Monday, June 02, 2008

June 2008 Election Guide

Fellow blogger
Denham Recall:

Summary: NO on recall

First, this won't be on everyone's ballot but, for people in Jeff Denham's California Senate District 12 (Merced, San Benito, and parts of Madera, Monterey, and Stanislaus counties), vote "no" on the recall. Little needs to be said about how the recall attempt is unadorned political persecution to punish Denham for refusing to vote for a bloated state budget and an effort by state Democrats to make legislation "Republican-proof" in the state Senate.

People in District 12 have doubtless heard that the Democrats have pulled official support for the recall. Nevertheless, it is still important to actually show up and vote (or absentee vote) NO on the recall, since it remains on the ballot. It would be ridiculous if a recall with so little public support succeeded because the people who oppose it forgot to go to the polls.

That aside, this is a larger lesson about the recall process. People of any political bent need to be judicious in supporting future recalls, because they will tend to leave us with spineless and populist politicians, of all stripes. When such a recall succeeds, it sends the signal that anyone who votes against a bad bill backed by powerful interests is at risk of being recalled. Denham isn't a marginal candidate - he's popular in his district and won re-election by a wide margin in 2006. Recalls make it tougher for legislators to stand their ground on any issue, knowing that they will have to waste time and money fighting a recall.

Propositions 98 and 99:

Summary: YES on 98, NO on 99

Aftershocks from the U.S. Supreme Court's 2005 Kelo v. New London decision are still being felt and this is one tremor, though potentially a good one. Neither Proposition 98 nor 99 is perfect but, having read the texts of both bills, there is a big difference between them.

The summary: Proposition 98 puts actual curbs on the government seizure of private property for non-government use whereas Proposition 99 is papier-mâché shaped to look like eminent domain reform. It undermines the legitimate reform of Proposition 98 and does almost nothing to curb most eminent domain abuse.

Proposition 98 puts real limits on the ability of city and county planning boards to use government power to take private property and give it to a private developer. And most of it is accomplished by simply defining the government's eminent domain powers to be what most people understand them to be anyway: when government needs property for a legitimate government use (like a police station, roadway, etc.) and it cannot come to an agreement with that property's owner, it can take the property via eminent domain by paying fair market value for it. It cannot take property for "development plans" that are not for public use, essentially taking one owner's property to give to some other private developer.

Proposition 99 is the city/county planners' answer to Proposition 98. These planners are the people who use eminent domain and want free reign to continue to do so. 99 proposes a very narrow restriction on use of eminent domain, tailored to make sure it can still be used for transferring property from one private owner to another in the vast majority of cases. It essentially does nothing, providing no protection to rented homes, to farmers, to small businesses, etc.

Is it OK to vote yes on both? No. Proposition 99 contains a provision such that if it gets more votes than the competing proposition, only 99's ineffective provisions will go into effect. Essentially, 99 exists only to undermine 98. Vote YES on 98 and NO on 99.

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