','subtitle>',$line); echo $line; $line = "\n"; } else if (strstr($line, '','updated>',$line); } else if (strstr($line, '','published>',$line); } else if (strstr($line, ' Impractical Proposals <br> Santa Monica: 2007.07


2008: California Proposal Could Sway Outcome of Race

By Michael R. Blood (Associated Press, 2007-07-31)

LOS ANGELES (AP) - A Republican-backed ballot proposal could split left-leaning California between the Democratic and GOP nominees, tilting the 2008 presidential election in favor of the Republicans.

California awards its cache of 55 electoral votes to the statewide winner in presidential elections - the largest single prize in the nation. But a prominent Republican lawyer wants to put a proposal on the ballot that would award the statewide winner only two electoral votes.

The rest would be distributed to the winning candidate in each of the state's congressional districts. In effect, that would create 53 races, each with one electoral vote up for grabs.

California has voted Democratic in the last four presidential elections. But the change - if it qualifies for one of two primary ballots next year and is approved by voters - would mean that a Republican would be positioned the following November to snatch 20 or more electoral votes in GOP-leaning districts.

That's a number equal to winning Ohio....

Democratic consultant Chris Lehane called the plan "an effort to rig the system in order to fix the election.''

"If this change is made, it will virtually guarantee that a Republican wins the White House in 2008,'' Lehane said

Nineteen of the state's 53 congressional districts are represented by Republicans. President Bush carried 22 districts in 2004, while losing the statewide vote by double digits....

The rest of the story.
Although this proposal is being made in order to help the national Republicans in case of a close race in the electoral college, it is clearly more democratic than the current winner-take-all system. But even better would be proportional representation; not only would apportioning the vote on the basis of the real tally be fairer to Democratic and Republican voters, but it would mean that voters who support Green, Peace and Freedom, or independent candidates could send their delegates to the electoral college where, again if a race is close, they might turn out to be decisive. -- J.

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Planning: The McMansion - Threat or Menace

Planners Move to Close Window on US 'McMansions' in the Guardian is about city and county governments finally getting wise, a decade or so late, to the possibility that building houses of 10,000 square feet for two people might not be such a wise thing for maintaining scale, husbanding resources, and keeping communities connected other than by three-hour freeway commutes (although, when you think about it, the same logic applies to single-family homes of any size). The development may mean more trouble for those invested in the struggling housing market, but for the rest of us it's welcome news.
In Boulder County, Colorado, which has recently adopted measures to cap the size of new homes, houses have grown from an average of 3,900 square feet in 1990 to 6,300 square feet last year.

Last month in Los Angeles, the city's planning commission passed a motion to restrict the size of new homes. If the city council adopts the measure it could affect 300,000 properties in the city. Similar measures have been adopted in Minneapolis and in Florida.

"I think people are suspicious of development in the US right now," says John Chase, architecture critic and urban designer for the city of West Hollywood. "People have an unconscious cultural association with a place. Mansion-building takes away from a person's sense of the identity of a place."
Now if we can just pass the Stop Building Cheap, Crappy Condos Act, we'll really be getting somewhere.

The rest of the story: The Guardian.

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Business As Usual: Officials deny there's a link of gaining lobbyist access by giving to top lawmakers' cause (Sacramento Bee)

According to a report in the Sacramento Bee, health industry-related organizations have contributed at least a half a million dollars this year to a ballot initiative intended to ease term limits. It probably comes as no surprise to you that the beneficiaries of this largess are the very lawmakers in charge of the health care overhaul under consideration in the capitol.

Hospitals, drug companies, doctors, dentists and others with a stake in the health care debate, according to the Bee, have put up about a fifth of the roughly $2.6 million collected by those advocating a change in the 1990 term limits law. The measure, if passed by voters Feb. 5, would lower from 14 to 12 the total number of years a lawmaker could serve, but also would allow Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez and Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata to remain in their leadership posts for up to six and four years, respectively, beyond 2008.

Even though the don't officially support the measure, some donors from the health care industry are giving directly to the term limits committee, which is run by Núñez's top political adviser.

One donor admits his organization gave to guarantee access to the top players in health care reform. "The whole system of campaign fundraising is such that you have a (political action committee) because you want to get access to people," said Gary Robinson, the executive director of the Union of American Physicians and Dentists, which gave $5,000 to the term limits measure in late June. "I think everybody's contribution relates to the ability to go to the fundraisers and meet the staff and the members," Robinson said.

Team Núñez, on the other hand, doesn't see a problem.

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The War: W.Hollywood Council Unanimously Adopts Resolution in Support of the Impeachment of President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard Cheney

[While under normal circumstances I agree that the Santa Monica city council should stick to local issues and not spend its time on resolutions to save the redwoods or nuke the whales, these are not normal times. The very active local peace movement should follow up West Hollywood's action and get the Santa Monica council to go on record in support of the impeachment of Bush and Cheney for their various crimes, although the best reason to get rid of them is to prevent future debacles, like attacking Iran (according to press reports -- see, Cheney pushes Bush to act on Iraq -- the Vice has talked the Little President into war with Iran as soon as a pretext can be manufactured). - jg]

West Hollywood makes history in becoming the first city in Southern California to pass an impeachment resolution (press release)

"The City of West Hollywood was the first City to oppose the war in Iraq, as it was obvious that the United States was being dragged into a war under false pretenses," said West Hollywood Mayor John Duran. "Now the truth is out. Our President and Vice President misled the country and failed the American people, and for those reasons they should be impeached," he continued.

"The time has come to call for impeachment," said West Hollywood Councilmember Abbe Land. "Bush and Cheney lied to Congress and the American public on the justifications for the Iraq war, conducted illegal wiretaps of American citizens and violated the Geneva Convention by torturing prisoners of war. The U.S. Constitution provides a mechanism to hold them accountable. West Hollywood is proud to add its voice to the growing movement across the nation in calling for a full investigation to be undertaken by the U.S. Congress," she continued.

The proposed resolution states that President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard Cheney have repeatedly violated the U.S. Constitution and other laws of the United States. Other impeachable actions cited in the Impeachment Resolution include:
  • Stripping Americans of their constitutional rights;
  • Ordering and authorizing the U.S. Attorney General to override judicial order for the release of detainees;
  • Directing the National Security Agency to spy on Americans; and
  • Misguiding Congress and the country on false intelligence in order to lead the United States into war.
The West Hollywood City Council has consistently opposed the policies of the Bush/Cheney administration and in 2004 passed a resolution opposing military actions in Iraq, one of the first cities in the country to do so. A resolution was also passed condemning the USA PATRIOT Act, due to its infringement upon civil liberties. A resolution was also passed in support of California Senate Bill 924, a bill that would place an advisory measure on the February 5, 2008 presidential primary ballot calling for an immediate and orderly withdrawal of U.S. forces from the Iraq War.

For more information, please contact Hernan Molina, Deputy to West Hollywood Mayor John Duran or Lisa Belsanti, Deputy to West Hollywood Councilmember Abbe Land at 323-848-6460.

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Planning: Paris Aims to Cut Traffic With Bikes

In Santa Monica, we think it's a big deal to offer validated parking for bicycles.

Elsewhere in the country, in such places as Austin, Boulder, San Francisco, Madison, Minneapolis, Oakland, Boston, Seattle, Athens (Georgia) and Lawrence (Kansas), the city governments are devoted to expanding the use of bicycles to mitigate traffic and air pollution, providing hundreds of miles of bike trails and dedicated traffic lanes to thousands of communters.

But nowhere has an American city gone as far as Paris (France, not Texas) where, according to a story today in the New York Times, city hall launched a new municipal service that has placed 10,600 bikes at 750 stations all over town.

Any user can rent and return a bike from any station anywhere in the city. A yearlong pass for the service costs $39.50, a one-day pass goes for $1.36, and a seven-day ticket is $6.80. But the project is designed for short rides (the first half hour is free) and is priced on a sliding scale to keep the bikes in rotation.

The program, called Velib' from the words for bike (velo) and liberty (liberte), is being pushed by Socialist Mayor Bertrand Delanoe who, like his counterparts in London and New York, has made fighting traffic and pollution his No. 1 goal.

For Parisians, the bicycle service means another public transport option, in addition to the subway, buses and trams, Delanoe said.

"In the morning, you can go to work in the tram and come home by bike; it depends on the weather, it depends on your mood and on your friends," Delanoe said at the launch.

Business was brisk the first day, according to the Times. The service is accessible to tourists as well as residents; it's offered in eight languages, and its machines accept foreign credit cards.

Paris is following the example of other European cities with inexpensive bicycle services, including Stockholm, Vienna, Brussels, Barcelona and Copenhagen. The City of Light now has 230 miles of bike lanes.

Full disclosure: I suggested a similar idea for Santa Monica a couple of years ago. General hilarity ensued. He who laughs last, though. I'm just sayin'.

The rest of the story: The New York Times

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The Franchise: Questions persist about California vote system review

Missed deadlines, miscommunication mar evaluation

By Kat Zambon (electionline.org)

In a 2006 election debate between incumbent California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson (R), and state Sen. Debra Bowen, D-Marina del Rey, the challenger said if elected she would “revisit systems that have been approved by the state and create stricter monitoring requirements.”

Now, six months into her term as secretary of state, Bowen is following through on her campaign promise with a top-to-bottom review of the state’s voting systems.

"The stakes are too high," Bowen said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. "The voters need to feel confident that their votes are being counted."

However, questions remain about the implications of the results of those tests, which started in late May and are scheduled to end in late July. And since a recent move pushed the California state primary to the beginning of February, there is little time for error.

The rest of the story: Election Line Weekly (2007-07-12)

More on voting in California: Absentee voting, Voting system review, Voting changes , Right to vote

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