June 2014 California Primary Analysis — Part II (Non-Partisan Offices)

userpic=voteAs I noted in my previous post, there’s a California election in 1.5 weeks. This is Part II of my election analysis, looking at the non-partisan races and propositions. This is where I go through the sample ballot and figure out my preferences… and it is your opportunity to convince me that I’m totally wrong and should vote for that other bum. There are some significant issues in this part of the ballot, particularly for those living in Los Angeles County. As such, I’m moving the LA County stuff up in front of the judgeships and such. Let’s jump in…

Los Angeles County Issues

LA County Assessor

The previous LA County Assessor, John Noguez, was essentially forced to out of office for fraud. Well, he’s been on leave since June 2014, but still holds the title of assessor and continues to collect his $200,000 annual salary. This is all due to his role in an alleged bribery scheme involving tax consultant Ramin Salari. Prosecutors claim Noguez helped lower property tax bills for Salari’s clients in return for money. This has lead to a wide open race, with 12 candidates with over 7 coming from the Assessors office itself. Sorting through this mess to find the best will be difficult. So let’s start.

  • Jeffrey Prang is a former mayor of West Hollywood, is an experienced public administrator, was and a member of the executive staff for two Assessor administrations, and completed the appraisal training program. He wants to restore the public trust (but I’m sure most will say that). He has loads of endorsements — supervisors, mayors, congresscritters, state assembly critters, and such.
  • Omar Haroon is a Deputy Assessor. He also wants to restore the public faith, and isn’t a career politician. He lists no endorsements on his website.
  • Frank Diaz, Jr. is also a Deputy Assessor. He accepts no contributions, and wants to increase the homeowners exemption. He also has no endorsements.
  • Yvonne Austin is assigned to the Legal Services Section in the Assessors office. She, too, doesn’t want donations. She lists no endorsements on her website.
  • Sandy Sun (Smartvoter Link) is also a Deputy Assessor. She does not appear to have her own website, and in this crowded race that’s enough for a Bzzzzt.
  • John “Lower Taxes” Loew (Smartvoter Link) is also a Deputy Assessor, and gets a ding for abuse of the sample ballot names. He, too, doesn’t appear to have a campaign website, although one article I saw in the search noted that he is willing to take a 10% salary cut. That’s noise. Bzzzzt for the website.
  • Tracy Okida (Smartvoter Link) is an appraiser. Again, she doesn’t have a website.
  • John Y. Wong is an assessment appears boardmember. He, too, wants to restore the public trust, and writes that he will “will fight all efforts to split the property tax roll to assess commercial and industrial properties differently from residential properties; a “Split Roll” would unfairly burden businesses and devastate the California economy”. More disingenously, he includes a quote from the LA Times on his front page stating “Of all the candidates…the most appropriate choice for the job is businessman John Y. Wong”… when the Times has actually endorsed John Morris this time around (they endorsed Wong four years ago).
  • John Morris is a Deputy D.A. He has the Times endorsement, and vows “to restore the integrity and ethical standards” to the office. He’s one of the few who is not involved with the assessors office, and who has experience prosecuting fraud. He has an interesting statement on his website that I haven’t seen on others: “The Assessor’s Office must implement policies to avoid a repeat of the unethical and shameful conduct which occurred under the supervision of Assessor John Noquez, but it must also provide proper training to its employees to eliminate future problems.”
  • Brilliant Edward Manyere (what a first name) is also a Deputy Assessor. He has a vision of an assessors office with “a framework of electronic systems for gathering or receiving information; formatting and storing data; establishing assessed values; processing reports; and posting results in a system of transactions.” He doesn’t mention security in all of this. No endorsements are listed.
  • Krish Kumar is also a Deputy Assessor. He says  he wants to  improve “the efficiency and effectiveness of the Assessor’s Office” and by changing processes and procedures, “vastly reduce time wasted, and begin to put money back into the city’s most pressing issues”. He doesn’t mention changes to procedures to address lessons learned. He has no endorsements on his website.
  • Nestor “Rick” Valencia is a councilman in the City of Bell. He claims he will reform the office. He lists no endorsements.

With this crowded field, how to decide? First, I’m eliminating anyone without their own website — that shows a lack of interest and an unfamiliarity with using technology to reach out to the public. I’m also eliminating ones with no endorsements, as this shows you were unable to convince someone notable of the validity of your effort. This brings us down to two: Jeffrey Prang and John Morris. Prang has the backing of loads of politicians, is familiar with the assessors office, and is an experienced public administrator. Alas, as the Times notes, his experience is similar to Noquez. Morris is not an assessor, but an experienced manager and someone trained to recognize fraud. I’m inclined to go with the Times on this one, primarily because the job at the top is not assessing properties — it is making sure the office is run in an ethical manner with honest assessments.

Conclusion: John Morris

LA County Sheriff

This is another office where there has been scandal scandal scandal. Faced with these scandals, the current sheriff conveniently retired from office before the end of his term. The new field consists of seven contenders, all from law enforcement. I’m going to guess the criteria ends up being similar to the assessor:

  • Patrick L. Gomez is a retired sheriff lieutenant.  He wants to make LA County safe, put an end to corruption, … and basically do what I’m expecting every candidate to want to do. He is a 31 year veteran of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and has no endorsements on his website.
  • Todd S. Rogers is an assistant sheriff and mayor of the City of Lakewood. He has a detailed plan to restore the ethics in the department, and has a fair number of endorsements, including the Torrance Police Officers.
  • Bob Olmsted is a retired sheriff commander. He has taught criminal justice, and has endorsements mostly from people within the Sheriff’s department.
  • Jim McDonnell is the police chief in Long Beach. He has the endorsement of the LA Times and Daily News, along with a number of political officials. He has evidently been an effective chief in Long Beach and was involved in fixing corruption problems in the LAPD after the Rampart scandal.
  • Lou Vince is a senior detective supervisor. He pledges “to empower a civilian oversight panel with unfettered access so they can help me restore trust in our Sheriff’s Department.”. He lists no endorsements.
  • Paul Tanaka is a retired undersheriff, mayor of Gardena, and probably the best known of the candidates. He is also the subject of an ongoing Federal investigation about the department’s efforts to hide an FBI informant and inmate inside L.A. County’s jails; Tanaka says believed the Sheriff’s Department had a duty to protect the inmate while the department investigated the inmate’s claims that a deputy and federal agent helped him smuggle a cellphone and drugs inside the jail. I come from an organization where it is impressed that once shouldn’t even have the appearance of impropriety. He has the endorsements of some local politicians.
  • James Hellmod is an assistant Sheriff. He is endorsed by a number of mayors in Antelope Valley.

Again, how to decide? If we cut out those with no endorsements, we’re left with Todd Rogers, Bob Olmsted, Jim McDonnell, Paul Tanaka, and James Hellmod. That didn’t help much. Olmsted has endorsements mostly from within the department; independent endorsements are better. Tanaka has that criminal probe, which doesn’t bode well. Let’s “bzzzt” those two. Hellmod has limited endorsements — just Antelope Valley. Rogers endorsements are from many of the small cities within the county, but notably not the City of LA. McDonnell has district attorneys, loads of police chiefs, most major papers, chambers of commerce, significant elected officials.

Conclusion: Jim McDonnell, based not only on his endorsements, but the fact that he is law enforcement from outside the Sheriff’s department, meaning that he’ll have less personal ties and more of an ability to clean house if necessary.

LA County Supervisor, 3rd District

Long time supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky has been termed out, and the battel is on to replace him. There are some leaders in the racce and some unknowns. Let’s look at the field:

  • Rudy Melendez (Smartvoter) has no website, is an IATSE laborer and member of the Griffith Park Neighborhood Council.
  • Pamela Conley Ulich wants to get the money out and bring love in. She was a city councilmember in Malibu. No real endorsements to speak of.
  • Yuval Daniel Kremer (Smartvoter) has no website, but is endorsed by the Howard Jarvis assn.
  • Sheila Kuehl is one of the frontrunners. A former actress (on Dobie Gillis) and gay rights supporter, she was a long time fixture on the state level. She’s my favorite going in, and did good work in the assembly. She’s endorsed by lots of elected officials and organizations. She also has a detailed issues page.
  • Doug Fay is, well, clueless. He set up a website, and didn’t bother to change the default text other than the front page. He’s mostly concerned with environmental issues. Bzzzt.
  • Eric Preven is a TV writer. He’s a budget specialist, but lists no positions or endorsements on his website.
  • John Duran is a WeHo councilcritter. He has a detailed issues page, and supports a tunnel under Sepulveda Pass. I like his positions. He is endorsed by the LA Times.
  • Bobby Shriver comes from the Kennedy dynasty, and is a former mayor in Santa Monica. He also has lots of endorsements. He has a detailed issues page, and a good policy on transportation.

If we eliminate those without webpages or detailed issues explanations, we’re left with the three frontrunners: Kuehl, Duran, and Shriver. In answering a question on HOT lanes, Kuehl said, “I do not generally support toll lanes, as they have proven neither economically beneficial nor better for traffic. There is a proposal, however, to use a kind of public-private partnership to build a toll road alongside the rail through the Sepulveda pass as a way to help finance the project. I would support this, as the 405 would remain free and no lanes would be stolen from it. I do not support toll lanes on the 405 or 5.” A parallel toll road through the Sepulveda Pass in addition to light rail (subway)? There’s no space for it, and the area is too sensitive and has too many chokepoints at either end. A response like that shows a disconnect with reality. Duran and Shriver are similar on transportation, but only Shriver wants to encourage car sharing (and thus, I’m guessing, vanpooling): “Support and expand bike sharing and car sharing programs, particularly in dense areas to offer viable transit alternatives and make first- and last-mile transportation easier and more efficient.” Looking at other areas, Shriver states “Every student in Los Angeles County must have a quality arts education.” He also supports “increased funding for the LA County Arts Commission, as a cost-effective investment in our future, our quality of life, and the success of our students”. Duran does not address the arts on his issues page.

Conclusion: Bobby Shriver

Judicial Candidates

There are loads of Judicial candidates on the ballot. I understand the reason for it (so you can vote a bum out), but most voters (including me) do not have the ability to properly judge the candidates, and few run campaigns. Let’s run through them:

Superior Court Office Νº 22. Two candidates: Pamala F. Matsumoto and Amy Carter. One is a litigation attorney; the other is the daughter of the former president a sex crimes prosecutor. Both have strong endorsements, and Matsumoto has the Times in her corner. Both are good, but Matsomoto is ranked “well qualified”, and Carter is only “qualified”.

Conclusion: Pamala F. Matsumoto

Superior Court Office Νº 48. Two candidates: Carol Rose and Charles M. Calderon. Rose is a prosecutor; Calderon is a former Assembly leader looking to continue public service in the courts.  Both are rated “not qualified” Rose has significant endorsements, including Jackie Lacey, the DA. Calderon has the LA Times and loads of assembly folks as well as a number of other judges.The Times, however, is reluctant, going for Calderon simply because Rose is scatterbrained and doesn’t always stick to plea bargains. I’m inclined to go for Rose, simply because Calderon doesn’t have a good reputation in my eye, and I think a former prosecutor would make a better judge than a former lawmaker.

Conclusion: Carol Rose

Superior Court Office Νº 54. Two candidates: Shannon L. Knight and Debra L Losnick. Both are well qualified. Both are good, and the Times notes this is like office 22. They give the edge to Losnick, and I’m not faulting their reasoning.

Conclusion: Debra L Losnick

Superior Court Office Νº 61. Three candidates here: Dayan Mathai, B. Otis Felder, and Jacqueline H. Lewis. Felder misrepresented himself on the ballot. Lewis is exceptionally well qualified, and Mathai is well qualified. The Times is for Lewis.

Conclusion: Jacqueline H. Lewis

Superior Court Office Νº 72. Only one candidate: Chris J. Frisco.

Conclusion: Chris J Frisco

Superior Court Office Νº 76. Two candidates: Helen Kim and Alison Matsumoto Estrada. Estrada is rated well qualified; Kim is not qualified.

Conclusion: Alison Matsumoto Estrada

Superior Court Office Νº 82. Only one candidate: Ann H. Park.

Conclusion: Ann H. Park

Superior Court Office Νº 87. Three candidates: Tom Griego, Stephen P. Schreiner, and Andrew M. Stein. Stein and Griego are rated not qualified; Schreiner is qualified. The Times is for Stein. They went for him because of his background as a defense lawyer, whereas Schreiner has a bit of a temper.

Conclusion: Stephen P. Schreiner, because of the Bar Assn ratings.

Superior Court Office Νº 90. Only one candidate: Serena R. Murillo.

Conclusion: Serena R Murillo

Superior Court Office Νº 97. Two candidates: Teresa P. Magno and Songhai “Sunny” Armstead. Both are “qualified”. The Times leans for Armstead, primarily based on some difference experience.

Conclusion: Songhai “Sunny” Armstead

Superior Court Office Νº 107. Two candidates: Joan M. Chrostek and Emma Castro. Castro is “qualified”, Chrostek is “not qualified”. The Times is for Castro.

Conclusion: Emma Castro

Superior Court Office Νº 113. Two candidates: Stacy Wiese and Steven Klaif. Klaif is “well qualified”, Wiese is “qualified”. The Times goes for Wiese based on her background. I go for qualifications.

Conclusion: Steven Klaif

Superior Court Office Νº 117. Two candidates: James B. Pierce and Carol Najera. Pierce is “well qualified”, Najera is “not qualified”. The Times is for Pierce.

Conclusion: James B Pierce

Superior Court Office Νº 138. Two candidates: Donna Hollingsworth Armstrong and Marc A. Gibbons. Both are “qualified”. The Times goes for Armstrong, simply because although the bench is prosecutor heavy, Gibbons is too green at this point in his career.

Conclusion: Donna Hollingsworth Armstrong

Superior Court Office Νº 157. Two candidates: Arnold William Mednick and Andrew Cooper. Both are rated “qualified”. The Times goes for Cooper, simply because he has more judicial traits.

Conclusion: Andrew Cooper

Superintendent of Public Instruction

Three candidates:

  • Lydia A. Gutierrez, whose websites supports a priority to ensure that “Needed repairs and proper support staffing including a librarian in every school are a priority. Only credentialed teachers will be allowed to teach in our classrooms.” She is a former teacher. She has no endorsements.
  • Tom Torlakson wants local decision making, preparing students for careers, and safe schools. He is currently the state Superintendent. He has loads of endorsements.
  • Marshall Tuck, who was involved with the Green Dot charters. He wants to be a “independent advocate for parents and students” and empower local decision making.

The Times endorses Tuck, primarily because he would bring new ideas and isn’t in the pocket of the teacher’s union. Sounds good.

Conclusion: Marshall Tuck

State Measures

Prop 41. Veterans Housing and Homeless Prevention Bond Act.

This is a bond for veterans housing paid for out of the general fund. This looks to be a shift in how $600 million in previous CalVet bonds will be used, to make them more effective. In other words, we approved the borrowing before; this is just making it more effective. Links: Yes; No (Orange County Tea Party)

Conclusion: For

Prop 42. Public Records, Open Meetings, State Reimbursement to Local Agencies.

This requires local agencies to comply with open meeting laws. The argument against is weak, and sunlight is a great disinfectant. Links: Yes; No (Green Party)

Conclusion: For


And that’s it. The ballot analysis is done. Now for lunch and the highway pages…