It’s That Time Again

Hard to believe, but it’s been a year since Californians went to the polls in a special election called by the Governator who himself was elected in a special election. At least this one is a regularly scheduled election, not something that the right wing of society is trying to ram down normal human beings’ throats. Unfortunately, this election too includeshas 13 ballot measures to vote on, besides the statewide officials, Congress, State Assembly, State Senate, and other elected offices. Some municipalities have their elections consolidated with the above. It’s a hefty load. I’ll just be addressing California statewide items and two legislative positions of importance to our community. I’m finding this an annoying election. In most years, most choices seem clear cut. This time, there’s a lot of gray. Here goes, first the candidates, then the propositions. In the governor’s race, my grudging choice is Phil Angelides. While he’s been supportive of our issues in the past, he’s been unresponsive during his campaign. But at least he’s not a flip-flopper like his main opponent, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the incumbent. He too has been supportive of our issues while in office, but doesn’t have the same length of service to judge by. Also, this man allowed his right wing handlers to serve up a witch’s brew of destructive propositions last November. He was put in his place after all his propositions were rejected by the voters. Since then, he’s been Mr. Nice Guy, very cooperative with legislature, more reasonable in his positions, less antagonistic, etc. As far as I’m concerned, it’s all an election year ploy. If he gets elected, it’ll be back to the old Arnold for four years. So, Angelides it is. At least he’s advocating some good policy ideas. The Lieutenant Governor’s race is an easy choice given the presumption of focusing on the Democratic and Republican candidates. Tom Mclintock is an extremist of the right. John Garamendi is someone who has stood up for consumers as Insurance Commisioner. Easy choice, Garamendi. Both may be back for a grudge match since both have their eye on the governorship. Another easy choice is the Secretary of State race. The main issue here is regulation of electronic voting machines. The appointed incumbent, Republican Bruce MacPherson, is going way to easy on the companies that produce those gizmos. No paper trail is being required. This is crucial because it allows voters to verify their votes were recorded properly and allows for a meaningful recount if there is some question. Else, given that the program code is proprietary and kept secret by the manufacturer of the machine, any shenanigans can never be caught. Debra Bowen supports this kind of verifiability. She’s the one to vote for. For controller, I’m voting for John Chiang. His main opponent is Tony Strickland who was succeeded in the State Assembly by his wife. That’s too much nepotism for me. Plus the Republicans need a good drubbing this election to shake out the corruption that has settled firmly in the party. For treasurer, it’s Bill Lockyer. He’s done a good job as Attorney General and is running against a bunch of nobodies. For Attorney General, go with Chuck Poochigian. Not that he has a chance of wining, but he’s someone who’s competent and a product of our community, not some fly-by-night "ian" who "discovered" his roots when he started running for office. While I disagree with his proclaimed focus if elected to the job and much prefer his Democratic opponent’s, Jerry Brown, likely focus on corporate crime, we’ve gotta support those from the Armenian community who are in the political arena and have paid their dues to our community. Insurance Commissioner is another bunch of nobodies and outgoing lieutenant governor Cruz Bustamante. While he’s taken some contributions from the industry he’ll be regulating, he’s the least of the evils in this race. Let’s talk briefly about the two legislative races where the largest concentration of Armenia’s in the U.S. will elect their representatives. In California’s 29th Congressional District, incumbent Democrat Adam Schiff is being challenged by Green Party candidate Bill Paparian. While Adam was very wrong in his support of the Iraq invasion, on other issues of import to Armenia’s and citizens overall, he has gotten it right. From the environment to law enforcement to the Armenian Genocide (on which he’s taken a leading role), he’s been right where we want him to be. Bill, while clearly supportive of the same issues is also strongly against the war. But he has no chance of getting elected. Why should we turn on a friend of the Armenian community, just to vote for an Armenian who’s going to lose. Note the difference from the Poochigian case. The clear choice here is Schiff. The other legislative race of Armenian importance is California’s 43rd Assembly district. In this one, Paul Krekorian is the hands-on favorite to win. Even so, a big Armenian turnout is important. He will represent part of the area covered by Schiff’s district, the most heavily Armenian part. Showing support for this first product of our community’s political muscle is important. Those living in the district should be sure to vote. Moving on to the propositions, I have some qualms. Many of them contain amendmen’s to the California Constitution. This fundamental document is far too overburdened with what ought to be legislative, rather constitutional, content. But perhaps that’s a problem to be resolved another day by another proposition We have a quintet in Propositions 1A-1E that are important to pass. These authorize bond issues to build and rebuild California’s infrastructure one of the main jobs of government. 1A actually constrains the use of certain funds, prompting some to argue it ties the legislature’s hands in times of scarcity, so it might be a toss-up, otherwise, vote for all of these, you’ll be happy and so will your kids. Proposition 83 is a tough one. It deals with the residence of sex offenders and GPS monitoring of them. Who would want such a person living next to a school? But if we keep lists of these people and treat them as criminals forever, what happens to the idea of someone doing the time for a crime, then returning to being a good citizen? They end up being perpetually punished. Have they no rights? You’re on your own with this one. I’ve heard wise people advising voting no instead of just not voting on measures about which a voter is uncertain. Proposition 84 is a no-brainer. It is an easy yes vote. The various water quality and park bonds passed in the past by citizens have almost been exhausted. Yet there’s much work to be done in this realm. Whether it be buying more parkland or directing urban rainwater to recharge our aquifers, this kind of money is very necessary. Please vote yes on 84. Proposition 85 is like the horror movie villain that keeps returning. An equivalent proposition was defeated just last November. This is one of "the base" motivators you know, a red-meat issue that turns out the reactionary vote, thus benefiting other conservative candidates and issues. Prop 85 requires parental notification before performing abortions on minors. Problem is, most girls with good parental relationships do this anyway. Those that don’t are the ones with abusive parents, or facing other unsavory parental conditions. Passage of this measure would drive those same girls to resort to even more risky means of obtaining an abortion without their parents’ knowledge. A definite no vote on this one. Proposition 86 increases cigarette taxes and, indirectly, taxes on other tobacco products. The funds would be used for healthcare, particularly for children, and other tobacco related activities. Gee, what a shame if this were to pass! People would be less likely to smoke because of the increased cost. Those who still choose to burn and inhale what a British king called "that stinking weed" (when banning it in his court) will justly pay for some of the damage caused by this toxic substance. Absolutely yes on 86! Proposition 87 is another no-brainer. It taxes oil companies for the money they make from pumping a natural resource, part of our common heritage, from the ground. Given record gasoline prices and attendant oil company windfall profits, you’d think they’d have the decency to shut up and accept this as a cost of doing business and giving back a little something to the society they gouge at the pump. Nope, big oil is whining all the way to the ballot box while laughing all the way to the bank! Please show them who’s boss by voting yes on 87. Proposition 88 is another shaky one. It adds a property tax of $50.00 on each parcel of land to fund education. This means that a modest homeowner pays the same amount as the corporate farmer with thousands of acres of moneymaking land or the downtown office skyscraper raking in the bucks. Also, it seems to create a lot of paperwork. Yet the state superintendent supports it and it is for a good cause. Also, there are no obvious red flags among supporters and opponents of this measure. Often, that’s the best gauge of how to vote on these propositions. Like 83, you’re on your own with 88. Proposition 89 is another attempt at minimizing the distorting effect of money on democracy. As such it deserves your vote. It may be imperfect, but it’s one more step in the right direction. It creates a partial system of public financing of campaigns. Look at it this way, if enough of these proposals pass, then maybe the legislature will get the message and enact comprehensive, transformative change in the way we run our elections. Please vote yes on 89. Proposition 90 is one of the sneakiest propositions to hit your ballot in years. Pretending to "protect" property owners from a ‘rapacious" government, it actually hamstrings local and state elected bodies to such a degree that they will not be able to enact legislation protecting the vital interest of the people. Unless, of course, they are willing to pay huge sums of money to people who claim, without any serious proof, that a zoning ordinance, clean water law, or new school construction "harmed" them. This is so obviously a no vote as to require no more comment. Let’s kill Prop 90. See you at the polls! Please be sure to vote.

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