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Glazer Victory Proves Government Union Reform Is Bipartisan

Steve Glazer is a symbol of change.

The Democrat mayor of Orinda, Glazer, won a decisive victory over Concord Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla in last week’s special election for the vacant 7th District State Senate seat. Given California’s open primary system, it was a Democrat vs. Democrat runoff in which Glazer’s foes resorted to attacking him as being a DINO – Democrat in Name Only.

Glazer identifies as a progressive Democrat and is a former political consultant to Governor Brown. While his election will not reverse the Democrats’ stronghold on the Senate, his rejection of blind party loyalty beholden to powerful special interests – led by public sector unions – marked him a target to defeat by these unions and Democratic Party bosses dependent on them.

Glazer’s victory wasn’t cheap. In fact, much of both Bonilla’s and Glazer’s electioneering was paid for by special interests, which spent more than $7 million in the runoff to support their candidate – more than three times what the candidates raised.

Labor unions and the California Democratic Party backed Bonilla – defining her as the “true” Democrat. Outside interests, like charter schools and the business community (including one wealthy businessman) matched their spending prowess, funding Glazer’s campaign.

Political reformers are hopeful that Glazer’s election could become the poster child for a more independent Democrat in California – one who remains loyal to the party on most social issues, including support for fighting climate change, reproductive rights, higher education expansion and accessibility, but more restrained on fiscal issues, including taxation, pensions and the rights of public sector unions to strike.

Privately, many Democratic officials resent the seemingly unabated power commanding policy and electoral outcomes in Sacramento, but fear confrontation with the hand that feeds them. There is a thin blue line in the political world for Democrats, many choosing to “go along to get along” to lengthen their political careers – but, in the process of doing so, they perpetuate California’s fiscal dysfunction and block reforms, particularly in education and pension systems.

Glazer had conviction and courage. This week he was sworn in having looked the most powerful special interests in the eye and taken them on by any means necessary, including targeting his message to a more independent voter likely to vote in a special election, while his opponent’s supporters tried to paint him as a new type of political devil trying to falsely gain entrance into the Democratic Party. Steve Maviglio, a Democratic political consultant, railed that Glazer was “an opportunist” who would become “an island in the State Senate since neither D’s or R’s will trust him.”

On election night, Shawnda Westly, executive director of the California Democratic Party, rather than congratulating him, seemed to embarrassingly be in denial that a Democrat didn’t have to follow her dictate and could actually be independent and win. She publicly lashed out at Glazer, releasing a scathing “official” statement from the party saying that “[Glazer] claimed to be Democrat but ran a cynical campaign to appeal to Republican voters in a low-turnout election” and, essentially, warning that future candidates shouldn’t think about doing what he did.

Boo hoo for party bosses.

Bravo for independent candidates of all stripes – those bold enough to not drink the Kool-Aid of power as dictated to them by others; bold enough to actually have a spine.

About the Author: Gloria Romero, a Los Angeles resident, served in the California Legislature from 1998 to 2008, the last seven years as Senate majority leader. Romero is the director of education reform for the California Policy Center. This article originally appeared in the Orange County Register and is republished here with permission from the author.

Conservatives, Police Unions, and the Future of Law Enforcement

Conservatives in America are at a crossroads. They face a choice between greater freedom or greater security. While striking this delicate balance has required ongoing policy choices throughout history, recent events involving law enforcement have brought these choices into sharp focus. Here’s how Patrik Johnson, writing last month in the Christian Science Monitor, described the choice:

“Police forces nationwide are being pulled between two opposite trends: more empathetic, community policing and an increasingly militarized response to crises.”

How conservatives, on balance, weigh in on this choice has far reaching consequences. On one hand, conservatives can support suggested reforms that embrace the value of empathy, minimize violence, alleviate tensions, and pave the way for 21st century policing appropriate to a free republic. Here is a key reform advocated by the protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, in reaction to the tensions in that city following a police shooting:

“A comprehensive review by the Department of Justice into systematic abuses by police departments and the development of specific use of force standards and accompanying recommendations for police training, community involvement and oversight strategies and standards for independent investigatory/disciplinary mechanisms when excessive force is used.”

Conservatives may scoff at some of the other demands – such as guaranteed “full employment for our people,” which, for starters, goes well beyond police reform. But conservatives better think twice before deciding there is no merit to any of the concerns of activist groups who have been animated, across the nation, by alleged excessive use of force by police.

Because there is a dark, shamefully pragmatic alternative course for conservatives. They can choose to fan the flames of racial animosity and fear, secure in believing that excessive force may never touch their communities. But excessive use of force by police is not primarily a racial issue. Ask the families of Kelly Thomas, or David Silva, or Kevin Hughey, or hundreds of others.

The issue, bigger than race, is this: Are we going to evolve into a nation where police are trained to use nonlethal force, trained to practice “empathic, community policing,” or not? And are we going to be a nation where police are held accountable if they cross the line, or not?

Which brings us to the fact that most law enforcement agencies in the United States today are unionized. These unions are politically active, and they tend to lean conservative in their political contributions. The practical choice conservatives face is stark: Do they want to take money from police unions not just in exchange for ignoring the serious financial challenges caused by their excessive pension benefits, but also in exchange for ignoring calls to better regulate use of excessive force?

Challenging the agenda of police unions will not only cost politicians their financial support. In some cases it can even earn their active retaliation. A troubling article by Lucy Caldwell, in a National Review article entitled “Police Unions Behaving Badly,” documents how a local politician in California was harassed after standing up to them in contract negotiations. And as Caldwell notes, “police unions are able to operate with absolutely no transparency because they are classified as private entities not subject to public-records laws.”

There are many reasons government unions, especially law enforcement unions, are problematic in a democracy. But when the teachers union in California went on record deploring the education reforms upheld in the Vergara decision – everyone, liberals and conservatives alike, saw them for who they are – a lobbying group that is more concerned about protecting bad teachers than they are about educating children.

Members of law enforcement themselves, perhaps even more than teachers, ought to be, and usually are, highly motivated to make a contribution to society. They have a strong sense of right and wrong, and justifiably feel there is a moral worth to the jobs they do and the profession they’ve chosen. So why are they letting their unions fight reforms that will weed out bad cops, and implement training and oversight programs that will result in fewer lives lost and lowered tensions in the communities they serve?

Conservatives can seize this opportunity to find the strength of their most enlightened convictions. They can join with liberals to reform and evolve law enforcement in the U.S. And in so doing they can help liberals to see how the agenda of government unions is in inherent conflict with the public interest – in law enforcement as well as in education. And they can start to work towards broader reforms as part of a powerful new coalition.

Alternatively, conservatives can revert to an ugly, divisive, racially tinged, belligerent message, endorsing security at any cost. They may reap short term political and financial gains from such a strategy. But they will further divide this nation, and in the long run, discredit themselves irrevocably.

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Ed Ring is the executive director of the California Policy Center.

RELATED POSTS

Police Unions in America, December 9, 2014

How Police Unions and Arbitrators Keep Abusive Cops on the StreetAtlantic Monthly, December 2014

Government Employee Unions – The Root Cause of California’s Challenges, June 3, 2014

Conservative Politicians and Public Safety Unions, May 13, 2014

How Much Does Professionalism Cost?, March 11, 2014  (The Kelly Thomas Story)

How Public Sector Unions Skew America’s Public Safety and National Security Agenda, June 18, 2013