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October 4, 2020

Dear Peeps:

I’m urging you to vote like your life depends on it. As America’s president struggles for his, you know it’s true. In evaluating whether you can afford the risk of a third-party vote, please consider the risk of the alternative. No matter how distasteful you may consider neoliberals or corporate Democrats, there is no economy if their peasantry dies. Killing that goose which laid the golden egg appears to be no problem for fascism or aristocracy. Plutocracy keeps its base alive. As the sponsors of so many imperfect bills urge: we can fix this later. But right now our democracy is facing a chokepoint before reaching the luxury of fighting imperfection.

There are 26 races on my ballot in Mar Vista. Others may encounter a different constellation of races. In the future I will try to consider and recommend options beyond what I personally see.

To find your sample ballot go here or use the County’s here. You may register or ask for a mailed ballot until October 19, 2020. It will take some time to transit through USPS mail so best to do this as early as possible. You may register and vote (provisionally) in person at the County Registrar in Norwalk through election day itself.

Locate your vote dropoff box here. You may also vote by mail or in person.

President and Vice president

I’m as unhappy as the next by our electoral state of Check that forces a vote for Joe Biden. But when necessary to avoid Checkmate, move we must into Check.

State Measures

Many (if not all) propositions are considerably more complex than their simple name label. I believe any initiative too long (and therefore complicated) for a tweet, ought not to be. The concept is as a fail-safe, not a legislation substitute. When voters must invest hours of research to even superficially understand a proposition, we are being marked as gullible; our vote is being exploited. This is unfair. To make these complicated decisions is the job we voted our politicians undertake when we elected them to represent us.

PropYesNoRationale
14   Stem cell research NThis is the poster child of a complicated proposition. We hire politicians to consult experts for precisely such cases. Review some of its complexity here. I am voting NO in this age of economic uncertainty. Our government is required during pandemic to sustain health and human services: we are in a crisis. There is simply no question that stem cell research is vital. There is, all the same, a question as to public budget priorities directed toward this purpose at this particular moment. https://ballotpedia.org/California_Proposition_14,_Stem_Cell_Research_Institute_Bond_Initiative_(2020)
15   Split roll property taxY Our state’s governance has ground to a halt virtually entirely due to latent, unintended and pernicious effects of the 1978 tax law, Proposition 13. While protecting grandma’s home it has upended our capacity to care for ourselves, to teach our children, to house our homeless, to feed the hungry, to clothe the poor. Some believe this is not a proper role for government and in imposing austerity, they have tested this presumption. I cannot bear to live among such destitution, I cannot bear to see our children in a system of schools so shamefully underfunded. And all within one of the wealthiest political entities on the globe. This disgrace must stop; our commercial interests must pay appropriately for the infrastructure that supports them. Vote YES to resume fairness in taxation. See here for clarification of the raft of fake claims being made about this proposition.
16 Affirm-ative ActionY Systemic bias needs addressing systemically. The dismal attendance of POC in higher education tells the whole story here. Most of our state’s elected officialdom supports this redress. It is a no-brainer.
17 Parolee VoteY There is basically no opposition to this initiative to allow people who have completed their jail sentence to vote.
18 Primary voting at age 17Y People who can work, pay taxes and fight in the country’s armed forces should be able to vote. Primaries should be linked to their general election in terms of voting.
19 Tax break mobility NAnother exemplar of why complicated law should not be enacted by voter-fiat. It’s ridiculous that older people (read: voters) are exempted from paying their fair share of property tax. And this measure compounds that absurdity. See here. We have to quit this, not that voting no on 19 will do so. We already initiated this taxation imbalance with prop 13, 58 and 60. But prop 19 would continue yet further along that same road, making things worse.
20   Crime charging reformY This doesn’t actually walk back over-policing, it correctly names violence for what it is so that our legal system can appropriately address appalling crimes like: kidnapping a child to sell them as a sex slave, rape of a developmentally disabled person, domestic violence causing injury. It addresses serial (not merely “3-strikes”) theft with prosecutorial discretion, and reinstates DNA collection integral to solving crimes which are violent (eg, robbery, rape, murder). Prop 20 invokes reasonable fixes to unintended consequences of Prop 47 and 57, enabling voters’ original reform intentions. Adjusting what never was intended and is clearly wrong will not reverse decimated incarceration rates. Here is information from they who would know, or alternatively, those with a vested interest depending on outlook. I think it sensible to believe those doing the work itself.
21 Rent controlY Local jurisdictions need control over local issues. Like rent control. This is not an issue that should be controlled universally across California. Our housing issues are felt here; they should be governed here. Negating Costa-Hawkins is vital. Big real estate interests are spending millions to protect their special interest, which is not yours and mine. Costa-Hawkins: Be Gone
22   Gig eco-nomy NWorkers managed by app, remain employees. They are entitled to the same expectations and protections we secure for the rest of we the people. Being employed via the net as part of the latest workforce revolution should not exempt your neighbor or mine from basic human and societal labor rights. Ride sharing apps have become successful because they skirt the structural expense of former employer relationships. But employers’ and peoples’ needs, their relationship to the economy and to society remain the same. Do not let app-based employment moguls purchase their interest from you. This is the most expensive ballot measure race in history, closing in on $196m dollars spent.
23 Kidney dialysis NThis is a tremendously lopsided race in terms of spending. Oddly enough, this time the baddest guys aren’t the spendiest in the room. Though they’re no angels; they are massive dialysis companies. At stake here is organized labor relations, and political control exerted through issues of what constitutes s a skilled medical procedure that needs what sort of professional oversight (whiff of abortion clinic regulations?). What’s at risk is freely available dialysis care particularly for the most vulnerable, who are also disproportionately heavy users of the treatment. So this is a political battle at the expense of the poorest played out through medical treatment; an especially toxic soup. The opposition fears passage will jeopardize availability of dialysis creating “deserts” as smaller operators close to accommodate gratuitous regulations. These are big elephants having a stomping match but patients shouldn’t bear the cost.
24   Internet privacy NA trojan horse: beware. Who isn’t for safeguarding consumer privacy? But note that some of the State’s most respected consumer privacy groups oppose this measure. It allows for loopholes that advantage the biggest of the tech companies, operating separate businesses under a single corporate umbrella. Sharing in-house is allowed, and when the house is as big as Google, LLC that’s essentially a mockery of privacy. More it establishes a new beachhead for neoliberalism, creating a market of consumer privacy rights. “Pay for privacy” is not a commodity worthy of your support or our government’s. It is abdicating legislators’ responsibility to place these critical matters in the realm of an initiative devised fallibly by one single plutocrat. Careful vetting of tricky legalese should be the task of elected representatives. Not bought legislators.  Vote NO.
25   Reform cash bail NAnother initiative too tricky for our own good. While some disagree with the need for bail reform, it is possible to support reform, just not as proposed by this initiative. Even while it is said erroneously that this passage is the only hope for it. Two sets of opponents to the proposition agree on means (Vote NO) to a different end (reforming the cash bail system). Passage amounts to substituting one form of criminalizing poverty (“an unjust money bail system”) with another empowering “judges to use pretrial jail time to pressure people into pleading guilty.” This initiative opens the floodgates to automated racial profiling through computerized artificial intelligence and “predictive policing.” It conscripts a whole underclass to the reductive bias and predation of BigTech masquerading as criminal justice reform. The only winners are the purveyors of the algorithms. It is they who are bankrolling support of the initiative. Vote NO.

Some voters’ guides of possible interest:

CalMatters  https://calmatters.org/election-2020-guide/

League of Women Votershttps://lwvc.org/vote/elections/ballot-recommendations

LA Community College District Trustees

Seat 1:  Andra Hoffman (incumbent)

Seat 3:  Anthony Danna

Seat 5:  Nichelle Henderson

Seat 7:  Nancy Pearlman

   It is important there be African-American representation on our Community College board. Particularly given the current intense concern with policing and equity and issues of social justice.  The spectacle surrounding the appointment of Kamlager’s replacement revealed biases it is essential to rout out. The incumbents in seats 3, 5 and 7 should not be reelected. The above listed three candidates have expertise in educational matters and eagerness for the job. They deserve your support along with the terrific extant trustee and only incumbent, in seat 1, who voted without disgrace in this controversy.

State Assembly District (AD) Representative

AD54:  Sydney Kamlager

   While I may not be completely comfortable with some of her positions, she is very present and approachable, thoughtful and transparent. In contrast it is hard to discern her opponent’s positions at all. She works very hard to represent us truly and deserves reelection.

United States Representative

D37:  Karen Bass

   We are lucky here in West LA to be so well represented by such an effective politician in Washington. Her presence is a relief.

LAUSD Bond Measure RRYES. Unequivocally, undeniably, unavoidably Yes.

Uncontroversial is that our schools need more funds. Controversial could be that it is hard to materialize new money under pandemic and economic distress. Fortunately, the bond will phase in gradually to replace old bonds as they are retired: no one’s property tax bill will increase. We will pay it all off over more years but there will be no pinching. Far from dictating austerity, Covid mandates a strong governmental support that requires this crucial bond now. Don’t even think about starving our schoolkids in this time of emergency.

Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors

District 2:  Holly Mitchell

   Senator Mitchell has been an amazing representative in Sacramento, keeping an eye out for what is happening back home in her neighborhood and in the city’s Neighborhood Councils while leading the Senate as finance chair. She is very accessible to constituents and full of good ideas for strategy and process. She is a teacher as well as a leader and a clearly honorable citizen. These are not qualities particularly evident among her opponent. This is an easy choice.

Superior Court Judges

Office No 72:  Steve Morgan.  I voted for Myanna Dellinger during the primary but her inappropriate campaigning at events such as a memorial service, and frequently intemperate expression during campaign events caused hesitation surrounding “judicial temperament.” Steve Morgan is a fine second choice and I am disappointed Dellinger’s diverse experiences suggest some impediment to stolidity.

Office No 80:  David Berger.  A seemingly lovely and compassionate person from his campaign appearances. If so the legal system will be better off for his leadership.

Office No 162:  Scott Yang.  It is a wonder he did not win his primary outright. So many of his colleagues speak so highly of him. Yet his opponent seems a fine choice as well. Reasonable minds can differ.

Now for the controversial choices.

County Measure Jmandates that at least 10% of the County general budget be appropriated for “community programs and alternatives to incarceration…”

   I am uncomfortable constraining a good politician with foregone spending priorities. We elect people to represent us well through changing times and circumstances. Dictating policy by blind fiat suggests a rote algorithm is all that is needed ever. If that were actually true, think of the money and effort saved to embed a bunch of rules and be done. Think of the unresponsive, unengaged, inefficient government we would conjure. But it isn’t. If our representatives cannot be trusted to enact responsibly, then they are the problem that ought to be addressed, not the underlying process.

   That said, I support Holly Mitchell and she endorses Measure J. I would not hamstring my choice, and yet she – as a budgeting professional no less – signs on to this condition. There is a trapdoor for declared fiscal emergency. I may yet vote No because today’s social emergency may be solved well by tomorrow. Most important is to elect Supervisors who share priorities of social justice, community and well-being. But it is reasonable to respect the endorsement of one’s candidate for the measure, and both BOS D2 candidates support measure J.

District Attorney –

   There is a stalking horse evident in the totality of the above recommendations. BigTech is coming for your information, your privacy, your public dollars, the Commons. They misdirect in prop 20, prop 22, prop 24, prop 25 and underlie problems tangentially elsewhere, too.

   George Gascón is a trojan horse ushering in the sort of reductive, inhumane and inaccurate automated assessment that has plagued the teaching profession through the past decade (think: LAT inaccurate ranking of teachers leading to the suicide of one; think yelp-style ratings for schools, etc). Utilizing artificial intelligence in the name of reducing the public’s bill is privatizing our public Commons for personal gain. It cedes control of our public sector and the ideology that governs it. While losing the employment and purpose of our people serving we the people in the process. It is not a stretch to finger this neoliberalization as the death of democracy. And it should not be tolerated.

   But first it must be detected and understood as such.

   Consider the narrative and the strength of the narrative surrounding these initiatives underwritten by the tech industry. We develop impressions and understand reputation subliminally without reference to fact. We tend not to fact-check what we know because… we feel what we know must be truth.

   For example it is stated that Jackie Lacey has charged no rogue cops who killed on duty. Yet in fact the truth is that she has charged one. Even while in truth it is he who has charged none. Nor is it so that she has failed to charge any cops with brutality. Jackie Lacey’s office has in fact charged 24 officers with unlawful use of force, 8 of whom were convicted. The rest are pending trial or were acquitted.

   The African-American, female, professional attorney Lacey has implemented reforms internally; the White-Latino, male, one-time policeman Gascón racked up a record in northern California of corruption and deception. Some say he is not what he says he is. While the old-boys network (read: BigTech) surfs on through propaganda.

   Even the propaganda level is being weaponized on misdirect. There is a lot of grousing about George Soros’ support of Gascon around social justice issues. But righteous is as righteous does; of bigger concern is the underlying self-serving BigTech money. Chan Zuckerberg (huge supporters of prop 15, which I thoroughly approve, even while bankrolling BigTech in schools), Reed Hastings (on the war path to flip LA’s school board to privatization interests – see below), and other Silicon Valley money – these all contribute largely and darkly, to George Gascón. Even while he pretends otherwise.

   I am voting for the Black Woman incumbent DA. Jackie Lacey may not be perfect, her husband may be perturbable, her PR sense may be lamentable, but she’s been doing the work, hasn’t cut and run from her last job even under fire, and isn’t pretending to be something other than what she is: dedicated to her duty, not a politician.

   I’m leery of the whispers at the margins, the broadcasting of falsehoods, the self-interested dark money. It seems that the campaign for George Gascón is a fait accompli and runaway trains cannot be stopped. But I am skeptical of the impetus behind it even if willing to hope for a benign outcome. The trouble is the bad, should it materialize, will be out-of-sight to non-professionals, unleashed upon the underclass most affected by law enforcement. The repercussions will be felt most among non-voters and the politically fragile and vulnerable. It is ironic that the class social justice warriors aim to assist would likely be those most at risk by the risky vote for George Gascón. I believe Jackie Lacey to be the more trustworthy candidate and I will vote for her. Most will not, I understand. But please consider carefully the source of your convictions.

Thank you.

LAUSD School Board

Board District 3:  Scott Schmerelson

Board District 7:  Patricia Castellanos

   LAUSD’s school board has been under assault by external political ideology that would privatize our public school system in favor of personal wealth and gain. The struggle is framed, erroneously, as between teachers’ unions and “education reformers.” It is in fact a struggle to wrest control of a public education system and render its public funds available to private interests.

   This is a narrative parallel to that of the “unliberal” law enforcement choices I’ve outlined above. The skepticism stems from a “deeper” concern with motivation and ends.

   I believe in democracy and the power of a statistician’s revered “big numbers” to flush the “right answer” out in the wash. The plutocrats underlying the push for LAUSD would sever our public elected school board from we its people as they successfully did in New York. That plan was pushed here in LA unsuccessfully by the acolyte of republican former Mayor Riordan, the Democrat Mayor Villaraigosa, and it succeeded in Chicago only to be recently reversed there.

   Loss of public, people-elected control in our public institutions is the ground-breaking issue at stake here.

   The former district school principal, Scott Schmerelson, is a formidable incumbent with a commendable voting record for all kids, not just those served by allies within this political arena. His opponent is a white collar support staffer in a charter school, cynically portrayed by privatization lobbyists as prepared in a manner that she is not, who represents a fringe religious group completely at odds with her would-be stakeholders at that.

   The mom, labor leader and political staffer Patty Castellanos is revered by her coworkers as astute, effective and well-prepared to represent issues of public education policy. Her opponent is another tool of a political ideology that is underwritten by, and more about finance and personal opportunity than public education or opportunity for all.

   Neither candidate is running in my district and likely not in yours, my AD54 constituents. But if you have friends who vote in BD3 or BD7 please consider commending the public candidates to them. No less than the democracy of our public school system is at stake. It is that important. With the plutocrat financier Eli Broad’s BFF, Austin Beutner, as superintendent, selected when last the board was controlled by these forces, there will be a significant shift in policy should either of these seats be lost. **Please keep public education public**

Vote Schmerelson and Castellanos.