Endorsements for 2012

Remember to Vote by November 6

President Barack Obama
Paul Wellman (file)

President: Barack Obama

No, he doesn’t walk on water. Now get over it.

Despite the Republican Party’s relentless agenda to deny President Barack Obama any accomplishments during his first four years in office, he has managed to achieve a record that is nothing less than historic. He promised to pass a major health-care bill, and he did ​— ​an act of political genius denied American presidents since 1948. He promised to get U.S. troops out of Iraq ​— ​and he did. And, if given a second term, he promises to get troops out of Afghanistan by 2014. We believe him. When he promised to end the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, he did. And for the first time in history, a sitting U.S. President has publicly supported gay marriage.

But just as historic an event was the Great Recession that greeted President Obama on his first day in office. Facing the worst economic collapse since 1929, the new president acted swiftly. He moved mountains to resurrect the American auto industry, which today not only has paid back its government loans but is cranking out new automobiles and selling them. Obama even managed to pass new fuel-economy standards. Of course, we would have enjoyed watching greedy, reckless Wall Street executives being perp-marched down Pennsylvania Avenue, but we remain impressed and relieved that the world economy didn’t blow up on Obama’s watch. It easily could have. Instead, we’re seeing definite signs of our economy on the mend— ​and job recovery slowly on the rise.

By contrast, it’s hard to know who Mitt Romney really is or to trust anything he says. For one thing, he says so little about specifics. What is clear is that a Romney presidency would be a return to the good old days of social intolerance, government intrusion in reproductive choice, and the unfettered financial system that gave rise to the economic disaster in the first place. He has vowed to repeal the exceedingly modest banking reform measure enacted by the Obama administration. He says he will cut $5 trillion in taxes from the wealthiest Americans while insisting ​— ​straight-faced ​— ​that it won’t make the deficit worse. In foreign policy, Romney poses a significant threat. Where Obama ​— ​by his presence and his cool-headed policies ​— ​has proved invaluable repairing strained relations around the globe, Romney has behaved like a thoughtless, saber-rattling crank.

This is not an election to sit out. Vote for Obama.

U.S. Senator: Dianne Feinstein

Dianne Feinstein is California’s most powerful, influential, and effective senator. She remains one of the few figures in American political life with the capacity and credibility to work both sides of the aisle. Enough said.

Lois Capps
Paul Wellman (file)

U.S. Representative, 24th District: Lois Capps

We’re not endorsing Lois Capps just because she happens to have a “D” next to her name. But given the meltdown that’s seized Washington since the Tea Party Republicans arrived, it’s urgent that Capps ​— ​a strong vote in support of the environment, education, health care, and equal rights ​— ​be reelected.

During seven terms in office, Capps has proved that public service and politics need not be mutually exclusive. She has maintained her civility during Congress’s most ugly battles. She works exceedingly hard on behalf of her district, coming home every weekend. Most importantly, she gets things done. Just ask the 10,000 Santa Maria residents who won’t have to pay higher flood insurance, because she secured $47 million in federal dollars for much-needed improvements to the Santa Maria River Levee. Or ask the scholars at UCSB’s Palm Center about the key behind-the-scenes role she played getting the Pentagon’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy repealed. And while Capps didn’t act alone, she played a major role getting the Forest Service to reestablish its Santa Maria air tanker base as a full-service operation.

We’ll be forever grateful that Capps was among the few who courageously voted against giving President George W. Bush unlimited powers to wage war in the wake of 9/11. More recently, she voted for Obama’s health-care reform bill, but only after fighting to make sure women would have full access to reproductive choice. On environmental issues, Capps fought to require big utility companies to curb mercury emissions and has been a consistent voice against Big Oil. Likewise, she’s pushed to reduce interest rates for college loans to keep the American Dream of a college education within reach. On reproductive choice and gender equity issues, Capps has been as solid as they come.

Her opponent, Abel Maldonado, by contrast, has been equivocal in the extreme. We respect the fact that he also has taken genuine risks to pursue a more moderate path while serving in the California Legislature. But as extreme as Sacramento Republicans can be, they pale in comparison to the cutthroat brinkmanship practiced by Republicans in the nation’s capital. Even with his best efforts, we don’t believe he can withstand the intense pressure his party leaders will bring to bear. Remember, it was House Republicans who passed a budget by cutting food stamps, day care, and senior programs serving 23 million individuals while leaving the Pentagon untouched. The Republican Party platform calls only for more of the same.

Lois Capps is facing the fight of her life. Her district boundaries were drastically redrawn; PACs and Super PACs associated with the Republican Party are throwing their money behind Maldonado hand over fist. Capps has earned another term in Congress. Do yourselves a favor, and send Capps back to Congress.

State Senator, 19th District: Hannah-Beth Jackson

Hannah-Beth Jackson
Paul Wellman (file)

Given the vast challenges confronting state government, experience counts. Hannah-Beth Jackson, a seasoned liberal dedicated to environmental protection, gender equity, and educational opportunity, has served two terms in the Assembly between 1998 and 2004, making her the compelling choice. Jackson managed to get things done when last in Sacramento, despite her reputation as a crusader. For example, she brokered a deal between South Coast environmental activists and the Farm Bureau ​— ​at that time mortal enemies ​— ​to pass a bill limiting the spraying of pesticides near schools, day-care centers, and nursing homes. Based on past experience, we’re confident Jackson will be an independent agent in Sacramento, not just a tool for her party bosses. Jackson paid a steep price for such independence last time around, but she is a tough, savvy legislator, with the wisdom and maturity to be an effective, yet principled, representative.

Member of the State Assembly, 37th District: Das Williams

Few Santa Barbara politicians are as suited for the rough-and-tumble politics of Sacramento as Das Williams. A political animal by nature, Williams is smart and courageous. He is also calculating and ambitious. A social-justice progressive, committed to preserving and expanding educational opportunities, he now holds a key leadership position on the Assembly Higher Education Committee, which gives him an opportunity to shape policy. Williams is also a dyed-in-the-wool environmentalist, wonky and passionate, who can champion such causes with intelligence and facts. Facing only nominal opposition from Republican Rob Walter, an inexperienced right-wing extremist, Williams will no doubt win reelection. And he deserves it.

But in the spirit of full disclosure, we need to voice a concern. We had hoped Williams would be more the party maverick he promised when he first went to Sacramento and not so much the party footsoldier. We are troubled that Williams chose to abstain from a measure that would have expanded school districts’ ability to discipline teachers accused of sexual misconduct ​— ​a bill bitterly opposed by the teachers union. His abstention had the practical effect of killing the bill in committee, but without leaving any telltale fingerprints. Williams, we know, can do better. He was at the top of his game when he speedily prevented the City of Santa Barbara from having to auction off its parking lots in the wake of shutting down its redevelopment agency. Williams is a good, effective legislator, but to be a great one, he needs to stay true to his ideals.

Santa Barbara Unified School Board: H. Edward “Ed” Heron, Gayle Eidelson, and Pedro Paz

Of all elected positions, few are as challenging as that of a school boardmember. Typically, the only candidates truly qualified to serve are those that already have. In this regard, incumbent Ed Heron has enough experience under his belt to make a real contribution, and he still asks the most probing questions, always cordially posed, when it comes to the dismal arithmetic of school-district finances. Heron shows up to board meetings ready to work and rarely misses major school events. We are especially impressed how Heron, a registered Republican, twisted the arms of fellow Red Party activists not to oppose the two parcel-tax measures this year. Like Heron, Pedro Paz ​— ​an activist wonk ​— ​is a product of local schools and is running to narrow the district’s stubborn gap in achievement separating Latino and Anglo students. Paz, who has a PhD in education, works with the First 5 Commission, funneling money extracted from tobacco companies to pedagogically crucial pre-kindergarten education programs. Gayle Eidelson weighs in as the über-mom candidate. With five kids having graduated and two more still enrolled, Eidelson can boast an up-close and personal knowledge of how district policies translate into actual action. She knows what questions to ask and whom to call. Together, this team is best suited to help the district weather the challenges ahead.

Carpinteria City Council: Fred Shaw

Since moving to Carpinteria with his wife nearly 15 years ago, Fred Shaw has immersed himself in the civic life of the South Coast with vigor, volunteering for every nonprofit and community-minded organization within a 20-mile radius. But Shaw, in his first bid for public office, is far more than just an affable worker bee. When it comes to the issues confronting Carpinteria ​— ​the new freeway overpasses, a resort hotel proposed for the bluffs, and future offshore oil development ​— ​we’ve been impressed by the depth and detail of Shaw’s knowledge, the intensity of his commitment, and the evenness of his approach. Shaw, a left-of-center environmentalist who lives in one of Carpinteria’s many mobile-home parks, will clearly be in sync with the council’s dominant slow-growth tilt. But his commitment to preserving Carpinteria’s small-town character is balanced by a sense of social equity. While we’ve been impressed with the intelligence and creativity of incumbent Councilmember Kathleen Reddington, by far the greenest candidate in the race, her passions frequently burn away the support needed to get her ideas passed on this City Council.

Carpinteria Valley Water District Board of Directors: Alexandra Van Antwerp, Shirley Johnson, and Polly Holcombe

Times change, but water districts usually resist. As a result, the Carpinteria Valley Water District once again is the scene of the second takeover effort in the past two years. Community activists, upset that their water district has some of the highest water bills in the state, have fielded a slate of three challengers ​— ​Alexandra Van Antwerp, Polly Holcombe, and Shirley Johnson. Fueling this insurrectionary spirit ​— ​and causing the high water bills in the first place ​— ​is the fact that the district obligated itself to pay $3 million a year for 2,000 acre feet of State Water it neither needs nor can afford. It will take all the challengers’ creativity and focus to do what they claim they’re going to do. We wish them well.

Measure A2012: Yes

Measure B2012: Yes

Parcel-Tax Increases to Fund Local Schools

Measures A and B were written for people who want to support their local schools but don’t want their money sent to Sacramento first. These measures would increase the property taxes levied against parcels in the district and spend the $2.9 million a year generated to maintain math, art, music, career tech, and foreign language programs at elementary and secondary schools within the Santa Barbara Unified School District. The boundaries for the elementary and secondary school districts vary; most people will wind up paying $45 more a year in property taxes, or about the price of one double latte a month. For those residents who live in both districts, the bump will be $93. Written into the measures is an opt-out provision for senior citizens. Normally, when education is concerned, we say every little bit helps. But given that the local school district has enacted $20 million in cuts since 2008, it’s absolutely crucial. Vote yes, please.

Measure E2012: Yes

Measure H2012: Yes

Increase in Bed Taxes (Transient Occupancy Taxes) for Carpinteria and Goleta

These two measures qualify as bona fide no-brainers. Measures E and H would bring the transient occupancy tax charged to visitors staying in the hotels and motels of Carpinteria and Goleta, respectively, up from 10 percent to 12 percent. For Carpinteria, that translates to $250,000 a year in additional revenues; for Goleta, it’s $900,000. For tourists enjoying a $100-a-night stay, that’s only a $2 bump in their bill. Both Carpinteria and Goleta have had to make painful choices in recent months, reducing their public safety services in the face of rising costs and diminishing revenues. It goes without saying that the bed tax is the most painless revenue booster, at least for local residents.

Measure G2012: Yes

Goleta’s Agricultural Preservation Ordinance

If approved, Measure G, a farmland protection initiative for the Goleta Valley, would require voter approval for the development of agriculturally zoned land of 10 acres or more. This vote would take place only if and after the development in question had already gone through Goleta’s environmental review and approval process. As such, Measure G would give Goleta voters the final word. Although many of Measure G’s protections are currently codified in the city’s General Plan, recent proposals to build up to 1,200 new housing units on the 240 acres that make up Bishop Ranch convinced Measure G’s backers that an extra layer of protection was necessary. In the case of Bishop Ranch, the Goleta City Council did the right thing. Council majorities change, but the pressure to convert ag land into urban space will never go away. There’s no serious opposition to Measure G for good reason; it makes good sense.

Governor Jerry Brown
Paul Wellman (file)

Proposition 30: Yes

Governor Jerry Brown’s Temporary Tax to Fund Education

This one is for all the marbles. If Proposition 30 fails in November, the sky will fall. And yes, Governor Jerry Brown ​— ​the measure’s chief sponsor ​— ​is holding a gun to voters’ heads. Our serious advice is: Give him the money. Prop. 30 will generate roughly $6 billion a year in additional revenues, about 85 percent of which is committed to education. One technical but critical point: This money can be used to backfill the state’s Prop. 98 requirement to spend half its general fund revenues on education. By so doing, the infusion of new cash can help address other pressing state needs. (By contrast, Prop. 38 ​— ​the other education-funding initiative ​— ​lacks this necessary flexibility.) Voters need to understand that the budget approved by the governor and State Legislature this summer assumed Prop. 30 would pass. If it doesn’t, the school year for K-12 students in state public schools will be cut by as many as 15 days compared to the past two years. And that’s just for starters.

Prop. 30 works by increasing the sales tax by one-quarter cent charged on every dollar of goods and services sold in California over the next four years. In addition, state income taxes will be raised over the next seven years on people earning $250,000 a year or more. In California, that group just happens to comprise the top one percent. California has already made $20 billion in budget cuts over the past few years, forcing the Santa Barbara Unified School District to cut $20 million. Should Prop. 30 fail ​— ​and polls show it’s exceedingly tight ​— ​UCSB, which has already lost $155 million, will lose $40 million more. Santa Barbara City College, the last surviving ember of the California Dream, would face $4.6 million in additional cuts; 200 course sections will disappear overnight.

Proposition 31: No

Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute

This mind-boggling mish-mash of ostensible good-government reforms ​— ​designed to improve the often dysfunctional interaction between the State Legislature and local governments ​— ​defies comprehension. For that reason alone, it should be rejected. And it is not just our reading. Four panels of professional city administrators could not figure out what would be the consequences should this proposition pass. We don’t need any more confusion than we are already dealing with in California.

Proposition 32: No

Political Contributions by Payroll Deduction

Only if you believe corporations need even more power than they already wield should anyone vote for this cynical and misleading measure. Currently, unions derive their fundraising clout by using portions of their members’ union dues to pursue their political agendas. Prop. 32 would prohibit unions from doing so without the written consent of its members. Were this an honest effort to limit all special interests, it would have included a provision requiring stockholder approval of corporate political donations. But honesty was never a consideration. Little wonder the Koch brothers and all the major corporate Super PACs of Sacramento have donated so generously to Prop. 32. First and foremost, this is an initiative of, by, and for the top 0.01 percent.

Proposition 33: No

Auto Insurance Based on Driver’s History of Insurance Coverage

Another self-serving Trojan Horse bankrolled almost entirely by the owner of a private auto insurance company hoping to expand his marketing opportunities, Prop. 33 would change state law to allow insurance companies to offer discounts to other companies’ customers based on length of continuous insurance coverage they’ve carried. Current state law sensibly requires that rates be linked in some fashion to driving records and risk. A raft of consumer advocate organizations have come out strongly against Prop. 33, pointing out that whatever discounts it bestows on those with longstanding policies will be offset by increased rates imposed on those just entering the insurance market.

This measure has been proposed via initiative before, and voters were wise enough to see through it; we’re confident they’ll do so again.

Proposition 34: Yes

Replaces Death Penalty with Life without Possibility of Parole

This newspaper opposes the death penalty for reasons both moral and practical. It remains capricious and arbitrary in its application, with people of color receiving the ultimate sentence far more frequently than whites found guilty of committing similarly heinous crimes. With the advent of DNA testing, even the most ardent death penalty advocates have been forced to acknowledge innocent people have been sentenced to death; at least a few have been executed. To date, about 140 people have been released from death rows throughout the country, either because they were found to be factually innocent or their convictions were overturned. Thankfully, no such cases originated in Santa Barbara.

Last year, a retired appellate judge ​— ​and a longtime death penalty advocate ​— ​conducted an exhaustive study of California’s experience with the death penalty. He found that the state has spent $4 billion since 1978 to maintain its death penalty while only 14 inmates were executed. Any way you do the math, it doesn’t add up. Certainly not for victims’ families seeking a sense of closure. And certainly not for taxpayers. The same study found the state could save up to $130 million a year by abolishing the death penalty and replacing it with life without the possibility of parole. Prop. 34 would do exactly that. It’s been backed by a former prosecutor who helped write the 1978 ballot initiative that restored California’s death penalty, not to mention a former San Quentin warden who presided over four executions. Please vote yes on Prop. 34.

Proposition 35: Yes

Human Trafficking Penalties

Prop. 35 will broaden the definition of human trafficking for sexual purposes and significantly increase the sentences ​— ​in some instances by as much as 400 percent ​— ​of those found guilty. For the first time, the law would cover those found in possession of obscene materials involving minors but not actually engaged in the trafficking itself. The scourge of sexual trafficking is growing worse, not better. To get the attention of those engaged, state prosecutors need a bigger stick. Prop. 35 gives them that.

Proposition 36: Yes

Three Strikes Reform

Prop. 36 rewrites California’s 1994 Three Strikes law the way it should have been written in the first place. To put someone away for 25 years to life, under the provisions of Prop. 36, the third strike has to be a violent or serious felony. Under current law, only the first two strikes have to be violent or serious, and the third strike need only be a felony. Santa Barbara’s first Three Strikes case involved a man caught shoplifting from Home Improvement Center. He had numerous previous felonies, but the serious ones took place many years prior. Yet he was sentenced to 25 years to life. So, too, have 9,000 others. The status quo offends our fundamental notion that punishment should somehow fit the crime. At a time when California’s prisons are bursting at the seams, it also violates economic common sense. Under Prop. 36, third strikers don’t get off scot free. Instead, they will be sentenced twice the length of the sentence required by their third offense. If Prop. 36 passes, some prisoners will have already served their maximum time and will be eligible for release. That will impose new burdens on the local communities to which they’ll be released. But the state will save $70 million to $90 million a year.

Proposition 37: Yes

Genetically Engineered Foods Labeling

This would require supermarkets and grocery stores to make sure that genetically engineered produce is labeled as such so that consumers know what they’re buying. While the scientific jury is out about the potential dangers and benefits of such produce, it seems reasonable that consumers should be able to know whether or not they are buying a tomato with engineered genes.

Proposition 38: No

Tax to Fund Early Childhood Education

Of the dueling tax initiatives designed to save public education, Prop. 38 promises the most and delivers the least. It would generate nearly $10 billion a year for about 12 years by increasing income taxes on individuals making $7,300 a year or more. Larger tax increases would go for those earning bigger incomes. The vast majority of these funds would be earmarked for K-12, though 10-15 percent would be allocated for desperately needed day-care and preschool programs. None of the money, however, would go to higher education, and none of it would lie within the Legislature’s discretionary grasp. It’s both possible and likely that state public education could find itself drowning in cash, while other state programs would bite the dust. That will not help anyone in California.

Editor’s Note: The print version of today’s paper inadvertently gives a yes vote for Proposition 38. The Independent recommends voting No on Prop. 38.

Proposition 39: Yes

Tax Treatment for Multistate Business and Clean Energy

Proposition 39 would plug a billion-dollar-a-year corporate tax loophole created in 2009 as part of one of the late-night, last-minute, backroom political deals for which Sacramento is so infamous. Legislative efforts to reverse this decision have ended in failure, hence the pressing need for this initiative. The loophole allowed corporations doing business both in and out of California a choice of two methods of calculating how much they owe the state in corporate taxes. Not surprisingly, they reliably have chosen the calculus that costs them the least. This has cost the state about $1 billion a year in lost revenues. In addition, the fine print of this loophole gives companies a profound incentive to do as little business as possible within California’s borders and as much as possible elsewhere. In no parallel universe does this make sense. Yet that’s exactly what the Legislature voted to do three years ago. That’s why voters need to come to the state’s rescue and pass Prop. 39.

Proposition 40: Yes

Redistricting State Senate Seats

This is a legally required housekeeping measure needed to ratify the work done by the independent Citizens Redistricting Committee when redrawing the state’s Senate district boundaries last year. No one is opposing the newly drawn Senate district map.


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