The Jury Talks Back


How I voted in the California election

Filed under: California Politics — aphrael @ 7:05 pm

I had intended to write up full-scale analyses of each of the propositions prior to the election, but my morale got shattered, and my willingness to devote energy to anything other than rank avoidance dwindled away.

But someone expressed interest, so even though it’s too late to sway anyone’s votes, here are the short versions:

Proposition 13:

As I explained here, Prop. 13 is a minor technical revision to the Constitution which I have a hard time caring about in any way. It’s almost certainly harmless. It’s probably pointless – I just don’t believe there are a substantial number of unreinforced masonry buildings owned by people who aren’t retrofitting them but would if they were given a reassessment exclusion which lasted until their next sale instead of fifteen years. It’s on the ballot because the only way to change it is via a ballot measure, and the people I think should be deciding this unanimously placed it on the ballot, so I voted yes … but I would have preferred not to have to care about it.

Proposition 14:

This measure would change the way elections are conducted in California. Currently we have partisan primaries (run by the state and paid for by the state) to select partisan nominees who automatically qualify for the general election. The new system would be to have jungle primaries in which all candidates of all parties are on the same ballot; the top two vote getters would advance to the general election but would not be the nominees of their parties. (Presidential elections would be handled differently).

Activists of all parties hate it.

I like it: I think the single biggest problem with California politics is that the election structure requires candidates to appeal to the most extreme members of their respective parties. To win the primary, Democrats must appeal to Democratic activists, and Republicans must appeal to Republican activists … resulting in candidates who are forced to the extreme and then are punished for comprmising, and resulting in the 30% of the state who are nonpartisan (plus the liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats) being frozen out of the legislative process.

Part of the fix to this is to fix redistricting, which is why I voted for Prop. 11 in 2008. (DISCLAIMER: I am currently an applicant to be a member of the state redistricting commission). Another part of the solution is to change the incentive structure for elections. Proposition 14 should do that: it should encourage candidates to run to the middle in all races, and in lopsided districts it should allow the centrist members of the dominant party to combine with the other party’s members to elect a centrist partisan rather than a radical partisan.

It’s not a cure-all. But it’s worth trying.

Proposition 15:

I really like the idea: take one race and see if public financing works. It’s great to have an experiment limited to one race rather than experimenting with the entire system; and it’s particularly appropriate to use the Secretary of State as a test bed for this kind of reform.

I really dislike the fact that the implementation discriminates between candidates based on the party in which they are registered.

So did Prop. 11, but in that case the initiative was fixing a critical problem. In this case, it isn’t. So I’d rather wait for a measure which doesn’t have this flaw.

Proposition 16:

Proposition 16 is a measure to change the state constitution to require a particular type of government action – and only that particular type of government action – be approved by a 2/3 majority vote of the voters.

I don’t like supermajority requirements unless there’s a compelling public policy reason for them.

I don’t like singling out particular kinds of action unless there’s some compelling public policy reason for it.

There isn’t in this case. Public provision of electric power is no different than public provision of garbage collection (or of sewage collection) or, to be honest, of water. Why should the state constitution carve out a particular hurdle for this type of public provision of utility service and not for others?

It shouldn’t.

The measure is being advertised as a way to protect the taxpayers’ money and allow people to vote on how their money is spent. But the advertising ignores what I think of as the key questions: what makes public power provision different, so that it should be subject to a public vote when other things aren’t; and what makes public power provision so special as to require a 2/3 majority vote?

As far as I can tell the answer is: nothing except the fact that the primary sponsor wants the state to write into the constitution an effective way to prevent competition.

In short: the proposition is a scam perpetrated by PG&E. It deserves defeat.

Proposition 17:

I don’t understand this initiative.

I know it has something to do with changes to the rules for auto insurance to allow a particular type of discount to be portable when you change insurance providers, and that the trade-off for it is a barrier to entry to the insurance market for people who don’t already have insurance.

I see no particular reason to prefer that trade-off.

Moreover, I don’t understand the ramifications – which consumers win by this? Which don’t? What are the long-term second-order effects on the industry?

I don’t have the time, skills, or interest to figure this out. Figuring this out is why we have an Insurance Commissioner.

so I resent being asked, I’m not convinced it’s a good idea, and I don’t want to spend the time figuring it out.

I feel somewhat bad for reflexively voting ‘no’ without taking the time to understand it. But … unless someone can make a case that it’s worth my time, why should I?

Measure G:

This is a San Mateo County measure involving a short-term (4 years) parcel tax whose revenue would be used to plug a hole in the local community college district’s budget caused by state budget cutbacks.

To start with: community colleges are a fantastic resource which are, I think, more important to the well-being of the state’s working class population than CSU and UC, and are a vital service which should not be cut back. I would support cuts to CSU and UC before I’d support cuts to the community colleges.

And yet … a temporary tax to plug a long-term budget hole?

This might make sense if there were any reason to believe the state’s budget crisis would end in the next four years.

There isn’t.

And so it doesn’t.

The measure calls out for another election in four years to plug the exact same hole we’re plugging now.

So … we should buckle down and either pass a permanent tax now or figure out how to balance the books without the increase now. But we shouldn’t be trying to use a short-term temporary fix to the problem.

That way lies continuing crisis.

And wouldn’t it be better not to renew the crisis?

System-wide DirecTV DVR failure

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin M @ 7:26 am

All of DirecTV’s installed base of DVRs locked up this morning due to a corrupted guide update.

The DVRs will not respond to remote control signals and are stuck on the last channel viewed.  To fix, you have to open the panel on the lower right and push the little red RESET button above and to the left of the card.

Then, after it comes back up (or gets stuck ;-)) you have to reset it again.  Apparently it takes two resets in 30 minutes to purge the guide data.

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