No on everything

October 08, 2018

I have a standing policy of voting "No" on almost every California ballot initiative. I do this for everything—state, county, city. I have two reasons.

For one, ballot initiatives are too hard to change. Prop 13 capped California property taxes at 1% [1] in the late '70s, and there's not a thing the legislature can do about it. I don't know whether 1% is fair or not—maybe it is—but I am pretty sure my opinion could change. As it stands, the legislature is powerless to change things without another statewide referendum. That's nuts. I could perhaps get behind something so permanent for a landmark civil rights issue, but not tax policy.

Second, ballot initiatives hamper compromise. And that's what government is, really: an endless series of compromises. You get your road, I get my park. Unfunded mandates are the worst: "You must spend $X every year. We don't know who's going to pay for it, whether it's necessary or produces results, whether it's fair, or whether there's a recession or other legislative priorities. Just spend it, every year, from now to eternity."

This isn't how we should govern. It's how we get disasters like Prop 13 (real estate) and Prop 8 (marriage equality).

Vote no.

SF Chronicle: California initiative process is out of control (Sept 7, 2018)

[1] Technically just the ad valorem (value-based) portion. We still have plenty of parcel taxes in Oakland of the form, "$300 for violence prevention", but they have to be a fixed amount that isn't tied to value.