Elections


FPPC Levies Record Fines Against Dark Money Groups

By Steve Smith

California Labor Federation

Last Thursday California’s Fair Political Practices Commission sent a strong message to shadowy out-of-state special-interest groups and donors trying to influence our state’s elections by levying record fines for contributions to committees that supported Prop 32 and opposed Prop 30.

According to the Sacramento Bee:

In a campaign finance case watched around the country, California's political watchdog has levied a $1 million fine against two non-profit groups for inappropriately laundering money during last year's ballot initiative wars.

McCutcheon v. FEC: "Citizens United" on Steroids

By Steve Mikulan

Frying Pan News

The U.S. Supreme Court's new term, which began yesterday, could spell a world of hurt for working Americans. People who believe this aren't simply looking at worst-case scenarios -- in which, say, the conservative majority sides on every point with plaintiffs represented by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. No, their view rests on the conservatives' well-established penchant for producing rulings that go far beyond the original cases before the justices - rulings that make laws that didn't previously exist, grant awards that weren't sought and answer briefs that were never filed.

Garcetti, Backed by Tenant Groups, Wins L.A. Mayor's Race

By Randy Shaw

Eric Garcetti has won a 53%-46% victory in the Los Angeles mayor's race following a tough campaign against Wendy Greuel. Greuel sought to become the city's first female mayor, but was a bland candidate from the Valley who failed to energize women voters. Although the media framed the candidates as ideologically similar - the New York Times claimed they "did little to differentiate themselves on major issues like jobs and the city budget" - the city's big landlord and realtor groups backed Greuel, while tenant groups like the Coalition for Economic Survival supported Garcetti. Greuel pledged to decimate the city's vastly improved housing code enforcement program, while Garcetti has long backed tenants and affordable housing. I wrote on April 3 that Greuel faced an "uphill battle," and that New York City's Christine Quinn, another real estate-backed moderate woman candidate, had a greater chance of success. Quinn's chances still look good, particularly because she does not face an opponent as strong as Garcetti.

Creating Community, One Vote at a Time

By Steve Hochstadt

I've been thinking a lot about community lately. My involvement in my local elections has led to hundreds of conversations with people about our community - what the problems are, how to improve them, how the city should be run. But more important than the way we vote or even whom we vote for is the role the whole community plays in our local affairs.

Every once in a while, we all get to vote. Voting is one of the most important foundations of our democracy. Our ability to select our political managers, at the local, state, and national levels, and to vote them out of office the next time, puts ultimate power in the hands of the people.

Diminishing Returns: Where Have All the Voters Gone?

By Rev. Jim Conn

Let the hand-wringing begin! In last week's primary election, just over 16 percent of Los Angeles voters turned out at the polls, less than four years ago, which was less than the election before that, which was less than the election before that - and on and on. In Southern California municipalities - big city or small - elections draw about 20 percent of the vote. This is a problem in a democracy.

Great Migrations: Our Civil Rights Laws and Their Legacy

By Rev. Jim Conn

In an action that already feels like ancient history, Congress voted earlier this month to avoid the "fiscal cliff." While much remains to be settled, the revenue side of the issue got resolved because 84 House Republicans joined 172 Democrats to support the solution negotiated between the President and the Senate. In some ways, such bipartisanship was a moment of déjà vu from a time, nearly 50 years ago, when two pivotal civil rights bills were being considered. Then, Lyndon Johnson was President and both houses of Congress were in the hands of Democrats. Martin Luther King was in the streets. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee was registering voters. The 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act were passed by Republicans joining Democrats to move the President's legislation into law.

The California Budget: Back in Black

By Robert Cruickshank

Last week's big news was the announcement from Governor Jerry Brown that the state budget is out of perennial deficit and looking at several years of surpluses. We'll talk more about what those surpluses mean and how they ought to be used, but it's worth taking a moment to remember how we got here.

Since 2001 or so, California's budget seems to have been in perpetual deficit, with less money coming in than was needed to fund existing public services. While the deficit pressure eased in 2005-06, that didn't last, and by the summer of 2007 the deficits had returned as the housing bubble popped and the country slid into the worst recession in 60 years.

California Legislature Must Restore Democracy to Transit Funding

By Robert Cruickshank

Two pieces of transit funding news came out of Los Angeles today. The first is that the L.A. Streetcar won its vote among downtown property owners to create a local taxing district and raise $125 million in revenue to begin building a streetcar line.

Unfortunately, we also learned that Measure J, the Los Angeles County Metro transit tax extension that would have helped deliver more rail projects sooner “failed.” It received 66.11% of the vote, a huge landslide victory in almost any other race. But because of the rule requiring a two-thirds vote for most local taxes, Measure J had to get 66.66%.

California's Looming Transportation Funding Crisis

By Robert Cruickshank

The passage of Prop 30 has stopped the bleeding at California's K-12 schools, at least for the time being. The $6 billion in revenues it raises won't fully backfill the nearly $10 billion in cuts made to K-12 education since 2008, nor will it restore the huge funding cuts made to the community college, CSU and UC systems in that same time. But it's a start.

Transportation funding faces a crisis too. It has been slashed over that same amount of time, and even before that, revenues weren't keeping pace with basic road maintenance needs nor were they sufficient to fund the level of mass transit that the state desperately needs. Years of reckless tax cuts had led to cuts in these important programs and transportation services, leaving California vulnerable to the impact of rising gas prices while existing infrastructure deteriorates.

Election Campaigning: Walking the Walk, Tossing the Ads

By Rev. Jim Conn

My mail delivery guy just got happier. He can finish his route while it is still light outside - this despite the change back from daylight savings time. Now he gets his work done in daylight: With the election over, he has less junk to deliver.

I don't know how it was in your neighborhood, but in my apartment building the stuff filled the box every day for a month, and in the last week, so much mail rolled in that it couldn't fit anymore. So my mail carrier patiently sorted it into clumps and placed it in the magazine space at the bottom of the mailbox area.