Because the ballot is overloaded with races, state and local initiatives, we have broken our endorsements into two parts, concluding next week. When it comes to candidates, the incumbents have proven themselves to be the kind of leaders we need to keep the state functioning. For Congress, that’s a tough nut to crack in general, with so much diversity in politics across the country. But we feel the legislators representing Ventura County have been doing a good job and we stand by them. When it comes to the state propositions, however, the pros and the cons were a difficult call. Some had more good than bad. Some had more bad than good. So we opted for those that presented the greatest benefit and seemed to cause the least harm.

 

Candidates

Governor
Let’s face it, Democratic incumbent Gov. Jerry Brown is a shoo-in for re-election. He brought California from the brink of insolvency after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the recession left the state in proverbial shreds. It now has a surplus. He’s bipartisan, meaning he hasn’t signed every bill that has been passed by the legislature just because there is a Democratic super majority and there hasn’t been wild spending, something Democrats are notorious for. There is no need for change at this point.


Jerry Brown


Gavin Newsome

The choice is easy: Vote for Jerry Brown for Governor. For similar reasons, being Brown’s right-hand man and given the fact they have worked well together over the last four years, vote for Gavin Newsom for Lieutenant Governor.

24th Congressional District
Congresswoman Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, continues to be the representative we want in Congress, pro-environment, pro-humanity, pro-all that we think is the greater good for our society. Check out her voting record on votesmart.org. While incumbents have been getting a bad rap, we just don’t see any good reason to replace her.


Lois Capps
Vote for Lois Capps for 24th Congressional District.

26th Congressional District
Watching this race has been nothing short of miserable. With the overload of daily mailers, the rabid finger-pointing, the flying accusations, the divisions among community leaders over defending their candidates, it’s tiresome and nasty, almost hard to get behind anyone at this point. But election seasons are just that these days, especially when a seat is as highly contested with a near-even perfect voter division (52 percent Democrats and 48 percent Republicans) in a district. And so, while we endorsed Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo, for state assembly in the last election and while we were concerned about Julia Brownley’s, D-Westlake Village, move to the county just for the sake of the election, when we looked at why she did — Supervisor Steve Bennett dropping out of the race — we feel that perhaps we didn’t take a good look at what she would represent for her constituents of Ventura County in Washington. An advocate for the environment, equal pay, minority rights, services for veterans, etc., etc., we feel Brownley represents what we feel is important. And we know she will continue down that path.


Julia Brownley
Vote for Julia Brownley for 26th Congressional District.

37th Assembly District
We have kept an eye on Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, since he was first elected to the assembly four years ago. He’s going for the home stretch now, with the assembly term limit of six years. We feel his work has been good, his voting record consistent with a pro-environment, pro-social equality, pro-doing the right thing for the greater good. Why mess with that?


Das Williams
Vote for Das Williams for 37th Assembly.

44th Assembly District
The seat vacated by Republican Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo, is in hot contention at the moment, but it really shouldn’t be. Gorell, while not perfect, was a moderate representative who operated on the basis of working with his opponents. Despite his shortcomings, it can’t be said that Gorell was divisive — despite the nasty campaign between him and Congresswoman Julia Brownley, D-Westlake Village, at the present time.

What can be said, however, is that Pastor Rob McCoy, R-Thousand Oaks, is and would be a divisive figure in the Assembly. As a noted supporter of repealing Social Security and as a proponent of Tea Party ideologies, McCoy does not represent the voters of the 44th district.

Democrat Jacqui Irwin has experience in politics as mayor and a 10-year councilwoman on the Thousand Oaks City Council. She touts job creation and fiscal responsibility as her strong points, but is also an environmental stalwart and has fought for Thousand Oaks’ open space. We need her in Sacramento to help keep the scales balance.


Jacqui Irwin
Vote for Jacqui Irwin for 44th Assembly District.


State Propositions

Prop 1, Water Quality, Supply and Infrastructure Improvement Act
It’s all in the name. While this bond won’t make Mother Nature pour rain or force Californians to conserve water, it will address water issues that have been mounting for decades and only now are really being paid attention to — does drought crisis ring a bell? Our infrastructure is crumbling (think the UCLA water pipeline spill in July); this bond gives several billion dollars toward repairs. While that is good, it also includes money to construct more dams, which is contrary to the fact that we need to be removing old, obsolete dams rather than building new ones. But we can’t wait for another election cycle or for lawmakers to stop bickering about what we need to do next to prepare for water issues in the future. We need to invest now.


Vote YES on Prop 1.

Prop 2, Bigger rainy day fund for the state budget
In 2004, under then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, California voters created a rainy day fund in hopes of being prepared for possible emergencies, which, as we are all aware, are all too common in our state. The goal was to set aside a small amount of money to deal with these unforeseen turbulent times. In the end, there were no measures in place to keep politicians from pillaging the fund for special projects, and nothing to stop the governor from canceling the fund deposits altogether.

With Prop 2, Californians will get a chance to fix it. Prop 2 would save 1.5 percent of general fund revenues and would require payments toward the $300 billion debt the state has acquired. It would also put strong safeguards in place to keep the fund from being depleted and would also make it harder to cancel payments altogether by tying the amount set aside to capital gains tax revenue. Over the first 15 years, half of that money would go toward paying off the state’s debt and unfunded liabilities.

Prop 2 would also create a separate law that would cap the amount of money local school districts can keep in reserve, between 3 percent and 10 percent. According to a 2012 fiscal report by School Services of California, Inc., unified school districts, high school and elementary school districts save on average between 15 percent and 24 percent in a rainy day fund. While spending down reserves to comply with this law is a bad deal, the California Teachers Association and other unions have taken a neutral stance on the initiative in hopes of negotiating a better rate afterward. If these groups who perceivably have the most at stake haven’t come out railing against it, we feel its passage won’t be harmful, but rather beneficial in the long run.

Vote YES on Prop 2.

Prop 45, Insurance Commissioner to be able to reject excessive health care insurance hikes

A lot of money has been raised in opposition to Prop 45, and that alone should have you considering voting yes, but we’ll get to the meat of it here and now.

Prop 45 would give California’s insurance commissioner, an elected position, the power to reject excessive health-care insurance rate hikes. After the passage of the Affordable Care Act, health insurance became compulsory, leading some to believe that insurance companies would take advantage of this mandate. The passage of Prop 45 would help to alleviate some of those fears.

Prop 45 isn’t revolutionary. In fact, 36 other states already carry similar laws. The commissioner already has this power over auto and home insurance and, judging by those other states, it has not meant higher premiums despite what the opponents to Prop 45 say — which is their main argument.

Vote YES on Prop 45.

Prop 46, increasing malpractice cap; alcohol, drug testing for doctors
Corporate America has overruled the American justice system for decades, using politicians to enact laws protecting them from responsibility. Prop 46 would return some power to consumers while providing peace of mind for patients by lifting a maximum award on damages as well as assuring patients that their chosen physicians are fit to make decisions on their well-being.

Prop 46 would turn back the clock on tort reform activists by raising the maximum cap in medical malpractice suits of $250,000 for non-economic damages to over $1 million, while requiring drug and alcohol testing of doctors. Perhaps this combination will result in lower medical costs with doctors who practice more carefully with such laws in place.
We believe a vast majority of physicians are responsible, but this requirement would help give patients some security that they are in the best, sober hands. Prop 46, however, does not include the methods by which physicians would be tested or even how often tests would be administered, a big downside and reason why we wish the two measures were separate.

The time is now, however, to return protections to the consumer, protections taken away under false pretenses.

Vote YES Prop 46.

Prop 47, Reducing certain charges to misdemeanors
In the world of crime and punishment, there has to be some recourse for bad behavior. With this proposition, though we advocate for alternatives to drug possession, this particular proposition would mandate that felony sentences be dropped to misdemeanors for crimes that involve damages of less than $950: grand theft, petty theft, forging/writing bad checks, receiving stolen property — even if it is gun theft, which in turn can cause irreparable damage — and drug possession, even if it is date rape drugs. This would most likely mean a slap on the wrist with a fine. Given the VCReporter’s recent story on prison realignment, showing that jail, new programs and services plus more supervision through probation have been working somewhat as deterrents, why change what seems to be moving in a positive direction for everyone?

Vote NO on Prop 47.

Prop 28, ratifying gaming compacts in Madera County
It’s unfortunate that something that seems to impact only a very small portion of the state is on the ballot for all California voters. But that’s the case here. When in doubt, leave it out. This initiative speaks of new casinos and annual payments to local governments in Madera County. What does that have to do with Ventura County or how it relates to all Californians? We just don’t see the tie.

Vote NO on Prop 48.


Election endorsements, part 2

We wrap up our endorsements this week with a focus on local measures and the races for Oxnard mayor and City Council, plus Port Hueneme City Council election. Don’t forget — Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 4.

Candidates

Oxnard mayor

In an interview with Tim Flynn, “There’s a new mayor in town,” VCReporter, 1/17/13, Flynn spoke of the platform he ran on for his election: “Jobs. I ran on a platform of bringing higher-paying jobs to the city and, in particular, new-economy jobs: high-tech, biotech and medical research. … I really want a Gold Team Oxnard that is going to bring those high-tech and higher-paying jobs here; and at the same time, I just really want to elevate the standard quality of living in the city and also in education.”

While Flynn did make some effort by meeting with Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo, to talk about bringing jobs to Oxnard, it seems as though it was primarily just that: talk. In the Oxnard Chamber of Commerce’s 2013 City of Oxnard Community Profile report, there has been no significant increase in higher-paying jobs, and apparently nothing worth mentioning about job growth in the tech, biotech or medical research fields. Gold Team Oxnard is either off the radar or nonexistent. Further, Oxnard’s labor force has been on the decline since Flynn was inducted into office, from 92,063 employed in January 2013 to 89,152 in August, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

We know two things: that under Flynn’s leadership, the Del Norte Recycling Center is now owned and operated by the city of Oxnard to save money (though the city still hasn’t dealt with infrastructure issues of the plant); and that there is a new city manager on board, Greg Nyhoff, and so far we like Nyhoff’s progressive management style. But at this point, we just can’t say Flynn is the best choice for mayor.

When looking at the latest data, there is no evidence that he has kept his promises on job creation and we know he belabors certain agenda items at council meetings for no apparent reason, to the point of exhaustion for everyone. In 2012, we endorsed City Councilwoman Carmen Ramirez for mayor for her diplomatic leadership approach. This year, we endorse Bryan MacDonald. Over the years, we have spoken about his approach to long-term sustainability and his support for The Collection and Measure O, things that have served Oxnard well and that Flynn did not support. We want to see what MacDonald can offer the city of Oxnard as its mayor. Vote for Bryan MacDonald for mayor of Oxnard.

Oxnard City Council

City Councilwoman Carmen Ramirez stands for the arts, education, environment, fiscal responsibility, minorities, transparency in government … Oxnard, in general. There’s no question about her dedication to improving the city for everyone. From her voting record to her career as an attorney representing low income and disabled clients to the many boards she sits on and the endorsements she has received, she’s the real deal. This is an easy one: Vote for Carmen Ramirez.

City Councilman Bert Perello hasn’t sat on the council very long, just over a year, having been elected in June 2013. Perello has served as a citizen watchdog for many years and remains devoted to transparency in local government. We would like to see him serve a full term. He just got his feet wet. Let’s see what he’s got over the next four years. Vote for Bert Perello.

Port Hueneme City Council

There is a lot to be said about the race for Port Hueneme’s City Council, but a lot of it has been said before: confusion and mishandling of important issues like the city budget; relations between the city, the Port of Hueneme and the Oxnard Harbor District; the introduction of the controversial Measure M; plus the concerns about the 2012 upheaval over the resignation and ouster of the police chief and city manager, respectively.

What these issues have in common is that they were and have been exacerbated by a City Council that has apparently not been in control for some time, led by current Mayor John Sharkey and his supporters on the council — Sharkey has been on the council for 20 years.

It is for this reason that we endorse challengers Tom Figg and Jim Hensley for City Council seats. Hensley has a long history of fighting for the people of Port Hueneme, whether in the form of sounding the alarm on beach erosion or raising the flag on the city’s lack of crossing guards at elementary schools. Figg is a reasonable voice in an unreasonable time, willing to reach out to the city’s neighbors and work with rather than against them.

While we respect what Mayor Sharkey has accomplished for Port Hueneme, his tenure speaks for itself. His handling of the many issues facing the city recently has been less than stellar. With three seats up for grabs on the council, we suggest a significant shift from the status quo. New faces on the council could help to alleviate the bad blood brewing between the city and the port and would help put the city back on track toward good relations and fiscal responsibility.

Local measures

Ojai’s Measures A, B and C
As Ventura residents and local politicians argue whether or not to elect a mayor, the subject has not only come up in Ojai but made it to the ballot. A couple of differences worth noting: 1.) In Ventura, a longtime councilman continues to be skipped over by his fellow elected colleagues for the seat while in Ojai, that doesn’t seem to be the issue as to why this is even on the ballot; 2.) Ventura has close to 110,000 residents, Ojai has 7,500. We don’t see why this is on the ballot. We think for such a small community, this effort is a bit over the top. Voting no on Measure A would make Measures B and C obsolete (length of time the mayor serves in office). Vote NO on Measures A, B and C.

Ventura’s Measures D and E
We are going to keep this short and sweet. YES YES YES. Vote yes for higher voter turnout and cheaper elections for Ventura City Council and Ventura Unified School District Board elections by switching to even election years. Enough of the odd year election cycle. Vote YES on Measures D and E.

Santa Paula Measure F
Throughout the state, cities and counties with increased sales tax measures in place, their proceeds going toward police and fire services and street repair and maintenance, have fared better in the long run than those without. Take, for instance, Oxnard. Measure O, a half-cent sales tax increase that was implemented in April 2009, has raised $41 million so far that has been spent on fire and police services and several community enhancement projects. While things aren’t perfect in Oxnard, more money has meant better quality of living in various respects. We endorsed Measure O in 2008 and while 1 percent sales tax might be a bit much compared to a half-cent increase, we feel this is for the betterment of Santa Paula. Vote YES on Measure F.

School District Bond Measures G, I, J and K
Rio School, Conejo Valley Unified, Ojai Unified, Briggs Elementary (Santa Paula)
If you want the best education facilities for your children in your district, then vote yes. If you feel things are fine in your district, then you probably aren’t reading the news. When districts put forward such bond measures, it’s not because all is well. All of these districts are seeking funds to upgrade and improve their facilities and add classrooms. None of the money goes toward administration. It’s fairly simple: You get what you pay for and improving education facilities should be a priority. Always. Vote YES on Measures G, I, J and K.

Port Hueneme Measure M
Until we figure out why Port Hueneme seems to be coming up with random, complicated and surprising ways to rush more money into the city coffers, we say, shoot down any effort to do so and to change the norm. We haven’t heard anyone declare the city is on the brink of insolvency so why the sense of urgency? A “no” vote on Measure M would force the council to rethink its methods and open up communications between the city and its neighbors.

Measure M would update the city’s business-license tax code, originally drafted in 1978. The measure would eliminate taxes on home-based businesses, establish a minimum $100 on commercial businesses that base their taxes on gross receipts, and add new types of businesses to the code — including maritime and federally funded businesses, i.e., businesses operating in the harbor and on Naval Base Ventura County.

Proponents of the measure, including Mayor John Sharkey, say that M would level the playing field for local businesses that pay “hundreds of dollars in [business license fees].” Opponents say that Measure M wasn’t crafted with input from the city’s neighbors at the port and that it was written in a vague way, leaving room for loopholes to be exploited. The sheer speed by which this measure was put on the ballot plus the lack of willingness to work with all local businesses, aka stakeholders, on this measure raises concerns. Vote NO on Measure M.