The most important and interesting presidential race of our time, dozens of local candidates and issues ... but don't forget those propositions! Good Times gives you a clear look at the 12 choices facing all California voters on this enormous ballot.
Vote No on Proposition 8
Thirty years ago, The Briggs Initiative (California Prop 6) hit the state ballot, creating a ripple effect in the human rights movement. The proposition, spearheaded by conservative state legislator John Briggs, who was based in Orange County, would have banned gays and lesbians from working in the state school
system. It clearly stipulated that any teacher who was found encouraging or advocating homosexual activity would be terminated from employment. Basically, at its core it really said this: If you’re gay, you’re out. (We’re talking employment here.)
The prop gained momentum, thanks, in part, to another conservative at the time—Anita Bryant. Bryant had just come off of a successful campaign to repeal one of the nation’s first gay rights ordinances in Dade County, Florida. (Curiously, one can’t help but draw some parallels between Bryant and today’s Vice Presidential candidate, Sarah Palin.) Prop 6, in effect, became the first push on a ballot measure to hinder the rights of gays and lesbians. A great deal of this history happens to be documented in the new, highly anticipated film “Milk,” which chronicles the rise of the San Francisco gay movement, something that managed to work its way into the fabric of national politics for decades to come. In the film, an Oscar-worthy Sean Penn plays Harvey Milk, the well-known, outspoken member of the California Board of Supervisors who was assassinated, along with the city’s mayor, George Moscone, by supervisor Dan White on Nov. 27, 1978.
It’s good to recall these historic events during this election year. If anything, it shows how much the state—and the country—has evolved and, in some cases, not evolved at all.
Which brings us to the topic of Proposition 8. Through the years, Good Times hasn’t typically doled out political endorsements. The job of the newspaper, most of us here felt, was to present, as best we could, the rich kaleidoscope of issues facing the county’s readers. We’ve done that to award-winning ends, but then Prop 8 popped up on the ballot and with it, came an opportunity for us to re-examine where we stood—not just as journalists, but as human beings.
Prop 8, as many know by now, would alter the California Constitution and eliminate the right for same-sex couples to marry. Should it be passed, a new section would be added stipulating that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid and recognized in California.”
While it’s true that the remarkable funding and vigor of the Proposition 8 campaign—and even its existence—are rooted in hatred and misplaced religious zeal, we believe that Californians are not, in the majority, so twisted and misguided by those negative emotions to carry Proposition 8 and make it the only exclusionary clause in the California Constitution—a clause so against the spirit of the United States Constitution that it would make a mockery of the word “constitutional.”
And yet there is a solid chance that this odious notion, which would deny rights based on gender and sexuality, might pass. This is because of that milder side of the argument, made by those who, while not overtly angry or disgusted with homosexuality, believe faithfully that the word “marriage” must be reserved for a contract between a man and a woman.
Yes, there is tremendous power in the word “marriage,” and that’s why it should be made available to every person who’s capable of such love that they choose to use it. We have imbued the word with the ultimate and complete amounts of commitment, faithfulness, and sanctity. Sadly, it is a word with such power that many people—of all persuasions and sexualities—sometimes find they are incapable of living up to it. It is a word with such nobility that it perhaps asks more of people than they are truly capable. But that is why we choose to use it. The word ‘marriage’ represents a goal to be the best, most caring, most loving, most amazing person one can be for the sake of another person. There is no other word for that hope. The word must be available to all people.
Would California be a better place if we referred to only white youth as “children,” and youth of all other races as “wards?” Would this state be a friendly and healthy place to live if men were allowed to have “jobs” while women, no matter what profession they chose, had to call their occupations a "hobby"? Would it be just if California were to suddenly force criminals to give up the rights to the word “human,” or sensible to ask Muslims to call their faith a “cult?” Will the next step on our current path be forcing gay parents to refer to themselves as “guardians”?
There’s another tricky thing about Proposition 8. On some level, it screws with the fundamental laws of nature. By preventing those who love each other from marrying each other it attempts to once again control the love somebody has for another person. Ultimately, it’s an impossible thing to do. One cannot mandate who one loves, how they love, and to what degree that love should be exhibited. It’s like telling a tree not to grow toward the sky.
This year, we have witnessed thousands of historic marriages, in which committed and loving couples have speedily and joyously joined their lives together in the eyes of the state and their community. Sadly, some of the speed of those unions has been due to Proposition 8’s looming head, and the threat that the word “marriage” might once again recede away from homosexual men and women and the transgendered.
If you have any notion of skipping this election: please do not. Even if voting against Proposition 8 is the only mark you make on the ballot, it is crucial, even in an area that is so seemingly united. This is not, unlike other races and measures, a districted or otherwise segmented vote. It is a direct vote of the entire state. Santa Cruz cannot afford to merely oppose Proposition 8 by a 60, or 70, or even 80 percent margin. There are 137,807 registered voters in Santa Cruz County for the election on Nov. 4. Our goal is to see 100,000 votes against Proposition 8. Please join us in making that a reality, so that no other part of California can overwhelm our clear and just appreciation for the sanctity and joy of marriage for all.
For the record, Prop 6 didn’t pass in 1978. A new civil rights movement was formed because of its failure. Human rights prevailed. And, if we can defeat Prop 8, they may prevail for more generations to come.
Regulatory Propositions: What they aim to fix.
Prop 7: Renewable Energy Generation
What is the current process? California has legislation in place that aims to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Utility companies regulated by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) are required to produce 20 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2010 and 40 percent by 2025.
How would it change? The PUC regulates investor-owned utilities and electric service providers, but not publicly-owned utilities. This proposition would apply the 20 percent requirement to all utilities companies, not just those regulated by the PUC. It would also increase the 2025 requirement from 40 to 50 percent and implement new penalties for companies who do not comply.
What are the possible consequences? Proponents say that this is an opportunity for California to become a world leader in clean energy and that 370,000 new high-wage jobs will be created as a result. In addition to protecting the environment, they say that it will also protect consumers by limiting rate increases to three percent and ensuring that utilities companies who do not meet the requirements cannot recover their penalties from customers. The opposition claims that these requirements would shut out California’s small providers, which currently account for 60 percent of the state’s renewable energy contracts. In doing so, they fear that the proposition would actually deter progress in achieving clean energy. They also argue that consumer costs will actually rise because power companies will be allowed to charge 10 percent over the market price. They worry that this is the wrong path to take for a cleaner state; that simply increasing required percentages will not help California research and create new sources of renewable energy.
Prop 11: Redistricting
What is the current process? According to the California Constitution, the district boundaries for the U.S. House of Representatives, the state Assembly and Senate, and the Board of Equalizers (BOE) must be redrawn after each federal census. Currently, the legislature is responsible for redistricting.
How would it change? Proposition 11 asks for the responsibility of redistricting legislative and BOE zones to be shifted from the legislature to a new Citizens Redistricting Commission comprised of 14 members, including five from each of the state’s two main parties and four from neither party. Any California voter may apply to be a Commissioner, but will be subject to multiple screening processes. In drawing the district plans, the Commission must hold public hearings and accept public comment. There must be a total of nine votes for the plan to pass, including three from each of the two major parties and three from the other members. There is no foreseeable change to the fiscal impact of redistricting.
What are the possible consequences? Legislators will no longer be drawing their own district lines –a practice that Prop 11 proponents say allows them to “pick their own voters” and thus refrain from being truly accountable to voters. They argue that districting reform will alleviate the state’s party gridlock that is keeping legislators from properly dealing with issues such as healthcare, the budget and the environment. The opposition argues that the Commission will become a powerful entity that is not publicly elected like legislators are, and will not be made to reflect the gender, racial or geographic diversity of California’s people.
Social Propositions: Mom and Dad argue about politics
Prop 2: Standards for Confining Farm Animals
In California, during their four-month pregnancies, female pigs are kept in two-foot-wide gestation stalls that aren't large enough for them to turn around in. Egg-laying hens are confined to battery cages in which they can't even spread their wings. Baby cows destined to be veal are taken from their mothers days after birth and tethered by their necks in stalls too small for them to turn around or lie down in. It's pure cruelty. If this proposition passes, the law will simply require that all farm enclosures that house these hens, calves and pigs will provide enough space for the animal to lie down, stretch and turn around. Is humane treatment too much to ask for?
It's luxurious to think that we could feed the world with animals set free in their natural habitats and allowed to live happy pig and chicken lives until they day they get beheaded, but farming is not a bucolic past time as so many people think. It's a business, and a harsh one because the "factory" in question is a living animal, and living beings are notoriously unique. Farms will always try to minimize the unknowns by finding efficient and uniform treatment for their animals. Are there cruelties that can and should be prevented? Of course, but those are already in place. This law is too restrictive, and would only apply to California farms, giving a competitive advantage to farmers in other states who can still practice in these "cruel" ways.
The law is far from restrictive; it is simple and extremely reasonable. The law doesn't require factory farms to allow their animals to roam free. Asking farmers to keep their animals, or rather their "products," in confinements that give them room to lay down or stretch is hardly asking for a complete redesign of the industry- although it does have the potential to successfully reform the ethics of the factory farm industry, and do so without weakening capital or pushing business out of the state. Take Arizona for example, where a similar proposition passed in 2006. Not only did the state's industry leaders stay in state, but within three months of the prop's landslide victory, top veal producers had phased out their use of cruel veal crates and, following suit, the largest pig producers in the US and Canada announced they were phasing out gestation crates. So no, this prop won't hurt California's competitive edge. Rather, it will be an overdue opportunity for California -like Arizona- to raise the bar in healthy animal treatment for the rest of the country.
I'm not sure Arizona proves much, given that the desert state's livestock economy is much smaller than ours (168 farms involved in hog sales in 2002, according to the USDA census, compared to California's 1,513, just to take one example). It's one thing to provide mandated creature comforts for a marginal state with room for growth, but quite another to account for the impact in might have on a state that feeds the nation. Tell me these laws are passing in landslides in Iowa, and I might buy they aren't economically disastrous. If this were just about veal -- a niche product that involves the unwise slaughter of juveniles -- it would be different, and I don't know enough about pigs to say if the pregnancy bit is smart or not, but forcing farmers to create more space for 22.8 million hen-laying eggs is no small chore, or expense. The proposition bites off more than it can chew.
Prop 4: Waiting Period and Parental Notification Before Termination of Pregnancy
So you're a 14-year-old girl. You can't drive, drink, or vote. You're pregnant. And you can get an abortion -- potentially the most important decision of your entire life -- all by yourself? This isn't necessarily about whether or not abortion should be legal, but about whether or not children should be given the power to make life-altering decisions. Society has decided, on issue after issue, that when it comes to health (drinking), life-and-death (driving), and complex decision making (voting), young teenagers are not equipped to handle these things without certain restrictions or parental involvement, if at all. What's wrong with including abortion in this category?
You're right that this proposition isn't about whether abortion is right or wrong. No one wants a teenager to be in the position of seeking an abortion in the first place. The question is what would keep young girls safest. Prop 4 argues that mandatory parental notification would protect young girls, when really it would put many of them in serious danger. In an ideal society, all girls facing such a heavy decision would consult their parents. Ideally, all girls would be as lucky as those who have supportive, loving families in which communication is possible. However, this law does not affect girls with such families. The real impact of this proposition wouldn't be the satisfaction of nosey parents or privacy-breeching state legislators, it would be the endangerment of girls with abusive, negligent or draconian families. It is imperative that we think of them while voting on this proposition.
Of course it's not a perfect world, and unfortunately there are some horrendous, abusive parents out there, but that's why we have child abuse laws on the books. This is really about cases where the pregnant child has formed different religious or social views than her parents -- and given the nature of children to rebel in teen years, that's not uncommon. I understand the viewpoint that abortion is a woman's right to choose, but that's a woman, an adult. Granting that right carte blanche to a girl essentially makes her mother's right to choose null and void. We have legal abortion in this country, but we also have legal protection for those who don't believe in it, under the first amendment's freedom of speech and religion. This statute chips away at that right, by robbing a parent's right to choose and handing that incredible burden to a child who, by all other standards of society, is not ready to make those kind of choices.
Whether you’re a grown woman or a teenage girl, you have the same rights to choose – and to choose in privacy. Law cannot mandate healthy communication between parents and children, no matter how hard it tries. This proposition is reactionary. It is reacting to the problem of teen pregnancy by weakening female reproductive rights that have been so long in the making. Parents and legislators alike should be more concerned with funding and implementing prevention and safe-sex education than taking away their daughter’s rights. Abortion will happen either way, and if a young girl does not feel safe knowing she must notify her family, she will be more likely to seek unsafe, illegal means of terminating her pregnancy. Not only does this proposition help push abortions to the back alley, once again, but it is just a taste of what would follow: restrictive propositions like this are popping up across the country to weaken Roe v. Wade, with the intentions of eventually overturning it. No, this law would not criminalize abortion. But where there is one little restrictive law there are many, many more to follow. A vote for this is a vote to start the snowball effect.
Law & Order Propositions: Bust 'em, hold 'em, treat 'em
Prop 6: Police and Law Enforcement Funding.
What does it do? Puts nearly $1 billion into the budgets for police, district attorneys, and jails, and strengthens many gang-related criminal statutes, some to the status of life sentences.
Who will it target? Primarily, gang members. Once identified as a gang member, a criminal would face stiffer penalties (up to life in prison) than non-gang offenders, and create a gang member registry similar to sex offenders upon parole. Also strengthens penalties for methamphetamine crimes.
What will it cost? In addition to a mandated $965 million on criminal justice, an estimated $500 million in increased prison facility costs annually.
Who’s for it? Every county sheriff in California has endorsed the measure, which they call the Safe Neighborhoods Act.
Who’s against it? The ACLU, the Democratic Party, most major labor unions, and the California Professional Firefighters.
Prop 9: Victims’ Rights and Parole.
What does it do? Solicits the input of crime victims during bail, pleas, sentencing, and parole hearings, and increases the number of people allowed to attend parole hearings. Also guarantees restitution payments be prioritized higher than fines and fees when collecting money from convicted criminals.
Who will it target? Primarily the victims of crime and their families, by making their rights to have input constitutionally guaranteed.
What will it cost? There are no direct, mandated costs to this measure. The state estimates that parole will be harder to obtain, and thus jail facility costs will increase, but that some administrative costs for parole hearings will be decreased under this measure.
Who’s for it? Victims’ rights organizations like Justice for Murdered Children and the National Organization of Parents of Murdered Children, who call it Marsy’s Law after a 21-year-old murder victim.
Who’s against it? Once again, the ACLU, the Democratic Party, most major labor unions, and the California Professional Firefighters.
Prop 5: Nonviolent Drug Offenses, Sentencing, Parole, and Rehabilitation
What does it do? Creates funding for expanded treatment programs and shortens parole periods for non-violent drug offenses. Creates a three-tiered system for categorizing drug crimes.
Who will it target? Nonviolent criminals who are charged with possession or use of illegal drugs, with special lenience for first-time offenders.
What will it cost? A mandated $460 million a year to create a 23-member oversight board, the three-tiered diversion system for especially non-violent offenders, and a new juvenile treatment program. The state estimates that an additional $1 billion in treatment costs would be offset by $1 billion in decreased incarceration costs, and that the long-term benefits to less prison facilities needed could reach $2.5 billion.
Who’s for it? The League of Women Voters and several mental health and other health care associations
Who’s against it? Most police organizations, Senator Feinstein, Governor Schwarzenegger and the previous three governors, Jerry Brown, Martin Sheen, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving, who call it the Drug Dealers’ Bill of Rights.
Bond Propositions: A billion dollars of ideas
Prop 1A: Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond
Amount: $9.95 billion
Spent: At least $9 billion on specific construction projects for the high-speed train, the remaining $950 million on improvements to existing rail infrastructure.
Ongoing costs: $647 million a year in bond payments (total payback: $19.4 billion), approximately $1 billion a year to operate the train (expected to be covered by fares).
Paid back from: The General Fund until 2039 at the earliest, 2049 at the latest.
What it buys: An electric rail line connecting San Francisco, Sacramento, and Los Angeles, capable of speeds up to 220 miles per hour.
Prop 3: Children’s Hospital Bond Act
Amount: $980 million
Spent: At least $784 million to eight hospitals that focus on children with acute illness, the remaining $196 million given to five children’s hospitals operated by the University of California.
Ongoing costs: $64 million a year in bond payments (total payback: $1.9 billion), given a 5 percent interest rate.
Paid back from: The General Fund until 2039.
What it buys: Money for children’s hospitals.
Prop 10: Alternative Fuel Vehicles and Renewable Energy Bonds.
Amount: $5 billion
Spent: $3.425 billion on customer rebates for cars with good gas mileage or engines that do not use gasoline, $1.25 billion on research and development of solar energy technology and other renewables, approximately $325 million in grants to cities and colleges related to renewable energy technology.
Ongoing costs: $335 million a year in bond payments (total payback: $10 billion), approximately $10 million a year in administrative costs.
Paid back from: The General Fund until 2039.
What it buys: Cash for anyone who buys an alternative fuel car, or a car that gets better than 45 miles per gallon, plus funding for renewable energy research and development.
Prop 12: Veterans’ Bond Act
Amount: $900 million
Spent: Entirely on funding the Cal-Vet program, which provides rebates to military veterans who buy homes.
Ongoing costs: $59 million a year in bond payments (total payback: $1.8 billion).
Paid back from: the homebuyers over a mortgage of 30 years.
What it buys: Readily available, low-interest home loans for approximately 3,600 military veterans.
Total cost to General Fund per year if you vote “yes” to all bond propositions: $1 billion.
Don't forget the local candidates.
What are those meters next to their pictures?
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