Monday, November 03, 2008

Election Recommendations

Hello friends,

Well, once again I've slipped into the bad habit of not posting on a regular basis. For that, I apologize. Nevertheless, I'm back and hopefully this post will at least spark some thinking, if not dialogue!

I've been asked by several friends and family members for my recommendations during this year's election cycle. I have become increasingly reluctant to offer my recommendations because each person's vote is sacred and something they should exercise with the utmost of care. However, I also recognize that my interest in politics causes me to take more of an interest and perhaps be somewhat more informed on some issues. I definitely don't claim to be an expert, but with the greatest of humility I offer my recommendations on some of the upcoming choices you'll face in the voting booth tomorrow.

Before I do so, let me recommend that you go to the following website - http://www400.sos.louisiana.gov/cgibin/?rqstyp=BLTINQ&rqsdta=start - select your parish and voting precinct, and you will be presented with a sample ballot that you will vote on when you go vote. If you don't know your precinct number, there is a link to another site that will tell you your voting precinct after you input your address - https://pollinglocator.sos.louisiana.gov/ - that's a helpful tool. OK, without further ado, here goes:

President: John McCain/Sarah Palin
While Barack Obama is an attractive candidate in many respects, his positions on abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, human cloning and other moral issues, such as same-sex marriage, are simply incompatible with my core, basic beliefs.

U.S. Senator: John Kennedy
For the same reasons as above. Mary Landrieu has been an effective Senator. But her opposition to my core beliefs keep me from supporting her.

Judge, Court of Appeal: Triston Knoll
I supported Loren Lampert in the primary because I know him to be a man of integrity and values. I don't personally know either of the other two candidates, but people I respect who do strongly support Knoll. From what I've read of their backgrounds, I believe he is the better choice.

District Judge: Rocky Willson
Again I find myself in the position of having voted for another candidate in the primary, Greg Beard. I have met both of the remaining candidates in the runoff and they are both fine people. However, I have more personal experience with Rocky and know him to be genuine. His experience in many areas of the law will serve us all well.

And now for the seven constitutional amendments. Let me preface my recommendations by commenting that our constitution is the most amended of all the states. We seem to have to keep "fixing" it. We are continually providing additional amendments to protect things from political shenanigans, which is less than laudable. However, my complaining about it won't change anything, so here go my recommendations, with a brief explanation:

Amendment No. 1 - FOR
Establishes term limits for members of certain state boards and commissions. The fresh intake of ideas is often healthy. The downside is that term-limited boards often become "staff driven" because it always takes awhile for new members to "learn the ropes." However, I feel fresh ideas are always needed, so I support this amendment.

Amendment No. 2 - FOR
Requires two additional days of notice (7 instead of 5) before calling a special legislative session. In addition this actually defines the word "day" for those legislators who aren't sure what the word means. We shouldn't need this amendment - but there are LOTS of laws we shouldn't need, so maybe this one will help.

Amendment No. 3 - AGAINST
Allow a temporary successor to be appointed for legislators called to active military duty. This only affects one current legislator - not sure why we need to amend our constitution for one person. This also raises the question of accountability - basically a person not elected would be making laws, but would not be held accountable during reelection. Bad idea, in my opinion.

Amendment No. 4 - FOR
Redistributes state severance tax revenue, giving more to the parishes. I'm all for more local control of spending. Too often "unfunded mandates" get sent down where the local governments have to enforce laws, but aren't given the resources to do so. This would put a few more resources in the hands of the local governments, which hopefully will know better how to use them than someone sitting in an office in Baton Rouge.

Amendment No. 5 - FOR
Allow the transfer of the special property tax assessment level for homeowners over 65 if their property is expropriated. Senior citizens have the option of "freezing" their property tax assessments because of their typically fixed incomes. If the government expropriates their property for public use and they have to move, this would allow them to keep their frozen tax assessment on their new dwelling. Sounds fair enough.

Amendment No. 6 - AGAINST
Changes the requirements for public bodies to re-sell expropriated property. We have a big problem with abandoned properties ending up with tax liens on them higher than the value of the property. This allows a local government to sieze "blighted" properties that are a threat to public health and safety and place them back into use by selling it through a public bid process. This is especially helpful for communities devestated by hurricanes and many of the properties have simply been abandoned. However, this also diminishes the rights of property owners and could be abused. Even though I am a city councilman and understand the need of municipalities to have a way to put adjudicated properties back into use, I recommend voting against this amendment simply on the basis of protecting the rights of property owners.

Amendment No. 7 - FOR
Authorize certain post-retirement benefit funds to be invested in stocks. This is a pretty technical amendment because it deals mainly with accounting standards and their impact on pension funds. The new accounting standards (known as GASB-45) create enormous burdens on governments to comply without claiming huge unfunded liabilities on their balance sheets. This amendment would allow the creation of trusts that can grow at a fast pace on the stock market, to keep up with the pension funds obligations. Otherwise many local governments may choose to discontinue benefits altogether rather than violate obscure accounting standards. It's more complicated than that, but since most IRAs, 401ks, etc are vested in the stock market, this would make public pensions more competitive and would comply with the law.

If you're interested in a more in-depth explanation of each of the amendments, check out the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana's online guide at: http://www.la-par.org/Publications/PDF/ConstAmends2008.pdf - it's very comprehensive and presents the information in a non-partisan way.

I hope this information is helpful. I'm certainly not the expert on any of this. I encourage you to do your own research and come to your own conclusions. We can even disagree agreeably! Just don't forget to excersize your sacred right (and duty) to vote! Too many have shed blood to give us this right and too many other countries envy us this right for us to take it for granted. See you on the other side!

Blessings,
Nathan
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