This November, people around the country will go to the polls and cast their votes in the 2014 midterm elections. But it’s not just to elect who represents us in Washington, D.C. In fact, some of the most important action is occurring in the state of California, where Governor Jerry Brown is facing off against a charismatic challenger and Democrats are fighting to retain their supermajorities in the State Assembly and the State Senate. The results could have heavy implications for the future of public education in California.

In addition, seven propositions are up for a vote, and if approved by a majority of voters, enter into effect with the full force of law. California is one of a select group of states that grants its citizens the power to vote not just on the lawmakers, but on the laws themselves. This means that issues ranging from water investment to requiring drug testing for doctors are on the ballot, and it is our responsibility to make informed decisions.

The Highlander has examined each of these issues, and on these pages you will find brief information about each candidate or proposition, alongside our endorsements of the candidates and propositions that will best improve the lives of UCR students and Californians more broadly. We hope this will help you make the best choices for the future of students, the UC and the state of California.


Governor: Jerry Brown
It is with mixed emotions that the Highlander gives its endorsement to Jerry Brown. On one hand, he has stabilized the state’s budget, helped spur job creation and unemployment has dropped from 12.4 percent in 2010 to 7.4 percent now — a stunning turnaround for a state that was swimming in red ink and unpaid bills just a short while ago. He ushered through a minimum wage increase, signed the DREAM Act to help undocumented immigrants obtain higher education and passed commonsense gun reform in the wake of the UC Santa Barbara shooting tragedy.

However, his record on education is far more mixed. Although he has endeavored to maintain a tuition freeze and spoken out against pay raises at the UC, we would like him to take a stronger stand on returning funding to the UC. Funds from Proposition 30, passed in 2012 with overwhelming student support, were not used for the purposes we were led to believe. Now that the state’s economy is no longer on life support, Brown must spend his second term re-investing in the state, especially when it comes to education. There is no longer any excuse to deny the UC the funding it needs, and now is the time to make the changes needed to ensure that the UC remains a student-oriented institution.

Brown may not be the perfect choice for this mandate, but he is certainly a better choice than his opponent in November, Neel Kashkari. Unbound by the shackles of electoral politics, perhaps Brown can effect the change students have been hoping for. We certainly hope he will.

Representative: Mark Takano
The Highlander endorses Mark Takano not for what he’s done, but for what his opponent’s done. Steve Adams possesses an admirable career in public service, but he also possesses a number of disconcertingly tone-deaf views that show he does not have the best interests of students at heart. During their debate at the UCR Extension Center, Adams argued against raising the minimum wage, even as students are struggling to get by. His remarks on immigration reform are similarly nauseous, raising the question of whether he can be counted on to support the diverse UCR community.

Takano does not possess the strongest congressional record, but it is preferable to the viewpoints of Adams. Both claim that they will be able to work with opposing parties, but with Adams’ perspective, it seems more than just unlikely. For now, Takano is the better choice to represent the 41st district, but we hope there will be better reasons to support him next cycle.

Assembly: Jose Medina
The Highlander has no qualms giving its endorsement to Jose Medina. Elected in 2012, Medina has proven himself a tireless worker and advocate for students. Perhaps most notably, Medina was instrumental in securing $15 million in funding for UCR’s fledgling school of medicine, the first new public school of medicine in the state in over a half-century. He has made himself a constant presence in Riverside and on the campus, showing up at conferences, performances and a host of other events.

Meanwhile, his opponent Rudy Aranda has been seemingly absent from the UCR community. Even if that were the case, it is doubtful that a Republican could accomplish much in an Assembly where there are two Democrats for every Republican. With his strong ties to the UCR community and strong stands on issues of air quality and employment, Medina is the right choice for UCR and Riverside.


Prop 1: No
In the face of a massive drought, Proposition 1 seems easy to support. The proposal would provide $7.5 billion in infrastructure investment that is intended to mitigate the impacts of future water shortages, and is part of a long tradition of water bills passed by the citizens of California.

The allocation of the funds is the complicating factor. $2.7 billion in funds is earmarked explicitly for water storage projects (such as dams or reservoirs); however, most of the state’s rivers that can be dammed have already been dammed, not to mention the severe ecological damage that comes with the construction and flooding that result. At the same time, only $810 million will be invested in increasing the efficiency of water collection, distribution and consumption, even though this would be far more effective at saving water per dollar than any other use.

What’s more, although nine percent of funds are dedicated to the implementation of improved water quality systems in economically disadvantaged areas, the proposition does not provide any funding for their continual maintenance. The result is the construction of a water system that has no guarantee of operating in the future, much like holding a carrot on a stick in front of a horse.

$7.5 billion is a significant sum of money — just $1 billion shy of the operating budget for the entire UC system — and we should think carefully before we determine how to spend it. Projects will likely not start until at least 2016, which gives us time to come up with a better version of a much-needed water infrastructure bill. For now, the Highlander urges a no vote until there is an alternative that truly focuses on the root causes of the drought and the needs of disadvantaged communities.

Prop 2: Yes
Proposition 2 would change the way the governor allocates state revenue to the rainy day fund. In addition, it would set aside some of those funds for primary and secondary education.

Although California has a rainy day fund to tide us over during recessions, our political leaders have proven themselves remarkably adept at not using it. The current law nominally requires the governor to put $3 billion into the rainy day fund, but with a mere flick of the wrist and stroke of the pen, the governor could declare that he wasn’t going to add anything to the fund at all. So the funds in the rainy day fund never materialized. We saw the result when the Great Recession hit: funding for education dropped like a lead weight falling from the Bell Tower.

We need to actually have a rainy day fund in order to use it. Proposition 2 actually gives the rainy day law teeth, by requiring the governor to contribute some money every year to the rainy day fund. This time, he can only forgo doing so if he declares an emergency and both chambers of the legislature agree. Adding to the state’s coffers means there will be less cutbacks in times of emergency, which should help tamp down increasing tuition rates while maintaining the quality education the UC is known for. The Highlander therefore encourages students to vote yes on Proposition 2.

Prop 45: No
Currently, insurance rates are reviewed by a panel that can determine whether increases are fair or not, but cannot veto proposals. Proposition 45 would require the state’s insurance commissioner to approve any rate increases proposed by health insurance companies before they go into effect.

It seems like a no-brainer to support giving someone more oversight over how our insurance rates are determined. But is it really in our best interest to vest a single elected official with so much power? It is possible that the current insurance commissioner, Dave Jones, has the people’s best interests at heart; however, it is equally possible that a future insurance commissioner may not be so kind. California may be seen as a Democratic bastion — but we had a Republican insurance commissioner as recently as 2011.

There is also uncertainty regarding how the law would be implemented. The state’s own voter guide warns that there is considerable legal uncertainty surrounding the scope of the powers granted to the Insurance Commissioner. The commissioner could issue a decision, only for thousands of hapless constituents to discover years later that the decision was made in error. What happens then? While we believe the current system needs fixes, voting yes on this proposition risks putting the health insurance of countless California citizens at risk. We cannot support Proposition 45.

Prop 46: No
Proposition 46 does two things: first, it mandates drug and alcohol testing of doctors and that positive findings be reported to the state; second, it increases the cap on medical malpractice lawsuits from $250,000 to more than $1 million.

Nobody wants to be operated on by a drug-addled doctor. But there’s very little evidence that doctors taking drugs or drinking alcohol on the job is a significant problem. What would be a problem is the millions of dollars the implementation of this law would force cash-strapped local governments to spend on the newly mandated drug tests. Increased payouts for medical malpractice lawsuits would only add to the financial burden.

It often goes unnoticed, but local governments provide valuable services to their citizens, including education, road maintenance, business development and much more. County and city governments won’t be able to provide the same degree of quality if they’re forced to instead spend money defending against frivolous lawsuits. The proposition isn’t necessarily a bad idea, but the costs of implementation are staggering and not worth any potential benefit they might bring. This is why the Highlander opposes Proposition 46.

Prop 47: Yes
Proposition 47 changes California’s sentencing laws to mandate certain crimes be sentenced as misdemeanors rather than felonies. Among these crimes are drug possession, shoplifting, check forgery and grand theft (so long as the value of the check or stolen good is no greater than $950).

California has long had sentencing laws that are far too strict, enabling shoplifters to be sentenced to longer jail times than people convicted of murder. Proposition 47 helps fix this problem by ensuring that the most petty crimes receive the smaller sentences they deserve, so the state can finally put an end to the long-running human rights nightmare that is the overcrowding of our prison system.

In addition, the proposition creates a fund that would provide dollars to education, drug rehabilitation and mental health programs. The source of the funding would not be any new tax, but rather the savings from the decrease in prison-related costs. The state already spends too much imprisoning its citizens rather than education. Proposition 47 is a good start to turning that problem around, which is why the Highlander endorses Proposition 47.

Prop 48: Yes
Although Native American gaming compacts don’t typically go in front of California voters, a petition to place it on the November ballot has resulted in Proposition 48. Voters must decide whether to allow two Native American tribes to construct a gaming casino on California land.

The permit process has been in the works for over a decade, and is supported by both the state’s governor and legislature and the federal government, in addition to the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians and the Wiyot Tribe, the Native American groups petitioning for the casino’s construction. The casino will certainly be a boon to the group. In a 2011 study, the poverty rate among the North Fork was an unfathomable 69 percent; unemployment sat at 29 percent.

In fact, the only reason this compact is going before voters is that already-established casinos are worried that a newcomer to the market may horn in on their business. Even if that is the case, if the state and the tribes have worked out a deal which will create more economic activity for the state and uplift countless people out of poverty, who are we to refuse them that opportunity? The Highlander endorses Proposition 48.


  • The Editorial Board

    The Highlander editorials reflect the majority view of the Highlander Editorial Board. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Associated Students of UCR or the University of California system.