Culver City's new Mayor, Meghan Sahli-Wells, has kindly agreed to talk to our Club about her views and plans for the City Council this year. Bring your ideas and questions to the meeting. Of course we can help to implement her agenda, or at least take notice of the issues as they arise before the Council. For instance, the public has been invited to attend the City Council meetings on Monday, June 9, and Monday, June 23, at 7:00 pm, to present questions or comments concerning the proposed Budget for Fiscal Year 2014-15. The City Council meets at City Hall, 9970 Culver Blvd. There will be public comment periods, and the Budget will be presented for adoption at the June 23 meeting. A copy of the City Manager's Proposed Budget is available on the City's website at www.CulverCity.org. I thought the Culver City News did an outstanding job of covering the Measure CC campaign, especially the many letters from citizens, which were thoughtful and full of important information. At our June 11 meeting, we will also have time for a discussion of the June 3 election results. There may be some surprises, and we can begin to plan for the November General Election. Also, the State Legislature has been very active recently. The Appropriations Committees were reported to have tabled 195 bills on Friday, May 23, so there is much to sort out. Those who are following this may wish to report on the fate of their favorite bills. I have wanted to tell you about my favorite sources of political knowledge. My activist parents subscribed to several liberal magazines, which I sometimes read, so my education went far beyond what was taught in school. I currently subscribe to eight magazines, which I list in order of how much I read them: The Nation (a weekly published since 1865), The New Scientist (a British weekly), The Washington Monthly, The American Prospect, The New York Review of Books, Book Forum, Harper's Magazine, and The Atlantic. Some of them are very active on-line, so I get frequent email updates. I need to transition to more awareness of electronic media, so I hope some of our Club members can supply recommendations of the best websites that provide similar information, as well as quick- response activism opportunities. In The Nation during the last month, I have found three articles which may be landmarks of political thought. Thomas Piketty's best selling (!) book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, has had universally good reviews, notably by Paul Krugman and Eric Alterman. Timothy Shenk's review in The Nation of May 5, entitled "What Was Socialism?", goes beyond book reviewing to provide a very useful history of the subject. Social science and early socialism began to develop in the Eighteenth Century, and included the concept of capital, but the word capitalism was not used until Karl Marx wrote his book. In The Nation of May 12, Christopher Hayes writes about "The New Abolitionism". He addresses the problem of forcing the fossil fuel companies to part with at least $10 trillion of wealth, by comparing it to the only problem of similar magnitude in American history, forcing slave owners to part with the extremely valuable free labor that amounted to a comparable level of accumulated wealth before the Civil War. Both cases involve morality, coupled with the ability to fight. As the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass said, "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will". In The Nation of May 26, Kim Lane Scheppele writes about "Hungary and the End of Politics". We see the Republican far right trying to end majority- rule democracy in America, and growing right-wing parties in England, France, Italy, and other parts of Europe, but the logical extreme of what the Koch Brothers and Republicans are planning for our country may now be found in Hungary. The Fidesz party first came to power in 2010 with a clear majority of the vote. They proceeded to change the election laws to favor themselves. In the April 2014 election, they got 45% of the vote, but 67% of the Parliamentary seats. The coalition of five left parties got 26% of the vote, but only 19% of the seats. The far right Jobbik party got 21% of the vote, but only 12% of the seats. Fidesz will now be free to amend the Hungarian Constitution at will. This undemocratic result spells misery for the Hungarian people and poses a threat to the European Community, but it can best be explained by the incompetence of the five left parties and the great political competence of the two right parties.
At our meeting of April 9th, newly re- elected Culver City Council member Jim Clarke presented a challenge to the club: We need to get more Democratic voters to become permanent absentee voters. More permanent absentee voters means higher turnout. Culver City and other local elections rarely get more than 20% turnout of registered voters. If we, and our friends, now request permanent absentee status (AKA vote-by-mail), we can impact the June and November elections! For Culver City residents, the most important item on the June ballot is the school bond, Measure CC, which this club overwhelmingly endorsed. The CCUSD has found a clever, useful and fair way to help us understand where some of the bond money would be used, if Measure CC is approved. They are offering free tours of school facilities on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday afternoons, until the end of May. Mike Reynolds, CCUSD's Assistant Superintendent, Business Services, has been overseeing CCUSD facilities improvement projects, and assessing future needs. To RSVP for a tour, contact him at (310) 842-4220, ext. 4226. For further study, go to ccusd.org and link to the Facilities Master Plan (revised 01.10.14), the Bond Discussion and Capital Needs, and FAQ's. To volunteer for the Measure CC campaign, contact Kathy Paspalis, Laura Chardiet, or Nancy Goldberg. The CC Democratic Club will have several discussions this year about the many dangers faced by the traditional American (i.e. democratic) voting system. On May 14, we will hear from Bob Stern, who Sacramento Bee columnist Peter Schrag called "the godfather of modern political reform in California." His legislative think tank, the Center for Governmental Studies, which closed in 2011, listed 72 studies on its website, 40 of which were about campaign finance reform. He worked on the proposition that created the current system of redistricting by an independent commission, which seemed to result in districts which are fair and even favorable to the Democratic Party. He also worked on the so-called "Top Two" primary election proposition, which has caused us some worry. Remember, it was forced on the Legislature by Abel Maldonado in return for his vote to approve a state budget. Maldonado was then "primaried" out of the legislature by those who control the Republican Party. Also, remember that no voting system can be perfect, although they seem to be fair to all when there are only one or two candidates. There is mathematical proof of this in the book "Gaming The Vote: Why Elections Aren't Fair, and What We Can Do About It" by William Poundstone (2008, Hill and Wang). An excellent test will be the current race for Congressional District 33, which is now held by the legendary Henry Waxman. Of seventeen candidates, only three have significant government experience: State Senator Ted Lieu, former L.A. City Controller Wendy Gruel, and former host of Left, Right, and Center on KPCC, and former Clinton administration bureaucrat Matt Miller. If two of them make the runoff, that result will seem normal. But a nightmare scenario is more than possible: what if the many Democrats and little party independents take out the above three and the November vote is between religious independent Marianne Williamson and the one lonely Republican? That would remind me of the failure of the Democratic Party to find a winning candidate to replace Senator Ted Kennedy in Massachussetts. And Democrats would have to devise a better way to have primary elections; there are various forms of ranked voting, I like the idea of instant runoff, so only one election is needed. Another strange but predictably common outcome to "top two" primaries: If a Democrat gets 90% of the vote and a Republican or MugWump gets 5% there will still be a runoff between them. Finally, we must discuss the proposals to overturn "Citizens United," McCutcheon, and several other Supreme Court blunders of the past, through properly worded Constitutional Amendment(s). Passage of Ted Lieu's SB 1272 will be a good start to this process. The Supreme Court mistakes, combined with the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership), threaten to make the American electorate irrelevant in serious politics.
March 11, 2014
State Senator Ted Lieu is running for Henry Waxman's District 33 seat in Congress, opposed by about 8 other Democrats and 5 from other parties. Senator Lieu won 73% of the votes in a Democratic Party pre- endorsement meeting. For a good example of his work in Sacramento, he has authored SB 1272, which would put on the statewide ballot for November 2014 the following proposition: "Shall the Voters adopt a resolution that there should be limits on political campaign spending and that corporations should not have the constitutional rights of human beings and instruct California elected officials and legislative representatives to promote that policy through amendments to the United States Constitution?" This has already been endorsed by the Los Angeles City Council. The argument for it will be presented to our March 12 meeting by Michele Sutter, co- founder of M.O.V.I. (Money Out, Voters In) Our meeting agenda will also include discussion of the California Democratic Party Convention, held March 7 to 9 at the Los Angeles Convention Center and the Bonaventure Hotel. I expect our members who attend shall bring back to our meeting copies of endorsement lists of candidates and propositions and resolutions, as well as personal reminiscences of the meeting and listening to our party leaders. We can use that information to help us make our Club's endorsements. For more help with our choices for the June 3rd Primary Election, our neighbors in the West L.A. Democratic Club have invited us to two candidates' forums, at a location TBD near Culver City. On Saturday, April 5th, from 10 am to 3 pm, we can hear candidates for Congressional District 33 (Waxman's seat), State Senate District 26 (Ted Lieu's seat), and Los Angeles County Supervisor (Zev Yaroslavsky's seat). On Saturday, May 3rd, from 10 am to 3 pm, there will be appearances by candidates for California state offices, and Los Angeles County (Assessor, Sheriff, and some Judgeships). After hearing the above, and studying the Propositions, our Culver City Club may choose to make endorsements at our meetings on April 9th and May 14th. I expect the choices will be easy for most State offices, except Secretary of State (Derek Cressman, Alex Padilla, Leland Yee), Controller (John A. Perez, Betty Yee), and Supervisor of Public Instruction (Tom Torlakson, Marshall Tuck). The County offices will be hotly contested, since no incumbents are running. Other contested primaries will include Congressional Districts 31 (to replace Republican Gary G. Miller) and 35 (to replace Democrat Gloria Negrete McLeod), and Assembly District 62 (six Democrats are running to replace Steven Bradford). There has been much written lately about Democrats losing their 2/3 majority in the State Senate, because Ron Calderon and Rod Wright will be absent from voting. This will not be nearly as big a problem as when a 1/3 minority blocked the Democrats' state budget, and they had to make a deal with Abel Maldonado, who was then hounded out of office by furious Republicans. The deal was to put before the voters the winning Proposition that the top two vote- getters advance to the run-off election, regardless of party affiliation. I think that makes parties weaker, which is not good. Our Club should discuss the practical effect of this on elections, and also the effect of the new process for redistricting. I also remember that Calderon and Wright were among the six Democratic Senators who chose to kill S.B. 810 (Leno), a single- payer healthcare bill that would save the state billions, while providing every Californian with guaranteed, quality healthcare. The other Democratic Senators who didn't vote for this were: Lou Correa, Alex Padilla, Michael Rubio and Juan Vargas. All received big contributions from insurance companies and "Big Pharma".
How Does Our Club Fit Into The Democratic Party? We have heard the jokes about Democrats not being an "organized party." It is our responsibility to take that criticism seriously. I have learned, from the lead front page article in the New York Times of January 24, that Priorities USA Action, the largest Democratic "super PAC", which helped re-elect President Obama, is now formally aligning itself with Hillary Rodham Clinton. The move is perhaps the earliest ever start to big-dollar fund- raising in support of a non-incumbent presidential candidate. Now that 2016 is settled, we can consider the importance of the 2014 Congressional elections. We could lose our slim but powerful majority in the U.S. Senate; and we cannot win a majority of Congress: the experts tell us that only about 40 seats will be contested, the rest are locked in by gerrymandering. California's Congressional delegation will lose by retirement of our most effective progressive representatives, George Miller of Northern California and Henry Waxman of West Los Angeles' coastal District 33. Both are from the Watergate class of 1974. Waxman's award-worthy achievements are legendary and numerous, and are getting a belated review in the popular media. His career disproves the foolish claims that Congress cannot function. Where do such legendary careers begin? That is where you and I and our Club come in. Waxman was an activist and organizer before he ran for office, campaigning for Adlai Stevenson, founding the UCLA Young Democrats, and then the powerful Berman-Waxman machine, with Howard Berman and Michael Berman. Our Club has recognized and endorsed activists and organizers, such as Karen Bass, Holly Mitchell, and Meghan Sahli- Wells, and they have grown and proven themselves qualified for office beyond Culver City, while maintaining their local ties. Every time a politician speaks to our Club, we can speak back about our concerns and issues, and help her to do her job as our representative. The above thoughts suggest that our in-person attendance, meeting and possibly endorsing candidates for Culver City Council, may be our most important political activity, along with actually working to inform other Democrats about those we endorse. The California Democratic Party seems to be under-funded, under- staffed, and not too well organized. Most of us don't even know when or where they meet. But I may be proven wrong about that at the Statewide Convention in Los Angeles, March 7th to 9th. They will be endorsing for the June 3rd primary, voting on resolutions, and creating a party platform that endorsed candidates are supposed to stand on. Some of our members will be delegates; all of us can attend as observers. For schedule and location, try www.cadems.org. Pre- endorsement meetings are already being held in the party's 20 districts. Region 12 is near us, including Henry Waxman's CD 33. Culver City is in Region 14, which includes Karen Bass' CD 37. Next month, I'll write about the best news sources for political activists; send me your suggestions!