s hard to support either candidate in a race which is characterized by such a high level of negative campaigning on the one side, and so little specific information about the candidate on the other side. 

SUMMARY

 

Proposition

Description

Jack

Times

News

Gelfand

           

14

Stem Cell

N

N

N

N

15

Split Roll

N

Y

N

Y

16

Affirmative Action (209)

N

Y

N

Y

17

Parole Vote

N

Y

Y

Y

18

17 Vote

N

Y

N

N

19

Prop 13 Tax Increases

N

N

N

N

20

Property Crimes

Y

N

N

N

21

Rent Control

N

Y

N

N

22

Gig Economy / Uber

Y

N

Y

N

23

Kidney Dialysis

N

N

N

N

24

Consumer Privacy

Y

Y

N

N

25

Cash Bail

N

Y

Y

Y

           

LAUSD

$ 7 Billion Bond

N

Y

N

Y

County

Community Investment

N

Y

N

N

 

 

(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at amrep535@sbcglobal.net)

-cw