The California Primary
Tuesday, June 5 (polls are open from 7 am to 8 pm) is that time again, folks, when you’ll be asked for “permission” to spend yet even more money that California doesn’t have to fulfill a wish list of spending by our profligate legislators. But hey, what the heck, it’s not only not their money, it’s also not your money. It’s funny money! And, better yet, since there really isn’t any money at the city, county, state, or certainly the federal level after current and former government employees receive their salaries, benefits, vacations, benefits, and pensions, who cares that we sign a whole new bunch of IOUs? Let the good times roll.
This primary election, there are a number of legislature-driven ballot proposals that require a “Yes” or “No” vote. Why they didn’t just pop these on the November ballot is no secret: better chance of passage now, when mostly dedicated [government] union members, their friends, and immediate family members make up the electorate.
Ah well, here goes anyway:
Prop 68: Just another 40-year $4.1-billion bond boondoggle that’ll add another $200 million in payments until long after you’re dead and buried. Just say “No.”
Prop 69: This is an essentially meaningless constitutional amendment that would purportedly prevent future assemblies from spending “transportation money” on anything other than transportation. If you believe that will actually happen, well… we suppose a “Yes” vote will do no harm, and if it makes you feel as though you’ve done something positive, go ahead and just say “Yes” or “No.” It really doesn’t matter.
Prop 70: A constitutional amendment that would require a supermajority vote before the Cap and Trade revenue can be accessed. If you believe politicians will pay any attention to this, well… Just say “No.”
Prop 71: Provides that any ballot measure approved by a majority of voters shall take effect five days after the election is certified.Who cares? Just say “Yes” or “No”
Prop 72: This “permits” – it doesn’t exclude them from doing so – the legislature to exclude newly constructed rain-capture systems from property tax reassessment. We vote “Yes” on this and hope it will do some good.
We like Kevin Mottus; his strong opposition to the easy permission of various companies to erect an array of cell towers near homes is appealing. Of course, he doesn’t have a shot in hell of winning this seat, but he seems like a good guy.
Governor of California
John Cox (R) is our choice. Speaking of shots (see above paragraph), here’s a guy who may just have that proverbial shot at winning. It is a long shot, but hey, as Jim Carrey’s character says in a memorable Dumb & Dumber scene when told his chances were “a million to one” that he’d get to date the married woman he was enamored of, he responded: “You mean, I have a chance?!”
In California, the powers that be (Democrats) have cemented their positions by doing away with party affiliations. The top two vote getters are the only names that progress from primary to election status. With some serious competition among the Democrats vying for gubernatorial status – Gavin Newsom, Antonio Villaraigosa, and Delaine Eastin –Mr. Cox could come in second and set up an actual race (John Kerry only beat President Bush by 10 points in this state). Besides, we like Mr. Cox’s campaign slogan: Make California Great Again.
U.S. Representative, 24th District
This is always tough, as both Salud Carbajal and Justin Fareed are not only good guys, but are also hometown boys. Unfortunately, Mr. Carbajal pretty much votes his (Democratic) party’s line and it’s a line we’ve come to… fear and distrust. So, our vote is with Mr. Fareed, whose heart is in the right place.
State Assembly, 37th District
We like Sofia Collin, whohas accepted the voluntary spending limit of $600,000, which would allow her to issue a statement in the voter’s guide, but you won’t find her statement in the voter guide, because she has also chosen not to pay the $6,000 such a statement would cost. The likelihood is she doesn’t have the $6,000, let alone the $600,000 she is allowed to raise.
Her plan, should she win – which is seriously unlikely – is “to address the homeless epidemic.” Her philosophy is to create sustainable jobs in order to integrate the homeless into the economy. “I believe everyone has a right to work,” she says. She would set up a state-funded entity that would ensure that a small business that hired a homeless would be off the hook for liability. The state-funded entity would be responsible for paying whatever expenses that arise out of giving someone a job. This will probably never happen, but it shows that Ms Collin is thinking creatively.
Another Collin proposal: an initiative she calls “merit ticketing,” in which a law enforcement officer would be allowed to issue a ticket “of nominal monetary value” to citizens they see doing good in their community.
As for why anyone should vote for her, Sofia says, “I’m not running against [Monique Limon]; I’m running with her. I don’t like the idea,” she explains, “of animosity between candidates; I prefer to give candidate choices, and then people can make decisions based upon merit rather than our shortcomings.”
Ms Collin was born in New York City, grew up in Westchester County, and moved to California at the age of 14. Her father was a photographer and her mother “did accounting” work. Sofia attended Cate School for two years, and transferred to Santa Barbara City College where she earned associate degrees in humanities and English, and graduated from Berkeley with two bachelor degrees, one in English and one in philosophy. She currently lives in Santa Barbara and works with the SIMA Corp. in property management.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction
County Superintendent of Schools
Jen Christensen should be our next Santa Barbara County auditor-controller. You want this woman on your side, and I don’t mean that in any conspiratorial way: if you are an actual taxpayer, “your side” is her side. If that sounds audacious, then perhaps we have some ‘splainin’ to do:
The auditor-controller is one of just a few independently elected countywide positions, along with sheriff, district attorney, and a few others. “As auditor-controller, I’d have been elected by the voters and would report directly to them and not to the Board of Supervisors or any other official,” Jen explains during a planned “coffee break” on the patio outside Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf on Coast Village Road.
Jen suggests it’s fair to call her position “the chief fiscal watchdog for the County,” and, naturally, there really is something to that. She says her purview would include the school system, the special districts, and the cities. “It’s really a broad-reaching position that acts as a fiduciary and is really charged with protecting our money and our assets.”
She has previously served as the Financial Reporting, Cost Accounting, and Budget Division chief in the auditor-controller’s office, where she oversaw the complete budget process, so she knows – or at least has a pretty good idea of – where the bodies are buried and, perhaps even more importantly, who the grave diggers are and what tools they use.
As auditor-controller, Jen would have the legal duty to independently verify revenue sources to determine whether department heads have “fudged the numbers,” by estimating high in order to build-in excessive expenditures. “A budget is a year-long exercise,” she stresses. “For the estimates, the preparation, and the budget hearings – and I’ve done this for four years – I sit with the board during those hearings as an independent representative of the citizens of Santa Barbara County. The information coming through,” she says, “needs to be trustworthy and it needs to be accurate. The numbers need to be right.”
Jen points to a decision made four years ago to give County employees additional days off and upon signing off on it, the Board of Supervisors were advised by County staff and the then auditor-controller that there would be “no fiscal impact” to the County. “Somebody wasn’t doing their job,” she says. “More importantly,” she adds, “it was an example of the Board of Supervisors making a decision based on false information.”
“The question,” Jen suggests, is “Where is our auditor?” intimating that the current auditor, Betsy Schaffer, clearly wasn’t up to the job.
Jen promises to attend every board meeting and will speak up if she hears or notices something that may put County spending in harm’s way.
The nice thing about Ms Christensen is that she seems to revel in the arcane machinations behind the budget process and absolutely enjoys sniffing out schemes to over-spend or “fudge the numbers.”
The California Code,” she says, “speaking to the California Budget Act, governs everything the audit does, everything the supervisors do, what actually constitutes a legal expenditure for any department, and what controls are in place by object level. In other words, you actually control, to a smaller level, for each department, salary, and benefits expenditures, separate from services and supplies expenditures, separate from capital expenditures. Those are built into our system and a budget is built around those parameters.”
Anyone who wallows with such enthusiasm in this kind of detail has our vote.
Jen has extensive experience in County finance and municipal law and offers voters a “well-rounded education and experience package.” She graduated from USC and has been in Santa Barbara for 16 years, beginning as attorney for the auditor, the assessor, the treasurer, and a host of financial-related offices in the County counsel’s office.
As Santa Barbara County Investment chief, she currently makes all the investment decisions for the County, “as related to the Treasury Pool of some $1.6 billion invested in five-year-and-under fixed rate portfolio currently.” Plus, there is a $190-million “overnight liquidity” fund for everything from cashing checks for County employees to paying vendors, to sudden emergencies. Part of her responsibilities (she is also assistant treasurer) is to estimate inflows and outflows of revenue “every single day”; she maintains an 18-month projection of those expectations on a day-to-day basis.
Jen Christensen is a proven, ethical, and trusted fiduciary who has been quietly protecting the public’s money for 16-and-a-half years. “And so, here I am asking for the voters to ‘put me in coach’ for the not-so-quiet protection of our County money and assets.”