Tag Archives: elections

Election Day 2013…Or one of them anyway

Local measures, officials to be decided

by Brian Leubitz

Here in San Francisco, the ballot is, shall we say, not all that interesting to many voters. As I was on the street last night passing out slate cards, I heard several “there’s an election?” and flat out “I’m not planning on voting.” But, in many ways, you can’t blame them for the apathy, as three of the the four candidate elections are unopposed. But throughout the state, there are some interesting elections, including several important ballot measures.

In San Bernardino, voters will choose a new mayor to help the city recover from its current bankrupt state:

Despite the problems, 10 candidates are vying for votes Tuesday to replace two-term Mayor Patrick J. Morris.

Aside from Korner, the candidates are: developer and former two-time candidate Rick Avila; retired high school coach Richard Castro; city public works employee Draymond Crawford; accountant Carey Davis; City Councilman Rikke Van Johnson; City Councilwoman Wendy McCammack; rail analyst Henry Nickel; and real estate broker Karmel Roe. There’s also a write-in candidate: Concepcion Powell, a business development consultant and founder of the San Bernardino-based U.S. Hispanic Women Grocers Assn. (LA Times)

And there are other problems in San Bernardino, as two of the candidates had to step out because of corruption issues. (And one apparently regularly speaks to her deity) But the big issues facing the city aren’t going away. A runoff seems likely given the big pack of candidates, so there will be more time to consider the issues. Republican Councilwoman Wendy McCammack and Businessman Carey Davis seem to be slight favorites to be in that runoff.

Elsewhere, Palo Alto will consider its housing density future and San Francisco will consider waterfront height restrictions. Anything else you are watching?

It’s Election Day as we head to the Anniversary of Online Registration

Around 40% of registrations came online since September 17, 2012 kickoff of online registration

by Brian Leubitz

The elections carousel keeps on chugging around, as two more districts follow up from LA City Council elections. The two districts in play are AD-45, where a huge crowd of candidates seeks to replace Bob Blumenfield, and SD-26, where Holly Mitchell and Mervin Evans are looking to replace Curren Price.

In AD-45, the race will likely go to another round, as seven Democrats, three Republicans, and 1 NPP are vying for the race. The district is heavily Democratic, so the risk of having one of those strange upset races because of too many candidates in one party shouldn’t be that high. I mentioned the race a while back, but with as many variables in play, who knows what will happen. However, it appears that Damian Carroll and Matt Dababneh are the two strongest progressive Democrats.

Meanwhile in SD-26 (soon to be SD-30), Asm. Holly Mitchell is looking to move down the hall to the Senate, and is the strong frontrunner.

It is appropriate that voters should be going to the polls as we approach the anniversary of the online voter registration. In the 12 months since Secretary of State Debra Bowen launched the online voter registration application on September 19, 2012, more than 911,145 Californians have registered for the first time or updated their voter record using this online system.

“The Internet replaced the mailbox for about 4 out of every 10 people who registered or updated their voter record since California began offering online voter registration last year,” said Secretary of State Debra Bowen, California’s chief elections official. “Registering to vote has never been easier and with the many options available, there are no excuses not to.”

You can register to vote at registertovote.ca.gov/.

“We are one community”: Interview with Cindy Chavez, candidate for Santa Clara Cty Board of Sups

Cindy Chavez is running for Supervisor District 2 in Santa Clara County. In March, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors called a special election to fill the vacancy for Supervisor in District Two. The primary will be held June 4th. District 2 covers the downtown of San Jose, east side of San Jose, and southeast of downtown San Jose. It is one of the most ethnically diverse-and poorest-parts of Silicon Valley.

As a labor leader, Chavez considers helping working families to be among her core values. She received a meaningful education in public policy through her two terms on the San Jose City Council and as Vice Mayor. I sat down with Chavez to discuss her policy priorities and this race with the Calitics community.

I asked Chavez why her labor and public service background has prepared her well for the Board of Supervisors.

“I think one of the opportunities with this seat is to demonstrate that being a progressive leader and policy maker means that you have the ability and the desire to both make sure the government runs well with high quality services; and that it serves the most needy in our community. That’s why I’ve chosen to run for the Board of Supervisors.”

One of her key priorities is education. As Chavez described, “One of the opportunities we have is a program called School Link Services, which means that we can put (in partnership with school districts) mental health services in the schools and catch the needs of children at a much earlier stage than we do today.”

I noted that when she served on the San Jose City Council, Chavez fought hard to make sure that every child in San Jose County had access to health insurance.  “Children do better in school if they’re healthy and they don’t miss school days,” she said. “So those are the opportunities we have right out of the box to help children thrive in our community.”

Chavez prioritizes education and raising healthy young children to become healthy adults. She explained that public education is about more than measuring test scores and teachers. She explained, “One example is the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. What it means is that we have to be very focused on prevention. So what happens if we can connect with children and families at a young enough age to prevent chronic obesity? That means you’re not going to have somebody potentially with, diabetes, or heart disease, or blindness or amputation. In many respects, the County has an opportunity like we did with tobacco placement to start to force ourselves to invest in children in a meaningful way.”

Chavez says that she is capable of caring about people and governing effectively, and that the two aren’t mutually exclusive. The Chamber of Commerce has targeted her for her ties to organized labor, suggesting that her advocacy for workers’ rights could interfere with her ability to govern. I asked Chavez what she would say to an undecided voter about this, and she took the question head on. “I think it’s easier for people during elections to try to categorize people. If you’re pro labor, you can’t be pro business. What’s silly about that is that no leader I know in the labor movement is opposed to healthy vibrant businesses. We need companies to thrive in order to make sure that folks have decent wages, and access to health insurance and all of those benefits allow people to be part of our society.”

Chavez continued, saying that abandoning working people to score political points can negatively impact one’s ability to govern. “San Jose was one of the safest large cities in the nation,” she explained. “But we’ve seen a huge rise in crime because the mayor took an anti-labor position in an attempt to manage the budget. But all we did was take a really safe city and make it unsafe. And so we need leaders who can both understand the importance of growing healthy vibrant economy – not on the backs of people, but with the vision and the idea that we are one community – and that we need to be able to invest, whether that’s in education or in safe jobs, at the same time that we support businesses thriving.”

I pointed out that the Chamber has been trying to make the case that County services are going to have to be cut in order to maintain public employees’ wages and pay for the pension plans that the County agreed to years ago.

Chavez responded that as the economy swings back out of a bad business cycle into a better one, making smart continual investments is one way to attract the best and the brightest to apply to be in the public sector.

“They forgo high pay for a stable retirement, and that promise has served the public sector well. That being said, everybody understands that we need pension reform–but if we don’t understand how we got into this situation, then we don’t address the problem clearly. So we have to acknowledge that there were huge dips in the economy that cost everybody. Everybody – even cities that were fully funding their pension plans have had challenges, so that’s one set of realities. But the other is that we have a really expensive health care system – and as soon as we can get our arms around health care costs, a lot of the pressure does lift off our pensions.”

I asked Chavez to say more about public safety and what steps she would take to enhance it and make it sustainable for the County.

“When as an average voter you call 911,” she said, “you don’t look at whether it’s the sheriff or the Highway Patrol or who’s responding to you. You want someone to respond.  You want an ambulance to arrive for a loved one. Part of what this economy is allowing us to do is to take a look at services that we provide and figure out how we can work together. So for example, the County has maybe 13 cities total, and many of those cities have their own police forces, not all of them. Some have the deputy sheriff. I think it’s very possible to have the deputy sheriff work with the police departments in all of the areas to make sure that we are fighting crime as a team. Because, frankly, criminals don’t respect too many boundaries, and we have to stop thinking in a boundaries way. We have to start analyzing problems, dealing with those problems, and then being aggressive in terms of safety. We should take our resources that are scarce, say let’s better utilize them, and work more collaboratively.”

Chavez pointed out the importance of fully funding after school programs, as a less expensive way of preventing crime. “As soon as those after school programs went away, we saw a spike in crime because children didn’t have anything to do after school. We saw an increase in burglaries and other kinds of crimes. So one of the things we have to do is take our scarce resources and invest them in after school activities, making sure that children have a safe place to be, that they’re occupied, and that they have a place to do their homework so they stay in school. It is a relatively small investment for a huge payoff as these children become responsible adults.”

Recently Chavez received a high profile endorsement from BAYMEC, the regional LGBT advocacy group. I asked her how she views her responsibility to members of Santa Clara County’s LGBT community.

“When a person runs for office, we all have an obligation to make sure that we come into office with our values, we serve with our values, and we leave with those values,” Chavez responded. “BAYMEC has a special place in my heart because the civil rights of the gay and lesbian community and civil rights in general are core values for me. Getting BAYMEC’s endorsement was a reminder that we are in this together. That we have to continue to see the civil rights of the gay and lesbian community and transgender community the same way we see that for every other community, and be aggressive in fighting for it. It’s easy to see here in California where Proposition 8 passed not so many years ago, that a majority can make a bad decision about a minority. The role of government is to protect the interests of all voices, weak or strong. It’s been an honor for me to support gay marriage when I was in office. In fact I was threatened with a recall for my support of the gay and lesbian community, and it was one of my prouder moments.”

I asked Chavez to explain what approach she will take as Supervisor in working with the business community.

“When I was on the San Jose City Council I collaborated with the business community on many, many endeavors; building high rise housing in downtown San Jose, trying to streamline the permitting process, working on new ways to attract businesses, bringing big events to San Jose that we thought would put us on the map. Anybody who chooses to run for office, win lose or draw, you have to be somebody who believes that all of us working together is better than all of us working apart. I would be no different. I hope that now I’m a more experienced candidate and have had more time to work in the community, I will do an even better job as a member of the Board of Supervisors.”

Chavez had one final thought on being considered a polarizing figure: “I do think that when you choose to run for office you have core values that you believe in and that you hope that others share. If they don’t, then you want to be persuasive about them. For me this is equality and transparency and honesty. But it also means being as strong as you can be for the community that you represent, and this seat would represent some of the poorest people in our community.”

“My comfort is the saying that polite women don’t make history. More importantly, polite women or polite leaders don’t get health insurance for kids, or don’t raise the minimum wage, they don’t make it safe for people to work in their workplaces. They don’t miss an opportunity to make sure that everybody has the right to marry who they love, and they don’t miss an opportunity to protect workers – not just the job, but their right to bargain collectively and to organize.  And for all of that I am unapologetic. We need to be bold, all of us, in saying what we think needs to happen in this community.”

For more information about Cindy Chavez or to support her campaign, please go to http://cindychavezforsupervisor.com/. Volunteers and donations are urgently needed ahead of the primary on June 4th. (If necessary, a run-off election will be held on July 30, 2013.)

Amy Dean is a fellow of The Century Foundation and principal of ABD Ventures, LLC, an organizational development consulting firm that works to develop new and innovative organizing strategies for social change organizations. Dean is co-author, with David Reynolds, of A New New Deal: How Regional Activism Will Reshape the American Labor Movement. Dean has worked for nearly two decades at the cross section of labor and community based organizations linking policy and research with action and advocacy. You can follow Amy on Twitter @amybdean, or she can be reached via www.amybdean.com.

LA Councilmwoman Files Ethic Complaint Against Wendy Greuel, Calls Conduct “Illegal”

Former LA Councilwoman Ruth Galanter filed a formal ethics complaint today against LA City Controller and Mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel, calling the candidate’s reported use of city resources for her campaign “illegal” and an “insult to voters”.

Citing revelations by the Los Cerritos Community News that they had obtained 130 pages of emails showing the Controller using her official city email address to repeatedly communicate with campaign operatives during normal business hours, Galanter filed a complaint with the LA City Ethics Commission saying the number and frequency of the emails showed a clear pattern of deliberate and illegal use of resources.

“Ms. Greuel’s misuse of public resources is an insult to the voters and taxpayers of Los Angeles made even more egregious by the fact that we taxpayers are paying her approximately $200,000 a year, plus a free car and cellphone, to prevent just such misuse”, Galanter said.

Yesterday, the Los Cerritos Community News released all 130 pages they obtained through a FOIA request. Greuel’s office took 90 days to respond to the request, far longer than the 24 days dictated by law, and provided far fewer than the “tens of thousands of documents” Greuel’s office initially claimed were covered in LCCN’s request.

Eric Garcetti’s campaign has yet to respond to the controversy. But Rick Jacobs, founder of a political action committee to support Garcetti, called on a special investigator to release alldocuments from Greuel’s office pertaining to her mayoral campaign. 

“Wendy Greuel wants the voter’s trust to become Mayor of our city, but she’s violated that trust repeatedly by spending taxpayer’s dollars on her campaign,” said Jacobs.

Silly Season Arrives In The Race To Be Los Angeles Mayor

Jan Perry attacks Wendy Greuel for not being an in-utero Democrat,  Greuel attacks Eric Garcetti for making  $1.25 off an oil-lease that’s never been used, Garcetti attacks Greuel for fudging her numbers, Gruel attacks Perry for fudging her personal finances, the lone Republican candidate Kevin James accuses both Garcetti and Greuel for being grave robbers and long-shot candidate Emanuel Pleitez is literally running around like a chicken with his head cut off.

With 4 days to go until the March 5th election, silly season has officially arrived in the race to be Los Angeles’ next mayor.

Although conventional wisdom says it’ll be Garcetti and Greuel in the runoff, the candidate’s behavior this week indicates they think the race may be more of a tossup than is being reported. So with independent expenditures reaching into the stratosphere and voter turnout descending into the basement, candidates are clawing for any advantage they can get.

So far, independent groups and SuperPACs have poured more than $3 million into the LA mayor’s race, $2.5 million of that in support of Wendy Greuel – with the lion’s share coming from Working Californians, a SuperPAC formed by IBEW local 18, the union which represents over 8,000 employees for the Department of Water and Power.

What has all that money bought? TV ads. Lots and lots of TV ads. Including this one, which shows footage of Garcetti singing an off-key version of “White Christmas” while a narrator hits the councilman for staying at “five-star hotels,” having “seven city cars” and for taking “money from neighborhood streets for more personal staff.”

Watch it here:

Pretty funny stuff. Garcetti may have a musical background, but a great singer, not so much. The added mic feedback is an especially nice touch.

And it would be a pretty standard attack ad – except for one thing –  the footage of Garcetti came from a 2011 charity event at the Garden Crest Rehabilitation Center in Silver Lake.

He was singing to Alzheimer’s patients.

Garden Crest is (Pay It Forward Volunteer Band founder) Gary Gamponia’s modelnursing home. The staff cares. The schedule is varied and full. They welcome outsiders, and on this day, even L.A. City Councilman Eric Garcetti pays a visit to take a turn on the keyboards and sing.

Garcetti’s grandparents were musicians, he says, and with his grandmother, “I just remember some of the last ways we ever connected were through music.”…..

A few years back,Gamponia, who has mostly earned a living selling insurance, tried to create a cooperative that would help musicians out and then have them return the favor by performing at community events.

He lent equipment, negotiated deep discounts on instrument repair and drove people to gigs when their cars broke down. But the giving was one-way, he says. Then, around Christmas 2009, he had a simpler notion: Why not just form a band to bring music to the places that could use it most?

He called the office of his councilman, Garcetti, for ideas and got the names of several nursing homes. And he enlisted a ragtag band of old friends and new acquaintances made on Craigslist.

Here’s an excerpt of that performance here, put up by Garden Crest:


So welcome to silly season in the LA Mayor’s race. Where anything can and will be held against a candidate to be used in the court of public opinion – even singing to elderly Alzheimer’s patients at Christmas.

Vote No on Proposition 39: Multistate Business Taxes

This is the tenth part of a series of posts analyzing California’s propositions:

More Ballot-Box Budgeting

Proposition 39 is a typical example of ballot-box budgeting. Tax X, spend on Y. In this case, X equals multistate businesses and Y equals clean energy.

More below.

The proposition raises taxes on multistate businesses in California through a subtle method. Right now those businesses can choose between two ways of calculating their taxes. They can be taxed based on the number of sales, property, or employees the business has in California (the “three-factor method”). Or they can be taxed based only on the number of sales (the “single sales factor method.”)

Proposition 39 changes it so that multistate businesses can only be taxed through the latter method. This would raise their taxes.

Of the money raised, $550 million is given to green energy for five years. In the post on Proposition 34, this blog argued:

This is the type of terrible policy which the proposition system is famous for. One hundred million in spending by Proposition 34, ten billion in spending by a proposition here, five billion in tax cuts by a proposition there – it’s no wonder California has trouble balancing its budget. Ballot-box budgeting like this is disgraceful.

The same logic holds here. This blog would be more inclined to support the proposition if the revenue raised was left for the legislature to direct as it willed. As it is, the proposition’s micromanagement of its funding is just another reason to vote against the proposition.

An Easy No

Fundamentally, California voters don’t have enough information to know whether or not this proposition is a good idea. Is it a good idea to make it so that multistate businesses pay taxes based on the “single sales factor method” rather than being able to choose between the “single sales factor method” and the “three-factor method”? Beats me.

The logic against Proposition 39 is similar to that against Proposition 31, and it’s worth repeating that logic here. If this policy change were proposed in the legislature lawmakers and their staff would probably have access to studies, surveys, and analyses on whether or not it would be better for the general welfare if multistate businesses paid taxes only based on the “single sales factor method” or if they paid taxes based on a choice between the “single sales factor method” and the “three-factor method”. Those studies and analyses would probably run up into the dozens of pages.

But voters just have two pages of all-caps arguments for or against this change (the legislative analysis makes no judgement on which policy is wiser). For such a major change, it’s not enough.

The legislature should be setting tax policy, not the proposition system.


Vote No on Proposition 38 – Molly Munger’s Tax Initiative

This is the nineth part of a series of posts analyzing California’s propositions:

An Unfortunate Proposition…

There are two revenue-increasing propositions before the public. There is Proposition 30, the good one backed by Jerry Brown, and Proposition 38, the bad one. You should vote yes on Proposition 30 and no on Proposition 38. Unfortunately, that’s probably going to confuse a lot of people.

More below.

Proposition 38 is pushed by Molly Munger, a well-meaning attorney (funny how so many of the propositions have such well-meaning intentions yet bad consequences).

Basically, it’s an income tax increase. The tax increase is pretty huge; it catches even lower-income residents. Individuals with income over $7,316 and families or joint filers with income over $14,632 will have their taxes raised. The chart below, taken from the legislative analyst, explains in more detail:

Current and Proposed Personal Income Tax Rates Under Proposition 38
Single Filer’s

Taxable Income
Joint Filers’

Taxable Income


Taxable Income


Tax Rate


Marginal Tax Rate


















































Over 2,500,000

Over 5,000,000

Over 3,402,944



a  Income brackets shown were in effect for 2011 and will be adjusted for inflation in future years. Single filers also include married individuals and registered domestic partners (RDPs) who file taxes separately. Joint filers include married and RDP couples who file jointly, as well as qualified widows or widowers with a dependent child.

b  Marginal tax rates apply to taxable income in each tax bracket listed. For example, a single tax filer with taxable income of $15,000 could have had a 2011 tax liability under current tax rates of $227: the sum of $73 (which equals 1 percent of the filer’s first $7,316 of income) and $154 (2 percent of the filer’s income over $7,316). This tax liability would be reduced-and potentially eliminated-by personal, dependent, senior, and other tax credits, among other factors. The proposed additional tax rates would take effect beginning in 2013 and end in 2024. Current tax rates listed exclude the mental health tax rate of 1 percent for taxable income in excess of $1 million.

In contrast, Proposition 30’s income tax only affects individuals with income over $250,000, joint filers with income over $500,000, and head-of-household’s with over $340,000.

The revenue raised goes mostly to education, with the rest to repay state debt. Proposition 38’s revenues go to a new fund called the California Education Trust Fund. There are three ways the revenue is distributed: to schools, to ECE (Early Care and Education) programs, and to state debt. The amount given to each each differs per year, although schools get the majority and ECE gets the least. Of the money given to schools 70% goes to education program grants; 18% goes to low-income student grants; and 12% goes to training, technology, and teaching materials grants. Of the amount given to ECE programs, a minority goes to restoring cuts in current ECE programs and the rest goes to expanding the programs (e.g. 51% goes to subsidized preschool for children aged three to five form low-income families). The rest pays state debt. From the legislative analyst:

Allocation of Revenues Raised by Proposition 38






Schools 60% 60% 85%
Early Care and Education (ECE) 10 10 15
State debt payments 30 30a a
Totals 100% 100% 100%
Growth limit on allocations to schools and ECE programsa No Yes Yes
a  Reflects minimum share dedicated to state debt payments. Revenues beyond growth limit also would be used to make debt payments.

It’s all very long and complicated. In the California official voter information guide, the legislative analysis of Proposition 38 is the longest. Reading Proposition 38’s legislative analysis made my head spin (even more than Proposition 31’s legislative analysis). I don’t like voting for propositions that make my head spin.

…Which Might Actually End Up Cutting Education!

Somewhat amazingly, Proposition 38 might not prevent huge education cuts next year. This is because the legislature passed a series of spending reduction called “trigger cuts” that would take effect if Proposition 30 was not approved. These include $5.354 billion from schools and community colleges, as well as $250 million each from the University of California and California State University systems. Tuition would certainly be raised at California state universities under these trigger cuts.

If Proposition 38 is approved and gets more votes than Proposition 30, then those education trigger cuts will still take place.

That means that under Proposition 38, college students at California state universities will still have their tuition raised (as well as their taxes). There will be both huge tax increases and huge spending cuts for education this year. Then next year there will be huge spending increases for education. That’s a terribly unstable situation.

Remember: Proposition 30 is the good proposition, Proposition 38 the bad one. Vote yes on Proposition 30 and no on Proposition 38.


The Truth vs. $17 million in Prop 33 Lies

Prop 33 Paid

The insurance billionaire backing Proposition 33 is worried. He dropped another $500,000 into the campaign on Wednesday as Prop 33 slips in the polls (Down over 16% in the only public poll on 33.) But it’s not over – the money from Mercury Insurance chairman George Joseph means a last-minute cash infusion (he’s given $17 million total) to pay for his campaign’s lies, including new deceptive advertisements that feature testimonials by “supporters” who had financial ties to Mercury Insurance and its chairman George Joseph.

Joseph is using dirty tricks to deceive voters because the polls show the more the public learns about Prop 33 the less they like it. Two years ago, Californians voted against this insurance company’s false promises of discounts. Voters are smart enough to see through the same insurance company’s phony paid spokespeople too.

The truth can beat $17 million in insurance industry lies.

We will win if you share the facts about Prop 33 with your friends and family.

Among the latest deceptive advertising tricks featuring paid “supporters” by the Prop 33 campaign:

  • A half-page ad that ran in the Los Angeles Times on Thursday features State Senator Juan Vargas stating support for Prop 33, yet fails to disclose the $69,100 in campaign contributions that Vargas has received from Joseph and Mercury Insurance. Vargas himself is a former insurance industry executive.

    See the ad here

  • New Yes on Prop 33 banner ads on news websites feature the face of a voter who is actually an employee of Marketplace Communications, which has been paid over $750,000 so far to run the campaign.  Other employees of Marketplace Communications posing as real drivers were featured in paid television advertising without disclosing their identities.
  • Slate mailers going to households all across California this weekend feature a Yes on 33 endorsement from the Peace Officers Research Association of California, which received at least $75,000 for the endorsement. The campaign reports paying the US Postal Service $877,0000, suggesting it may have also paid to mail out the literature for PORAC and other paid slate mailers.

The only public poll on Prop 33, from Pepperdine University and the California Business Roundtable, reported this week that Prop 33 has fallen to 48.8% support, from 54% two weeks ago, and 60% prior to that.

Proposition 33 would allow insurance companies to raise auto insurance rates on good drivers who stop driving for almost any reason, even if they didn’t have a car.

Other campaign “supporters” that have been paid directly by Mercury, Joseph and the Prop 33 campaign include:

  • Roy M. Perez, the Immediate Past Chair of the California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, owns RMP Strategies which has been paid $30,000 as a consultant by the Yes on 33 campaign. Former Senator Perata received at least $43,100 in campaign contributions from Mercury and Joseph, and was paid consulting fees from a nonprofit paid $75,000 by Mercury. The CA Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, PORAC, Senators Vargas and Perata were all featured in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times ad.
  • The Greenlining Institute opposed a measure nearly identical to Prop 33 in 2010, but reversed its position after a $25,000 contribution received from Mercury this spring, which was followed by another $195,000 contribution in September. Greenlining is also featured in the Los Angeles Times ad.
  • Last month, Prop 33 TV ads were caught falsely representing two women – Brandi King and Adriana Calderon – as regular drivers without disclosing that they work for the PR firm, Marketplace Communications, that has been paid over $750,000 to run the campaign.  Currently, Marketplace employee Eric Goto is featured in banner web site advertising posing as a disinterested voter voting on Prop 33.

Congressman John Garamendi, California’s first elected insurance commissioner and former Lt. Governor, today announced his opposition to Proposition 33. He joins every major consumer group in California, including Consumers Union, the nonprofit publishers of Consumer Reports, Consumer Federation of California, Consumer Action and Consumer Watchdog who oppose Proposition 33 because it would unfairly raise rates on new drivers, and Californians who stop driving for good reasons, even if they have perfect driving records.

The coalition of organizations opposing Prop 33 represents seniors, civil rights, workers, women and faith-based organizations including: California Nurses Association, California Council of Churches IMPACT, California NOW, California Labor Federation, MALDEF, Equal Justice Society, California Alliance for Retired Americans and many more.

Click here to find the extensive list of No on Prop 33coalition members.

For more information on why to vote No on Prop 33 visit: http://stopprop33.consumerwatchdogcampaign.org/

Vote No on Proposition 37: Genetically Engineered Food

This is the eighth part of a series of posts analyzing California’s propositions:

A Badly Written Proposition…

On its most basic level, Proposition 37 has a fairly simple concept. It requires labels on genetically engineered food and prevents genetically engineered food or processed food from being advertised as “natural.”

Unfortunately, in the real world things are rarely that simple.

More below.

The Sacramento Bee gives a number of examples. Should we include pet food? What about alcohol? What about an animal which ate genetically engineered food but isn’t genetically modified itself? Olive oil is processed; you press olives to make olive oil. Does that mean that olive oil can’t be labeled as “natural?”

Proposition 37′s backers did not attempt to pass the law through the legislature before writing their proposition. In the legislature these complex issues might have been dealt with adequately; after all, that is the legislature’s job. Instead, Proposition 37 attempts to address the complexity of labeling genetically engineered food by adding a number of exemptions.

These exemptions make matters worse. Pet food, under Proposition 37, could be labeled as genetically engineered. Alcohol would not. But fruit juice could. Cow’s milk would probably not be labeled as genetically engineered, even if the cow ate genetically engineered grain, under Proposition 37′s exemptions. But soy milk would probably be labeled as genetically engineered, since almost all soy in the United States is genetically engineered. Genetically engineered broccoli in a restaurant would not need to be labeled, but in a grocery store it would need to be labeled.

And yes, it’s quite possible that olive oil could not be labeled “natural” under Proposition 37. After all, olive oil is obviously processed.

On a Subject For Which There’s A Better Solution

There’s a better way to do things. Producers can, on their own initiative, label their foods as non-genetically engineered.


The same purpose that Proposition 37 attempts to accomplish would then be served. Consumers worried about eating genetically engineered food could decide to only buy food labeled as non-genetically engineered. No need for all of Proposition 37′s messy exemptions. As the Los Angeles Times writes:

…the marketplace already provides ways to inform consumers about their food. Just as some meats are labeled antibiotic-free or hormone-free, and some eggs are labeled cage-free, food producers are welcome to label their foods as GE-free.

That sounds a lot easier and simpler than Proposition 37′s craziness.


Vote No on Proposition 36: Three Strikes Law

This is the seventh part of a series of posts analyzing California’s propositions:

A Tough Proposition

Proposition 36 is a tough proposition. There’s a strong case for voting yes on this proposition. Out of all the proposition recommendations made in this blog, this one is made with the most hesitancy.

More below.

Proposition 36 substantially weakens the Three Strikes Law. This is a famous tough-on-crime California law derived from another proposition (on a side note: there are way too many propositions out there). A serious or violent felon, if convicted of a new felony, gets twice the sentence. A two-time serious or violent felon, if convicted of a new felony, gets life. The Three Strikes Law is one of the toughest (if not the toughest) in the nation.

Under normal circumstances, this blog would unstintingly argue against voting yes on Proposition 36. Voters should never approve propositions that make big changes in subtle, complex things such as the length of prison sentences. Even if a change would be for the better, that is a job best left to the normal process. There is a reason why a legislature exists, after all: to draft laws. Legislators spend their entire lives on these issues. Voters spend a couple of hours or seconds reading a crazily complicated proposition that makes huge changes in the state. Generally, propositions on complex issues should only be approved if they fix a crisis.

Unfortunately, the normal way doesn’t work in this case. The legislature does not have the power to change the Three Strikes Law. This is because the proposition which approved the law explicitly prohibited this. So California voters are left in the unattractive position of deciding felony prison sentence lengths themselves.

There is also something quite wrong with California’s prison system, for which the description “crisis” would not be ill-fitted. They are famously overcrowded and a recent Supreme Court decision ordered California to reduce the population. The Three Strikes Law has certainly contributed to this negative situation. Finally, the proposition would save California several tens of millions of dollars per year – not something to laugh about during a budget crisis.

Nevertheless, there is also something good to say about the Three Strikes Law. California’s crime level over the past decade and a half has substantially decreased over the past two decades after the enactment of the law. Other states in the country have also followed California’s Three Strikes Law, and overall crime in the nation has been steadily declining for the past two decades. Of course, a number of other factors were behind this as well. But the Three Strikes Law’s aim was to reduce crime – and crime has indeed decreased.

More fundamentally, this proposition still would change the very complicated issue of felony prison sentences. That’s an issue that the vast majority of people are not qualified to deal with. The last clause definitely includes this blogger as well. That’s why this blog recommends a qualified “No” on Proposition 36.