| It's that time again. Just a few weeks until the primary election, and your ballot just might be sitting on your kitchen table taunting you. Well, the Calitics Editorial Board has taken a look, and here are our endorsements. This year we're only making endorsements on the 5 ballot propositions, and staying out of contested Democratic primaries. By the way, you can find a good summary in the Courage Campaign Progressive Voter Guide.
Proposition 13: Seismic upgrades reassessment: Yes
Ghastly name, isn't it? Prop 13? And this one is even (sorta) related to 1978's Prop 13, in that they both deal with property taxes. That's about as far as it goes, however - this is a minor change that would encourage seismic upgrades.
When the board first heard of this measure, several of us leaned towards no. However, after talking with San Francisco county assessor Phil Ting (he of closetheloophole.com), opinions began to shift. The way the rules work now is that seismic renovations can't be reassessed for ten years. So they end up in the "unreassessable" pile. In theory, assessors could come back to those in ten years and reassess to include the seismic upgrades. However, in practice, few, if any, assessors actually do that. Instead, they just stay in that pile until they are transferred and reassessed as a whole. If we aren't going to actually reassess them, we might as well tell owners that. It's unclear if there will be a huge upswing in seismic upgrades because of this, but the certainty could spur some folks to make the upgrades.
There's no real campaign on either side of the initiative, and it's really not a huge deal in terms of policy. In any situation where you have a split between de facto and de jure laws, it's not the end of the world to recognize the situation and move on. It's been endorsed by some pretty anti-Prop 13 (the 1978 version) groups, including AFCSME and the Courage Campaign. This Prop 13 certainly is no 1978 Prop 13 - and of course, the fight will continue to close Prop 13's corporate loopholes and fix the damage the proposition as whole has created for 32 years and counting.
Prop 14: "Open" Primary: NO!
St. Abel's Payback: This measure was put on the ballot at the demand of Abel Maldonado and his puppetmaster the Governor. In return for his vote, St. Abel demanded that this Open Primary measure pass the legislature. He felt that he couldn't be elected in the primary, probably an accurate summary of the situation. We'll see if that's true in a few weeks in the LG primary, but this measure is a stinker for progressives.
From a crass Democratic perspective, this is a massive resource waste. If this measure was applied to 2008 races, you would have seen 6 Dem on Dem general elections, and only one Rep-on Rep. In Washington State in 2008, the first cycle where this top-two system was used in the Evergreen State, it had the effect of pushing numerous primary battles out into the general election, sucking resources away from other important fights (like keeping the governor's mansion). We can envision the same thing happening here in California.
It takes away the Democratic nomination from Democrats, decreasing the power of progressives. But that's the entire point of Prop 14 - to move the Democratic Party to the right, using the guise of "reform." It's the David Broder solution to California's problems - blame the left and force everyone to move to a "center" that is actually on the right.
It decreases (small-d) democracy by allowing only 2 parties into the general election, offering fewer choices to voters. Third parties, like the Greens, will have no hope whatsoever of making the general election ballot. It will make it more difficult to turn red districts blue. Progressives should reject Prop 14.
Prop 15: Fair Elections: YES!
This is a pilot program for fair, publicly financed, elections put on the ballot by the Legislature. It will put the 2014 Secretary of State election into the hands of the people rather than the corporations, paid for by increased registration fees for lobbyists. Currently, lobbyists pay a whopping $12.50 to register annually; this increases the fee to $300. (Yes, there are enough lobbyists to cover those fees...sad, isn't it?)
It also repeals a ban on public financing, so that local governments can create their own systems - and the system can be extended to other statewide offices with a vote of the legislature and the signature of the governor. Perhaps a Governor Jerry Brown might be inclined to sign a bill creating a public financing system for the 2014 governor's race, given the abhorrent spectacle of Meg Whitman spending $68 million and counting to buy the governor's office?
This isn't a full solution, but it starts us down the path of cleaning up our elections and returning power to the people. It is a great way to show the people of California that we can have democracy again, and not corporatocracy. Vote Yes on Prop 15!
Prop 16: PG&E Monopoly Protection: NO!
PG&E has been fighting public power for years in Northern California. They got sick of having to pay $10 million here, $5 million there for all the elections to carpet bomb the areas with their mail and radio spots. So, they thought they would circumvent all that democracy with a bit of supermajority craziness. Prop 16 would require a 2/3 vote of the people in order to add to any areas to public power provider or to form a community choice aggregation program (CCA) that would allow municipalities to sell power.
Their ads are deceptive, saying that Prop 16 would "give taxpayers the right to vote." The truth is just the opposite. As it stands today, the voters have the final say by electing their representatives and by having approval over taxes and/or bonds to create a public power provider. If representative democracy is good enough to make the decision to go to war upon Iraq and cost the nation thousands of our soldiers and over a trillion dollars, certainly it is good enough for public power. The insanity of taking power decisions out of the system of governance is beyond ridiculous.
It's anti-democratic, and progressives should absolutely vote NO, NO, NO to PG&E's power grab.
Prop 17: Mercury Insurance Wants To
Save Cost You Money Initiative: NO
Prop 17 was placed on the ballot by Mercury Insurance. If you're sensing a theme about corporate money in the initiative system, you get a cookie. Allegedly, the measure is to "save you money" by looking at continuity of insurance across providers for the continuous coverage discount.
What does that actually mean? If you have a gap in coverage - even if it's just a day - then insurers could charge you as much as double the premium you'd originally be charged. Mercury claims they're doing this just so they'll get less money. Don't believe their lies. In reality, Nevada has this rule, and premiums went up.
This rule also hurts those who choose to drop insurance for perfectly good reasons, San Franciscans who choose to live without a car, soldiers who don't need insurance when away from the country, etc. We shouldn't require people to carry insurance for just the discount. This is an unnecessary change as a camel's nose under the tent to pick apart Prop 103's reforms.
Vote No on Prop 17.