My brother has sent out his biannual recommendations for the ballot propositions to all of his scenester buddies. In the spirit of public service that this blog is famous for, I present it here.
I agree with most of them. I understand his position on 202, which is an attempted fix of a draconian employer sanction law. I, however, think that it doesn’t do enough to change the law, and is the worst of all possible worlds: it further marginalizes and criminalizes the undocumented while letting those who exploit them off the hook. I see this the way I do the ballot proposition a decade and a half ago that changed our state’s method of execution: how the heck do you vote if you think the premise behind the law is abhorent?
Anyway, here it goes:
Before we get started, it must be said that this whole initiative thing has clearly gotten out of control. This is something that I never thought I would say.
The concept of a well-organized group of dedicated citizens hitting the streets and asking their family, friends, and neighbors to sign a petition to get something on the ballot because the legislature is too lazy, corrupt, or unimaginative to act on an issue still has merit, and it would be nice if this was still how things worked. However, various failures in our political culture, combined with cynical “reforms” designed to make ballot access more difficult, have combined to create a shady industry of consultants who will do whatever it takes to get something on the ballot, often at a cost that runs into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Paid petition passers are not concerned citizens working for the good of their community, but are itinerants, often with problematic voter registrations, who are being paid up to five dollars a signature. These individuals are often ignorant of what they are circulating, or have been misled altogether, and occasionally circulate petitions for propositions that are mutually inconsistent. The system is ripe for mischief, which is why so many items were kicked off the ballot this year.
It was not so bad in Tucson, but in Phoenix paid passers were everywhere. Some folks might remember the video game Berzerk from the early 80s, where the robots would mill around aimlessly in the room until the player entered, whereupon they would immediately make a bee line for our hero. Every retail parking lot in Phoenix was much like that in the Spring and Summer of 2008.
There was a brief effort to reform the process last year, by limiting the activities of paid passers, cutting down the number of required signatures, requiring a geographically broader base of signers, allowing some limited legislative oversight, et cetera, but these were quickly rejected by some of our friends on the left who haven’t figured out that the process really isn’t working in their favor. The effort fizzled for lack of broad support.
In Phoenix, there are those who say that you can hear a low rumbling from Papago Park at night. That’s George W.P. Hunt spinning in his grave.
This year’s crop of ballot items can be characterized by their almost universal dishonesty. Some of my colleagues have suggested that we would all be better off just voting against all of them.
Proposition 100 (“Protect Our Homes”): No.
I have to take some responsibility for this thing being on the ballot, since I am even mentioned on the supporter’s website.
Back in 2007, Phil Lopes and I were working with Pima County to help find a means to provide money for the affordable housing trust fund. To this end, we introduced a bill that would have allowed the County to levy a tax of “one tenth of one percent” on new home sales for the trust fund, which would amount to less than $200 on an average home in Pima County. This would have allowed Pima County to provide housing assistance to about 400 families.
We tried to make it clear that we were open to any ideas from the industry or anyone else as to how to provide money for the fund, as the bill was really about the trust fund itself and not the tax. Instead of coming forward with any ideas, the realtors, ahem…REALTORS, put out a pink flyer calling me a socialist. Then, with alarmist doomsaying predictions about how “some politicians” (that’s me) were going to force people out of their homes, they paid good money to get this constitutional amendment on the ballot to prevent us from ever considering this again.
Ironically enough, the REALTORS (that is what they want to be called) argue for their proposition by claiming that such a tax would be a blow to affordable housing. Given how small this tax is, this argument is laughably silly, especially since annual homeowners association fees in new developments are usually much higher. Keep in mind that this is the same industry that blames the current financial mess on the fact that they can no longer engage in discriminatory practices like red-lining to deny minorities and working-class people access to the housing market and denies their own culpability in the situation.
The REALTORS have demonstrated time and time again that they have no concern for affordable housing, and Proposition 100 will do nothing to keep anyone in their homes. It is about retaining a special tax exemption for their industry and enshrining it in the constitution. It deserves to be killed in a big way.
Proposition 101 (“Freedom of Choice Health Care Act”): No.
This one is all wrapped up in bizarre Ayn Randian Gingrichism. Ostensibly, it bans the state from passing any law that would prevent you from choosing your doctor. In reality, it is written to prevent the state from creating a universal health care system. In the process, it is sufficiently broadly written to threaten the existence of programs currently in place such as AHCCCS and Health Care Group.
This thing is being pushed by an especially arrogant think-tank called The Goldwater Institute, which is composed of otherwise unemployable right-wing nerds who are so obsessed with the beauty of their own rhetoric that the day-to-day reality of most people doesn’t factor into their thinking. Currently, they are pursuing legal action against some state officials who had the temerity to speak honestly about this proposition.
During the 1990s, snotty movement conservatives were fond of saying “ideas have consequences.” I agree, lets think about consequences instead of being obsessed with an imaginary libertarian paradise. Anyone who wants policymakers to take the issue of health care seriously should vote no on 101.
Proposition 102 (“Marriage”): No
Veteran lobbyists at the capitol generally agreed that the 2008 session was the ugliest in their memory, and the ugliest moments of the session centered around this bill. If you are reading this, you probably already know that this thing is hateful bullshit and are already intending to vote against it. It might be useful and informative, however to know how this came about.
Even though this thing got to where it is largely through the efforts of Senate President Tim Bee, it was not an effort to pander to conservatives for his congressional race. In fact, at one point he seemed to lose enthusiasm for this issue, a result at least in part, many of us thought, of the fact that it does not really poll well in CD 8. In reality, it was pushed by the Center for Arizona Policy, a would-be taliban of right-wing busy-bodies, to stir up fundraising, since they were nearly broke after getting spanked at the ballot box in 2006.
After this passed, I noticed that their executive director still had a scowl on her face. Perhaps these are just unhappy people.
Despite this, folks should all remember who carried the CAP’s water, and how legislation critical to economic development in Tucson was allowed to die without a vote so that this hateful thing could move forward. Vote no on 102 and for Giffords in CD 8.
Proposition 105 (“Majority Rules”): No.
This is quite possibly the stupidest item on the ballot. It requires that initiatives calling for new taxes get a majority of registered voters, rather than just a majority of votes. Effectively, it means that folks who don’t bother to show up to vote would be counted against those who do.
Proposition 200 (“Payday Loan Reform Act”): No.
The special law that allows payday loans in Arizona expires in 2010, after which they would have to go away, leaving their lobbyists scrambling to extend their peculiar institution indefinitely.
We sat down with a battalion of payday lending hirelings, at least half a dozen of the slickest lobbyists at the capitol, in an attempt to negotiate some reform of the industry. They went back and forth, agreeing to some things, then not agreeing to them, speaking in squishy terms and even outright lying in an effort to get us to agree to let them continue current practices forever in exchange for a promise of better behavior, sounding in some ways like someone’s errant no-good boyfriend who really wants to change. We held firm, and the industry’s efforts fizzled and died.
The industry responded with this thoroughly dishonest proposition which claims to be about “reform” but is actually crafted by the industry to let them continue forever with almost no interference from the state. The “reforms” in the initiative are meaningless, counter-productive, or already mandated by federal law. Apparently, meaningless self-regulation of financial institutions has been working so well lately.
A “no” vote on 200 will help see that this predatory industry dies in 2010.
Proposition 201 (“Homeowner’s Bill of Rights”): Yes.
This one creates a 10 year warranty on all new home construction and allows buyers of new homes some recourse when construction-related problems occur.
The homebuilders, who have been building crappy subdivisions for years, of course, hate this, claiming that it would lead to “lawsuit abuse” and would inhibit their ability to build affordable housing. Well, we all know that they, by and large, have consistently demonstrated no interest in building affordable housing. Additionally, a number of spectacular failures in Pinal County in recent years have demonstrated the need for some consumer protections in this often sleazy industry.
A “yes” vote will create enforceable standards in homebuilding.
Proposition 202 (“Stop Illegal Hiring”): Yes.
Like many of the above, the title here is somewhat deceptive, having been chosen, apparently, to look a bit more mean-spirited than it actually is. In reality, this is a mild but necessary fix to the state’s draconian employer sanctions law.
Among other things, the employer sanctions law, passed at the height of the anti-Mexican hysteria (which seems to be on the wane, fortunately) of a few years ago, made it so that an entire business (even with multiple and autonomous locations) would be shut down for what may well have been a mistake, putting perhaps hundreds of innocent people out of work. This proposition makes these laws fairer, more reasonable, and enforceable. This protects workers and our economy while still holding employers responsible for exploitation of illegal labor.
A “yes” vote will be a step toward restoring sanity to the immigration debate.
Proposition 300 (“State Legislator’s Salaries”): Yes.
Anyone who opposes this is pandering. If we expect our legislators to take their jobs seriously, we ought to pay them something more than a pittance. Voting against this really doesn’t prove anything.
Proposition 403 (TUSD Override): Yes.
This is a no-brainer. Our schools need the money and the authority to spend it. The TUSD board has gotten a lot of well-deserved criticism for fiscal foolishness but the current leadership at ten-ten seems to be willing to conduct these things differently. Even if this were not the case, the fact remains that much of the problem lies with the unwillingness of my soon-to-be-former colleagues to address the problems of school funding, a situation which has left many districts in a bad position. As long as this is the case, we have to handle the problem locally.