Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | June 22, 2010

Puh-lease: Vote first, then complain

It’s time for another round-up of items that make me roll my eyes, shake my head, and utter a two-syllable “puh-lease.”

•••

Voter apathy always elicits head shakes. In the June 8 primary, which featured star candidates running heavily financed campaigns, less than a third of registered voters cast ballots. I don’t know the percentage of eligible voters (citizens over the age of 18 who are not felons) who voted, but I’d bet that it was in the teens.

I’m of two minds about voter apathy. I understand frustration with the process — especially when I see deceptive, cynical, heinous misuses of the system like PG&E’s failed attempt to buy super-majority protection in the state Constitution via an initiative that required only simple majority approval. I understand it when I hear comments like Carly Fiorina’s stupid, mean-spirited, irrelevant cheap shot about Sen. Barbara Boxer’s hair, followed by a pseudo-apology.

But I don’t understand the passionate frustration with government emanating from so many people who clearly cannot be bothered to vote.

Media, how about this: Check the voting record of anyone complaining about the government before giving them air time or ink. If you can’t be bothered to vote, then, puh-lease, why would we be bothered to listen to you?

•••

I hope you’re sitting down: California’s legislators missed their constitutionally mandated June 15 budget deadline. The state’s fiscal year begins July 1. The Los Angeles Times reports that it’s the 23rd time in 24 years that lawmakers have blown this deadline. Lawmakers clearly share author Douglas Adams’ deadline sentiment: “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”

In anticipation of the difficulty in closing what’s become a chronic budget deficit — this year’s shortfall is in the neighborhood of $19 billion — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said, “California no longer has low-hanging fruits — we don’t have any medium-hanging fruits, and we also don’t have any high-hanging fruits.”

But Schwarzenegger was wrong. State Sen. Mark Leno (D- San Francisco) authored a bill that identifies $200 million in low-hanging fruit. Leno’s bill, SB1399, which passed the Senate on a 21-13 vote (not a single Republican voted for it; one Democrat voted against it) and now moves to the Assembly, establishes a medical parole program for inmates who are, according to the San Francisco Examiner, “comatose, paralyzed or permanently disabled. His bill excludes those facing the death penalty or life without parole. If a parolee’s health improves, the person could be returned to prison.”

It’s extraordinarily expensive to deliver medical care to these inmates in a prison setting. We pay fat correction officer salaries to guard inmates who are so ill that they pose no public safety or escape risk. Medical parole is an easy, risk-free way to reduce state spending.

J. Clark Kelso, the state’s prison health receiver, was quoted in a recent Sacramento Bee article about SB1399: “… a dollar that we can save in the prison health care program is a dollar that can be spent on other important priorities for the state, such as education, money for children, the elderly, other health care programs.”

Nevertheless, some politicians — apparently scared of appearing “soft on crime” — oppose medical parole.

Puh-lease. Let’s put political posturing aside and pass this common-sense, money-saving bill, which is similar to medical parole plans already in place in 36 other states.

•••

My eyes always roll when I see candidates running unopposed for an elected office, or running against weak competition. I’m strongly of the opinion that democracy is best served when voters have at least two well-qualified candidates from which to choose for every office on every ballot.

Here in South County, the November general election will feature seats on the Morgan Hill and Gilroy city councils and the Gavilan, Morgan Hill Unified and Gilroy Unified school boards. The deadline to file to run is Aug. 6 (Aug. 11 if the incumbent for a position doesn’t file to run for re-election.)

Have you thought about running but are not sure what’s involved? Circle July 22 on your calendar, and plan to attend the Prospective Candidates Forum at 6:30 pm at the Morgan Hill Library, an event that’s sponsored by Leadership Morgan Hill, the Friends of the Morgan Hill Library, and the Morgan Hill Times. We’ll have a panel of experts on hand to answer your questions.

Let’s ensure that South County voters have a full slate of credible candidates from which to choose this November.

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