Oct 122014

ballotState Propositions

Prop 1: NO

Prop 1 is a bond measure that would raise billions to be spent on water infrastructure. Over 2 billion would be use to build dams, which has negative environmental consequences. The bond would be pay back from the state’s general fund, rather than by imposing fees to the agricultural businesses that will mostly benefit from this measure. Here is a useful and simple independent analysis of the bill.

Prop 2: NO

Prop 2 requires that 1.5% of general fund revenues be put into reserves. Half the money would go to pay off debt, and the other to be used in case of a fiscal emergency.  While it sounds good in theory, it would be up to the Governor alone to declare such fiscal emergency, which concentrates too much power in the Governor’s office.  In addition, in lean years, the Legislature would have to cut spending to make its required deposit – which is likely to happen on the back of the neediest.  Indeed, the proposition also eliminates the need to pay back school districts for the years where the state does not meet its full financial obligations towards education.  In all, this may serve Wall Street, but won’t serve California.  Here is a useful and simple independent analysis of the measure.

Prop 45: YES

Prop 45 basically extends the Insurance Commissioner’s power to regulate car insurance rates to medical insurance.  It will give the Insurance Commissioner the power to not approve health insurance rate increases if they are not justified by rising expenditures.  It’s that simple.

Health insurance rates have been going up immensely in the last few years, and the Affordable Care Act has had the perverse side effect of increasing them.  This is because under the ACA, insurance companies must spend a fixed percentage of their revenue on medical care.  This means, however, that their profit has decrease. The only way they can bring it back up is by increasing their revenues, and therefore their rates.

Insurance companies have been claiming that Prop 45 interferes with Obamacare, but it’s exactly the opposite, it makes if possible for people to chose to get health insurance rather than pay the fine.

Prop 46: NO

Trial lawyers, and victims of medical malpractice, justifiably want to raise the award caps on pain and suffering.  However, in order to sell this proposition to a public weary of huge jury awards, they’ve added to the measure two very objectionable mandates.  One is random drug testing for doctors.  We don’t have enough physicians as it is in  California, driving them away by subjecting them to such humiliating and unnecessary practices is unconscionable.  The other, is the requirement that all medical professionals check a database that contains a list of schedule II prescriptions for Californians.  That means that a person’s private medical information will be massively disseminated, with potential terrible results.

Prop 47: YES

Prop 48: NO

I’m a bit torn on this proposition and I want to do a little bit more research, but as of now I’m voting “No”.  Prop 48 allows and Indian tribe whose reservation is not adequate for housing a casino, to put a casino in land they buy outside the reservation.  The proposition is being fought by the Indian tribes that already have casinos and don’t want the competition.

Personally, I think we should not be building any more casinos.  They take money away from the people who most need it, and they abuse natural resources – from electricity to water.

Still, apparently one of the reasons why they could not build a casino in their tribal lands, is that these are environmentally fragile.  Before voting No I want to make sure that the tribe will not respond by going ahead and destroying their own environment.

County Proposition

Measure BB: YES

As a matter of principle, I do not support sale taxes. They are regressive and they affect the poor the most.  Measure BB is particularly problematic as it doubles the county transportation tax to 1%. That’s a significant increase for people who are already struggling to survive day to day.

However, the proceeds from the tax will be used exclusively to fix and improve transportation throughout Alameda County, and this is something that affects us all.  Streets and roads countywide are in great need of repairs, the longer we put off doing it, the more expensive it will be both in terms of repair costs and in terms of the economic consequences of living with bad roads.  As global warming becomes a greater and greater concern, we need whatever is possible to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases we release into the atmosphere.  This means we need to drive less, walk and bike more and use public transportation.  And that means we need to invest in safe and useful bike routes and on our public transportation system.  Ultimately, this is something that will benefit everyone, including the poor, both by improving the services they already use and by stimulating the economy, which hopefully will mean more and better paying jobs.

San Leandro Measures

Measure HH: NO

Unlike Measure BB, there are no limitations on what Measure HH funds can be used.  The City commissioned a survey to let them know how to best sell this tax increase to voters.  The survey found voters were more likely to vote for a tax that would go to maintain emergency services, libraries, programs for teens, public safety and fix roads, so the City is claiming that that’s what the funds will go for.  There is no reason to believe them, however.  When they passed Measure Z in 2010, they said it was an emergency measure that would pay for exactly those same services.  Instead, the proceeds went to service accumulated debt and refinance the city’s pension obligations.  It may very well be that the City has legitimate needs for these funds, but it has not been candid with voters as to what those are.

Similarly, the City has been deceitful as to the amount and length of this tax.  It has marketed it as an “extension” of Measure Z, when Measure Z was a 1/4-cent emergency tax that was set to expire in 8 years.  Measure HH, on the other hand is, for all intents and purposes, a permanent tax (it expires in 30 years!) twice as large as Measure Z.

While we may not know exactly where Measure HH funds will go to, it’s very likely that a significant portion of them will go towards militarizing the San Leandro Police Department.   The City already has plans for an expansive upgrade to the Police Department facilities, is in the process of installing surveillance cameras in town and has been acquiring military weapons.  Another significant percentage of the proceeds will go, of necessity, to pay for employee pensions, some of which are well into the six figures.

Meanwhile, the tax will mostly affect the poorest in San Leandro, who may already be burdened by the Measure BB tax.

Measure II: NO

Measure II has the Vice-Mayor term starting in January rather than in June.   This measure came about because Councilmember Diana Souza wanted to be able to run for Mayor using the Vice-Mayor designation.  However, she could not be elected Vice-Mayor this June, as her City Council term finished in December, and she would have been unable to complete the year-long Vice-Mayor term.  This would not have been a problem if the Vice-Mayor term started in January.  Moving the term to January, therefore, will make it possible for a councilmember in the last year of their term who plans to run for mayor, to become Vice-Mayor and gain an unfair advantage over his opponents in the mayoral race.

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