March 2017 Municipal/Special Election Ballot Review

It’s hard to believe, but here in Los Angeles we are less than a month away from an election. Alas, we can’t vote Trump out yet (oh, that we could), but we do have some significant issues on the ballot. As I do with every ballot, I try to present my recommendations for you to refute and argue with, and to let me know WWTD — What Would Trump Do (so I can vote the other way). Note that I’m not doing these in ballot order; I’m moving the country measure with the city measures for pedagogical purposes.

🌇 Los Angeles City Offices

🌇 Los Angeles City Mayor

This is a battle between the one-term incumbent mayor, Eric Garcetti (FB), and a field of significantly lesser-known challengers: David Hernandez (FB); Diane ‘Pinky’ Harman (FB); David ‘Zuma Dogg’ Saltsburg (FB); Mitchell Jack Schwartz (FB); Yj J Draiman (FB); Yuval Kremer (FB); Paul E. Amori (FB); Dennis Richter; Franz Pierre (FB); and Eric Preven (FB).

We all know who the 800-lb gorilla in the room is: Eric Garcetti (FB). He’s got the endorsement of the LA Times, he’s got the name recognition, he’s got the political machine behind him, and it is very likely he’ll get re-elected. But he’s also not perfect: he’s part of the machine that’s been running city government for a while; he tends to be in the pocket of the developers; and like most city politicians, he seemingly cares not a whit about the San Fernando Valley.

But let’s look at the competition, and see who we can eliminate easily because I’ve got far too many tabs open for them and its slowing my machine. Let’s start by dispensing with Yuval Kremer (FB) and Dennis Richter. A quick Google search on their names turned up no candidate website; if they can’t be bothered to do that much and make it high in the search rankings, they don’t care about the job.

Paul E. Amori (FB);’s campaign seems silly: “Vote for Love”. From his campaign website: “And that is why Amori founded the Love Party, the only political party to advocate for “Heart First” politics. Amori promotes love above all else and eschews all “smear” tactics in favor of a “spread” (the love) approach, rebuffing hatred and bitterness with love and compassion.” Although I can understand his goals, campaigning in a red sequined tuxedo with a red bow tie just doesn’t install confidence. I’ve got to do triage, and his campaign is just too off.

It is hard to figure out Franz Pierre (FB). He’s an advocate for the secession of the community of Venice, and appears to be aligning himself with Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein. He talks heavily about changing the ownership structure of the economy, of worker co-ops, of co-op banking, and such. He’s all over the map on his positions, worrying about EMP and going on about desalinization on one hand, coop power generation and other green ideas on the other. Something just strikes me as wrong about the guy: perhaps too socialist, too pie in the sky.

Eric Preven (FB) is hard to figure out. His website doesn’t have a concise issues page, but links to loads of articles he has written that are all over the map. This gives the impression of a gadfly, someone who doesn’t quite know — or can’t articulate well — what he wants to do.

David ‘Zuma Dogg’ Saltsburg (FB)’s website has a very Trump feel to it: “Everything BAD Skyrocketed Under Mayor Eric Garcetti (Crime/Homeless Tent Encampments/Traffic/Budget Deficit/Luxury Condos…and SKYSCRAPERS)”. There are also references to George Soros and calling Garcetti “Garshady”. Don’t like those tactics at all. Plus: Zuma Dogg? Uh, no.

Yj J Draiman (FB)’s personal FB profile is troublesome. There is intimation of support for Israel and a one-state solution. There are articles on the German ministry of truth. There are link’s to articles — without comment — on Trump’s plan for the 2nd amendment. There are loads of articles on Israel — pro-Israel, yes, but on the Conservative side. His website seems stream of consciousness, with troubling references to “uphold the constitution” and “we the people” (often, Conservative dog whistles). The only thing positive is that his campaign is out of Northridge. But that’s not enough.

Mitchell Jack Schwartz (FB)’s website does fundraising; it’s only mention of issues is that he is a “progressive reformer”, and a link to a LA Times article. His main issue is “No on M”, which is the cannibis regulation measure. He does have an issues page, but you can only get to it though his bio. No mention of the valley, though.

David Hernandez (FB)’s bio is interesting. There’s lots of good and progressive stuff in there, including the fact that he was one of the candidates for mayor of the San Fernando Valley. But there is also the fact that he led the countywide four-year battle to retain the Cross on the Original Los Angeles County Seal. This effort was instrumental in helping pass legislation in the US House of Representatives regarding the protection of religious expression. There’s the line: “David continues to have close and loving relationships with those who are Gay and Lesbian.”. That strikes me as “Some of my best friends are black.” He is opposed to the “Subway to the Sea”, preferring instead maglev transit. He is also opposed to other transportation schemes such as the toll lanes purposed for the 110 Freeway and stands in opposition to the Diamond Lane/Car Pool Lanes. Sorry, but I think HOV lanes are important to increase ridership. So while I agree with him on many issues, I can’t support him.

I want to support Diane ‘Pinky’ Harman (FB). We need women in office. She’s also from Brentwood (90049), went to Pali Hi, went to UCLA, and now lives in Northridge. All the same as me; we’re the same demographic. Her main shaping experience appears to be a cyberstalker/hacker; one of her chief campaign areas is against cyberstalking and bullying. She’s the only candidate that seems to be mentioning it, but it doesn’t appear to go beyond the stalking side — there is no discussion of securing the city’s infrastructure and the risks of hacking there. She’s from Porter Ranch, so you know she has the valley concerns and Aliso Canyon on her mind. But her positions, though good, are one line bullet points and she has no real experience.

Which brings us back to Eric Garcetti (FB). He hasn’t been a train wreck, but he’s been far from perfect. He’s too much in the pocket of developers, and may (like many past mayors) have higher aspirations.  I’m not sure I agree with all his transportation solutions, but he is improving things. He doesn’t seem to think or care about the valley. The LA Times is lukewarm in their endorsement.

👉 Conclusion: I may go for Diane ‘Pinky’ Harman (FB) in the primary, understanding that it is highly likely that Garcetti will win without a runoff. In the general election, I’ll likely go for Eric Garcetti (FB).

🌇 City Attorney

Lucked out. Only one candidate, the incumbent: Mike Feuer (FB). It’s a foregone conclusion .

👉 Conclusion: Mike Feuer (FB)

🌇 City Controller

Again, I lucked out. Only one candidate, the incumbent: Ron S. Galperin (FB). It’s also a foregone conclusion .

👉 Conclusion: Ron S. Galperin (FB)

📃 County / City Measures

📃 County Measure H: Preventing and Combating Homelessness

Measure H combats homelessness at the county level through a 1/4c sales tax in the county, to combat homelessness. There was a similar measure, H, that issued $1B in bonds at the city level paid for through property taxes that passed on the November ballot; there is also a competing measure, S, on the City side of the issue.  The measure does restrict the amount of tax: The Ordinance requires the State Board of Equalization contract ensure the combined local transactions and use tax rate limit (currently two (2) percent) is not exceeded in any city or district such that the Tax, when aggregated with all other transactions and use taxes within the city or district subject to the combined rate limit will (1) not cause the rate of all such taxes to exceed the combined rate limit, (2) not cause any person subject to the Tax to pay more than combined rate, and (3) have no impact on the revenue received by each city and district from transactions and use taxes previously imposed.

The Yes proponents (FB) have a large number of supporters, including developers. There does not appear to be an organized opposition.

👉 Conclusion: Yes on H (FB).

📃 City Measure S: Building Moratorium

I’m taking these out of order because S is connected to H (and to I and T, but that’s a different horsepile). S is also the center of a pitched battle — it is likely the most contentious issue on the ballot. Many are recommending No on S, and Yes on H. Many believe that S was put on the ballot as an end-run around the homeless measures on the November ballot, but they got their timing wrong.

So what does S do? According to BallotPedia: A yes vote imposes a moratorium on construction that increases development density for up to two years, prohibiting project-specific amendments to the city’s general plan, requiring a public review of the city’s general plan every five years, requiring city staff—not developers or project applicants—to perform environmental impact reports, and establishing other changes to the city’s general plan laws. No keeps the current laws.

So what’s the rub? Yes is good, right? It stops development. Opponents argue that the proposed moratorium and restrictions on project approval would put a stop to most development projects in the city, resulting in an even greater housing shortage, economic decline, the loss of thousands of jobs, and the loss of millions in tax revenue for education, parks, and other city services. Opponents also argue that none of the provisions in Measure S directly address corruption in the city planning process or developer contributions (which is one of the main arguments of the proponents).

Elected officials are against the measure. They argue that passage of Measure S would undermine efforts to house the homeless using funds from Measure HHH, a $1.2-billion bond measure approved by 77% of voters in November. The Board of Supes oppose the measure. Business leaders, labor unions and the city’s affordable housing groups say Measure S would trigger a dramatic slowdown in housing production, pushing already high rents even higher. They argue that the homelessness crisis would grow worse, with nonprofit developers unable to use long-established planning tools to win approval for their projects.

The Yes on S campaign (FB) is endorsed by many retired civic leaders, environmental organizations, and loads of homeowner and antigrowth associations. They feel it fights corruption, slows growth, preserves communities, improves traffic, and all sorts of good things. It is supported by tenant groups, presumably because it slows evictions that come from new projects. The bulk of the homeowner groups are in the wealthier and whiter neighborhoods: the measure does support affordable housing but only in fully affordable housing projects (of which there are few). It would tend to limit affordable housing in new developments, which brings lower income people into higher income neighborhoods.

There are two No on S campaign pages: the Goes Too Far (FB) side, and the No S (FB), which refers to the measure as “a pile”. Their push is that S will increase the amount of affordable housing. Both note the large number of people opposing the measure: city officials, those that help the homeless and downtrodden, social aid organizations, unions, architects, businesses, first responders, public policy folks, housing organizations in low income neighborhoods. The No S side also notes how the major papers and websites are against it.

One gets the impression that the idea might be right, but this is not the way to implement.  The coalitions show the real intent of the measure: to limit the spread of affordable housing and growth into the higher income neighborhoods.

👉 Conclusion: No on S (FB

📃Measure M: Cannabis Regulation / Measure N:  Cannabis Activity Permits

I’m treating these two measures together, because they appear to be related.

Measure M, if approved, enacts the city council’s ordinance to regulate and tax marijuana in light of statewide recreational marijuana legalization according to Prop. 64, which was approved in November 2016, and allows the city council and mayor to establish and amend regulations of the marijuana industry within the city. Many argue it fixes the broken pot shop regulations. Loads of folk support it, including the LA Times and LA Times. There appears to be no organized opposition to M.

Measure N was the first attempt by the trade organization, and appears to have been abandoned in favor of Measure M. There is no organized support or opposition for N. BallotPedia notes: “The official proponents of Measure N abandoned support of the initiative and urged voters to reject it and vote “yes” on Measure M instead.”

The LA Times notes:

Measure M is actually pretty sparse on the details, and that’s a good thing. It would give the City Council and mayor permission to repeal Proposition D — adopted by voters in 2013 to curb the spread of medical marijuana dispensaries — and to replace it with a new set of rules covering all aspects of the industry, from where marijuana businesses can locate and the hours they may operate to how they market their products.

Those initial regulations would be developed and adopted later this year after a series of public hearings. Of course, nobody can predict all the issues that will arise in the new marijuana marketplace. That’s why the best part of Measure M is that it gives city leaders the flexibility to tweak, repeal or add new regulations as needed, rather than having to go back to the voters.

👉 Conclusion: Yes on M / No on N

📃Measure P: Maximum Term of Harbor Department Leases

This measure amends the city charter to increase the maximum length of Harbor Department leases from 50 years to 66 years in accordance with changes to state law. There doesn’t appear to be much organized activity on either side; this was put on the ballot by the city council because it has to be voted on, but it is otherwise non-controversial.

👉 Conclusion: Yes on P

🎓 Los Angeles Community College District

Now we get down to the noise: Three trustees for the community college district.

🎓 LACCD Trustee Seat 2

There are four candidates for this seat: Steve Goldstein; Steven Veres (FB); Sergio Vargas; and Thomas J. Norman (FB). Although his occupation doesn’t say it, Veres was an incumbent and VP of the Board of Trustees.; it looks like he lost his seat when he ran for city council in 2015. Goldstein and Vargas do not appear to have campaign websites. Their loss; they lose in the triage. Norman is a professor at CSUDH, and he has a website that under his leadership, the LA Community College District has balanced its budget, improved credit ratings, and expanded critical job training programs; futher, it notes that he always sought to ensure that Community Colleges offered high value to both its students and the communities around them. Veres’ site notes endorsements from politicians, teachers, unions, and such. Norman doesn’t appear to have any endorsements, although he has good ideas. The Times has not yet endorsed, but did report on Veres’ campaign in 2015 for the LA City Council, where he was dogged with questions about financial contributions and improprieties.

There’s not a lot of information out there, but I’m inclined to support Norman; I fear that Veres will try to run for higher office again.

👉 ConclusionThomas J. Norman (FB)

🎓 LACCD Trustee Seat 4

There are two candidates for this seat: Dallas Denise Fowler (FB) and Ernest H. Moreno. Moreno is the incumbent, and is past president of East LA College and Mission College. Fowler is the Principal of Daltek Global Solutions, LLC a boutique business development consulting firm specializing in digital and print media communications. Fowler also had loads of political, Democratic association, teacher and union endorsements. Moreno has no campaign website that comes up; nor do I see any endorsements.

Fowler knows business and would bring a black women’s view to the Board; she also knows the community. But she knows nothing about the community college district; nothing related at all in her experience. Moreno knows the CCD from a lifetime of work there.  I just get the feeling that Fowler is not in this for the students; this is a stepping stone to other office.

👉 ConclusionErnest H. Moreno

🎓 LACCD Trustee Seat 6

There are two candidates for this seat: Gabriel Buelna (FB) and Nancy Pearlman (FB). Pearlman is the incumbent, in her fourth term, running for a fifth. Buelna is a professor of Chicano Studies at CSUN. Pearlman had the LA Times endorsement in 2013. Pearlman is very involved in environmental causes, and coordinated the first Earth Day in 1970. Buelna’s page indicates he is campaigning for the students, and helping students achieve.

If we are going to having affordable college educations, the focus has to be the students not the existing bureaucracy. After four terms, I think some fresh blood is a good idea.

👉 ConclusionGabriel Buelna (FB)

…. and that’s it

That concludes the ballot analysis. We can’t vote Trump out at this election, but we can elect folks that will keep Los Angeles moving in the right direction.