By Wade Holland
What’s most interesting about this year’s Nov. 4 general election is not the candidates – from top to bottom, the races are all pretty ho-hum. What stands out is how little agreement there is about the State propositions, particularly within either side of the right-left political divide. Conservative and liberal organizations are both divided within themselves on whether or not to support most of the State propositions. For example, out of 15 surveyed organizations on the liberal side, three favor Jerry Brown’s Prop. 1 water bond, three oppose it, and the other nine couldn’t make up their mind. So let’s jump right to the propositions and measures to see what we can figure out, then we’ll double back to the offices that appear on West Marin ballots.
Overview of propositions and measures
Prop. 1 YES: Water bonds
Prop. 2 YES: Rainy day fund
Prop. 45 YES: Health insurance
Prop. 46 NO: Medical
Prop. 47 YES: Sentencing
Prop. 48 NO: Gambling
Meas. A YES: Radio system
Meas. B YES: Bolinas school bond
Meas. R YES: Hospital lease
The state propositions
Prop. 1, the water bonds proposal, is a toughie. It authorizes sale of $7.12 billion in bonds for a smorgasbord of vaguely related (and mostly vaguely defined) water projects. The bonds will require a total repayment, interest included, of some $14.4 billion. However, when that colossal sum is annualized over the estimated 40-year life of the bonds, it comes to what seems a fairly manageable $360 million a year. And, according to the independent Legislative Analyst, the indebtedness would be partially offset to the tune of “a couple of hundred million dollars annually over the next few decades” in savings to local governments.
Our fractious legislature placed Prop. 1 on the ballot with no opposition at all in the Senate and only two dissenters in the Assembly. The ballot argument in favor is signed by a cover-all-the-bases triumvirate of Governor Jerry Brown, the president of the California Farm Bureau Federation, and the state director of the Nature Conservancy. The opposition argument doesn’t have so distinguished a pedigree, and its case is narrowly focused on the purported use of a large share of the money ($2.7 billion) to build new dams. I too don’t want to see big new dams, but the proponents point out that the actual language is for “water storage” projects, groundwater storage in particular, not just dams.
Weighing against Prop. 1 in my mind is that it could result in too much invested in dams, the bonds are for one heck of a lot of money, and there’s a potential for boondoggles. But I’m impressed that it got through the legislature nearly unanimously with that rarity, bipartisan support. And I think a lot of worthwhile projects could get built in a short period of time. I’m tilting slightly in favor of Prop. 1 (which, it should be pointed out, is NOT for funding any proposed Delta canal system).
Prop. 2 The rainy day fund in Prop. 2 seems a generally good idea, and the voter pamphlet argument against it makes almost no sense and comes from a single source I never heard of before. I’ve read a number of very similar letters to the editor alarmed at how Prop. 2 will destroy education and the school system, but none of them explains, even vaguely, how this will occur. I wonder if the letter writers are copying from a script and don’t themselves understand what underlies their arguments. My take is that Prop. 2 is OK.
Prop. 45, giving the respected Insurance Commissioner’s office some authority over health insurance rates, is a no-brainer that deserves to be supported.
Prop. 46 purports to be about drug and alcohol testing of doctors, but it’s really about lifting restrictions on medical malpractice lawsuits. I might actually support that real intent, but the asinine drug testing provision is a too-cynical ploy inserted to divert attention from the proposition’s real purpose. Down the tubes with Prop. 46.
Prop. 47 aims to loosen the boundary between felonies and misdemeanors, an important step in reforming our runaway prison-industrial complex. A Yes vote makes good sense.
Prop. 48 The issues in the Indian gaming Prop. 48 are convoluted, but all you need to know is that Indian gambling never has anything to do with Indians, and everything to do with mega profits for Nevada (and beyond) gambling interests. This ballot referendum may be disguised as a fight between two California Indian tribes, but the real combatants are Brigade Capital Management and Station Casinos of Las Vegas. Do those sound like tribal names? Rein in exploitation of indigenous peoples, deep-six the Madera casino, vote No on 48.
County and local measures
Measure A’s County-wide property tax ($29 per year for a single-family parcel) is by far the fairest and most equitable way to fund the necessary next-generation MERA emergency radio system. Indeed, even its opponents endorse the system upgrade as being necessary and inevitable, they just don’t want to have to pay for it – because, oddly, they are opposed to public employee pensions. Huh? Especially in rural West Marin, a functioning, reliable commo system is a lifeline none of us wants to be without. We certainly don’t want to sacrifice it on the altar of an irrelevant squabble over public pension policy. Getting a two-thirds approval is going to be a tough slog, so I hope the West Marin communities, which will be net beneficiaries of both the new system and (importantly!) this particular method of financing it, will step up to the mic with an eye-catching super-majority for Measure A.
Measure R continues in effect the existing operating arrangement for Marin General Hospital. The surprisingly well-financed opposition consists mainly of good folks who, back in the day, waged a long, uphill battle to pry our county’s public hospital out from under a disastrous 1985 lease to the rapacious Sutter Health. And it’s a battle that the good guys (us!) won. But in that fight there really was an “us” and a “them.” Today, there’s only an “us”; there is no longer a separate outside interest skimming the hospital’s revenues. It’s time to let go of the Sutter battle. The current system is working well, so I support a Yes vote.
Measure B Locally, Bolinas and Stinson voters are being asked in Measure B to approve up to $9 million in school bonds to be used exclusively for repairs and improvements to outdated facilities. The amount is minimal, the indenture is carefully crafted, and the kids deserve to be supported. Yes on B.
Congress, state, and local offices
At the top of the ballot are a lot of familiar names, some of them playing musical chairs as they vie for a new office after being termed out of a previous office. I’m sticking mostly with my June primary endorsements for the various State offices: incumbent EDMUND G. “JERRY” BROWN for Governor, Marin’s GAVIN NEWSOM for Lieutenant Governor, ALEX PADILLA for Secretary of State (a lukewarm endorsement, but his opponent’s candidate statement sounds like it could have been written in Karl Rove’s bedroom), BETTY YEE for Controller, JOHN CHIANG for Treasurer, KAMALA HARRIS for Attorney General, DAVE JONES for Insurance Commissioner, and FIONA MA for State Board of Equalization.
For the nonpartisan post of State Superintendent of Public Instruction, I favor the incumbent TOM TORLAKSON. He is facing a strong challenge from Marshall Tuck, who tells us he wants to “Get the politicians out of our schools.” Unfortunately, he seems to want to replace them with business interests, judging from his track record as a major mover in privatization of the public schools. This guy is being groomed for something, and I don’t think it’s something we’re going to like the looks of – especially since full-page ads for Tuck started appearing in newspapers up and down the state. In the fine print it’s revealed that major funding for the ads is coming from Eli Broad, who is to Los Angeles what the Koch brothers are to New York. I’d just as soon tuck Tuck out of sight as quickly as possible.
For Congress (U.S. Representative), the clear choice is JARED HUFFMAN, who already in just one term in Washington has proved to be a mover-and-shaker. I believe we’ll also be happy to have MIKE McGUIRE, a Sonoma County Supervisor, serving us in Sacramento as our State Senator. I’m not enthusiastic about MARC LEVINE, our incumbent Assembly member, but he’s sure a heck of a lot better than his opponent (who promises in his candidate’s statement that he would use the office to interfere in local land-use decisions).
At the County level, the Marin Healthcare District would be best served by electing LARRY A. BEDARD, JENNIFER RIENKS, and MICHAEL W. WHIPPLE, for pretty much the same reasons that I endorsed a Yes vote on Measure R above (all three of the other candidates are still stewing in the anti-Sutter time warp).
For readers in Marin Municipal Water District’s Division 3, one of West Marin’s best friends, LIZA CROSSE, has earned and very much deserves election to a full term on the MMWD board. Because of my background as General Manager of the Inverness Water System, I feel I’m in a good position to judge how folks perform as directors of a water district. My observation is that Liza has been a standout as a director, a person who does her homework, studies the issues thoroughly, listens to the community, and comes to thoughtful, informed decisions. Any board would be fortunate to have a Liza Crosse on it.
Finally, three incumbents and a challenger are vying for three seats on the Bolinas-Stinson school board. I leave it to the good people of Bolinas and Stinson Beach to sort this race out for themselves.