Searching for the Moon

Shannon Clark's rambles and conversations on food, geeks, San Francisco and occasionally economics

Voting in San Francisco and CA for the first time

Posted by shannonclark on November 7, 2006

Tomorrow will be my first time voting in San Francisco and CA. Since I turned 18 I have voted in nearly every election which I could vote (I think I may have missed one primary many years ago) but all of those past elections were in Illinois, tomorrow’s will be the first time I vote in my new home state of CA.

I have many times, both in my writings online and in public spaces declared myself as a “radical centrist” or at times a progressive. As such I have been known to split my ballots, to vote against party lines most of the time. While my family is almost entirely Democratic I am not easily placed.

Above all else, if you are reading this I encourage you to vote. To enter the voting booth informed and to vote your conscience. To vote for those individuals and positions you feel will do the best job and make the most sense for your local city, state and the nation.

Here in CA while there are only a handful (mostly very local) races that are seriously contested, there are 13 state and many local San Francisco ballot initiatives which, if anything, are more critical at this point in time than any specific elected official. Here in CA, these ballot initiatives have the force of law, there are over 40B in Bond authorizations being requested, and any number of both controversial and divisive initiatives being proposed.

Further, many of these initiatives, even some which I will be voting for come with any number of caveats and serious issues. To my mind by far, however the most crucial of the statewide ballot initiatives is #90. If #90 passes it will in one not so simple gesture risk nearly all aspects of good government (protection of public lands, making hard decisions about public works, making difficult choices on local issues) and further it will be the more than full employment act for lawyers – suing on behalf of countless companies and individuals all levels of government in CA.

The issue is not even that many of these cases might be won by the governments – if they “prove” that not harm to property was done. They will still have to factor in a nearly unending series of additional court battles over any government action that can be construed as to have any impact to any party’s property. There are few, if any, actions which governments take that could not be so construed. The government, acting on behalf of the people is elected to enact laws and enforce the rules – all of which means that most actions have some impact on various people’s property (especially when property is so broadly defined as to include corporate stock, physical goods, etc as well as land).

I am a capitalist. My economics book will not, by any stretch of the imagination, deny the powerful and important role of corporations (and other entities) in the economy. At the same time, I am vitally interested in all entities in the network – which includes local, state, and federal governments (as well as multi-governmental bodies such as the UN, NATO, the EU etc).

Proposition 90, in a single stroke, casts much of the actions of governments of all sizes in CA into doubt and difficulty. From decisions to enforce any type of zone rules on a very local level, to the construction of roads or public transit, to the preservation of public spaces all of these will, if 90 passes, be subject to vast numbers of legal challenges and open ended damages.

Damages that would be paid out of the public coffers. In short, damages that would be paid from the already stretched revenues of the government – meaning a double loss to the public. First via making all action by the government unlikely and second when it comes time to pay the bills (contrary to popular belief the government’s coffers are not limitless – the funds that run the CA governments at all level come from for the most part the economic activity of businesses and individuals in the state of CA).

I have, for the most part, also made up my mind about the other races and iniatives, but exercising my right to a secret ballot, those choices will remain secret.

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