California Propositions

So we're getting ready for another round of California's dysfunctional government by proposition. The ballot will include a proposal for Louisiana-style open primaries, in which the top two vote-getters proceed to a runoff in November.

It doesn't strike me as an intuitively awful idea, as it might make it easier to elect non-wingnuts to the legislature, and perhaps easier for candidates more closely aligned with third parties to get elected in places like San Francisco or Berkeley. In researching the matter, it turns out that the experience in Louisiana and Washington has been weaker third parties and stronger incumbents. That's not necessarily what we need.

I also found a generally compelling essay by Richard Winger, but he undermines himself with this argument:

Even Jesse Ventura, running for governor of Minnesota in 1998, only got 3 percent of the vote in that state's September primary, which was a classic open primary (any voter could vote in any party's primary; Ventura was running in the Reform Party primary). But he went on to win the November election. Under the proposal that Californians will be voting on next year, Ventura and candidates like him would be wiped out after the primary is over.

A system that makes it harder to elect Jesse Ventura is a very good thing. That isn't the way to argue against this system. But the other arguments are compelling anyway, so endorsements:

Prop. 13: Yes (prevent seismic retrofits from increasing property tax assessements)
Prop. 14: No (keep party primaries)
Prop. 15: Yes (test public funding system)
Prop. 16: No (Allow local municipalities to create local power utilities, don't allow PG&E to buy elections)
Prop. 17: No (Don't let insurance companies screw over drivers)

For local elections, I'm inclined to agree with East Bay Young Democrats. They don't endorse for Superintendent for Public Education, but I'd suggest backing Tom Torlakson. Larry Aceves seems like a nice guy, experienced as an educator and passionate about public education, but Torlakson's additional experience in the legislature could be a real boon for maintaining education funding.

As for Berkeley's Measure C, I tend to agree with the Oakland Tribune: now isn't the time for additional taxes to build new pools and maintain existing ones. A year or two of deferred maintenance wouldn't be the worst thing, and if taxes are to be raised, I'd rather see them spent to improve school science labs and other public services of more general utility to the community, especially if the projects would provide more Keynesian stimulus. Still and all, since voting down this measure this year would probably make it harder to revive the plan after the recession ends (when I'd support it), I'll probably vote for it now.

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