Monday, October 11, 2010

Kamala Harris, Democratic candidate for attorney general, visits San Diego Democratic Headquarters to promote herself, position

Story and photos by Emily Anderson

SAN DIEGO (CLAIREMONT) -- Kamala Harris, Democratic state attorney general candidate, visited the San Diego County Democratic headquarters in Claremont yesterday to speak about her candidacy and the importance of Democrats being elected at all levels of office.

Harris began her speech at 1 p.m. and addressed a couple of dozen Democratic volunteers who showed their approval by laughing, smiling and clapping. Harris, who is part African American and part Asian, would be the first woman and first African American elected to the state attorney general office position if she wins.

Dressed in a professional gray skirt suit, pantyhose and black high heels, Harris looked poised as she spoke for 20 minutes about the importance of health care, protecting the environment, and fixing the state’s broken criminal justice system, citing the Back on Track initiative she created to help reduce the first time non-violent drug crime rate of 18 –to -24-year olds.

Harris, who is the district attorney for San Francisco County, said that when President Obama was elected, his supporters elected a leader who was willing to reform health care and that California will be responsible for implementing the new health care laws. As a woman running for the California attorney general seat, she knows healthcare is important to everyone.

“We elected a leader saying that to be a female, to be a woman, should not be a pre-existing condition for the purposes of having access to health care,” she said. “We decided that it is just and right in … society that everyone, regardless of their economic status, will have access to affordable health care."

Harris said her Republican opponent - Steve Cooley - would, if elected, involve California in a lawsuit which was brought on by a southern state’s attorneys general regarding healthcare. She feels the lawsuit would be detrimental to California. She didn’t discuss this further.

Harris, 46, also spoke about the environment and related it to Proposition 23, which will appear on the November ballot and is allegedly funded by Texas oil companies. She gave background on how the proposition was created, saying that bill AB 32 (an assembly bill) would increase greenhouse gas emissions standards for the state of California. She said Gov. Schwarzenegger and Democrats championed the creation of AB 32, which would be undone if Proposition 23 passed.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

San Diego League of Women Voters hosted Proposition 11 discussion

SAN DIEGO -- Members of the San Diego League of Women Voters met Thursday, September 23 to hear a three-member panel discuss redistricting and Proposition 11 at Tom Ham’s Lighthouse located at the end of Harbor Island.

Sail boats drifted lazily by the restaurant as Elizabeth Maland, San Diego city clerk, Vladimir Kogan, a UCSD student and Kathay Feng, an author of Proposition 11 and executive director of California Common Cause, discussed redistricting both at the local and state level. Kogan and Feng did most of the talking, discussing their differing viewpoints about the California Citizen’s Redistricting Commission and how it affects gerrymandering.

The luncheon event was held from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and was titled “Redistricting: The Good, the bad and the ugly.” Mike Aguirre, former San Diego city attorney was supposed to be the fourth person on the panel, but could not make it to the event.

Maland spoke about redistricting guidelines and procedures the city follows from the city charter; Kogan spoke about components and his dislikes of Proposition 11 and Feng spoke about the good aspects of Proposition 11. While Proposition 27 will appear on the November ballot and would overturn Proposition 11, it was rarely discussed.

Dozens of people listened to the panel, intensely observing the PowerPoint presentations being shown to them. Kogan is a political science student in the process of receiving his Ph.D. and pleasantly opposed Feng’s viewpoints while presenting.

Proposition 11 passed on the November 2008 ballot and created the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, which created a bipartisan 14-member committee to draw state district lines. Proposition 11 states that applicants whom apply to serve on the redistricting commission cannot be a previous or current government employee, a lobbyist, an immediate relative of a government employee or could not have donated more than $2,000 in any year to a local, state or congressional candidate.

From the text of Proposition 11:

“The Citizens Redistricting Commission shall consist of 14 members, as follows: five who are registered with the largest political party in California based on registration, five who are registered with the second largest political party in California based on registration, and four who are not registered with either of the two largest political parties in California based on registration.”

Kogan disagreed with Feng, saying that people who have government experience should be allowed to apply to serve on the California Citizens Redistricting Commission. Kogan said, while reiterating the text of Proposition 11, that a three-member Applicant Review Panel is selected at random from a pool of Certified Public Accountants. He said CPAs shouldn’t decide which members to pick for the commission. The text says that these three members of the Applicant Review Panel are “employed by the state and licensed by the California Board of
Accountancy at the time of the drawing.” He also mentioned that this applicant panel selects the most qualified candidates – but defining “most qualified” leaves Kogan hesitant.

What are his concerns with having the regular public apply?

“My concern with the commission is that we are going to have a group of un-elected and unrepresentative people make critical decisions – decisions that are fundamentally about core political values,” he said after the event. “Back in the early 1900s, the Progressive movement sought to take politics out of politics, and make government be run by professionals and experts…My concern is that the same thing is going to happen with this commission, especially given the unrepresentative nature of the applicants.”

During the event, Kogan kept mentioning value-based decisions, and that decisions of whomever draws district lines are going to differ no matter if the state district lines are drawn by the legislature, the state supreme court, or by the commission created by Proposition 11.

“Are the values of our representatives’ districts our values?” Kogan asked the audience. He answered his own question, saying the values of our representatives aren’t always ours.

“How many people in the room are representative of California?” he said, stating that applicants for the California Citizens Redistricting Commission probably aren’t representative of California either. He said the applicants are mostly old, white men.

As of last Thursday, Feng said the 30,000 people who initially applied to serve on the were narrowed down to about 120 people. 30 percent of the applicants were Latino, 14 percent were Asian, 12 percent were African American and five percent were American Indian. 47 percent were women.

Kogan also believes Proposition 11 isn’t the best step to prevent gerrymandering. Gerrymandering occurs when districts are drawn for political gain.

“The current concern about gerrymandering seems to be the state legislature drawing safe districts for incumbents…gerrymandering does not increase incumbency advantage, which is the key claim … Common Cause make(s),” Kogan said. “Second, the decision to draw safe districts in California was made for defensive reasons,” going on to note that “the legislature doesn’t actually want to draw pro-incumbent districts. It only does this out of fear of the minority party.”