October 18, 1994
By Yolanda Reynolds
On November 8, California and San Jose voters will have an opportunity to express their choice for State governor and other races. They will also decide on many propositions. Proposition 186 is the adoption of a single payer health plan similar to that of the State of Hawaii. Proposition 184 proposes increasing sentences of all persons convicted of three felonies and will, as well, include this provision in the State’s Constitution. Proposition 187 will deprive children, whose parents are undocumented, of health care and access to public education, among other services. Proposition 188 is an initiative pushed by tobacco interests that weaken most of the current laws in California that restrict smoking in public places. Locally there is a Measure ‘B,’ which changes the City Charter to allow the city to set council elections any time that they wish.
On these important measures, most Hispanic leaders and many-other thoughtful voters recommend voting “No” on statewide Propositions 187, 184, 188, and 189. Many say “Yes” on Proposition 186. The insurance and pharmaceutical companies are opposing the “single payer health plan for California.”
In San Jose, there are some alert voters who urge a “no” vote on Measure B. Another controversy regards Measure “E,” an advisory vote regarding a $25 annual parcel fee in order to support the city’s public libraries. Though there is great skepticism regarding City Hall’s true commitment to support public libraries, there are many voters who say “well maintained libraries are fundamental in a democracy,” and because of that, and the abysmal deterioration of the City’s libraries. that they say that they will vote yes on Measure ‘B.’
A recent release of a poll of elected Latino officials regarding Prop. 187 shows that almost all of them are adamantly opposed to Prop. 187. Many others who are not Latino describe this legislation as “mean spirited.” Older Californians remember with disgust and shame of the xenophobia that surfaced in California during the great depression of the 30’s.
William Conlon, an 80-year-old native Californian says that at that time the National Guard was sent to the border between California and the rest of the nation to keep out the migrants, front Arkansas and Oklahoma. These people, desperate for jobs were derisively called “Okies and Arkies,” a term, unfortunately, still used by some in reference to poor “white,” people.
Song writer and union activist, Willie Guthrie, memorialized those day with the heart stirring songs that made him an American folk hero. His songs have meaning today for the workers who have been laid off in the massive “restructuring” of companies and whole industries in the United States that has left Unions and the workers they represent impotent.
The electorate is increasingly angered over existing economic conditions and the attendant uncertain over their future, and they say that they do not trust politicians and government officials and, sadly, often have good reason to blame them for their problems; even though the voters share much of the blame either for not voting or not being well informed when they do vote.
Much of the popularity of some Propositions that appear before the voters, such as 187, 184, and 189, appear to be citizen concerns for getting action for unattended problems whether justified or not.
But, all too often, an angry reaction is not well thought out, and these Propositions hardly offer real solutions to the perceived problems.
Responsible government officials and informed citizens say that Propositions 187 and 189, if passed, will land in the courts and eventually before the U.S. Supreme Court. Both of these propositions contain legal provisions that are counter to existing constitutional federal and state laws.
Opposition to this law comes from both Democrat and Republican Party members. Ron Unz, a Republican who recently ran on the Republican primary ticket for California governor, is strongly opposed to Prop. 187, the so called SOS (Save Our State) Initiative. Most Democrats also oppose Prop. 187. These Democrats do not disagree with the need for developing better control of the nation’s borders to illegal immigration.
Unz has no problem with almost unlimited immigration but he believes welfare programs should be ended. His position seems to imply that documented immigrants are heavy users of the government welfare programs. That simply is not correct. Manuel Ares, the assistant director of Social Services for the County of Santa Clara, says that passage of Prop. 187 will have absolutely no effect on the budget of that department since “illegal” immigrants do not use those services.
Other electoral contests are also of importance and voters should decide who they wish to support. There are races for Lt. Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, and Insurance Commissioner, and for the Superintendent of Schools, among other important Statewide positions.
San Jose voters are voting for two positions which represent them in Washington D.C., one for Senator and the other for U.S. Representative. Senator Dianne Feinstein is in the fight of her political life against a Texas oil man who has personally ﬁnanced his campaign with millions of dollars, worth of television advertisements. Feinstein has recently been successful in passing major legislation of beneﬁt to Californians; the ban of sales of automatic weapons and the “Desert Protection Act.” This Act put into the National Park category, gym desert lands in southern California that were endangered from misuse.
Santa Clara County Supervisor Zoe Lofgren is in a runoff election for the opportunity to represent District 16 in the United States Congress.
At a very local level, Measure “B” has caused alarm. Terry Cristensen, a San Josean and Political Science Professor at San Jose State University, says that this measure will leave a detrimental effect on local council elections.
He explains that, “currently, the city charter ties regular elections to state and national election. But because some city council members were worried about the states 1996 March primary and the long time-lag between March and November; Measure B would give the Council the power to change the date of either the city primary or run-off so that elections would be closer together.”
Cristensen adds, “this may be convenient for incumbents and it might even cut costs a little (to the candidates), but an extra election would be inconvenient for voters and special election.” Even worse, he states, it would decimate voter turnout “possibly literally,” and even alter the outcome of elections.
Cristensen argues that, “the electorate at special elections is not only smaller but it is “different.” He contends that this charter change “is a slap in the face to the get-out-the-vote efforts of community groups, political parties, newspapers and organizations like Kids Voting.”
Cristensen concerns is shared by many others who are alarmed at the already low amount of voter participation. According to ﬁgures gathered by Professor Cristensen, there was only 16% in the last special election, even below the already low 22% rate in the primary. That means that 16% of the eligible voters are deciding the issues that affect everyone. The people that vote in these special elections tend to be more affluent, older and non-minority.
Cristensen and others urge a “no” vote in Measure B.
Another advisory measure, San Jose’s library parcel tax Measure E, in and of itself, is not controversial among most people even many normally anti-tax voters, want to support the public library system. The controversy over whether City Hall will indeed use this new revenue solely for the operation and maintenance of the existing library system and whether this new revenue will simply be used to supplant the existing general fund revenues that go to the City’s public libraries.
Former Councilwoman, Nancy Ianni, an ardent and long-time supporter of public libraries assured La Oferta that, should Measure E be approved, the new monies would not be used to “leverage” funds for the construction of a new main library that has long been talked about to replace the existing Martin Luther King Jr. main library.
Two less publicized races that will be decided next month have Latino candidates, both of whom are favored to win. The candidates, who will need every vote to do so; are Art Torres from Southern California, who is running for State Insurance Commissioner, and Rene Navarro in San Jose, who is a Superior Court candidate.
There are also numerous school board positions, as well as several run-off elections for San Jose City Council. These positions are very important to the community and too often are cover-shadowed by the other high profile and costly statewide campaigns.
Be informed and don’t forget to vote on November 8. Your participation is what makes a democracy work. Do not you’re your vote to others to decide what is best for you. © La Oferta Newspaper.