Barry’s ballot guide
Fall 2018

As usual, there is some good stuff and some trash. Remember that none of them will determine the time of the second coming, so let's not get too excited. There are now many helpful websites (not partisan) for your reading pleasure, including one that converts each proposition to a haiku! I also look at who is paying for them and who is endorsing them in making my recommendations. The titles are the official ones from the voter information guide. Don't forget to vote on the judges, or you'll end up with some crackpo. The Bar Associations rates them as qualified or otherwise. Check your local paper unless it is as useless as mine (the Daily Breeze), which has apparently outsourced its decision making to some destitute part of the world.

A great resource is votersedge.org. Check it out. As always, I welcome your input. I reserve the right to be entirely wrong as well. Please let me know if you spot any typos. Without further delay, here we go.

Proposition 1 — Affordable Housing Bonds 

Should the state sell $4 billion in bonds to pay for affordable housing programs? Bonds are not appropriate for many things, but housing is certainly one. It's a long-term investment for a long-term asset. We wouldn't need to spend this money if the governor hadn't foolishly killed off redevelopment agencies, which were huge producers of affordable housing. That is history though, so we need to start investing again. Don't expect quick results, but it's better to start today than wait even longer.

Recommendation – YES

Proposition 2 — Mental Health Housing Program 

Prop 2 would allow existing mental health revenues to be used for housing for people with mental illnesses. A few years ago, I did some work with a United Way program called "Home for Good." They found that housing people was a necessary first step in treating them. How can you be mentally stable without stable housing? This was supposed to be in the original voter-approved measure, but they got the language wrong. Take two!I see no reasonable arguments against this one.

Recommendation – YES

Proposition 3 — Water Bonds 

Who doesn't like water? Okay, other than witches. Maybe I'm a witch then, because I don't care for this measure.  It's a grab bag of projects with no coherent plan. If you wanted your project included, you paid to pushing the initiative. That's a terrible way to operate. This is more like a gift of public funds.

Recommendation – NO

Proposition 4 — Children's Hospital Bonds 

This one would authorize $1.5 billion for the 13 children's hospitals in the state. Yes, it would be nice if the money came from somewhere else, but we're not talking about holding a bake sale. Hospital construction is expensive, and the need is great. I think we should go for this one.

Recommendation – YES

Proposition 5 — Property Tax Rules 

Under Prop 13, property taxes rise very slowly even if your property value skyrockets. Proposition 5 would extend that protection for homeowners over 55 when they move. That's nuts. If you can afford to buy a more expensive house, you can afford to pay the property taxes on it just like a younger buyer. Just say no.

Recommendation – No

Proposition 6 — Transportation Taxes and Fees 

Proposition 6 has nothing to do with taxes and everything to do with the Republican Party trying to get more voters out for their side. I don't blame them for that at all, but the malarkey (garbage, lies, whatever) they are spreading are ridiculous at best. The funding comes almost entirely from the Republican Party and individual Republican candidates. The legislature passed a 12 cent a gallon gas tax increase in 2017.  Earlier this year, we voters approved limits on how that money can be spent. It's primarily road repair but also related transit and transportation programs.

The backers of Prop 6 say it is costing typical families $779 a year. That would be over 6,000 of gas a year. Even at a crummy 20 miles per gallon, that's 120,000 miles a year. Even if all four are drivers, each would have to be driving 30,000 miles a year. Not only is that not typical, it's extraordinary. They offer no explanation for their outlandish claims but suggest we could pay for road maintenance through some magical efficiency effort. No, I don't like to pay 12 cents a gallon more. But yes, I like my roads to be intact and safe. Vote no on this political ploy.

Recommendation – NO

Proposition 7 — Daylight Saving Time 

Should we stick to daylight saving time all year? It would be nice in the evening, but it will sure be rotten going to school or work in the dark. Voting yes would just be part of a lengthy process, and the proposition is only advisory. Personally, I don't think the light in the evening in January makes up for it being dark at 8 am. Vote as you feel moved or just ignore it.

Recommendation – Doesn't matter

Proposition 8 — Kidney Dialysis Clinics 

This has been the toughest one on the ballot for me. Prop 8 puts a cap on how much kidney dialysis clinics can charge patients or insurers. A few companies own the vast majority of clinics in the state, and they have learned how to game the insurance system quite well. We are all paying for this mess in higher insurance rates. In general, the initiative process is a lousy way to handle something like this. On the other hand, the dialysis companies have so much money you can bet the legislature won't do anything, so perhaps an initiative is what it takes.

The top three companies contributed over $100 million to oppose this measure. Their commercials talk about community clinics being forced to close, as if those clinics are small businesses that operate on a shoestring. In reality, they OWN those clinics, which are operating at an amazing profit margin.

Recommendation – YES

Prop. 9 - there is no Prop 9. Move along to #10.

Proposition 10 — Local Governments and Rent 

Prop 10 would allow cities and counties to enact rent control ordinances. We all know rents have shot up the few years, which is a major cause of homelessness (one of my students did a great analysis that convinced me on that point). With the Great Recession along with the end of redevelopment agencies, the amount of housing dropped off the charts, particularly affordable units. The result is a supply and demand crisis leading to our current tight housing market. Higher-end unit production has picked up quite a bit, but we need many more affordable units.

While I sympathize with those struggling with high rents, adding rent control won't help in the long run. Rents have stabilized in the last few months. As production continues, increases should stay more reasonable but still not great. We need to focus on funding more affordable housing, more reasonable zoning, and cut down the power of the small but vocal NIMBY folks for oppose pretty much everything.

Recommendation – NO

Proposition 11 — Ambulance Employee Breaks 

Why are we voting on whether or not ambulance employees should be on call during their breaks? Is this some sort of crisis? A big ambulance company has put almost $26 million into this race. It is interesting to note that the passage of Prop 11 would let them off the hook for existing violations of break requirements. If it needs to be fixed, let the legislature handle it.

Recommendation – NO

Proposition 12 — Farm Animal Cages 

In 2008, we passed new requirements for cages and enclosures for certain livestock, particularly egg-laying hens. Questions have arisen on some of those requirements, and Prop 12 is a response to those questions. Opponents say the requirements don't go far enough. The Humane Society and the ASPCA are among the supporters, while the list of groups opposing is quite small. The added requirements will drive up costs, though it is not projected to be significant. By 2022, egg-laying hens would have to be cage free. Egg-laying roosters on the other hand get to be in the circus, but that is another matter.

While I am an omnivore, I certainly think we should treat the animals we eat humanely.

Recommendation – YES

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Last modified: 12/28/2017