The political realm in Los Angeles is painful to watch right now – and worse – it is painful to participate in. And make no mistake, every single last one of us should be participating. It’s not just about reproductive rights, which Figure 1 so perfectly records:

Figure 1:  Get involved {internet source unknown}

It is also about waking up and weighing in, to a political scene dominated by corruption, to a political scene riven by umbrage, to a political scene obscure with disinformation.

I’m sorry it’s so hard. I cannot remember feeling so torn by mere binary choices. I’m not happy with either. I want my government to comprise service and regulatory components that are not market-driven. I cringe seeing these vital sectors privatized, whether to for-profit corporations or nonprofit “community” based organizations. It’s an inverse-Sophie’s choice: neither is good, and almost every race recapitulates this inadequate selection.

I’ll dive in below recommending elected officials’ races by jurisdiction, as labelled on your ballot in the black box: {National, City/Local, County, State, State Judicial}. Amendments, initiatives and statutes will be addressed by jurisdiction too.

Note the ballot’s labelled jurisdiction categories are not strictly parallel. For example, local Superior Court judges are considered “County” while curiously, state-level Judiciary merits its own separate category.

Unremarkable or uncontroversial races are not belabored, listed only in the page-by-page specific recommendations of Figure 2 below (click for a separate image to magnify).

A few races of particular concern, but for which we do not vote, will follow these specific ballot recommendations. Our specific “ballot group” is a constellation of offices defined by overlapping jurisdictions in the “Ocean Park Heights” section of Mar Vista. Constituents of AD55 resident to different areas, will have different “ballot groups.”

Los Angeles City/Local

So first is the mayoral race. Congresswoman Bass is midwife locally to precisely the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model of governance that has so concerned me (from an education politics perspective) for so long. The threat to Labor is real with nonprofits driving the assault on teachers’ unions in particular. And I worry the pattern constitutes an offensive vanguard. As whispered by the now-dethroned head of LA’s confederated Unions just last week (but look here for a shimmering, silver lining).

But since the alternative to Bass would consign City management to the mores of luxury development; there can really be no discussion. No more should schools be patterned on business than should be a municipality, with its essential health and human services. The profit motive is not a viable paradigm; I want a civic leader energized by compassion rather than by money. Period. Vote for Karen Bass. And hold tight to that filter of compassion, competence, and coalition-building.

Arguably more consequential to us here in Council District 11 is the race between Erin Darling and Traci Park. Park has been after this since long before the incumbent resigned, after which the field flooded with opportunists. There is no doubt she wants this job, and has spent many long hours pondering how to address our neighborhood’s deficient “constituent services.” Like some neighbors, I am disturbed by the strength of her LAPPL support. But she also touches supporters who are thoughtful, compassionate, and arguably less performative, allied more closely with well-studied political rationale than political locale.

I have belly-ached this race for months. I reached out to the “leftier” candidate after the primary looking for justification for my LACDP endorsement vote, which I cast for Mr Darling.

But subsequently I have grown uneasy. There are many points of misgiving, but most clear-cut is the palaver around work-force housing for LAUSD. It is just incredible that failing to remunerate our public sector staff, from teachers to janitors, with salary adequate to house their family, should justify for anyone – much less “progressives” – the politically and socially retrograde provision of company housing. This simply reeks of the dysfunction and privatization which follows Grover Norquist’s long-game in shrinking the government to drownable size. How the matters of housing and social services could have become so coopted by neoliberal sirens just grieves me. It’s the same justification manufactured for charter schools: shrink public school budgets until you can (plausibly if not legitimately) claim the sector is “failing” and justify outsourcing that public responsibility. Even while it is incumbent on us to fix what may be failing among our public sector (including, say, law enforcement (that disturbing bit of Park’s coalition) among so many other examples), and not finish off the choking job in the bathtub.

I do, nevertheless, think reasonable minds could differ on the choice between Park and Darling. For me, the poor and misleading argumentation of his campaign’s literature, cagily xeroxed to mimic grassroots support and conveniently remove internet-linked evidence, belies good faith or genuine determination. But the nub turns on subsequent influence and policy-making:  competence to effect change. I might hazard more on her painstaking, meticulous analysis and use of words, than on his record in the community. Her plan of action is clearly better thought-out and more achievable than his. Even while he offers instead, the contrast of a reputation aggressively maintained. My sense is there is more likelihood that she will effect change, and from within an ethical context. I will vote for Traci Park.

At the City level, I reiterate my steadfast support for the uber-competent Hydee Feldstein Soto. She takes commanding mastery of issues, and will step up to the office that we elect her to. Why choose one whose framework of morality, ethics and even Party affiliation wavers? Shun equivocation. And bask in the vision of debriding corruption from City Hall.

Likewise a wavering relationship with ethics forces me into Koretz’ camp for Controller. The filter of compassion-competence-coalition building doesn’t screen out a clear signal, but I cannot ignore deceit. Better the devil you know.

For Trustees of LA Community College, the fresh insight of Hernandez and Iino won’t come at the expense of competence. Veres and Buelna while not newcomers, confer more confidence in their capability than the other choices.

The all-Dem Senate District 28 race sets an apartment lawyer against a community organizer, one who is actually walking the walk. Favor the community’s perspective over business’: Smallwood-Cuevas.

All four revenue enhancements are valuable. Vote YES on Measures LH, SP, ULA and LA to fund low-income and affordable housing, parks, recreational and community college facilities.

Los Angeles County

Most other races are not as highly contested nor do they recapitulate this local polarity. The county supervisor race is a matchup of distance, between the small, West Hollywood councilmember Lindsay Horvath, and veteran state assemblymember Robert Hertzberg. It is a contest between City and Valley, the new “Left Forward” and old-time Sacramento machinery. Horvath could provide new perspective and hopefully some transparency to the County’s political structure, as robust and opaque as any, anywhere.

I expressed my feelings about the “Defenders of Justice” slate during the primary. I believe the judiciary is by ideal and design to be impartial. That it falls shy of this ideal cannot be fixed by capitulation to bias. As when the public sector falls short of its mandate, the fix is not to throw baby out with that bath water, but to fix it, with scrutiny and regulation. This infuriates the “Left Forward” because as a corrective the prescription is insufficiently saltatory, and insufficiently fast: too little, too late. But I respect our legal system which is constructed with division and roles. I think advocacy is virtuous work. Not the work of the judiciary, but where partisan predilection belongs. I admire the slate’s candidates, though I have concern for their means – slates in general and most particularly in this context. In each case I would not see them subsumed beneath robes, but rather standing up before them. My choices for Superior Court Judge are as follows. Seat:  60(A Baron), 67(FM Barreto), 70(RY Chang), 90(M Lyons), 118(M Hammond), 151(P Hare).

There is a reactionary amendment proposed to the County charter. The incumbent Sheriff has so disgraced his office that he richly deserves voting out and you should do so by selecting instead Robert Luna. But to seize this happenstance as excuse for deprecating popular vote to the power of our insular, overly concentrated and cliquish County Board of Supervisors, is foolhardy. Don’t be tempted by Measure A just because the current guy is unhinged. Worse than suffering his untethered excess, would be to unmoor the underlying governmental structure. He’ll be gone following election day, so there’s no justification for permanently amending the charter to diminish the power of our vote through measure A. Vote NO on A.

LAC Measure C is complicated, hinging on practical effect and political fairness. Inequitable tax structure sets up loopholes, but plugging these may result in collateral damage. Nevertheless address these we must and their sequelae too. Please vote YES on C.

State

At the state level are clear-cut matchups between incumbent Democrats and a Republican; these are not serious contests and the choice is uncontroversial, even for the nonpartisan Board of Equalization and State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

State judiciary races are essentially ratification of Governor selections. Any judge appointed during the preceding gubernatorial term comes for approval before the electorate at the next Governor’s election. When the choice is ratified initially, subsequent approval from the public is considered 12 years later. The State Judicial Branch of California has a website here that features biographical information about all judges, including those up for review. These are nonpartisan, specialized offices so CADEM does not endorse for them. Some local Democratic Clubs have more expertise and will. I have heard of no compelling reason not to approve any of the judges on the ballot, including one whose scrutiny I suspect is in part exclusive to her party affiliation. In the absence of egregious or inappropriate performance, I recommend to, and will, vote YES on all – even suspected Republicans because we are still a republic, and (at least long-term) association with an alternate party is not de facto disqualifying. Even while acknowledging some recent federal judicial appointments have been disqualifyingly partisan.

Despite threat of superseding Federal law, we must amend California’s state constitution by voting Yes on Measure 1 to protect reproductive health as a human right.

Gambling being a predatory tax on the poor, Vote NO ­­­on both Measure 26 & Measure 27. Prop 27 is not going to solve homelessness and Prop 26 introduces Texas-style abortion vigilantism around gaming:  shame on both their houses. Collective lobbying around this pernicious ruination has topped a half-billion dollars.

Former LAUSD Superintendent, Soviet-Russia privateer and hedge fund whiz-kid, Austin Beutner, has done a good job proposing, protecting and regulating arts funding for K12. Vote YES on Measure 28,

Another incidence of fiscal intimidation by corporation, regards ballot regulation of dialysis clinics. Prop 29 is the latest iteration in a series of three measures pitting private dialysis companies against their healthcare workers’ union, featuring over-medicalization in the context of healthcare for our most vulnerable. Physicians of my acquaintance tell me it is so hard obtaining dialysis for poor patients, that their potential disenfranchisement is worse to contemplate than capitulating to these companies. Vote NO on Measure 29 and pledge to reform campaign financing so as to enable strong and clear regulation on healthcare – which case-in-point – should be administered as a public good and never by corporation.

Lyft is again on the ballot this time conscripting environmentalist’s support through the truism of Clean Air and tax progressivity. Thanks to recent state law, Prop 30 will not alter the rate of vehicle electrification, but it will shift ride-share companies’ costs away from the company and onto the public. And in the process, normalize “budgeting by initiative,” undermining public prerogative to elect politicians responsible for more nimble, responsive and thoughtful planning. To the extent this is unachievable, see the above pledge to “reform campaign financing,” and Vote NO on Measure 30.

Courts have prohibited selling addictive, candy-like tobacco to the underaged. But their manufacturers would have the people reverse the ruling. Vote YES on Measure 31 to ban the murderous ploy.

Fig-2-voting-choices

Figure 2: Recommendations for AD54, Mar Vista “Ocean Park Heights” ballot group.

Other races

We vote only on the above, of course, but there are other races of concern.  Mia Porter in AD52.  Rocio Rivas in LAUSD2.  Katy Yaroslavsky in CoLA CD5.  Tina McKinnor in AD62. Angelica Duenas in CD29. Patrice Marshall Mckenzie in PUSD.  Water boards everywhere.

Statewide endorsements from CADEM are here. Local and County endorsements from LACDP are here. You can get a facsimile of your own ballot linked to information from the Secretary of State and other nonpartisan sources at Voter’s Edge here, a “joint project of MapLight and the League of Women Voters of California Education Fund (LWVCEF).”

In Culver City a candidate for their independent school board, is being endorsed by LAUSD’s charter minion Melvoin. This blending of lanes reflects the broad shift in neoliberal privatization politics from education to housing and transportation. The hidden agenda of plutocrats is carried, sometimes by the most unlikely of allies, between the circumscribed municipalities of the westside’s Santa Monica, Culver City and beyond. I am apprehensive about the proliferation of “Left Forward” politics, not for its reimagining of socialism or community power, but because of the shell game that new bosses, same as the old, play to subvert checks and balances of power.

I’m as impatient as the next to see politics change by saltation. But when the net result is disruption without construction, one has to question the means of production.