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.