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Home / Articles / Opinion / Editorial /  Our endorsements
. . . .
Tuesday, Oct 14, 2008

Our endorsements

Wherein we give you gentle guidance and suggestions on the proper forms of voter behavior, with special emphasis on which of the little bubbles you should fill in

By Nobody

You know all about the high-stakes presidential election coming up on Nov. 4—you know, the one that is pretty much the most important election in the history of the universe. Well, there’s all kinds of other flotsam and jetsom on the ballot that you might not have heard so much about. As we always do come election time, we’ve crammed for this test—just in case you haven’t found the time. Not only do we give you the answers; in most cases, we also show you our work, letting you know the kind of thinking that went into the recommendations. Of course, we couldn’t get to everything on the ballot, so you folks who need help choosing members of the Grossmont Healthcare District, the Rainbow Municipal Water District or the Valley Center Fire Protection District are on your own. Same is true for the ballot measures outside the city of San Diego. Sorry. The good news is that the cavalry is here when it comes to choosing from among 19 candidates for elective office and 17 ballot propositions. We hope it serves a purpose.


Seems kind of pointless to run through a litany of policy areas in which Barack Obama is a far superior choice over John McCain, what with California already signed, sealed and delivered for the Democrat, but we’d like to run up the score and make it a landslide, so we’ll say, briefly, that Obama has shown himself to be the more thoughtful and, dare we say it, more presidential candidate. He’s the guy in whom we’d have far greater trust on the economy, energy, healthcare and foreign policy.

As for McCain, we can go into his past and detail his fondness for industry lobbyists. We can go into his neoconservative, imperialist views on foreign policy that would absolutely be a continuation of the past eight years. We can cite our concerns about how he was once rightly against the Bush tax cuts before he was wrongly for them.

But we’ll simply point to a couple of recent decisions his campaign made. The first was his choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate. It was a cynical move to shore up the conservative Republican base, and it showed no regard for real-world possibilities—such as, What if McCain were to die or be incapacitated while in office? The second was the desperate, disgusting decision to portray Obama as a terrorist sympathizer, which is the kind of thing you do when you have nowhere else to turn, when you know you can’t capture votes on serious policy issues facing Americans.McCain would likely win this election four years ago—before the public realized how wrong the invasion of Iraq was, before the Republican Party imploded amid scandal after scandal (Cunningham, Foley, Abramoff, DeLay, Craig, Stevens, et al.), before the current president became radioactive and before the economy descended into unimaginable crisis.

So, it’s the right time for you moderate Republicans and you independents to give our guy a chance. McCain’s thinking is no different than Bush’s in the key areas—costly military interventionism, trickle-down economics and free access for lobbyists—and if you really think about it, you’ll realize that it’s unsustainable. Please vote for Barack Obama.


All five local Congressional seats are up for grabs, but don’t let that fool you. There is zero chance that Democrats Susan Davis and Bob Filner and Republican Darrell Issa will lose their seats. And even though Duncan Hunter has abandoned his seat, it’s being handed off to his clone—er, son, Duncan Hunter Version 2.0. No one expects challenger Mike Lumpkin to come close to winning, so it looks like we’re in for more war wagin’, border-fence buildin’, Jesus lovin’ and trickle-down-economics votin’ from the 52nd District.

So, then, let us turn to the 50th District and incumbent Brian Bilbray, whose seat is considered somewhere between likely to stay Republican and leaning toward staying Republican. We’d like to appeal to you moderates and independents in District 50.

His crusade against illegal immigrants is well-known, and here is where we again express our view that the country should not be fenced off; more workers should be allowed in. The more we treat immigrants as lower-class humans, the more they’ll be a burden on our economy. You cannot keep them out. They will find a way in, so why not legalize them? Pay them a decent wage and give them access to education and healthcare; they’ll pay us back by contributing sales, property and income taxes to the economy. Bilbray’s stance on immigration is not rooted in reality.

Being tough on crime is probably a good sell in the 50th, but his politics would put more and more people behind bars, which is an enormous drain on the economy. Alternative sentencing for nonviolent offenders has a better chance of breaking the cycle of incarceration for those people and would allow them at least a chance of having a positive impact on the economy.

Bilbray voted against requiring negotiated prescription-drug prices for Medicare, preferring instead to subsidize insurance companies for the higher-cost medicine. That makes no sense.Nearly one year ago, he voted against a subprime-mortgage reform bill aimed at enhancing regulation of the very practice that has the global economy on the verge of collapse.For these reasons and more, we urge you to vote for the Democrat, Nick Leibham.

State Legislature

Much like Congress, there won’t be many surprises at the state level. Christine Kehoe’s Senate seat is safe, as are Assembly seats held by Martin Garrick (74th District), Lori Saldaña (76), Joel Anderson (77) and Mary Salas (79). The 75th District seat is vacant but considered Republican Nathan Fletcher’s for the taking. So, we’ll comment on one of the very few seats statewide considered to be competitive—the 78th District seat vacated by termed-out Shirley Horton.

The race for the 78th District is less about its two candidates—Republican John McCann, the Chula Vista City Councilmember, and Democrat Marty Block, the retired university dean and current community college trustee—and more about the Democrats’ statewide legislative seat count.

The Dems need two more Senate seats and six more Assembly seats to achieves a two-thirds majority needed to pass a budget without having to wrestle with a few ornery Republicans. They won’t get there this year, but they’re hoping to by 2010.

We support Block partly because he’s more likely than McCann to oppose cuts to services for the poor and the elderly, vote for the kind of alternative sentencing that would release some of the pressure on our bloated prisons and favor programs to expand access to preventative healthcare, which would save us money in the long run. But we’re also tired of these drawn-out budget battles and are willing to let the Democrats deal only with the governor come budget time. We recommend a vote for Marty Block.

S.D. City Attorney

Before the June primary, we couldn’t endorse any of the five candidates who were then vying for city attorney. We’d long been supportive of incumbent Mike Aguirre, but we’d become somewhat disenchanted with his handling of the office. We remain of the opinion that he has, through the sheer blunt force of his at-times problematic personality, blown an incredible opportunity to show the public that the office of city attorney can be more than just a vehicle for keeping the City Council out of legal trouble.

Aguirre’s predecessor, Casey Gwinn, was a disaster. He couldn’t be bothered with stuff like sweetheart pension deals and securities fraud as he went about his faith-based crusades on behalf of the Boy Scouts and the Mount Soledad cross, as well as the more admirable yet all-consuming advocacy for victims of domestic violence.

Aguirre hit City Hall like a category-5 hurricane, and as a result, he’s likely to be a one-term official, a rather mercurial, highly entertaining yet brief chapter in city history. His scorched-earth approach alienated just about everyone other than his most diehard supporters, a group that no longer includes anyone with any particular influence in electoral politics.

Certainly, in retrospect, a more moderated approach would have been better. He squeaked by in the 2005 election, but considering the financial and ethical mess the City Council had created, Aguirre could have built on that foundation and recast the office to include a very-necessary white-collar-crime-fighting element in addition to the more mundane side, which, yes, involves keeping the City Council out of legal trouble. He could have been a real populist hero.

But he made it so easy for his critics—he fueled their charges that he is emotionally unhinged and politically motivated. We’ve had the long talks with him that have proven to us that he means well and that he wants the common people of San Diego to thrive and for the city to get beyond the backroom deals that serve the interests of the elite. Sadly, his actions have undermined his good intentions.

As we said back in June, we believe Aguirre’s gone too far in a policy direction, although he disagrees with that. We stand by our belief that he would be better suited to the legislative branch.That said, his candidacy must be judged against his opposition, and we find Jan Goldsmith’s campaign disingenuous. He insists that he will remain ideologically neutral, and since he’s smart enough to know that subjective opinion can’t help but enter the fray when it comes to interpreting law and deciding when to charge into battle and when to stay on the sidelines, then he must just be feeding voters lines he thinks they want to hear.

Something drove Goldsmith to enter politics in the first place (he was, after all, a mayor and a state legislator), and we suspect he was urged by the city’s conservative establishment to run for city attorney; now he wants us to believe he’s apolitical, and we’re not buying it. At least Aguirre’s big-picture ideology matches ours. Given the choices before us, we’re backing Mike Aguirre.

S.D. City Council

Back before the June primary, we endorsed Sherri Lightner in District 1, Todd Gloria in District 3 and Marti Emerald in District 7. That remains our ideal lineup.

As we’ve noted, we’d like to see what a Donna Frye-led City Council can produce. Frye’s been relegated to opposition status for seven years as Dick Murphy and Scott Peters held the reins of the city’s legislative branch. Considering how often she’s been right and how carefully she’s done her homework, she’s earned the right to lead. Already, she’s partnered with conservative Carl DeMaio, and while we have mixed feelings about that association, it further illustrates an independent streak that was also on display each time Frye angered this town’s public and private unions. Frye wants Lightner, Emerald and Stephen Whitburn on the council with her. Honestly, we’d be fine with that lineup.

We’re big fans of Lightner. We believe she’d be Frye’s equal when it comes to doing homework and asking tough questions, especially when it comes to neighborhood planning issues. Her opponent, Phil Thalheimer, gave us all cause for alarm when he contributed thousands of dollars to the Bush campaign a few years back, which raises questions about his judgment. And in an interview with CityBeat, he sounded Minuteman-like about border issues, which is hardly a top priority for a City Council candidate. If you only follow one of our three endorsements in this section, make sure it’s this one.

In District 7, April Boling is not nearly as objectionable as Thalheimer—not even close. We could actually live with a Boling win, because she’s smart. Problem is, she’d be much too quick to privatize government, and she doesn’t show the heart we’d like to see in our elected officials. She’s kind of a cold fiscal conservative, and we’d prefer Emerald—if only because she’d likely line up behind Frye’s leadership.

The really good news is that you can’t go wrong in District 3. As we said before the primary, Whitburn would make a fine City Council member, and if you’ve done your homework and have chosen Whitburn, you have our blessing. We have nothing negative to say about him—other than this: In our experience, he seems to possess a somewhat more shallow understanding of city issues than does Gloria.

That makes some sense. Gloria’s lived here his whole life and has been involved in local politics longer than Whitburn has. We are very impressed with Gloria’s depth of knowledge and his willingness to express his views candidly. Yes, we know that he’s taken campaign money from developers, but we’re trusting that he doesn’t see that money as an advance payment for favorable treatment. Naïve? Maybe, but he favors higher developer fees, and we’re impressed enough with Gloria that we’re willing to take that chance.

We’re backing Lightner, Gloria and Emerald for City Council.

S.D. School Board

Three seats on the San Diego School Board are available. In District D, Richard Barrera is unopposed. That’s fine; we like him. In District E, incumbent Shelia Jackson is being challenged by teacher Xeng Yang. We have no reason to doubt Yang’s commitment to education, but also have no particular reason to oust Jackson.

In District A, we endorsed incumbent Mitz Lee before the June primary. Frankly, we were torn between her and John Lee Evans. It was Evans’ late decision to switch from running for Congress to running for school board that turned us off, so we went with Lee.

But recently, Lee supported what amounts to a gag order on school board members. The order suggests that board members would be reprimanded for publicly criticizing the school superintendent or school staff. Excuse us? These people are elected officials, and their constituents have a right to know what they think. The order is nothing more than an attempt to silence dissent. We want it rescinded, and Evans would be a vote to do so. We’re changing our endorsement.

We recommend Evans, Barrera and Jackson.

Statewide propositions 

Prop. 1A

We would like nothing more than climb aboard a bullet train and shoot up to San Francisco right now. Damn, we love that city. We can taste the food in Chinatown and North Beach just by thinking about it. Yum! That’s one reason the plan for high-speed rail is so appealing—not to mention the obvious environmental benefits and the long-term economic-productivity gains we believe would result.

Prop. 1A would authorize the sale of nearly $10 billion in general obligation bonds to finance part of the construction of the first and largest leg of the system—Anaheim to San Francisco, which is scheduled to be completed by roughly 2018. (Hurry! We’re not getting any younger!)

The key word in that sentence is “part.” The first phase is expected to cost more than three times as much as this initiative will generate. The plan is to get federal matching funds, and the hope is to get some private financing as well, but none of that is anywhere close to a done deal. Expect the state to come back seeking more billions from us.

Here’s the thing, though: As we understand it, there are safeguards in this initiative that make sure financing is in place before any bonds are issued for construction. It’s a bit of a gamble, because the global financial crisis makes things much less certain, and if financing can’t be found, a significant amount of money will be wasted on administrative costs—the L.A. Times estimates as much as $2 billion. We think it’s worth it. We want what many Europeans and Asians already enjoy. Vote yes on Prop. 1A.

Prop. 2

If all Americans knew—really knew, viscerally—the inner workings of the meat and poultry industries, carnivores would be the minority. We’re sure of it. But Americans, by and large, don’t know how abominably animals are treated on their way to the slaughterhouse. And, ironically, that’s what has made Prop. 2 such a difficult call for the editorial boards of some of the state’s major newspapers.

The initiative would compel California’s factory farmers to house pregnant sows, egg-laying hens and calves bred for veal in such a way that they’re able to lie down, turn around and stretch their limbs. Ideally, all farms would operate under such mandates, but since they don’t, some editorial boards have been swayed by the argument that California’s egg producers would leave the state and our markets would be flooded with cheaper eggs from farms elsewhere in the U.S. and in Mexico that operate under more lax health and safety standards.

The competition argument is somewhat compelling, but, frankly, the panic from the state’s egg producers about bird flu and salmonella sounds like scare tactics from corporate farmers concerned about their bottom line, which is par for the course for American industry. Is it possible for California to require incoming eggs to have been produced under the same stringent health standards state law mandates and equally compassionate housing conditions?

We bet that California farms can improve conditions and contain costs at the same time, so we’re saying yes on Prop. 2, but don’t trust us with your egg safety, so inform yourself.

Prop. 3

We admit it, the inclination at CityBeat is to spend, spend, spend. There are so many unmet needs in this state that we are unrepentant tax-and-spenders. But bond indebtedness is serious business that can’t be ignored away. According to the state’s Legislative Analyst’s Office, as of June 1, California had roughly $53 billion worth of outstanding infrastructure-related bond debt on the books. Additionally, there’s about $68 billion in bonds that have yet to be sold but are nonetheless committed. By 2018, the LAO says, our annual bond payments will peak at $9.2 billion. Yikes.

So, we’re going to temporarily don a fiscally conservative chapeau and urge a no vote on Prop. 3, which would authorize the sale of nearly $1 billion in bonds in order to finance construction of new children’s hospitals and pay for new equipment for existing children’s hospitals. UCSD Children’s Hospital is among the beneficiaries explicitly listed in the initiative. San Diego’s Rady Children’s Hospital would also likely be eligible for funds. Including debt service, the measure would add nearly $2 billion to the wrong side of the state’s ledger.

How could we be so heartless? you might ask. What about the children?! Good question. Well, the hospitals asked for and received voter approval for $750 million for the same purpose four years ago, and that money is only about half-spent. They say they need more because of rising construction costs.

But for us, this is a matter of priority, and we’ve already endorsed borrowing lots and lots of money for high-speed rail. We’d prefer to wait until that 2004 money is fully committed before we agree to borrow more, and we’d like those hospitals to exhaust private sources first. Vote no on Prop. 3.

Prop. 4 

The folks behind Props. 73 and 85, which failed in recent years, are back again with a third attempt to chip away at abortion rights in California. This time, they’re calling it “Sarah’s Law,” presumably to achieve the same kind of success achieved with Megan’s Law and Jessica’s Law. They’d like you to believe that “Sarah” would still be alive today—Jammie Garcia Yanez-Villegas, a married teen mother from Texas who apparently died from abortion complications in 1994—if Prop. 4 had been in effect. Prop. 4 doesn’t apply to married women.

Prop. 4 prohibits doctors from performing abortions for minors until two days after parents have been notified, except in cases where the teen’s health is in serious danger.

A better name for Prop. 4 is “Jim’s Law”—for Jim Holman, the editor and publisher of the San Diego Reader and anti-abortion crusader who has bankrolled Props. 73, 85 and 4 to the tune of more than $5 million, money that, presumably, he earned as salary paid for by Reader advertisers.

Holman and friends have tweaked both their proposed law and their rhetoric this time around. First, they’re casting the new initiative as an anti-sexual-predator law that would somehow protect teenage girls from the predators who impregnated them. Huh? Their ballot argument invokes a story of some guy who requested a shot of Depo-Provera for his teen victim so that he can have sex with her again. Puh-lease.

In response to criticism, articulated by CityBeat and others, new language in the initiative allows doctors to notify an adult family member other than a parent if the minor can make an effective case, in writing, that based on past experience, she’s afraid that she’ll be subject to physical, sexual or “severe” emotional abuse if her parents find out she’s sought an abortion. That written statement would necessarily be turned over to the authorities.

It’s important to note that this is a constitutional amendment that takes away a right, which minors have enjoyed since 1953, to the same pregnancy-related healthcare as adults.

The initiative’s “protections” against abusive family situations are so burdensome on the minor—including having to make the case to a judge that she’s afraid of telling her parents in order to get a waiver—that it’s hard to imagine anyone taking advantage of them. The proposed law does nothing to allay our concern for the physical and emotional health of minors seeking to terminate their pregnancies. The proponents can dress it up any way they want; this is still a religion-based attack on reproductive rights. Please vote no on Prop. 4.

Prop. 5

This one’s getting a bad rap among large-newspaper editorial boards that we’d otherwise expect to support it. The L.A. Times, for instance, recommended a “no” vote, arguing that it’s “lined with good intentions and stuffed with disaster.”

The Nonviolent Offender Rehabilitation Act, as it’s called, is an enhanced version of Prop. 36, the 2000 law that offers treatment, rather than incarceration, to nonviolent drug offenders. The whole point of Prop. 5 is to relieve prison overcrowding by getting more addicts into treatment rather than putting them behind bars—which, in turn, saves the state money since treatment costs far less than incarceration (estimates put it at $2.50 saved for every $1 spent).

Prop. 5 expands the definition of who’s eligible for treatment. Unlike Prop. 36, if the crime isn’t drug-related, but drugs are the root cause, and that crime doesn’t involve doing harm to another person (an important point that some opponents, like the L.A. Times editorial board, got wrong), a judge can give the individual the option of treatment rather than incarceration. Opponents argue that this opens the door to people who aren’t really addicts telling the judge that drugs made ’em do it. That concern is outweighed by the fact that two-thirds of people entering prison are addicted to drugs—and will more likely than not come out of prison still addicted.

On that point, Prop. 5 ups the funding for prison rehab programs. To get people into those program, nonviolent offenders could be eligible for reduced sentences if they successfully complete treatment. Prop. 5 would also create publicly funded drug-treatment programs for youth.

The state’s Legislative Analyst’s Office says this law will cost roughly $1 billion to implement but that the cost savings to taxpayers balances it out—at least $1 billion saved annually by sending fewer people to prison for drug offenses. Since Prop. 5 cuts parole time for nonviolent drug offenders down to six months—as long as the parolee is enrolled in a treatment program—the amount of savings could potentially grow, since fewer people will be under state supervision. And, if a parolee tests positive for drugs, that person has the option of treatment. Studies have shown that addicts, especially those with a long history of drug use, aren’t scared straight by the threat of jail time; necessarily sometimes it takes two or three—or more—failed attempts at treatment before someone’s willing to embrace sobriety. It’s a complicated process, but at a cost of roughly $3,300 to $4,500 per person for treatment and $46,000 per person for incarceration, there’s lots of room to be patient. Vote yes on Prop. 5.

Prop. 6

The folks behind Prop. 6—husband-and-wife state legislators George and Sharon Runner—are the same people who brought us Jessica’s Law, the 2006 ballot measure that, among other things, put restrictions on where paroled sex offenders are allowed to live. The law has been a colossal failure in the eyes of victims’ rights groups, which point out that, as of last month, roughly 1,300 sex offenders have registered as homeless, an eight-fold increase since the law was passed.

Now the Runners are back with another costly, misguided proposal, the so-called “Safe Neighborhoods Act.” If passed, the law would add to California’s already massive criminal-justice budget by requiring an additional $365 million be spent on law-enforcement programs beginning next year—an amount that will increase to a half-billion dollars within a few years. The law is all about creating more reasons to lock people up in our already overcrowded prisons—and keep them there longer.

The main targets here are gangs. Even though studies have shown that intervention is far more effective than increased punishment, the bill carves out an additional $100 million for gang suppression—but nothing for direct intervention. The law would also make it easier for prosecutors to try juveniles as adults and would require the state to pay for lifetime GPS monitoring of sex offenders, gang members and violent felons, meaning people who otherwise successfully complete their sentences would be basically marked for life by clunky, obvious ankle bracelets. We’d much rather see limited state dollars spent on solutions-focused programs such as those proposed by Prop. 5. Please vote no on Prop. 6.

Prop. 7

If you have enough money, you can get pretty much anything on a ballot. That’s part of the reason why you should vote no on measures over which you’re in doubt. Prop. 7, an effort to move California faster toward renewable energy, while appearing to be well-meaning, is awfully confusing.

It was placed on the ballot by a wealthy father and son from Arizona, and it’s opposed by pretty much everyone, including the most reputable environmental organizations. As Natural Resources Defense Council spokesperson Craig Noble writes in a blog post, “Proposition 7 was put together by people who don’t know what they’re doing; they don’t understand California’s clean energy policies, laws and markets.”

Many flaws in Prop. 7 have been discovered. One is that it appears to provide a disincentive for energy utilities to lease space on corporate rooftops for the purpose of generating solar power and selling it on the open market, which, apparently, has started to occur, and that’s a good thing.

We’re not experts on energy. That’s why we pay attention to people who are not only experts, but experts who are also passionate advocates for renewable energy. And they say to vote no on Prop. 7.

Prop. 8

Eight years ago, state voters passed an initiative that said, simply, that only marriage between one man and one woman would be recognized in California. This year, the state Supreme Court ruled that law unconstitutional, and same-sex couples got married in droves. This initiative would write a provision into the California Constitution saying that only marriage between a man and a woman is recognized. It would eliminate a right guaranteed to a large segment of the population by the state’s most important document.

Hey, while we’re at it, why don’t we just put in there that left-handed women can’t drive in the fast lane on the freeway. And we can say that Asians can no longer sit down in public parks—they have to keep walking. It’s the same thing.

Proponents of this angry initiative are no different than the people who 50 years ago thought black people shouldn’t be able to marry white people. They refute that, of course. That’s because they don’t even realize they’re bigots. That’s the thing about bigots: They lack self-awareness.

They argue that 2000’s Prop. 22 was the “will of the people.” Well, the will of the people has changed. Just look at the public-opinion polls. Now they say they’re trying to “protect” marriage. Excuse us? What? Whose marriage is under attack? We ask the proponents: Lots and lots of same-sex couples have gotten married this year—how has your marriage changed as a result? Not at all? Oh, see, that’s how you know you’re bigoted. You want to take a right that you enjoy away from someone else because they’re different from you. So, why don’t you take that “Protect marriage” sign and shove it right up your bigoted butt. Your Bible has no place in our public-policy arena.

Alright, we’ll settle down.

Look, the trajectory of the opinion polls is crystal clear: If Prop. 8 passes, it’s only a matter of time before we’ll have to change the Constitution back to the way it was. So, if you’re leaning toward voting yes, please just relax and wait for the wave of acceptance to wash over you. It’s on its way. Vote no on Prop. 8.

Prop. 9

This constitutional-amendment initiative, known alternatively as “Marcy’s Law” (geeez, not another one!), has been driven by one man, broadband-communications mogul Henry Nicholas, No. 195 on the 2007 Forbes list of the richest Americans. He’s a real law-and-order type of billionaire who has also donated significantly to Prop. 6 and, ironically, is under indictment on felony drug-conspiracy and securities-fraud charges. (Reportedly, it’s quite a story—look into it.)

Anyway, his initiative basically puts even more influence over the criminal-justice system in the hands of victims and eats away at the rights of prisoners—and sets it all in the concrete of the California Constitution. Specifically, among other provisions, it strengthens the right of victims to be heard during bail, sentencing and parole hearings and it reduces the frequency of parole hearings.

We’ve long argued against the involvement of victims and victims’ families in the judicial system—remember, it’s supposed to be blind and devoid of emotion—and we’re generally against taking rights away from people, particularly the people who need them the most: convicted criminals. Vote no on Prop. 9.

Prop. 10

This measure would authorize the sale of $5 billion worth of general-obligation bonds to subsidize the purchase of high-fuel-economy or alternative-fuel vehicles and fund research into and production of alternative-fuel technology. Like with Prop. 7, it might sound good, but its critics charge that it’s little more than a way to funnel taxpayer money into Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens’ pocket. Just so happens that he owns a company that supplies natural gas for natural-gas-powered vehicles.

Again, the most reputable environmental organizations are against it—the closest thing to an environmental supporter the initiative’s backers can muster is actor Ed Begley Jr. Couple that with the price tag of nearly $10 billion (when debt service is considered), and it’s clear what you ought to do: Vote no on Prop. 10.

Prop. 11

One of the government processes that are severely broken is the way we redraw the boundaries of our geographic political districts. Currently, the politicians themselves get together every 10 years and redraw these lines in a way that virtually ensures that each district remains in the hands of the incumbent political party. It’s called gerrymandering, and it sucks major butt.Prop. 11 seeks to take politics out of the process and create districts that are more about neighborhoods and “communities of interest” (such as ethnic and racial communities). The details are in the way a new Citizens Redistricting Commission would be chosen. It’s a fairly amusing process, but necessarily so:

You’re eligible for a seat on the commission if you’re a registered California voter who voted in two of the previous three general elections. You’re not eligible if, during the previous 10 years, you’ve been a lobbyist or a candidate for state or federal office or if you’ve contributed $2,000 or more to a political candidate in any single year.

A panel of state-employed auditors narrows the pool of candidates to 60, “based on analytic skill, impartiality and appreciation of California’s diversity,” according to the state’s official analysis of the initiative. Legislative leaders can remove up to 24 names from the list, and the State Auditor then picks eight names at random from the remaining pool. Finally, those eight people pick six more people to fill out the 14-member commission, which is required to include five Democrats, five Republicans and four people who are independents or registered with minor parties. Whew.The political parties will eventually figure out a way to corrupt that process, too, but for now, it’s a major improvement over the undemocratic status quo. Too bad it applies only to the state Legislature and not Congress. Maybe that’ll be next. We strongly urge you to vote yes on Prop. 11.

Prop. 12

State Sen. Mark Wyland, who represents North San Diego County, was the driving force behind the bill that put this measure on the ballot, and it’s nice to see Republicans offering something to military veterans other than empty rhetoric about supporting the troops. Prop. 12 would authorize the sale of $900 million in bonds; the proceeds would be pumped into the Cal-Vet program, which buys homes and sells them to veterans at low interest rates. The state Legislative Analyst’s Office reports that the program has always paid for itself; veterans’ mortgage payments would pay off the bond principle and the interest. Critics say there’s an indirect cost to federal and state taxpayers because payments to bond investors are tax-free, but we’ve yet to see a dollar figure attached to that complaint.We should be enhancing healthcare for veterans; the least we can do is lower their interest rates on homes they buy. Vote yes on Prop. 12.

Local  propositions

Prop. A

County Supervisors put this one on the ballot. It would impose a base tax of $52 on most parcels countywide for enhanced fire protection, generating $50 million per year that would, presumably, fund new fire stations, more trucks and new helicopters. Large-property owners—more than 50 acres—would pay more, as would owners of structures bigger than 10,000 square feet. It would also establish a joint powers authority that would create a regional fire-protection district.

It wouldn’t be a horrible thing if it were to pass (truth be told, we CityBeatniks were divided), but there are some things about this that bug us:

First, of the 10 voting members of the new authority, the mayor of San Diego is a constant, along with a member of the Board of Supervisors, four people from the city councils of the remaining 17 cities and four people from local agencies that provide firefighting services in the unincorporated county. Why does the San Diego mayor get so much power? Seems weird.

Second, this is a regressive tax that would disproportionately impact low-income folks.

Third, we agree with critics who complain about the county supervisors’ $10 million annual slush fund. We’d be more apt to support this thing if they threw that money toward firefighting first.Lastly, while CityBeat tends to favor policies in which everyone chips in for the greater good, it seems unfair to burden everyone, especially in a serious recession, when most of San Diego County residents are fairly safe from wildfires. Our planners have allowed people to live in rural or suburban areas adjacent to open land, and those homeowners have chosen to live there. Maybe they oughtta pay.

If you feel like everyone should chip in for this, we won’t be mad if you vote yes, but we’re saying no on A.Prop. B

We’re not gonna waste too much space on this one. Essentially, some private developers dreamed up a way to force the Port of San Diego to ask voters to turn the 10th Avenue Marine Terminal into their own little playground. They say they want to—get this—build a humongous deck atop the terminal. Underneath, they say, dock workers would go merrily about their business while, up above, there would be a tourism paradise—all manner of hotels, restaurants, aquariums and sports stadiums.

The sweet part of it for the private developers, Richard and Nancy Chase, is that Prop. B would create a 60-day window of opportunity for the Port to negotiate with prospective developers for redeveloping the terminal. Who you think would be the only developers ready to deal? Yeah. Us, too.

This initiative is lame in so many ways—we don’t have nearly enough space to cover it. We’ll just say this: It’s maybe the worst possible way to plan for redevelopment, and everyone’s against it—the Port’s Board of Commissioners, the City Council, everyone who does business at the terminal, the unions, San Diego’s business community, environmentalists, anyone who looks out for the people who live in nearby Barrio Logan—everyone.

For heaven’s sake, they want to put a giant deck over a working port? Are they kidding? Vote no on Prop. B.

Prop. C

This one would limit how much of the money from property leases (SeaWorld, hotels, etc.) around Mission Bay can be spent on stuff that has nothing to do with Mission Bay Park or any other park in San Diego. If this passes, it’s estimated that in 2010, $2.8 million that would otherwise go to the city’s general fund will go toward park improvements; by 2015, the figure is estimated at $10.6 million. Three-quarters of the money would go to Mission Bay Park, one-quarter to a regional park fund.

City Councilmembers Donna Frye and Kevin Faulconer are big backers of the measure, and even though it would grab money from the general fund, Mayor Jerry Sanders is also in favor. In fact, no one offered a ballot argument against it. We like parks. Vote yes on Prop. C.

Prop. D

The beach booze ban remains a toughy for us. We’ve always been steadfastly opposed to stupid, unruly, drunken jackasses. They rank right up there with homophobes, xenophobes and people who drive too slowly in the fast lane. It doesn’t bother us a bit that they and all their dumbery are gone from the beaches. Good riddance.

But a permanent 24-hour alcohol ban on all beaches and coastal parks? It’s a bit extreme, we think. And we’re pissed that those yay-hoos have ruined it for everyone.

This problem calls for a half-measure. A targeted ban would have been far more sensible. Since no one in his or her right mind goes to the beach on major holidays, and since we don’t give too much of a damn about anyone of wrong mind, we’d prefer a ban on those days when group alcohol abuse causes the most mischief: the weekends around Independence Day, Labor Day, Memorial Day, etc.

Furthermore, banning a legal activity because it sometimes causes people to do stuff that’s already illegal makes us chafe in all the worst places. We’re saying vote no on Prop. D.

Prop. S 

We don’t take large property-tax assessments lightly, especially when the economy is in the tank. Frankly, we agonized over this one right up to this week’s deadline. We’d love to celebrate the expiration of a burdensome, 10-year tax, but here we are, essentially considering extending it.

At issue is a request from the San Diego Unified School District for a $2.1-billion facilities bond that would require property owners to continue paying an annual tax at the rate of $60 per $100,000 of valuation, the same rate that was assessed under the expiring Prop. MM from 1998. That’s pretty serious money for some people.

However, we believe the school district has made the case that the money is desperately needed to fix a list of physical problems that is so wide-ranging, it can’t even be briefly summarized here. Just check out the multi-page, fine-print list of proposed projects that came in the ballot pamphlet you got in the mail recently.

If it makes you feel any better, the school board seemed to take great care going over the list of projects to make sure the money would be put to the best use, and, ultimately, we’re swayed by the fact that it is, in effect, a continuation of a tax and not an increase. In theory, this is an investment that will pay dividends through better-educated and better-prepared citizens down the road. We think you should vote yes on Prop. S.