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Counterintuition 101: Biff speaks out on behalf of the radical center.

Special Election Endorsements

Staying away from the polls on Nov. 8 will do nothing to fix an initiative system that's spinning out of control

With Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's special election less than a week away, it's worth noting that we have another Republican governor, Hiram Johnson, as well as another special election to thank for bringing us the initiative process--not to mention the recall system that blessed us with Schwarzenegger in the first place.

Passed in 1911, the same year that women got the vote in California, the initiative process actually became law in 1912--the same year that the Titanic sank. Fast-forward to nearly a century later, and what was meant to be a grassroots check on business-driven political corruption has become an AstroTurf mockery of its origins, as obscenely huge amounts of cash are routinely sunk into the system just to qualify initiatives for the ballot.

Today's initiative system is so awash--make that drowning--in dollars that it seems to openly deride the notion that this process could ever allow ordinary citizens to bypass the Legislature and go straight to the public. As Santa Cruz Assemblyman John Laird puts it, "The way the initiative process stands, it's just a case of money talks. You need a million dollars just to qualify one initiative. The initiative process has increasingly become a way for moneyed interests to push their agendas."

So what's the solution? This special election is so overwhelmingly unpopular, that many may be tempted to protest by staying home.

Bad idea, folks.

The solution is to vote down the initiatives that the real "special interests" are trying to push through. Among them are:

Proposition 73, which requires 48-hour parental notification of a teenage abortion--a requirement that would put teens in the dangerous position of having to make their way through the judicial system if they can't talk with their parents about having an abortion. Beyond the teen factor, Prop. 73 would also add to the California Constitution the phrase "unborn child, a child conceived and not yet born," an addition which could have far-reaching consequences for a woman's right to choose.

Proposition 74 would tamper with teachers' tenure but do nothing to recruit and retain quality teachers, reduce class size or provide textbooks and computers to schools.

Proposition 75: Grover Norquist, a prominent right-wing ideologue, said it was intended to "crush labor unions as a political entity." In reality, Prop. 75, which seeks to restrict how union dues can be spent, would weaken the ability of working people to participate in the democratic process, while leaving large corporations free to pump cash into the coffers of the governor and his allies.

Proposition 76 would cut school funding by over $4 billion a year, allow the governor to get out of repaying the $2 billion he "borrowed" from schools last year and eliminate the funding level for K-14 education guaranteed under Prop. 98.

Proposition 77 would put political redistricting in the hands of three retired judges. We agree that redistricting needs to be fixed, but we don't believe this is the way to do it. Immediate redistricting is unnecessary and expensive, and could produce unfair results, if outdated census data is used.

Proposition 78 gives the illusion of relief from soaring prescription drug prices by establishing a program to reduce prices, but is in reality a pharmaceutical company-sponsored initiative in which the discounts would be purely voluntary.

Schwarzenegger's opponents are urging voters to "Nix the First Six," since Propositions 73-78 all have the governor's stamp of approval.

Here at Metro Santa Cruz, we'll go a step further. We recommend a No vote on all eight initiatives, including Proposition 79, which imposes mandatory discounts on drugs, but to our mind doesn't go far enough, and Proposition 80, which has some good points, but seems to be the wrong way to regulate the electricity industry.

So even these last two initiatives, well-intended as they may be, appear insufficiently thought out to warrant the legislative end-run and enshrinement into law that could saddle us with bad ideas for decades. The time has come to put an end to what, next to the recall, is the most bogus election in California history.

For these reasons, Metro Santa Cruz recommends you go to the polls and "Just Vote No" on all eight state initiatives.

And Now the Good News

Before anyone accuses us of total negativity, may we add that we recommend a Yes vote on Measures A and B, which would renew pre-existing parcel taxes. Measure A, which is for high school districts, will cost property owners $28 per parcel for seven years, beginning next July, while Measure B, which is for elementary and middle schools, will cost property owners $70 per parcel for seven years. In other words, both measures replace taxes that voters approved in March 2002.

Opponents say state budget cuts have not threatened local schools. They also argue that while the measures approved in 2002 were said to be necessary to keep schools open, schools have nevertheless closed, largely because of financial and enrollment problems.

But supporters note that Santa Cruz school funding has been under attack, for a number of reasons, including state budget cuts and a decline in enrollment. They note that the money voters are being asked to approve is the only money that Sacramento cannot divert, since all funding from A and B will go to local schools. They claim that these taxes will be used only to support teachers, librarians and counseling, and no funds will be used for administrative salaries.

We recommend a Yes vote on Measures A and B come Nov. 8, because we believe that critical programs and staff would be cut if this funding isn't renewed.

Happy (paper) trails all the way to the ballot box.


Voter information websites: www.ss.ca.gov/elections (California Secretary of State); www.votescount.com (Santa Cruz County Elections Department)

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From the November 2-9, 2005 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

Copyright © 2005 Metro Publishing Inc. Maintained by Boulevards New Media.

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