We generally prefer to steer clear of politics here, but there is such a ridiculous item on California’s June 8 election ballot, that there is no way to shut up on this one.
It’s Proposition 16, the so-called Taxpayers Right to Vote Act.
It should be called Let’s Kill Democracy Act.
It’s a measure put on the ballot by a utility company, Pacific Gas & Electric, that doesn’t like the idea that California municipalities might get tired of their incessant rate hike requests, and dump them and start running their own utility companies. Municipal-owned utilities are everywhere, and they don’t threaten democracy. They just threaten profit-hungry companies like PG&E.
This measure seeks to require not only a vote by the public, but also a two-thirds majority of those voting, before PG&E and other for-profit utilities could be replaced by municipal-run entities. As it is now, elected officials can make such decisions without a public vote.
But wait a minute. Democracy is based on the simple principal of majority rule. Majority rule isn’t two-thirds rule. So, PG&E, you want to repeal majority rule? You want to repeal democracy?
We don’t know, or much care, whether PG&E should be dumped by municipal governments or voters. But a two-thirds majority is unreasonable to require (and almost unobtainable), as is the expense of a public election.
But something about this system is broken and does need to be fixed. When a company like PG&E can spend upwards of $50 million (mostly on non-stop TV ads) of its customers’ money putting this travesty on the ballot and then trying to shove it down voters’ throats under the guise of the “Taxpayers Right to Vote Act” something is very wrong. There ought to be a law against that.
Voters ought to reject Proposition 16. But read it carefully before voting. In the time-honored California tradition of making ballot initiatives as confusing as possible – do you have to vote “yes” to defeat something, or “no” to pass it? – consider the fine print carefully. You never know when someone is trying to pull a fast one on you.
June 2, 2010