Beware of shady politics
by Quentin Kopp
A wag once opined: “Some politicians are elected because of their gift of gab, and then defeated because of their gift of grab.”
I trust that won’t apply to three statewide candidates whom I recommended last month for your thoughtful consideration and who were chosen under California’s unusual system of sending to the Nov. 6, 2018 general election the highest two qualifiers, rather than by respective parties. In order of ballot appearance, retired Superior Court Judge Steve Bailey of El Dorado, a Republican, runs this fall against incumbent Democrat Attorney General Xavier Becerra. Steve Poizner, like me an Independent, runs for Insurance Commis sioner, and Democrat Marshall Tuck faces Tony Thurmond, another Democrat, for Superintendent of Public Instruction, a non-partisan office.
It may be early, but I reiterate my recommendations for Nov. 6, and I’ll later analyze other state and federal campaigns.
The state system of disregarding political parties for the November run-off reminds me of San Francisco’s “ranked choice” voting for mayor and SF Board of Supervisors. The latter will, I fearlessly predict, result in corruption accusations sometime in the future because human nature invites unsavory arrangements between candidates who exchange second and third place votes. San Francisco is also manifestly disserved by a practice of anointing political successors.
I noted last month that the incumbent supervisor in the Sunset District announced she would not run for re-election in November. Within one day, an aide declared her candidacy. The aide registered to vote in San Francisco only on March 27, 2018, and was raised in Los Angeles. Such an event, labeled as favoritism by some commentators, will be tested by eight other eligible candidates who timely filed declarations of candidacy.
Supervisors are limited to two four-year terms. The policy theory was that such a system would encourage everyday citizens, not aspiring politicians, to lead San Francisco legislatively. That’s a fallacy.
Sneaky trailer bills
Meanwhile, the annual state Budget Act was enacted last month, together with so-called “trailer” bills. Those are allegedly intended to implement spending purposes of the Budget Act. Such custom and practice is gravely abused by the legislature, which achieves passage of non-budget-related bills with little or no public hearings.
There’s a depressing example in the 2018-19 Budget Act which contains a 17-word trailer bill that would allow local public officials to suppress disclosures to voters about how their property taxes would be affected by bond measures on the ballot between now and 2020. The best political commentator in California, Dan Walters, accurately calls it “sneakiness.”
As readers know, bonds constitute loans to public entities, which are repaid by property taxes, usually over 30 years, with principal and interest that generally double the bond expense. Meanwhile, local Assemblymember David Chiu introduced last spring legislation to restore the failed Redevelopment Agency in cities and counties.
Redevelopment is a pseudonym for eminent domain, taking private property allegedly for public benefit. Begun more than 60 years ago in California, it allows a board of supervisors or city council to decide an area is “blighted” for purposes of buying or seizing the neighborhood properties from owners, then reselling same to developers for better-appearing 20th century housing. It was a “do-gooder” theory, which instead resulted in the seizure of private property and its resale at bargain prices for such purposes as automobile rows, high-rise office buildings, shopping malls and even country clubs. Those uses produced not only property taxes, but sales taxes.
Meanwhile, school districts suffered a loss of property tax revenue in the process. Assembly Bill #3037 was approved by the Assembly’s Committee on Housing and Community Development, but was stopped in the Committee on Appropriations – for now.
Note that Gov. Edmund G. Brown, Jr. accomplished three years ago legislation abolishing redevelopment agencies, but facile developers, politicians and non-profit housing entities continue to proclaim the wonders of a system which enabled government to seize private property and deliver it to wealthy City Hall favorites at prices as low as a dollar per parcel (yes, that occurred during redevelopment’s legal status in California).
I note Independence Day for all Americans and encourage leaders to think of forebears who declared and fought to sustain this independent, democratic nation of legal immigrants.
I’ll be speaking at a Lutheran church in Pacifica, led by Rev. Tom Nibbe, a Marine Corps veteran, and praying for our future well-being in tumultuous rhetorical times, which include President Donald “Bone Spur” Trump and his perpetual mainstream media critics. (Note: Independence Day reminds me Mr. Trump obtained five draft deferments during the Vietnam War because of those pesky bone spurs!)
Quentin Kopp is a former San Francisco supervisor and state senator, retired judge and current member of the SF Ethics Commission.