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Election Edition: Moderation in All Things

Election Edition: Moderation in All Things

So much uncertainty in the air.

How else to describe this moment for Americans?

I’m glad to say that I am confident the American people will conclusively call a halt to the chaos that has overtaken our national politics.

To be clear: I recommend getting started on that job with a vote for Joe Biden in this election, which boils down to calm and competence versus the vitriol and fear that are exhausting our American spirit.

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That’s a view from a national perspective, where the central question for the electorate can be readily discerned.

Anyone can knock President Donald Trump for what he says and does—but no one can say he surprised us. He told us who he was with a bluntness that was uncouth to some and disarming to others during his first run. He’s stuck with that approach, refusing to grow in stature or refine his ways or adjust to the weight of the presidency. It’s been four years of the president trying to bend his office and the federal government and our U.S. Constitution to his personal purposes.

Trump is about himself. Not anything larger… certainly not We the People.

Everyone has enough information to decide whether he should stay or go.

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The situation in the various states and localities is quite another matter. There is reason for concern about the whole of California, as well as Southern California and Los Angeles, from other perspectives.

The president isn’t the only politician peddling chaos and fear, after all. Right-wing extremists aren’t the only outfits menacing the public square. Republicans aren’t alone in craven acts that threaten our democratic standards and traditions.

Amid all of that stands one obvious point of appeal for Biden—he’s not Trump.

It’s worth noting, however, that Biden is not simply an anti-Trump. The former vice president and U.S. Senator has long defined himself in word and deed as a moderate. That’s a political identity you might think is extinct if you pay too much attention to cable TV and social media—moderation doesn’t drive big ratings or traffic for niche channels.

Moderates and moderation are nevertheless what we now need, nationally as well as statewide and locally.

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The national need for moderation follows years of Republicans pressing various arcane advantages that are technically legal but look from some angles like the rigging of presidential elections. You could spend days examining how control of state legislatures and redistricting of Congressional seats play into the picture, for example. You could hold a seminar on why the U.S. Census is so politically charged.

There’s plenty of technically legal skullduggery among Democrats in California and LA, too.

The State of California and the City of Los Angeles are both run by Democratic politicians who have free rein in partisan terms. They seem to count on one another to obscure the view of how government works around here. It’s a Democratic governor and Democratic attorney general who stand by while the California Public Records Act is regularly debased and abused by the Democratic mayor of Los Angeles and various Democratic members of the City Council. The lack of transparency is enabled in LA by a Democratic city attorney.

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Give the Democratic Party some credit—it has taken control by consistently winning elections at the local and statewide level, just as Republicans did in many locales around the U.S. in the years leading up to Trump.

They’ve also been lucky in California, where the Republican Party has spent decades muddling along, shooting itself in the foot every so often.

The result, in any case, has left California to operate in effect as a one-party state for years now. The same goes for the City of LA, which is firmly in Democratic hands even if municipal offices are billed as nonpartisan.

History tells us that any political organization that operates free of genuine opposition to serve as a check on its authority will abuse its power. Unchecked power will put narrow interests over the common good until the center no longer holds and the system fails.

California and Los Angeles are the other side of the same coin that gave us Trump. Both are verging toward failure—and you shouldn’t let the absurdity of Trump’s administration trick you into thinking our problems are going to automatically get resolved simply because he is voted out.

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The depth of the problem in local politics can be summed up in a measure on the November 3 ballot covering the City of LA and any surrounding areas that are part of the Los Angeles Unified School District. This one, called Measure RR, seeks voter approval to issue $7 billion worth of bonds.

The stated uses for the money range from a call to “update school and learning technology” to promises to “improve accessibility, earthquake safety and school security,” according to

That’s the main website supporting Measure RR. It is sponsored by a committee that gets “major funding” from the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers of Southern California, the National Electric Contractors Association Labor Management Cooperation Committee and LPA Design Studios, part of an architecture firm based in Irvine in Orange County.

Do you really think this is all about the children?

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Look again and consider the language used in promoting Measure RR. It could justify anything from new framing for doorways on every classroom in every school to building new fencing with cameras and sensors around every campus… Or giving teachers bonuses for taking certificate courses in writing computer code… Or buying a new fleet of electric-powered school buses.

And that means that you should not buy for a minute the contention that there will be effective prohibitions on using the funds “for teacher and administrator salaries and school operating expenses,” as the website cited above promises.

Any bookkeeper with a reasonably sharp pencil could get around whatever “restrictions” are proposed for Measure RR funds.

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Perhaps the greatest deception in the sales pitch for Measure RR is the suggestion that it won’t raise property taxes to pay off the $7 billion in borrowing over the next three decades.

Here’s the language from the same website:

“Best of all, your tax rate WON’T increase.  Measure RR simply extends WITHOUT increasing the tax rate currently authorized for voter-approved Los Angeles Unified School District bonds. And it will create thousands of jobs benefitting the region’s economy.”

It is true that the tax burden will remain the same—because the meter on Measure RR will kick in and ramp up as progress is made on paying down prior borrowings by LAUSD.

That’s the equivalent of someone telling you that your car loan will be extended for 35 years—but don’t worry, because your monthly payment won’t go up.

It’s also an insult to the intelligence of homeowners and other voters who agreed to cover LAUSD when it borrowed another $7 billion back in 2008. That money was borrowed under Measure Q, which also was sold as a way to pay for repairs and upgrades to classrooms, institute earthquake safeguards and improve Internet access for classrooms throughout the district.

LAUSD now proposes to reward the voters’ past generosity and good faith by borrowing another $7 billion on the promise of doing jobs it didn’t get done with the last $7 billion—and push the payments due from taxpayers out to 2055.

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Then there’s the promise of a watchdog over the funds.

“Measure RR is subject to strict independent oversight and accountability requirements, including annual independent financial and performance audits,” according to the partisan website.

Voters were told the same thing about the billions of dollars raised for homelessness programs after separate tax hikes were approved by voters in the city and countywide in 2016.

Homelessness is up by more than 30% in LA since then.

Do you know who is providing independent oversight of the homeless programs? Do you have any idea how those billions of dollars are being spent?

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All food for thought when it comes to Measure RR.

And here is one more morsel to chew over: The request for $7 billion comes from the same LAUSD that ignores rules and requests for transparency; kicked a structural deficit down the road rather than address it in its latest contract negotiations with teachers; and leaped beyond the organization’s mission to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in the fog of the early days of Covid-19 without seeking the approval of taxpayers or even letting them know.

It’s time for some moderation at LAUSD, where school children are mere bargaining chips for self-centered adults pushing narrow interests.

Sullivan Says

I offer this column I wrote about President Trump back in March as worth another read here.


Follow me on Twitter @SullivanSaysSC.