Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Okay -- I voted. It wasn't fun. But I figured out what I thought of the state propositions, all NINE of them. This isn't any way to run a government ... But here goes, if anyone is interested.
Prop. 19: legalize and tax personal use of marijuana for persons over 21. YEAH, sure. I voted for it. This isn't my issue; I stopped smoking the stuff years ago out of disinterest. But nobody should go to jail for wanting to get buzzed if they don't drive while intoxicated or otherwise endanger others ...
Prop. 20: transfer power to draw Congressional districts to a "non-partisan" citizen redistricting commission we created by a 2008 initiative. NO. This is a phony "good government" gimmick that sounds democratic (small "d") but actually makes an ugly reality worse. Redistricting is the unsavory process by which electoral districts are redrawn every 10 years to ensure rough numerical equality. It is also how, instead of voters choosing their politicians, politicians choose their voters. Incumbents can protect themselves from challenge by getting lots of sympathetic voters within the boundaries of their district. (This is called gerrymandering after a Boston politician named Elbridge Gerry who excelled at the practice in the early 1800s. I think he was a distant relative.) The commission would just insulate the politicians by hiding the gerrymandering away amid phony "non-partisan" trappings. Let's keep the redistricting process as honest as we can by keeping it in the light of day where at least we can see which pols did what!
Prop. 21: create a stable revenue stream to fund state parks by adding $18 to the vehicle license fee. YES, INDEED! I hate this kind of proposition. The legislature should be able to handle this kind of thing. The whole body of state voters should not be creating separate revenue streams for our pet projects. But we've broken the ability of the state to tax, so we are stuck with these measures. This one would keep noxious Governors (yes - you Arnold) from snatching park funding when the coffers were low elsewhere and preserve our collective property in beautiful places. Plus drivers with California license plates would get into parks free because they'd already paid as part of the vehicle license fee. Taxes are the price we pay for civilization and this is a worthwhile price. Yes.
Prop. 22: prevent the state from diverting local redevelopment funds. NO. Sounds okay, but this is just exactly the sort of thing that makes the legislature unable to do its job. We can't hold them accountable if we hamstring them. Plus technical measures like this are prone to setting off cascades of unexpected consequences -- we have enough of those in our dysfunctional state government already.
Prop. 23: oil companies want to overturn California's greenhouse gas emissions controls. NO. This one is a total shuck. It would prevent the government from trying to avert climate change until unemployment reached 5 percent -- otherwise known as probably "never." Proponents are Texas oil barons who couldn't win in Sacramento, so they are trying to con the voters with an initiative.
Prop. 24: repeals some business tax loopholes. YES. See Prop. 25 for why we have to vote on this. These giveaways to businesses were the price Republicans made the Democratic legislative majority pay in order to give enough votes to get a budget over the two-thirds requirement. This is blackmail and we can reverse it.
Prop. 25: allows the legislature to pass a budget with a simple majority vote. YES! We'd have a lot less BS on these ballots if we didn't have this crazy system in which majorities cannot do their job because passing a state budget requires a supermajority. Let's let our representatives do their work!
Prop. 26: requires a two-thirds vote to raise various state and local user fees. NO! This is the sort of crap that has given California a dysfunctional state government. We have to pay for the infrastructure and services that make the state work (insofar as it does.) But when we start demanding that two-thirds of us agree to get anything done, we are giving a smallish minority the right to veto all of government and impose the lousy quality of life they prefer on the rest of us. Fifty percent plus one is plenty to ask in any election -- and minor fees should not be something that people have to vote on every time they turn around. Adding all this clutter makes a mockery of democracy.
Prop. 27: eliminate the redistricting commission created by initiative in 2008; throw redistricting back to the legislature. YES. As I said in reference to Prop. 20, you are never going to make this inherently political process into something apolitical or non-partisan. The best you can do it push it out into the open and make sure you know who is doing it. The Legislature already exists to be that body. They should do their job -- no gimmicks!