Arnold’s Initiatives Tanking

The newest Field Poll is out, and the news for Arnold is not very good. From the SF Chronicle:

The governor’s budget measure, Proposition 76, is opposed by 65 percent of voters, including pluralities or majorities of every voter subgroup measured in the poll. Only 19 percent of likely voters said they are inclined to support the measure.

“I’ve never seen a proposition start out this far behind and pass,” said Mark DiCamillo, director of the Field Poll. “It’s monumental the amount of work (the governor) needs to do on this one.”

More details inside.

Prop 76 is the one that would restrict state spending and give the governor power to make unilateral cuts under certain circumstances.

What of Arnold’s other pet initiatives?

Prop 74, the asinine measure that would increase the probationary period of teachers from 3 to 5 years: supported 46-37.

Prop 75, which would make use of union dues for political campaigns subject to written authorization (simply adding another layer of paperwork): supported 55-32.

Prop 77, Arnold’s redistricting measure: fails, 32-46.

Prop 80, which increases the powers of the PUC to regulate energy providers, is way up in the air – 33% support it, 35% oppose it, and 32% are undecided.

Remember that the Field Poll is, in fact, NEVER wrong.

How this shakes out is clear: Californians are soured on the Governator. I expect he’ll lose on his prized issues in November, and will be weak going into the 2006 election. Whether or not he runs again is, I believe, still an open question.

Gas gouging?

The SF Chronicle reports:

Allegations of price gouging at the gas pump surfaced Thursday as California’s average cost for regular neared $3 per gallon in Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath.

Consumer groups questioned why California, which doesn’t rely on the Gulf Coast’s battered oil wells or refineries, should see its average rise 8 cents since the storm hit shore, reaching $2.88.

Up here in Seattle, prices have risen rapidly over the last few days and have broken $3 in many places. Like CA, our gas is locally refined.

Definitely seems to me that an investigation of some kind is warranted – and it’s yet another argument, of course, for further investment in mass transit in the state.

Fair Districting (not Prop 77)

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I wrote my own redistricting software. With all of the nonsense going on with the Republican power grab in Texas and the unpredictable unaccountable prospects of Prop 77 in California, it’s time to do something. And what better to do than demonstrate that there is a better way?

I think I have a good first solution. Here’s the Los Angeles-San Diego area of California, as currently districted and after redistricting by my program.



The San Francisco bay area:



And California as a whole:



Well, almost a solution

It’s not quite perfect yet. In that run there’s a range of 633451 to 646465 people between the smallest and the most populous districts.
They should be closer.
For all its nasty gerrymandering, the current map does manage to keep the districts to within a 15 person difference according to the official census tally for those regions.
Of course, given the potential error in the census data itself and the rapid change in population, I don’t think that level of strictness is actually needed.
I’d be fine with 1% or 0.5% variation between district populations, certainly 0.1% should be good enough for anybody.
If districts average to 650,000 people, I think a difference of 650 people here or there should hardly be felt.
But the current solution varying by 13,014 (2%) between the highest and the lowest isn’t quite there yet.

The deeper Why and How

Fair redistricting is impartial redistricting.

I wanted an impartial redistricting based on a simple mathematical definition of what a good district is. The best I’ve been able to come up with is “everyone should be as close as possible to the center of their district”. More precisely, I want to solve for a districting to minimize the sum total distance of all people to the centers of their districts. Just coming up with a criterion isn’t good enough. I need to show that it can work. So I downloaded the US Census data (hopefully the very same data the states use to redistrict) and got to programming.

Bad Districting

Redistricting has been abused by both parties around the country to distort our democracy. Instead of allowing the natural function of democracy to represent the will of the people, districts have been shaped to increase the likelihood of the outcome being that desired by the shapers.

In my opinion, the worst application of this was the mid-decade redistricting of Texas which resulted in several more Republican members of the US House of Representatives in the following election. With more balanced iniquity, California districts have been shaped to give the incumbent party a pretty safe election in almost every district.

Prop 77 on the ballot in California would give redistricting authority to an unaccountable panel of judges. I think that’s bogus too. Most suspicious is that it causes immediate redistricting which has the same stink as the Texas problem.


So, now we can oppose Prop 77 with a fully clear conscience now that we know there’s a better way. And of course, we have five years to get it enacted before the 2010 census and following redistricting.

Support the Impartial Redistricting Amendment

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Same Sex Marriage Bill Passes the Senate

SF Examiner:

Handing gay rights advocates a major victory, the California Senate approved legislation Thursday that would legalize same-sex marriages in the nation’s most populous state.

The 21-15 vote made the Senate the first legislative chamber in the country to approve a gay marriage bill. It sets the stage for a showdown in the state Assembly, which narrowly rejected a gay marriage bill in June.

An Ode to Gray Davis

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Gray Davis left Sacramento in shame.  And he made his share of mistakes, perhaps more than his share of mistakes.  But I am less subtle than Marc Antony.  I come to praise Gray Davis, or, perhaps more accurately, to praise the legacy that he left for the Democratic Party in the State of California.  This is, after all, a progressive-leaning California blog.

But in order to begin, we must go back to what can only be described as a bad day for the Democratic Party.  The day when Gray was recalled.  Now, I will not pretend to hide my disdain for the recall process, or its ugly cousin, the initiative process.  I just think that they are a bad idea for the state.  They waste money and time.  For evidence just see the cost of the current special election, currently estimated by the Examiner at $45million.  Or $44million or so for the recall that the SFChronicle estimates.  But I digress.  Suffice it to say that Gray was not a popular man on that day (See the wealth of information at the Newshour’s Recall Site.)  But as Stuart Smalley has been known to say, you have to hit your bottom in order to want to recover.  And the recall can be considered a localized bottom, or more precisely, Ahnold was our rock bottom.

See the extended…

Arnold Schwarzenegger was hailed as GOP savior (or as one essayist put it, the messiah).  And he was, at least for a while.  He dominated the recall election, even forcing Darrel Issa, who funded the recall movement, out of the race.  

Some interesting exit poll data from CNN’s recall site:

Ideology  Total CB  Ahnold
Liberal  32% 63%  20%
Moderate  36% 31%  50%
Conservative  33%  11%  67%

He managed to get 20% of self-styled liberals.  That is extremely impressive for a GOP governor.  He also got 18% of Democrats, and 50% of “moderates” (as opposed to 32% for Bustamente).  So for a time, Arnold was a savior.

But in the world of politics, you must beware false gods.  And thus was Arnold.  The California GOP invested everything they had in Arnold.  He was to balance the budget, kick some special interest butt and then still have time to hype his next movie.  Suffice it to say that it didn’t work out that way.  Cruising now below the dreaded 40% in job approval polls, he is despised by most in the state.  Those “liberals” who crossed over to vote for him now see the folly in what they did.  The special interests he was going to kick?  Oh they were teachers and nurses,

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger lauded teachers union leaders and educators last year for their “generosity and great vision” when they agreed to give up $2 billion in education funding to help balance the state budget.
This year, when the same coalition demanded that Schwarzenegger follow through with that deal and give more money to schools as he promised, he called them “special interests.”

But Arnold is the gift that keeps on giving for the Democratic Party.  And oddly enough, it’s punctuated by the Rolling Stones:

Here’s the ticket: a private evening rockin’ the night away with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger during the kickoff of the Rolling Stones’ “A Bigger Bang” U.S. tour on Aug. 21 at Boston’s Fenway Park.
Here’s the bottom line: $10,000 a pop to get in on a private preconcert reception and front-and-center seats to watch the show — or $100,000 to sit with the governor in his luxury box.
The eyebrow-raising event is one of a cluster of glitzy fundraisers the star-power governor will headline in the next few weeks as he seeks to arm his campaign fund with $50 million in preparation for the Nov. 8 special election — which will determine the fate of his political agenda and, observers say, his chances for re-election in 2006.

Thus, the special election on November 6, 2005 will probably determine the fate of the Arnold.  And, for at least the time being, the fate of the California GOP turns on the fate of Arnold.  It’s a delightful irony that the fact that they have Arnold made me want to throw things at the wall a year ago, but it now makes me smile.

And who do we have to thank for all this? I say it’s Gray Davis.  The man who was underappreciated.  The man who had the job that nobody should have wanted.  California was hit by the sledge hammer of the bubble burst.  And so was Gray Davis.  He was not the most charismatic and perhaps he spent a bit too much time raising money.  And for those sins he has paid dearly.  But now the voters of California can see through the GOP, and transparency does not work well with them.

So we end where we started.  The recall.  So how are the voters feeling about that now?

Two years after Californians booted Gray Davis for being politically spineless –not to mention dull — the oft-ridiculed ex-Governor is suddenly aglow with vindication.
Amid the plummeting popularity ratings of his successor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, both a legal settlement and a documentary this summer attribute the state’s energy crisis four years ago less to Davis’ dithering and more to Enron’s market manipulation.
Of the 1,100 respondents in a recent online poll, 67% said they wouldn’t recall Davis now if given the chance.
This most cautious of Democrats these days seems candid and downright personable. “I do feel liberated,” Davis told TIME.

And now? Well, let’s get to work on ending the Governator’s political career on November 6.

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They’re getting nasty over Assessor-What?

Assessor-recorder? Really? They’re fighting over that?  I don’t know if there has been such a contentious assessor race?  From the SF Examiner:

Most San Franciscans would probably scratch their heads when asked the last time they thought about a race for city assessor, but the lack of attention has not kept the top two candidates from waging what is an increasingly aggressive — some might even say negative — campaign.

It gets nasty…let’s see the flip…

I had the chance to see all 3 candidates, Ron Chung, Gerardo Sandoval, and Phil Ting, at the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club.  Ting, the assessor appointed by The Gav, is running as a non-politician.  Sandoval, the current Supervisor for the Mission, charges back that Ting has run several times for local office. Chung, on the other hand, is just struggling to get any attention.  The charges are flying back and forth:

The campaign of Ting, formerly head of the Asian Law Caucus, went on the latest offensive, targeting Sandoval for paying his wife $20,000 from his campaign account during and after his successful 2004 campaign for supervisor.
* * *
“It’s kind of a low blow on their part,” Sandoval said. “I’m fully expecting a vigorous negative campaign from Phil Ting to distract people from the fact that he’s a politician that has run for three offices in the past four years.”
* * *
On Monday, a campaign worker for Sandoval released documents showing Ting evicted a tenant to move into a property in the Sunset District in 1998. Sandoval had previously attacked Ting for having two campaign accounts open at the same time. Sandoval said it gave the appearance of running for two offices at the same time — something that is illegal in San Francisco.

I must say that I am a little surprised by how nasty this is.  I haven’t totally decided whom I’m going to support.

The Same-Sex Parent Cases and the Media

The California Supreme Court once again took the side of the gay litigants and their allies, deciding that “Lesbian and gay couples who plan for a family and raise a child together can be considered legal parents after a breakup”.  However, this case really should be no surpise after the CaliSupes decided that a golf club must accept a lesbian’s domestic partner in the same manner it would accept a spouse.

The news here, I believe, isn’t in these actual decisions particularly.  Rather, it is the growing body of law that the Supreme Court is building.

Let’s move to the flip…

The San Francisco Chronicle always has taken a pro-gay standing (well, you kinda have to here if you want to sell any papers).  They wrote another positive article for the role of gay parents on August 23.

Kim M. knows the California Supreme Court ruling Monday that she is a parent to her 9-year-old twin daughters is a historic victory for gay and lesbian rights, but it means even more than that to her.

“Next to the day my daughters were born, it is the happiest day of my life,” said Kim M., 43, a Marin County resident who hasn’t seen or talked to her daughters in nearly a year.
* * *
The three cases decided Monday define parenthood for gay and lesbian couples by extending to them the same rights to custody and child support that unmarried heterosexuals have.

“We are enormously relieved and elated about the three decisions today where the California Supreme Court applied settled California law equally to children born to same-sex couples,” said Joslin, the lesbian rights center lawyer.

Children will benefit most from the decisions ensuring the rights of second parents, said Beth Teper, executive director of Children of Lesbian and Gays Everywhere, a national organization based in San Francisco.

“What this decision does is allow for a child’s relationship to each of his or her parents to be protected,” Teper said.

While certainly San Francisco is not the place where it should be hard to convinve the public of the importance of equal rights, it is a starting point.

The San-Jose Mercury News voices their approval in an editorial on Wednesday.

Of course, a child’s right to be supported by two parents is also a parent’s right to financial support from an estranged partner. And a child’s right to maintain a relationship with both parents is a parent’s right to maintain a relationship with her child, regardless of the wishes of her estranged partner.

And so the rulings represent another important move toward wearing down the distinctions that unfairly discriminate against same-sex couples. It comes less than three weeks after another important ruling by the same court reaffirmed the state’s domestic-partners law. They are hopeful steps along the road to the day when all committed loving couples, gay or straight, will be afforded the full protection of the law.

But the fact that these kinds of opinions can come from some of the day’s great newspapers is a hopeful sign.  Of course, it is not limited to marraige and parenting issues or to the Bay Area newspapers.

The LA Times on these cases: “AS THE POLITICS OF GAY MARRIAGE become increasingly contentious, the legalities of it are becoming increasingly mundane. “

The Sac Bee (Dan Walters) on the gay marriage bill:

Logically, it would be difficult to deny same-sex couples the right to have their relationships officially recognized through marriage. Homosexuality has been part of the human experience for countless centuries, even though only rarely acknowledged, and contemporary science has amassed considerable evidence that a substantial number of people are simply wired by genetics to prefer those of the same gender.

The SF Chron on Gays in the military:

That pride in our military institutions fades as they continue to discriminate against gay men and women. The Army should mirror the society from which it draws its members. Our Founding Fathers had just that in mind when they referred to the “citizen-soldier.” Current policy, one that excludes anyone from military service solely on the basis of sexual orientation, violates the very principles and values on which our nation is based. It needs to end. Today, on this issue, one might ask, “What would Harry Truman do?”

The California media is leading the way towards equal rights.  This is an important and valuable fact as we look towards the marriage initiative in 2006.