Political Fix (1/2/2014)

Who is Your Favorite President?

As an end-of-the-year wrap-up, I asked five of Tulare County’s most influential officials to tell our readers who their favorite President of the United States is and why.

Congressman Devin Nunes named George Washington as his favorite President. “Though history is littered with successful generals who went on to seize absolute power, Washington insisted that the United States become a democratic republic, rejecting authoritarian rule by anyone, including himself.”

State Assembly Representative Connie Conway said, “President Theodore Roosevelt seemed larger than life and made his dreams a reality despite setbacks that may have forced others to quit. He left a lasting legacy with his role as peacemaker, conservationist and adventurer. One of my favorite quotes from President Roosevelt comes from a speech he delivered in California in 1911, ‘It is true of the nation, as of the individual, that the greatest doer must also be a great dreamer.’”

Visalia Mayor Steve Nelsen said, “Favorite President: Ronald Reagan.
Why: President of the people, not a career politician. Also last President that was truly able to work both side of the aisle and gain consensuses.”

Vice-Mayor Warren Gubler said, “Abraham Lincoln. Honest Abe was an excellent collection attorney before he was President. As President, he made the tough decisions, without being too concerned about the latest polling data. Also, he was a terrific orator.”

Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, Pete Vander Poel said, “If I had to choose a favorite U.S. President, I would have to say it would be Abraham Lincoln. His ability to be a “uniter,” bringing together one country divided over issues that ran deep within individual values and principles, was a thing of greatness. He was neither a Republican nor a Democrat first, he was an American; and that is truly admirable.”


Visalia Sued for Holding At-Large Elections

A group of Latinos is suing Visalia after the city council failed to switch from at-large to by-district elections. The group also wants the city council to be elected on even years, when the electorate also votes for Senators, Governor, and President. Many other towns such as Exeter and Farmersville have saved thousands of dollars by making the switch to even-year elections. The Visalia City Council election in November only yielded a 17 percent voter turnout, which is hardly representative of the city’s population.

Whereas odd-year elections are expensive and stupid, the by-district election is simply stupid.

If Visalia is 46 percent Hispanic, then there should be two or three Hispanics on the Visalia City Council. How do you dilute 46 percent of the population by having at-large elections? This is not the only demographic group that can be criticized for not voting, but the entire “representative” issue would just go away if Hispanics bothered to vote. Can you imagine if just half of them voted in the November election?

If Visalia is divided into districts, and Hispanic neighborhoods are clumped into one district, which is what they want, then there is never going to be more than one Hispanic on the city council. Until the millennials inherit the earth, history suggests that if a Hispanic runs in a “white” district, they will lose every time. This brings us back to the exact same problem we had before – lack of representation for 46 percent of the people.

Ironically, it is a group of Latino men who initiated the suit against Visalia, alleging that at-large elections of city council members violate the California Voting Rights Act passed in 2001. That it does. But doing voter drives and outreach could result in Hispanics controlling Visalia, but not if it changes to by-district elections.

Tulare, Modesto, Anaheim and Palmdale have been sued for conducting at-large elections, and no local government has ever won a voting rights lawsuit involving this issue. Neither the Visalia City Council, nor the majority of Visalians, agree with by-district elections, but they will not incur the expense of fighting this lawsuit. By-district elections will be a reality by the next time we vote for our city council.


The Big Easy in Tulare County

On December 20th, Ralph Kaelble sent out a press release declaring that “Louisiana style politics has no place in the Central Valley.” Mr. Kaelble accused Tim Ward, Tulare County District Attorney, of firing his wife just a few weeks before Christmas because he is running against him in the 2014 election for the DA’s office. The Visalia Times-Delta reported on December 23rd that Mr. Kaelble was also fired by Mr. Ward.

According to Mr. Ward, however, Afreen Kaelble was not fired, but signed a letter of resignation on December 4th. He also said that he believes that Mr. Kaelble resigned as well in January of 2013. Other than that, Mr. Ward cannot comment on personnel matters. He did want to say that, “one of the responsibilities I have is to assemble a management team that not only managers have confidence in, but the staff and executive leaders as well.”

Mr. Kaelble and Mr. Ward were hired by the Tulare County District Attorney’s office around the same time in 1999. Both will be running for the office of Tulare County District Attorney in June of 2014. If neither receives a majority of the vote, a runoff will take place in November. Mr. Ward was appointed Tulare County District Attorney last year when the former district attorney, Phil Cline, retired.


Government Shutdown Averted – Debt Ceiling Crisis Alive and Well

President Obama just signed a budget bill that ended the threat of a government shutdown for the next two years. Now that Congress has passed a budget, i.e. spent the money, will they pay their bills?

The Treasury loses the ability to issue debt on February 7th.

Treasure Secretary Jacob Lew said, “The creditworthiness of the United States is an essential underpinning of our strength as a nation; it is not a bargaining chip to be used for partisan political ends. Increasing the debt limit does not authorize new spending commitments. It simply allows the government to pay for expenditures Congress has already approved.”

The Democratic position is that they will not negotiate on the debt ceiling. Call me old-fashioned, but what is there to negotiate if the money is already spent? According to an article in the Washington Post, Speaker John Boehner, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Rep. Paul Ryan are among a handful of Republicans who have threatened to fight over the debt ceiling. Rep. Ryan called for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline in exchange for a debt limit increase. What the pipeline even ostensibly has to do with the national debt is a mystery.

The Washington Post went on to say that Mr. Ryan made his remarks on a far-right radio talk show, so maybe Mr. Ryan and company are just saber-rattling and won’t actually blow up the economy. “But the danger is that Republicans can take that too far. By most accounts, holding the debt ceiling hostage to a repeal of the health-care law was also just saber-rattling — until suddenly it wasn’t. GOP politicians can only promise something to the grassroots so many times before the base demands it, and so while people like Senator Tom Coburn may be trying to pump the brakes a little bit, they’re still behind the wheel of vehicle they aren’t able to totally control.” So says the Post.


Race to the Bottom

It’s a tight race, but the President and Congress are battling it out for who has the worst polling numbers of 2013.

RealClearPolitics.com averaged 14 mainstream polls right before Christmas and reported that Obama had a 42.3% approval rating. His disapproval rating was at 53.9%. Just a year ago, the numbers were reversed, with approval ratings of about 54% and disapproval ratings of 42%.

According to a CNN poll, 54% say the policies of congressional Republicans are heading the country in the wrong direction. And 54% say the same thing about the President’s policies.

According to a Washington Post – ABC News Poll, Obama is finishing 2013 with approval ratings at an all-time low–and the lowest they’ve been for any president at this point in their term since Richard Nixon.

Even with all this bad news, Obama’s numbers are positively envious compared to Congress’.

RealClearPolitics.com averaged seven polls and reported that Congress only has a 13.9% approval rating and an 80% disapproval rating.

Sixty-seven percent of those questioned in a CNN poll said the current Congress is the worst in their lifetime, with only 28% disagreeing.

According to CNN, “Even though the House did pass a budget agreement, fewer than 60 bills have been signed into law during the first year of the two-year-long 113th Congress.” Other news organizations agree. Assuming lawmakers don’t pick up the pace next year, and that’s a safe bet as 2014 is an election year, this will become the least productive Congress in at least the last four decades.

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