This measure, a proposed extension of a half-cent sales tax for regional transportation funding, has lots of critics from all points on the political rainbow. One extreme, occupied by three developer-friendly county supervisors, criticizes Prop. A because it won't build enough new freeway lanes and because they think public transit is a waste of money. The other extreme, manned by the Sierra Club, hates it because it plans for too much freeway construction and doesn't charge developers enough money in mitigation fees. Then there's another group that says the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), which would spend the money and is responsible for the region's transportation planning, is incompetent and resistant to new ideas for better regional circulation. Supporters, meanwhile, say that amid such a contentious debate, a proposal that upsets people on opposite sides is probably the best compromise. Because it's a tax measure, Prop. A needs two-thirds of the voters to say yes. Supporters rightly say the high turnout in a presidential election is the best chance to get two-thirds, and if they have to go back to the voters in 2006 with a new plan, the off-year election will pit the odds against them. Our view is that while the notion of being on the same side as those three supervisors makes us nauseous, we're swayed by those critics in the middle, who think we can come up with a better plan through more creative planning.
Vote no on Prop. A
A yes vote here would stop, or at least delay, a proposed landfill in Gregory Canyon up in North County, near the Pala Reservation. Yes, the Pala Indians are pouring lots of money into the Yes on B campaign out of self-interest. For them, the Gregory Canyon Landfill is a NIMBY matter. They don't want a dump nearby, and who can blame them-no one wants a dump nearby. The only issue here is whether or not the landfill, which was approved by voters a decade ago, would endanger underground water supplies. If the state-of-the-art liner and collection system planned for beneath the landfill fails, toxic leachate, a fancy name for what is essentially icky dump juice, could seep through the fissures in the bedrock and contaminate nearby groundwater. Landfill supporters say what's proposed is the most environmentally protective system possible. Maybe. An overwhelming majority of members of the San Diego County Water Authority who have bothered to take a position support this referendum, but are they NIMBYs, too? Maybe. This is a toughie. In documents, Water Authority staff acknowledge that the proposed protections meet or exceed government standards but add that they are "unaware of any landfill using similar containment technologies that is guaranteed not to leak." An issue that hasn't been well reported is the impact on the Water Authority's existing water pipelines. Two pipelines would have to be relocated, according to Water Authority staff. The certain impacts on the pipelines and the uncertainty surrounding groundwater protection compel us to say...
vote yes on Prop. B
Yes, consolidate the fire departments in the unincorporated parts of the county. Sure. Why not? Good idea. Go for it.
Yes on Prop. C
This measure is on the ballot thanks to City Councilmembers Donna Frye and Toni Atkins, who three weeks ago were honored by the California First Amendment Coalition for their efforts last spring to shine the light of day on city government in San Diego. The language in Prop. D is identical to the statewide Prop. 59. If Prop. 59 loses, at least San Diego will benefit from its provisions. The law would add language to the City Charter that says, quite clearly, that people have a right to inspect government documents and attend government meetings. It puts the burden on government to demonstrate that certain information should be kept secret. If passed, the law would allow journalists and activists to cite the City Charter-in court, if necessary-when push comes to shove. Make the bastards show you their shenanigans.
Vote yes, yes, yes on Prop. D
This one allows the city Ethics Commission to get legal advice from someone other than the city attorney, who proponents say has an inherent conflict of interest: the city attorney's job, in part, is to represent other city officials, who are potential investigative targets of the Ethics Commission. But since we think Mike Aguirre is going to become the city attorney, we think he'll do fine providing legal advice to the ethics panel.
Vote no on Prop. E
Proponents of Prop. F have used the word "accountability" as a way to push this so-called "strong mayor" form of government idea so much that the word has pretty much lost all meaning. Basically, Prop. F would take power away from the city's top bureaucrat, the city manager, and give much of it to the mayor, who, the measure's supporters say, is "accountable" to the voters. Opponents are suspicious-they're worried that this concentrates too much power in the mayor's office. Our take is that the specific language in this proposal was not adequately vetted by the public or the City Council. Though there may be some value in the idea, this roast needs more time in the oven.
Vote no on Prop. F
Props. G and H
Do yourself a favor and bring a dictionary when you go to vote. You'll need it to decipher finance-speak such as "unfunded accrued actuarial liability" and "defining the amortization schedules." Either a dictionary or a cattle prod to stay awake as you read the ballot language. These measures are designed, ostensibly, to get us out of the mess the City Council got us in when they cut deals with the city's employee union and retirement system board, resulting in the now-catastrophic pension-funding deficit that you read about in the paper every morning. Prop. G mandates how the city is going to dig itself out of the deficit-and stay out-while Prop. H reconfigures the makeup of the city's retirement board of trustees. The unsavory details here would sink you into a deep coma, so we're not going there. Just chew on this: Many of the people who caused the problem are behind this solution, while the woman who warned everyone about the impending disaster (Diann Shipione) and the only person who voted the right way in the first place (Donna Frye) say this solution is really subterfuge wrapped in a ruse wrapped in a sham.
Vote no on Props. G and H
"Transit Occupancy Tax" is government-speak for "hotel tax" (and "RV tax" and "campground tax"). It's a way for cities to suck money out of other cities' residents. Currently, visitors to San Diego pay a 10.5-percent tax to stay here, which is on the low side compared to other cities. In March, you were asked to raise the TOT, but in that measure, the money was earmarked for specific purposes, meaning 66.666666 (and so on) percent of you had to say yes. Alas, only about 61 percent of you liked that idea. So you're being asked again if we should hose the tourists-to the tune of 13 percent-but this time the money's not earmarked, so only half of you plus one need to say yes. Clever, huh? The cops, firefighters and League of Women Voters are all for Prop. J. The tourism industry (because the money isn't earmarked for them) and anti-tax zealots are against it. The city needs the dough. Let's get it from the tourists!
Yes on Prop. J
Please Lord, God, Buddha, Allah, Zeus, Spider-man-whoever-make it stop! Heavens to Betsy, make it stop! This argument over that big stupid cross atop Mount Soledad has gone from annoying to ridiculous to absurd to surreal. Fifteen years this has been going on! Because the cross is on city property, the issue at play is the separation between church and state, but there are more pressing church-state problems-such as the president's "faith-based initiative" and the fact that Christian prayers are performed at every public meeting. We at CityBeat don't have a beef with the damned cross up there. Leave it there, tear it down, whatever-just stop the madness! We favor a settlement proposal that would move the thing to a nearby church, but the city wants you to authorize a third attempt to sell the land. The cruel joke here is that it doesn't matter what you say-the fight will head back to court no matter what and the insanity will continue until the end of time.
Vote however you want on Prop. K- we don't care
Props. 1A and 65
Supporters of Prop. 1A had raised more than $6.2 million dollars for their cause by the end of September. More than $3.5 million of that came from the League of California Cities. Why? Because Prop. 1A stops the state from raiding the tax coffers of cities and counties when the state is desperate for money. Before Prop. 1A came along, cities and counties had been pushing Prop. 65, but they agreed to support Prop. 1A instead as part of a deal with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. In exchange for his support for their crusade, local governments would back off of Prop. 65 and let Schwarzenegger take $2.6 billion in tax revenues from them over the next two years. After that, he can't have any more. The problem with both of these initiatives, as the Sacramento Bee has pointed out, is that they set in concrete the very dysfunctional system of collecting and distributing tax money that causes the state to raid the local coffers in the first place. As a result of this initiative, cops, firefighters and libraries might be better off, but everyone who relies on state services (the mentally ill, poor people and old folks) will be in trouble. This is robbing Peter to pay Paul and the result of lots of political deal-making. California needs real reform. This isn't it.
Vote no on Props. 1A and 65
This is the statewide version of San Diego's Prop. D. See our endorsement of that measure for details. This is good stuff. If you want to know what your government is up to...
vote yes on Prop. 59
Props. 60 and 62
These are competing measures; the one that gets the most votes becomes law. Prop. 62 would create an open primary election-in which any voter could vote for any candidate, regardless of political party affiliation-for state and federal offices. The top two vote getters would move on to the general election, even if they're from the same party. Supporters say this system would elect more moderate politicians and help end partisan gridlock in Sacramento. Opposing Prop. 62 are all of the political parties, who complain that it would restrict voter choice in the general election. They want you to vote for Prop. 60, which simply reaffirms the current system. This battle pits two unsavory groups against each other: big-money business interests (Wal-Mart, many developers, lots of Arnold Schwarzenegger's rich friends) are pouring cash ($3.5 million) into the campaign to pass Prop. 62, while the Republican and Democratic parties obviously favor the status quo. It's difficult to predict the result of a Prop. 62 victory. Such disparate interests as Common Cause and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association are opposing Prop. 62. We like that alliance. Besides, the way to really reform Sacramento is by changing the corrupt way we redistrict and by passing meaningful campaign finance reform.
Vote yes on Prop. 60, no on Prop. 62
As a way to entice voters to choose Prop. 60 over Prop. 62, the Democrats and Republicans added to Prop. 60 a provision that says sales of surplus state property must go to pay off the state's debt. But initiatives are only supposed to cover one subject, so the court made them split the thing in two. Since this was only window dressing to begin with...
vote no on Prop. 60A
These are not good days for bond measures. The state's in dire financial shape, and voters are less likely to approve borrowing money-unless, of course, our movie star governor asks us to. Prop. 61 asks us to sell $750 million worth of bonds and direct the proceeds to the state's 13 aging, crowded children's hospitals. The argument against it is that it puts us even deeper in debt-it'll cost $1.5 billion over 30 years. The argument in favor is that these hospitals, which care for kids with the most serious ailments, even those who are uninsured, badly need the loot to renovate and expand their facilities to meet demand.
We say yes on Prop. 61
For us, this measure was perhaps the most difficult question on the ballot. It asks voters to authorize targeting the state's richest citizens for a tax increase, the revenue from which would help fund badly needed mental health treatment programs. Specifically, it would impose a 1 percent tax on all personal income above $1 million. In other words, a person making $1.1 million a year would be taxed an extra 1 percent on just $100,000, not his or her entire income. The revenue generated-estimated at $750 million in the next fiscal year alone-would go to mental health treatment programs up and down the state, which, reports the San Francisco Chronicle, currently fund treatment for a scant 10 percent of the population that needs it. No one likes the way this measure is funded. There's no nexus between the target of the tax and the people benefiting from it. And we generally hate earmarking, which reduces budgeting flexibility. But look around San Diego's neighborhoods, especially downtown, at the misery of homeless mentally ill people. It is shameful how we've abandoned these people, allowing them to scavenge for food like animals and prosecuting them for sleeping outside when they have no other choice. They deserve so much better. If we're able to help more of them-get homeless schizophrenics on medication, for example, so they can at least think rationally-imagine the savings to the criminal-justice system alone. This is how we're choosing to look at this: we're asking that guy making $1.1 million to chip in $1,000 a year to help alleviate perhaps our worst societal ill. We just hope it works.
Vote yes on Prop. 63
At first glance, this one looks good: stop unscrupulous, money-grubbing lawyers from shaking down Mom and Pop's general store by making them find clients who can actually show that Mom and Pop's general store harmed them in some demonstrable way. What's partly propelling this measure is that some lawyers have misbehaved-some lawyers do find creative ways to harass companies out of money. But this measure goes way too far. Bankrolled by huge corporations, we think it seeks to make it impossible for the public to find recourse when businesses commit fraud or threaten the public health. Sometimes it's not so easy to demonstrate tangible harm-like when a water vending business tries to peddle water that contains dangerous levels of cancer-causing pollutants. The yes on 64 campaign has spent $8.1 million-it's being financed in a big way by car dealers and manufactures (at least $4 million) and such mom-and-pop businesses as Intel, Microsoft, Kaiser, Bank of America, Blue Cross, Allstate, Exxon, Philip Morris and Citigroup. Do we need tort reform? Yes. But this is nuts. We're with the consumer and environmental groups opposing it.
Vote no on Prop. 64
The "Three Strikes" law is the kind of bad public policy you get when you overreact to a highly charged, very emotional situation. Ten years ago, little Polly Klaas was kidnapped and murdered. It was awful. And it led to an awful law-one that sent lots of people to prison for 25 years to life for non-violent crimes. It was way too harsh, and, finally, we're being given an opportunity to inject the law with some sanity. Prop. 66 would give 4,300 inmates who were put away for nonviolent felonies (burglary, drug crimes, car theft, forgery) a chance to have their sentences reassessed. It would also limit crimes eligible for a second or third strike to violent felonies. To give you an idea of what sort of third strikers have gone away for 25-to-life, 1,283 people are in for drug crimes (including 35 marijuana crimes), 357 for petty theft, 173 for receiving stolen property, 235 for auto theft and 70 for forgery or fraud. Right there are 2,118 people for whom the punishment doesn't fit the crime. The baddies who the law was meant to yank off the streets will not be affected by Prop. 66-repeat rapists, child molesters, armed robbers and murderers will still be put away.
Vote yes, yes, yes on Prop. 66
Doctors and hospitals have pumped more than $1 million into this campaign to tax your telephone bill for the benefit of enhanced emergency-room care. Telephone companies have fought back with a campaign that has five times as much money. Yes, we need to do something about the lack of funding for emergency healthcare, but critics have made a compelling case against this one, arguing that it doesn't provide enough oversight and accountability, that too much of the revenue could go to big-money private hospitals and that a phone tax is too goofy a way to raise money.
Vote no on Prop. 67
Props. 68 and 70
One of these (68) was backed by non-Indian gaming interests hoping to get their hands on big-money slot machines, which they're not currently allowed to have, but that was before they bailed out. Because Prop. 68 was trailing badly in opinion polls, its backers have stopped pushing it. The other one (70) is backed by the Indian tribes in an effort to lock in a lucrative monopoly on slot machines. They're both bad.
Vote no on Props. 68 and 70
Simply put, this is Big Brother marauding across the countryside, raping and pillaging and stealing everyone's privacy. OK, that's extreme, but we don't think it's a good idea to force collection of DNA samples from folks who've been arrested and not necessarily charged with or convicted of a crime. This is being spearheaded and financed by some screwy developer in Orange County.
Vote no, no, no on Prop. 69
Advocates have already spent $21 million to pass this measure, which would sell bonds (costing the state $6 billion over 30 years to pay back) to fund a new institute for stem cell research. The urge to endorse this initiative is great-if only as a way to tell George W. Bush to stick it up his moral-crusading ass. But that's not a good enough reason. We are wholeheartedly in favor of public funding for stem cell research, and we'll shed no tears for the leftover embryos from fertility clinics that would be used to, hopefully, help paraplegics walk again and cure brain diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. But this particular proposal is too expensive for California right now. What we'd like to see happen is a federal stem cell program, following Bush's ouster. Or, failing that, perhaps all the companies pouring money into the Prop. 71 campaign can pour money into a stem cell research endowment in California, so that the public isn't so heavily invested in what could conceivably turn out to be a huge boondoggle for biotech interests. Surprisingly, we're urging you to...
vote no on Prop. 71
We badly want to support this initiative, which would force businesses with 50 or more employees to offer health insurance to their workers, but we just can't. We honestly believe that if small businesses are forced to pay 80 percent of coverage for all their employees, which is what Prop. 72 requires, many of them will downsize. Also, some lower-paid workers might not be able to afford 20 percent of the cost of government-mandated insurance. And this proposal would only benefit one out of every six uninsured people in California. We'd prefer a much bolder healthcare reform effort, one that reaches more people, and one that addresses the skyrocketing cost of healthcare, which this one doesn't. Quite frankly, we'd like to return to a debate over single-payer healthcare. Reluctantly, we suggest you...
vote no on Prop. 72