Former Calif. Gov. Gray Davis visited UCLA on Thursday to speak about propositions on the California ballot and their effect on students as part of an informational forum hosted by the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.
The event, called “Death and Taxes,” was mainly intended for students at the school to gain a deeper perspective on issues affecting them, said VC Powe, executive director of external programs at the Luskin School. It also featured Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, who represents the 38th Assembly District, which includes most of Santa Clarita and portions of Los Angeles, Simi Valley, Glendale and San Fernando Valley. Both Davis and Smyth are fellows at the Luskin school.
The 2012 Calif. ballot includes 11 propositions, which range from the repeal of the death penalty to labeling genetically modified foods.
Kelly Rytel, a graduate student of urban planning at the Luskin school, said she came because she did not know much about the propositions beforehand.
“I am hoping to just get some information about the ballot initiatives as part of my research about the election,” Rytel said.
The forum started with an introduction of political ads showing the pros and cons advertised about each side of the propositions. Both Davis and Smyth provided their views on the ballot measures, with real-life examples of their experiences with the issues during their terms in office.
Davis spoke about being on Gov. Jerry Brown’s staff his last time in office while discussing Proposition 30, Brown’s proposed tax measure.
Smyth, on the other hand, talked about his efforts to author legislation similar to Proposition 39, which closes a tax loophole for multistate businesses.
Though they came from different sides of the political aisle ““ Davis, a Democrat, and Smyth, a Republican ““ both fellows agreed on a number of issues.
For example, both Davis and Smyth advocated against Proposition 34, which would repeal the death penalty ““ but for different reasons. Smyth affirmed his belief in the death penalty, while Davis said he disagreed with the proposition going back and overturning old cases.
Though Calif. ballot initiatives can be confusing and complicated, Davis said he has always supported the initiatives process because it involves voters becoming educated and empowered.
Thursday’s forum was similar to an event held four years ago ““ which also featured Davis ““ to inform voters about initiatives on the 2008 ballot, Powe said.
I’ve always been a big proponent of citizen democracy,” Davis said. “(The voter) has an opportunity to directly pass legislation through ballot initiatives.”
Some students in attendance appreciated the two perspectives on the propositions that were represented at the forum.
“When I was researching the initiatives it was really unfortunate that (quality) information is not accessible since it’s something that voters have a lot of power over,” said Jennifer Zelaya, a graduate student in social welfare at the Luskin School.
Zelaya said she thought the event gave a balanced look at the issues and how they directly affect voters.
“I think the speakers brought their experience in government to inform voters (well),” she added.
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