Saturday, October 23, 2010

Propositions "R" Us

There will be nine statewide propositions on Californian's ballots on November 2nd, including one I'm very excited about. In fact, back in May of 2009 I called it my "Fantasy Proposition: Majority Rule!" On November 2, I get my fantasy with Proposition 25, "Changes Legislative Vote Requirement to Pass a Budget From 2/3 to a Simple Majority." What I wrote then was that:

"California is one of only a handful of states that requires a super-majority (2/3 vote) to pass its annual budget. This allows a minority of legislators (34%) to hold the majority hostage... The stalemate has to end, and the way to do it is with a simple majority rule, like we imagined a democracy would be. If the minority party wants to have a say, they've got to come to the table to work, not just be obstructionist babies."
The budget stalemates, and resulting partial shut-downs, have cost our state billions in interest and other costs. These political theatrics don't just hurt state workers, but effects our entire state economy as it punishes small businesses who rely on state spending (such as food vendors to state prisons) when they aren't paid on time. I believe Prop 25 to be one of the most important reforms Californians could possibly pass, and I urge a strong "YES" vote.

I'm also voting a strong "YES" on Proposition 22, "Prohibits the State From Taking Funds Used for Transportation or Local Government Projects and Services," and I'm appalled at the Democratic Party and other "progressives" who are recommending a "no" vote. Yes, I'm fully aware of the state's budget problems and the tough choices to be made. But the state's habit of fixing its problems by raiding other funds has been a disaster for local services and needs to stop. Now. And while I'm shaming the Democratic Party, here's also a bit of scolding for the California Teachers Association, who rightly screamed bloody murder when the Governor raided education dollars, but now aren't willing to help the cities and counties in the same fight.

My strongest "NO" vote recommendation is on Proposition 23, "Suspends Air Pollution Control Until Unemployment Drops Below Specified Level." This has nothing to do with "saving jobs" ... at least, not California jobs. This is simply a couple of Texas oil companies who don't want to comply with our new pollution standards.

I will probably vote for Proposition 19, "Legalize Marijuana and Allow It to Be Regulated and Taxed," but it's largely symbolic as this does nothing to change Federal law. An interesting note is that some of the Medical Marijuana advocates are recommending "no" votes here, as current Medical Marijuana law allows for larger "private gardens" than does Prop 19.

On the two redistricting propositions, I'm torn. Proposition 20 adds Congressional districts to the responsibility of the State Commission on Redistricting, while Proposition 27 eliminates the Commission completely, and turns that power back to the State Legislature. The Democrats, who are in the majority, are for Prop 27 and against Prop 20. But I'm leaning toward Power to the People and going against the "official liberal" grain on this pair of conflicting propositions.

If you would like to see a great master list of who has endorsed "YES" or "NO" on each of the propositions (includes groups from all across the political spectrum), see the California Choices website ( Meanwhile, here's a quick list with my choices (subject to change without notice):

19 - Legalize Marijuana and Allow It to Be Regulated and Taxed - soft "yes"
20 - Redistricting of Congressional Districts - "yes"
21 - Establishes $18 Annual Vehicle License Surcharge to Help Fund State Parks and Wildlife Programs - "YES"
22 - Prohibits the State From Taking Funds Used for Transportation or Local Government Projects and Services - "YES!"
23 - Suspends Air Pollution Control Until Unemployment Drops Below Specified Level - "HELL NO!"
24 - Repeals Legislation That Allow Businesses to Lower Taxable Income - "yes"
25 - Changes Legislative Vote Requirement to Pass a Budget From 2/3 to a Simple Majority - "PLEASE YES!!!"
26 - Requires Certain State and Local Fees to Be Approved by 2/3 Majority - "NO"
27 - Eliminates State Commission on Redistricting. Consolidates Authority - "yes"

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Two Week Warning - Get Out and Vote!

It's hard to believe two weeks from now, as I write, we'll be starting to see the mid-term election results coming in. Even harder to believe that I've blogged so little about this election (see It Ain't Over Till it's Over). It's not that I don't care, or that there's nothing to say; perhaps there's so much that it's overwhelming.

To recap for newer readers, I call myself "left-of-center, Independent." I left the Democratic party in disgust around late '94 or early '95. I was registered as Green for several years, but have most recently registered as "Decline to State." Simply put, I have always rejected the idea of voting for "the lesser of two evils" when there are multiple "3rd party" and independent options on the ballot.

But this year, much as I expected and hoped for more from President Obama and the great Democratic majorities in Congress, I am terrified of the possibility of the Republicans taking back either (or both) houses of Congress.

This year's Republican nominees are not the principled conservatives we debated with in the past. These are fringe candidates with dangerous ideas, not just to turn back the small progress the Democrats have made in the last 21 months, but to turn the clock back decades, if not centuries, on our fragile democracy.

These are candidates who want to repeal not only the new health care reforms, and the new student loan reforms, but who want to repeal Medicare and turn your Social Security over to the same Wall Street fat-cats who put us into our current economic mess. These are candidates who question whether the Voting Rights Act of 1964 went too far. They don't just question Roe v. Wade, they've vowed to ban all abortions, even in cases of rape and incest.

But I'm sure you've read all that, or seen it on TV or online. My only point here is if you're staring in disbelief at candidates like Christine O'Donnell or Carl Paladino, just imagine having to hear from them for the next two, or four, or six years, or more.

Maybe you're disappointed in the Democrats too. I know I'm sure as hell overdue for an economic recovery myself. The rebuilding of our future may still have a long way to go, but at least we've stopped digging the hole.

This year, this left-of-center independent is proudly voting a full Democratic ticket, and I'm encouraging everybody who's concerned for their future to do the same. The stakes are just too high to sit this one out.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Blog Action Day: Water!

An old adage in California politics, dating back at least 150 years, is, "In California whiskey's for drinking, water's for fighting." And, indeed, battles between the northern, water-rich mountain regions of the state, and the arid, desert south have shaped our politics, and our maps, with laws pitting agriculture against industry, and a massive system of aqueducts crossing the landscapes. But California's water situation is nothing compared to that faced in much of the world.

Just a few statistics to begin to paint the picture:
  • African women walk over 40 billion hours each year carrying cisterns weighing up to 18 kilograms to gather water, which is usually still not safe to drink.
  • Every week, nearly 38,000 children under the age of 5 die from unsafe drinking water and unhygienic living conditions.
  • Many scholars attribute the conflict in Darfur at least in part to lack of access to water. A report commissioned by the UN found that in the 21st century, water scarcity will become one of the leading causes of conflict in Africa.
  • Every day, 2 million tons of human waste are disposed of in water sources. This not only negatively impacts the environment but also harms the health of surrounding communities.
  • The problem is not just in the "Third World" - Today, 40% of America's rivers and 46% of America's lakes are too polluted for fishing, swimming, or aquatic life.
  • The problem is not just "other people's" issue - The cotton t-shirt I'm wearing right now took 1,514 liters of water to produce.
  • The iPhone sitting on my desk is currently using half a liter of water to charge up for the day. Multiply that by over 80 million active iPhones in the world, and that's 40 million liters.
What can we do about this?
  • Be aware of our water footprint; think of ways you can conserve.
  • Donate to a charity that's building clean-water wells in Africa.
  • Educate yourself and your community about the issues.
  • Volunteer to clean a local stream; be aware of your effect on your local watershed.
  • Click the widget below to sign a petition to the U.N.
For a related post, please see my recap of a presentation by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. on the topic of Crimes Against Nature (April 2009).

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