The Vanguard has a new home, please update your bookmarks to

Monday, October 13, 2008

Endorsement Watch: 5th Senate and Measure W

'Tis the season to watch Sunday newspaper endorsements. For those who have been reading this blog for awhile, you know that for some reason I love to read and critique newspaper endorsements. For me, it gives us an insight into what the media think and to a lesser degree what issues they think are important and how we can evaluate the news overall.

Newspapers will argue that there is a separation of the the news and editorial function, but in my former profession as a social scientist, there has been some interesting empirical studies that argue otherwise.

Besides, at the end of the day, this blog was largely developed to respond to what the mainstream news was reporting and in general to criticize it.

We begin then with two newspaper endorsements that came down yesterday--one involving the 5th Senate District and the other involving Measure W.


There is one main reason why the Stockton Record endorses Aghazarian. It is not partisan. In fact, they have endorsed Barack Obama for President and Jerry McNerney for Congress--both of them Democrats. Granted the endorsement of Barack Obama was a very big deal. It was the first time since 1936 that the Stockton Record Endorsed a Democrat.

The reason the Stockon Record endorsed Aghazarian is that he's from Stockton.
"And that brings us to one of the most important reasons Aghazarian should be sent to the Senate: He lives here. He understands the district and its needs. He will be here.

Because of the loony way legislative districts have been carved out - with the express purpose of making them safe for incumbents - it is possible San Joaquin County could end up with no representatives in Sacramento who live in the county. That's unacceptable no matter the sincerity of an out-of-area politician's vow to be in the county often."
Are you kidding me? First of all, the current State Senator is from Linden which is essentially Stockton, so it is not as though there was a long history of Stockton being shutout of the Senate Seat. Second, it's a big district. It goes from San Joaquin County to Yolo and Solano Counties. Why does Stockton deserve a representative more than Yolo County or Solano County?

I am sorry but that is just selfish. There are many cities in this district, Stockton is the largest one but it's also on one end of the district, the majority of the district would be left high dry by such a move--if we are merely looking at geography.

Can we draw districts more compactly? Certainly, but I am not going to selected my representative based on geography.

A couple of other points that they argue.
"Aghazarian, who used to brag about his ascension through the Republican Party ranks, has reinvented himself for this campaign. His advertisements paint him as the candidate of "independent leadership," never mentioning his party affiliation."
The Record is for some reason buying into Aghazarian's non-partisan rhetoric. The reason he is arguing this is that he is running for election in a Democratic year in a district that has a 15 percent Democratic registration. He has not changed his tune or if he has, make him prove it in the legislature not as part of his campaign rhetoric. In short, his record as an Assemblyman shows nothing to lead one to believe he independent. Nothing.

Finally, I take issue with this:
"Wolk claims she is more effective than Aghazarian at working across the aisle, claiming she has had more bills signed by the Republican governor than any other legislator. In truth, however, most of the bills have been relatively insignificant."
In truth probably most legislation in the California Legislature, is insignificant. However, she did sponsor several key pieces of legislation dealing with flood control, delta protection, and elder protection. Somehow I doubt that Aghazarian has such a legislative record. They certainly do not cite it in the endorsement article.

However, this is really the most illogical of the Record's arguments. Democrats will control roughly 60% of the seats in the State Senate regardless of who wins this seat. Who is going to be the most effective legislator the majority party member or the minority party member? The answer is the majority party member who will pass a much higher percentage of legislation. It is not even close. The Stockton Record does even think about this contradiction with their argument. Aghazarian is not going to as effective as a minority party member as Wolk will as a majority party member, so if that is you rationale for voting, it makes no sense to vote for Aghazarian over Wolk.

In short, the Stockton Record probably has many good reasons to support Aghazarian, but they really do a poor job of selecting three that make no sense. I am sure they really do want Stockton to be Represented, but it's not like Stockton has not been Represented the past eight years. The rest of the District is just as deserving of representation as the City of Stockton.

In my opinion people should vote based on who they most agree with on the issues and who they think will be a better legislator. I cannot answer that question for my readers, but I can say that the Stockton Record falls woefully short in its endorsement criteria, at least the ones it states.


This is really not a surprise at all. Let us face it, the Davis Enterprise since 2005 has endorsed the wrong way from my perspective on every single issue except Measures P, Q, and W--the Parcel Taxes. They endorsed Covell Village. They endorsed Target. They endorsed Jeff Reisig for District Attorney. They endorsed Ruth Asmundson and Mike Levy in 2006 for Davis City Council. They endorsed Souza, Saylor and Sydney Vergis this year.

In other words, given that record, it is hard for me to use their endorsement of Measure W for much of anything other than to say that a broken clock is right twice a day--if it is an old fashioned, analog clock. And the Davis Enterprise is certainly that.

And frankly, I think the Stockton Record makes a stronger argument for Aghazarian than the Davis Enterprise does for Measure W.

The argument is this:
"Without the $2.4 million in extra funding per year, we face the same severe cuts and massive teacher layoffs that were threatened last spring. That's when the community came together - led by the Davis Schools Foundation - to raise $1.77 million. That one-time effort, along with more than $1 million in district budget cuts, plugged the hole for this school year only."
What happens if it fails:
"IF MEASURE W FAILS, the community faces another massive fundraising drive to save teachers and programs. Or worse, we face their loss due to budget cuts."
This is a point that has be driven home to voters. The $1.77 million raised by the schools foundation was one-time money the result of a hard drive in the community with the issue firmly in the minds of voters.

However, some need to recognize that that money is one-time money and it is not sustainable.
"But community philanthropy can't always be the answer, said Alan Anderson, the new president of the Davis Schools Foundation. 'Ongoing support is the best way to solve chronic under-funding from the state and to restore confidence in the future of our public schools for families, teachers and, of course, our students.'"
We had Alan Anderson on our radio show last spring, he is exactly right here as he was back then. The support by the Davis Schools Foundation was amazing and it saved programs and teachers but it was a one-time bridge loan, not a means by which to provide ongoing support. The voters need to decide if the programs funded by the $2.4 million and the teachers funded by that money are necessary for the Davis Schools to remain at the top of the state scale.

There are so many more factors that needed to be addressed in this editorial. We have mentioned them in this space time and again, so for now we are just thankful that at the very least the Davis Enterprise has the commitment to provide schools with the necessary funding to continue to function at a high level.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting