Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Election

Hey, have you heard that there's an election this Tuesday?

Out of all the items on my ballot, I actually think the most important one is Proposition 90. Vote NO on California Proposition 90. This is a bad, bad idea. Its proponents are touting it as a corrective to the Supreme Court's controversial Kelo decision that allowed local governments to cast a very wide net in their use of eminent domain. If that's really all that Prop 90 was about, I'd be all for it; Kelo was a bad decision. But as is so frequent with the initiative process, the Kelo corrective is just a cover for something much bigger, namely the gutting of the power of local governments to make any kind of land-use decisions, not just the dreaded eminent domain. Prop 90 would accomplish this by expanding the definition of the "takings" clause in the Fifth Amendment to encompass any government decision that might decrease the value of your land. This goes far beyond any kind of property rights that have traditionally existed in Anglo-American legal tradition and would cover even minor zoning laws that are in place. A lot of those laws are in place to safeguard property values against things like building industrial uses or high-rise apartments next to your single-family home. If Prop 90 passes, say goodbye to all of that.

Take a look at all the different groups united against Prop 90: Democrats and Republicans, business groups and environmentalists, etc. The only people who understand Prop 90's consequences and still support it are hardcore Libertarians divorced from reality and Tom McClintock, whom I used to admire. They know that if Californians knew the truth about Prop 90, there would be no way it would win. So instead of trying to sell it on its merits, they pretend that it's all about eminent domain. It's not. It's about completely stymieing the ability of communities to determine what direction they want land use to go.

I'm actually not yet decided on who to vote for for Governor. I probably agree with Angelides on more issues, but Schwarzenegger has shown some remarkable leadership on global warming and has shown remarkable growth as a politician since his ballot initiatives were all defeated last year, actually working towards solving problems and towards bringing Republicans and Democrats together. There are still way too many big-business groups with him in their pockets, but do I really want to reward the California Democratic Party for giving us another business-as-usual technocrat to vote for for governor? I can see their dilemma; it's hard for anybody to beat Schwarzenegger on charisma, but it's really hard for Phil Angelides to beat Schwarzenegger on charisma. I knew a guy who worked for the state Democrats who assured me that Angelides had a sharp wit... why does none of that show?

Otherwise, I'm voting a Democratic slate. There's no reason for a bunch of conservatives to try to ride Arnold's coattails; he's very much sui generis. I'm voting for the infrastructure improvement bonds because there's no other way the state's going to be able to build what it needs. Otherwise I'm voting NO on anything that would be better handled by the legislature in Sacramento, which is just about everything else. That, plus I'll cast my futile YES vote on the parental abortion notification bill that failed miserably the last time it was on the ballot.

One more note: I'm voting NO on the new cigarette tax, but I should point out that I think the ads against it are misleading. They're saying it won't reduce smoking because only 10% of the new tax is going toward anti-smoking work. Well, how about the fact that it'll make cigarettes 7 bucks a pack? I think that may do just a leetle bit more towards reducing smoking than another round of ads telling you smoking is bad. I'm still not voting for it, though, because (A) cigarette taxes are already very high here and hardly anybody smokes in California anyway, and (B) I really dislike the trend of initiatives that take a small group --- whether it be smokers, rich people, immigrants, or whatever, and then using them as an easy target for new taxes or service cuts.

Update: The L.A. Times' George Skelton outlines how the Governor was able to turn around from last year's defeat of his ballot initiatives to become a sure thing tomorrow. It's worth noting that he did this bucking the national trend away from the Republicans over the past year. I think what's going on is that the Democrats in California are kind of in the same position as the Republicans nationally, long-entrenched in power and sitting on their laurels. In some ways, though, Angelides is just a placeholder until the Dems can put real candidates like Antonio Villaraigosa or Gavin Newsom on the ballot in 2010. Let's hope that the country's ready for Barack Obama in 2008.

Update #2: It's worth pointing out that Prop 90 expands the takings clause for new land-use laws, but leaves existing ones intact. On the one hand, this means that in most places your single-family home is safe. But on the other hand, it means that you're essentially stuck with the planning laws on the books now. If your town wants to revitalize its downtown by moving used car dealers out, tough luck. This severely limits the ability of cities to do infill development, like in situations where they may want to change the zoning of a parcel to encourage growth. Land-use planning is about limiting growth where it should be limited, encouraging growth where it needs it, specifying design standards to prevent crappy development, protecting the environment, etc. Prop 90 puts the brakes on all of that to the benefit only of property-rights absolutists.


At Sunday, November 5, 2006 at 7:55:00 PM PST, Blogger Arb said...

I'm still not convinced Kelo was a "bad decision" per se -- it's more the case that eminent domain laws are generally poorly written. In a functioning democracy, the ruling would have encouraged legislatures to quietly get busy and write clearer laws, and the thing would be done with.

The larger campaign of which Prop 90 is just one instance is scary, though. Anyone who doesn't think the ability of governments to outline and encourage even a tiny amount of planning and organization as far as land use goes needs only to visit Texas for 36 hours.

At Sunday, November 5, 2006 at 8:47:00 PM PST, Blogger Adam Villani said...

And once again, of course, if the state wanted to craft a better definition of where eminent domain should apply, doing it in the state legislature would be far better than allowing ideologues to try to legislate by initiatives.

At Monday, November 6, 2006 at 1:04:00 PM PST, Blogger Victor said...

I think it's just Houston among the major Texas cities that has no zoning laws. But I haven't lived there in almost a decade-and-a-half.

At Monday, November 6, 2006 at 1:37:00 PM PST, Blogger Adam Villani said...

You're correct; Houston has no zoning. Everything is done via private compacts and special-purpose districts and such. I went to a talk at the annual conference for the California Chapter of the American Planning Association a couple weeks ago where one of the speakers was a planner for The Woodlands, which is in Houston's extrajurisdictional territory. They've invented a remarkable community from scratch there over the last 35 years using the Houston system, but they were able to do that because the whole area had one original landowner. Large undeveloped tracts like that on the edge of currently developed land are the exception.

At Monday, November 6, 2006 at 4:15:00 PM PST, Blogger Arb said...

Yes; while only Houston has "no zoning," what's called zoning and how it's typically used is much weaker (in my experience) throughout Texas than in most other places.

At Monday, November 6, 2006 at 4:29:00 PM PST, Blogger Adam Villani said...

Also, I understand that counties in Texas have no municipal power, meaning they have no power to pass laws. This is probably true in some other states, too, like in New England. In most Western states, though, counties are the default municipal power in unincorporated areas. I'm generalizing here and may be off in Texas.

At Monday, November 6, 2006 at 5:14:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Colour me curious, why are you voting "yes" on the parental notification prop? Perhaps I'm naive here, but I don't see a lot of young girls treating abortion lightly and can't imagine a good case scenario where if the girl feels uncomfortable telling her parents about a pending abortion where telling them would improve the situation. That is to say, if she has a good relationship with her folks, this notification would not need to legislated; but if she has a good reason to not tell them (incest comes to mind) then telling them worsens the situation. Unless you know of something about this bill other than its obvious premise?

At Monday, November 6, 2006 at 6:33:00 PM PST, Blogger Adam Villani said...

Well, there are provisions in the bill that would allow for waivers in the event that the parents were abusive and such. Not that I'm under any illusions that this would always happen, but I think on the balance this sort of thing would create more good than harm.

Two reasons I'm for the parental-notification bill:

1. I'm against abortion generally, and this would likely lead to a decrease in the number of abortions performed in California. How much? I have no idea.

2. If a girl's getting pregnant and getting abortions, maybe that's a red flag that she needs to talk with her parents more. Yes, everyone's situation is different, but I think this is a good way to institute a "second opinion," if you will, to the situation, like the five-day waiting period for handguns. Teenagers in general are not good at long-term thinking and may not know about the various options open to them.

3. There's no way a bill requiring parental notification would ever pass any foreseeable California legislature, so my general rule of "leave the legislating to Sacramento" doesn't apply here. Of course, there's no way this proposition would pass by the general electorate, either, so it's largely an academic exercise. I figure I might as well register my vote against the absolute right to abortions.

At Monday, November 6, 2006 at 6:35:00 PM PST, Blogger Adam Villani said...

Sorry, I wrote "two reasons" up there and followed it with three reasons. That's stream-of-consciousness posting for you.

At Monday, November 6, 2006 at 6:46:00 PM PST, Blogger Adam Villani said...

Also, I should add that if they didn't have such a waiver, I probably wouldn't vote for it.

At Monday, November 6, 2006 at 7:20:00 PM PST, Blogger Arb said...

Let's hope Barack's ready for the country in 2008, too. :)

At Monday, November 6, 2006 at 7:57:00 PM PST, Anonymous doafy said...

Interesting, you see 85 as a symbolic vote for you. While I am totally against abortion in all circumstances, (yes, all. I'm a monster), I'm not voting for it because I don't think that parental notification will do any good. It *may* reduce the number of abortions, but it will also probably get a bunch of girls beat up. I say that as a teacher of high-school girls. I know what can happen. I would be much more likely to vote for something that *actually* limits abortion, instead of just requiring people to talk about it.


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