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Santa Monica Mountains, Feb 2011

Thought for the Minute

Behind every successful man there is a surprised woman.


To some, marriage is a word. To others, a sentence.


How many Federal employees does it take to screw in a light bulb?
Sorry, that item has been cut from the budget!

Not Really That Old News

Berning Illusions: Why Sanders Can’t Concede to the Clinton Democrats

The Democratic party has become the Corporate party, but we still might help change that.—Progressive Dreams

3 Ways the Media Has Failed Our Democracy in Covering the Election

It's not just Fox News — mainstream news organizations have betrayed the public's trust this election season.—Alternet

Patently Absurd Logic on Budget Deficits and Debt

You might think that the "deficit hawks" have other motives. You might be right.—truth-out.org

Bernie Sanders YouTube video about income inequality

Why I Like Bernie—YouTube

Poverty is fueled by policy

"The failure of wages to grow for the vast majority is the leading reason why progress in reducing poverty has stalled over the last three-and-a-half decades." —Economic Policy Institute

Your net worth has tanked. Thank a Republican

Their "Get Obama at any cost" tactics have made our economic position far worse—AFL-CIO

Americans know squat about military spending

Americans are consistently misinformed about the amount we spend on the military--and many don't like the truth when they hear it.—Alternet

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Novotopia's Openly Biased Guide to the 2010 California Initiatives

The election of 2010-11-02 will be a historic election, let's hope it's not our last.

Nine initiatives qualified for California's November 2010 ballot, four statutes and five constitutional amendments. Two relate to political redistricting and the others have likely impact on California's budget and economic outlook. Then there's proposition 26—taking us from taxpayer's revolt to anarchy.

But voting can be nerve-wracking, as evidenced by the many efforts to repeal past referenda. Propositions today are disguised with misleading names and filled with hidden agendas.

Many people just vote "no" on everything, but this answer is no better than not voting at all—it's worse, because it dilutes the voice of others who bothered to research and think about their votes.

It also inhibits the initiative process which is the people's process for political action. Not every state has initiative and referendum as we do in California, but they should get it and learn to use it wisely.

Since the votes we cast this November will have a impact on all our futures, Novotopia would like to help you understand what you need to know about the initiatives; we offer you Novotopia's Openly Biased Guide to the 2010 California Initiatives.

More Useful Election Information Sources

California Secretary of State Election Information

Ballotpedia, an independent source for detailed election information

The California Legislative Analyst's Office, non-partisan, state-sponsored reports.

Local initiatives: Reports on County and Municipal Initiative Measures and County, City, School District & Ballot Measure Election Results .

California Elections Data Archive (CEDA), a statewide database of local election results which includes both candidate and ballot measure results for county, city, community college, and school district elections throughout the State.

Novotopia Guide to Parties

Novotopia Guide to Candidates

See our Propostition Picks at a Glance which lists the various parties official positions on the propositions.

2010 California Ballot Initiatives

Proposition 19—Legalize and Regulate Marijuana (Read it yourself)

Most Californian's already know how they're going to vote on Proposition 19—The Marijuana Tax. If you haven't decided, consider that legalizing marijuana would unburden the state from the cost of prosecuting and housing offenders, and provide instead a tax base. Maybe then the police can focus on processing rape evidence. On one side, Diane Feinstein says no. On the other side, there's LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition).

Proposition 20(Read it yourself) and Proposition 27;(Read it yourself) Two Takes on Redistricting.

Once the federal census is complete, representation in congress will be allocated to each state in proportion to that state's population, and each state must redraw it's political districts, assigning a group of citizens to be represented by each seat. This is called Redistricting.

In 2008, Charles Munger of Pasadena helped take that power away from the California legislature with Proposition 11, which created a complicated randomizing process to select a 3 person board who must choose a 14 person commission that will draw the lines. This year, proposition 27 proposes to repeal 11 and proposition 20 enhances it by establishing details of the commission's rules and duties.

Proposition 20 is a wide range of rules and clarifications such as defining a "community of interest" as "a contiguous population which shares common social and economic interests that should be included within a single district for purposes of its effective and fair representation. Examples of such shared interests are those common to an urban area, an industrial area, or an agricultural area, and those common to areas in which the people share similar living standards, use the same transportation facilities, have similar work opportunities, or have access to the same media of communication relevant to the election process."

If Proposition 27 is wins, the task of drawing congressional districts returns to the legislature, and pretty much nobody wants that. While we hesitate to support a system backed by Governor Schwarzenegger, Munger's plan may actually be crazy enough to work. At the very least it's quite likely to shake things up a bit.

Learn more from the Leauge of Women Voters, the State Auditor's redistricting page, and at The California Voter Foundation web site.

Proposition 22—Constitutional Amendment to Protect Local Funding(Read it yourself)

Proposition 22, officially titled The Local Taxpayer, Public Safety, and Transportation Protection Act of 2010 is a simple, straight forward amendment to the state constitution that adds a provision most of us assumed was already there, a recognition that when funds are gathered by local governments for some local purpose, or taxes imposed on a population for some specific purpose, those funds should not be arbitrarily reassigned to another purpose by the State legislature or Governor, without some sort of fair negotiation or oversight.

The history here, is that while the legislature or Governor have been struggling to balance the budget, they've found revenue by simply dipping into funds set aside for other purposes and by voters in local municipalities. When State official are free to break into local piggy banks, any municipality who's citizens are responsible enough to impose reasonable taxes and careful enough to spend no more than they need, has in recent years seen the state government swoop down and raid those funds, regardless of the needs for which those funds were set aside.

Communities that taxed themselves to pay for local services such as schools, libraries, police, transportation, or whatever purpose that community felt was worthwhile, have lost that money to the State's general fund without any say as to how that money will be spent and no guarantees as to how and when, or whether the money will be paid back. This includes the Measure R money that the people of Los Angeles imposed on themselves just last year to help pay for bus services. So while we're all still paying a half cent more on the dollar, we're not getting the bus services that we were promised, public transportation all over Southern California continues to suffer drastic cuts, and traffic, congestion and air pollution continue to rise.

The bottom line to this one is that when the people impose a tax on ourselves for a specific purpose, we want to be assured that it will be used for that purpose or that the voters will be included in any decision to change it.

Learn more at the Save Local Services web site.

Meg Whitman on Props 22 & 23.

california prop 21 2010

Here's another idea you may already have an opinion on, Proposition 21 dedicates an $18 per vehicle fee to keeping state parks well maintained and accesible. Some people are opposed to any and all taxes, but most of us admit that there are some things worth paying for, and we believe State Parks are among them.

Learn more at the yes for state parks web site.

Proposition 23—Suspension of Air Pollution Laws(Read it yourself)

Proposition 23 suspends air pollution provisions in AB 32, an earlier referendum, until California's unemployment rate drops to 5.5 percent or less for four consecutive quarters.

AB32 results from a 2006 ballot referendum on smog, authorizing the State Air Resources Board to implement statewide program of reporting and verification of greenhouse gas emissions, in an effort to keep 2020 emission levels no higher than California's 1990 emission levels. The Board is to use an open, public process to achieve the maximum technologically feasible and cost-effective greenhouse gas emission reductions. AB32 authorizes monitoring compliance and enforcement including market-based compliance mechanisms, reporting, regulation, and fees paid by regulated sources of greenhouse gas emissions.

Proposition 23 suspends AB32 until unemployment returns to the 2007 level of 5.5%, making the argument that Air Resources Regulation causes unemployment. Of course, you can actually live without a job, but you can't live without healthy air, and none of us has the power to keep the air clean on our own. The BP oil spill provides ample evidence that many more people loose their livelihood when we allow polluters to destroy our precious resources.

While everyone in California is concerned about the joblessness we see around us, we also know that the big polluters like the power companies have plenty of money but are only going to hire the minimum number of people required to make maximum profit, regardless of environmental laws. If the power companies have 46 Million to throw into Prop 16, cleaning up their emissions to 1990 levels probably won't kill them.

Learn more at the Cliamate Progress web site.

This initiative arrests the $2.5 billion per year in corporate tax breaks agreed to by California lawmakers in closed-door budget negotiations in late 2008. Unless we stop them the tax breaks will take effect next year, further eroding this state's prospect of a balanced budget, and providing nothing in return.

There are three targeted tax breaks:

  • The "single-sales factor" which allows multi-state corporations to choose whether they will be taxed on property, payroll or sales.
  • Loss carry-backs that allow corporations experiencing losses in California's current economy to get refunds for taxes paid up to two years previously.
  • Tax credit-sharing, which allows companies with excess tax credits to distribute them to affiliates.

Learn more at the Pay Their Fair Share web site, from the initiative's sponsor, Lenny Goldberg and from Capitol Weekly.

Proposition 25—The Simple Majority Budget Amendment (Read it yourself)

The measure passed. Learn more ballotpedia.

LA Times 2010 Nov 04 Prop 25 Changes Everything.

california prop 26 2010

For as much as Governor Schwarzenegger loudly proclaims the people are tired of partisan gridlock, he sure doesn't act like he cares. What greater gridlock is there than vetoing every budget the legislature agrees to, each time with a new spin on why.

This isn't just about long lines at the DMV and forced furlough days that reduce staffing without regard for need or benefit, there are critical services the state has agreed to pay for and is currently defaulting on, leaving hard working Californians unpaid for their services.

The governor has a line item veto; slapping down the entire budget is unnecessary. The people of California never meant to grant the Governor the power to hold the state hostage and now we must explicitly prevent it in the future.

Learn more at the California Budget Project web site.

Proposition 26—The Stop State Revenue Initiative(Read it yourself)

The measure passed. Learn more ballotpedia.

LA Times 2010 Nov 04 Prop 25 Changes Everything.

california prop 26 2010

Current Article XIII C of the California Constitution

Meg Witman likes to call California “dysfunctional” and “ungovernable”, and truly, one of the most important planks in the Republican platform, something pounded into the heads of anyone within shouting distance of a Tea Party rally, is this idea that the best government is the smallest government; that absolutely anything we do to strip government of it's teeth, to hobble and restrain it, is inherently worthy and we needn't read the fine print or ask further questions.

Proposition 26 purports to rein in rampant government spending but it really prevents all forms of new revenue generation. It does nothing at all to address the budget gap that the most powerful of fiscally conservative governors, Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger could not. Actually, it pretty much entirely eliminates the option of finding new revenue sources.

The entire five page submission is linked above, but the active section is pretty clear:

"Any change in state statute which results in any taxpayer paying a higher tax, must be imposed by not less than two thirds of all members elected to each of the two houses of the Legislature, except that no new ad valorem taxes on real property, or sales or transaction taxes on the sales of real property may be imposed."

Read the text of the proposition for details; they've extended the definition of tax and there are some exempted forms of taxes, but those things are problematic too.

"Ad valorem tax" means a tax on the rising value of something and that portion means that no “value added” tax of any sort my be imposed. So When a water project, park, transportation or city beautification project enhances property values, no means of paying a portion of that value back to the state may be imposed at all.

The budget mess is evidence enough of how destructive it can be to allow a few politicians to hold the workings of government hostage, and yet this proposition extends and institutionalizes the problem.

If we couldn't get 2/3 of the legislature and governor to agree on a budget, how in the world will we ever find new state revenue with a plan like this? Because of Article 13C of the state constitution, local governments will still also have to get approval from their voters before making any change to revenue generation.

This proposition is a horrific example of the folly of “simply smaller” thinking. Proposition 26 doesn't give us control of the government any more than throwing your TV out the window gives you control of the news. Proposition 26 isn't a populist tax payer relief, it is a stranglehold on the state government.

It can be satisfyingly simple to suggest that government is always wrong, that doesn't change the fact that we need the protection and essential services that government provides. We may feel like we're exerting control by striping the legislature of one of it's most effective powers, but the solution is to fix the government, not kill it.

Yet so many Californians watched the Bush years unfold while nodding to the increasingly outrageous lies and distortions in popular media, and so many continue to march behind the highly groomed and financed spokespeople of the ultra-powerful, that this proposition is almost certain to pass. Expect a long cold winter to follow.

The measure passed. Learn more ballotpedia.

Learn more at the Learning to Live with Prop 26 from the California League of cities.

Learn more at the ballotpedia.

Learn more at the Legislative Analyst's Office web site.

Learn more at the No on 26 web site.

Clean Air saves Money26 big oil backers — A link to LA Times on who is supporting 26OC Register aregument in favorMercury News articleCalifornia's conservative Chamber of Commerce ballot endorsements.

Please mail your comments, questions and concerns to Editor@Novotopia.com.