Saturday, March 05, 2011

Ballot Recommendations - Tuesday, March 8 - City of L.A.

Dear Fellow Angelenos,

We have an election on Tuesday; there are quite a few measures affecting the City of Los Angeles. Below are my recommendations. I'm taking a much keener interest lately in following local politics - I'm a relative newcomer to the arena, so I've got a lot to learn. However, these ballot measures seem to me to be extremely relevant – and directly affect the quality of life in our city – from oversight of the DWP to library hours, from taxing of marijuana collectives to regulating the campaign contributions of people and companies who bid for government services. More of us should pay attention to local politics, as it is largely where our lives are governed. I've also provided links to the endorsements of the L.A. Times and my friends at the Pacific Palisades Democratic Club, the latter of whom I've not been part of now for well over 2 years but have the utmost respect and admiration for. Finally, I strongly urge you to write to our legislators to and urge them to let the public vote on Governor Brown's budget plan for the June ballot. I really don't want to see more cuts to education. You can reach the Assembly at and the Senate at

MEASURE G – NEW TIER FOR FIRE & POLICE PENSIONS – YES. Measure G creates a new pension level for newly hired public safety employees and increases contributions from employees to their pension. This level would be slightly less than the level that current employees receive. LA Times summary is pretty good and is located here. My friends at the Pacific Palisades Democratic Club (PPDC) recommend a yes vote.

MEASURE H – CONTRACTOR CONTRIBUTION RESTRICTIONS; CAMPAIGN TRUST FUND – UNSURE but likely YES. From what I can tell Charter amendment H essentially would place campaign contribution restrictions on contractors bidding on contracts with the City of L.A. On the other hand, it would eliminate the $8 million cap on the “Matching Funds” program – the program that provides some public campaign funds for certain L.A. election candidates. It would also require the City to fund the program and let the City “borrow” from the fund in times of “emergency”. The city currently doesn't have to provide more than $8 million to this fund, and that cap would be removed. I like the idea of restricting contractors from essentially buying their way into City contracts, but I don't know how I feel about the increased funding requirements for public campaigns at a time of serious deficits. I think I'll vote YES anyway, based on the Times' expose of the misuse of bond funds for City College renovations, and the campaign contributions associated with that appeared somewhat sketchy. (Here's the link to that series if you're interested). LA Times summary here and they recommend YES. The PPDC recommends yes.

MEASURES I AND J – DWP OVERSIGHT – YES. Charter amendment I would create an Office of Public Accountability and a Ratepayer Advocate at the DWP. Charter amendment J would create a budget process that would require the DWP to show its budget to the City Council. I think these are both good ideas - you may recall that the DWP last year threatened to withhold a $73 million transfer payment to the City unless the City Council approved a DWP rate hike. I can't say I'm entirely clear on the mechanics of how Charter I would specifically work – according to the LA Times, implementation of this measure is largely left to the City Council so who knows how that will go. Also, I don't think Measure J actually has any teeth to it. Still, some transparency is better than no transparency. LA Times summary is here, they recommend YES. PPDC recommends YES.

MEASURE L – PUBLIC LIBRARY FUNDING – YES. This is the type of ballot measure I normally hate – it pre-dedicates a portion of the City's general fund to public libraries. This is just the type of thing that made the State of California a mess. And yet this one I can't bring myself to vote no on, largely because government officials seem paralyzed on how to deal with our educational system. Our schools are a mess, we can't get the public to pay for quality schools, and the reduction of library services exacerbates the problem. We've got our priorities so backwards that we spend more on prisons than we do on schools. That's why I'm voting yes when I otherwise would vote no on such a measure. The Times recommends a no vote – largely for the general reasons I would normally give. They have a good and cogent argument against it, and their summary is here. However I can't bring myself to vote no. PPDC says YES.

MEASURE M – TAXATION OF MEDICAL MARIJUANA COLLECTIVES – YES. I am in favor of medical marijuana being available to patients; creating a tax system would essentially put the City in a position where it would think twice about arbitrarily shutting down legitimate, law-abiding collectives – largely because the City would become reliant on the tax revenue, which the City desparately needs. (The ones not paying taxes would presumably be shut down). The Times is recommending a no vote – summary here – there are legitimate problems with a YES vote, but I'm not persuaded to go no. PPDC says YES.

MEASURE N – CAMPAIGN FINANCE. NO. PPDC puts it nicely and recommends NO. Times summary here and they say YES.

MEASURE O – OIL PRODUCTION TAX – NO. While it sounds good, a tax on oil production in L.A. seems like a bad idea during a recession. I understand this oil isn't the kind used for gasoline; rather it may make its way into construction materials. Still, if that's the case then our already depressed construction industry probably doesn't need this kind of tax passed onto it. Here's the LAT summary, they say NO. PPDC says YES.

MEASURE P – CONTINGENCY RESERVE ACCOUNT – NO. This is ballot box budgeting, and writes into the charter a requirement to maintain a reserve account. While I am being a hypocrite by voting for Measure L, I'm trying to limit my apostasy and will vote no on this measure. The LA Times recommends a yes vote, their summary is here. PPDC says NO.

MEASURE Q – EMPLOYMENT PROVISIONS - NO OPINION. This measure makes various changes to the employment process for certain civil servant positions, certain changes to how sworn personnel are treated, and changes to the length of emergency appointments. I am not really qualified or knowledgeable enough to have a strong point of view on this – I'm hopeful those who have knowledge about this area will make the right decision. This is partially why I hate ballot measures – I don't think this is the type of thing that the general public should be making rules about – these are specific bureaucratic regulations that seem better suited to a governmental policy making body, accountable to elected officials. Instead, someone got this on the ballot to change the City's charter. The LA Times is recommending a YES vote, their summary is here. PPDC says NO.

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