The Year I Came, Saw & Conquered

I’ve been back in California for nearly a year now. As I’ve written before, the last year has been one of personal growth and introspection. I’ve lost and gained friendships and lost a noticeable amount of weight (26 pounds for almost 26 years alive LOL). I’ve seriously doubted my self-worth and struggled with some depression….and came out feeling stronger and more defiant than before. But most importantly: I’ve come to enjoy life without the sense of near-absolute certainty and security I had come to embrace for years.

Back when I moved to DC for the internship at The American Prospect, I expected to land some sort of job in the journalism world. But towards the end of my time with The Prospect, I realized that journalism wasn’t the career for me – it’s unreliable (especially in the digital age) and doesn’t pay well for the amount of work that has to go into it. I was feeling homesick and nostalgic for the Golden State and wanted to jump start a career as a political staffer in the LA area. After making several connections and applying for several dozen jobs, nothing really panned out. In the meantime I worked side jobs to keep just enough money coming in to make monthly payments on my (thankfully) small student loan and a couple credit cards.

My next step was to apply for jobs in DC, too. Washington is both the political and non-profit heart of the country – there are countless opportunities for a job-seeking millennial with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications. So I started applying for political and PR/communications jobs in DC a few months after moving back home. I scored a few interviews and made some great connections that have since helped me tremendously. But the biggest obstacle to being a young politico in DC again has been the fact that I’m no longer in DC…yet.

This past January, I had to go back to work at my old Starbucks store. Did I want to? Not really. But my source of income was small and unstable. My old employer would at least pay me a steady wage. My manager has also been incredibly understanding and kind by bringing me back onto the team. One never really forgets how to make a Caramel Macchiato or a pitcher of coffee once you’ve spent years making them so my transition back to Baristaland was pretty smooth.

Had I known that I’d be back at my old Starbucks store a year ago, I would have obviously made some different decisions. For one, I would not have quit Starbucks in the first place. Say what you will about the two-tailed, green siren – she provides a good work environment and exceptional benefits for a food service company…and she allows her minions to transfer to different stores across the country. I probably would’ve stayed at the DC Starbucks I was at until I landed a permanent job.

But I didn’t. And that’s okay.

I’ve been forced to accept the fact that life – no matter how well you think it’s being managed and/or controlled – does not always go as planned. I planned on having a career in my field by now. I planned on living and working in the City of Angels. I planned on living and working in Washington, DC. I did everything I knew to do and have accepted all the constructive input I’ve sought out. And yet here I am.

Don’t confuse my acceptance of life’s uncertainty and unpredictability as defeat. To the contrary – I feel more ambitious than ever. My drive to succeed and make my own life has never been stronger.

As a matter of fact, I’ve applied for nearly 30 internships and fellowships since the beginning of May – DC internships and fellowships. My new plan is to once again be an intern in the District while working at (preferably) the same Starbucks store I was at before. I learned my lesson from last year and won’t quit “the Bux” until I land a permanent and full-time communications/PR or Capitol Hill job. The goal: Get to DC, continue to network, and stay. I’ve already had an interview and have another coming up. If all goes according to plan, I’ll be back in DC by early June.

Of course this plan could easily change or be upended by another one. But building my resume with a third internship or fellowship – one I am definitely qualified for – is an excellent way to launch a successful career. Just being back in DC will only expedite the process, too. Life threw me some important, lesson-learning curve balls. I’ve taken notes and redoubled my efforts. It’s not in my nature to settle for mediocrity or collapse in defeat if things haven’t gone according to plan. I’ve only got one life to live and I want to look back on it someday knowing that I did everything in my power to make it successful and fulfilled.

As always, stay tuned. 🙂

just me

California Gas Price Hysteria

I feel compelled to write this. I’m tired of seeing the oil lobby’s propaganda (and influence over economy) spill onto people’s timelines via shoddy reporting by journalists after sensationalist stories. Yes, prices for gas in California have recently gone up. However, slamming the state’s climate change law (2004’s AB 32 – which was also upheld by California voters in 2010) is not only ignorant and wrong – it’s narrow-minded. For one, oil companies making a stir can cause prices to rise…which is exactly what they want to happen so there will be widespread public backlash. But not so fast.

A couple of years ago, Media Matters posted a brilliant smack-down of misinformation from the right-leaning Orange County Register. The paper’s claim was common among the American right: Tackling climate change will kill the economy so we shouldn’t do anything. Except that’s not correct. At all.

In fact, as the post pointed out, climate change policies not only save consumers money, they boost the economies where they are implemented. I highly recommend a read-through of the post – it’s informative and relevant now more than ever. Read it here.

If you aren’t able to at this time, here’s a quick overview some of the facts:

  • Cap-and-Trade policies are the best market-centered ways to decrease pollution and greenhouse gasses (via California Legislative Analyst’s Office, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, International Emissions Trading Association, and the EPA)
  • Consumers will end up saving money (via the California Air Resources Board, a UCLA study, and a Stanford University study)
  • Existing Cap-and-Trade laws have resulted in economic booms (via the EPA, the California Air Resources Board, and economic consulting firm Analysis Group)
  • Cap-and-Trade (prior to the recent Frankenstein-esque rise of the Tea Party) has had bipartisan support across the country

Don’t be swayed by Big Energy’s misinformation. Cap-and-Trade is the most market-friendly, cost-effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The planet is warming, feedback loops are being tripped and time is quickly running out to avoid the worst of climate change. Renewable energy is in the midst of a revolution, but this is still the time to rise above partisanship and pseudoscience – the planet depends on us to do so.

hysterical

 

Don’t Cry for Me, California. The Truth is I Never Left You

This has been the shortest four months in my life. If it weren’t for the gross DC humidity, I’d think that I arrived yesterday in the dead of a brutal winter. And now, in just matter of weeks, I’ll be going back to California to pursue a career in public service…and I cannot wait.

Don’t get me wrong – my time in the political heart of the country has been great. I’ve seen the monuments, museums, galleries and founding documents of the United States in person. It’s something every American needs to do in their lifetime. The feeling I had after seeing the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution in person, through a specialized, secure case with its own atmosphere, is difficult to describe. It’s similar to the feeling I had when I saw the Apollo 11 Command Module and the full-scale replica of the Voyager probe, mankind’s first ambassador to interstellar space, at the Air and Space Museum. It was definitely there when I saw the remains of many of humanity’s distant ancestors and genetic cousins at the National Museum of Natural History. The feeling was there when I sat on the grounds of both the Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial to read e-books. And it was there when I took walks throughout the city, passing the house where Lincoln died, strolling through the MLK Jr. and FDR memorials, casually walking past the White House, and walking the streets some of the greatest men and women in human history have walked. It was spiritual, but not in a superstitious way. I felt connected to my history as an American and a human being on this precious planet. My story is my own, for sure. But it’s also a part of the larger narrative of what it means to be human.

via my Instagram (micah_escobedo)

via my Instagram (micah_escobedo)

I could go on, but for your reading pleasure and convenience, I’ll continue… 😉

My editorial internship with The American Prospect has been an amazing experience. My writing and research skills have improved and now I can say that I know how to fact-check (not as easy as people think) and, to a certain degree, copy-edit. The feeling one gets from seeing stories they helped fact-check appear in print and receive national attention is one of prideful satisfaction. Knowing that I had a hand in getting very important, incredible stories out to The Prospect’s readers (and even a number of policy makers) has been extremely gratifying and fulfilling. However, like all internships should be able to do, this job has helped me better realize what I want to do for a career. Spoiler: It’s not journalism. And it’s in the Golden State.

The Spring 2014 interns with few of the editors (via Gabriel Arana's Instagram - gabrielarana)

The Spring 2014 interns with few of the editors (via Gabriel Arana’s Instagram – gabrielarana)

Years ago (I can’t believe it’s already been that long) I was a congressional intern. I loved the experience, even though the responsibilities were limited compared to the rest of the staff. I was working for a lawmaker, a representative of my home district – what a great job! But that was during my first year of college. By the time I graduated, with a BA in Communication from Fresno State, I knew I wanted to have some kind of job in the communication field. I wasn’t sure of the exact job I wanted, so I applied to be an intern with a great magazine that you should all subscribe to…and got one of the spots!  Half way through the internship, I started applying to other internships, fellowships and jobs in Washington. As time went on and that irritating sense of urgency intensified, I began to reconsider my plans. Did I want to be a journalist, constantly writing for relatively low wages? Was I going to write for a think-tank or a watch-dog organization? Was I going to end up living on the East Coast, away from my beloved home state?

I remembered how I felt as a congressional intern and once again started to gravitate back toward public service (this time with a clearer sense of what my political philosophy is). Plus, I really, really missed my home state. I can’t help that I’m drawn to California. It’s my home – it always has been and, as far as I can tell, always will be. Most of my friends and family are there, not to mention countless amazing memories. The climate, though negatively effected by climate change, is great. Cities like Los Angeles and Sacramento have special places in my Californian heart. Since 2011, the state’s been on a political and economic uptick (thank you, Governor Brown and current legislature) and we’ve led the nation in renewable energy generation.  I cannot wait to lend my talents and abilities to the state that has provided me with so much.

Thanks to valuable help from some great people here in DC, I’m on track to getting into California politics. I don’t want to run for office (at least not at this point in my life). I want to be a part of the team that keeps an elected official operating like clockwork, whether it’s a state legislator or congressperson. Even the thought of me returning to California to work for a politician makes me incredibly happy. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Communication and two communication-oriented internships under my belt. I’m ready and eager to go. You can take the boy out of the Golden State but you can’t take the Golden State (of mind) out of the boy.

California flag

California Ballot Initiatives/Propositions 2012 Edition

It’s that time of year, when the world falls in love…..with excercising their right and civic duty to vote. With less than two weeks until Election Day, I figured I should write a post about how I’ll voting on the damned propositions here in California.

I say “damned” because, as I’ve said countless times before, the ballot initiative is a horrible way to make law; the whole point of having a republic and legislature is that we vote for people to represent us and make our laws, people who are (supposed to be) educated and spend numerous hours debating policy at the Capitol. It shouldn’t be a newsflash to anyone that the average Joe or Jane don’t exactly make the best lawmakers.

But until California either gets a new constitution, makes the process of placing an initiative on the ballot much more difficult, or does away with it altogether, I will faithfully be voting in every election I’m able to vote in for the rest of my life. 🙂

Here’s a short ‘n sweet summary of how and why I’m voting on Propositions 30 through 40. I strongly urge you to do your own research yourself, cutting through the political junk mail and making your own decisions. But seeing how this is my blog, you have the privilege of reading how I’m voting. Enjoy 😉

 

Proposition 30: “Temporary Taxes to Fund Education. Guaranteed Local Public Safety Funding. Initiative Constitutional Amendment” This is big fat YES. California’s education system is in shambles (thanks in large part to 1978’s Prop 13) and is in dire need of more funding. Prop 30 temporarily (seven years) increases the income tax of wealthy individuals ($250,000 and above) and raises the sales tax by 1/4 of a cent for four years. This translates to $6 billion ANNUALLY over the next seven years for the state’s public school system. It should be noted that none of this revenue will go toward administrative costs but completely to schools, 89 percent to K-12 and 11 percent to community colleges. If Prop 30 fails, tuition at colleges will go up and the amount of classes available will go down. Vote Yes!

Proposition 31: “State Budget. State and Local Government. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute.” Definitely NO. This creates a two-year budget cycle that is much more complicated and devastating to state services; expenditures over $25 million must be met with cuts to programs that effect several million people in the most populous state in the US. Prop 31 would result in an even more broken state incapable of funding programs effectively (think of how it is now….times 10). Vote No!

Proposition 32: “Political Contributions by Payroll Deduction. Contributions to Candidates. Initiative Statute.” Here’s a big fat NO. This initiative sounds appealing and fair – it bans all corporate and union donations to political campaigns. Sounds good, right? Get money out of politics! HOWEVER, millionaires and billionaires can still give unlimited amounts of cash to candidates of their choice. This proposition is a huge win for rich conservatives and a huge loss not only for liberals but people who work for a living because unions pretty much always donate to Democratic and populist campaigns. Don’t be fooled. Vote No!

Proposition 33: “Auto Insurance Companies. Prices Based on Driver’s History of Insurance Coverage. Initiative Statute.” No, No, NO. Given how Corporations crashed the economy in 2008 and do everything they can to undermine reform, how many people think they should have even more power to over charge you for something like car insurance? Anyone? Prop 33 penalizes those who have never had car insurance before by charging them more. Vote No!

Proposition 34: “Death Penalty. Initiative Statute.” YES. I, like most industrialized, liberal democracies in the world, am against the death penalty. This issue is too controversial to write about in a single paragraph. For now, I’ll simply say that the government should not remove violent criminals from society only to kill them after they no longer pose a threat to anyone out of revenge and adherence to a barbaric tradition.

Proposition 35: “Human Trafficking. Penalties. Initiative Statute.” YES. I’ll admit I was torn on this issue at first, mainly because the federal government already handles human trafficking cases. But, given how horrible and unimaginable human trafficking is (and thankfully it is rare), I definitely support increasing the penalty on sex and labor trafficking. Current law gives traffickers who force minors into prostitution only eight years. Prop 35 brings that up to a life sentence. Those same traffickers are currently fined only $100,000. Under Prop 35, that goes up to $1.5 million. Prop 35 requires sex traffickers to register as sex offenders and provide all law enforcement with information on their Internet access and online identities. Prop 35 is a definite Yes. Both the California Democratic Party and the California Republican Party support Prop 35.

Proposition 36: “Three Strikes Law. Repeat Felony Offenders. Penalties. Initiative Statute.” YES! If there’s one thing that has led to a gargantuan increase in California’s prison population and budget, it has been the infamous Three Strikes Law. The fatal flaw: If someone committed two felonies and then a third, they were sentenced to life imprisonment even if the third felony conviction was not violent. California has the largest prison population of any state in the country and more and more of the state’s budget is sunk into building and maintaining new prisons. Prop 36 changes the current law of life imprisonment convictions only to VIOLENT offenses, including rape, murder and child molestation. It also authorizes re-convictions of previous life imprisonment convictions if those convictions weren’t violent or involved rape, child molestation, possession of drugs or illegal use of firearms. California would save anywhere from $7o-$90 million annually.

Proposition 37: “Genetically Engineered Foods. Labeling. Initiative Statute.” YES! This seems like common sense, but actually, food producers aren’t required to show which of their foods are genetically modified. It is estimated that this law would cost, at most, $1 million annually (it is expected to only add a few hundred thousand dollars to the state budget). The biggest opposing force to this statute: Monsanto. Enough said. Vote No!

Proposition 38: “Tax to Fund Education and Early Childhood Programs. Initiative Statute.” Surprisingly, this is getting a NO vote from me. Increasing our historically low taxes slightly to exclusively fund education programs is an excellent idea, especially considering Prop 13 (1978) drastically reduced state revenues. However, this statute conflicts with the desperately needed Prop 30, and under California law, when two propositions conflict, which ever has more votes trumps the other proposition. THAT’S why I’m voting No.

Proposition 39: “Tax Treatment for Multistate Businesses. Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency Funding. Initiative Statute.” YES! This would raise state revenues by $1 billion annually, and that number is expected to grow. It does this by requiring multistate corporations that do business in California to calculate their income tax liability based on the percentage of their sales in California. Common sense, right? Current law essentially allows them to choose the plan that works best for them. Just a little FYI, corporate taxes, state and federal, are at historic lows. The billions of dollars gained to the Golden state would fund the future: new clean, renewable energy projects and community colleges. Vote Yes, Yes, YES!

Proposition 40: “Redistricting. State Senate Districts. Referendum.” YES, but only because this is simply annoying. I was against this “citizen’s commission” when it was on the ballot years ago and I’m still opposed to it now. My view: leave redistricting of state senate districts to the legislature where it has always been. But since we have this law, let’s allow it to work. The commission made a decision following the census. Let’s not waste more money and tie more hands by rejecting the plan from the very commission we supposedly love so much. Vote Yes. Both the California Democratic Party and the California Republican Party support Prop 40.

California Takes a Giant Leap in the Right Direction

It will soon be illegal for licensed therapists to try to “cure” minors of their homosexuality in the state of California. Governor Jerry Brown signed SB-1172 into law this past weekend, outlawing the dangerous, destructive practice for those under 18 statewide. So-called “reparative therapy” has been around since psychologists first began recognizing the complexities of sexuality. All credible psychologists, psychiatrists and other mental health professionals have rejected it for nearly 40 years. Trailblazing California is the first state to ban it altogether for minors (effective January 1, 2013).

“These practices[reparative therapy] have no basis in science or medicine and they will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery” – Governor Brown

The law itself is quite stunning and one of the many reasons I am proud to be California born-and-bred. Paragraph after paragraph, SB-1172, also known as the “Sexual orientation change efforts” law, destroys the myth that being LGBT is abnormal and somehow perverted. The first half of the very first section of the bill makes the case for why such a law is needed:

(a) Being lesbian, gay, or bisexual is not a disease, disorder, illness, deficiency, or shortcoming. The major professional associations of mental health practitioners and researchers in the United States have recognized this fact for nearly 40 years.
(b) The American Psychological Association convened a Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation. The task force conducted a systematic review of peer-reviewed journal literature on sexual orientation change efforts, and issued a report in 2009. The task force concluded that sexual orientation change efforts can pose critical health risks to lesbian, gay, and bisexual people, including confusion, depression, guilt, helplessness, hopelessness, shame, social withdrawal, suicidality, substance abuse, stress, disappointment, self-blame, decreased self-esteem and authenticity to others, increased self-hatred, hostility and blame toward parents, feelings of anger and betrayal, loss of friends and potential romantic partners, problems in sexual and emotional intimacy, sexual dysfunction, high-risk sexual behaviors, a feeling of being dehumanized and untrue to self, a loss of faith, and a sense of having wasted time and resources.
(c) The American Psychological Association issued a resolution on Appropriate Affirmative Responses to Sexual Orientation Distress and Change Efforts in 2009, which states: “[T]he [American Psychological Association] advises parents, guardians, young people, and their families to avoid sexual orientation change efforts that portray homosexuality as a mental illness or developmental disorder and to seek psychotherapy, social support, and educational services that provide accurate information on sexual orientation and sexuality, increase family and school support, and reduce rejection of sexual minority youth.”
(d) The American Psychiatric Association published a position statement in March of 2000 in which it stated:
“Psychotherapeutic modalities to convert or ‘repair’ homosexuality are based on developmental theories whose scientific validity is questionable. Furthermore, anecdotal reports of ‘cures’ are counterbalanced by anecdotal claims of psychological harm. In the last four decades, ‘reparative’ therapists have not produced any rigorous scientific research to substantiate their claims of cure. Until there is such research available, [the American Psychiatric Association] recommends that ethical practitioners refrain from attempts to change individuals’ sexual orientation, keeping in mind the medical dictum to first, do no harm.
The potential risks of reparative therapy are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior, since therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient. Many patients who have undergone reparative therapy relate that they were inaccurately told that homosexuals are lonely, unhappy individuals who never achieve acceptance or satisfaction. The possibility that the person might achieve happiness and satisfying interpersonal relationships as a gay man or lesbian is not presented, nor are alternative approaches to dealing with the effects of societal stigmatization discussed.
Therefore, the American Psychiatric Association opposes any psychiatric treatment such as reparative or conversion therapy which is based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or based upon the a priori assumption that a patient should change his/her sexual homosexual orientation.
…….
(n) California has a compelling interest in protecting the physical and psychological well-being of minors, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth, and in protecting its minors against exposure to serious harms caused by sexual orientation change efforts.

The American Psychological Association and The American Psychiatric Association are not alone in their assessments. The American School Counselor Association, The American Academy of Pediatrics, The American Medical Association, The American Counseling Association, The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and The Pan American Health Organization (regional office of the World Health Organization) have all denounced reparative therapy. This isn’t some “liberal” conspiracy; they’re peer-reviewed, scholarly studies designed to discover the effects of reparative therapy. The findings of the professionals: stay far away from it.

The law delivers a major blow to one of the major pillars of the argument against same-sex marriage. The Prop 8 trials were filled with numerous claims that homosexuality was not a natural variant on human sexuality – despite all credible mental health organizations saying otherwise – and thus discrimination should be maintained in the state constitution. With an entire American state essentially slamming the door in the face of that argument, marriage equality is even more inevitable.

There is one exception to the law: minors 12-17 years of age have the ability to choose to undergo this ridiculous treatment. I worry that the LGBT youth “choosing” to undergo this quack treatment will actually be coerced or even forced by their families to go. Will there be a way to tell if parents and family are forcing their children to undergo this “treatment” under the guise of “choice?” We shall see what happens.

Despite this compromise, anti-gay groups are already preparing to sue over SB-1172. I must say, you gotta admire their determination: In spite of society moving to accept and treat all people equally, ironically labeled “pro-family, pro-America” groups have the gall to identify which groups deserve second class citizenship and which deserve first. It’s almost a  moving story on the perseverance of a small, organized and determined group… (*insert MEGA sarcasm*). Damn that United States Constitution and its equality for all! 😉

Citing the official positions of the world’s leading mental health organizations isn’t the only angle SB-1172 takes. This groundbreaking law also cites disturbing facts:

LGBT youth who experience family rejection for their identity are…
  • over eight times as likely to attempt suicide,
  • almost six times as likely to have high levels of depression,
  • over three times as likely to abuse drugs,
  • and over three times as likely to have dangerous, unprotected sex than their LGBT counterparts who experience little to no rejection from family.

This is one of the best things to come out of the California legislature in a while. Despite the fact that California is very dysfunctional politically and economically (thanks mostly, in my opinion, to an out-of-control ballot initiative/proposition process), the Golden State doesn’t condemn people for being who they are. California’s lead on this issue is already being emulated; New Jersey and other states are considering similar laws. Despite the protests of groups that are neither “pro-family” nor “pro-America,” society is moving forward. As Dick Cheney said (ironically, to say the least), “…freedom means freedom for everyone.”

California Election Results

California Attorney General Jerry Brown will serve a second term as governor…nearly 30 years later. With 75 percent of precincts reported, Democrat Jerry Brown had 54 percent of the vote vs. his challenger, Republican Meg Whitman, who had 41% of the vote. I voted for Brown. *check*

Jerry Brown

Incumbent Senator Barbara Boxer will serve a third term as United States Senator. With 74 percent of precincts reported, Boxer had 52 percent of the vote vs. her challenger, Republican Carly Fiorina, who had 43 percent of the vote. I voted for Fiorina.

Barbara Boxer

CALIFORNIA BALLOT INITIATIVES

Proposition 19 (“Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010”) failed. I voted NO *check*

Proposition 20 (“California Congressional Redistricting Initiative”) passed. I voted  NO

Proposition 21 (“Vehicle License Fee for Parks Act”) failed. I voted YES

Proposition 22 (“The Local Taxpayer, Public Safety, and Transportation Protection Act”) passed. I voted NO

Proposition 23 (suspension of Global Warming Act of 2006) failed. I voted NO *check*

Proposition 24 (Repeal of Corporate Tax Breaks) failed. I voted YES

Proposition 25 (“Majority Vote for the Legislature to Pass the Budget Act”) passed. I voted YES *check*

Proposition 26 (“Supermajority to Pass New Taxes and Fees Act”) passed. I voted NO

Proposition 27 (Elimination of the Citizen’s Redistricting Commission) failed. I voted YES

 

To see the reasons for my votes on the propositions, see https://micahstwocents.wordpress.com/2010/10/13/my-two-cents-on-the-2010-california-ballot-propositions/

 

My Two Cents on the 2010 California Ballot Propositions

I am not a fan of the ballot proposition but since I’m a voter I will take positions on them.

Prop 19 – “Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010” – NO

I oppose this but not for the obvious reason; it would create a regulatory fiasco with city governments able to set their own taxes and regulations. Marijuana needs to be decriminalized, not only because it’s a victimless crime with less adverse effects than alcohol and smoking but also because it would reduce the amount of time, energy and money that goes into prosecuting people with marijuana. Legalize it…but not this way.

Prop 20 – “California Congressional Redistricting Initiative” – NO

Back in 2008, Prop 11 established an independent commission (made up of people of different parties and loyalties) that would be responsible for carving out districts for the California Assembly and Senate. Now, supporters of Prop 20 want that commission to be responsible for carving out congressional districts as well. It sounds fair but I have major problems with it:

First: How much money will this commission cost? There is no set price tag.

Second: The commission would be selected by the legislature. So much for an “independent” commission.

Third: The commission would be unaccountable to the public. We would not be able to appeal or challenge newly drawn districts.

*This proposition also conflicts with Prop 27 (see Prop 27)

Prop 21 – “Vehicle License Fee for Parks Act” – YES

This would place an $18 license fee on most vehicle registrations (excludes vehicles registered under the Commercial Vehicle Registration Act). 85% of the money raised by this surcharge would go toward maintaining California’s public parks and beaches, saving the state $130 million a year. Saving the state’s public recreational areas is worth the fee.

Prop 22 – “The Local Taxpayer, Public Safety, and Transportation Protection Act” – NO

This proposition would prevent the state from tapping into the funds of local governments in California. It sounds great: Keep the state from robbing local government. However, even if the state is in a fiscal crisis (like the one we’re in now) and some cities have surpluses, Prop 22 would prevent the state from taking funds. This ties down the hands of a legislature that can only work with a fraction of the budget as it is.

Prop 23  – “Suspend AB 32, the Global Warming Act of 2006” – NO

As the title says, AB 32 (Global Warming Act of 2006) would be suspended under Prop 23. This is a mistake. We need to continue cutting down carbon emissions to lessen the effects of global warming on our planet and to help make our air cleaner. The time for action is now. Our future depends on decisions like these.

Prop 24 – “Repeal of Corporate Tax Breaks” – YES

This would prevent recent, governor-approved tax breaks from benefiting the top 2% of corporations in California, saving the state roughly $1.3 billion annually. This is simply another way for big business to evade taxes.

Prop 25 – “Majority Vote for the Legislature to Pass the Budget Act” – YES

Currently, California is one of a few states that requires the approval of 2/3 of the legislature to pass a budget. As we’ve seen, this has been disastrous and cost the state billions of dollars (California has not passed a budget on time for 23 years). Prop 25 brings approval down to a simple majority (at least 51%).

Prop 26 – “Supermajority Vote to Pass New Taxes and Fees Act” – NO

If you think that the budget is terrible now, wait until Prop 26 in implemented. This would reduce tax revenues for the state, reeking havoc on public services and programs.

Prop 27 – “Elimination of the Citizen Redistricting Commission” – YES

This initiative would eliminate the voter-approved Citizen Redistricting Commission (Prop 11 2008 – “Voters First Act”) and return redistricting power to the California Legislature.

What advantage does the legislature have over this commission? The Legislature answers to us; the Citizen Redistricting Commission (CRC) does not. If we disagree with the way a district is constructed, we can appeal and challenge it or vote our representatives out of office. We lose this with the CRC. We have no control over who is chosen for the commission; we do over the Legislature.

*If both Prop 20 and 27 pass, which ever has more votes becomes law.

Even though I’ll be voting on these initiatives, I’m still against propositions. One of the many reasons why California is in such a horrible condition is because the voters have become the law makers. California voters restrict the powers of the Legislature and then wonder why they aren’t doing what they’re supposed to.

The beauty of a representative democracy (republic) is that it produces effective and just government. We elect professionals to govern in place of us. If our representatives are doing poorly, we have the power to vote them out or demand their resignations…or impeachments.

Pure democracy produces chaos, ignorance and inequality. Whether driven by fear, anger or prejudice, the general public can enact disastrous policies that destroy budgets or deny a minority population their rights. Plato was onto something…

Hopefully, California will lead the nation by abolishing the initiative process.

Until then, vote intelligently.