The Independent’s 2006 Endorsements part II

This is the second installment of The Santa Barbara
Independent’s endorsements for 2006. As we explained in last week’s
issue, we are publishing our endorsements throughout a three-week
period. Updated information can be found online at Next week we will
include our endorsements of the city council races in Carpinteria
and Goleta, as well as the Goleta Water Board. If you have not yet
registered to vote, you still have a few days before the cutoff
date of October 23. If you are registered, but would like an
absentee ballot, you have until October 31.

Governor: Arnold Schwarzenegger

This endorsement might come as a surprise to many of our
readers, especially given how vehemently we opposed the recall
campaign that brought Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to power in
the first place. Times change, however, and people change, too. Of
course, all that changing is at the very essence of our concerns
about the governor: Is he nothing more than a political
weathervane, or is he a man who rethinks his positions with
knowledge gained from experience?

The answer is probably both, though we have been impressed by a
few of his policies that have remained remarkably consistent. From
his earliest days in office, Schwarzenegger has promoted and
supported environmental protections. And for much of his time in
office he has shown a willingness to get along with the Democratic
majority leadership in the State Capitol. This spirit of compromise
is not a sign of weakness but rather a signal that democracy still
has a chance to function here in California. In fact, such
necessary compromise has been sorely missing during the last six
years in Washington, D.C. The Republican majority in Congress and
the White House have run an “our way or the highway” system of
government that has just about run the rest of us and the world
into a ditch.

In California, this approach to state politics has resulted in
gridlock. Democrats, who have controlled the legislature for
decades, refuse to consider any reality check on the gerrymandered
mess they now use to assign state and national districts.
Republicans, for their part, refuse to give on the two-thirds rule
which requires a supermajority to approve a legislative vote on tax
increases. This allows the minority to block any tax, leaving the
initiative measure as the overused route to project-funding. This
in turn has left the initiative process in the hands of the rich
and the lobbyists. These are just two examples of why an
administrative paralysis is tying California into knots. If we have
any hope of changing this we must keep Arnold Schwarzenegger in the
governor’s mansion.

Ever since he lost his campaign to pass a slate of four ballot
initiatives last year (all of which we opposed), Schwarzenegger has
shown potential for becoming a moderate, rational force. In the
last year, Schwarzenegger has agreed to some very important
legislation, not least of which are the cap on greenhouse gas
emissions, the increase to the state’s minimum wage, and the
funding for stem-cell research. He has worked so effectively with
the Democratic majority that members of the Republican minority,
dominated by a radical right wing, have complained privately that
they might have done better with Gray Davis, who at least they
could rant and rail against in public.

endorsements_cheatsheet.gifWe don’t pretend to know where
Schwarzenegger will land on particular issues. It’s a mystery to us
how he plans to enact real reform if he makes good on his campaign
promise for no new taxes. And how moderate, how practical, how
compassionate was it to veto a bill allowing non-profits to
distribute condoms in prison? His refusal to honor a promise to
amend his reform of the workers’ comp bill has left permanently
disabled workers out in the cold. And though it is true that he has
surrounded himself with many progressive advisors working in his
office, he has also riddled his current administration with
insurance executives and lobbyists.

So, big surprise, we don’t approve of everything Governor
Schwarzenegger has done or might do. But we are convinced that if
any Democrat occupies the governor’s mansion this next term — much
less Phil Angelides who has shown little political leadership and
who has run a foolish, hysterical campaign — we will never see
either party back away from their polarizing positions.

With Angelides in Sacramento, there will be no rational reason
for the Republican minority to come to the bargaining table or for
the Democratic party to loosen its hold. As such, we will never get
true political reform in the foreseeable future. And by then global
warming may have rendered any talk about political reform a
charming remnant from the distant past.

Sheriff: Bill Brown

During the primary, we endorsed Lompoc Police Chief Bill Brown
in the race for sheriff of Santa Barbara County against incumbent
Jim Anderson. We stand by that decision.

Perhaps the greatest challenge facing the next sheriff is how to
end overcrowding at the County Jail. Twice as many prisoners as the
36-year-old building was designed for are now crammed into its
cells. Seventy percent of that population is still awaiting trial.
Many of these men and women are still forced to sleep on the
floors, violating a long-standing court order. No one can easily
solve this in a climate where money is short and voters are
reluctant. Thirteen grand juries have urged the county government
to do something and four sheriffs have tried — all came up empty.
The political maestro himself, former sheriff Jim Thomas, saw his
proposal to build a large Santa Maria jail financed by a sales tax
defeated by voters in 1999. Our present sheriff, Jim Anderson, has
spent the last four years backing an even more costly plan with not
even a defined funding source. The county supervisors are
justifiably terrified by the expense. Yet, the situation can no
longer be ignored. Our public safety, our sense of justice, and our
basic humanity are at risk.

Bill Brown has suggested innovative, yet practical ideas to
relieve jail overcrowding. His plans include small, incremental
steps which will at first alleviate the problem without extravagant
costs. His plans do not include turning out on the street possibly
serious offenders, something Jim Anderson unilaterally decided to
do last August. This approach was neither collaborative nor a good
idea. And it didn’t go over too well with the DA’s office, with
judges, or with other law enforcement agencies. Of course,
eventually the big-ticket item will have to be faced. This county
must have a second jail in the north. But of the two candidates for
sheriff, we feel that Lompoc Police Chief Bill Brown is most
equipped with the essential ingenuity, initiative, and
collaborative skills needed to build the public consensus required
to get the job done.

Chief Bill Brown’s ability to work with divergent members of the
community is tried, true, and impressive. For the last 10 years, as
chief of the under funded and understaffed Lompoc police force,
Brown has reached out effectively, involving the community in the
mission of his department. Early in his term, Brown lost nearly
half his staff to other law enforcement agencies. Part of this was
due to Lompoc’s inability to compete financially, but, in part it
stemmed from friction between Brown and his troops. Brown addressed
this tension head-on. He made a concerted effort to improve
communications with his officers. That, coupled with a recent pay
increase, has stemmed the flood.

We endorsed Sheriff Jim Anderson four years ago. At that time,
he promised to run a less politically embroiled department than his
predecessor Thomas. In many respects, he’s made good on that
promise. During his first years in office, as deputies worked
several high-profile cases with professional efficiency, Sheriff
Anderson seemed to be handling the job well. But as time went on,
the deeper political currents of county politics eluded him. He
became bogged down by tussles — political and otherwise. His
decisions appeared increasingly naïve. What started out as a minor
scuffle between wealthy members of the Sheriff’s Council, a private
fundraising group, turned into a political mess. Worse, his public
comments, such as a willingness to allow his deputies, already
understaffed, to begin arresting undocumented citizens, are just
wrongheaded. Jim Anderson has been an honest and decent sheriff,
but the complexities and challenges of the office, especially those
posed by jail overcrowding, require a more politically skillful
approach — not the skills of a personally ambitious politician, but
the determined skills of a law enforcement leader.

With 28 years as an experienced, highly trained senior lawman,
Chief Bill Brown certainly has the skills to encourage confidence
in his leadership and to serve the department and the county


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