I guess I should've posted this a few days ago if I wanted to influence early voters, but here's my advice to California voters who still haven't figured out how to vote.
19: Yes. There's not really a good argument against this. There's no scientific reason to single out marijuana for stricter regulation than cigarettes or alcohol, indeed alcohol may be more dangerous. Legalization gets criminal gangs out of the system, clears non-violent drug offenders out of the courts and prisons, and moves our whole criminal justice system towards a more rational future. Yeah, the conflict between state and federal law will cause a lot of hassles, but bad federal drug laws shouldn't stop California for taking a stand for a more rational system.
20: No. There's a good case to be made in favor of this, and I won't mind if it passes. A proposition years ago created a nonpartisan commission to handle state legislative redistricting. This proposition would extend that commission's scope to include congressional redistricting. They won't actually do anything until after the 2010 census, and I'm inclined to let them prove themselves on the state legislature before turning them loose on Congress. See Prop. 27, below.
21: Yes. For $18/year in vehicle license fees, we save the state park system. I hate ballot box budgeting, and I wish I could vote no on principle here. Passing this initiative will set the money set aside for parks based on a specific number that makes sense now, but that could only be changed by another proposition in a few years. Meanwhile, the legislature loses even more flexibility in coming up with a sensible budget and has to work around this mandated fee and its mandated spending. At this point, I'm just holding out for a constitutional convention in the next few years that will wipe all these stupid kludges out and let us start over.
22: No. In principle, it'd be great to require the legislature to spend money exactly according to the earmarks on the funds gathered, not borrowing from funds or finding creative ways to work within those limits while still meeting the state's needs. But we have a dysfunctional system and until that gets fixed, I think the legislature deserves all the flexibility they can find to assemble a budget.
23: No, no, no. Don't let Texas oil barons repeal California's environmental law. The proposition delays implementation of legislation encouraging new, green industries until the unemployment rate drops to an historically low levels for historically long lengths of time. It makes no sense to link the two like that, except that old, polluting industries want to hang on for a little longer. Good riddance.
24: Yes. Repeals some corporate welfare used to buy off Republican votes in a budget battle last year. To get the 2/3 vote needed to pass a budget last year, legislative leaders had to agree to give up $1.3 billion in tax revenue, as well as $1.3 billion in spending on state services. This is the only way to claw back that disgusting payoff. It's ballot box budgeting, and takes away some flexibility from the legislature, but I'm still holding out for a constitutional convention to reverse this and dozens of similar kludges.
25: Yes, yes, yes. Restores some element of sanity to the legislature, repealing part of Proposition 13. That proposition famously capped property tax increases, but also requires a 2/3 vote to increase taxes or to approve a budget. It's insanity, and the rule has blocked the legislature from accomplishing anything useful far too often. Pass the budget by a simple majority!
26: No, no, no. This would extend the Prop. 13 2/3 requirement not just to tax votes, but to increases in fees. In practice, this is largely backed by polluting industries, who would rather not maintain the current "polluter pays" system of fees, shifting costs for cleanup and healthcare to individual taxpayers rather than the parties contributing the most to health problems, pollution, and other state expenses. Would close off the only option the state has for raising revenue without a 2/3 vote, thus making the state even more dysfunctional.
27: No. There are arguments to be made against the nonpartisan redistricting committee, and arguments in favor. This would eliminate the body before it ever had a chance to show what it could do. As a general matter, I'm in favor of nonpartisan redistricting systems, as they ought to make a more competitive political environment and create more representative districts. On the other hand, that will probably reduce Democratic influence, and there are plenty of ways such a system could go awry, being no improvement. I'd like to see how the commission performs in 2010. If it works, I could see expanding its scope for the 2020 redistricting, and if it fails, we can turn it back over to the legislature. But let's give the commission a shot, at least.
Governor: Jerry Brown. He's got a lifetime of experience in California government, and while that means we can all point out bad decisions he's made, he also made some good and courageous calls over the years. Meg Whitman â¦ well, she hasn't got any of that, except the bad decisions. She has got a ton of money she's trying to use to buy the election. Let's not let her.
Lt. Governor: Gavin Newsom. He catches some flack in the Bay Area, where his politics aren't nearly as far to the left as many would like, despite being seen as a raging lefty elsewhere in the state. But he's a sharp operator, and the statewide exposure can only help prepare him for other, higher office.
Attorney General: Kamala Harris. She's been stellar as the San Francisco DA. She's a proud progressive, doing what a progressive should, and what the people's attorney should: fighting for those who can't fight for themselves, showing compassion where it's deserved, and being firm when it serves the public good.
Senate: Barbara Boxer. Boxer has been exactly what a Senator from California should be. In an anti-incumbent, conservative environment, that doesn't help her, but I want no one else speaking for California in the US Senate. Certainly not demon sheep Carly Fiorina.
Representative: As they say: Barbara Lee speaks for me.
State judges: I can see no obvious reasons to drop any sitting judges, but I may vote against some of them in hopes that Governor Brown can pack the court a little bit. But Victoria Kolakowski is noteworthy not just for having a shot at becoming the first transgender judge in the country, but for being an exceptional candidate.
Superintendent of Education: Tom Torlakson. As before.
Berkeley is implementing an instant runoff system in this election, as is Oakland. It'll be interesting to see how that plays out, especially in the Oakland mayoral race. If I still lived in Oakland, I'd rank Rebecca Kaplan first, Jean Quan second, and Don Macleay third. Anything to stop Don Perata from becoming mayor.
I'll be doing nothing to help my city council representative's re-election bid. Jesse Arreguin has been non-responsive to both of my efforts to contact him, which doesn't impress me, and he killed Bus Rapid Transit in Berkeley (a controversial plan to create a dedicated, high speed bus lane throughout the East Bay), but rather than opposing it directly, he just dithered over it until a deadline passed. I'd rather have someone who took a firm stand I disagreed with, than someone afraid even to make clear where he stands. Eric Panzer has a good platform, and he lives in my building, so he's my first choice, followed by Jim Novosel.
Local ballot measures: Yes. One of these (H) just extends a current tax that pays for schools. Others provide funds for public transit (F), or issue bonds for school maintenance and construction (I). There's an initiative which taxes medical marijuana (S), while another allows dispensaries to be larger, slightly nearer to schools, and allows marijuana cultivation in city limits (T). Since I know people with progressive, chronic pain who are actually benefitting from medical marijuana, I have no problem with those. And another encourages redevelopment in downtown Berkeley, including higher density construction and high environmental standards (R). All seem reasonable, and while the details of Measure R will surely be debated for years to come, it seems well worth lockingÂ down the broad outline now, and fixing problems that emerge later on.
Gavin Newsom, since I live clear across the country I've got only observations. In pointing out that Nancy Pelosi is, beyond any question, the high water mark of the left in federal politics and that she's done a remarkable job without much in the way of backup, the San Francisco, Jello Biafra, hobby leftists seldom miss a point to make some kind of inane dismissal of her.
The left has a real problem with the play left, for whom it's all about striking poses and trying to get attention by making what they hope will be the most outrageous stand in the room. It's also got a problem with the white collar left for whom the issue is more philosophical and ideological than practical. Politics should be a lot more important than which rock band you favor in some phony ginned up competition. As my state legislator says, when he has to vote on budget cuts, he knows that someone is likely to end up dead. If people want to know why people who win elections dismiss the purity insisting, preening play left, that's it.