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[whitespace] Decision 2000

Local Measures

Measure Q

This measure, by the Soquel Union Elementary School District, would create a $15 million bond issue to repair old school buildings. Some $7 million of the bond would go to building a new elementary school in Jade Street Park in Capitola.

Before voters approve such a measure, a more serious effort needs to be made to find another location for the school. Voting no on Q will send a message to the district that the community wants to keep the Jade Street park, which is an established and vital recreational venue for Capitola.

Recommendation: Vote NO


Measure R

This measure would allow the Zayante Fire Protection District to increase its spending limits. No ballot statement opposes the measure, and we see no reason to oppose it either.

Recommendation: Vote YES


Propositions

Propositions 1A and 29

1A: Gambling on Tribal Lands
29: Indian Gaming Compacts

Prop. 1A allows house-banked card games like blackjack, permits up to two casinos on tribal property, and opens the door for some tribes to open casinos on newly purchased property in urban areas.

The opposition to Prop. 1A is an underfunded coalition of unions, religious groups and community activists. Rather than fighting to preserve their monopoly this time around, Nevada casino operators are instead investing in California's tribal casinos. One project has brought in a promise of $100 million.

Another reason for the Nevada support may be that 1A allows 18-year-olds to gamble. The legal age in Nevada is 21. And rather than creating a Nevada-style gaming commission, Prop. 1A would invest oversight of the casinos in tribal courts, which have done a poor job in protecting the interests of the general public on tribal lands in other states.

Prop. 29 is the gambling compact that 11 tribes signed with then-Gov. Wilson. If Prop. 1A passes, Prop. 29 becomes moot. Neither side has spent much money on Prop. 29, and the tribes are quietly pushing to defeat it.

Gambling is hardly foreign to California. With the state-sponsored lottery, card rooms, horse racing and day trading, gambling is already an entrenched part of our culture.

Tribes want to use gambling to help alleviate the chronic poverty they have suffered for more than a century, and the key issue for them is sovereignty. Tribes are not subject to state regulations, but because of a 1988 federal law, they must negotiate with states over gambling. We support Indian sovereignty, but Prop. 1A has too many loopholes.

Recommendation: Vote NO on both 1A and 29


Proposition 12

Safe Neighborhood Parks, Clean Water, Clean Air, and Coastal Protection Bond Act of 2000

The Libertarian-backed opposition to this measure calls the $2.1 billion bond a wasteful expenditure on "more dirt for insects, rats and weeds." If prime agricultural land is "dirt," endangered species are "insects and rats," and redwood trees are "weeds"--and if preserving them is a waste--then they're right. This is a far-reaching bond with broad implications for the quality of life and the state's economy, and it's overdue; the last parks bond passed in 1988. If Prop. 12 passes, it will allocate between $500 million and $700 million to fund urban recreation facilities like parks, playgrounds, zoos, sports fields and urban open space. Another $25 million will go to farmland protection. The rest--some $1.5 billion--will pay for improvements to county and state parks, acquisitions of more park lands and natural areas across the state, preservation of wildlife habitat and watershed protection.

As the mosaic of supporting groups suggests (cheerleaders include the Sierra Club, California Chambers of Commerce and the California Taxpayers Association), preserving California's beautiful environment isn't just for tree huggers anymore.

Recommendation: Vote YES


Proposition 13

Safe Drinking Water, Clean Water, Watershed Protection, and Flood Protection Bond Act

Proponents of this $1.9 billion bond act couldn't have asked for a better ad campaign than the recent drenching of California. If the flooded streets in Pescadero and the mudslides in the Oakland hills didn't convince people that $292 million spent on flood control is a good idea, then maybe the angry brown of a Pacific Ocean sullied by river erosion in the days after the storm makes the point. Worse yet, the California Department of Water Resources predicts that in five years water shortages are going to be a serious problem unless the state changes its water management strategy.

Here comes the new Prop. 13 to the rescue. The measure covers a range of services. If it passes, $70 million will go to improve public water systems, $292 million will go to flood protection (including special attention to Santa Cruz), $468 million will flow to watershed protection, including acquisition of coastal salmon habitat, and $1.2 billion will fund water recycling, sea water intrusion control, water conservation and ground water storage. This one we really can't live without.

Recommendation: Vote YES


Proposition 14

California Reading and Literacy Improvement and Public Library Construction and Renovation Bond Act of 2000

It's easy to overlook libraries. Quiet, unassuming and not exactly known for attracting employees who are rabid politicos, local literary havens have gotten the shaft for too long. California's libraries did receive $90 million from state and federal governments over the last decade, but that amount only covered about 10 percent of their operating costs. Prop. 14 would allow the state to help out by selling $350 million in general obligation bonds, which could then be used to fund grants for new facilities, renovation of existing branch locations, and better equipment. Like a similar proposition which passed in 1988, Prop. 14 requires that local agencies in areas benefiting from bigger and better facilities help foot the bill.

Recommendation: Vote YES


Proposition 15

The Hertzberg-Polanco Crime Laboratories Construction Bond Act of 1999

Prop. 15 isn't getting much press--bond measures, even for worthy causes, are not politically sexy--but it is worth a few minutes of your time to consider.

Prop. 15 would authorize $220 million in state general obligation bonds for new local forensic laboratories and the remodeling of existing labs. The money could only be used for construction and equipment, not for salaries.

The two houses of the legislature voted a combined 100 to 15 to put Prop. 15 on the ballot, and we side with the majority. Modern crime-fighting requires modern tools, but the best reason, in our view, is to make it tougher for rogue cops like the cowboys in the LAPD's Rampart Division to frame and convict innocent citizens. Prop. 15 would upgrade the ability of local law enforcement to analyze DNA evidence--a scary prospect for the guilty, but a godsend to the falsely accused.

The facilities are needed, and this is the best game in town for getting them built.

Recommendation: Vote YES


Proposition 16

Veterans' Homes Bond Act of 2000

Here's a good example of a problem that needs fixing, but with the wrong proposal to fix it.

Prop. 16 would authorize $50 million in general obligation bonds for veteran home facilities for U.S. military vets who are California residents. Such homes generally receive 65 percent of their funding from the federal government, as will be the case here.

But only $26 million of Prop. 16 will actually go to building new homes. The rest will go to replacing more costly debt on previous homes with cheaper bonds. With a $4 billion surplus going into the last budget negotiations, why couldn't the Legislature have found a paltry $26 million to build these facilities? Bonds are not cheap, and paying them off generally doubles their cost in taxes.

Vets deserve our support, and if Prop. 16 is defeated, taxpayers can be confident that political pressure from vets groups will force the Legislature to find a way to budget the project without saddling the taxpayers with unnecessary debt.

Recommendation: Vote NO


Proposition 17

Lotteries. Charitable Raffles. Legislative Constitutional Amendment.

Currently, all raffles in California are illegal except the state lottery. If passed, this proposition would lift the ban on charitable raffles--not commercial raffles--allowing private nonprofits to raise money. As anyone who's ever paid a buck to win a trip to Bermuda and raise money to fight pancreas disease knows, legitimate charities have used raffles for decades. These worthy albeit illegal raffles, however, are misdemeanors punishable by up to six months in jail.

Prop. 17 supporters, including the California Association of Nonprofits and the California District Attorney's Association, say the current law forces local law enforcement to shut down legitimate fundraisers, or "look the other way" and ignore the law. Opponents argue the initiative invites crime and opens the door to phony charities that prey on honest people.

There will always be scams. What we need are more legit fundraising avenues for worthy causes. Prop. 17 will make the latter possible.

Recommendation: Vote YES


Propositions 18 & 19

18: Murder: Special Circumstances.
19: Murder: BART and CSU Peace Officers.

Ready to serve up a little law and order? Prop. 18 would set new guidelines for "special circumstances," calling for either the death penalty or life without the possibility of parole in first-degree murder cases for killings committed "by means of lying in wait" rather than "while lying in wait." Prop. 19 would increase sentences for crimes against certain peace officers.

Both are opportunistic measures that further politicize the criminal justice system.

The courts have interpreted the existing law to mean that in order to qualify as a special circumstance, a murder had to occur immediately upon confrontation to fit the requirements of "lying in wait." The proposed change in Prop. 18 would alter that to include cases in which a person is transported to another location or killed at a later time. Thus, the special circumstance would apply if arson or kidnapping was committed to further the murder scheme.

With DNA testing revealing that many death row inmates are innocent (the state of Illinois has declared a moratorium on executions), Prop. 18 only further entrenches the death penalty.

Prop. 19 would increase the penalty for killing a BART or state university patrol officer in second-degree murder cases in which the killing is deemed unintentional and even if the officer is off duty. Such convictions currently carry a sentence of 15 years to life. This initiative calls for a prison term of life without the possibility of parole.

Opponents argue that because the new law would expand the list of peace officers to include all those defined under the penal code, even posse members would be included.

Recommendation: Vote NO on both 18 and 19


Proposition 20

California State Lottery. Allocation for Instructional Materials.

Any campaign that calls itself "School books for the children"--why not "Mom and Apple Pie?"--should set off voters' BS detectors. "School books for the children" was authored by Assemblyman Tony Cardenas (D-Van Nuys), an emerging power broker in the powerful Latino Legislative Caucus. Prop. 20 is a classic example of legislating by initiative. Here's the skinny: Under existing law, at least 34 percent of lottery monies are funneled to local school districts for "instructional purposes." Prop. 20 would require that half of any increase in education revenue be reserved for textbooks and instructional materials. Let local school district officials--who are already accountable to local voters and parents--decide what is best for their schools.

Recommendation: Vote NO


Proposition 21

Juvenile Crime.

To hear the backers of Proposition 21 talk, California is drowning in a tidal wave of juvenile crime. Citing Bad Seed-style horror stories, the conservatives behind the initiative want to dramatically revamp the juvenile justice system and create stiff new penalties for kids caught on the wrong side of the law. And it would take discretionary charging powers currently in the hands of judges and hand them over to prosecutors.

If the initiative passes, teen criminals will face punishments that make even many anti-crime activists uneasy. Kids as young as 14 charged with certain violent crimes would be tried as adults automatically. Kids as young as 16 would go to state prison. And even some minor crimes will be severely punished: petty vandalism would become a felony.

The truth is simple. Juvenile crime is declining, and the state already puts truly dangerous young criminals away for life. We don't need to spend millions of dollars to impose harsh prison sentences on kids that could be rehabilitated.

Recommendation: Vote NO


Proposition 22

Limit on Marriage (Known as the "Knight Initiative").

Regardless of one's feelings on same-sex marriage, voting yes on Prop. 22 is unnecessary. The "Knight Initiative" reads "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." However, California law already says only a man and woman can marry. Some day, the ability of states to block recognition of gay unions in other states will be resolved by the Supreme Court, and Prop. 22 will play no role in that constitutional decision.

Proponents say that if passed, Prop. 22 won't take away anyone's rights, but recent history says otherwise. After passing Limit on Marriages initiatives, courts in Idaho and Pennsylvania ruled against gays and lesbians who wanted to adopt their partners' children and denying visitation rights. In Florida, legislators argued that same-sex couples should not receive domestic violence protection because their relationships did not fall under the state's definition of marriage.

A no vote does not legalize same-sex marriages. It would, however, block an attempt to single out a group of people for discrimination.

Recommendation: Vote NO


Proposition 23

"None of the Above" Ballot Option.

Proposition 23, which would provide voters with a "none of the above" ballot option for federal, state or local candidates' races, seems more like a waste of space than a medium for political protest. Al Shugart, self-described computer industry icon, says his proposition will get people who are disillusioned with politics all fired up and scurrying to the polls to voice their frustration. This is the same man who so respects the electoral system that he ran his dog Ernest for Congress four years ago.

Some insist that a none-of-the-above ballot option will kill the chances of third-party candidates. Voters can already cast a write-in ballot, and Prop. 23 wouldn't change the outcome of elections.

Recommendation: Vote NO


Proposition 25

Election Campaign. Contributions and Spending Limits. Public Financing. Disclosures.

Here we go again.

California voters have passed campaign-finance reform propositions three times since 1988. Three times the courts have tossed out those laws as unconstitutional.

This year Palo Alto millionaire Ron Unz and former Secretary of State Tony Miller are pushing the latest campaign-finance reform measure, Prop. 25.

Under Prop. 25, campaign donors can give no more than $3,000 to legislative candidates and $5,000 to candidates for statewide office. Candidates who accept voluntary contribution limits will be eligible for publicly subsidized broadcast advertising. The legislative analyst estimates this element of the measure will cost state taxpayers $55 million annually. Candidates would have to list their top contributors on ballot pamphlets and disclose all donations over $1,000 on the Internet.

Too bad the authors didn't separate the disclosure requirements--which would show voters who is trying to buy influence--from donation limits. Disclosure requirements might actually hold up in court. Prop. 25 instead offers a legally dubious combo-package.

Still, we think the need for some kind of reform is obvious.

By now, voters know the drill: Vote yes on campaign-finance reform--and see you in court.

Recommendation: Vote YES


Proposition 26

School Facilities. Local Majority Vote. Bonds, taxes. Constitutional Amendment.

Since the passage of Prop. 13 in 1978, California's schools have been in steady decline. Today our classrooms are among the most crowded in the nation, but Prop. 13 prohibits property tax increases to pay for more. In addition, the law requires a two-thirds majority to pass bond measures that would improve facilities.

Prop. 26 would change the two-thirds rule to a simple majority, allowing local districts to more easily sell bonds to upgrade classrooms. The initiative was prompted by the passage last year of Prop. 1A, which provides more state money for school facilities but requires local monetary matches, and by recent, state-mandated class-size reductions.

Prop. 26 is the brainchild of Santa Cruz entrepreneur and charter schools advocate Reed Hastings, who worked with public school unions and others to put Prop. 26 on the ballot. But there's more than bond money on the campaign agenda. Prop. 26 would also require public schools to make any unused facilities available, at a price, to charter schools. If public schools are so overcrowded, where is this extra space coming from? The hidden agenda here is that some portion of the easier-to-approve bond money could end up building facilities that will be used by charter schools--which gives us pause.

Recommendation: Vote YES


Proposition 27

Elections. Term-Limit Declarations for Congressional Candidates.

Here's an exercise in futility: Force candidates for Congress--who would not be subject to term limits--to declare on their ballot statements if they support term limits. Poll-savvy politicians could simply check "yes" and then serve out the rest of their careers in Washington. Save the ink.

Recommendation: Vote NO


Proposition 28

Repeal of Prop. 10 Tobacco Surtax.

The proponents of Prop. 28 say that the fight over the initiative is really a choice between them--a megabuck cigarette-selling store--and activist/actor/director Rob Reiner. Okay. We'll side with Reiner.

A year and a half ago, California voters passed Prop. 10, which imposed a new 50-cent-per-pack tax on cigarettes and earmarked the money for early childhood development and smoking prevention programs. Reiner was a major supporter of Prop. 10, which passed by a narrow margin in the face of a furious propaganda campaign by tobacco firms. Prop. 28 is a straight and simple attempt to repeal Prop. 10.

Cigarettes Cheaper!, the cigarette superstore sponsoring Prop. 28, uses the same arguments that California voters rejected in 1998: that Prop. 10 discriminates against cigarette smokers and that the tax money will go for another state bureaucracy and not to help children. Does anyone still believe the propaganda of the companies that sell cigarettes?

This one is easy. Children, sí, tobacco, no.

Recommendation: Vote NO


Propositions 30 & 31

Insurance Claims Practices. Civil Remedies (and Amendments).

Propositions 30 and 31 are not initiatives--they are referenda placed on the ballot by the insurance industry in order to overturn two new state laws that were scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1. These laws would allow consumers to sue another person's insurer when they feel their claim has not been handled fairly. Currently the only course of redress is the state Department of Insurance, where Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush has a reputation for siding with the industry.

After losing in the Legislature, the insurance industry is asking the public to overturn the law by voting no on propositions 30 and 31. And they are hauling out an old canard--personal injury lawyers--to scare people. "The lawyers could make millions!" the TV ads warn. Naturally, the insurance companies prefer to be the ones raking in those millions. They like the status quo, and are fighting like banshees to maintain it.

Auto insurance companies say that if they can be sued by third parties, they will have to raise their rates. No one really knows what will happen to rates, but these companies are famous for delaying payment on claims, even legitimate ones. If they paid on time, then they wouldn't have to worry about being sued, and rates wouldn't necessarily go up.

With the passage of propositions 30 and 31, the next time some guy smacks into you and his insurance company refuses to pay for your damages, you'll be happy you have the right to sue.

If 30 fails, 31, which places limits on 30, is moot. We are less enthusiastic about 31, but passage of 30 is vital.

Recommendation: Vote YES on 30 and 31

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Election 2000 Introduction

Local Races

State Races

Useful Voter Information, Ready Reference Endorsements

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From the February 23-March 1, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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