Are San Bernardino Recall Efforts Worth the Time and Money?

San Bernardino City Hall. | Photo: JimmyWayne/Flickr/Creative Commons License

There is a concerted effort underway to toss out the majority of the city of San Bernardino's elected officials. The recall is targeted at the mayor, the city attorney, and all seven members of the city council. This is significant if only for the sheer number of elected officials that recall proponents are seeking to toss out of office.

I discussed this issue during a live chat hosted by the Los Angeles News Group.

Should L.A. Have Its Own Health Department? Voters Likely to Decide

A ballot measure cleared to appear in the next election will ask Angelenos if the city should create its own public health department, a service currently contracted out to the county. The group behind it is argues that the county agency is too big and inefficient.

"Part of our reason for spearheading this ballot initiative was to open up a frank public conversation about the shortcomings of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health: a calcified institution layered with too much bureaucracy that gives short shrift to city residents," said Michael Weinstein, president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, in a statement.

Illegal or Immoral? FBI's Look into Legislator Shines Light on Possible Loopholes

Sen. Ron CalderonState Senator Ron Calderon (D - Montebello) has apparently found himself the target of an FBI investigation. In a rare move earlier this month, the federal agency searched his offices pursuant to a sealed search warrant.

Much has been written about Calderon in the week since the search, a good deal of it focused on dealings involving him and his brother, Tom Calderon, a former state assemblyman turned high-priced lobbyist. But in another twist in this ongoing tale, we are now hearing about another Calderon brother, who also happens to be a former state legislator.

It has now been reported that Sen. Calderon and his brother Charles Calderon used campaign funds to pay for their "holiday gifts." According to disclosure reports in 2009 Sen. Calderon used campaign funds to give Charles a $182.70 pair of shoes, and a few days later Charles Calderon used campaign funds to give Ron Calderon a $400 "holiday gift card." The next year, in 2010, Charles Calderon's campaign account gave Ron Calderon a $420 "holiday gift." Why $420? Well, in 2010, that was the limit on gifts to lawmakers.

Garcetti Can Raise $250,000 in Donations for Mayoral Transition

Photo: KCET Departures/KCET

The Los Angeles City Council today approved setting up an account to take donations to cover Mayor-elect Eric Garcetti's transition costs until Sept 30.

Garcetti can solicit up to $250,000 in gifts, and each donor can give a maximum of $10,000. Any money that goes unspent will be absorbed into the city's general fund, which pays for city services and operation costs.

Money Spent on Losing Candidates and Props Makes a Difference

Labor spent a lot of money to support unsuccessful candidate Wendy Greuel. This still is from a union-backed commercial for her. | Image: Screenshot via Working Californians/YouTube

It is estimated that over $50 million was spent on the May 21, 2013 Los Angeles City elections. Approximately 20 percent of registered voters, or 400,000 people, cast a ballot, meaning that more than $100 was spent on each voter. This should be a staggering amount.

People often ask me if money spent on behalf of losing candidates or losing ballot measures makes a difference. There is a common misconception that money spent to support candidates or ballot measures that were unsuccessful is merely wasted. I disagree.

More Campaign Disclosure Coming to California, But It's Not Enough

Screenshot of several separate downloadable options. Soon, users will be able to download all of them in one process. | Image: Cal-Access, May 15, 2013

As we finish celebrating the unofficial beginning of summer, those in favor of more robust campaign disclosure can already start looking forward to the unofficial end of the season.
By Labor Day, California's campaign finance database will be downloadable, Secretary of State Debra Bowen has announced.

This is a big step forward for advocates of campaign disclosure and transparency. As it stands the Cal-Access database (which should perhaps be re-named the Cal-Lack-Of-Access Database) allows visitors to download information by committee. This imposes a significant burden on any users seeking to obtain a comprehensive view of campaign finance data. The change will allow visitors to download the entire campaign finance database in one sheet.

This marks a difference between information that is disclosed online and information that is disclosed in a way that is actually useful for visitors.

Bowen's decision marks an about-face from her previous position that this change would not be cost-effective. After discussions with members of the reform community, Bowen apparently changed her mind. The prior request for the database change was signed by media outlets and nonprofit organizations including MapLight, the Los Angeles Times, the Sacramento Bee, Common Cause, California Forward, and the Sunlight Foundation.

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