Saturday, October 20, 2018

Our Guide for CA Ballot Propositions, with some help from our friends, neighbors and our chicken

Sylvester Williams with our chicken
Checkers, who helped us make
our decision on Prop 12
Last night we had a “Prop Party” to discuss the various CA ballot propositions. Because California is one of the few states to have ballot props, it is worth explaining that  "a ballot proposition is a referendum or an initiative measure submitted to the electorate for a direct decision or direct vote (or plebiscite). They are very important because if passed, they can alter one or more of the articles of the Constitution of California, one or more of the 29 California Codes , or another law in the California Statutes by clarifying current or adding statute(s) or removing current statute(s)."

Our prop party has become an annual fun event with people emailing us asking if we will host it again.  Those who came: Anthony and Jill, and our friends Sylvester, Carolyn and Adrienne, and our friend and neighbor Patricia. We studied the propositions using the following guides to help us:  the Quaker Friends Committee on Legislation of California (FCLCA), IMPACT (the California Council of Churches) and ACT (a progressive political action group in Pasadena/Altadena).  These groups didn’t always agree, but we had a lively and fun discussion and came up with our own recommendations. Here is a brief summary of what we came up with:

Proposition 1: YES Authorizes Bonds to Fund Specified Housing Assistance Programs. Legislative Statute. Proposition. We strongly support this measure, as did FCLCA, IMPACT, and ACT. We urgently need affordable housing and we feel this bond measure will help meet that need. A bond is like a mortgage, a long term investment on something that will most likely increase in value. No one expects a home to be paid off in a year, so bonds are spread out over the life time of the use of the home.

Proposition 2: YES Authorizes Bonds to Fund Existing Housing Program for Individuals with
Jill and Carolyn Williams
Mental Illness. Legislative Statute. Proposition.
This prop also had the support of FCLCA, IMPACT and ACT. Some concern was expressed about taking money from mental health care and using it to build permanent supportive housing for the mentally ill, but we believe the only way to help mentally ill people on the street is first to get them housed, so we agreed that this prop is worthy of our support.

Proposition 3: YES, with some reservations. Authorizes Bonds to Fund Projects for Water Supply and Quality, Watershed, Fish, Wildlife, Water Conveyance, and Groundwater Sustainability and Storage. Initiative Statute. This prop has the support of IMPACT and ACT, but FCLCA and the Sierra Club are concerned that “the proponents of this bond have added many wasteful items to attract rich investors to help support the campaign who will ultimately profit from the bond at taxpayers’ expense.” IMPACT, on the other hand, says “this is a comprehensive, thoughtful set of priorities emphasizing conservation, recycling and the wise use of scarce water resources that should improve the state’s water supply for years to come.” This prop may be imperfect, but we felt it’s worth supporting.

Proposition 4: YES Authorizes Bonds Funding Construction at Hospitals Providing Children’s Health Care. Initiative Statute. Proposition. ACT and IMPACT support this prop, but FCLCA had some reservations because the Quakers typically support universal health care, not funding private hospitals. While Jill and Anthony support “Medicare for all” would be a better policy, all of us last night felt that children’s hospitals are doing such fantastic and needed work they deserve our support.

Proposition 5: NO Changes Requirements for Certain Property Owners to Transfer their Property Tax Base to Replacement Property. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute. Proposition.  FCLCA and ACT both oppose this prop, and IMPACT didn’t take a stand. We felt this prop is not needed since Prop 13 already gives homeowners 55 + the chance to sell their home once and buy a new home at the same or lesser price and pay the same tax they did on their original home. This prop would give homeowners the right to get this tax break multiple times and to buy more expensive homes while paying a lower tax rate. The ploy to support this by including in caps “severely handicapped homeowners” we felt was a deceptive tactic to get us to vote for this prop.  Prop. 5 will primarily benefit the wealthy and take billions of much needed dollars from our schools. Compared to other parts of the US, the CA property taxes are low. Patricia mentioned that in New Jersey her friends’ property taxes are $35,000 a year!! Due to limited ways for cities to generate income,  which is causing some cities to go bankrupt and others to resort to higher and higher fees, we very much felt this this should be 

Proposition 6: NO Eliminates Certain Road Repair and Transportation Funding. Requires Certain Fuel Taxes and Vehicle Fees be Approved by The Electorate. Initiative Constitutional Amendment. Proposition. This is opposed by IMPACT, FCLCA and ACT.  No one likes taxes, but gasoline taxes are needed to help pay for roads, bridge repair and other needed infrastructure. The California gas tax hadn’t been raised since 1994, so in 2017 the state legislation passed SB 1 which raised the gas tax by 12 cents per gallon. The tax increase was necessary and long overdue to help improve so many of our roads in need of repair. We discussed how in the US we subsidize our the oil industry to keep our gas prices low, but in other countries in Europe or Australia gas is typically $5-9.00 a gallon. What they have done in Europe is to require that cars have very high fuel standards, with 50+ miles a gallon, so that when you buy gas at high prices, you get more for your buck.   So why repeal it? This would be a great way to encourage more cars with better fuel efficiency.  Here’s what FCLCA says: “Prop 6 is a cynical play put on the ballot by the Republican anti-tax crusader Carl De Maio. Proponents hope its inclusion on the ballot will help drive Republican voter turnout and keep the House of Representatives in Republican hands.”

Proposition 7: NO RECOMMENDATION. Conforms California Daylight Saving Time to Federal Law. Allows Legislature to Change Daylight Saving Time Period. Legislative Statute. Proposition. We liked what IMPACT wrote, with tongue in cheek: “This proposition has no moral ground upon which to deliberate acceptance or rejection. It’s a matter of personal or professional choice. Farmers don’t like it. Recreationists do. While IMPACT takes no position, we do urge you, regardless of outcome, to remember to change your smoke detector batteries at least once a year.”

Proposition 8: NO Regulates Amounts Outpatient Kidney Dialysis Clinics Charge for Dialysis Treatment. Initiative Statute. Proposition. This had the support of IMPACT and ACT, but was opposed by FCLCA and the League of Women Voters (LWV). FCLCA expressed our concern that because this prop limits how much can be charged, “Chronic dialysis clinics could close in communities of color where they are needed most.” Therefore, until our broken health care system is fixed and there is universal healthcare, we need ae voting no to make sure that under-resourced communities get the health care they need.

Proposition 9: This measure was stricken from the ballot by the California Supreme Court. Proposition

Proposition 10: YES Expands Local Governments’ Authority to Enact Rent Control on Residential Property. Initiative Statute. This has the support of IMPACT, FCLCA, ACT and virtually every affordable housing advocate we know. It’s interesting that the “con” description suggest that “Affordable housing advocates agree that it’s bad… ” It’s unfair to suggest that all advocates feel this way. I, Jill, was at a national affordable housing conference with over 1,000 in attendance, and I don’t think anyone there opposed rent control. There is a lot of misinformation about rent control and recent research helps to clear this up. See:  But it’s important to disclose here our bias, that we (Jill and Anthony) supported a campaign in Pasadena to get rent stabilization passed. We were pleased to see most of our neighbors were eager to sign the petition. In fact 10,224 signed (we needed 12,800), but this strong show of support may be why there are so many ads opposing it.  In Pasadena we have landlords increasing rent by $300-$1000 a month. 47% of Pasadena is spending over 50% of their income on housing cost. Is hard for a city be economically vibrant with such a high percent of the population little expendable income. We believe there should be a cap of no more than 2-4% increase a year, a fair return.  Prop 10 allows cities have a choice, until this is passed, cities don’t have a choice to enact rent control, only stabilization measures.  Prop 10 would give municipalities the freedom the craft rent control ordinances that would meet the particular needs of their cities, for example an ordinance that would not include any new construction. Some say that this will prevent development, but Santa Monica and West Hollywood, with some of the strongest rent stabilization policies in CA, are developing housing like crazy.  

Because Sylvester is a landlord (one who rents many of his places below market rate and is very fair to his tenants), we had an interesting dialogue about how rent control would impact landlords. We explained that rent control would create a board representing tenants and landlords that would help determine a fair rent increase, within limits; ensure landlords a fair return on investment; and provide much needed tenant protection. There is some concern that this might negatively impact some landlords and have other unintended consequences depending on how a city decides to have or not to have such an ordinance, but the trade off to keep long term stable tenants and prevent folks from falling into homelessness must be balanced with a fair and just policy. Today the no.1 cause of homelessness is the high cost of housing.

Proposition 11: NO Requires Private-Sector Emergency Ambulance Employees to Remain On-Call During Work Breaks. Eliminates Certain Employer Liability. Initiative Statute. Proposition.  We felt this a complex labor-management dispute that shouldn’t be on the ballot, it should be resolved with a mediator, or in the courts or with the help of the legislator.

Proposition 12: NO. Establishes New Standards for Confinement of Specified Farm Animals; Bans Sale of Noncomplying Products. Initiative Statute. This prop was tough to decide on, since it has “bitterly divided the Humane Society and animal rights activists opposed to factory farming.” In the interest of full disclosure, Jill and I have a chicken named Checkers that is around 15 years old and has been coddled all her life. Since Sylvester wants to have chickens, we invited Checkers to join us during our deliberation. Checkers took no position on this prop, but her presence reminded us that we need to treat our feathered friends with compassion. We were shocked to learn that Prop 12 would give chickens only one square foot to live in, less than they currently have. The current standards says that chickens must have enough space to spread their wings, turn around and lie down, all without disturbing other chickens. We finally decided to agree with IMPACT, which said: “In 2008 California Council of Churches IMPACT supported Proposition 2 that would improve the quality of confinement for farm animals. Federal standards and legal findings affected most animals but not chickens. Our concern for the humane treatment of chickens rested on two issues: chickens are aggressive toward one another and will kill or maim one another when overcrowded. Highly crowded cages made attacks commonplace. This led to the egg industry’s practice of debeaking – cutting part of the beaks off – to prevent chickens from seriously harming one another. Proposition 2 called for changes in cage sizes that would stop overcrowding and thereby reduce the need for debeaking. Space requirements for each chicken were based on animal behavior: be able to spread wings, turn around, lie down, all without interfering with other chickens. This set a decent standard of care. Proposition 12 reverses that legal standard. While it calls for “cage free” as a goal, it permits vastly reduced space per chicken and still does not outlaw debeaking and other inhumane practices. Rather than basing the standard on chicken behavior, it requires 1 foot square of space per bird, far too small a space even in “cage free” settings. This is a setback in the humane treatment of chickens As in the earlier Proposition 2, standards for other farm animals are not seriously at issue in Prop 12. To regress on the standards for chickens and undermine what we already passed in compassion is totally unacceptable.”

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