Mad Props: A Voter’s Guide to California’s Ballot Measures

There is a ‘politics’ category on this blog for a simple reason: I am a lifelong student of the subject. This is partly due to circumstance. My father is a professor of political science—meaning, for instance, that back in the 80s, when I was wee, come a Friday night, the household’s singular television would spend half an hour tuned to PBS’s Washington Week in Review before we could move on to the “good stuff” (like Night Flight). But over time, dammit, political and current-events programming became the “good stuff” as far as I was concerned, and so it was, when I got to college, that studying literature wasn’t enough; I had to study literature and political science—thus leading to the unforgettable moment on the phone when dear old dad laughed and noted that I had chosen “not one, but two completely useless majors.” Ahem.

As a lifelong student of politics, I usually find California’s statewide ballot measures to be the most dispiriting part of any election cycle. Born of an early 20th century populist movement, California’s initiative system has been sorely—no, dreadfully—out of whack for several decades. For years I’ve been meaning to write a long screed for the Mahna Mahblog about how badly We the People of California screw ourselves with our various propositions. I’ve meant to craft a real barnstormer of a piece that would have you spitting bullets at the next person who approaches you at the supermarket, asking you to sign their freaking petition so they can help get another ruinous measure onto the ballot.

I still haven’t gotten around to writing that piece, sadly. But my dad (who’s got a blog of his own) has a new post that says quite a bit of what I’ve wanted to say, and also makes a specific recommendation on Proposition 92 (the community college funding measure) that surprised me and changed my stance. That input taken into consideration, I now offer up the first edition of Mad Props, this blog’s guaranteed, no-nonsense, no-bullshit guide to the California Propositions, arriving far too late this time around for all you damned absentee voters. (I’ll try to get Mad Props in to the site’s editor sooner come the fall, I promise.)

Now then, my recommendations, and by “recommendations,” I mean, “vote this way or you’re a big fucking part of the problem”:

  • Proposition 91: Transportation Funds.
    You Should Vote: NO
    Why:
    We lead off with an oddball. Even the people who put this one on the ballot are asking us to vote it down. Apparently we already solved the problem at issue. Fair enough. Bigger fish to fry.

  • Proposition 92: Community College Funding.
    You Should Vote: NO
    Why:
    My father’s been teaching community college for more than three decades. Please let him tell you why this proposition is a really bad idea.

  • Proposition 93: Changes to State Term Limits.
    You Should Vote: YES
    Why:
    Term limits suck in nearly every form. The term limits currently in place for our state legislature have had a particularly bad effect. Read the “pro” arguments in your voter information pamphlet; those people are speaking the truth. We’re not be lucky enough to eliminate term limits anytime soon, but this measure may very well help ease their negative effects in Sacramento.

  • Propositions 94 - 97: The Indian Gaming Initiatives.
    You Should Vote: YES
    Why:
    Let’s be clear: These measures chiefly affect the greater San Diego area, where I grew up. If these pass, they will fuel an already noticeable Las Vegasification of a town that still has the abject cluelessness to call itself “America’s Finest City” with a straight face. More and more, the place seems driven on turning itself into California’s playground. Giving area tribes the go-ahead to run enormous, Vegas-style casinos so close to the city’s core (wait a second, can I really mean that? San Diego, like any So-Cal town, has no core…) will only further the trend. I think it’s kind of unfortunate. That said, we’re talking about Native Americans, here. Just about every damn promise that has ever been made to these people over the centuries has been broken. Yes, I said “over the centuries”—that’s how long these people have been getting royally screwed. They had their entire continent stolen out from underneath them, for chrissake. So they wanna run casinos, and in so doing, lift themselves out of generations of poverty. Who the hell are the people of California to say no?