Since the absentee ballot has become an increasing popular method of voting in recent years, and since those ballots are beginning to arrive in mailboxes this week, we will be publishing our recommendations to readers in a series of endorsements during the next three weeks. As has always been our policy, we will not endorse in every race, but only those in which we believe we can offer informed opinions. The most important point we want to make, whether you agree with our endorsements or not, is to encourage you to vote. For those not registered yet, you have until October 23. Information about registration can be found in the News of the Week section of the paper and on our Web site. There are many important items to consider on this ballot. Discuss the issues with your friends and family members. Encourage them to vote and, if possible, help your neighbors who may have trouble getting to the polls.
23rd Congressional District
In her calm, deliberate, and rhetorically understated manner, Congressmember Lois Capps has been one of the best representatives this district has ever had. She is a champion for her constituents and has been a consistent vote and voice for reason and responsibility in a world going mad.
An increasing number of congressional members from both parties are now scrambling to explain why they voted for President George W. Bush’s disastrous Iraq War. Most claim, “We were misled by the president.” And they are right — they were misled. But Capps was not. She did her homework and refused to be swept up in war hysteria or overcome by terror. When the administration asked for a blank check to wage the wrong war against the wrong enemy at the wrong time, she said no. Sadly, all of Capps’s predictions about the dangers and follies of Bush’s preemptive strike have come true. Capps’s courageous stand against the war makes her an exceptional figure and a woman worthy of her duty, and many other examples of her common sense and moderate political intelligence show her to be an excellent congressmember and worthy of reelection.
While the tragic/comic opera of this Congress slowly winds to a halt, Capps has consistently stood against its most outrageous bills. She not only voted against the grossly craven tax cuts for one percent of the wealthiest Americans, but she refused to participate in the cruel cutting of services to the poor and the dwindling middle class. Representative Capps warned these tax cuts would only hurt the lives of working people. And again, sadly, she has been proven right. Capps fought all the administration’s feckless attempts to destroy our environmental policies and safety standards. She successfully kept more oil drilling off our coast. A knowledgeable advocate for better healthcare, more sensible education policies, and help for our veterans, Capps — as a member of the minority — has had to spend most of her time battling the wrong-headed policies of this particularly radical, right-winged Congress. Now, given the bizarre events unraveling the Republican House leadership, a real possibility exists that the Democrats might regain control of the House. In this context, do the country a favor and vote to reelect Lois Capps.
24th Congressional District
Incumbent Elton Gallegly has held his post in the House of Representatives for 20 long years, during which time he has consistently distinguished himself as one of the most reactionary dunderheads in Congress. Scanning his voting record begs the question: Who does he consider his constituents? It certainly doesn’t appear to be the people of the 24th District, a recently gerrymandered area stretching from Simi Valley through Ventura County and up the middle of Santa Barbara County. Though he has been a lapdog of the Bush administration since 2000, it’s not really accurate to classify his voting record as conservative, though he sure could talk that talk; but more than anything, his record is just plain bad. If you’re not for greasing the wheels of corporate America, for making it easier to run roughshod over the environment, for plunging the country ever deeper into debt by lowering taxes and borrowing money for misbegotten military adventures with ramifications too numerous to list in this short space, you’re not for Elton Gallegly.
And he has gotten worse since he was gerrymandered into representing Santa Barbara County. Aside from the much documented fact that he seldom responded to the needs of his constituents, especially those registered as Democrats, he even refused to help in the ongoing fight to keep Santa Rosa Island a national park. Instead, he has supported the thoroughly odious congressmember Duncan Hunter in his attempt to turn Santa Rosa into a private hunting club for disabled veterans, a deeply spurious claim since the veterans group that inspected the island said it was remarkably unsuited for any disabled person.
This is not a man who should represent the voters of this country, let alone this county.
For whom, then, can those of us squashed into this odd district vote? The answer is Jill Martinez. A Presbyterian minister who retired from her ministry last year to run for office, Martinez offers a forward-thinking alternative to her supine opponent Gallegly. A deputy director for the Ventura County Area Housing Authority in the mid 1990s, Martinez has stayed active in the housing arena and has worked diligently to bring affordable housing to thousands of working families. Martinez’s top priorities are finding a safe, strategically sound way to pull our troops out of Iraq as soon as possible, funding quality education, and achieving universal access to affordable healthcare and housing — a pleasant change of pace from providing private hunting reserves to elitist congressmembers.
But what really sets Martinez apart from Gallegly is her lively, engaged manner. Unlike her rival — who tried to retire this year but was forced back in the saddle by Bush’s mastermind Karl Rove — Martinez is willing and eager to meet with all residents in the 24th District. We are confident that Jill Martinez will work to forge a new Congress that does what it is supposed to do: stand up to the president, stand up for human rights, stand up for sane fiscal policy, and stand up for her district. For many decades the United States was governed from the broad center of American politics. Since the ascension of the Bush administration, and particularly since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, radical politics has supplanted our traditional faith in moderation, and it is wreaking havoc on our values, our prestige in the world, our coffers, and on us. Help restore the balance. Elect Jill Martinez to the 24th District.
2nd District Supervisor
Janet Wolf is the best person to represent the residents of the county’s 2nd District, especially those living in Goleta Valley neighborhoods where there is no other governing body but the Board of Supervisors. Of course, the whole district must rely on the board to deal with critical regional problems. And there will be plenty of those facing the new board come January. Most of these concern land-use conflicts involving growth and preservation.
Within the Goleta Valley, for example, an argument is raging over how to preserve the area’s suburban character on the one hand, while trying to provide affordable housing for its less prosperous or younger workforce on the other. Wolf, who has raised her family for 18 years in the Goleta Valley, will be in an especially strong position to understand the needs of that community, and to act in a leadership role helping the board to reach a balanced decision.
Wolf has a well-earned reputation for being a person who can create a cooperative spirit among the members of boards on which she has served, such as the Goleta School Board when it considered some of its most tumultuous issues. Wolf’s skill in consensus-building will come in especially handy during the upcoming battle for the Gaviota Coast, which promises to be among the most important land-use fights in the history of Santa Barbara County. We believe Wolf has the backbone, the knowledge, and the support to stand up to development lobbyists while protecting the character, the beauty, and the integrity of our rural-urban boundary. Last, if not least, Janet Wolf, if elected, will be the first person to represent the 2nd District who has actually lived in Goleta.
Measure D 2006: YES
Rarely are county voters given an opportunity to support an ordinance that promises such essential and immediate relief as Measure D. Boiled down to its essence, Measure D increases the county sales tax by just one-quarter of a cent, thus raising an estimated $1.6 billion during the next 30 years for congestion relief efforts. We absolutely need that money. Here’s why. Without the funds provided by Measure D, many of the county’s roads and supporting infrastructure will fall into disrepair. The money will allow the widening of Highway 101 from Milpas Street to Ventura County, which too often resembles a four-lane parking lot. But, most importantly, Measure D offers us—for the first time ever—the means to begin funding transit alternatives.
Money has been earmarked for a commuter rail line connecting Ventura and Santa Barbara. Some wish to dismiss commuter rail as a pipedream conjured by car-hating crackpots. But consider this: In the next 15 years, even after adding lanes to Highway 101, traffic will increase to the point that gridlock will once again grind the freeway to a halt. When that happens, and even the staunchest advocates of car-centric traffic planning concede that it will, expanding the freeway again will not be an option—there will be no more land and construction will be too expensive. A rail connection, however, can be augmented by adding more passenger cars rather than new freeway lanes.
Measure D will also support increased bus service within the county’s seven cities, as well as connecting services between the cities. It will create new bike lanes and safe routes for children to walk or ride their bicycles to school. The tragic death of Jake Boysel, the 12-year-old boy recently killed in a traffic collision while riding his bicycle to La Colina Junior High School, illustrates this compelling need. As an added bonus, passage of Measure D—which will just cost county residents eight cents per day—will make Santa Barbara County eligible for up to $550 million worth of matching funds and grants. But without Measure D, we can kiss that money goodbye. Federal and state transportation agencies are only willing to help communities willing to help themselves. Because Measure D requires a two-thirds super majority of the voters to pass—a most difficult challenge—it’s unusually urgent that you take your suffrage seriously. Vote for Measure D. Don’t squander the opportunity.
Prop. 1A: NO
This is a classic special interest proposition; in this case, the road construction lobby. Proposition 1A would amend the state constitution to allow gas sales taxes to go exclusively to highway improvement measures. It would unnecessarily hamstring the state budget, taking money away from education, the environment, emergency expenditures, and other programs. Unless you stand to make money off such a limitation, there’s no reason to vote affirmatively on proposition 1A.
Prop. 1B: YES
“I have the impression all of this will end very badly,” Charles de Gaulle, the former French Prime Minister, once said of the California freeway system. Since 1990, California voters have evidently been doing their best to make de Gaulle’s prophesy come true, approving just $5 billion in state bonds for transportation improvements. Proposition 1B would give a $20 billion boost to our anemic transportation budget. About $11 billion would go to congestion relief; $4 billion to public transportation; $3 billion toward port enhancements, and in the process reduce air pollution; and $1.5 billion would go toward safety measures ranging from bridge fortification against earthquakes to safeguarding harbors, ports, and ferry terminals. If passed, as much as $70 million would be set aside for Santa Barbara County. But that’s only if Santa Barbara voters have the good sense to approve Measure D, the quarter-of-a-cent sales tax that will fund a host of traffic congestion relief measures. De Gaulle, with his Gallic pessimism, thought our freeways would end in ruin. Prove him wrong.
Prop. 1C: YES
If you happen to own a house in California, consider yourself fortunate. For everyone else, this proposition would provide a modicum of assistance. It would put $2.85 billion toward helping low-income renters, first-time homebuyers, and the homeless or nearly homeless. Some of this would come in the form of low-interest loans to homebuyers, some to shelters for battered women. Of that total, $1.35 billion would go toward infrastructure improvements — environmental cleanup, making water available — in neglected metropolitan areas where low-cost housing could then be built.
Prop. 1D: YES
California schools have an astonishing backlog of construction projects — take a look at San Marcos High School, where a quarter of the classes are conducted in oblong boxes on wheels. And San Marcos is in great shape compared with schools in Compton or west Oakland. This proposition would put $10.4 billion toward fixing the problem. Seven billion dollars would go toward K-12, with most of the rest going toward universities, community colleges, and trade schools.
Prop. 1E: YES
The Department of Water Resources estimates that $7 billion-$12 billion are needed to upgrade the state levee system. As we were all made tragically aware last summer, flood control measures are easy to forego — until disaster strikes. Prop. 1E would allot more than $4 billion to shore up the state levee system, most of it going to the Central Valley and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta area. This measure is a vital step in protecting lives, homes, and drinking water for millions of Californians.
Prop. 83: NO
This proposition is costly, unnecessary, and disturbingly harsh. Known as Jessica’s Law, it would require all sexual offenders to wear GPS tracking devices. And it would bar them from living within 2,000 feet of a school, or other location chosen by local governments. However, evidence suggests that tracking measures don’t reduce sex crimes. And effectively barring ex-offenders from living in cities would most likely drive many off the grid. California already has some of the most stringent laws regarding sex crimes of any state in the country. Jessica’s Law is pointless.
Prop. 84: YES
This would put $5.3 billion toward cleaning up our beaches, our water supply, and our state and local parks, plus an additional $1 billion for flood control. The governor supports this one, as does the California Chamber of Commerce, the water districts, environmentalists, and conservationists.
Prop. 85: NO
This nasty piece of business is not about protecting families or teenagers — it’s about working incrementally to overturn Roe v. Wade, outlaw abortion, and increasingly insert government into our private lives. It would amend the California constitution to require doctors to notify parents or guardians of teenagers trying to get an abortion 48 hours before the operation is conducted. Ideally, that’s what should happen. But needless to say, teenagers from abusive homes may not be in a position to notify their parents safely. If Prop. 85 were passed, chances are they’d still have abortions, just not under safe or optimum medical circumstances.
Prop. 86: YES
Californians pay out the nose for smokers to receive treatment when they get emphysema or cancer — estimates run as high as $16 billion to $20 billion per year. Proposition 86 would raise the cigarette tax by $2.60 per pack. That’s a big hike, or so it seems until you consider how much money people in the European Union or British Commonwealth, for example, pay for cigarettes — typically the equivalent of $9, $10, or $11. Evidence shows that with each increase in cigarette prices, the number of smokers statewide is reduced. This saves lives and reduces the medical costs for all of us. This bill will not solve the problem of how our health system is funded or how we pay for our healthcare. That will require some serious political courage. Until that day, we can at least make it harder, though not illegal, for people to smoke.
Prop. 87: YES
If passed, Prop. 87 would soak the oil companies now doing business in California with a new tax that would generate $4 billion over 10 years. That money would then be invested in the promotion and development of alternative energy sources. The oil companies have spent millions on ad campaigns trying to convince us why this is a bad idea. Maybe that’s not reason enough to endorse Prop. 87, but it’s pretty close. Even at $4 billion, this measure comes a day late and a dollar short. The whole country should have declared a state of emergency the day the Twin Towers were attacked and devoted much of our mighty resources toward making us as independent of fossil fuels as humanly possible. Since that hasn’t happened, we’ll have to begin here in California.
The real place to accomplish this should be in the private marketplace, for there is plenty of money to be made by developing alternative energy. A few oil companies, such as BP and Shell, have in fact begun to invest in this endeavor. But most oil giants seem stuck in a swamp, destined to follow the fate of the dinosaurs. Unfortunately, their lack of foresight will take us all down if something is not done to penetrate their corporate intransigence. For example, Exxon Mobil, apparently blinded by greed, continues to deny the existence of global warming. Clearly the private sector needs a wake-up call. Predictably, the oil industry has unleashed the usual scare tactics: If Prop. 87 passes, the increased taxes will result in consumers paying more at the pump. The fact is most of California’s gas is produced from oil drilled elsewhere; the tax increase exerts minimal upward pressure on prices. The importance of Prop. 87 is that it will, in some significant measure, help reduce the state’s quenchless thirst for oil and thus help drive down prices.
Prop. 88: YES
Public education in California is underfunded. We have one of the lowest per-pupil spending rates in the country. Prop. 88 would levy a $50 tax on property parcels to fund schools. As a proportion of the total education budget, revenues generated by the tax would be trifling — $450 million or so. That said, we still support Prop. 88, if for no other reason than sometimes something is better than nothing.
Prop. 89: NO
Given what we know about the ugly mess in Sacramento, it’s hard not to vote for this because it is an effort at campain finance reform.We all know candidates and measures with big-buck backing win — whether they should or not. But Prop. 89 is not the reform California needs. For any campaign reform effort to pass the smell test, all special interest donations need to be regulated. We opposed Governor Schwarzenegger’s proposal to attack union donations last year for just this reason; it didn’t limit corporate givers. We oppose Prop. 89 for just the same reasons, only this time Prop. 89 attacks corporate contributions, while giving union donors a pass. While we support the concept of publicly financed campaigns, we also think everyone should contribute. Prop. 89 sticks corporations and financial institutions with the full tab of what will be an extremely expensive undertaking. It’s easy to understand why. They, after all, have the money. But it’s not fair.
Prop. 90: NO
If Prop. 90 passes, you can kiss goodbye what’s left of Paradise and move to Newark, New Jersey. According to proponents of Prop. 90, it would prevent what recently occurred in Connecticut, where their Supreme Court ruled that the state could use “eminent domain” to raze homes that were not blighted and turn the land over to private developers who would reap an “economic benefit.” California already has ample legal safeguards in place to prevent such abuses from happening here. But the real danger is hidden in the fine print where a provision would force local governments to compensate private property owners for any actions that diminish the value of their property. This recipe for disaster would prevent our cities and county from imposing any constraints on the unchecked greed of private developers. Efforts to limit the size or scale of a private development to ensure its compatibility with the surrounding neighborhood would be grounds for litigation. Any government effort to limit development of the Gaviota Coast, for instance, would trigger lawsuits. Likewise, government programs requiring that developers of new housing include a few units of affordable housing would become an actionable offense. California law allows property owners a fair rate of return on their investment; it does not require an unlimited rate of return.
Kate Parker and Robert Noel
Two seats are open for the Santa Barbara School Board. Incumbent and oftentimes controversial Robert Noel once again gets our endorsement for his continued commitment to underachieving students and fierce watchdog mentality. Oftentimes at odds with his fellow boardmembers, Noel has suffered from the occasional foot-in-mouth disease, but his vision and commitment has never wavered — though speculation remains as to just how well he will be able to get along with next year’s incarnation of the board. His recently proposed high school initiatives illustrate perfectly why we continue to back Robert Noel: the Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Academy where students can begin to train as police or firefighters; a pre-advanced placement program designed to give students a better chance at college; and an in-high school Construction Technology Institute which would prepare students for either a trade career or a degree in architecture. Robert Noel has a creative mind and a sincere soul — all he has to do now is control his contrarian spirit so that his excellent proposals will see the light of day.
Adams Elementary School PTA veteran Kate Parker gets our endorsement for her intelligence, breadth of knowledge, common sense, and clear vision of a “bigger picture.” Since stepping down as PTA president some two years ago, Parker has seldom missed a School Board meeting while serving as Adams Elementary’s board liaison — an experience that not only galvanized her desire for a School Board seat, but has given her a remarkable amount of background knowledge that will allow her to step in and immediately have an informed impact on the board’s decisions. She presents a moderate temperament coupled with a deep understanding of important educational issues — two essentially needed qualities to move the district forward.
The decision to endorse Noel and Parker was not arrived at before carefully considering the other candidates — especially San Marcos High School parent and past PTSA president Suzy Cawthon. With her undeniable energy and serious number-crunching capabilities, Cawthon is a fine candidate who we hope will run again in the future. But the combined experience of Kate Parker and Robert Noel, their broad familiarity with this district, its constituencies, and its problems make them the best choices for the next Santa Barbara School Board.