Having finally reached a point where I believe I know how I'm going to vote, I figure it's at least worth posting a few thoughts about the various ballot initiatives facing California / Alameda County / Oakland voters. This is my first "major" election in California, though I've voted several times in the other various and sundry we've had in the last two years. This ballot blows them all away, though: President, US Rep, State Senate, State Assembly, Judge, City Council, two Transit Directors, 12 state ballot initiatives, one public school initiative, two city initiatives, and two 'district' initiatives for things that I guess don't cooperate with other geopolitical boundaries.
I'd like to think I've put a fair amount of brainwork into figuring out how I believe the voting should go. Here are some thoughts; if you have other views please do leave a note in the comments.
1A: High-Speed Rail Bonds. $10 billion in bonds to start the construction of HSR between LA and the Bay Area, ultimately to Sacramento and San Diego. Anyone who's driven the I-5 corrior between SF and LA knows how stupid it is. And anyone who flies that much knows how ridiculous it is, too. Door-to-door travel times on the train will be as good as by jet if not better. This makes so much sense, I cringe to think it might not pass (but it will, handily, I believe). YES on 1A.
2: Standards for confining farm animals. Call me a hippie liberal douchebag if you want, but I don't believe the difference in cost between current guidelines and this new legislation will substantially affect the market. Let's not forget that the cost of moving eggs from Mexico to San Francisco is much, much greater than bringing them in from Livermore or Tracy or wherever. A projected marginal cost difference of $0.10 / dozen at the cash register seems worthwhile, and the best thing the opposition to Prop 2 has to offer is that it will increase our chances of catching bird flu. It's an incredible hypothetical straw man of a tall tale, believe me. YES on 2.
3: Children's Hospital Bond Act. It doesn't matter what your proposition is, if the best thing you have going for it is "But think of the children!" you provoke visions of a shrieking brain-decayed she-beast. You know, like Maggie Gallagher. I would love for someone to talk me down on this, but I don't understand what handouts to private children's hospitals is going to do for us. Not knocking the services they provide of course, but these initiatives read to me like an ultimatim: either give us the cash or we'll X, Y or Z, or punch your mom in the face or something. NO on 3.
4: Attempt to criminalize abortion in any way possible. Yeah, no. Parental notification law with no real protections for the girl who's preggers. There's no *reason* for this law, which is what irks me. NO on 4.
5: Nonviolent drug offenses, sentencting, parole, rehab. The arguments for and against this are totally weird. I do not get this or 9, which deals with bail. Unless I get a good case one way or the other, I'm tempted to leave 5 and 9 as no-votes. WTF on 5 and 9?!
6: Police and Law Enforcement funding. Arbitrary spending floors with no accountability or reform mechanism should reform be necessary. Poorly written and pretty awful as far as I can tell. No responsbility for results or anything, just "throw money at law enforcement" -- same thing that gets me about the US military budget. NO on 6.
7: Renewable energy generation. Props 7 and 10 also both smack of high-dollar handouts to private corporations with no oversight or mandatory ROI. The US gets screwed on this constantly with its telecom legislation and I do not understand why people tolerate such vauge and nebulous handouts of public money. If the energy generation that results from Prop 7 or 10 became part of the public portfolio and not just a free revenue stream for these corporations, maybe there'd be room to talk. I guess I don't see the public ROI for the cost here... NO on 7 and 10.
8: Eliminates right of same-sex couples to marry. Amending a Constitution to eliminate rights is about the most unpatriotic, un-American, and frankly, pathetic, thing I can imagine. It's virtually unprecedented and completely damaging in the historical perspective, and it's unnecessary and wrong. Peace, love, and happiness, folks. I've given more money, thought, and panic to this than any other political initiative. In some ways I actually wonder if this isn't more important than the Presidential election. I mean, hey gays, what's Obama gonna do for you? Maybe nothing as vindictive and hurtful as McCain, but he's not exactly out there happy to give a speech under a Pride flag, don't forget. NO as forcefully as I can on 8.
11: Redistricting no longer in the hands of politicians. I understand this is construed by partisan Democrats as a Republican power grab. But among people most at risk under this law, you have... Partisan Democrats. So I wonder why they don't have a better idea? Power to the people; this sufficiently randomizes the selection committee and defines and approing majority in a variety of ways to ensure that even among the bipartisan members of the committee, no tyranny should take place. I like the law, I like that while it's written to uphold political dichotomy that dichotomy isn't explicitly Republican vs. Democrat. And I think the guidelines are clear enough: Gerrymandering districts for incumbent security is a sufficiently large threat to democracy that we ought not engage in it any longer. And I think that's true, so I'm voting YES on 11.
12: Veteran's bond act. This feels like a SUPPORT THE TROOPS kind of initiative here, and I don't quite get all the ramifications. Another one where I feel like I don't have a terribly well-formed opinion and would value some input. WTF on 12?!
N: School funding parcel tax. Even the Oakland Schools don't support N. That's good enough for me. NO on N.
NN: Police services parcel tax. I know a ton of people will disagree with me on this. All other issues aside, the Oakland Police Department needs our funding so that it can hire officers. If we do not take control of the crime issues in Oakland, the worst parts of this city will fester like an open wound. It kills me to love living here so much and embrace all the great things we have to offer as a community, and yet see the horrible, out of control things that continue to take place, day after day. There are very few cities in the world blessed with the breathtaking amenities we have, but prioirty one is in taking public safety issues head-on, because without that, everything else falls apart. YES!! in the imperative on NN.
OO: Fixing youth program funding as a percentage of Oakland general fund. Compelling arguments on both sides of the issue, but the bottom line is this: OO fixes the percentage of the GENERAL FUND that goes into these programs. This endangers, ironically, things like libraries and the parks system, which while substantial benefactors of youth programs themselves, fall outside the funding designation of Prop OO. OO makes no provisions for oversight of efficacy or incentivizing strong performance. OO is an unabashed fat cut right off the top to programs with absolutely no concern for any other area of the city budget. Especially given the budgetary K-hole the city is in right now, I don't see how, in good conscience, you could vote anything other than NO on OO.
VV: Public transit parcel tax for AC Transit. I don't use AC transit as much as I should, I'm afraid. Part of the problem is that their flat fare structure causes AC to be more expensive than BART for transit within the Oakland - Berkeley area for me. There's probably a whole post to deal with those demons. That said, AC transit is a massive and massively successful transit agency. Their services are desperately needed, and I believe the Bus Rapid Transit system they're talking about developing on Telegraph and International (is that last one right?) is incredibly important and would be a major boon to transit in the East Bay. In sum, $48 / year with all funding and oversight remaining local to ensure AC's viability and to shore up support for BRT, I think, is well worth the cost. YES on VV.
WW: Maintain current parcel tax for East Bay Regional Parks District. I hardly take advantage of the EBRPD as much as I should, yet I know how great this fund is. It's part of the awesomeness of the East Bay and we dare not let that go! YES on WW.