Mad Props: 2010 Primary Election Edition

Cheat Sheet
13 - YES
14 - NO
15 - YES
16 - NO
17 - NO
It’s election time! Once again, the people of California have an opportunity to inflict grievous harm upon their beloved state through the initiative process, and once again, Mad Props is here to stand in the way. Confused by the ballot propositions? I’ll cut through the bullshit and tell you which box you should check—and why. [previous editions of Mad Props: Feb ’08 · Oct ’08 · May ’09]

Here are the Mad Props recommendations for our upcoming Primary Election—and remember, by “recommendations,” I mean, “vote this way or you’re part of the problem”:
  • Proposition 13: Changes Budget Process. (info @ Ballotpedia)
    You Should Vote: YES
    This one’s pretty easy. Under current law, owners of unreinforced masonry buildings can see their property taxes rise if they undertake seismic improvements. 2010’s Prop 13 removes that disincentive. The California Nurses Association is against this (though they don’t say why); everyone else in the state seems to be for it. Seems sensible: We know that when the ground starts shaking, brick buildings kill. Let’s make it easier for owners to make those buildings safe. Vote YES on Prop 13.

  • Proposition 14: Top Two Primaries Act. (info @ Ballotpedia)
    You Should Vote: NO
    Here’s a popular idea that a lot of editorial boards are in favor of: Make our state primaries partisan-free, with the top two vote-getters moving on to the general election. The idea is that this will force candidates to appeal to voters across the board by moving to the political center; the hope is that this will yield more moderate public officials who might be able to cooperate and get something done in Sacramento.

    The Chron thinks this is a good idea, and says so under a headline that reads “Create real competition.” Utterly ridiculous, as competition is exactly what this scheme destroys. You can basically forget about third parties participating in the general election at all if Proposition 14 passes: You will end up with a Democrat and a Republican as the top two candidates in most cases, and those will be your only choices in the general election, with no allowance for write-in candidates.

    The Orange County Register, a paper as generally conservative and wrong-headed as the community it serves, actually has a very good piece against Prop 14. Your lefty Napa Valley Register agrees, and reminds us that due to 2008’s Prop 11, California’s district lines are in the process of changing; in other words, We the People have already enacted some rather serious election reform in this state. Maybe we should give it a chance to have some effect before we try something else? If I haven’t convinced you, please give Stop Top Two a chance to set you straight. Vote NO on Prop 14.

  • Proposition 15: Public Funding of Some Elections. (info @ Ballotpedia)
    You Should Vote: YES
    Prop 15 is a time-limited experiment in public campaign financing. It would only apply to candidates for California Secretary of State for the 2014 and 2018 election cycles, and is paid for by a surcharge on Sacramento lobbyists. The measure also makes one far-reaching change to state law, repealing the 1988 voter-approved ban on public campaign financing in California. This would make it possible for localities to implement public financing schemes if they so desire. I support pretty much any attempt to get Big Money out of political campaigns, and I think that publicly-financed campaigns are a good idea in general. It’s hard to see how Prop 15 could cause us any harm, and the experiment it puts in place might show us a suitable way forward. Give Sacramento a chance to shrug off the lobbyist monkeys on its back, and vote YES on Prop 15.

  • Proposition 16: PG&E’s Scam. (info @ Ballotpedia)
    You Should Vote: NO
    You’ve probably seen plenty of ads for this one already. They’re paid for by PG&E (the underwriter of this entire measure) and they try to get you worked up about the fact that those no-good idiotic meddling government bums are going to take millions of your taxpayer dollars and go into the energy business, and they’re going to do it without even letting you vote on it! OH THE HUMANITY!

    Have you really bought this crap? Then calm down and take a deep breath. Recall first that your elected officials spend millions of dollars of public money all the time, and you don’t get to vote on any of it. That’s their job. That’s what you elect them to do. The way you have input on the matter is by voting for folks you think will spend public money wisely.

    Any of you have friends in Alameda? The inhabitants and businesses of that lovely isle buy their electricity from … the City of Alameda. Back during the energy crisis, when our PG&E bills went sky high, rates in Alameda remained level. I don’t visit Alameda as often as I’d like, but when I do get over there, I don’t notice a problem with the lights staying on. Seems the City of Alameda is providing a Public Good to its citizens, and the only problem with the setup is that PG&E isn’t making millions off it. You can see, then, why the energy giant crafted Prop 16: It doesn’t want any more Alamedas. Well, if your city wants to go the public energy route someday, it should be able to explore and implement such a plan, and it shouldn’t have to get 66 percent of its citizens to sign off—that’s just ridiculous. PG&E doesn’t need a shield written in to state law. Vote NO on Prop 16.

  • Proposition 17: Mercury Insurance’s Scam. (info @ Ballotpedia)
    You Should Vote: NO
    Here’s another one that may sound good initially, but scratch the surface and you discover another big company (in this case, an insurance company) putting a measure on the ballot so that it can more efficiently fleece people.

    Mercury Insurance would have you believe that the emphasis here is on protecting discounts for good drivers if they switch carriers. But that’s not the end of it. As the Los Angeles Times explains quite well, Prop 17 represents a substantial revision to 1988’s Prop 103, which went a long way toward making auto insurance rates in California a lot more fair. Prop 17 would make it possible for Mercury to hike up the rates of new customers, or folks who have had lapses in coverage. People in these categories are more likely to have difficulty paying auto insurance premiums in the first place—raise the rates even more, and you’ll have more uninsured drivers on the road, which ends up costing us all. California’s auto insurance status quo is certainly no promised land, but this little bit of “reform” is really just a sneaky means of starting to undo reform the industry has chafed against for many years. Don’t let them get away with it. Vote NO on Prop 17.

If you’ve found this edition of Mad Props useful, please post a link to it on your Facebook, or Twit the URL to your friends, or whatever social networking thing it is you do when you see something online and want to share it with others. I’d also love to hear about it in the comments if I’ve said anything particularly enlightening (or particularly stupid). Happy voting!