Paul Wellman

President: Barack Obama

What most impresses us about Barack Obama is his ability to inspire hope and optimism in those who’ve learned to dismiss the political process as nothing but a cynical joke. This transcends his obvious talents in delivering a speech, which he does with uncommon grace. Obama honed his political chops in the rough-and-tumble world of the Illinois statehouse, where during 11 years in office, he successfully brought together Democrats and Republicans to pass legislation benefitting ordinary people-from tax credits for kids to ethics reform. While there’s much to recommend Senator Hillary Clinton, we are still wondering what good all her much-vaunted “experience” did when she voted to give President George W. Bush a blank check to wage war against Iraq. Few decisions in history have proved so disastrous. Though Obama did not vote on the war authorization bill-he was not yet in the Senate-he did speak out against it at the time.

Statewide Ballots

Yes on 93, No on Everything Else

Ignore Prop. 91: Gas Tax System

This measure, which would have restricted the use of state gas taxes, has been abandoned by its authors.

No on Prop. 92: Community College Fee Reduction

Normally, this is the sort of measure-which would reduce city college fees from $20 per unit to $15-we’d love to support, but given the state’s chronic and desperate fiscal situation, we can’t. We don’t think the $5 reduction will do that much good or make higher education that much more affordable. At best, it’s a nice gesture. When the state is now confronting a $14 billion shortfall, we can’t defend the $70 million hit this reduction in revenues would inflict on the general fund.

Yes on Prop. 93: Term Limits Reform

Admittedly, the only real reform that makes sense for the state’s suicidally misguided term limits law is complete and absolute repeal. While Prop. 93-a cynical product of Sacramento’s smoke-and-mirrors factory-falls far short of that goal, it still offers a significant, if incremental, improvement to the way politics are conducted in Sacramento. If passed, Prop. 93 will reduce the speed and urgency with which State House legislators now find themselves playing musical chairs. Currently, politicians are limited to six years in the Assembly and eight in the Senate, for a total of 14 years. Under Prop. 93, the total number of years would be reduced to 12, but politicos would be allowed to serve all 12 in one place. In an ideal world, this should allow politicians to focus on the job at hand rather than constantly navigating where they’re going next. While hardly revolutionary, this change will help redress the massive brain drain that’s hit the State House ever since voters approved term limits many moons ago. California’s problems were long in the making and cannot be solved with quick fixes by those constrained by short-term thinking.

No on Props. 94, 95, 96 & 97: Indian Gaming Expansion

First off, whether these four pass or fail, they will have absolutely no impact on the conduct of the Chumash Casino in Santa Ynez. Instead, they will amend the legal “compacts” between California and four tribes operating casinos in Riverside and San Diego counties. In exchange for allowing a major increase in the number of slot machines, California will get a bigger cut of the action, going from 7 to 15 percent. Supporters of these measures claim this will generate up to $9 billion in new revenue for the state, but that’s throughout many years. The state budget analyst estimates that each proposition will generate “tens of millions” a year. While hardly chump change, that’s hardly enough. We think both sides should go back to the bargaining table. If California is going to allow legalized gambling, we question the wisdom of assigning de facto monopolies to any outside interests. But given that Indian casino gambling already exists, we feel the people of California should get a much larger percentage than a mere 15.

Local Measures

Yes on R, S & T

Yes on Measure R: Cold Spring School Renovation Bond

Unless Martians descend on Montecito and abduct all the elementary school-aged kids there, the 70-year-old Cold Spring School will be providing a vital educational function for Montecito residents. After seven decades, the school needs repairs, and the 6,000-square-foot expansion is hardly extravagant. The $8.75 million bond is pared down considerably from the $14 million proposal that lost by a mere 50 votes last year. The bond will cost homeowners about $200 a year on every million dollar’s worth of property. We think that’s reasonable.

Yes on Measure S: Trauma Care Parcel Tax

Until we get serious about healthcare reform, we’ll be needing measures like this to ensure our emergency rooms are adequately funded. Measure S will ding Santa Barbara County property owners an additional $35.15 per parcel to cover the uncompensated costs accrued by hospital emergency rooms when serving those of us who have no health insurance. It’s a relatively small cost to pay, but absolutely essential.

Yes on Measure T: Lompoc Public Safety Tax

When it comes to public safety, the City of Lompoc’s needs are great and its budget is exceedingly tight. Measure T will add a half-cent to the sales taxes already paid by Lompoc residents, and the proceeds will be used to fund six new firefighters, 11 additional police officers, and a much-needed renovation of the police station. For those worried they’re merely throwing money at a problem, Measure T also authorizes the creation of an oversight committee to ensure the money is properly spent.


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