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Saturday, October 28, 2006

All politics is local, sure, but in California we have to deal with a multitude of statewide issues every time thereís an election. Thatís because itís ridiculously easy to get a measure on the state ballot. Still, itís grassroots democracy to the nth degree, and weíre lucky to have it, even if it does mean wading through obscure arguments about oddly-written proposals every four years.

But letís see if we can get through the rest of the state propositions on the upcoming November ballot, shall we? Because Iíll be ever so happy to send mine in and be done with it until, oh, March, or June, or whenever the next election pops up.

As a lifelong victim of secondhand smoke, Iím voting yes on Californiaís Proposition 86. It would impose an additional tax on cigarettes and use the money to treat tobacco-related disease, help smokers quit, and provide other health services, such as nursing programs and child health insurance. I see no downside to this measure, and the less smoke I have to breathe in public, the better. The opponents, led by the big tobacco companies, claim that passage would be a windfall for hospitals and HMOs, but there are provisions in the measure that would ensure funds are spent as the voters intend.

The controversial tax on oil producers that is on the ballot as Proposition 87 has been promoted in television ads by Al Gore and Bill Clinton, which is almost enough for me. Most of the opposition money comes from the oil companies, which is (a) understandable, and (2) again, almost enough for me. The oil companies control the energy market, and this measure would use some of their excess profits to develop alternative sources, such as wind and solar. Some of the revenue would be used to help schools and cities buy cheaper running buses and other vehicles. The tax canít be passed on to consumers, and the measure contains built-in accountability and non-partisan oversight. Obviously, thatís enough for me, and Iím voting yes.

Weíve already had one education funding proposition on this ballot, Proposition 1D, which I support. And now we have Proposition 88, a parcel tax that would purportedly raise more revenue to reduce class sizes and help pay for textbooks. So why are so many teacherís groups opposing it? Well, first of all, it puts the state legislature in charge of how money is spent by local school districts. It also earmarks most of the money for very few schools, and it imposes on teachers a cobweb of paperwork that they would have to submit. This is one of those measures that is so badly written that it shouldnít even be on the ballot, and Iím voting no.

I always check the $3 campaign contribution box on my federal tax return, because I believe in public financing of elections, for the simple reason that it allows anyone, not just rich folk who are in bed with power hungry special interests, to run for office. So Iím inclined to vote yes on Proposition 89, the Clean Money and Fair Elections Act. It would help fund independent candidates, while at the same time ensuring that anyone receiving public funds has a broad base of support. I can almost imagine the kind of public officials we would have in California if the power of the energy companies, drug companies and other vested interests were overwhelmed by the power of the people. It has worked in other states, and itís essential in California.




28 October 2006

Sunset beyond the oak.



Finally (and at last!), we come to Proposition 90, which supposedly is about eminent domain reform. Even though eminent domain needs reforming, this measure goes way beyond whatís necessary. Itís unfair to taxpayers while overcompensating the large corporate landowners who put it on the ballot. It has many contradictory provisions, but the worst is that it would require government (that is, you and me) to pay these corporations not the value of their land, but the value of the proposed use of their land. This is an obscenity that has been opposed by both business and environmental groups, because the only people it would benefit are a few rich folks. We donít like this kind of deception in California, and Iím joining this broad coalition in voting no.




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Stuff

The Giants have named Bruce Bochy as their new manager, and I think itís a stroke of luck that (a) he was available, and (2) they found a way to convince him to join their traveling circus at this point in their history. Heís been managing the Padres with some success for the last twelve years, but they have their own internal dynamics and were ready to see him go. The Giants are getting a man who knows and likes his players and will let them play the game, as long as they do it the right way. He wonít disrespect pitchers the way his predecessor did, and he wonít be fazed by the media hordes surrounding Barry Bonds. Heís the perfect manager for todayís brand of baseball, and he comes to the Giants at a time when theyíre finally getting younger instead of older. Itís likely that they will have many new faces next season, but there is enough core talent (and enough pitching) that expectations will be high nonetheless. I expect Bochy to be up to the challenge, because heís been there before.

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One year ago: Grievance
"Now if I could only find a few more thousand to make next weekís payroll, Iíll be knee-deep in sweet cream again."

Two years ago: Endorsement
"I think of the Red Sox as baseballís Baby Jessica. While she was in the well, she was everybodyís baby. Now that sheís finally won the World Series, sheís just another kid who wants the last cupcake."

Three years ago: The Weight
"In times of emotional upheaval, I often pretend to be deaf, blind and stupid. It's easy. I sometimes think the world would be a more placid planet if more people tried it."

Four years ago: Moving On
"The end of the month is 28 days closer now than it was when the month started, and I'm not proud of wasting four weeks."

Five years ago: Two-Timer
"Once I got past the shallow breathing and light-headedness, though, the warm air felt much better."

Six years ago: Double Feature
"You can never have too much knowledge to guide your beliefs, or too many facts to base your actions on."


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