This thing would grease the skids for an expanded solid-waste landfill and recycling center in eastern Otay Mesa. The county hasn't assessed its waste-capacity needs since 2005, and this measure would allow the developer to skirt certain regulatory processes. We might need more landfill space, but this is the wrong way of going about getting it. Our call is no on Prop. A.
Prop. B would impose term limits on the county Board of Supervisors, restricting anyone elected after it becomes effective to two terms—current supervisors would be allowed to serve eight more years, provided they're reelected two more times.
In and of themselves, term limits are objectionable simply because they limit choice. If you like Greg Cox, for example, you should be allowed to vote for him as many times as you wish. Problem is, it has become so very difficult for viable challengers to knock off incumbents, who enjoy the benefits of name recognition and patronage. Campaign donors tend to place safe bets and back the incumbents because they're expected to win, allowing incumbents to amass huge war chests for future elections. Making things even easier for incumbent supervisors is the relatively scant attention paid to what they do. Unless you live in an unincorporated part of the county, the closer layer of government is your city council; county government tends to fly under the radar as city government draws the heat.
This reality has frustrated local union leaders so much that they decided to make term limits for supervisors their top priority this year—they dislike the current bunch so passionately that they're willing to limit terms for potentially likable folks down the road in exchange for a guarantee that Horn, Roberts, Slater-Price, Jacob and Cox will be gone after another eight years.
We agree with the sentiment behind the desire for term limits. We want so badly for elections to be competitive. We don't want politicians to get cozy long after they're corrupted by the system and forget why they wanted to serve the public in the first place (assuming they didn't go in for the sake of power itself).
But what stops us from joining the term-limits marching band is that we can't point to any layers of government where term limits exist and say confidently that they've made things better. State elected officials are subject to term limits—how much do you love the way things are going in Sacramento? Term limits are in place in the city of San Diego, but that didn't stop the City Council from nearly bankrupting the pension fund. We'd prefer to reform the way elections are financed.
Our own distaste for the sitting board made us think long and hard about this, but but this kind of enduring policy shouldn't be made based on feelings about specific elected officials, and we don't like terms limits on principle. We're saying no on Prop. B.
The city of San Diego awards extra preference points to veterans—and spouses of killed or severely injured veterans—who apply for civil-service jobs. Whether that should be the case is debatable, but that's not what this measure is about. This simply updates the law. Currently, the preference applies only to veterans who served up until 1979; Prop. C extends the preference to veterans and spouses of veterans who served more recently. That's only fair. Vote yes on Prop. C.
We were against the measure in 2005 that asked voters to approve, on a trial basis, a new system of governance that took the mayor out of the legislative branch (the City Council) and put him or her in charge of the executive branch. Our problem was not with the concept of the new system—after all, it's the prevailing system of government across the country and up and down the government ladder. Rather, it was based on the fact that the specific language of the measure had been crafted at the last minute, and there had not been nearly enough time to vet it.
Well, that measure passed, and so, for the past five years, Mayor Jerry Sanders has been running the day-to-day operations of the city and serving as a counterbalance of sorts to the legislative branch, the City Council. The council can pass a law with “yes” votes from as few as five of the eight members. The mayor can veto the law, but the council can override the veto by casting the same five votes it took to pass the law in the first place.
If Prop. D passes, the mayor would remain in charge of the city, a ninth member would be added to the council and it would take six votes to override a veto. If Prop. D fails, Sanders would become a voting member of the City Council (he would chair the meetings and set the agenda), and the council would hire a new city manager to take charge of all the city departments. You know, like the good ol' days of, say, 2004.
Opponents of Prop. D argue that under the current system, a “politician” is in charge of the government. Please, give us a break. Turn the tables and replace that with “bureaucrat” and it has the same effect. They say that under the executive mayor, decisions are being made behind closed doors. Well, so were they under the city-manager system. And they say that adding a ninth council seat, which is another provision of Prop. D, will cost a million dollars. We say it doesn't have to. Since the overall number of constituents isn't changing, the overall council budget shouldn't, either. The council members will be redistributing the constituents; they should simply redistribute the budget, as well. If they don't, then they'll have to answer to why they've unnecessarily increased the budget. We'll be the first to raise a serious ruckus if Prop. D passes and the council doesn't vote to fund the ninth district out of existing council coffers.
The most compelling argument the opponents make is that the provision requiring the votes of six out of nine council members to override a mayoral veto is too high a hurdle—that 33 percent of the legislative body (plus the mayor) can seize control of municipal policy. We were adamantly against an effort a few years back to require six of the current eight council members to override a veto—a 75-percent threshold was absurd, we protested. Seven out of 11 (64 percent) would be more reasonable, but we're not adding three new council seats. So, the choice is either a high override hurdle or a one-branch government.
We checked a bunch of other cities: New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Boston, Denver, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Jacksonville, New Orleans and Rochester. All require at least 67 percent to override a veto. We haven't checked every city in America, but we've yet to encounter one with a lower threshold.
We like a two-branch government, where the City Council and the mayor provide checks on each other's power. Prop. D's opponents are trying to show you the old city manager with a rose-colored rearview mirror. It really wasn't that great. You might recall that it was city managers such Jack McGrory and Mike Uberuaga who brought us the so-called Manager's Proposals 1 and 2, respectively, which were responsible for our current pension messes. The City Council approved both policies and later complained that they were hoodwinked by city bureaucrats who weren't forthcoming with all the pertinent information. But now opponents say it's the mayor, under the current system, who won't share the knowledge. Seems like Information Retrieval (to invoke an image from the great movie Brazil) is a problem no matter what.
Do the opponents think California shouldn't have an executive governor with veto power? Do they think the federal government shouldn't have an executive president with veto power? If they think the mayor isn't adequately sharing information with the legislators or the public, they should pass laws requiring additional transparency and responsiveness. But they shouldn't blame it on a system of checks and balances that has worked reasonably well outside of San Diego for centuries. (Go ahead, point to Sacramento and say, “A-ha!” But the problem there is that it takes two-thirds of the Legislature to pass a simple budget.)
Does it give us pause, knowing that the opponents are led by Donna Frye, our all-time favorite member of the City Council, and knowing that many of the people with whom we almost always agree are against Prop. D? Sure it does. Does it scare the crap out of us when we realize that we're considering aligning ourselves with the suit-and-tie crowd on this one? You're darn tootin'.
But we suspect that the opponents are making this fight about the current personalities at City Hall. We think this is largely about their distaste for Sanders himself. We think it's possible that the League of Women Voters wouldn't find Prop. D nearly so objectionable if Frye were mayor. The bottom line is that the so-called “strong mayor” system that Prop. D would make permanent isn't as great as its supporters claim, but it's also not nearly as bad as the opponents say. On balance, we support it. Bring on the backlash—we're ready. Vote yes on Prop. D.
We're big fans of project labor agreements, and Prop. G is anti-project labor agreements. If you live in Chula Vista, vote no on Prop. G.
Hose the tourists! If you live in Del Mar, vote yes on Prop. J.
If Oceanside wants to become a charter city, fine with us—but the charter that this measure would authorize was co-written by a lobbyist from the organization that represents builders and contractors and filled with a bunch of anti-union garbage. If you live up yonder, vote no on Prop. K.
Most cities impose business taxes. There's no reason Solana Beach shouldn't. If you live there, vote yes on Prop. L.
Prop. 13 makes all earthquake-safety improvements to existing buildings exempt from triggering a reassessment of the property value. We're cool with that. Though this measure isn't nearly controversial enough to live up to the “Prop. 13” moniker, vote yes anyway.
Now, we have primary elections that determine each political party's nominee, who then goes on to a general election. If Prop. 14 passes, we'll essentially have two general elections, in partisan races, with the second one featuring just two candidates. Here's how it would work: A bunch of people run for a particular office. They may, but don't have to, state their party affiliation. The two candidates with the most votes in the primary move on to the general election. They can even be from the same party.
The idea behind this measure—which is on the ballot only because last year, Abel Maldonado, then a state senator, insisted upon it in exchange for his deciding vote on the state budget—is to reduce extremism in California politics and reward moderation. Instead of pandering to his or her diehard party base, a candidate would need to appeal more to the average voter in the primary and again in the general.
The well-regarded Center for Governmental Studies (CGS) examined voter-registration and -participation numbers and campaign-finance data and concluded that, in a third of all legislative and congressional districts (the measure wouldn't apply to presidential elections), two candidates from the same party would likely meet in the primary, and, in a handful of cases, independent or decline-to-state voters could sway the election toward the more moderate candidate. CGS says the impact would be greatest in state Senate elections and minimal in congressional (in which there are no term limits) and statewide-office elections (which aren't subject to extreme party majorities the way some district elections are).
The way California has been gerrymandered to create safe districts for Republicans or Democrats, the only real battles are waged in the primary elections, where independent voters don't play much of a role. The candidate who most effectively appeals to the party base sails easily through the general election.
Frankly, we'd like to see more extreme liberals elected to office, but we understand that the average California voter is more moderate, and we think the political-party system is at the heart of what ails this country—the fact that the party machines are dead-set against Prop. 14 makes us like it that much more.
Prop. 14 is not our ideal system. We'd much prefer so-called instant-runoff voting (IRV), where voters rank candidates in order of preference, the candidate with the lowest vote total is eliminated and that candidate's votes are automatically redistributed. That process of elimination is repeated until there's only one candidate left standing. Sadly, proponents of IRV have been urging for this kind of system for years and haven't made much progress.
Another caveat is that the state's districts will soon be redrawn by an independent commission, and it might be prudent to wait for the process to unfold before we drastically alter the way we vote.
CGS President Bob Stern says he's leaning toward supporting Prop. 14, but he's still considering the possible impacts. We feel much the same way. If you're feeling desperate and are willing to try anything, vote yes. For the moment, we're giving our lukewarm support for Prop. 14.
There's a lot to like about Prop. 15. It dips only a baby toe into the waters of public campaign financing by targeting only one, low-profile, statewide office and only for two election cycles. And it forces lobbyists, slimy debt collectors of American politics, to pay for it. Where do we sign?
Here's how it would work: First, Prop. 15 would repeal the ban on public financing of election campaigns in California. Then, in 2014 and 2018, major-party candidates for the office of secretary of state could get a base amount $1 million in public money for a primary election if they first collect $5 each from 7,500 registered voters (there's an entire financing plan for minor-party candidates, too, but in the interest of space, we'll stick to the Democrats and Republicans). If any candidates who opt out of the public system raise more than the base amount, the publicly financed candidates would get matching funds from the state—up to an additional $4 million each. Those candidates who reach the general election get another $1.3 million in base money plus up to an additional $5.2 million in matching funds.
The public money would come from a so-called Fair Elections Fund, which would be financed largely by raising the biannual fee paid by registered lobbyists from the current $25 to $700. The fund would also include the money raised by the candidates to qualify for the program—all those $5 contributions. The fund would raise an estimated $6 million every four years, which might not be enough to fully fund the program, but if there's not enough in the fund, the amounts given to candidates shrink, and they'd be allowed to match any privately financed candidates with additional privately raised money. It sounds more confusing than it is.
There's been some concern that if the lobbyist-fee hike is determined to be unconstitutional, the measure would still stand without it, resulting in a large expense for the state general fund, but the way we read it, no money can be allocated to the candidates over and above what's in the Fair Elections Fund, so if there's no money in there, there's no public financing of the secretary of state elections in 2014 and 2018.
However, the best part of the measure, the repeal of the ban on public financing of campaigns, would remain intact, and local governments would again be free to attempt public-financing experiments of their own.
One last wrinkle: If Prop. 14 passes, there's no more partisan primary elections, and Prop. 15 would have to be amended by the Legislature. We can cross that bridge when we get to it.
We'd like to take all private money out of politics, but the U.S. Supreme Court won't let us. So, the only option we have is this type of voluntary public system, and we think this is an experiment worth trying. If only to show support for the concept, go ahead and say yes to Prop. 15.
Thanks to the California energy crisis of 2000 and 2001, state law allows local jurisdictions to form what are known as Community Choice Aggregation programs (CCAs)—in other words, allows communities to break free from large investor-owned utilities like SDG&E, Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) if they think they can provide power to customers more cheaply and efficiently.
Prop. 16 has been bankrolled exclusively by PG&E—more than $30 million and counting—amid that utility's struggle to hang on to customers as communities in the Bay Area head down the CCA path one by one. The measure would require two-thirds of the voters within a local jurisdiction to vote yes before a CCA can be formed.
Two-thirds? Screw that! This thing is called the New Two-Thirds Requirement for Local Public Electricity Providers Act, but it should be called the Big Utilities' Profit Protection Act. Tell PG&E where it can shove its misleading, anti-choice, bullshit, power-play measure. Vote no, no, no—no!—on Prop. 16.
For 22 years, there's been a law on the books in California that bans auto-insurance companies from offering discounts to customers of other insurers who haven't had significant lapses in insurance coverage in order to lure them to switch companies. They also aren't allowed to factor into their pricing how long a new customer went without insurance. Prop. 17, placed on the ballot and financed exclusively by Mercury Insurance—$10 million so far—would undo that law.
Do you really think a large corporation would spend more than $10 million to change a law just so that it can save its customers money? Neither do we. It would do so in order to unfairly charge others more. The law Mercury wants to be rid of was right-minded consumer protection that required insurance companies to use relevant factors in determining prices. Whether or not someone had prior continuous coverage is irrelevant. Vote no on Prop. 17.