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Press Democrat recommendations

Published: Monday, November 5, 2012 at 6:11 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, November 5, 2012 at 6:11 p.m.

Here's a list of Press Democrat ballot recommendations for today's election. Polls are open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. Come to pressdemocrat.com for live election results.

STATE

Proposition 30: Temporary tax increase for schools — YES

It's not perfect. But it's far better than the partisan caterwauling that has left California's schoolchildren at the center of a political “War of the Roses.” And the situation is about to get worse. If this fails, schools from kindergarten to high school will suffer funding cuts of $5 billion, the equivalent of losing 15 more instructional days. Our kids — our future — deserve better.

Proposition 31: State budget reforms — YES

Among other things, this would require a two-year budget cycle, eliminate unfunded mandates for costly programs and allow the governor to cut spending if legislators fail to take prompt action in a fiscal crisis. These modest reforms emerged from bipartisan efforts to make state government more efficient and more transparent. It isn't a panacea, but it builds on a foundation of recent voter-approved reforms, including open primaries and independent reapportionment.

Proposition 32: Political contributions — NO

This purports to cut the money ties between special interests and state politicians. If it did, we would support it. But Proposition 32 would simply tie the hands of labor unions while magnifying the influence of wealthy people and businesses that spend freely on politics. It's a one-sided measure that does not live up to its billing.

Proposition 33: Auto insurance change — NO

Like a bad dream, this idea keeps coming back. Proposition 33 would allow car insurance companies to offer a “continuity” discount to lure long-term customers from other insurers. Proponents argue that this would promote competition and reduce prices. But it would also allow insurers to raise rates for people who temporarily drop their coverage due to illness, because they can't afford to operate a vehicle or because they choose to use public transit.

Proposition 34: Repealing death penalty — YES

California has spent roughly $4 billion on capital punishment since the death penalty was restored in 1978. Since then, about 900 individuals have received a death sentence. But of these, only 14 have been executed, the last one being in 2006. Far more have died of old age. This means that the state is spending about $300 million on every execution, a cost that is climbing with each year. It's time to put an end to the death penalty. It doesn't make economic sense.

Proposition 35: Stronger penalties for human trafficking — YES

This would put human traffickers at greater legal risk by increasing penalties, including a potential life sentence for trafficking a minor for sex if force or fraud is involved. Currently, the maximum sentence is eight years. The initiative also bolsters sex-offender registration requirements and allows judges to impose fines of up to $1.5 million.

Proposition 36: Three strikes reform — YES

Drug addicts and small-time thieves are serving life sentences, costing taxpayers tens of millions of dollars a year. One man stole nine videotapes. Another shoplifted a VCR. A third stole three golf clubs. Almost half of the inmates sentenced to life under three strikes didn't commit violent crimes. Proposition 36 would sharpen the focus of the law, saving its harshest penalties for repeat offenders convicted of serious or violent felonies. It's sensible reform.

Proposition 37: Labeling GE foods — NO

It sounds appealing. But the problem with this poorly written measure is that it would create a complex and costly system of labeling for genetically engineered foods while creating the potential for shakedown lawsuits. Individuals would be able to sue a food producer, distributor or grocer for the suspicion of noncompliance without having to demonstrate how they were harmed. The American Medical Association has declared, “There is no scientific justification for special labeling of bioengineered foods.”

In short, the state doesn't need it, families can't afford it and the science doesn't warrant it.

Proposition 38: Tax to fund education — NO

Supported by civil rights attorney Molly Munger and the California State PTA, this education-funding alternative to Proposition 30 is appealing in many ways. It provides more money for schools, more fairly distributes the financial burden through the state's progressive income tax and comes with greater protections against legislative pilfering. But it does not prevent the trigger cuts that are due to come if Proposition 30 fails and specifies no funding for UC and CSU systems.

Proposition 39: Taxes from multistate businesses — YES

This would base state corporate income taxes on the single-sales factor. One set of rules would apply to both California-based businesses and businesses headquartered elsewhere, and a tax incentive to expand in other states would be eliminated. Closing this loophole would raise $1 billion a year with the total growing over time. For the first five years, half of the revenue would be dedicated to energy efficiency projects for schools and other public buildings. The rest would go to the state general fund.

Proposition 40: Redistricting — YES

A needless and confusing measure that underscores what's wrong with state politics. Suffice it to say, even those who supported this referendum and put it on the ballot have backed down. But voters still need to vote yes to make it go away.

SONOMA COUNTY

Measure C: Shoreline Unified School District parcel tax — YES

Measure K: West Sonoma County Union High School District parcel tax — YES

Measure L: Fort Ross School District parcel tax — YES

Measure M: Gravenstein Union School District bond — YES

Measure N: Roseland School District bond — YES

Measure O: Sebastopol Union School District parcel tax — YES

Measure P: Wilmar Union School District bond — YES

Measure Q: District elections in Santa Rosa — NO

Would introduce parochial politics while limiting Santa Rosa residents to voting for one City Council member every four years. Voters would have no input on who represents the other 86 percent of the city. Santa Rosa needs broader representation. But carving up the city is not the way to do it.

Measure R: Binding arbitration in Santa Rosa — YES

A repeal vote would have been preferable. But the wording changes proposed here are significant and worthy of community support.

Measure S: Santa Rosa design build — YES

Measure T: Amending Santa Rosa charter — YES

Measure U: Banning roundabouts in Cotati— NO

This is a silly measure that would cost Cotati in lost federal funding and higher expenses for improving Old Redwood Highway. It would also tie the hands of city engineers in improving traffic circulation and safety.

Measure V: Healdsburg half-cent sales tax — NO

Replacing lost funding is fine. But putting it on the same ballot as other sales tax measures, notably Proposition 30, makes the timing wrong.

Measure W: Healdsburg urban growth boundary — YES

Measure X: Petaluma parcel tax for recreation — YES

This measure, put on the ballot by parents and others who saw a community need, would raise an estimated $12 million for much-needed upgrades to existing recreational facilities and creating new places to play. For single-family homeowners, this tax works out to just $1 a week.

Measure Y: Sebastopol half-cent sales tax — NO

Replacing lost funding is fine. But putting it on the same ballot as other tax measures, notably Proposition 30, makes the timing wrong.

Measure Z: Rancho Adobe Fire District special tax — YES

If there's a public agency out there with a good argument for why it needs a tax increase, it's Rancho Adobe, which has cut operating expenses, avoided salary increases, kept benefits at reasonable levels and has no unfunded pension liability.

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