Just say Yes


    It’s that time of year again. We have an election coming up in just over two weeks, and there is no putting it off anymore. It’s time to try and hack my way through the official voter’s guide and try to make some sense out of the information that keeps coming, over the transom, by fax, mail, e-mail, newspaper, magazine, slate cards, gossip and, most of all, television.

    It seems to me it used to be easier. A quick check and you’d know if you were for or against something. Not anymore. The political pros have gotten smarter. First, they do all sorts of sophisticated polling, focus groups, surveys. Then they research how your eye reads, they check out the potential endorsers for their Q factors and they put together a message that’s not so easy to spot by blending a little bit of left with a little bit of right. They blend a little bit of fiscal conservatism with a little bit of do-goodism, and it gets harder to figure out where you stand or, more accurately, where they stand. It’s no accident. Politics has become a very sophisticated business.

    To get started, I grab the official voter’s handbook that every registered voter gets from the Secretary of State’s office. First, I check out the summary of the propositions, which is done by the legislative analyst, and since that office is bipartisan and usually fairly down the middle, you can generally assume that they’re giving you the straight scoop. Then I check to see who signs the propositions for and against, and their list of supporters, if they give it. Typically, if their supporters are the good-guy lobbies, like the American Cancer Society or the American Heart Association, they’ll be listed. If no supporters are listed, it’s probably some industry group trying to hide their sponsorship. Next, I check out the League of Woman Voters analysis and read the material that comes to the paper everyday. Most of it, of course, is total baloney and tells only one distorted side of the story.

    The most interesting propositions are what I call the “strange bedfellows” propositions. That’s where you find people who never agree on anything supporting the same proposition.

    For example, Proposition 3, which moves the California presidential primary date, has an argument in favor signed by both Sen. John Burton, president pro tem of the Senate, a San Francisco Democrat and as left as you can get, and Bruce Herschensohn, on the other end of the political planet. If they can agree that something is good, it’s not just good, it’s stupendous and a must vote.

    Then, I read the California Journal, which reports on state politics, and talk to my son Tony, who is an associate editor for the journal, covering the legislature, who generally knows all the best and most recent political gossip.

    Lastly, I follow the local papers for the local issues.

    So let’s start with the easy ones:

    Proposition 1A

    A $9.2 billion bond issue for schools. This one is long overdue. Per capita, we’re down there with Mississippi and Arkansas in what we spend for schools. An absolute resounding Yes if you care at all about California’s future, want class-size reduction and want to replace old, worn-out, dangerous school buildings. It first passed the legislature and was agreed to by the governor to get it on the ballot.

    Proposition X

    Another definite Yes. This is a local measure. It will bring $12,033,779 directly to the Malibu schools and will also ensure that we get a larger share of that State Bond money (Proposition 1A) to our town.

    Proposition 3

    Yes, let’s have an earlier California presidential primary. Maybe we’ll even get to have a say about who gets nominated.

    Proposition. 4

    Pam Linn’s doing the research on this one, and her comments will run next week.

    Proposition 5

    This is the hotly disputed Indian casino initiative. Speaking of strange bedfellows — the Las Vegas Casinos and, I suspect, several unmentionable Las Vegas interests, some unions, some very liberal Democrats, some very conservative Republicans and a handful of Indian tribes are against this initiative. To get that many diverse interests to agree, there must be lots and lots of money spread around with all of them getting their turn at the trough. In favor of the initiative are a bunch of independent Indian tribes who have been spreading around a few bucks of their own. I must tell you that Karen and I gambled at the Indian-owned Morongo Casino near Palm Springs and Karen hit the slots for a royal flush. That has absolutely not influenced my recommendation to you. But the way I see it, I have to choose between making some Indians rich or making the boys in some Las Vegas casino even richer. I think I’m going with the Indians. They’ve been screwed over so many times, it’s their turn for the sweet side of the lollipop.

    I’ll finish the propositions next week. However, there is another very important and serious set of ballots and that’s the judicial races. It’s vitally important that everyone vote to retain all the Supreme Court justices and all the Justices of the Court of Appeal.

    This election is a test of fire for our entire system of an independent judiciary. If justices and judges have to be constantly looking over their shoulders for fear they’re going to get dumped by some special interest group with a single-issue program, then we’ve all lost something very important. The irony is that Ronald George, the California chief justice, is a political conservative, and the group trying to purge him and others is also a politically conservative “Right to Life” group. Ron George is a very gutsy guy. He took a very principled stand on a particular case and also wrote the opinion, which he easily could have assigned to someone else. That takes both courage and character. He and all the other justices need our support. A vigorous Yes for all the Justices, and tell your friends.

    Continued next week.