Hey, so the California primary election is Tuesday, and while it will probably be a pretty low turnout affair since both Presidential nomination contests are wrapped up, you should still vote...precisely because it's going to be a low turnout affair and that's when "they" try to pass really stupid, horrible laws through the initiative system and just generally try to ruin our lives.
Well not exactly, I can't actually say that either of the initiatives on the ballot this time are pure, raw evil...but they still deserve to be voted on by more than 30% of the voting population. On top of that, somewhat excitingly, this is going to be the first year in which California has a non-partisan primary...in November, instead of having a Democratic nominee and a Republican nominee to choose between in state legislature and congressional races, the candidates on the ballot will be the top two vote getters from the primary, whatever their party. I don't think this will matter much for Merced, since races here were pretty competitive already...but for someplace like San Francisco it could mean Nancy Pelosi facing serious competition from someone just slightly to her left or right. Or it could mean a massive clusterfuck of underinformed voters who don't even have the shortcut of voting for whichever party holds their loyalty. Anyways, since I know you're all waiting with baited breath, here's how I'll be voting....
Prop 28 - Yes. This is one of those initiatives that sneaks through my policy against ever voting in favor of any initiatives by virtue of the fact that it undoes some of the evil of an earlier initiative by changing around the way term limits work. Right now, members of the state legislature typically start out in the assembly, stay there until they reach their maximum number of terms, and then afterwards have to compete to win one of a smaller number of seats in a slightly bigger district that may only overlap partially with their previous district to be elected to the state senate if they want to stay in government. This process serves very little purpose other than to confuse the incentives of ambitious young legislators (They're supposed to represent their constituents, but is that their current constituents or the ones they hope to have in just a few years? And should they view the representatives from neighboring districts as allies, or soon to be competition?) and make the assembly the subordinate to the senate in experience instead of equal. If Prop 28 passes, term limits will stay in effect, which is less than ideal, but at least individuals will be able to choose to make a career in either the assembly or the senate, instead of letting graduation from the first to the second be the de facto norm. It probably won't make a huge difference in governance, but I like the idea of my representative spending up to12 years really becoming an expert on the issues of my district...assuming that it's anyone I want to vote for in the first place.
Prop 29 - No. I mean, I hate cancer as much as the next person, but I have several issues with the way this law would work. First of all, the mindset that tries to pay for things that the government should theoretically be doing by getting one set of voters to approve a tax on people who are most likely not the ones voting annoys me. And it annoys me a couple dozen times as much if the tax is also regressive, which a tax on smokers is. I understand the desire to force people to stop smoking (or prevent them from starting) by raising the costs, and I guess there is good data out there that it's a strategy that works, but for some reason I tend to think more about the addicts who won't stop smoking but will now also have less money for their families...and I dunno, it doesn't seem quite fair to me. The real problem I have with this law though is that it would tie up yet another portion of California's tax revenue (sure, a new source of revenue, but it uses up a potential source of revenue that could theoretically be used for something else) for a purpose that marginally informed California voters thought "sounded good." Sure, cancer research is swell...but should we be increasing funding for it while we're slashing the budget for foster kids, people with disabilities, public health inspectors...you name it, we're slashing it? At the very least, that should be a decision that the state legislature has the flexibility to make, and possibly change its mind about in a few years if the economy changes, or if the program does not turn out as well as expected. The initiative process is way too inflexible a process to allow coherent budgeting if anyone can get something passed by identifying something that sounds good (cancer research!) and a group of people to pay for it who sound bad (smokers!), and that's why our state is fucked right now.
District 16 - Jim Costa.
I'll cop to not having done nearly enough research on this one, but there's really just no way that I'd elect a Republican to congress, even in a jungle primary. And the one other Democrat who's challenging him doesn't seem to have a website, so yeah...moving on.
District 21- Adam Gray, I guess.
This race is both interesting and not interesting at the same time. There seems to actually be some controversy, but a lot of it seems to be character based and it's really hard to judge that when you're talking about small time local candidates who only even have a couple of stories in the local newspaper. Adam Gray apparently never graduated from college, which doesn't really bother me at all, and may not have been completely honest about that, which might bother me a little bit, and then described his role working with university students at UC Merced in a way that might have been misleading...which I'd want to understand better before I formed an opinion on it one way or another, because frankly, the terminology could get pretty mixed up quite innocently, or also not so innocently. On the other hand, one of the other candidates might have gotten caught driving under the influence of an illegal substance. Or he might have gotten framed. Why can't they just disagree about property zoning laws, or something I have some hope of understanding? But I'm probably going to vote for Adam Gray despite woeful ignorance because he has a flashy website and seems like he could probably beat the Republican, and it might be all I'm hoping for right now is a dutiful cog in the Democratic machine. (Since no doubt the Republican, despite sounding like a pretty decent guy, would be a dutiful cog in his party's machine and set right to work defunding government).
Merced County Supervisor, District 2 - ???????
This may be the first election ever where I've gleaned a significant amount of information from lawn signs. Hub Walsh signs seem to correlate well with other signs that I approve of, and I've also seen them on apartment buildings...which I take as a point in his favor in an area where being against apartments and the people who live in them actually seems to be a viable political stance. His opponent, Casey Steed, does not keep quite as good of company in the world of lawn signs, and visiting his website I see discouraging things like a lot of hype about lowering salaries for board members...this is almost never a budgetarily significant amount of money and almost always a sign of a slash and burn attitude towards government. To be fair though, I don't really see the slash and burn approach in Steed's write ups on various issues. He comes across as a genuinely thoughtful guy, with a slightly Republican tinge to his thinking, but not nearly as reflexively as I was expecting based on where his lawn signs hang out. Hub Walsh's website is much more polished, and while it touches on some good things from my point of view (clean air, safe drinking water, transit, housing "options"), in the end it gives very little away, except that he's a well established guy not really sticking his neck out. So I'm actually a little torn. Steed is endorsed by the Republican party, but that's not a deal breaker for me in local level politics the way it is at the state or federal level, and I like the idea of thoughtful people in office and competitive local politics, so that may be enough to get him my vote. Especially since I'm feeling a little frustrated that in the two state level races I don't see much option except for to vote for the pre-decided, establishment Democrat. I can't quite commit to bucking my party tonight though...maybe I can find more info tomorrow.