Barryís Guide to the Fall 2008 Ballot
Iím sure youíve all read through the official voter information guide by now, right? Itís such a page turner that I could barely set it down. Okay, that may be an exaggeration, but I have now gone through it and formed my opinions on the various measures. This is a long ballot with a number of important issues. There are also some real oddball measures. I shall attempt to run through them here.
The economy is the elephant in the room in this election. With that in mind, I am opposing most of the measures that require expenditures out of current revenues. Governments simply do not have the extra cash. At the same time, I am backing some of the bond measures because they will create jobs in some of the hardest hit sectors of the economy, like construction, and be paid off over time. That can be a good investment.
The ballot arguments contain the usual doses of fear, uncertainty and doubt. My favorites are the ones written all in capital letters. It must be true if the letters are big, right? Here are some general guidelines for my review:
With that, here we go!
Proposition 1A Ė High Speed Rail Bond
This is a bond measure of almost $10 billion to construct a high-speed rail system connecting the San Francisco Bay area, the San Joaquin Valley, and Southern California. I have very mixed feelings on this one. A good rail link would definitely be good for the state in the long run. Air travel between parts of the state is very inefficient, time consuming and polluting. Rail would be much better. Having said that, I am not convinced the proposed system is a good one. There are too many stops on the route. This was done to placate various communities and does not make for a good system. Plus, it sounds like yesterdayís technology and should instead be something much more forward-looking. I would like to see much more spent on short haul rail like expanded LA to San Diego service and for commuter rail and then have a long haul system to connect it like in Europe. Iíve used that system, and itís great. Oh yeah, and the bullet train to Las Vegas? No way. In summary, I like this measure philosophically but not in the details.
Recommendation: Not this time. Letís keep working on this one for next time.
Proposition 2 Ė Standards for Confining Farm Animals
I have gotten more email on this measure than on all the others combined! All of it has been in opposition to it. I though they had a good point. At least, thatís what I thought until I actually read it. It requires that most farm animals be caged in such a way that they can turn around freely, lie down, stand up and fully extend their limbs. What a concept. Among other things, opponents claim this will lead to an outbreak of bird flu. Huh? I have also learned that Europe has had such standards in place for several years, and that has not led to any of the dire consequences the opponents predict. Thatís the last Europe example for this list. I promise.
Proposition 3 Ė Childrenís Hospital Bond Act
This measure is a bond of nearly $1 billion for construction projects at 13 hospitals throughout the state. Proposition 3 gets my support as a good economic stimulus measure that will provided much needed space in very important institutions. Many of them are part of the University of California system. The opponents refer to that as the ďwell-funded University of California system.Ē Since when has UC been well funded? Give me a break, guys.
Proposition 4 Ė Abortion Restrictions for Minors
Didnít we have a similar initiative on the ballot recently? Yes, this is another shot at getting voter approval to require parental notification before a minor has an abortion and require a 48 hour waiting period. While we would all like to see parents involved in such an important matter, it wonít always happen that way. As a parent of two teenage boys, I know how hard it is to talk about things you need to discuss. Last night, we had dinner with a group that included a labor and delivery nurse. She talked about the number of teens she deals with who are pregnant from incest or even in some cases didnít know how they got pregnant. These girls are not likely to discuss their situation with their parents or seek a court waiver. How would they even know to do so? I fear girls in this situation would either seek illegal abortions or have children they are not equipped to raise. I know many people will disagree with me on this issue. If we had better sex education in at home and in schools, teen pregnancy would be much less common. Letís work on that.
Proposition 5 Ė Nonviolent Drug Offenses
Here is a good example of why initiatives are a poor way of working out issues. Proposition 5 aims to deal with drug related crimes differently and seek treatment for these people. Good idea. Unfortunately, it looks to have some errors and oddities that would allow someone who committed a crime to get off easier because of their drug problem. Oops. We have too many people in prison in California, and too many are there for drug offenses. We need far more resources spent on treatment and keeping people away from drugs in the first place. This initiative gets part of that right. I hope the authors will work with the legislature to come up with a better plan, and I hope the legislators can stop being tough on crime long enough to look at reducing crime instead. Hey, I can dream, canít I? This measure takes a four-fifths majority of the legislature to amend. Thatís a bad idea.
Proposition 6 Ė Police and Law Enforcement Funding
Letís see, we voters have already set aside money from the state budget for education and highways by previous initiatives. This measure looks to do the same for law enforcement, which is already the biggest expense for most cities. Proposition 6 would add about $500 million a year to law enforcement expenditures from the stateís coffers. While I certainly wouldnít mind being able to put more police out working the streets, the stateís coffers are empty. This measure also increases penalties for certain crimes. The prisons are already full. This measure takes a three-fourths vote of the legislature to make changes. Like Proposition 6, thatís a bad idea.
Proposition 7 Ė Renewable Energy Generation
We would all like to see our electricity come from non-polluting and domestic sources. This measure sets a standard of 50 percent by 2025. Sadly, it looks like another oops initiative that would have been better if it had gone through lots of review, dull public hearings and all those things that in the end generally keep errors from creeping into laws. It appears this measure would harm existing small producers of renewable energy. Thatís bad. On the other hand, the loudest screams are coming from the utilities like Edison, and me thinks they doth protest too much. Yes, I know thatís not a proper quotation. One thing I donít like in this measure is all the hard and fast rules, including applying the same standards to small public utilities who may simply not be able to comply. Beware of unintended consequences.
Proposition 8 Ė Elimination of Right of Same Sex Couples to Marry
Personally, I think there should be much more gaiety in marriages in general. Gay marriage has been legal in California for several months now, and it has had absolutely no impact on anyone elseís marriage. I have gay and lesbian friends who may or may not wish to get married. I have heterosexual friends who also may or may not wish to marry. That decision is no business of mine or the state.
Proposition 9 Ė Victimsí Rights
Here is yet another example of bad law by initiative. In addition to adding a few new rights for the victims of crimes, it reduces the stateís ability to release inmates to reduce overcrowding. Thatís a deal-breaker for me right there. Overcrowded facilities are dangerous and ineffective at keeping inmates from coming right back into the system. We passed a victimís bill of rights years ago, and it is working fine. Much of this measure is just a restatement of those rights. This measure is expensive. It requires a three-fourths vote of the legislature to amend. As with two measures above, thatís a bad idea.
Proposition 10 Ė Alternative Fuel Vehicle and Renewable Energy Bond
Hereís a disclaimer: I want to buy an alternative fuel vehicle. This measure would help me do it. I want to buy such a vehicle to cut my impact on the environment and be a good resident of this planet. More than that, I want everyone else to have the same opportunity. We have had electric and natural gas powered vehicles at work for years. This measure would make it easier for consumers, government and businesses to buy these cars and have fueling facilities for them. It would also invest in research. Given the economy and our air quality, thatís a very good thing. Yes, I know some companies would benefit from Prop 10, but if society benefits overall and us as consumers too, so what?
Proposition 11 Ė Legislative Redistricting
If you could see the shape of our current state legislative districts on a map, youíd see why I favor this measure. If I get a chance, Iíll post the map on my web site (www.barrywaite.org). Districts are created to make as many districts safe for one party or the other as possible. We end up with the most extreme legislators from both parties in many areas, and they have done a terrible job because of it (and the two-thirds budget vote requirement, but thatís not on the ballot). This measure would take redistricting out of the hands of legislators and put it in the hands of a 14 member commission. While thatís not perfect, having a group of chimps would be better than the current system. If you donít agree with me on this one, you are just plain wrong, and you should start taking vitamins or something to make your brain work right. Okay, I take that back, but I think this is the most important measure on the ballot by far for the long term interests of this state.
Recommendation: Absolutely YES.
Proposition 12 Ė Veteransí Home and Farm Bond Act
While I think we need a bond to provide education for veterans even more, providing help in buying a house is good too. This measure is a continuation of a program thatís been going on for years and is generally self-supporting.
Los Angeles County Measures
Measure R Ė Ĺ Cent Sales Tax for Transportation
This measure funds a great variety of projects great and small. I have attended meetings on this subject between elected officials of the region, and it has been a heated discussion. Opponents have two main arguments. First, they oppose a tax in and of itself. I share that concern. Second, they want to see the money directed back to the area where it is generated. I disagree with that idea because it would ignore the big projects that will have a major impact. If a major system is built on the west side of LA, it does nothing to help me directly, but it reduces pollution and helps the regional economy. Thatís good for us all. Iím still not sure this measure is right, but Iím willing to give it a try.
Recommendation: Yes (but with hesitation).
Various and sundry school bonds
You probably have a school bond on the ballot wherever you are. Letís face it; schools have been underfunded for years. We went decades here in Los Angeles without building a single high school. Many communities did the same thing. Itís going to take years of investment with YOUR taxes to bring things up to a reasonable level. I do not support a blank check. Look at your local measure carefully. Make sure they are doing the projects that need doing. Community colleges really need your support too. In my job, I have really been impressed with the work they are doing for job training especially. They are a key part of our economic vitality. If you need a more selfish reason than supporting the kids, know that good schools are great for property values.
Recommendation: Probably yes, but youíll have to do a little research on your own school bond measure yourself.