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Proposition 1 – High Speed Rail Bonds – Yes
As I’ve said in past endorsements, I’m not particularly enthralled with the bond debt system of funding projects in California. But this is the type of endeavor the bond system was created for. The law would authorize the selling of 9 billion dollars in bonds in order to finance a high speed rail system connecting San Francisco to Los Angeles. It’s way overdue, and absolutely essential to the future of the California economy. It would mitigate dependence on oil. It would create almost half a million permanent jobs, not including about 300 thousand jobs to construct the system.
The system would be completed around 2030 and it would take 2 hours and 40 minutes from one end to the other.
As structural issues and the flight of industry from the US create profound economic difficulties, and finance crisis threaten the immediate economic future, money spent on rebuilding the infrastructure to address 21st century realities is essential.
The opposition consists of the usual tax posse and I’m afraid that in rough economic times voters are less likely to approve costly measures such as this one. Then again, 9 billion doesn’t sound like so much in light of the week’s top news, especially since this money would result in something of tangible public benefit. In any case, this is an investment that is potentially good for the economy, the environment, energy issues, and long term fiscal concerns (we are told that the new system would serve in lieu of 3000 miles of additional highway and several more airports, probably not much cheaper than 9 billion).
The drawback for me is that it might result in development sprawl along the tracks, depending on the number of stops. I would hope that the stops get locked in and the system resistant to developer pressure to create more stops for new subdivisions in the middle of what is now nowhere. But the benefits fare outweigh these risks.
Proposition 2 – Farm Animal Confinement Standards – Yes
This measure attempts to reform “factory farm” practices by requiring that confinement of certain animals (calves raised for veal, egg-laying hens, and pregnant pigs) be confined only in ways which allow them to lie down, stand up, extend their limbs, and turn around freely.
It will place a burden on some farmers and it will increase the cost of the food, at least in the short term. As a consumer who buys “free range” when I can afford it, I find the proposal compelling. It is a question of values, and the livestock under current practices, particularly (though not exclusively contrary to popular view) those of corporate farming, are quite brutal by any reasonable sensibilities. One side benefit will be to benefit family farms which already practice ethical treatment of livestock and while the price of eggs will increase generally, they will decrease for those of us who are already purchasing “free range” eggs.
The opposition is trotting out some compelling arguments of their own, and some ridiculous arguments. The impact on low income consumers cannot be denied. The arguments that it will increase health risks of the food and contribute to global warming are less persuasive. Either way, I hope the proponents to not overly-demonize the opposition. Few people enjoy the suffering of animals, but some simply weigh the potential suffering of human beings heavier. For me it’s a question of degree, and by the way there are plenty of health risks under current polices as well. The issue won’t be decided on that debate, but on the question of values. As passe as it sounds, the mass suffering of other species to feed ours is not something human beings should practice and tolerate – not when we have options.
Proposition 3 – Bonds for Children’s Hospitals – Yes
980 million in bonds for capital improvements to five children’s hospitals. It won’t happen without the funds. On the budget scale it’s not a lot of money. We need them, and we need them functional. Seems like a no-brainer, even in this budget challenged moment.
I’ll prep up my endorsements for the remaining propositions and post them later.
Cynthia Elkins interviewed the “man on the street” in Redway today, questioning people on their impressions of the failed bailout proposal. She got to my mother. I believe she’s the last speaker. The interviews were aired at the end of tonight’s news broadcast.