By Jim Miller
What if they had an election and nobody came?
That’s the feel that this June’s primary has to it and, after a nasty and seemingly unrelenting political year from the Filner scandal on, it’s understandable that folks are burned out and/or disgusted enough to stay home.
Nevertheless, while most San Diegans are meeting tomorrow’s election with a collective shrug, there are a number of things at stake that will affect our lives and the future of our local and statewide democracy in important ways.
Here are a few key areas that should motivate progressives to get to the polls:
1) The balance of power in the city is at stake. Even with Faulconer’s victory in the mayoral special election, if Carol Kim and Sarah Boot win their respective seats, the City Council will have the votes to override mayoral vetoes. Hence, things like the minimum wage increase and other good policy measures would still have a chance. If Kim and Boot both lose, stick a fork in any good policy ideas and hand the keys of the city over to the developers and downtown insiders for a good while to come.
If both Democrats lose, old Carl DeMaio ally Lorie Zapf would be joined by Carl DeMaio-in-the-making Chris Cate and that would be a marriage made in hell. If you don’t enjoy watching Faulconer doling out favors to moneyed special interests now, you really won’t like seeing what he can do with more help on the council. That’s why the local right is in big trying to win these races in the primary so they don’t have to face a less favorable November electorate. Cole and Alvarez’s seats are safer but they need help on the council.
2) Carl DeMaio is running for Congress. Most folks who read the San Diego Free Press know that I have never been Scott Peters’ biggest fan, BUT Carl DeMaio is, well, Carl DeMaio. If there ever was someone who needs to have his political career ended, it’s DeMaio who from his days in the world of the right wing corporate think tanks to the present has been a fountainhead (pun intended) of nasty, bad ideas. He’s not a moderate; he’s at the cold, malicious, bloodless heart of the Koch brothers-funded American right wing.
3) The fate of local democracy is on the line. After my last column on the reprehensible campaign against the Barrio Logan Plan, the baloney has just kept coming by the boatload as the corporate funders of the opposition to Propositions B and C try to scare San Diegans about the job losses that will supposedly come if these measures pass. The bitter irony, however, is that, as the San Diego Reader recently noted, the very same company funding the No on B and C campaign is already in the process of outsourcing jobs to maquiladoras under present conditions but is unlikely to ever move the shipyard work no matter what the outcome of this election.
If the fundamental dishonesty of the No on B and C campaign is not enough to motivate you, keep in mind what will happen if we allow out of state corporate money aligned with our shameless local Chamber of Commerce and current rent-a-mayor to undermine the community planning process. As I have noted before, this is a perverse subversion of the originally populist referendum process, which has now been turned into a tool of the powerful in the service of dictating the living conditions of one of the poorest communities of color in our city.
And all of this just because those moneyed interests didn’t get their untrammeled way with our local government. If they win, it will be a triumph of corporate bullying over the community planning process, the public’s health and welfare, and representative government. The only thing that can stop this great injustice is YOU voting Yes on B and C, and dragging your friends and family to the polls to do the same.
4) Corporate education reformers are trying to outspend and unseat Tom Torlakson. I know, Superintendent of Public Instruction races don’t usually get people’s hearts pumping but if you are dismayed by the full-court-press assault on teachers, public education, and democratic local control over schools, you should help re-elect Torlakson who has been steadfast in his support for quality public education in California. This is how the LA Progressive aptly describes his dangerous opponent, Marshall Tuck:
Many of us hoped that when right-wing business banker Marshall Tuck was ignominiously forced to step down as the “CEO” of the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools (PLAS), that we might have heard the last of Tuck altogether. Tragically, the Eli Broad-trained neoliberal operative was preparing for a run for California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction seat. Despite never having taught a day in his life, nor having any background in pedagogy or child development, Tuck entered the race knowing that he could count on mountains of cash from the corporate education plutocracy aiming to — in words of Tuck’s fellow arch-reactionary Grover Norquist — “drown [public education] in the bathtub”.
So let’s keep a strong advocate for public schools in office and not get fooled by a Manchurian candidate.
5) Betty Yee has it figured out. Betty Yee is running for State Controller against John Perez. Perez has the usual endorsements one would expect from someone leaving a leadership position in the state legislature, but Betty Yee is precisely the kind of Democrat who progressives should be supporting as the Democratic Party is increasingly colonized by corporate interests. As she noted recently:
You see, Democrats, we are just as guilty of getting sucked into the influence of money and power about which we criticize Republicans. It is time we have politics shaped by our values, rather than our values shaped by politics. If not, I believe Democrats will continue to lose ground with respect to the electorate. … Democrats, when are we going to recognize and rise up against being bullied by the system that equates power with money? When are we going to rise up to redefine power as the ability to deliver results to the people? [We] need to redefine our values so everyone has a seat at the table, not just those with the biggest bankroll.
Thus, even if your protest vote for Luis Rodriguez for Governor is more emotionally satisfying, a vote for Yee might actually help put a full-throated critic of plutocracy in a statewide office.
In addition to these races, I’ll add a shout out to some fine human beings, Peter Zschiesche and Maria Nieto Senour running for re-election on the San Diego Community College Board. Peter and Maria embody the best kind of elected officials, those who are there to serve the community rather than themselves. Add to this a vote for my colleague Alicia Munoz for County Board of Education who will join sometime-OB Rag contributor, longtime activist, and friend, Gregg Robinson, to do good work for San Diego’s students.
So please, vote. Like growing older, it beats the alternative.