Archive for October 2014

General election 2014 coverage for the deaf

October 12, 2014

I shot a lot of my wad on the primary column last spring, so there’s not much left in the tank this time. But most importantly the social media preview for this piece will include the verb “shot” and the noun “wad,” so page views should be through the roof. Too bad turnout will be at a record low for a midterm election.

I wish you could make people care. You can’t, really. I mean it doesn’t mean you don’t try. But you can’t take it personally when people click Like or tap Favorite and then move on. Sometimes that’s the only currency you can get when it comes to receiving payment. So be it. Like I’m not writing any of this for someone else. I’m obviously doing it for me.

Before getting into Willow Glen’s ballot, I want to talk about the key issue on the minds of those who are actually paying attention to this election: control of the Senate. It just doesn’t matter.

On first blush, the reason seems obvious. Majority! Majority means majority! Well, you need 60 votes to get anything done in the Senate so who cares whether it’s 50 or 49 or 51? In addition, the House isn’t interested in passing anything the president will sign. For better or for worse, the president will still be issuing executive orders when shit needs to get done. And for the record, Obama is still at 183. His predecessor, George W. Bush, had 291. (Bill Clinton had 364. In roughly the first half of the 20th century, every president from Teddy Roosevelt to Dwight Eisenhower had at least 480. It really doesn’t matter how many executive orders presidents give. But it seems to be a big deal these days, so there you go.)

Another argument is that the ruling party gets to hand out committee assignments or some such. If the Senate as a whole isn’t going to pass anything for another 2 years, then who gives a shit? Just focus on your candidates if you have a race to vote on, and don’t nationalize a statewide election.

So what do I think will happen? I don’t know. And anyone who thinks they know is full of shit. There are too many polls within the margin of error, and we don’t know how accurate polling will be with this election because response rates are lower than ever, and one-third of households don’t own a landline. The polling industry hasn’t had this type of disruption to it ever. Will they normalize the data well? We’ll find out. I’ll give the Republican Party credit: They were ahead of the curve, in their attempts to “unskew” the polls in October 2012. It was a snow job to inspire false hope, but they were on to something, accidental or not.

The other issue is Louisiana and Georgia. No one is polling at 50%, and a majority vote is required in those two Senate races. That means runoffs. Louisiana’s is later in the year. Georgia’s isn’t until January 6, 2015. Throw in two races (South Dakota and Kansas) in which the indepedent is competitive, and there’s no way we’ll know anything for a long time. But again, the thing we will know will still be worthless. Enjoy the political theatre provided, but don’t see more to it than there actually is.

One more thing: I’ve never seen the administration get so little credit for the recent goings-on. Unemployment is under 6%, something Mitt Romney swore only he could do. Gas prices continue to drop. The deficit is under $500 billion, down 70% from 2009’s record $1.4 trillion. Second quarter GDP growth was 4.6% (although a lot has to do with it shrinking 2.1% in the first quarter, which mostly had to do with the weather). And somehow this is the worst president we’ve had? I know what will make it better: flipping the Senate and continuing not to pass any legislation! Got it.

Anyway. What do I get to connect the little arrows, using blue or black ink, for this time around? Stay tuned.

Governor: Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown

I already complained about the jungle primary. I’m not going to do it again. Like all the statewide offices, I get 2 choices. Thanks, Obama.

I actually streamed the debate while walking to pinball league. I like listening to old people talk, and I’m not going to pick up the phone just to talk to my grandparents. I don’t have a landline, and using my iPhone as a telephone? Can’t hear a damn thing.

Anyway, Brown was a lot funnier in the 2010 debate vs. Meg Whitman. And Neel Kashkari is a better opponent than, say, Bill Simon. But I have to ask myself: Who will do a better job governing the state for the next 4 years? For me, it’s an easy decision.

Lieutenant Governor: Gavin Newsom

I want someone who isn’t going to wait for the governor to leave the state before enacting a bunch of legislation. Having a lieutenant governor of the same party as the governor seems to help keep that from happening. Neither candidate submitted statements, and I haven’t gotten any crap in the mail, so this is all I have to go on. Did you know Newsom is aixelsyd? He is!

Secretary of State: Alex Padilla

I voted for him in the primary. You’re welcome, Alex. I know four Alexes already. I really don’t need another one in my life, Pete Peterson is running as an outsider, but how slick is that name? Come on. Also, he uses inflammatory words like “outrageous” when talking about taxes. If I need you to tell me how to feel about taxes, I have bigger issues than remembering to vote. He also complains about state politics being a “merry go round.” Well, that’s what you get for having term limits.

Controller: Betty T. Yee

We’re guaranteed a female controller. I voted for Yee in the primary for Archie-related reasons. Ashley Swearengin didn’t provide a statement. What am I supposed to do? (Also, Kashkari endorsed Swearengin during the debate, so I guess there is also that.)

Treasurer: John Chiang

I voted for him in the primary, too. His opponent, Greg Conlon, has a huge typo in his statement, saying “GDB,” instead of “GDP.” Yeah, I want someone that sloppy in charge of my money. It’s bad enough my complex’s HOA has someone that unqualified in the same role. (Hint: It’s me.)

Attorney General: Kamala D. Harris

It’s true: I have a rule about taking the candidate with a prepared statement, which Ron Gold has. But I also have a rule about sticking with the candidate I selected during the primary, barring egregious acts. Well, there is one thing. There are rumors that Harris could replace Eric Holder. And she says she doesn’t want the job which is the obvious response if she really does. But I believe her. And I can’t have Newsom up there without Harris balancing him out. (They both have San Francisco roots.)

Finally, Gold’s statement talks about price fixing and high gas prices. I guess it’s bad timing that prices have dropped so much the past 3 months. Well, he tried.

Insurance Commissioner: Dave Jones

The power of incumbency. In Jones’s prepared statement, he lists all of his accomplishments. They’re pretty impressive. It also reduces Ted Gaines to talk about concepts. “Not creating jobs” and “I can do better” don’t work when the state is already creating jobs and doing better. There’s nothing tailored about this statement. He can use it again if he runs in 4 years. I bet I could find another candidate who wrote the same thing. You get the idea.

Member, State Board of Equalization, District 2: Fiona Ma

It’s kind of funny because there are at least 1,000 people in California who, on seeing that James E. Theis drives a pickup truck to work every day, will automatically vote for Ma for that reason alone. Hey, other people can make voting fun, too. It’s not just me. Like Jones, Ma has done a tone of stuff, so I don’t have a reason not to vote for her.

United States Representative, District 19: Zoe Lofgren

I voted for Lofgren in the primary. Robert Murray didn’t provide a statement. No wad left to shoot.

California Assembly, District 28: Evan Low

Well, I guess I will be able to vote for Low after all. I went with someone else in the primary but expressed regret in doing so. Redemption, sanctuary—call it what you want. I get my man. Chuck Page got the endorsement of my least favorite Chuck: Chuck Reed. Also, his prepared statement has a TinyURL for his Facebook page. Such terrible usability! Just put the Facebook URL in your statement or say “find me on Facebook.” Of course, having your Facebook page URL end in “cpageAD28” is too clever anyway. It makes the TinyURL seem less bad. Next time, use “chuckforassembly.” Anyway, I can’t have someone assemble on my behalf with that kind of social media strategy.

Associate Justice of the Supreme Court: Yes to all

Let’s do them all at once. Goodwin Liu was appointed by Governor Brown in 2011. He went to Stanford. Mariano-Florentino Cuellar was just appointed by Brown in July. He also attended Stanford and is a law professor there today. Kathryn Mickle Werdegar was admitted to the California Bar 50 years ago. Fifty! She went to Cal and has been on the court for 20 years.

Associate Justice, Court of Appeal, Sixth Appellate District: Yes to all

You don’t get any information about these guys. Here are the names for keyword density reasons: Eugene Milton Premo, Adrienne M. Grover, Patricia Bammatre-Manoukian, Miguel Marquez, and Franklin D. Elia. I would say Grover is my favorite because that’s a Sesame Street character.

You know what it is? Voting is fun. You get to make those little arrows on the ballot. But there just aren’t enough arrows to fill! Well, now you can fill a whole bunch more with these Appellate District candidates! How fun!

Judge of the Superior Court, Office No. 24: Diane Ritchie

Another one in which I picked a winner in the primary. I guess it’s not that hard to do because there are two winners, by that definition. Anyway, both candidates make a good, um, case, but I don’t have a reason not to vote for the incumbent.

Superintendent of Public Instruction: Tom Torlakson

Same story. Already picked him once. I don’t like that Marshall Tuck uses charter school success as a reason for voting for him. I appreciate the benefits of charter schools, but you don’t know which ones are working out until the students become part of society. Tell me something more tangible next time.

Mayor, City of San Jose: Dave Cortese

Well, my guy made it to the general election, and he’s facing off against Sam Liccardo. There are really only two differences between these candidates: age and their views on pension reform. I’ve already gotten into my issue with pension reform. In short, if it were that big of a deal, then why use so much fear about the unknown when stating a case for it? “Unfunded liabilities” is a dog-whistle phrase for me. It sets off my bullshit detector.

I am a little nervous. I see a lot of Liccardo signs in my neighborhood, although that does provide some affirmation, because Willow Glen has a ton of money. I really doubt the people with the most money have the best interest of the city as a whole. I also haven’t gotten any mail from Cortese. Hopefully he’s spending time on the East Side, where his name may play better because it sounds more locally ethnic than “Liccardo.” (Both men are actually Italian. They have a ton of things in common, actually.)

In their debate, Liccardo and Cortese disagree on what it meant that 300 cops resigned. Cortese says it is because of pension reform, but Liccardo points out that they left before pension reform passed. That’s true. It’s also true that pension reform felt inevitable at the time, and if you’re looking to move, you want to get out while the getting is good. The specter of pension reform alone is enough to scare cops and make recruiting more challenging as well.

We’ll see what happens. I haven’t found any polls on the race, so it’s really going to be a surprise once they start counting the votes. All I will add is that the murder rate has doubled during Reed’s time in office, and Reed endorses Liccardo. That is enough right there for me.

Proposition 1: Yes

Ahh, the propositions. The real opportunity for creative writing. Proposition 1 authorizes $7.5 billion in bonds for various water infrastructure projects. The timing is politically intelligent because of the drought. I don’t see how this fails. The reason you vote no is because you think we’re already doing enough to manage the state’s water supply.

Proposition 2: Yes

I don’t see how this one fails, either. It uses language like “rainy day fund” and “vote yes,” which can really sway voters.

Proposition 2 takes 1.5% of the general fund and sets it aside, as well as some revenue from capital gains taxes. It sits there until the budget runs a deficit, after which the funds can be unlocked to help balance the budget. This is important because of Proposition 13, which reduced the percentage of tax revenue that comes from stable sources, such as property taxes. Capital gains taxes and sales taxes show much more variance. That’s why we had some big budget deficits during Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration. So if we can’t repeal Proposition 13, this is another way to address the issues that it cases.

Now, because this is being done at the state level, it becomes less important for local school districts to have a rainy day fund of their own. And like it or not, local government needs to be able to trust the state. Sometimes it doesn’t work out, but it’s very expensive and inefficient for governments that don’t trust each other to get things done. In the context of Proposition 2, it means that the maximum size of local rainy day funds will be reduced. And that’s where the “No on 2” crowd comes in.

A group called “Educate Our State” has written the argument and rebuttal. Such a clever name. Perhaps a little too clever? I think Educate Our State is worried about something that’s not an issue. Yes, if we had a $26 billion deficit again then local districts would be helpless in reducing cutbacks because of a lack of a useful rainy day fund. But that’s not going to happen. We have a $10 billion surplus this year, and we can use upcoming surpluses to prepare for the future. The state is not setting up local schools so they can be hung out to dry. It’s not 2009 anymore. There’s nothing to be afraid of. I can’t support a side that uses fear to prove a point.

Proposition 45: Yes

I knew this one and Proposition 46 were going to be annoying because the TV ads started in the summer. Let’s take a look.

Auto insurance, health insurance. What do they have in common? They historically go up, and they’re run by insurance companies. Well, in California, that’s only half true. Auto insurance rates have dropped during the past 20 years. No other state can make that claim. Know why? A key reason could be Proposition 103. The same insurance protections that Proposition 45 will provide? Those are the ones that affected the auto and home insurance industries in 1988. It has saved Californians $102 billion.

Will the same concept work for health insurance? Why not? Maybe not the best argument, but it’s better than the fear, uncertainty, and doubt you get from the No on 45 TV ads. And having the president of the California Chamber of Commerce write the argument against Proposition 45 doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Since when has that organization cared about the general public? They were probably against Proposition 103 as well.

Proposition 46: Yes

To me, this one is even easier to understand than Proposition 45. First of all, the maximum damages for pain and suffering that someone can receive in California is $250,000. It hasn’t changed since 1975 and therefore isn’t indexed to inflation. Proposition 46 increases this to $1 million and also puts a cap on attorney fees.

Second of all, Proposition 46 will reduce the number of people who die because of prescriptions that don’t work with each other. Some drugs just shouldn’t be taken with others. But if you don’t get all your prescriptions from the same pharmacy or doctor, you may accidentally take two different medications that, when taken together, can provide an undesired effect. It happens a lot, up to 440,000 people every year. Imagine if there were a database that would alert doctors and pharmacies that a potentially dangerous medication was about to be administered to a patient. That’s what you get with 46.

Honestly, that’s enough for me. But the deceptive ads talking about hackable databases and trial lawyers takes the cake. Throw in the “No on 46” sign next to the Liccardo sign I saw in my neighborhood, and I know I am on the right side of this one.

Proposition 47: Yes

This one is a little closer and has a lot to do with how you feel about crime. Dealing with it is expensive, and there are arguments that say we overpunish some offenses and underpunish others.

Proposition 47 makes an effort to do this, reclassifying some misdemeanors and felonies for the purpose of saving money. The saved money would go toward mental health programs and other similar stuff like schools and crime victims.

I’m fine with this but am still thinking about it. I don’t think voters should be making these types of decisions because we don’t understand how the prison industry works. But are we better off with this proposition than without it? Yeah, probably.

Proposition 48: No

This one is the hardest one for me. On one hand, I give Native Americans whatever the fuck they want. I even let them call themselves Indians. I mean, I just don’t care.

On the other hand, new casinos aren’t expanding the pie anymore. This industry is now pretty self-sustaining and doesn’t necessarily need this type of expansion. Now, we can’t let the free market decide because the system isn’t set up that way. Voters always have to approve these things. We may have finally reached the point where we don’t need to keep adding more.

It’s hard, because Governor Brown supports Proposition 48, and many other Indian casinos in California are against it. Of course: They don’t want the competition. But the impartial analysis even says that most of the increased economic activity will be offset by decreases elsewhere. Such mental masturbation can be fun, but this isn’t the right setting for it. And it is kind of nice to know I don’t automatically agree with the governor on everything.

Measure G: Yes

Boring. Measure G has to do with retirement boards. Nothing is secretive today, nor would it be tomorrow. Measure G just lets San Jose’s governance be modified. The No side didn’t submit an argument or a rebuttal to the Yes side’s argument, so phooey on them.

Measure Q: Yes

Measure Q is a $24 15-year parcel tax for the Santa Clara County Open Space Authority. It requires a two-thirds majority. Property owners have the means to pay for preservation like none other. I’m happy to pay an extra $2 every month to help out.

The No argument is quite predictable. It’s written by taxpayer organizations, who never seem to want to spend money on anything. They also use hyphenated phrases such as “bureaucratic-elite.” Makes it hard for me to take them seriously.

Target already has 11 locations in San Jose, so perhaps this can keep us from having more of those as well. I can’t afford to buy any more baseball cards.