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    Our Recommendations On LB Ballot Measures

    (April 15, 2007) -- offers our recommendations below on the May 1 citywide special election ballot measures.

    We strongly urge a Yes vote on Prop H, which would help fund police/fire services by making firms that pump oil from LB pay a more reasonable, higher fee.

    We stop just short of recommending No votes on Props A-G, City Hall's basically self-serving "Charter Amendments," to send City Hall the message that what they've put forward shows they just don't get it. It's not about them; it's about the people they're supposed to serve.

    Prop H deserves support because it gives the public something.

    Props A-G give the public nearly nothing or the shaft, with Prop B the worst of the bunch, creating machinery that could hand Councilmembers a taxpayer-gouging pay raise without requiring any additional work or even an accountable Council vote. This parallels systems set up by politicians in Washington and Sacramento that raised their pay to record levels. (Do you think we're getting higher quality representatives as a result?)

    Prop B is a very, very bad measure and above all others deserves defeat.

    We offer our recommendations below in order of our view of their importance. We also include a link to a useful matrix of opinions by others, provided on Straight Talk's increasingly robust web site (link below)'s Ballot Measure Recommendations
    Ranked in our order of importance

    Prop H: YESGenerates additional revenue by raising the fee paid by firms that pump oil out of LB. This overdue measure is backed by LB's new City Auditor, Laura Doud. It requires a 2/3 vote, which led Councilmembers wisely (if grudgingly) to specify the revenue for police and fire purposes. City Auditor Doud's office has produced a report showing the proposed increase is fair (arguably modest) compared to other jurisdictions. Ballot opponent Joe Weinstein says the increase is too modest. He may be right, but for our part nearly $4 million in hand for police and fire sounds like a decent we say Yes.
    Prop B: NO!Remember Prop B as brazen, bloated, bogus and bad. It fully displays City Hall's "let them eat cake" attitude toward LB taxpayers. Prop B would create a City Hall-selected "commission" (chosen by citywide elected incumbents) empowered to raise Councilmembers' pay without requiring any additional work while letting politicians receiving the pay raise escape an accountable vote on it. Politicians in Washington, D.C. and Sacramento have used the same technique to boost their salaries to record levels...and Prop B would let citywide elected incumbents -- whose office budgets the Council can ultimately approve or disapprove -- select the "Commission" that would set Council salaries. The Council bundled this stinker alongside a so-called "ethics commission" as a clumsy sales tool to try and con constituents. Had enough? Send them a message. No on B.
    Prop A: YES (barely)We say Yes on A because it would give the Mayor and Council authority to fire LB's non-elected, non-recallable Harbor Commission (and other Charter Commissions) when maintaining the status quo becomes untenable. This is an additional, incremental check and balance against nearly unbridled Port power. The public can also use it to hold the Mayor and Council accountable when they pretend (while annually rubberstamping the Port's budget) that they're not responsible for what their City's Port does. Prop A is much less than the public deserved. Councilwoman Gabelich sought modest Council oversight over Port development projects, but the Mayor and Council shrank. Members of the public sought real democracy, an elected, recallable Harbor Commission, as in Port Hueneme, CA and Seattle-Tacoma, WA. The Council response: go away. That said, an incremental check and balance against unbridled Port power is worth it. Also worthy while incremental is strengthening the Mayor's veto (making a Council override harder). This would make it easier for a sane Mayor to curtail profligate Council spending. Yes, the Mayor already has the power to frame spending issues when he forwards management budgets to the Council with his recommendations...but a veto carries more weight than a recommendation. While grumbling, we say Yes on A.
    Prop C: NOProp C is another gift to incumbents. It would weaken LB's voter-approved term limits law, delaying its effects until three terms (12 years) elapse instead of two terms (eight years). LB incumbents need to grasp that they hold office temporarily, not by entitlement. The right message is No on C.
    Prop D: NO[amended from our original text] Prop D is the political carpetbagger's friend, making it easier than recited in LB's current ordinance for mushroom candidates to pop up in a district where they haven't lived until 30 days prior to the close of the filing period. Unfortunately, a legal cloud arguably hangs over LB's current residency rules now...and some may argue Prop D restores enforceable residency requirements that LB doesn't have now. That said, we still dislike bundling this measure with a provision letting termed-out incumbents who get into a runoff have their names printed on the runoff ballot. The latter verbiage belonged with Prop C. We say No on D.
    Prop E: Withhold voteProp E is a City Hall hijacking, a perversion of the original "Parks in Perpetuity" measure sought by park protection advocates. Prop E would let City Hall repeat its bulldozing of part of Scherer Park in every LB park by empowering City Hall to take park land for a non-park purpose without a vote of the people on terms acceptable to officialdom (twice the taken parkland somewhere nearby). Prop E is NOT the Parks in Perpetuity that grassroots park protection advocates sought. They urged a public vote before City Hall takes park land for non-recreational uses. In contrast, Prop E permits taking park land in perpetuity. It would grant City Hall permanent approval to take land at any LB park without a public vote if officials concoct a way to deposit chunks of new parkland (double the size) elsewhere. Can you imagine NYC doing that to its Central Park? Or L.A. permitting that with Griffith Park? If LB City Hall wants to add park land (as at "Pops" Davenport park), it can do so without destroying existing park land. Predictably, Prop E is supported by City Hall appointees who'd get the power to make park decisions, instead of the public. Moreover, at Scherer Park (and probably a number of other LB parks), federal law already requires LB City Hall to offer double the park land elsewhere when it tries to take existing parkland. In those cases, Prop E amounts to a W.C. Fields-style shuffle, offering voters what they basically already have...while giving City Hall a free hand to act in the future. That said, we can't recommend a "no" vote...since we don't want a negative outcome interpreted as indicating the public doesn't care about parks. At the same time, we will not recommend voting for a measure that so badly mangles history and flouts the public will. Regrettably, we will be withholding our vote on Prop E.
    Prop F: YesRemoves from the City Prosecutor's office the duty to prosecute civil service matters. LB didn't need a costly 2007 special election for this, which could have waited until 2008...but OK.
    Prop G: YesRemoves obsolete provisions. Same grumbles from us regarding cost of a special election, but OK.

    What others think

    Art Levine, Executive Producer/Host of Straight Talk (Charter Cable channel 3 and worldwide via www.straighttalktv) has published an interesting matrix giving readers a side-by-side comparison of positions on the ballot measures from several LB media outlets, Mayor Foster & the LB Area Chamber.

    You can see the Election Matrix on Page 6 of his April Straight Talk Reporter, a pdf document (about 3 MB) which can be found at: Straight Talk Reporter, April 2007. Scroll to page 6.

    On the way, you can stop on Page 5 to read the views of LB Mayor Bob Foster on the ballot measures...worthwhile reading (although we dissent from him on Props B, C, D & E).

    What you think

    Yes, of course, we welcome your responses to: If you'd like yours published, please say so and include your name, let us know in what general part of LB (or elsewhere) you live...and please include a phone number (which we won't publish) so we can reach you.

    See publishable replies received to date by clicking here.

    Absentee ("vote by mail") ballots are already flying. Election day is May 1.

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