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Green Party Voter Guide (Part 1) for the June 8th 2010 Election
Below is a text version of the Green Voter Guide, which is also available in pdf. As you can see, a great deal of work goes into these publications for each election, created by a team of Greens, and locally, the voter guide does make a difference in the races. But perhaps the best part about the Green Voter Guide is that it is educational -- passing on the particular views and analyses and summaries by over a dozen local activists focusing on particular candidates, state propositions and local measures. This section is only Part 1.
GREEN VOTER GUIDE
THE ALAMEDA COUNTY GREEN PARTY
Election Day: June 8, 2010
The apparent major party candidates for Governor of California in November are Jerry Brown, Democrat, and Meg Whitman, Republican. Greens therefore have an opportunity to choose our best candidate in the primary and then run a hard and true campaign for the November election. It is hard for us to believe that either Whitman or Brown will generate a large committed following, and the chances are they will actually hurt voter turnout in the most progressive parts of the state. In sum, this should be an excellent year to publicize the Green Party message, and build our party in many places across the state.
Greens have two candidates in the June Primary to choose from for Governor of the State of California. They are Deacon Alexander and Laura Wells. Deacon Alexander is a former Black Panther and retired Union carpenter from Los Angeles, and he promises to “begin with the homeless, the disenfranchised, the down and out. These people have been excluded, denied and rejected for far too long. I pledge to bring them into my campaign for Governor, and to register them as Greens.” He has a long record of social and political activism. Laura Wells brings a wealth of experience in financial and management areas, and articulates a concise and essential message of structural changes to California’s political and financial crisis (changing the 2/3 vote, revising Proposition 13 provisions for business/corporate taxation, etc). She has also demonstrated strong leadership as a previous candidate for State Controller, and locally in the Bay Area for many years as a person of integrity, vision, and consistent progressive values.
In our write-up below, we are only providing you with a basic overview about Deacon Alexander and Laura Wells, as it is our practice to not make endorsements in contested Green Party primary contests (except for very unusual situations). Therefore we strongly urge you to also review each of the candidates’ websites ( http://www.DeaconForGov. com and http://www.LauraWells.org) to learn more about them.
GOVERNOR: DEACON ALEXANDER
On January 5th 2010, former Black Panther and long-time social advocate, Deacon Alexander, announced his candidacy for Governor of California in Los Angeles’ ‘Skid Row.’ Surrounded by hundreds of Skid Row homeless living in an area known as Central City East, Deacon, a sixty-four year old retired union carpenter and L.A. Green Party member, pledged to improve the lives of those in need throughout California:
“My campaign for Governor is very simple. As first act of my campaign, I begin with the homeless, the disenfranchised, the down and out. These people have been excluded, denied and rejected for far too long. I pledge to bring them into my campaign for Governor, and to register them as Greens.”
Many of Deacon’s ideas to improve society came from his father, a bricklayer’s assistant and political activist. In 1970, Deacon, then a member of the Southern California Communist Party, helped organize a successful movement to acquit all charges against Angela Davis, and joined Latino immigrants to fight for Los Angeles’ South Central Farm. In 2000, he co-founded the South Central Green Party with Donna Warren.
Today, Deacon’s focus is still community. He wants California to implement community-based jobs in bringing people back to work from the state’s dire 12 percent unemployment. He also sees community as an key part of rebuilding the basic infrastructure of California. Deacon describes an example from his experience:
“Several years ago, I helped organize immigrant farmers to fight for their rights at South Central Farm, and was joined in this struggle by many Greens, Hollywood celebrities, Progressives, and people of conscience, from all over California. . . If South Central Farm was saved instead of bulldozed, we would have had a local farmer’s market for thousands of L.A. residents. Better, more affordable food, less need for transportation, more open space, more local business. . . Let’s put our communities first: find community-based jobs, grow community gardens, empower our youth, rebuild our inner cities.”
Deacon also points out that California is 50 out of 50 in per-student funding and contrasts the role of education in keeping young people out of prison.
“I believe we can spend California taxpayer money better by educating, rather than incarcerating our youth. Send our young men and women to community college instead of jail; that’s something as Governor I can do. Let’s put them in school before they end up in jail.”
In his speech at the Green Party State Assembly in San Jose this year he described the interconnectedness of the issues, how, for example, homelessness—a key issue Deacon focuses on—is also connected to Proposition 13 -- a key issue that Laura Wells focuses on. Deacon stresses that his positions on the issues, and those of Laura Wells, are nearly identical:
“Both my gubernatorial primary opponent, Green Party candidate Laura Wells, and I fully support the Ten Key Values and platform of California Green Party. Our differences lie not in substance, but in our priorities. A party and candidate which put the rights of the least of us first, is one which can proudly represent all Californians.”
And in the next six months, Deacon says, he plans to work to increase the number of registered Greens by 5 percent. “With more Greens, we can vote for new opportunities, new ways to do things, for new change.” See Deacon’s website: http://www.deaconforgov.com.
GOVERNOR: LAURA WELLS
Many progressives in the San Francisco Bay Area, and the East Bay in particular, are familiar with Laura Wells and know of her innovative and inspirational solutions for California’s problems. Progressives hear Laura speaking at local Green Party events, see her handing out fliers at peace marches, discussing local issues while tabling at the Oakland farmer’s market, and speaking at city council meetings.
In general Laura Wells works constantly to change the system, to learn new methods of democracy being implemented around the world, and to educate people about ways such changes can happen. In fact, in 2010, one of Laura’s key efforts paid off: her work to change the City of Oakland’s voting system to Instant Runoff Voting (IRV)—in which candidates are rank-ordered instead of only choosing one—was finally implemented after years of work. Voters have also shown, overwhelmingly, that they support Laura as a candidate, her ideas and her solutions: in her 2002 run for State Controller she received over 400,000 votes. And now, her 2010 run for Governor of California may be her strongest campaign yet.
Laura’s campaign is focusing on the key problems of California’s economy, ones she knows the other parties will not touch—Prop 13, fair taxes, and creating a State Bank. In March of 2010 her campaign printed 10,000 copies of a leaflet listing the “13 Ways Prop 13 has been Unlucky for California” on one side, and “FAQs: State Bank for California,” on the other, and has been distributing them at rallies and meetings all over the state. Laura exposes the role of corporations in Prop 13, facts the average California voter is unaware of:
“Prop. 13, in 1978, was promoted to California voters as a way to reduce taxes and to stop fixed-income seniors and others from losing their homes due to escalating property taxes. Since then, the bulk of the ‘tax relief’ goes places the voters never intended—giant corporations. Corporate properties are rarely re-assessed since corporations don’t die and seldom sell.”
Most Californians are also not aware that Prop 13 requires a 2/3 vote in the California State Legislature to pass a budget or increase taxes, but maintains a simple majority vote to lower taxes:
“So the legislature lowered tax rates in boom years,” Laura explains, “benefiting primarily the richest of the rich individuals and corporations—and now the rest of us are stuck since 67 percent is needed to get fair taxes back.” Put simply, she says, “It’s BAD to require a 2/3 super-majority to increase taxes, when it only takes a simple majority to lower taxes.”
As Governor, Laura Wells would change that -- eliminate the 2/3 super-majority and replace it with a simple majority to raise taxes. In her platform statement on education, Laura explains the very real and direct effects of the 2/3 super majority policy:
“This dismal legacy of bi-partisan failure has resulted from three decades of Prop 13 thinking that put a higher priority on low taxes and high real estate values, than on the educational opportunities and employability of our children and citizens. Last year, Governor Schwarzenegger and the Democratic Assembly cut over $9 billion from K-12 on top of an earlier $11.6 billion reduction, leading to layoffs of thousands of teachers.”
Another solution Laura advocates is a State Bank for California. A State Bank could provide loans to students and community businesses at a fair interest rate, and the interest would stay in California to invest in California, instead of Wall Street. Laura describes the basis for the State Bank idea in an FAQ on her campaign Website: “North Dakota has a state bank for more than 90 years, and now is the only state with a budget surplus, not a deficit. With that example, a wave of change is beginning in which public officials and candidates are proposing state banks around the country. . . California is the 8th largest economy in the world. Most countries, with economies of all sizes, have central banks, and control their own money supply and credit. Why not California?”
As Governor, Laura would also make more broad changes to California’s taxes:
“Let’s have fair taxes for a change. When you look at all the taxes and fees that a person pays to local and state government, the lowest 20 percent of income earners pay 12 cents of every single dollar [while] the top 1 percent pay only 7 cents of their dollars.” Laura’s positions on the issues are in line with Green values: she supports Single Payer Universal Health Care for California, the use of clean, sustainable, local energy, including publicly-owned utilities, Community Choice Aggregation (CCA), and localized (distributed) electricity generation, instead of nuclear power or carbon sequestration, and opposes government bailouts of large corporations and banks. And Laura remains optimistic about the future:
“There are too many brilliant and talented people among us,” she says, “too many energetic, entrepreneurial leaders, too many caring and creative citizens among us to settle passively for this sorry state of affairs.”
See her Website: http://www.LauraWells.org
PROPOSITION 13: NO
Seismic Retrofitting, Property Tax
Currently, if a property owner would like to seismically upgrade their building, no new taxes are applied after the upgrade—except for unreinforced masonry buildings. In the case of unreinforced masonry buildings, a tax kicks in after 15 years. Prop 13, the Seismic Retrofitting Amendment, proposes a constitutional amendment which would apply the same permanent tax breaks on seismic retrofits for unreinforced masonry structures as for all other types.
There are questions about this proposition that would take extensive research to answer. Since un-reinforced masonry buildings are extremely dangerous in an earthquake, is a tax break which expires after 15 years really significantly less of an incentive to retrofit than if the tax break didn’t have a time limit? Could Prop 13 mainly be a tax break for corporate property owners who did their retrofits more than 15 years ago?
We don’t know. But we have concerns given that the only listed sponsor of the proposition is the far-right conservative Republican State Senator Roy Ashburn (Ashburn voted against every gay rights measure in the State Senate since taking office only to later admit to being gay after being arrested for a DUI). The lack of even an attempt at “bi-partisan” support makes us suspicious about the true nature of this proposition, even if the actual text of Prop. 13 may not immediately raise any red flags.
Furthermore, the absence of any website listing in the official state voters pamphlet is yet another strike against this ballot measure. Prop. 13’s language is complex and difficult to understand by most citizens.
When we can’t understand a proposition’s effects and side effects, we should usually vote No.
PROPOSITION 14: NO, NO, NO!
Elections: Restricts November choices & alters primary election
Proposition 14 is an extremely deceptive measure. Known as the “Top Two Primary,” Prop. 14 is sometimes referred to as an “open primary” even though it would actually close off voter choice for the November general election to a mere two candidates. Its advocates claim that it would provide voters with more choices when in reality it would almost certainly kill off all other political parties except for the Democrats and the Republicans. We strongly encourage you to not only vote “No” on Prop. 14, but to also contribute time and/or money to help defeat this measure. For the latest details about how to support the “No on Prop. 14” campaign, please see: http://www.cagreens.org/erwg/Prop14 and http://www.StopTopTwo.org
Proposition 14 would completely change the nature of the primary election. Political parties, including the Greens, would no longer be able to choose their own official nominees for the ballot. Instead, for each partisan office, all of the candidates from all of the parties, plus independents as well, would all run together on the same primary election ballot, and then the top two vote-getters, regardless of their party affiliation, would go on to the November general election.
For the Green Party, as for other small parties, Proposition 14 would be devastating. Our candidates would most likely never again appear on a November general election ballot. We would be “lost in the crowd” in the “megacandidate, free-for-all” primary election. Our capacity to present alternative choices would simply be crushed. And after several elections where none of our candidates are able to appear on a November general election ballot, a likely outcome is that fewer voters would register as Greens, and we would therefore lose our ballot status, and our existence as a recognized political party will have been extinguished.
An example of what would be in store for California is Washington state’s 2008 elections. Washington implemented a “Top Two” primary just two years ago, and no smaller party or independent candidate for any statewide or congressional race appeared on the November general election ballot—for the first time ever since Washington became a state in 1889.
The extinguishing of voter choices is enough of a reason to defeat Proposition 14, but there are several other negative consequences of this measure for voters to consider. First, by eliminating party primaries, Prop. 14 puts increased pressure on non-incumbents and/or nonfrontrunners within the same party to drop out, lest they “split the vote” of their party’s voters. This of course puts more power into the hands of party machines and party insiders, and less into the hands of primary election voters —exactly the opposite of what Prop. 14 proponents want you to believe!
Election costs will likely increase, first because the candidates will need to advertise themselves to more voters for the primary election. In addition, especially when there is no incumbent in the race, for the many districts where a single party is dominant, currently only the primary contest has expensive, heavily contested elections. But with “Top Two,” the likelihood for expensive November elections increases, giving well-funded candidates even more of an advantage over what they already enjoy.
Proposition 14 also permits the possibility of November general elections whereby the only two candidates on the ballot could both be from the same party, which would completely eliminate any party choices whatsoever for the voters. Prop. 14 also forbids write-in votes to be counted in the November general election, thereby removing a long-standing check-and-balance on the November candidates. And finally, under Prop. 14, candidates would no longer be required to disclose their party affiliation on the ballot, opening yet another possible way for candidates to deceive the voters.
If we want to make improvements to our current election system, there are much better alternatives than the illusory choice presented by Prop. 14. For example, we could use Ranked Choice Voting for both party primary elections and for the November general election. That way, voters could rank as many candidates as they wanted, and not worry that voting for what they most believe in could lead to what they most oppose. That would be a system that truly puts more power into the hands of the voter, instead of the hands of the candidates and the deal-making political parties. As many of you know, Ranked Choice Voting will be implemented for non-partisan city offices in Berkeley, Oakland, and San Leandro this November, following the lead of San Francisco, which has now successfully used it for a number of years.
Or, we could use proportional representation, as is used in the majority of European and other countries around the world, which would greatly improve political representation in our legislative bodies compared to the antiquated winner-take-all method that this country has now been using for over 220 years, since its founding.
Finally, we also disagree with the philosophic underpinnings of Proposition 14. We disagree with the notion that political parties are inherently bad; that there is something wrong with like-minded people organizing themselves into political parties having candidates of their choice competing in a general election. In fact, we believe it's their political right to do so.
The supporters of this proposition are trying to use the dysfunction of state government as an argument for approving their measure. They say that the problems are due to the current electoral process, which produces few moderates and is responsible for excessive 'partisanship' in Sacramento. The Green Party disagrees with both of these arguments. We believe that the current system, if anything, produces too many moderates. If diversity of opinion in state government is the goal, proportional representation would be a far superior remedy. As to “partisanship,” we believe that the blame falls squarely on the actions and policies of the current Democratic and Republican parties, and not with the general concept of political parties, per se.
Those who are truly interested in strengthening democracy would be well-advised to study how proportional representation works in Europe and many other places across the planet, rather than spend time considering the deceptive fantasy presented by the authors of Proposition 14.
If you can help support the “No on Prop. 14” campaign, please be sure to see:
http://www.cagreens.org/erwg/Prop14 and http://www.StopTopTwo.org
PROPOSITION 15: YES, WITH RESERVATIONS
Public Funding of Elections Trial (“Fair Elections”)
Prop 15 is the most recent proposal to arrive on the ballot which would open ever so slightly the door to public funding of elections. The good news is that it would provide public money for candidates; the bad news is that the money will be bestowed in a less than equitable way—notably less for “lesser” parties.
That said, the Green Party of Alameda County nonetheless endorses, with reservation, this proposition. Public financing of elections is a bedrock issue for Greens: we literally live and breathe to free our elections from the scourge of corporate money and we believe that this baby step in the right direction is worth supporting. We agree with the League of Women Voters that the “amount of money in politics is outrageous and corrupts the system” and that “Prop. 15 will get politicians out of the fundraising game so they will focus on California’s priorities. Elections should be won, not bought by special interests.”
Again, the downside is the second class status of the non- corporate candidates. Continuing to treat minor parties as second-class participants creates a burden that, in turn, relegates us to second-class status. While it is a vicious circle, the practical reality is that we may well manage to qualify for funds that are far in excess of any we are ever able to raise, given our own self-imposed non-corporate donation policy. Also problematic, the twotiered structure will cause a burden if we ever implement proportional representation. PR creates a level electoral playing field, but second-class public financing would then be a significant hurdle to a minor party candidate. Still, in the big picture we must grapple with the fact that this is a “pilot” project and that its success could surely herald mounting momentum toward our goal of public financing of all elections.
The current ballot measure applies only to candidates for Secretary of State. Its claimed purposes are to eliminate the corrupting influences of large campaign donations both for challengers and incumbents. The Fair Elections Fund (FEF) would be financed from $700 fees paid every two years by lobbyists, lobbying firms, and their employers (although $25 would go to the General Fund), by qualifying donations obtained by Primary Elections and Independent candidates, and by taxpayer donations.
For more: http://voterguide.sos.ca.gov/propositions/15/
PROPOSITION 16: NO, NO, NO!
PG&E’s Roadblock to Local Electricity Alternatives
Proposition 16 is the misnamed Taxpayers Right to Vote Act. “The proposed Taxpayers Right to Vote Act illustrates what Californias initiative process has come to. It's a plaything of powerful interests using deception to line their pockets,” says an L.A. Times article (12/28/09). TURN (The Utility Reform Network) calls Prop 16 ”the worst special kind of special interest ballot initiative, paid for by a single corporation to benefit a single corporation.” The Sierra Club (Bay Chapter) calls it “PG&Es attempt to stifle competition and prevent local governments from adopting clean energy solutions.” Prop 16 “requires two-thirds voter approval before local governments provide electricity service to new customers or establish a community choice electricity program using public funds or bonds.”
Greens favor a local, decentralized economy wherever feasible. Locally generated solar and wind power would reduce the need for large power plants located far away. PG&E would still be the transmitter of electricity over the grid. PG&E is a regulated monopoly, a compromise between private for-profit businesses and a government service. Greens criticize the way for-profit businesses influence the political process. In this case, the California legislature passed a bill in 2002 permitting communities to opt out of reliance on PG&E to generate electricity. Communities can buy electricity from any supplier, or can generate electricity locally. They can join together (“community choice aggregation,” or CCA) to do so. San Francisco, Marin County, Oakland, Berkeley, and others are in the process of exploring or implementing CCA.
The ballot argument in favor is signed by the president of the California Taxpayers Association and the President of the California Chamber of Commerce. However, despite its title and its ballot argument signers, this is not about taxes. PG&E, the largest for-profit utility in California, paid for the signatures to qualify this initiative for the ballot. They are trying to protect their monopoly over who provides your electricity.
The ballot argument against Prop 16 is signed by Jeannine English (California State President of AARP), Andy Katz (Chair, Sierra Club California) and Richard Holober (Executive Director, Consumer Federation of California). The rebuttal to the argument in favor is signed by Michael Boccadoro (Executive Director of the Agricultural Energy Consumers Association), Lenny Goldberg (Executive Director of the California Tax Reform Association), and Janis R. Hirohama (President of the League of Women Voters of California).
Opponents of Prop 16 are expecting an expensive ad campaign by PG&E, which has already started. Early in April, “Yes on 16/Californians to Protect Our Right to Vote” sent out a mailer picturing solar panels and a field of sunflowers under a blue sky with soft white clouds, as if that were an accurate picture of how PG&E generates electricity.
PG&E wants to retain their near-monopoly. Despite a State mandate for 20 percent renewable power by 2010, PG&E is nowhere near that amount. (For details, see the California Public Utilities Commission website.) For this and other reasons, PG&E is not confident that Californians will voluntarily continue to believe their promises. So Prop 16 is an arrogant, greedy attempt to buy, at the ballot box, an end to the threat to some of PG&E’s profits, in the form of the movement for locally controlled power. For people concerned with the need to move toward sustainable energy generation, and/or seeking local community control of energy policy, opposing Prop 16 is an easy decision.
No, No, No.
PROPOSITION 17: NO
Mercury Insurance’s Ploy to Raise Auto Insurance Rates
Official Title: Allows auto insurance companies to base their prices in part on a driver’s history of insurance coverage.
This proposition is 99 percent funded by Mercury Insurance because it will increase their profit margin. It takes away hard fought consumer protections won through Proposition 103 and court decisions. The proposition will allow auto insurance companies in California to surcharge drivers, who cancel their insurance and then restart it again. Examples would be military personal during a tour of duty, or anyone not using their car for an extended amount of time, who temporarily cancel their policies. Also, a late payment could cause the same surcharge.
The discounts and rewards for drivers mentioned in ads by proponents of Prop. 17 are allowed now; nothing bars the auto insurance companies giving these discounts. These are false arguments in favor of Prop. 17.
Both the SF Bay Guardian and Chronicle recommend a No vote on Prop 17. The Chronicle published several articles detailing a long history of illegal practices by Mercury Insurance, and describes Prop 17 as a formula “likely to produce, at best, a marginal benefit to Californians shopping for a new company—and a daunting additional cost for those who are desperate to get coverage.”
One Bay Guardian article on Prop 17 and Mercury Insurance, titled, “The malevolence of Mercury Insurance,” includes the views of longtime activist Harvey Rosenfield, of Consumer Watchdog, speaking out about Prop. 17:
‘The Mercury initiative is even more pernicious than what it was doing before, and here’s why. Under Mercury’s initiative, if you’ve never had prior insurance, you can be surcharged for the first time. It overturns the Prop. 103 provision and legalizes these surcharges. Then they’ve thrown in some other tricks and traps, as you’d expect an insurance company to do on a ballot measure.”
What are those tricks and traps? How have they been able to get away with this for so long? Why did Attorney General Jerry Brown, a candidate for governor, give the measure such a favorable and misleading ballot title and summary? Why has the Democratic Party been so unwilling to challenge them?”
A comprehensive look at Prop 17 and Mercury Insurance can be found articles on the web published by the Bay Guardian on 2/10/10, 3/16/10 and 3/18/10.
We recommend a NO vote on Proposition 17.
GREEN VOTER CARD
U.S. Senator -- Duane Roberts
U.S. Representative, District 9 -- David Heller
U.S. Representative, District 10 -- Jeremy Cloward
Governor -- Which Green should oppose Brown & Whitman? Please see our write-up.
Lieutenant Governor -- Jimi Castillo
Secretary of State -- Ann Menasche
Controller -- Ross Frankel
Treasurer -- Charles “Kit” Crittenden
Attorney General -- Peter Allen
Insurance Commissioner -- William Balderston
State Superinetendent of Public Instruction -- Larry Aceves
Judicial Office Superior Court Judge, Seat 9 -- Dual endorsement, vote for either Louis Goodman or Victoria Kolakowski
Superintendent of Schools -- No Endorsement, please see write-up
Board of Education, District 1 -- Joaquin Rivera
Supervisor, District 2 -- No Endorsement, please see write-up
Supervisor, District 3 -- No Endorsement, please see write-up
Assessor -- Don’t vote for Ron Thomsen
Auditor-Controller-Clerk-Recorder -- No Endorsement, please see write-up
District Attorney -- Don’t vote for Nancy O’Malley
Sheriff-Coroner -- Don’t vote for Greg Ahern
Treasurer-Tax Collector -- No Endorsement, please see write-up
13 -- Seismic Retrofitting, Property Tax -- No
14 -- Elections: Restricts November choices and Alters Primary Election -- No, No, No!
15 -- Public Funding of Elections Trial (“Fair Elections”) -- Yes, with reservations
16 -- PG&E’s Roadblock to Public Electricity Alternatives -- No, No, No!
17 -- Mercury Insurance’s Ploy to Raise Auto Insurance Rates -- No
C -- Berkeley Municipal Swimming Pools -- Yes, with standard bond reservations
E -- City of Alameda Schools Parcel Tax -- Yes (June 22 mail-in election)
County Committee Green Party County Council --
See statements inside
Please see Part 2 more of the Voter Guide