2008 Ballot Initiatives
By Randy Shaw
The Supreme Court's striking down DOMA and Prop 8 sent a powerful message about the ongoing power of grassroots movements to bring about social change. These rulings could not have come a decade ago. Then, even campaigns for domestic partnerships and civil unions were politically controversial. But the broader activist struggle for marriage equality brought the courts along, just as the African-American civil rights movement of the 1950's and 1960's brought legal rulings to support that struggle.
By Robert Cruickshank
Over at his blog, Alon Levy has an interesting post calling for more democracy in the planning and authorization of transportation infrastructure. Levy points to Switzerland as an example of a political system where transportation projects are routinely put to a referendum and the results are generally positive. He contrasts that with the California high speed rail project, which he argues was the product of a flawed political process:
I've begun to believe that California's original sin with its HSR project is that it refused to do the same. Prop 1A was a referendum for what was billed as one third of the cost, $10 billion. In reality it was $9 billion and $1 billion in extra funds for connecting local transit; in year of expenditure dollars the estimated budget then was $43 billion, so barely a fifth of the project's cost was voted on. The HSR Authority planned on getting the rest of the money from federal funding and private-sector funding. Prop 1A even required a 1:1 match from an external source, so confident the Authority was that it would get extra money.
By Paul Hogarth
It is never wise to predict U.S. Supreme Court decisions on oral arguments, or else Obamacare would have been repealed. Based on the Justices' line of questioning, however, it appears that they will overrule Proposition 8 - but on narrow grounds that will only affect California. The Justices spent a significant chunk of time on "standing," but they will likely consider the Prop 8 supporters as proper litigants. But Justices Anthony Kennedy and John Roberts had clear problems with finding a "right" to same-sex marriage that would apply nationwide - and the "nine-state" compromise was widely panned. I predict they will rule Prop 8 unconstitutional by applying the Romer precedent and sustaining the Ninth Circuit decision, i.e., Prop 8 was unique because it "took away" a right that same-sex couples already had.
By Peter Schrag
There was little surprise in last week’s attempt of the marriage protectors to get a larger appellate panel to review the three-judge Ninth Circuit of Appeals decision overturning California’s gay marriage ban. They said from day one they were going to do something. Some shoe had to fall.
But how they’re arguing for it raises some curious questions.
The Ninth Circuit ruling, handed down earlier this month, was as much as anything an attempt to circumscribe its scope and thus make it a less tempting target for the conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court, who like nothing better than to stick it to the libs on the left coast. The leading Ninth Circuit lib is Judge Stephen Reinhardt, who wrote the Proposition 8 decision.
By Alan Kandel
As the deadline to begin building the Initial Construction Section (ICS) in the San Joaquin Valley draws near and with $3.3 billion in federal stimulus funds on the line if construction does not start on time, more and more it seems the California High-Speed Rail Authority (Authority) is going it alone. This is not the time for constituencies to turn their backs on the rail group. If anything, it should be just the opposite. The Authority is not the enemy here, but this is seemingly how it’s being treated. Contrarily, the state high-speed rail leadership, especially right now, needs all the backing it can get. Fortunately, the Authority still has strong support including that of Governor Jerry Brown.
The High-Speed Rail Peer Review Committee in its report is calling for the delay in building California high-speed rail.
By Steve Smith
California Labor Federation
Among the big political news this week was the release of the Legislative Peer Review Group’s report on the California high-speed rail project. The report recommends that the state freezes the project “at this time” until further assessment is done on its long-term feasibility. Problem is, the report was completed with minimal consultation with the California High-Speed Rail Authority, and ignored many of the details on feasibility included in the Authority’s recent business plan.
Opponents seized on the erroneous report to further their campaign to derail the project. While it might make good politics for some conservatives to oppose a signature program of the Obama White House, it certainly doesn’t make for good policy. Halting the high-speed rail project at this critical stage would jeopardize the entire project. It would put billions in federal funding at risk, and sap the state of an important engine to create desperately needed jobs.
By Robert Cruickshank
2012 starts off with a bang on Tuesday as the Peer Review Group released its report on the California High Speed Rail plan. The headline is the most unfortunate recommendation of the report that the legislature delay releasing the Prop 1A bond funds:
Until a final version of the 2010 [sic] Business Plan is received, we cannot make a final judgement on the Funding Plan. Therefore, pending review of the final Business Plan and absent a clearer picture of where future funding is going to come from, the Peer Review Group cannot at this time recommend that the Legislature approve the appropriation of bond proceeds for this project.
By Alan Kandel
For California high-speed rail, 2012 is a pivotal year. This is when construction of a 130-mile portion of Phase 1 is slated to begin. While I may not totally concur with the Central San Joaquin Valley alignment(s) agreed upon (both north and south of Fresno), I do, however, support the project overall due to its need. And the reason for my alignment preference(s) have more to do with the relative complexity of building along the proposed trajectories than with any thing else.
I will limit my comments to Fresno-to-Bakersfield because the hybrid Union Pacific/Highway 99 and Burlington Northern Santa Fe routing has been selected by the California High-Speed Rail Authority Board as the preferred routing between Fresno and Merced.
By Chris Prevatt
Last week, ProPublica released an investigative report entitled How Democrats Fooled California’s Redistricting Commission. In their story reporters, Olga Pierce and Jeff Larson, alleged that Democratic elected officials, in particular the California Congressional delegation, manipulated the redistricting process. In a press release California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton said; “The article charging California Democrats with manipulating California’s Redistricting Commission is pure fantasy.” His comments to the San Francisco Chronicle were less censured and in character calling the report;
“complete bulls..t, an absolute f..king fabrication.”
By Robert Cruickshank
California faces nothing less than a severe jobs crisis. That doesn’t mean any old job is a good job. But when you have an opportunity to create tens of thousands of jobs per year while building sustainable infrastructure that can save money and spur new growth for the rest of the century, you would be crazy to dismiss it. California didn’t dismiss those opportunities during the Great Depression, building dams and bridges that put people to work immediately and still help create economic value 75 years later.