The CN&R recommends…
Our endorsements for the Nov. 6 election
The CN&R editorial staff is small, just five full-time positions divided among seven people. They’re veteran reporters, but they can’t possibly cover all local elections in depth. Below are our recommendations in the races and measures we’ve studied sufficiently to feel confident about our endorsements.
Ultimately, though, each voter should make an independent decision. Read the statements in your sample ballot. Go online to the League of Women Voters site at www.smartvoter.org to learn more.
Most of all, vote. Keep American democracy thriving.
Chico City Council
Ann Schwab, Dave Kelley, Randall Stone, Tami Ritter
This election is a pivotal one for Chico. Will its City Council continue to be a forward-looking group charting a progressive, sustainable future? Or will it, in the name of economic development, radically narrow its focus in an effort to promote business and job creation?
What the conservatives in this race—including Councilman Bob Evans, who knows better—fail to acknowledge is that the council has promoted economic-development measures even as it’s supported a green agenda and promoted diversity in city government and the city as a whole.
This year, for example, it approved an economic-development action plan, initiated by Evans, that sets specific goals and timelines and mandates quarterly reports on implementation. And right now the city is in the process of uploading a portal on its economic-development website listing all the services and agencies someone seeking to open a business or expand an existing one might want to contact for assistance.
The city should of course continue to work with business groups like the Chamber of Commerce, but the council shouldn’t become the Chamber of Commerce. It has a different function, which is to serve all the people of Chico, not just business owners.
The current council has done a superb job of navigating the rapids of the most difficult period in the city’s financial history since the Great Depression. Working with the city manager, it has managed to keep core services, including police and fire protection, at functional levels, despite losing many millions of dollars in tax revenues and redevelopment funds and having to cut city staff by 20 percent.
As the economy improves, the city will be able to restore its emergency reserves to ideal levels and hire more staff, beginning with police and fire.
The candidates we’re endorsing are all qualified to carry on the council’s current efforts. Mayor Ann Schwab has been a remarkable leader, not only in the way she conducts council meetings with fairness and respect toward all parties, but also in her hard work and dedication to making city government responsive to the community.
Randall Stone and Tami Ritter are both smart, articulate advocates who combine deep humanitarian impulses with a hard-headed awareness of budgetary details. Stone has a background in financial management that will enable him to tear into the budget, as well as experience in the affordable-housing arena. And Ritter is a veteran executive director of such nonprofits as the Torres Community Shelter and Habitat for Humanity. Both will make excellent council members.
We also endorse Dave Kelley, who brings more experience to the race than any other candidate except Schwab. As a self-described moderate, he is likely to be a strong voice for compromise and to bring balance to the panel.
Finally, we’d like to honor the other candidates in the race. All of them want what’s best for Chico. We don’t always share their views, but we respect their willingness to serve.
Chico Unified School District Board of Trustees
Liz Griffin and Linda Hovey
Serving on the CUSD Board of Trustees has a steep learning curve. That’s one reason why we’re endorsing Liz Griffin for a second term. Besides being experienced, she’s smart and articulate, and as senior staff at the local First 5 Commission she’s a strong advocate for children.
We also recommend Linda Hovey. A mother and grandmother, she recently retired after 10 years as the business manager of the Blue Oak Charter School. School financing is a tangled web of categories and funds, and Hovey knows them well. She is also a strong supporter of educating the whole child by incorporating music, arts and sports into the curriculum.
Butte County Board of Supervisors, District 5
Though he’s never held public office, Doug Teeter gets our nod for 5th District supervisor. Kim Yamaguchi’s decision not to run for reelection offers a chance to break the Board of Supervisors’ stubborn three-person conservative majority.
That’s not to say Teeter is a flaming liberal—he opposes Prop. 30, the governor’s tax proposal to fund schools and public safety—but neither is he an ideologue, which means he will consider issues without preconceived notions.
We like his take on how the county should approach medical marijuana, a problem exacerbated by a seemingly vindictive board majority looking to punish those who voted to repeal its overly restrictive ordinance by trying to pass an even more draconian measure.
Joe DiDuca is a nice fellow but politically too much like the incumbent, and it says something that three of DiDuca’s fellow Paradise Town Council members have endorsed his opponent.
Measure E: Chico Schools Bond Measure
Anyone who has seen the new buildings at Chico’s two principal high schools knows how much they improve students’ educational experiences. They were made possible by the $48.7 million Measure A passed in 1998 that today is nearly exhausted.
Meanwhile, Chico’s other schools, especially the older ones like Citrus and Rosedale, are greatly in need of upgrades and improvement. Roofs and pipes leak, heaters and air conditioners are antiquated, and classrooms built decades ago can’t handle modern technology—which, incidentally, the district doesn’t have nearly enough of.
If approved by 55 percent of voters, Measure E would provide up to $78 million at a historically low interest rate without raising the current assessment tax on real property that’s paying off the Measure A bonds. And district officials have promised to avoid the kind of high-cost delayed-payment bond that has mired other districts in outrageous debt.
Keep Chico’s schools strong. Our future depends on it.
Measure H: Abandoned Vehicles
Approval of this measure would continue a successful countywide program to remove abandoned vehicles paid for by a $1 surcharge ($2 for commercial trucks) on vehicle license fees. So far 5,596 abandoned vehicles have been removed.
Measure J: Telephone User’s Tax
Currently the city of Chico receives about $900,000 annually from taxes on cellular and Internet telephones. But that revenue, which goes into the general fund to pay for cops and firefighters and other employees, is in jeopardy. That’s because the city’s telephone-tax ordinance was written in 1970, before such phones existed. Because they’re not specified in the ordinance, wireless providers can choose not to collect the tax revenue, as some have done.
This measure would update the ordinance to include wireless and Internet phones and reduce the tax on all phones from 5 percent to 4.5 percent. Phone users would see a slight reduction in their bills.
By voting yes, you will help protect this valuable source of city revenue, continue taxing all telephone services equally, and reduce your tax bill—all at the same time.
Measure K: constitutional-amendment resolution
This measure would simply adopt a resolution making the same findings as a resolution adopted in May by the City Council. That resolution was written in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which gives corporations a virtually unlimited ability to spend money for political purposes because doing so supposedly is a form of speech. The resolution calls for a constitutional amendment overturning the Citizens United amendment.
There’s no question that Citizens United gives rich individuals and corporations tremendous power to influence voters, power ordinary citizens don’t have. Indeed, because it puts no limit on contributions to “super-PACs,” while individual donors face strict limits on what they can contribute, it gives the super-wealthy an even greater advantage.
This is a nonbinding resolution that simply puts the people of Chico on record as opposed to Citizens United.
Measure L: City Clerk
This would remove the city clerk from under the supervision of the city manager and put her position directly under the City Council instead, as it was for most of Chico’s history. It’s a good idea. After all, the primary role of the City Clerk’s Office is to provide support staff for the City Council. This measure would increase accountability and foster efficiency.
State Assembly, 3rd District
The incumbent in this race, Dan Logue, has certainly made an impression. In addition to his authorship of 2010’s Proposition 23, the Big Oil-backed initiative to overturn the state’s landmark Global Warming Solutions Act that crashed and burned, he’s also widely known for barnstorming up and down the state—and even to Nevada!—holding workshops on what he sees as California’s job-killing overregulation of businesses.
Perhaps all that showboating has done some good, but so far we haven’t seen much evidence of it. The best thing Logue has done for Butte County is go to bat for saving Bidwell Mansion State Historic Park, for which we should all be grateful.
We question whether he really wants this job. He was all set to abandon it when he began a run for state Senate, but health problems made him drop out of that race.
Charles Rouse is a Corning-area farmer and retired postal worker who has long been active in Democratic politics. He’s a smart, thoughtful man who would bring moderation to the job, not the ideological rigidity that afflicts Logue.
State Senate, 4th District
In super-conservative Republican political circles, Jim Nielsen is considered a RINO, a Republican in name only. It’s a silly conception because Nielsen is anything but liberal and, during his tenure in the Assembly, almost always voted with other Republicans.
A better word for Nielsen is “opportunist.” Twice during his long political career he has lied about his residence in order to run for office in a district in which he didn’t live. He’s doing it again this year as he runs for the Senate, insisting he lives in a mobile home on farmland in the Gerber area, rather than the luxurious home in Woodland where he actually resides, outside the district.
His political life, in other words, is based on a lie—one that is potentially a criminal offense. Two Democratic politicians in Southern California accused of the same deception face multiple felony counts, including perjury. The Tehama County district attorney, Gregg Cohen, supports Nielsen and has refused to bring charges against him.
This is in itself enough to disqualify Nielsen. We also don’t like it that he’s the hand-picked successor to Doug LaMalfa, who’s angling to replace Wally Herger in Congress. That’s why we support former Chico school board trustee Jann Reed in this election.
Reed is a registered independent who says she wants to represent the people of the district, not a political party. She’s an intelligent, energetic woman who did an excellent job during her eight years on the Chico school board, working to respond creatively to a 20 percent reduction in funding. She will bring a pragmatic, problem-solving attitude to Sacramento, not a political agenda.
U.S. Congress, 1st District
Doug LaMalfa is a nice guy. So is Wally Herger, the man LaMalfa is looking to replace. But we’d rather share a beer with these guys during a backyard barbecue than have them represent us in the newly drawn 1st Congressional District.
Democratic challenger Jim Reed is an intelligent and reasonable man, and his background as a tax attorney gives him a valuable asset when it comes to understanding how the economy works.
Some of LaMalfa’s campaign antics have been questionable at best. While he may not have been directly involved in the phony website smear of Republican opponent Sam Aanested, he is responsible for the actions of his staff.
Also, his comments linking abortion to cancer and his criticism of government intervention while collecting annual farm subsidies are embarrassing. And his efforts to handpick his replacement for state Senate have angered many in his own party. Reed is the better alternative after 25 years of Herger.
While we’re disappointed in Feinstein’s willingness to push North State water south, we also recognize that she is one of the most powerful figures in the Senate and a reliable voice for liberal values.
Proposition 30: Yes
Gov. Jerry Brown won a resounding return to California’s top job because voters believed he could craft a balanced solution to the state’s calamitous budget problems. Well, Republican lawmakers blocked him straightaway and without conscience. If voters hold up their end of the bargain and pass this measure, he’ll be able to fulfill his end of it.
The measure would temporarily raise the sales tax by a piddling quarter-cent and raise the income-tax rates on any earnings over $250,000. Passage of Prop 30 would prevent an immediate $6 billion in further cuts to schools; provide billions in new school funds; prevent more tuition hikes; protect public safety by halting further cuts to cops and firefighters; and save billions in future prison costs.
Proposition 31: Yes
This is a package of reforms that would improve the dysfunctional governance in Sacramento. It would shift the state to a two-year budget cycle; require performance reviews of all state programs; and require that bills be in print and available to the public at least three days before a vote. No more dead-of-night surprises.
The measure would also institute a “pay-as-you-go” requirement that legislators identify a source of funding for any new programs costing $25 million or more; give the governor the authority to make budget cuts during fiscal emergencies; and allow local jurisdictions to design local approaches to state-mandated services.
On balance, it’s a step—or a series of steps—forward.
Proposition 32: No
This is a duplicitous measure sponsored by big corporations that, under the guise of campaign finance reform, prohibits unions from collecting political dues from their members, even when those members vote to pay them. We don’t support everything unions do, but we also know they’re the only viable political force offsetting the influence of Big Business.
Proposition 33: No
This is a retread of a nearly identical measure that was rightfully voted down in 2010. Sponsored by the billionaire owners of Mercury Insurance, it would allow discrimination against anyone who for any reason let his or her auto insurance lapse, making it much more expensive to obtain coverage.
Proposition 34: Yes
The death penalty in California is broken and can’t be fixed. The state has executed only 13 men since 1978, at a cost of $4 billion, while the number of people on death row continues to grow. This measure would substitute life without parole in capital murder cases, saving taxpayers $183 million annually, ending families’ anguish as they endure repeated appeal hearings, and eliminating the possibility that an innocent person might be executed. It’s time for California to join the 17 other states that have ended state-sanctioned killing.
Proposition 35: No
Let’s keep it simple: Human trafficking is already illegal. If the penalties aren’t harsh enough, they can be changed in the Legislature.
Proposition 36: Yes
We need to reduce prison costs. This measure would save up to $90 million annually by requiring that a felon’s third strike be a serious or violent crime. If it’s not, it would be treated ordinarily. No more life in prison for stealing a loaf of bread.
Proposition 37: Yes
Don’t believe the anti-37 hype. After all, it’s being paid for by Monsanto, DuPont and other pesticide and genetic-engineering firms. This measure would simply require that foods containing genetically modified organisms be labeled as such, as is required in more than 60 countries. People have a right to know what’s in their food.
Proposition 38: No
Molly Munger is willing to spend her millions on good causes, but this measure comes at the wrong time. It would increase the income-tax rate, on a sliding scale, for everyone earning more than $7,316 annually and raise $10 billion annually for the public schools. Unfortunately, it competes with the governor’s Proposition 30, which is a superior initiative.
Proposition 39: Yes
This measure would close a corporate-tax loophole opened in 2009 that gives an advantage to out-of-state corporations and costs the state about $1 billion annually. And it would create new jobs in the green sector (up to 30,000 in five years) and reduce public energy costs.
Proposition 40: Yes
Passage of this initiative will safeguard the state Senate districts drawn by the Citizens Redistricting Commission in 2011, following the process established by voters in 2010.
President and Vice President
Barack Obama and Joe Biden
America faces colossal challenges. We need to fix the economy while growing jobs; rein in Wall Street; strive for balance and intelligence in our dealings with an increasingly unpredictable world; implement and improve the historic health-care overhaul now underway; and move swiftly to tackle an already unfolding climate crisis. This is no time to go backward. Give President Obama the opportunity to continue leading us forward on these and other fronts.