Monday, April 28, 2008

Additional June 3 Election Endorsements


Copyright © 2008 by Mark Gabrish Conlan for Zenger’s Newsmagazine • Used by permission

Zenger’s has already endorsed Mike Aguirre for re-election as city attorney. Here are some additional endorsements for the June 3 primary election we are announcing in the May 2008 edition.

U.S. Congress, 53rd District: MIKE COPASS

Incumbent Democrat Susan Davis has a mixed record on progressive issues. Sometimes she’s stabbed the progressive community in the back — like when hers was one of the deciding votes to grant President Bush “fast-track” authority to negotiate job-killing, environment-destroying “free trade” deals. Sometimes she’s been genuinely courageous, as when she voted against the resolution authorizing the war in Iraq. Sometimes she’s taken progressive stands and then failed to follow through — as when she voted for every bill to fund the war and, most recently, crossed party lines to vote with the Bush administration against the House Democrats on a bill with no restrictions on how long the war can last. And sometimes she’s had to be dragged kicking and screaming to do the right thing — the way she originally wimped out on whether to support repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy banning openly Queer people from serving in the U.S. military before a months-long grass-roots lobbying campaign finally brought her around.
With all her faults, Davis is still superior to anyone the Republicans are likely to put up against her — but she has a strong, progressive primary challenger in Mike Copass. Congressmember Copass will do the right thing from his instinct and his heart. Primaries should be occasions on which you stand for principle, and in this case, for a progressive Democrat principle means Mike Copass.

State Assembly, 78th District: ARLIE RICASA

There are six candidates in this race — in one of the closest districts in the state in terms of party registration — and four of them are Democrats. Two are solid progressives, Ricasa and Marty Block, and though Block has more money and a more impressive endorsement list, Ricasa is a woman, a person of color and, most important, a more grass-roots candidate. Four years ago, Lori Saldaña won a contested Democratic primary in the 76th District against two better-funded opponents and went on to take the seat in the general election, and we believe that if the 76th District could elect a progressive Latina, so can this one.

Mayor of San Diego: ERIC BIDWELL

Once again, the Democratic Party of San Diego is embarrassing itself by failing to offer a serious, electable candidate for Mayor. In a race dominated by two well-financed but vulnerable Republicans — incumbent Jerry Sanders and businessman Steve Francis, who’s openly trying to buy the race with his personal checkbook — the best the Democrats could come up with was Floyd Morrow, a good-hearted progressive but not exactly a scintillating leader and someone such a figure of yesterday he last held elective office five years before Eric Bidwell was born.

This hasn’t exactly been a banner year for independents, either. Perennial candidate Jim Bell and Queer activist (and Zenger’s contributor) Rocky Neptun both dropped out, Bell to endorse Morrow and Neptun in a fit of disgust with electoral politics in general. Fortunately, 25-year-old Eric Bidwell stepped into the breach and, through his self-described “revolutionary” candidacy, gave even iconoclasts far older than himself a candidate we can feel genuinely proud voting for. You can read more about him in the cover story this issue.

City Council, 3rd District: STEPHEN WHITBURN

This is really a two-person race between Whitburn, former journalist, Red Cross official and former president of the San Diego Democratic Club; and Todd Gloria, eight-year veteran of the Congressional staff of Susan Davis. Whichever one wins will become the first openly Gay male on the San Diego City Council.

Todd Gloria is a nice guy. Everybody likes him. Even the people to whom he has to deliver the bad news that Congressmember Davis isn’t supporting them on their big issue like him. But likeability is not enough of a qualification for public office. We’re convinced Whitburn will have the toughness to stand up against the San Diego city establishment, while Gloria will be its faithful servant the way he’s been for Susan Davis all these years.

City Council, 1st District: SHERRI LIGHTNER

City Council, 7th District: MARTI EMERALD

It’s a pleasure to be able to endorse two journalists for the San Diego City Council (Whitburn and Emerald) and even more of a pleasure to be able to endorse two progressives for seats currently (mis)represented by Republican-in-Democrat-drag Scott Peters and Republican-in-Republican-drag Jim Madaffer, respectively — both of whom are being forced out by term limits.

State Proposition 98 (Eminent Domain): NO

State Proposition 99 (Eminent Domain): YES

Don’t you just hate it when a ballot contains two or more competing propositions on the same subject? There’s already a law that you can’t deal with more than one subject in a single initiative; there should also be a law that there can’t be more than one proposition per ballot on the same topic — and a “sore-loser” restriction that you can’t go to the ballot again for at least five years after the voters have turned your initiative down. (Proposition 98 is a rehash of Proposition 90, which voters defeated in 2006.)

Here we have the quandary of one ballot measure that goes too far and one that doesn’t go far enough. Both are intended to control the kinds of “redevelopment” scams in which a city, county or state government forces one private owner to sell property to enrich another private owner — usually one with far fatter pockets and better political connections. The U.S. Supreme Court gave a green light to these Robin-Hood-in-reverse schemes in its notorious Kelo decision in 2005, but they’d been going on long before that — especially in San Diego, where eminent-domain “redevelopment” was used to build Petco Park and destroy a burgeoning artists’ colony in East Village to make room for tacky hotels and luxury condos.

Proposition 99 would prevent people from losing homes they own to this type of “redevelopment.” Proposition 98 would go further and protect all private property from being taken for so-called “private use.” What’s wrong with 98 is its expansive definition of what constitutes “private use” — not just “(i) transfer of ownership, occupancy or use of private property or associated property rights to any person or entity other than a public agency or a regulated public utility,” which is the common-sense definition; but “(ii) transfer … to a public agency for the consumption of natural resources or for the same or a substantially similar use as that made by the private owner; or (iii) regulation … in order to transfer an economic benefit to one or more private persons at the expense of the property owner.”

What (ii) means is that cities would no longer have the option of publicly taking over a profiteering private utility via eminent domain — as San Francisco came close to doing with Pacific Gas & Electric during the 2000-2001 energy crisis — and what (iii) means is that all rent-control laws would be invalidated, so the rental markets in San Francisco and Los Angeles would be as brutal to tenants as the one in San Diego. What’s more, (iii) comes close to the philosophy of “regulatory takings” — the idea that if government puts any restrictions at all on your use of your property (like you can’t build a noisy, polluting factory in the middle of a residential area), they have to pay you for the potential profit they could cost you.— which could gut all zoning restrictions and environmental protections.

An ideal solution to the Kelo problem would place a flat ban on government using eminent domain to take property from one private owner and give it to another. It would also abolish “tax-increment financing,” the redevelopment ripoff by which agencies like San Diego’s Centre City Development Corporation (CCDC) can grab great chunks of tax money from redevelopment areas in virtual perpetuity and force the rest of us to pay higher taxes or suffer cuts in services to pay for it. Without that choice on the ballot, this time at least the reform that doesn’t go far enough is preferable to the reform that goes too far.

San Diego Proposition “A”: YES

San Diego Proposition “B”: NO

San Diego Proposition “C”: NO

Proposition “A” would exempt San Diego’s police officers and firefighters from losing their jobs to privatization. We oppose privatization completely, but it’s especially obnoxious for public-safety officials. If you’re robbed or raped or your home is burglarized, do you really want the person who answers your call to come from Blackwater? We didn’t think so.

Proposition “B” is the latest attempt by San Diego’s establishment to perpetuate their “strong-mayor” scam. A charter revision that was touted as “strong-mayor, strong-council” has in practice meant “dictatorial mayor, rubber-stamp council.” This would require that voters have the chance in 2010 to make the “strong-mayor” charter permanent and add another City Councilmember, not because the city needs one but just to make it harder for the council to override the mayor’s vetoes. The San Diego County Democratic Party and the San Diego Democratic Club endorsed this misbegotten proposal out of fear that if they didn’t, an even worse strong-mayor measure would get put on this year’s ballot in November. But, aside from being ridiculous — why should voters vote for something that tells them they’ll have to vote on it again two years later? — it’s also part of a corrupt political process that should be emphatically rejected.

So should Proposition “C,” which attempts to extend mayoral dictatorship over San Diego by allowing the mayor to appoint the city’s auditor. Aside from the “putting the fox in charge of the henhouse” aspect City Councilmember Donna Frye is expertly lampooning in her public appearances against it, it’s not exactly going to re-establish the bond market’s confidence in San Diego if its voters approve something so obviously corrupt.