Put your ballot where your bluster is: a no-nonsense, extensive but not-quite-comprehensive voter guide to the Los Angeles (and sort of West Hollywood) March 7 elections

I’m not writing a five-paragraph intro here, I just spent four hours writing this thing. Next time I’ll try not to do it the literal day before the election. Anyway, this voter guide is for you if you’re a progressive Democrat who is confused and overwhelmed by the multiplicity of races on the ballot. I hope this is helpful — I (obviously) consider myself pretty informed, but while researching this voter guide I realized I didn’t understand half of what I was supposed to be voting on tomorrow.

Now I do — and so can you!

MEASURE H

Remember HHH and JJJ from last year? Measure H plans to put those housing-the-homeless initiatives into action by way of a 0.25% county sales tax for 10 years, the proceeds from which will fund homeless services and prevention (e.g. mental health services, substance abuse treatment, job training, etc). There is no downside to this, unless of course you are a sociopath who likes to watch people suffer.

Verdict: YES!

MEASURE M

Measure M concerns the regulation and taxation of marijuana in the city of Los Angeles. It will allow officials to create a framework for the sale and distribution of recreational marijuana and to update the medical marijuana guidelines so that they are in accordance with State law. Its competing measure, Measure N, is a ghost bill whose proponents abandoned it to support M. There is no opposition to this law — if you support or even tolerate the legal sale and use of marijuana (whether recreational or medicinal), you should support this.

Verdict: YES!

MEASURE N

Measure N is a pot measure that made its way onto the bill thanks to citizen backing. Whichever of the two measures gets a higher percentage of votes (assuming either one gets over 50%) will become law, but Measure N’s proponents have since abandoned it and thrown their support behind Measure M.

Verdict: don’t risk it.

MEASURE P

A little background: the current maximum length of Harbor Department leases (i.e. for waterfront properties) is 50 years, which makes it difficult for developers, etc., to undertake any large-scale projects. However, in 2015 California State law was amended to increase the maximum lease term length to 66 years if permitted by city law. The Los Angeles City Charter still allows only 50-year leases, so Measure P would amend it to match State law.

Verdict: as someone who is wary of development, I’m voting no — but I don’t know a ton about the issue, so this is a fairly weak recommendation.

MEASURE S

Ah, the big one. The demon in our midst. Measure S would freeze density-increasing construction (i.e. construction that requires a change to the L.A. General Plan, exemption from height restrictions, etc). It also imposes strict requirements on new developments with regards to how much new parking they are required to include as part of the project. “Hey, Keely, how come you’re anti-S if you’re wary of development?” you ask. You know what, friend, thanks for asking — I’ll tell you!

The origins of Measure S are pretty shady, with one of its key backers being a nonprofit whose president didn’t like how various new development projects in Hollywood were changing the view from his office (yes, really). Proponents of Measure S would tell you that it is intended as pushback against developers who kick longtime residents out of their homes for the sake of luxury development projects; they would tell you that this measure is all about preserving the “integrity of our neighborhoods.”

Except, first of all, all that “save our neighborhoods” rhetoric sounds an awful lot like racist dog-whistling to me. People in wealthy communities have contributed a lot to Measure S because it will kill density-building initiatives — but we’re not going to be able to create affordable housing or keep existing rents low without adding density. Furthermore, that parking requirement could kill a lot of affordable housing (which caters to residents who often don’t even have cars anyway).

I understand that people are worried about gentrification, but Measure S will not do anything to stop it. If anything, it will expedite the gentrification process by sending rents for existing properties through the roof.

Verdict: ABSOLUTELY NOT.

L.A. MAYOR

There are something like 10 candidates in this race, but only two of them matter: Eric Garcetti and Mitchell Schwartz. That’s because — if Garcetti fails to get 50% or more of the vote tomorrow (and, let’s be real, he’s the only candidate who stands a chance) — there will be a runoff in April between the two highest-polling candidates. There’s almost no question but that the candidate facing off against Garcetti would be Schwartz, the only challenger who’s gathered enough momentum to be worth taking seriously.

Here are a couple articles I found particularly illuminating with regards to Schwartz’s campaign and Garcetti’s track record thus far as Mayor:

http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-ln-garcetti-mayor-election-2017-story.html

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/endorsements/la-ed-mayor-endorsement-20170204-story.html

http://www.dailynews.com/government-and-politics/20170303/la-mayor-garcetti-touts-record-but-election-challengers-aim-to-shake-up-status-quo

Verdict: if you want — or wouldn’t mind — Schwartz as Mayor, vote for any challenger you like. If you want Garcetti over Schwartz, go ahead and vote for him even if you haven’t researched the other options.

CITY COUNCIL (ALL ODD-NUMBERED DISTRICTS)

Frankly, I don’t know anything about the candidates in most districts, so I can only offer general advice: RESEARCH THE INCUMBENT! As with the mayoral race, if no candidate clears 50% of the vote then the top two candidates will participate in a run-off next month. In all districts, the incumbent stands the greatest chance of winning — if you don’t like them, make sure to vote for a challenger. If you’re happy with the incumbent, go ahead and vote for them.

DISTRICT 1

The incumbent in this district is Gil Cedillo, and by all accounts he is garbage. Even the L.A. Times has endorsed challenger Joe Bray-Ali, and they make one hell of a sales pitch, but from what I can tell any of the challengers would be a safe bet.

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/endorsements/la-ed-bray-ali-endorsement-20170206-story.html

http://www.scpr.org/news/2017/02/28/69447/la-city-council-district-1-meet-the-candidates/

Verdict: Gil Cedillo needs to be unseated. Vote for any of the challengers — Joe Bray-Ali seems like the likely frontrunner.

DISTRICT 3

Lol, Bob Blumenfield has no challengers.

Verdict: vote for Blumenfield or write in your dog. It literally doesn’t matter.

DISTRICT 5

Even the L.A. Times — in their endorsement of him — described Paul Koretz as kind of a sluggish bonehead. They say he’s nevertheless adequately dependable, so I guess it’s fine if he wins. But it probably wouldn’t hurt to give him a run for his money.

Learn more about the candidates here (thanks, KPCC!):

http://www.scpr.org/news/2017/03/01/69450/la-city-council-district-5-meet-the-candidates/

Verdict: research outside candidates Jesse Max Creed and Mark Matthew Herd. If you can stomach either of them, I’d suggest voting for one of the challengers — Creed seems particularly chill.

DISTRICT 7

Jesus Christ. This is the only district without an incumbent, and from what I can tell the field is shaping up to look like a Super Mario-style melee battle. I’ve included the L.A. Times’ endorsement of Monica Ratliff here for your perusal alongside KPCC’s candidate info sheet (seriously, KPCC, thank you for killing it this election cycle), but keep in mind that I don’t agree with all the Times’ City Council endorsements. Keep in mind that no candidate is likely to net over 50% of the vote, so there will almost definitely be a runoff next month — your vote matters a lot here!

http://www.scpr.org/news/2017/02/21/69097/la-city-council-district-7-meet-the-candidates/

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/endorsements/la-ed-cd7-ratliff-20170217-story.html

Verdict: dude, I don’t have time to research all 20 candidates in a district across town from me, you’re on your own on this one.

DISTRICT 9

Wherever the L.A. Times declines to endorse the incumbent, the race is worth extra consideration — especially the challengers’ campaigns. The incumbent here is Curren De Mille Price Jr., but the L.A. Times has endorsed Jorge Nuno. Newcomer Adriana Cabrera is also running. See the Times endorsement of Nuno below:

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-cd-9-endorsement-20170220-story.html

Verdict: the campaign I’m working on endorses Cabrera, but Nuno also looks like a good bet. I’d recommend against voting for the incumbent.

DISTRICT 11

Incumbent Mike Bonin is running against Mark Ryavec and Robin Rudisill for this seat. The L.A. Times endorsed Bonin, but — again — I encourage you to take any endorsement of an incumbent with a grain of salt. I tend to err on the side of a female candidate, for what it’s worth. Check out Bonin’s endorsement here:

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/endorsements/la-ed-council-district-11-20170202-story.html

Verdict: I can’t say.

DISTRICT 13

Hehehehe. (I mean, sorry, what?) This is my district, and (as some of you already know) I’ve been campaigning hard for Jessica Salans for CD13. Incumbent Mitch O’Farrell has been totally inaccessible to his constituents and is the candidate of choice for big developers — that’s a bad thing! He must be at least challenged. Bill Zide and Sylvie Shain are alright, but they don’t seem to have platforms anywhere near as well-thought out as Salans’, and Shain is very actively pro-Measure S (see above on why you should 100% vote NO on S). From what I can tell, De La Torre and Haines are both to the right of Mitch, which — why would you want that?

Salans’ priorities include: getting L.A. onto 100% renewable energy within the fastest reasonable timeline; housing the homeless population in our community; defining and expanding L.A.’s “Sanctuary City” status (which includes figuring out just what the hell is going on with Garcetti’s recent hedging); and pushing back against gentrification in the area. She’s been doing her research, too: her plan to combat homelessness is inspired in large part by recent policies in Utah which have all but eradicated homelessness — saving local governments a lot of money in the process. She cares about the concerns of people in our district — and by now has probably personally met most of her would-be constituents (the campaign has canvassed the entire district on foot!). Seriously, I’m so proud to have been campaigning for Salans and so proud of the campaign’s work. If you have more questions about Salans or CD13 specifically, please ask me!

Verdict: JESSICA SALANS! JESSICA SALANS! JESSICA SALANS!

DISTRICT 15

You know the outlook in your district is bleak when the L.A. Times doesn’t endorse anyone. Incumbent Joe Buscaino has had a tough job of it, but he’s been merely adequate and has reasonably strong challengers in Caney Arnold and Noel Gould. See what the Times said here:

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/endorsements/la-ed-cd-15-endorsement-20170215-story.html

Verdict: I can’t make a recommendation in good faith. Do your research on this one.

L.A. UNIFIED SCHOOL BOARD

LAUSD elections are REALLY IMPORTANT — and they can be confusing, because your LAUSD district is NOT THE SAME as your City Council district. Make sure you know your district and whether or not it’s on the ballot this election (e.g. my City Council district is, but my LAUSD district is not). As with (almost all of) the other March 7 elections, there will be a runoff in April for any race wherein no candidate cleared 50%, so make sure you research the incumbent — and for the love of god do not vote for any candidate who is sympathetic to charter schools.

The L.A. Times is not endorsing a single incumbent for school board, but it should be noted that the L.A. Times is very charter-friendly. Read their endorsements here:

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/endorsements/la-ed-school-board-endorsements-20170208-story.html

LASchoolReport.com has also been a great resource for me in researching this voter guide.

DISTRICT 2

Incumbent Monica Garcia is running against Lisa Alva and Carl Petersen. The L.A. Times endorses Alva; Petersen is a parent activist and an advocate for children with special needs. I find it alarming that Garcia has almost no endorsements beyond that from the L.A. School Police association — and, worse, she’s way too friendly to charter schools. Below you can find Petersen’s list of endorsements; the L.A. Times article on their LAUSD endorsements is above.

http://www.changethelausd.com/endorse_carl

Verdict: you can vote for either challenger in good conscience. Petersen seems to have a stronger anti-charter stance, which I prefer, but I tend to be in favor of electing anyone who’s not a white man.

DISTRICT 4

Incumbent Steve Zimmer is running against challengers Gregory Martayan, Nick Melvoin, and Allison Holdorff Polhill. Melvin has all the same endorsements Polhill has, plus backing from the L.A. Times and L.A. Daily News, but he is pro-charter. Zimmer is ostensibly anti-charter, but he has voted for more charter schools than residents like; nevertheless, he is the only candidate to prioritize the concerns of Dreamers highly enough for it to be included in the two-sentence version of his platform.

Verdict: honestly, Zimmer seems like the most strongly anti-charter candidate. He hasn’t been perfect, but his challengers all seem even less likely to do right by the school system.

DISTRICT 6

Six candidates on the ballot, no incumbent — the previous seat-holder is now running for City Council. Araz Parseghian’s only endorsement comes from a Republican lawmaker, which I don’t trust; Jose Sandoval does not seem to have done anything to mount a campaign since getting on the ballot, so he’s out. Kelly Gonez and Imelda Padilla are the likely frontrunners (Gonez was endorsed by the papers, Padilla by most teacher orgs), but both are too sympathetic to charter schools for my tastes, although they at least seem invested in doing more to hold charters accountable. Patty Lopez has attracted the ire of charter groups, which I like, though she has no endorsements.

Verdict: it’s gotta be Lopez, although it seems like Gonez and Padilla are way more progressive and responsible than most charter-friendly candidates.

L.A. COMMUNITY COLLEGE SCHOOL BOARD

Unlike in the other races, all L.A. residents can vote for all three seats up for election — and there are no runoffs. Check out the L.A. Times endorsements here:

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/endorsements/la-ed-los-angeles-community-college-district-trustees-20170210-story.html

SEAT 2

Goldstein and Vargas seem to pretty much be non-entities, which leaves it up to Thomas J. Norman and Steven Veres. Find more about them here:

http://votersedge.org/ca/en/ballot/election/area/48/contests/contest/16053?election_authority_id=19

Verdict: I’ll be voting for Norman. Veres seems fine, but Norman is bolder in his ambitions for the LACC system.

SEAT 4

Incumbent Ernest J. Moreno is up against staunch Democratic activist Dallas Denise Fowler, whom the L.A. Times accused of being too partisan. Her response, essentially: “So what?” The Times endorsed Moreno, but he does not seem super invested in acknowledging his challenger, which rubs me the wrong way. Read more here:

http://votersedge.org/ca/en/ballot/election/area/48/contests/contest/16054?election_authority_id=19

Verdict: Fowler all the way.

SEAT 6

I can’t get too much of a bead on this one. Incumbent Nancy Pearlman is a longtime LACC trustee and seems fine, whereas her challenger Gabriel Buelna — an ethnic studies professor at Cal State Northridge and a community administrator in East L.A. — seems to have a more on-the-ground understanding of the challenges students face and what happens when they transfer to a bigger school (like Cal State Northridge). Read more here:

http://votersedge.org/ca/en/ballot/election/area/48/contests/contest/16055?election_authority_id=19

Verdict: man, I dunno. Pearlman seems valuable, and I love voting for women, but Buelna might bring a valuable perspective to the board.

WEST HOLLYWOOD ELECTIONS

Y’all, I can’t help you on this one beyond basic info. West Hollywood is its own city with its own Mayor and City Council. Because WeHo is so small, all councilmembers represent all residents. I understand that the incumbents up for reelection are not popular, but there are 10 candidates in total for two seats. Check them out here:

http://www.wehoville.com/2016/12/14/final-tally-1o-candidates-2-seats-weho-city-council-march/

Verdict: I don’t know anything about the WeHo Mayoral election and I’m not looking it up, but for City Council Ashley Reed Stillwell knows her stuff and has a well-considered platform. As for your other vote, I recommend you vote for any challenger.