By Jackie Goldberg
On March 8, there will be almost “secret” Municipal and local elections throughout California. Many important issues will be decided, city council members, school board members and community college board members will be elected, and only about 15 percent of those eligible to vote, will cast ballots, mostly by mail.
Your vote in such an election counts more than usual. So, I am going to list recommendations for some of these races.
LOS ANGELES COMMUNITY COLLEGE DISTRICT:
Seat No. 1—MONA FIELD
Seat No.3—STEVE VERES
Seat No. 5—SCOTT SVONKIN
Seat No. 7—MIGUEL SANTIAGO
SANTA MONICA/MALIBU BOARD OF EDUCATION:
CITY OF LOS ANGELES
Because the City of Los Angeles is a Charter City, many issues can only be resolved by the voters, and changes in the Charter. On the March 8 ballot, there are 10 ballot measures, designated by letters G-Q.
All of the measures were put on the ballot by the City Council, and signed by the Mayor. Most are NOT CONTROVERSIAL, and deserve an OK. A few are controversial. Here are my recommendations, and the reasons for them:
Measure G: This measure adds a new, LOWER PENSION TIER FOR CITY POLICE, and FIRE FIGHTERS. It was negotiated by the Police Protective League, United Firefighters of L.A. and the City, and so has no opposition.
You probably should vote “YES” on this, as it is a negotiated agreement, and thus should be honored. It will pass easily, but I personally will vote “NO” on it, as I want to protest the assault on Public Employee Pensions currently being waged nationwide by the right wing on behalf of the corporate oligarchy that seems to be running everything in America these days.
Measure H: This measure has much to recommend it.
It will restrict campaign contributions from, and fundraising by bidders on behalf of Council Members and the Mayor on some of the contracts voted on by Council Members and requiring the Mayor’s approval.
It also calls for greater contribution disclosures for bidders.
It also bans from bidding, those who violate these provisions.
It also lifts the maximum balance in the City’s matching fund for political candidates, and requires the City to add $3 million annually (unless there is an Emergency) to the fund.
This deserves a big “YES” VOTE. The so-called “pay-to-play: environment in City Hall was why I personally refused to accept donations from Developers or Lobbyists. Council Members have “life and death” power over projects. If they make mistakes in what they approve, it should be because of errors in judgment, but NOT because they worry about losing major campaign donors. The arguments against Measure H are made by those who benefit from “pay-or-play.”
Measure I: This measure establishes a Dept. of Water and Power Office of Public Accountability. They are supposed to provide a “public independent analysis of Department actions as they relate to water and electricity rates.”
The new City Dept. will cost an estimated $1 million per year. I am of mixed views on this measure because right now, Los Angeles DwP ratepayers have the most reliable service for water and electricity in the State.
And we, who are served by DwP have the lowest rates for both water and electricity as well. This is all because we have a city-owned and run Department, which unlike Edison, and other for-profit providers, is a NON-PROFIT entity.
So why do we need this million-dollar new unit? It has been a semi-competitive indoor sport to bash the Dept. of Water and Power.
The L.A. Times in particular hates the Department, and tries to embarrass it at every turn. While there is NO OPPOSITION TO THIS MEASURE, and it will pass easily, I personally will vote “NO” on the measure.
Measure J: This measure will require the Department of Water and Power to submit its Preliminary Budget to the City Council, only for “Informational Purposes.”
More importantly, the measure would “define and establish procedures through which the DwP Board could withhold its consent to transfer surplus money from the Power Revenue Fund or the Water Revenue Fund to the City’s General Fund Budget.
This measure arises from a recent fight between the Board of the Dept. of Water and Power, and the L.A. City Council and Mayor over how much “surplus” was actually in the Power Revenue Fund or the Water Revenue Fund.
These two Funds are established annually based on efficiencies accomplished by DwP employees and managers, and the transfers to the City Budget HELPS PAY FOR ESSENTIAL CITY SERVICES.
I am NOT sure this measure is necessary, but there is NO opposition and I will vote “YES” on this measure.
Measure L: This measure calls for guaranteed funding for the City’s Public Libraries, over several years until it reaches 3/100 of 1% (0.300%) of the City Budget. Currently the Charter allocates just less than 2/100 of 1% of the City Budget (0.0175%).
The plan is to gradually raise the amount over several years until 2014-15. At that point, the funding should permit the Library Dept. to RESTORE HOURS, AND REOPEN CLOSED LIBRARIES that have been cut severely by the current budget mess.
I URGE A “YES” VOTE IN THE STRONGEST POSSIBLE MANNER.
This is the only measure on the ballot that will positively affect the lives of children and families throughout our City. Please vote YES on this measure, no matter what else you do on March 8.
The “opponents” of the measure say that funding for Libraries will reduce anti-gang efforts, hurt public safety, reduce firefighters, kill parks and street services, blah, blah, blah. Hogwash!
Measure M: This measure would provide for a 5% tax on Medical Marijuana. It would provide a new source of funds to the City’s hard-pressed General Fund. The opposition worries about lawsuits, and the costs required to collect the tax. Nonetheless, I am a supporter of the measure, and will vote “YES” on Measure M.
Measure N: Campaign Finance is the subject of this measure. Last year the United States Supreme Court reemphasized is notion that corporations are ‘People’ and entitled to the same free-speech rights as you and I.
This was called the Citizens United case. This right-wing, anti-democratic decision by an activist U.S. Supreme Court means that any corporation can donate to political campaigns without limit, and more importantly to them, without revealing to anyone that they are funding the campaign.
The City of Los Angeles has real campaign finance reform.
Measure N will eliminate those measures that: currently restrict how much a candidate can give him/herself; currently restrict any person’s contribution to an “independent expenditure committee” to $500 in City elections, and $1,000 in School Board elections; and currently lift contribution limits on candidates opposing self-financed candidates until they have raised contributions that equal the amount of personal funds used by those self-funded candidates.
These changes are tantamount to saying that City of L.A. candidates will be the “best that money can buy.”
Though these changes will probably have to be made, after lawsuits are pursued, I will nonetheless support the notion of a more fair and democratic campaign system, and will vote “NO” on Measure N.
Measure O: Simply put, this a $1.44 tax per barrel on oil removed from the ground in the City of Los Angeles.
It should raise about $4 million annually for the City’s General Fund Budget. Such “oil depletion” taxes have long been in place in Beverly Hills, Seal Beach, Inglewood and Long Beach. It is long overdue in Los Angeles, and all of us should vote “YES” on the measure.
Interestingly, the opposition “looks like” it is from small business, and Latino and African American Chambers of Commerce, and from senior citizens. But I suspect that they are “fronts” for the BIG OIL COMPANIES, WHO HAVE DEFEATED ALL SIMILAR MEASURES TO TAX THEM IN LOS ANGELES.
Do Not be Fooled. This deserves a “YES” vote, and will NOT harm any of the above mentioned groups of people!
Measure P: This measure would REQUIRE the City to have an Emergency Reserve Account within the City’s Reserve Fund, with an annual amount in it of not less than 2 ¾% of General Fund income.
It would also require a 2/3 vote to not save that much money, and any money taken in such a fiscal emergency would have to be repaid in the next budget year.
This is already Policy in the City of Los Angeles. So, why put it into the City Charter, where money would first go to a reserve, and not to: saving City jobs, City Police and Fire services, City Parks, City street resurfacing, etc.
I do NOT think it is a good idea to restrict Council Members and the Mayor on budget matters such as Reserves. The policy exists now, and is a good one. We do NOT need to put it in the City’s constitution (Charter).
I recommend a “NO” vote on this measure.
Measure Q: This measure expands the automatic civil service exemption for ALL Deputy Chiefs in the Fire Dept., limits the number of people to be tested and “certified” as eligible for appointment.
It also clarifies and standardizes the probationary period for police officers in the Airport, Harbor and General Services Departments; lengthens “emergency” appointments to 1 year; and permits retired City employees to work for 120 days instead of 90 days without increasing their pension benefits.
The first part of the measure streamlines the civil service testing process which sometimes tests literally hundreds of candidates and certifies them for employment when there are few or even NO openings for that position. All that costs a great deal of money.
The other items would standardized the probation period for ALL types of City Police officers; and that current City retirees would be more likely to get some work for the City, without the extra cost of adding to their existing pensions. All of these are a good idea.
I recommend a “YES” vote on this measure.
“YES” ON MEASURES: H, J, L, M, O, Q.
*”NO” ON MEASURES: G, I, N, P.
*(Reminder: These measures will undoubtedly pass. The “NO” votes represent one sort of PROTEST regarding the political situation in our City and nation.
Jackie Goldberg is a former member of the L.A. City Council. She was President of the Los Angeles Unified School District and was a member of the California State Assembly. At UC Berkeley, she was a leader of the Free Speech Movement.