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propositioning commuters

By enelson
Thursday, October 19th, 2006 at 11:45 pm in Environment, Funding, Planning.

First, let me say that I’m just a dispassionate bearer of information. I would not think to endorse anything or anyone on the Nov. 7 ballot (you don’t have to wait if you’re an Alameda County voter).

But I am moved to bring up, perhaps even start a discussion, on some ballot measures that could be very important to people who ply the roads and rails of the Bay Area.

Prop 1A and 1B arewhich side are you on.jpg

big, and everyone should know about them.1A seeks to sew up some of the loopholes that allow the state government to raid transportation funding that comes from sales tax on fuel.

1B will borrow $20 billion for transportation (i.e., sell bonds), allocated according to several formulas, one of which will steer a lot of money into Bay Area transit system.

Opponents argue that 1B will burden the state with too much debt, which will hamstring the state in lean budget years and starve critical programs that don’t have mega-lobbies like the transportation industry. A similar argument is made against 1A, saying that during those lean years, we really need to raid the transportation kitty to fund things like health clinics for the poor and other worthy programs.

Voters should also know about Prop 90.

Prop 90 seems on its surface to be a very sensible cause, but for some reason, the state’s great opposing political forces and interestes are all agreed that it should never pass.

The cause is this: Governments use their power of eminent domain to take property, for which the Constitution requires those governments to fairly compensate that property’s owners. Thanks to last summer’s Supreme Court decision in Kelo v. New London, the nation discovered that the Constitution also permits government to take that land and let developer have it, so long as that arrangement is deemed to have a public purpose.

Say a developer comes to your house and wants to buy it so he can build a shopping mall, some condos and an office building or two. You say, “no.” According to the justices, or at least a majority of them, your municipality can then turn around and force you to give up that land to the developer so long as they pay you a fair price for it. With me so far?

So we Americans are outraged. Our legislators failed to make this kind of thing illegal. In comes a very wealthy New York Libertarian (Am I the only one in the room who finds that odd-sounding?) who finances a ballot measure to do the job instead.

Except opponents fear this measure would not just protect homes against the wielding of eminent domain for private development. The coalition of business and labor, Democrats and Republicans, environmentalists and builders, believes this creates a guarantee of reimbursement for lost property value that will cripple growth control and environmental regulations, and its so ambiguously written that it might even extend into the realm of intellectual and other property. You take away my right to build condos and a refinery on my land, and you gotta pay me the money I’m losing for not exploiting my land to the fullest

Opponents say that it could well mean that that nice open farm next door could be developed into, well, anything, if Prop 90 passes. The good news is, Prop 90 will make it easier for you to sue the government that let it happen. That way, they argue, everyone can sue the government and there won’t be any money left for the other things government does.

I don’t know if Prop 90 would really paralyze government, invalidate zoning regulations and keep salmon from spawning in the San Joaquin River, but that’s what nearly everyone is telling me.

The important thing is, don’t just read the title and vote for or against something. Find out what it really does. Google some news articles (Heck, buy the paper. It’s only 50 cents, right?) Get to know some of these big issues that people are getting excited about and then decide which side you’re on.

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