Decisions, Decisions '06

The 'Tucson Weekly' Editorial Board is here to tell you how to vote!

Though you've still got about a month to make up your mind about how you're voting in the Nov. 7 general election, early voting is now under way.

If recent trends are any indication, about half of you will be casting early ballots, so we're telling you how to vote this week. Just sit down with your ballot and do as we say.

Heads up: We haven't given an endorsement in every race, mostly because so many of them are not competitive. So we've concentrated on the races where the outcome is up for grabs. These are the races that matter, at least to us.

We've also taken the long, hard slog through each of the 20 propositions, laying out our positions on each of them.

Can't wait to vote after reading all of this? Call 740-4330 to order your early ballot.

Not registered to vote? The deadline is Monday, Oct. 9. Voting registration forms are available at most libraries, city and town halls and post offices. The Recorder's Office, 115 N. Church Ave., will be open until midnight Monday to register last-minute slackers.

U.S. Congress: Gabrielle Giffords

Let's look at the differences between Democrat Gabrielle Giffords and Republican Randy Graf:

· Randy opposes allowing victims of rape or incest to terminate their pregnancies. Gabby believes that's a decision that should be left to women and their doctors.

· Randy thinks health-care costs can be reduced if people pay more of their own bills and only turn to insurance for big-ticket items. Gabby wants to find ways to provide more Americans with the opportunity to purchase insurance.

· Randy opposes federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research. Gabby thinks the research has the potential to cure Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, diabetes and other crippling diseases.

· Randy thinks that if the federal government just cracks down on enough workplaces, illegal immigrants will pack up and return to their home countries. Gabby supports developing a guest-worker program that will allow employers to hire migrant labor without breaking the law.

· Randy remains a staunch supporter of the Bush administration's approach to the Iraq War. Gabby says the White House has bungled the conflict and should start figuring out how to bring the troops home.

· Randy wants to teach creationism alongside evolution in science courses and believes the Earth might only be 10,000 years old. Gabby believes science courses should stick with legitimate science and believes the Earth is several billion years old.

It will come as no surprise that Graf is not the man for us.

We supported Giffords in the primary, and we're supporting her in the general. We thinks she's smart, politically astute and has a solid understanding of the complex issues facing the district and the nation. She's got a great environmental record; she's solid on health care, and she works well with law-enforcement and business people.

Giffords' primary opponents accused her of being too Republican. The GOP right-wingers say she's a liberal extremist. That tells us Giffords fits the district--a centrist split of Republicans, Democrats and independents.

Vote for Gabrielle Giffords in Congressional District 8.

U.S. Senate: Jim Pederson

Republicans came to power promising to balance the budget, end corruption and restore honor and dignity to the White House. They've run up record deficits, dished out gigantic tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans, used lies to push us into a Middle East quagmire and entered into an appalling affair with K Street--all while lecturing about family values.

We've had enough. We're not terribly excited about Democrat Jim Pederson--hey, who's gonna get excited about a shopping-center developer?--but we've grown weary of Republican Jon Kyl's support of the Bush administration. We're voting Pederson.

Governor: Janet Napolitano

Republican gubernatorial candidate Len Munsil would have you believe that Democrat Janet Napolitano is a crazed lib who's leading the state down the road to hell.

We find that a tough sell. To begin with, Napolitano is moderate to a fault. She's sold out legislative Democrats more than once in her dealings with the GOP leadership.

That's because Napolitano has had to be a savvy deal-maker with a Republican-dominated Legislature that has delighted in sending her bills just to make her veto them. She's learned how to give--vouchers and big income-tax cuts weighted in favor of Arizona's wealthiest citizens, to name two issues--to get what she wanted: more education spending and investment in universities and tech centers.

But we shudder to think what the state would be like without her to play defense against the Arizona Legislature. Whatever political bargains Napolitano has had to make in her first term, she's infinitely preferable to a conservative like Len Munsil, who is full of bad ideas--beginning with his promise to dramatically shift the tax burden away from Arizona's wealthiest citizens onto the backs of its poorest.

Vote Napolitano.

Attorney General: Terry Goddard

In his first term as attorney general, Democrat Terry Goddard has done a good job going after con artists, environmental rapists, identity thieves and other ne'er-do-wells.

Goddard's Republican challenger, Bill Montgomery, is blaming Goddard for an increase in street crime--which is generally considered the province of local law enforcement and county attorneys. Montgomery also complains that Goddard hasn't done enough to prosecute illegal immigrants. He's so worried about that, in fact, that his campaign evidently hired a bunch of illegal immigrants to appear in an ad attacking Goddard, if a recent police report is to be believed.

Hiring illegal immigrants to prove that Goddard hasn't done enough to crack down on them? Now that's a novel approach.

We'll be voting for Goddard.

Superintendent of Public Instruction: Tom Horne

While both Republican Tom Horne and Democrat Jason Williams have their pluses and minuses, we're going with the incumbent. While he's demonized illegal immigrants a bit too much for our tastes, Horne has done much to bolster teacher training and improve schools that have been determined to be "failing." He's also shown he has the political skills needed to work with the various parties interested in education--something we can't say about political newcomer Williams.

District 25 House: Jennifer Burns, Pat Fleming

We like Republican House incumbent Jennifer Burns, who brings brains to the GOP caucus. It's little wonder that the conservatives in her own caucus hate her so. We're voting for her.

We're not so sure about Democratic House incumbent Manny Alvarez, who votes OK but never seems to be doing much. We're betting that newcomer Pat Fleming of Sierra Vista would bring more energy to the job, so she gets our vote.

District 26 Senate: Charlene Pesquiera; House: Pete Hershberger, Lena Saradnik

Given District 26's GOP dominance, Democrat Charlene Pesquiera doesn't stand much of a chance. But we're supporting the rookie candidate anyway, because her opponent, Republican Al Melvin, steers his ship a bit too starboard for us.

In the House race, we're likewise at odds with the conservative platform of Republican David Jorgenson, so we suggest you vote for Republican Pete Hershberger and Democrat Lena Saradnik.

The Propositions

Prop 100: No

This is one of a number of propositions that the Arizona Legislature put on this year's ballot to target illegal immigrants. This one would amend the Arizona Constitution to deny bail to any illegal immigrant accused of a "serious felony" if the evidence suggests the accused is guilty. Given that the definition of "serious felony" is left up to the Legislature to decide at a future date, this one is just too vague--and we're comfortable leaving the question of bail in the hands of a judge, rather than a one-size-fits-all constitutional amendment. Vote no.

Prop 101: No

Those ever-rising property taxes are a problem, all right--but one reason they keep creeping up is because the state keeps pushing responsibilities onto cities and counties. This particular proposition would limit how much counties and cities could increase property taxes. Without getting into the arcane structure of property taxes--we want you to stay awake through the rest of this piece--we'll just say this would hamstring local governments that haven't cranked their taxes to the limit, while ignoring those that have. Vote no.

Prop 102: No

Another measure that goes after illegal immigrants, and addresses something that's not a problem, Prop 102 would amend the Arizona Constitution to block people who are in the country illegally from collecting punitive damages in civil lawsuits. Vote no.

Prop 103: No

Proposition 103 would amend the Arizona Constitution to make English the official language of the state. Hey, we want everyone speaking English--but we also want them to understand government regulations and what they're voting on. (Though, given the legalese that these props are written in, it probably doesn't make much sense in Spanish, either.) We don't see the need to clutter the Arizona Constitution with this garbage. Vote no.

Prop 104: Yes

Prop 104 would allow counties, cities and towns to borrow more money to pay for roads, police stations and firehouses. Given that we need more of those with all that growth, we're OK with letting local voters decide if the city is offering a good deal. Vote yes.

Props 105: No

Prop 106: Yes

Here's the deal with State Trust Land: We've got about 9 million acres of it, most of which has been set aside to benefit education. And the Arizona Constitution requires that it be sold off for its highest and best use.

The problem: It happens that some trust land is ideal for conservation, but there's no way to do that under the current laws. So Proposition 106--the product of years of negotiation between teachers, conservationists, the business community and State Land Department officials--sets aside almost 700,000 acres, not even 8 percent of the total acreage of trust land, for conservation. It also sets up a process that will make it easier to buy other ecological acreage and updates the way the land department deals off the land.

It's not a perfect deal--but it's probably as good a deal as we're going to get. And given how Maricopa County homebuilders are howling about it, we imagine it must be on the right track. Vote yes.

Prop 105, on the other hand, is the Arizona Legislature's alternative to Prop 106. It sets aside about 40,000 acres and leaves any future preservation in the hands of the Arizona Legislature.

Sorry, but given their record on the environment, we don't think we trust lawmakers. Vote no.

Prop 107: No

We could get into the history of marriage and how it certainly has evolved, particularly in the last century, no matter what the Christian conservatives want to believe. Or we could talk about how divorcing heterosexual couples seem to pose a greater threat to the sanctity of marriage than gays who want to make formal commitments to one another.

But we're more concerned about the ban on domestic partnerships between both straight and gay couples who, for whatever reason, choose not to get married. There is nothing wrong with allowing local governments, if they so choose, to offer health-care benefits to domestic partners, nor is there anything wrong with establishing hospital visitation rights and other legal arrangements between people who love one another.

Vote no on 107.

Prop 200: No

The AZ Voter Reward Act is just plain dumb. Dr. Mark Osterloh, who paid the bills for this one, wants to give one lucky voter $1 million just for casting a ballot. Hey, we'd like to see higher voter turnout, too--but if someone is casting a ballot just for the chance to win a million bucks, we don't think they're going to spend much time reading up on the issues ahead of time. We need more informed voters, not more ignorant ones. Vote no.

Prop 201: Yes

Prop 206: No

OK, so the libertarian in us says we should vote against Smoke-Free Arizona, Proposition 201, which would ban smoking in bars, bowling alleys, restaurants and even nursing homes. But then we think about how gross we feel when we're out at a bar and someone fires up a cigarette right next to us. We don't think it's too much to ask smokers to step outside for their fix. Vote yes.

The so-called Arizona Non-Smoker Protection Act, Proposition 206, is perhaps the most sneaky of all the ballot props this year. RJ Reynolds is so worried that Arizonans might approve Prop 201 that they've funded an alternative measure that allows smoking in bars and prevents local jurisdictions from passing regulations that are more restrictive than the state law. Plus, enforcement of the Prop 206 smoking ban is weak. Vote no.

Prop 202: Yes

Prop 202 would increase Arizona's minimum wage to $6.75 an hour from the current federal mandate of $5.15, which comes out to a laughable $10,712 a year. It would tie the minimum wage to the rate of inflation, too.

The Republican-controlled Congress has stalled too long on increasing the minimum wage. While we understand the concerns of some small businesses, our concerns for the people trying to live on $5.15 per hour are deeper. Vote yes.

Prop 203: Yes

OK, so we're not wild about raising the tax on a pack of cigarettes by 80 cents in order to pay for preschool programs. To begin with, there's the legitimate question of why smokers should pay for day care. And secondly, the taxes will probably hit low-income nicotine addicts the hardest.

But the fact remains that our day-care workers are badly underpaid, because the state preschool subsidies are way behind market rates. Kids should be in safe environments if their moms have to work. If we take better care of them, they'll be better prepared for school and success.

Given that the Arizona Legislature is never going to fund this sort of thing, this is the best option we have. So we're voting yes.

Prop 204: Yes

Although opponents of Proposition 204 have argued that the initiative is the first step toward turning all Arizonans into vegetarians, the Humane Treatment of Farm Animals Act is actually much less sinister: Farmers could no longer put pigs in gestation crates, tiny little stalls about 2 feet wide that prevent the animals from even turning around. It's a horrendous way to treat an animal that creates both physical and mental disorders in those animals. (The initiative also bans similar veal crates, but we don't have those in Arizona--yet.)

Given that most hog farmers don't even use these crates, it doesn't seem like a hardship to ban them. Vote yes.

Prop 205: Yes

Your Right to Vote won't really expand your right to vote, but it will change the way you vote. Prop 205 mandates a statewide vote-by-mail system. All voters would receive their ballot in the mail, although a few polling places would remain open on Election Day for those, like Tom Danehy, who want to cast a traditional ballot.

In the communities where all-mail balloting has been tried, it has increased turnout. And the shift would also save money, because right now, election officials have to individually sort through early-ballot requests and still set up polling places across the state. (By the way, about half the voters already cast early ballots.) And when voters get a ballot in the mail, they might actually spend some time trying to understand the issues they're voting on. (There's no guarantee of that, but we can always dream.) Vote yes.

Prop 207: No

The so-called AZ Home Owners Protection Effort purports to prevent government from using condemnation powers to take your property and hand it over to a private developer. But that's just the window dressing to distract voters from the disastrous part of Proposition 207: a "takings" clause that would require government to reimburse landowners for any new regulation that lowers their property values. While that may sound great in theory, in practice, it means you can kiss any effort to protect washes, hillsides or any other environmentally sensitive areas goodbye. Had this been in place, county officials would have never even considered creating the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan.

Ask yourself: Is it really that tough for developers in Arizona? Judging by how rapidly the cactuses are falling to the bulldozers, it doesn't seem that way to us.

If you like zoning laws, or care about protecting our rapidly vanishing Sonoran Desert, vote no on Prop 207.

Prop 300: No

Prop 300 would extend the current ban on welfare services for illegal immigrants created by 2004's Prop 200. Also off-limits if it passes: subsidized child care, adult education programs and in-state college tuition.

Here's the problem: The proposition turns day care staffers and adult-ed teachers into an arm of the Immigration and Naturalization Service by making them responsible for determining citizenship, as if their jobs weren't tough enough already.

And when you get right down to it, don't we want people in this country to speak English and have an education? Don't we want children to be in a safe place during the day while their parents work? The entire question is misguided. Vote no.

Prop 301: No

Prop 301 asks voters to block first-time and second-time meth offenders from going through Arizona's drug courts, which offer addicts a break if they seek treatment. Instead, they'd be headed for jail, where treatment options suck. Meth addiction is a serious problem in Arizona, but tossing people behind bars is a bad solution. Vote no.

Prop 302: No

Prop 302 asks voters to increase state lawmakers' pay from $24,000 to $36,000. First of all, we'd remind voters that lawmakers are eligible for per-diem payments that raise their pay to more than $36K. And secondly, we'd remind them that just last week, state Rep. Russell Pearce called for the United States to restart "Operation Wetback" to round up illegal immigrants. Sorry, but we just can't see giving someone like that a raise. Vote no.

Prop 400: Yes

Prop 400 would establish a Joint Technological Education District, or JTED, which allows local school districts to share resources for technical and vocational programs. Creating a JTED lets local districts tap additional state dollars to teach skills to kids who may not be college-bound. It's a great way to ensure that they get some practical job training and might just encourage some kids to remain in school instead of dropping out. Vote yes.

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