By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
It's a tough call, pitting the legitimate interests of historically disadvantaged communities against one another. By the ever-useful John Stuart Mill standard of seeking the greatest good (or in this case the least harm) for the greatest number, however, we come down opposed to Proposition 5.
6 - No
Let's make one thing clear at the start: A lot of us here at the Weekly ride horses. We like horses. Some of our best friends are horses. So it isn't that we're opposed to the sentiment that inspired Proposition 6, which prohibits the slaughter of horses for human consumption in California, the shipping of horses to other states for such slaughter, and the sale of horse meat for human consumption. It's just that all the serious arguments are on the other side.
Call us communistic egalitarian levelers if you must, but what intrinsic quality qualifies horses as a protected class while cattle and pigs are routinely led to slaughter? If the answer is that we eat cattle and pigs but we don't eat horses - well, some people, or peoples, do eat horses, and it is not readily apparent what makes them the moral inferiors of people who eat cattle. If the answer is that we ride horses and pet horses and we don't ride or pet pigs - well, some people or peoples prefer eating horses to riding or petting them, or are comfortable doing all three. While that may be repugnant to our cultural norms, it doesn't really seem to violate any universal moral principle.
Should the slaughter of horses, and cattle and pigs, be more humane? Absolutely, but that is an issue that Proposition 6 does not address. In the name of animal egalitarianism, vote No on Proposition 6.
7 - No
This measure authorizes various state and local air-pollution-control boards to award up to $218 million annually in tax credits to companies and individuals who seek to reduce the shmutz content in the air by trading in old buses, trucks and other smoke-belching machinery for clean new ones, or for retrofitting the old ones. It's an attractive idea, but it has several significant flaws. First, state oversight of the process that Proposition 7 establishes is deliberately flimsy: If new equipment isn't all that much cleaner than the old, if the new technology isn't all that much better, we'll pay for it just the same. Second, this would be the first time the state has ever established a tax-credit program by initiative, meaning it can't be altered save through another ballot measure. Tax-credit programs often need alteration, and Proposition 7 ensures that that would be very difficult. Third and more fundamentally, tax credits are historically a not-very-efficient way of obtaining a public-policy goal: How many inner cities, after all, have been restored through the tax-credit magic of empowerment zones? If we wish to compel corporate polluters (in particular, the trucking industry) to adhere to clean-air standards, there are more direct and efficient ways - regulation, for instance - to accomplish that task.
8 - No
This is a passing strange initiative, most of which is devoted to codifying education practices that are already law. It calls for a class-size-reduction program in grades K through 3 that in fact is already in place. It establishes an elaborate process to involve parents in their children's schools, though parental involvement does not seem to us a matter that is all that amenable to legislation. The only groundbreaking part of this Pete Wilson-sponsored measure is that it establishes a new high-level commissar, the chief inspector of public schools, to be appointed by the governor for a 10-year term, with the power to rank and assess the state's schools. In short, this is a Wilson plan to do an end run around the elected superintendent of public instruction. We're against it.
9 - Yes
In 1996 and 1997, state government deregulated the electric-utility industry in California, but in a way that deliberately protected the state's three giant privately owned utilities: Pacific Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas and Electric. With virtually no opposition from a consumer lobby that had mysteriously settled down for a long winter's nap, a bill sailed through the Legislature that allowed the Big Three to charge their customers more than the actual cost of providing electric service, in order to recover the $28 billion they'd sunk into nuclear plants and other unprofitable investments. These additional charges - which appear on the bills of PG&E, SoCal Edison and SDG&E consumers, but not on the bills of the consumers of the DWP and other municipally owned utilities - may continue until 2002. In order to sweeten the blow to their consumers, however, the Big Three agreed to cut their rates by 10 percent to their residential and small-business ratepayers. But in order to sweeten the blow that that 10 percent cut would have inflicted on the Big Three, the state established a private authority to sell $6 billion of rate-reduction bonds, providing the Big Three with spending money to tide them over. The bondholders, meanwhile, are repaid every month - through yet another special charge to the ratepayers of PG&E, SoCal Edison and SDG&E. To sum up, the effect of deregulation on the 80 percent of Californians who use one of the three companies has been to have their bills augmented by a surcharge, an offsetting cut and an off-offsetting surcharge.