“November’s slate of ballot measures is a miserable piece of work, which shows the failure of California’s direct democracy.
Our system is not particularly direct or democratic. In fact, it is bringing narrow and trivial questions to the fore. It is dominated by wealthy interests. And it fails to give citizens an avenue to bring big questions and proposals to the voters.
Look at the ballot.
Propositions 1 and 2 are bonds for housing which won’t produce very much housing. They are on the ballot because of the failure of local governments to build enough housing. That failure is a product of many decades of thoughtless, poorly understood measures passed by voters.
Prop 3 is a fiendishly long and complicated water bond measure that really is a pay-to-play expression of direct democracy, with the funders of the measure securing public dollars.
Prop 4 is a small bond for children’s hospitals, and reflects, among other things, the failure of California governance and direct democracy to fund healthcare adequately. (It’s a longer story I’ll be telling soon, but children’s hospitals largely depend on Medicaid, and its too-low reimbursements).
Prop 5 is an extension of Prop 13-related protections that favor older, established homeowners over the young people and families who need a brighter future.
Prop 6 is a trivial political tool to reverse a small gas tax increase. It also includes a foolish constitutional amendment that will require endless public votes for minor changes in gas taxes or driving.
Prop 7 involves daylight savings. I like the measure, but it shouldn’t be on the ballot—the legislature should be able to change time itself. But under our broken and inflexible initiative system, it has to be on the ballot—because daylights savings was established by an earlier initiative. And once something is done in California by initiative, it can only be undone by initiative.
Prop 8 on kidney dialysis is a union effort to create leverage for negotiations.
Prop 9, which would have split California in three, was booted from the ballot for being unconstitutional. Unfortunately, that verdict only came – under California’s non-existent system of initiative review—after its proponent had spent millions on signatures.
Prop 10 is one inflexible measure with one big backer – the AIDS Healthcare Foundation – that pursues a complicated problem (housing) with a counterproductive non-solution (rent control).
Prop 11 is on the ballot because ambulance companies want it there.
Prop 12 involves technical matters of farm animal confinement that should be the province of lawmakers and regulators, not busy voters.
Not one of the measures is essential or vital. Few of them are likely to get any real public attention or debate. We Californians don’t need to be voting on any of them. But yet we do.”