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
PROPOSITION 84: WATER QUALITY
It has no organized opposition. The Speaker of the California Assembly, Fabian Núñez, has traveled the state stumping for it. And twice, in previous election years, bond measures just like it — written to fund clean water and coastal-protection projects — have floated to success with little to buoy them but voter-feel-good buzzwords like beaches and parks.
Proposition 84, however, may not have it so easy. Written by Sacramento lobbyists Joe Caves and Leslie Friedman Johnson, the $5.4 billion water-quality, parks and flood-control bond measure has aroused the suspicion of tax opponents, who see it as a ploy to fund the groups Caves and Friedman Johnson represent, such as the Audubon Society and the Nature Conservancy. And while it’s possible to think of less worthy beneficiaries than the nonprofits that fight to preserve open space and habitat, 84’s antitax foes may not be alone: The measure has been polling below expectations for the past two months, when a Public Policy Institute survey revealed that only 40 percent of likely voters considered it a good idea.
You could blame voter fatigue and infrastructure-bond-measure overload for that low number: Prop. 84 is just one of 12 bond measures on the ballot this year, and the second to promise funds for the shoring up of those aging levees in the California Delta, whose vulnerabilities state residents discovered with a shock after Katrina. “There are a lot of things on the ballot,” warned an effusive Núñez at a recent workshop on the bond measure where the mood was energetically cautious. “There is some type of collective expression by voters that could result in fatigue at the polls [and] lower voter turnout.”
But another reason for Prop. 84’s relative unpopularity this year may be that after so many bills like it — the $2.1 billion parks bond in 2000, Prop. 12, and clean-water and beaches bonds 40 and 50 in 2002 — bacteria loads still close our beaches, and visibly impaired water still creaks out of too many taps. Voters may be starting to suspect that clean-water money simply trickles down the drain.
Local proponents of the measure argue that, in Los Angeles alone, funds from 12, 40 and 50 have helped pay for storm-water-detention basins at Taylor Yard, the swimming hole on the Rio Hondo and open space on the San Gabriel River; they have helped leverage money from both nonprofits and corporations to undertake large-scale water-cleaning projects. And they have begun to go to work on pollutants in drinking water, whether you see it or not. “People are going to the polls and saying, ‘Clean water? Didn’t we just vote for something like that a few years ago?’ said Stefan Cajina of the California Department of Health Services. “They turn on their taps and still see rusty water. But we’re spending millions of dollars to target health impacts, and the health issues are invisible.” One of the projects bond money has funded, he says, has reduced byproducts of disinfection in drinking water, such as residual chlorine.
Other Prop. 84 advocates argue that the bond could be a boon for a city that might soon start paying millions of dollars in federal fines for its persistently polluted storm water, and where urban park space is, in some areas, one-twentieth of the standard of 10 acres per 1,000 residents set by the National Park Foundation. The measure includes $90 million for projects that scour bacteria from ocean-bound storm water and another $90 million for urban parks.
Still, Prop. 84 will run the state $10 billion over the 30-year period it will take to repay the bonds, and it’s reasonable to wonder whether, with the multiple-choice quiz of Proposition 1’s on the ballot, how many more clean-water bonds the state can afford. It’s also worth asking whether the words “coastal protection” in Prop. 84’s title just mean more money to spend on places for Westsiders to walk with their birding binoculars at the expense of greening Eastern Los Angeles. (Judith Lewis)
PROPOSITION 85: ABORTION WAITING PERIOD AND PARENTAL NOTIFICATION
What’s the point? Proposition 85’s twin, last year’s Proposition 73, lost by a decisive six points; still, the pushers of parental consent for abortion, San Diego Reader publisher James Holman and his swill-selling buddy Don Sebastiani, still have unhappily pregnant teenagers in their gunsights. But with every year of opposition, they nick away at their own measure, adding provisions for the health and safety of girls with abusive parents and stripping out last year’s “death of an unborn child” language that would have cagily classified a fetus as a person in the state’s constitution. (This year’s measure defines abortion as “the use of any means to terminate a pregnancy.”) The problem with parental-consent law, however, endures: It will always force some girls to have babies they don’t want, others to seek out dangerous street abortions in secret and still more to weather the rage of mean parents. The girls who can tell their parents don’t need a law to force them. Can we just forget this one now? (JL)
PROPOSITION 86: CIGARETTE TAX
Proposition 86, also known as the Tobacco Tax Act of 2006, would impose a $2.60-per-pack tax on cigarettes sold in California, bringing up the cost for a pack of smokes from around $4 to around $7 a pack, as of January 1.