Monday, September 8, 2008

Don’t Be Fooled by their Lies

Don’t Be Fooled by their Lies
by Todd Hoover

With less than two months to go until the next election, I believe we are on the verge of some significant and very much needed change. After eight years of the Republican rule, our nation is left with one of the most costly wars in history, a complete meltdown of the housing industry, the collapse of several major financial institutions, massive layoffs and a serious economic downturn with no end in sight. With Obama ready to lead us all into a new era, we should see a strengthening of Democrats across the nation as people realize just how urgent change is needed.

As Democratic candidates across the country are getting ready to take charge, we need to not only pay close attention to the national race for president, but also the local political races. There are issues we currently face in California which have now become more critical than ever. We are presently facing a $15.2 billion budget deficit, which could easily mushroom to $22 billion if the prison healthcare receiver Clark Kelso manages to impose the additional $8 billion required to bring the deplorable condition of California’s prisons up to constitutional standards. To further exacerbate this catastrophe, the state legislature has been unable to pass a state budget and we are now more than two months past the deadline. Even though California State Controller John Chiang was able to prevent the absolute calamity that would have been caused if Governor Schwarzenegger had been successful in cutting the pay for all state employees to the federal minimum wage of $6.55 an hour, we are still in the midst of a severe storm. With House Democrats, and to a certain extent, even Schwarzenegger himself, currently very close reaching a compromise on the budget, House Republicans are continuing to block progress at every step.

This is why it is so important that we start paying close attention to our local candidates. We have several noteworthy candidates that we should rally behind. Running against Cameron Smyth to represent the 38th Assembly District, Carole Lutness is a strong advocate of campaign finance reform, and unlike her adversary, is not tied to “big oil” money. Hoping to win representation for the 37th Assembly District is Ferial Masry, who brings a unique perspective to the local political arena with her experience on the international scene. Also, as a high school teacher, she places a high priority on the importance of education. Finally the candidate that I think we should really focus on is Hannah-Beth Jackson, candidate for the 19th Senatorial District. Jackson has a very strong background in the legislature. She has served six years on the State Assembly. During her term she has introduced and gotten signed into law over sixty pieces of legislation dealing with important reforms for education, public safety, consumer rights, health care and protection of the environment.

Jackson has been a resident of the 19th Senatorial District for over 30 years. She has been married to Superior Court Judge George Eskin for 27 years, has a daughter, two stepchildren and four grandchildren.

In recent months, her opposition, Tony Strickland ran a particularly vicious and misleading TV commercial, falsely implying that Jackson supports tax increases. This anti-Jackson ad has absolutely nothing to do with the truth. The ad features a cartoon of a house and a car and makes claims that Jackson has been relentlessly voting to increase taxes. The ad claims that Jackson has voted to increase the car tax, the gas tax and goes so far as to imply she is actually trying to eliminate Proposition 13. In response to this misleading campaign, Jackson sent Strickland a letter demanding he immediately pull the ad and apologize.

To best understand this misinformation, one needs to examine each part: the gasoline tax, the car tax and the alleged “weakening of Proposition 13.”

The first part of the commercial alleges Jackson is responsible for an increase in the gasoline tax. The bills listed in the ad were as follows: AB 16, AB 1058, AB 1706, AB 1707 and AB1740. The purpose of AB 16 is to guard against oil spills, something that is both damaging to the environment and can be very costly to clean up. This bill requires offshore oil producers to transport oil by pipeline rather than by barge. This bill does NOT involve a gas tax of any kind. AB1058 required the Air Resources Board to comply with the state’s greenhouse gas reduction goals. Again, this bill would have no impact on the gas tax. AB1706 would have required the California Energy Commission to report back to the legislature on ways to lower gas prices. Jackson's vote against this bill was in no way a vote "to increase gas taxes." AB1707 was a bill to protect consumers from the release or sale of private financial information without prior approval. Jackson’s support of this bill again had absolutely nothing to do with gas taxes. AB1740 was simply the state budget for 2000-01. It did not raise gas taxes.

The commercial continues, alleging Jackson has somehow advocated raising the ‘car tax’. There is absolutely no validity to this whatsoever. The only thing cited was a vague reference to the “August 2003 Gray Davis Budget Vote.” This actually deals with the end of a temporary reduction in the vehicle license fee implemented by the State Department of Finance. This reduction was originally made in 1998, during a budget surplus, as a way of returning money back into the pockets of the taxpayers. When the state ran out of funds in 2003, the Department of Finance had no choice but to end this. Jackson did NOT "vote to increase the car tax."

The claim that Jackson “weakened” Proposition 13 is absolutely absurd. Her support of AB94 and AB822 were simply to provide an extension of an earlier court decision that certain jurisdictions could set a slightly higher tax rate to cover "indebtedness" incurred from pensions approved by voters before July 1, 1978. The impact of this extension was miniscule and in no way altered Proposition 13. Since Proposition 13 is part of the state constitution, changing it would require no less than a public election. The implication that Jackson's support of this in any way “weakened” Proposition 13 is ludicrous. Jackson's support of AB81 likewise has very little to do with Proposition 13. It simply dealt with whether property tax assessments on large electrical generation plants should be performed by local county assessors or the State Board of Equalization. It has no impact whatsoever on residential property owners. Perhaps instead of showing a family home, what the ad really should have shown was a big power plant with smoke billowing out of a couple large chimneys.

In a nutshell, what these bills deal with are the reduction of greenhouse gases, guarding against offshore oil spills, ensuring the proper handling of private financial information and guaranteeing retirees continue to receive their pensions.

To be certain, Hannah-Beth Jackson is not the only important candidate, but we most certainly need to give her our support. For us to succeed in taking back the government, we must elect good people at the local as well as the national level.

Todd Hoover
, a resident of Castaic, maintains web pages for numerous local Democratic clubs and serves as a representative on the Los Angeles County Democratic Party Central Committee for the 37th Assembly District.

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