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What to say to Arnold's propositions?


Back in those wild, wacky days referred to (usually with a giggle, or mournful shaking of the head,) as the California recall, Arnold Schwarzenegger had one message and one message only: The State was a mess, and it was all the Governor’s fault.


Well, now that he’s the Governor, and the state is in an even bigger mess on every measurable level, he’s re-examined his philosophy and determined that it was really all the fault of … well, everybody else. The state legislature, school teachers, police, firemen, nurses—frankly, I’m shocked he hasn’t raged against googy-eyed puppy dogs and kindly old candy shop keepers. Yet.

Arnold decided shortly after taking office that the only way to deal with these pesky n’er-do-wells was a big, costly special election. Of course, now that its time has come, and his has passed, his association with the various would-be laws has done enough political damage to ensure that even the few welcome reforms probably won’t pass. Arnold's propositions, like so many he's made before, are being met with a brusque slap in the face.

Given my unique opportunity here, I feel a certain responsibility to share my takes on the variouspropositions, even if it won’t be of much interest to those living outside the Golden State.

Or maybe it will. California politics have certainly provided more than a few chuckles to the rest of the country since Schwarzenegger came onto the scene.

Prop. 73: If you’re anti-abortion, and pro-suicide, this is the law for you. Prop. 73 seeks to require teenagers to notify their parents 48 hours before getting an abortion. Proponents indicate that the law wouldn't require parents give permission, but ignore the fact that parents of a minor can stop them from doing pretty much anything simply by preventing them from leaving the house.

I can’t join in the hysteria of those claiming that this law would have our dumpsters overflowing with newborns. Clearly there are tremendous differences between a zygote, embryo, fetus and baby, and any girl seeking an abortion is clearly aware of those differences. (I also won’t argue with the many guaranteed commentors who will no doubt argue that a late term fetus, which is not even covered by Roe v Wade, is a baby—so don’t try. To these people I say read more, write less, and please let's agree to disagree. In other words, leave me the hell alone.)

What I will say is that girls who choose not to tell their parents do so because they can’t—their parents would either force them to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term, or cast them out of their care. This isn’t just an attempt to limit access to abortion, it’s another attempt by the right to present women who get abortions as wrongdoers. And, in this case, to make sure they're properly punished.

It serves no logical purpose, other than to punish. The idea that teenagers are walking around thinking, “Hey, no big deal if I get pregnant. I’ll just get an abortion and never have to tell my parents,” is too absurd for argument. Runaways, suicides and backyard abortions are the only possible outcomes of this “pro life, pro family” law. Please join me in voting no on 73.

Prop. 74: “Whip the teacher, and the students will work harder.” This law buys into the great Dickensian mentality that abusing the employees will somehow increase the quality of their work. In this time when budget cuts are already steering more and more away from the vocation for reasons of economic security, The Governator wants to dump the two-year tenure plan for teachers in favor of a five year test drive. I’d agree that a two year tenure program would be very fast indeed… if more than half of teachers made it that long. But this is no time to discourage people from entering the field of teaching.

California pays its teachers so little that, frankly, we should be groveling to keep even the mediocre on board. If this state wants quality classrooms, it’s going to have to do something even crazier than this. It’s going to have to pay for them—raises to lure capable teachers in, more classrooms and teachers for a greater focus on learning and less time and energy put into student herding, safe and clean campuses for a healthier learning environment, and, yes, even incentive raises are far more logical solutions.

Please join me in helping defeat this repugnant attack on some of our State’s finest.

Prop. 75: It’s no surprise that Arnold’s team hatched this shamelessly evil plot, but the fact that they had the nerve to take it to the voters shows how out-of-touch their contempt for the people who actually make this state run (news flash Schwarzenegger—you’re not one of them,) has become.

Public employees already have the right to stop their union dues from being spent on political ads. Arnold’s problem is that this hasn’t stopped them from taking our formerly heavyweight Governor back down to the amateur league. Arnold’s solution to the resulting image crisis is to make the same mistakes, but bigger. This is nothing more than an attempt to complicate the process, and hinder union’s abilities to fight back when he goes round two with them. And this isn't a fight he'll win, now or come time for re-election.

Once again, he’s targeting people far more important—and sympathetic—to this state than he is. And once again, he’s telling voters that big businesses aren’t special interests; the essential servants of this state are. Please join me in voting no on Prop. 75, and in spitting twice on the ground (preferably with a look of disgust,) every time we say the name Schwarzenegger.

Prop. 76: This law, which would allow Arnold to bypass the state legislature to cut school funding, is such a colossally bad idea on every level it boggles my mind that the star of "Twins" wasn’t punished—physically—by aides for suggesting it. This can pretty much be summed up as the "Last Action Hero" of his political career. Please join me in laughing heartily as we cast our “no” vote on this one.

Prop. 77: Legislators in this state have drawn their own districts specifically to avoid any change in power that the crazy voters might deem necessary—a “gentleman’s agreement” between Republicans and Democrats that is, quite simply, not democracy. To be fair, the fact that Arnold Schwarzenegger is our Governor does indicate that maybe they have a point: Maybe democracy just doesn’t work.

Democrats are right when they suggest that this is an attempt at handing the Governor a legislature that will give him more of what he wants. But the reality is that he’s never going to get that. There just aren’t enough conservatives in California to be gerrymandered into a majority. And, even if there were, that kind of scheme would never get by voters who have to approve the new districts.

Prop. 77 is written to avoid gerrymandering and skewed districting. If passed, judges would be selected by random drawing from a pool of 12 Republicans and 12 Democrats. If the drawing doesn’t turn up at least one judge be from each party, the third seat is selected again, until there is at least one representative from each party. It requires that these retired judges hold public hearings before drawing the map. Finally, when it’s complete, all three must agree on the new map, not just the two from the majority party. Most importantly, it requires that this final map then be approved by voters. Does that sound like a partisan power grab to you?

Let’s compare this to the current system, where lawmakers get to decide for themselves who’ll be voting for their re-election. Prop. 77 is an imperfect, but infinitely better system than what we have now. Democrats oppose this measure not for any moral or true reason, but simply because they're scared that if we rock the boat, they'll lose power.

The arguments against 77 can be placed best on a scale from misleading to despicable. It uses old census data, yes; but so does the current scheme. It uses retired judges, yes; but California has used panels in the past to draw districts, including the map drawn in 1991. What, exactly, do California Democrats have to be in a tizzy about? Oh, yeah—some of them might lose their jobs when the districts are drawn fairly.

Well, I’m a liberal Democrat, and as such believe in democracy. I’m voting yes on 77, and if the panel comes up with a map that’s unfair, I’ll vote to reject it when the time comes. But for now, I’d like to encourage California Democrats to be loyal to their ideals and sense of right and wrong all the time—not to the political ambitions of people who happen to be in the same party.

Prop. 78: Proposition 78 is a discount prescription drug plan backed by drug manufacturers. Smell something strange? That’s the scent of drug money wafting up from Schwarzenegger’s pockets. This serves only to combat the real drug plan for the needy—Prop. 79.

Prop. 79: This would allow the state to negotiate discounts and rebates with drug makers that would be shared by businesses, small employer purchasing pools and unions, among others. Furthermore, a state advisory board would be created to oversee the industry’s dealings in California. This is good for the working people of the state, and the poor. It’s good for everybody, really, except for drug companies that have time and again proven they only do good things on accident.

If you vote no on 78 and yes on 79, I’ll wash your car, do your dishes, make you dinner and walk your dog. Okay, I lied. But I will send you a polite thank you note and, if you live locally, firmly shake your hand or politely kiss your cheek. No “turnarounds”.

Prop. 80: As much as Republicans loved to scream that former governor Davis was responsible for the California energy crisis, de-regulation under the prior Administration had far more to do with it than anything he could have possibly done in office. Prop. 80 repeals that de-regulation, adds modestly to our investment in alternative energy, and attempts to curb energy market manipulation.

Will it all work? I have a feeling power companies will manage to continue screwing more than just the dim bulbs, but this is most certainly a move in the right direction. I’ll be voting yes on Prop 80, and if you live in California, I’d encourage you to do the same.

Avery Walker is a Managing Editor of He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected].


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