YOLO SUN OPINION :
Woodland’s political itinerary for 2014 was finally set at the last City Council meeting of 2013 on the cusp of the holiday season, upon a troubling local fabric and fashion which may be reasonably branded as: Hypocrisy.
Transparent hypocrisy and self-serving political mayhem, reaching into the very marrow of local political culture and revealed through its sordid processes of grappling with state mandated democratic reform, is the warped gift wrapped up for civic consumption.
___ June And November Ballot Actions = Council Hypocrisy ___
Woodland City Council has recently approved the June 3, 2014, Primary Election ballot for its own next term, as well as for potential voter extension of the existing quarter-cent, municipal sales tax measure (Measure V of 2010).
Although, the city council has also suddenly shifted to the November 2014 General Election, its previously scheduled June Primary vote on municipal adoption of election reform mandated under the state Voting Rights Act (CVRA).
What’s the rationale for shifting of the CVRA election? If it doesn’t pass, the city will certainly be sued and a general election (about twice the voter turnout of a primary election) will (supposedly) help ensure local voters’ adoption of this controversial, political reform measure.
So, why doesn’t the same logic apply to an — eight-year extension — of Measure V, a relatively controversial, proposed continuation of the existing local sales tax?
Of course similar logic applies, Measure V is much more likely to be so renewed at the 2014 General Election.
However, the city council wants to keep its own election at the June 2014 Primary and state law requires that general tax measures (such as Measure V) be associated on the municipal ballot with city council candidacy, itself.
Thus: In order to decide Measure V at the November 2014 General Election, the city council would have to shift its own election to that date.
This is something which the city council is not willing to do, because such an election shift raises the ultimate risk of a more democratic outcome than it can survive, since low-turnout, primary elections are its cynical and shallow pool of civic control.
After shifting the CVRA election to November, to suit its political and legal purposes, it will still hold Measure V to a June 2014 ballot, in order to preserve its well-tended, historical ability to control its own (council) election upon this Primary.
Indeed, Woodland’s current, conservative political leadership (five, rich, white, male Republicans, in a town with a 49% to 42% Latino population edge) and its increasingly questionable, conservative reputation are meaningfully based upon such low-turnout, at-large, primary elections.
And that’s the way the city’s conservative elements intend to maintain local political affairs, even jeopardizing voter passage of Measure V in order to maintain the city council’s present political strangle-hold against such basic democratic reform of its own elections.
Woodland City Council has been lobbied in the past (2011, by Bobby Harris, operator of this blog) to reform its election practices by adopting a general election format. These efforts were rebuffed, with one Council member actually contending that it would be too hot in the summertime to campaign, leading up to November municipal elections.
Art Pimentel, former two-term mayor of Woodland, has disclosed to Yolo Sun that he has recently and unsuccessfully lobbied City Council members for Measure V to be set at the November 2014 ballot, as well as the next City Council election to be set at the same date.
Pimentel should be warmly congratulated about that (unfortunately failed) effort.
Part Two of this Yolo Sun series will, however, display a different aspect of Pimentel and other Latino advocacy (including the recently announced candidate for county school superintendent, Jesse Ortiz), which leaves a whole lot to be desired, as revealed by their abject failure to obtain, or even properly contend for, vital, democratically-oriented civic progress.
___ Conservatives Like To Complain About Electoral Justice ___
Conservative backers of the city council like to contend that everyone should vote in primary elections (where such are historically favored) or suffer the dire civic consequences.
Of course, this politically disastrous, conservative-based argument has made absolutely no progress over previous decades, entirely failing to establish any trend of increasingly commensurate voter turnouts between the two election seasons / events, June / March and November.
For recent example, within city elections in 2008, 2010 and 2012, voter turnouts in primary elections were roughly half that of voter turnouts in related general elections.
Why should Woodland City voters be made to participate in such primary elections, so obviously (relatively) unpopular and unsuccessful?
Because: This unpopular and unsuccessful, municipal electoral system serves local conservative interests.
Persons might indeed wonder at this inconsistency within conservative values, where basic success and popularity of consumer-type experiences are usually intense interests of hyperbolic proportion.
But, say the city council and local conservative elite: Not in the case of city voter-consumers.
City voter-consumers’ clearly expressed (by poll preference) wishes for participation in general elections must be denied, according the city council and its associated conservative allies, being relentlessly tethered to the primary-election pole, at which is unfairly gained these conservatives’ political advantage.
___ No Legitimate Excuse For City Council Primaries ___
Primary elections, of course, must exist on the county and state level, wherein there is potential for a run-off election.
Woodland, of course, has no run-off elections and not even a single legitimate reason for holding its City Council elections upon primaries, except that historically lower voter turnout of primaries clearly advantages local conservatives.
Relevant conservatives, comprising the entirety of the current Woodland City Council, attempt to defend their much beloved primary-based elections, by arguing that voters are somehow more interested and better able to focus on City affairs with a smaller overall ballot; while, general election ballots are often longer, argue these conservatives, being supposedly far too much material for city voters to process — along with wringing out a near unblemished succession of conservative, city council royalty.
This conservative brand of blather has certainly outlived its comedic overtones, its only redeeming aspect. Otherwise, it is clearly destructive of democratic values and key, practical results.
Conservatives plainly lose this odd and arcane argument, entirely based on many decades of enormously broad, voter indifference toward primaries, voters instead preferring lengthy general election ballots, from which local conservatives desire to protect them.
Where is derived any political integrity from using such obviously flawed, unbalanced and inequitable municipal primaries?
Essentially, Woodland City Council has abdicated its political responsibility to recognize and foster democratic reform, profoundly influencing basic economic and cultural reforms, so self-serving has been its political path.
Must Woodland progressives now launch a voter-initiative, ballot measure requiring the City Council be chosen at November general elections, beginning in 2016?
This is where we now are: Pervasive and patterned hypocrisy, performed by chronically clutching conservatives, politically controls Woodland.
___ Layers Of City Council Hypocrisy Thus Unfold ___
Hypocrisy of a crude and cynical, politically self-serving nature plainly exists within these election-related actions of Woodland City Council.
Hypocrisy is fundamentally revealed by these closely intertwined and ironic political circumstances, with the city council both directly recognizing the hugely increased electoral value and validity associated with general elections — while obstinately refusing to hold its own elections or legally connected tax proposals in such a more basically democratic manner.
Shifting city council elections to November would also, in the current instance, open the way for potential CVRA reform (district-based elections) in 2014, if its initial ballot measure was adopted at the June Primary — the original city council proposal (implied, now abandoned; more about this subject in Part Two of this Yolo Sun series).
Such election timing for local CVRA reform must suddenly be manipulated to help ensure basic CVRA adoption — while simultaneously violating the CVRA by disallowing its implementation until 2016 — is the city council’s ethically inconsistent position.
Plus, delaying the ballot measure for CVRA reform will serve to separate this controversial election struggle away from the always intended, 2014, at-large, primary election for city council, insulating that contest from this reform struggle (while overtly violating the CVRA).
This would seem to be altogether tidier for the current city council and its supportive, conservative elements in the community.
While state law requires local general tax measures to be coincidentally on ballots with relevant local elected officials, there is no state law that mandates basic local election practices to be so oriented. There exists in this contrast yet another layer of inequitable conditions being advantaged by the city council and its allies, separating council elections from such direct controversy.
Hypocrisy of these various dimensions is practically a call to political arms, in order to best challenge at the upcoming polls such crass political subterfuge and patent subversion of the guiding principles and quality of our American political life.
That is the level at which exists this current political challenge.
Good political soil cannot be created through the unethical way of these city council actions, which manipulate and alienate our broad citizenry, some of whom are indeed (genuine) conservatives — not in harness to such local electoral corruption.
___ Inconsistent City Council / Conservative Views ___
Expiration of Measure V in July of 2014 would mean that the city would miss out on collection of about $800,000 in annual sales tax revenue — until its potential renewal in November.
A quarter-cent increment of sales tax collects about $2 million annually.
Actually, this loss would be temporary, since the term of the tax would be five months longer if renewed in November.
$800,000 — temporarily unavailable in this particular circumstance: That’s the one-time, practical cost of forever doubling voter participation for city council elections (democratic reform of unrivaled importance), as well as best ensuring adoption of greatly needed, eight added years of Measure V, itself.
What an enormous value!
Of course, conservatives (such as the city council) take stern offense to such profligate indulgence; as they here — with ideological inconsistency — somehow contend that more taxes are always better (perhaps especially, when useful for conservative political advantage).
Maybe, local citizens would enjoy a temporary reprieve from this sales tax. But, here the city council and associated conservatives inconsistently demand that this tax be seamlessly extended, in connection with serving their political addiction to low-turnout, primary elections.
Odd hypocrisy again surfaces, within these strained, conservative arguments, predicating unethical city council election policy.
___ Details of The New Measure V ___
Let’s examine the details of the newly proposed Measure V, to best understand what is actually at stake in delaying for a few months its renewal.
Of future (eight-year) Measure V revenue (according to its associated ballot advisory-measures): 60% would expand and enhance youth and teen programs and facilities, 20% would enhance youth literacy programs and expand hours of operation at the city library, 15% would expand some specific public safety programs (Neighborhood Watch, gang intervention), 5% would support a city utilities ratepayer assistance program for low-income residents.
All of these causes are civically laudable; but, they are also fairly easily delayed for a few months, while this city gets its basic political act in order.
Urgency — such as the original Measure V’s 40% for police and fire protection and 30% to keep the library open, at all — clearly does not exist within the scope of civic agenda noted above, for its upcoming, eight-year proposed term of renewal.
Pretending that relative timing and nature of the new Measure V is urgent enough to actually: Drive key city policy regarding its future, basic electoral processes, is so vastly ridiculous as to be politically criminal (supposing existence of such a penal category).
___ Part Two ___
Part Two of this Yolo Sun series will closely examine curious advocacy of several, local Latino leaders related to CVRA reform, as well as analyzing and evaluating important political implications of the district-based electoral map recently chosen by the city council to appear on the General Election ballot for November of 2014.