After hearing from a proponent (judge Jim Gray) and an opponent (attorney Letitia Pepper) of Proposition 64, the "Adult Use of Marijuana Act", at their August 6 meeting, and discussing the measure, members of the Libertarian Party of California's state Executive Committee voted unanimously to oppose it. I believe this was the right decision. Although Prop. 64 is being widely billed as legalizing marijuana, the reality falls rather sadly short of that ideal. But as the cause of ending the War on Cannabis gathers momentum, both in California, in the United States, and worldwide, we are seeing a number of bad measures being put forward that superficially appear to deliver on that long-desired hope, until you start to read the fine print.
By Starchild, LPSF Outreach Director
There was no local ballot measure this season that we argued over on our local activists' list more than Proposition Q, a legally redundant bid by Supervisor Mark Farrell to put voters on the record banning tents on city sidewalks (and, some speculate, to boost his planned run for mayor by following in the footsteps of Gavin Newsom, the former supervisor, mayor, and now California lieutenant governor who rode into Room 200 on an initiative called "Care Not Cash" that was also widely perceived as scapegoating homeless people).
Let’s review some background events. In 2006, City College was told by the Accreditation Commission for Community and Junior Colleges to develop effective planning, implement better evaluation of student outcomes, improve its financial stability, plan for facilities maintenance, and update its outdated technology. In 2012, the ACCJC’s evaluation of City College found insufficient resolution of the laundry list of problems, and threatened removal of accreditation if problems were not resolved by 2014.
By 2016 it is clear the college’s decision is to kill the messenger rather than heed the message. Fury unleashed, CCSF obtained “stabilization funds” from the California state legislators, encouraged a law suit filed by the City Attorney preventing the ACCJC from taking any action to remove the college’s accreditation, filed a complaint against the ACCJC with the federal Department of Education, mobilized students and staff “protesters,” convinced voters in 2012 to pass a $79 per parcel tax which would expire in 2021 to “save City College,” and banded with the other California community colleges to find a way to replace the ACCJC with some other accrediting body.
Meanwhile strange developments continue. The San Francisco Chronicle in December of 2015 reported that “City College of San Francisco has spent thousands of dollars on fancy restaurants and international and cross-country travel for two top administrators — often with no record of what the expenses were for.” The 2015 – 2016 budget was approved showing a 1.6% decrease in expenditures from 2010 – 2011, although enrollment has decreased by 25% since 2012. In March 2016, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a resolution to make San Francisco City College “free” to students living or working at least part time in the City.
So, here is what we have: A resolution to make City College free contingent on the passage in November of a real estate transfer tax proposal, a proposal to increase and extend the CCSF parcel tax, financial stability not much better than in 2006, college staff and students not much inclined to heed the ACCJC, and another ACCJC accreditation review coming up in February 2017. It would be interesting to place some bets.
Here is a snapshot of how dramatically enrollment has decreased at City College of San Francisco:
Voters should be able to elect representatives who can be trusted with basic and efficient management of a city. However, what we see in our local government is relentless bickering, one-upmanship, catering to special interests in constant pursuit of campaign funding, addiction to taxing and spending, grabbing of “set asides” from every sector, formation of committees to oversee committees, and City management by three-feet long ballots.
Voter initiatives are a kind of right to petition voters (not government) for the redress of grievances; they are citizens’ protection against the possibility of an unresponsive or irresponsible government. Legislative proposals need to be on the ballot for representatives to receive voter permission to increase taxation or change some basic structure of local government. What do we see in the November 2016 ballot instead? We see City government being unable to decide something as basic as who should take care of street trees! We see inefficiency and discontent revealed in the trend toward an increasing number of oversight and “advocate” committees. We see law upon law being proposed to fix laws that did not work in the past; such as 8 proposals to fund “affordable” housing, after decades of restrictive zoning and billions in tax breaks showered on technology companies.
There is only one solution that might work in anchoring a government adrift in indecision: Vote NO on just about everything.
(Graphics courtesy of zRants)
A most interesting tax proposal on the November 2016 ballot is the “soda tax,” once again resurrected after voters killed it in 2014. Although the legal text of Proposition V, Tax on Distributing Sugar-Sweetened Beverages, contains eight pages devoted to “sugary drinks,” there is no guarantee that such a tax ends up affecting the consumption of sugary drinks. The tax is a distribution tax, not a retail tax like the cigarette tax or the alcohol tax. That means your grocer pays the tax on the sugary drinks, and then passes the cost onto you in whatever manner is most advantageous.
The other five or so pages of Proposition V’s text is devoted to the establishment of a 16-member “Sugary Drinks Distributor Tax Advisory Committee,” charged with making recommendations to the Mayor and the Board of the Supervisors as to the effectiveness of the tax. Thankfully, the committee members will not be monetarily compensated; however, “..members in Seats 4, 5, 7, I 0, II, I2. I3, and I4 who are City employees may receive their respective City salaries for time spent working on the Advisory Committee.”
Unfortunately, determining the effectiveness of such a tax on the consumption of sugary drinks is not that easy. Over the last few days, the media has been trumpeting “a study” that claimed a 21% decrease in the consumption of sugary drinks in Berkeley since a tax similar to that proposed under Proposition V was established in 2015. The study in question was published on August 23, 2016, in the American Journal of Public health. It was led by Jennifer Falbe, a researcher at the Berkeley-based Nutrition Policy Institute, and consisted of “a beverage frequency questionnaire” administered to participants.
The obvious challenge in the study is isolating the tax increase as the actual cause of a drop in consumption. The announcement of the study’s results in the U.C. Berkeley New says, “One limitation of the Berkeley study, according to the researchers, was that it could not tease out whether the decline in consumption was related to the increased cost of sugary drinks, increased awareness of the health dangers of sugary drinks, or a combination of both.”
Should this proposal pass, we might end up paying more for our groceries, paying for teachers who are sitting in the Sugary Drink Distributor Tax Advisory Committee instead of in their classrooms, and paying the intangible price of government interfering once again with what we choose to do.
Speaking about a proposed sugary-dinks tax in Philadelphia, intended to pay for a preschool program, Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said, “I do not support Mayor Kenney’s plan to pay for this program with a regressive grocery tax that would disproportionately affect low-income and middle-class Americans.”
Those glossy ads inundating our mailboxes, funded by the American Beverage Association, calling this tax a “grocery tax” are correct after all.
However, the presidential candidates are not of main concern, since it matters not who is President. In Assange’s view what matters is the environment around any particular President. Is the press able and capable to investigate and report malfeasance? Are there individuals and groups paying attention to what is going on, and crying foul when things do not seem right? Is the economy healthy?
The ability of individuals and groups to hold government power in check depends on how much information circulates freely and unaltered. That is why Assange said he considers the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to be the key to all the other Amendments. We need to know in order to act. Thus, unholy alliances between government and corporate giants are today of special concern, since today’s behemoths are our means of communication.
Communication is essential in exposing secrecy, untruths, influence peddling, as well as malfeasance and criminality. Equally essential are individuals willing to risk life, limb, and freedom to provide unaltered information. Assange mentioned with affection his many information contributors. He had special words on behalf of Chelsea Manning, whose only act was to “communicate truthful information to the public.”
As elsewhere, here in San Francisco hundreds of programs obliviously forge ahead, clash with one another, and contribute to the City’s eye-popping $9.6 billion budget. We offer some observations which you might find of interest:
o Back in January 2016, Major Ed Lee ordered all City departments to cut spending by 1.5% because a $100 million budget deficit was looming. In May Mayor Lee announced that the budget grew by $700 million to $9.6 billion with no cuts, thanks to growing property values (and property taxes) and a sales tax increase of .75% in the November 2016 ballot – yes, the budget is balanced with revenues that may or may not materialize.
o “Venture capitalists tightening their purse strings, startups shedding jobs and the continuing dearth of IPOs could be taking their toll on the Bay Area's housing market. By almost any measure, the Bay Area's roaring economy is cooling. The region's housing market is fueled by wealth creation and new jobs that have been hallmarks of the regional economy.” So says The San Francisco Business Times. No, we do not expect any programs to go away or any cuts to the City's mega budget that relies on growing property values. Luxury Housing Market Cools as Economy Slows.
o Screening of "Class Dismissed" with filmmaker Jeremy Stuart Saturday, July 16, 2016, 11:00 am Michele Brown's House, 2060 36th Ave, Oakland, CA 94601. This is an event presented by Full Circle Family, a new homeschooling group that's getting organized in Oakland. The film opens eyes to the need to find the right fit in education for our children. Event is free. RSVP is required. http://www.meetup.com/FullCircleOakland/
o A meeting with Dr. Helen Caldicott to discuss the question “Can Nuclear Weapons be Abolished?” August 13, 2016, 2:00 pm Koret Auditorium, San Francisco Main Library, 100 Larkin Street, San Francisco, CA 94102.
The event was organized and is presented by members of the War and Law League, to call attention to the dangers of U.S.’s undeclared wars. Event is free. RSVP appreciated. https://www.facebook.com/WarandLaw/
o The growth of regionalism in the Bay Area, whereby planning and taxing decisions are made by regional agencies, has energized some Bay Area residents to organize and proselytize! Members are attending public meetings, writing about the issue on their websites and Facebook pages, and meeting as a group to strategize. Events might be coming up in the near future. http://nine-county-coalition.squarespace.com/
o San Francisco’s Westside residents are tired of having their cars broken into. “They figuratively shook their fists and let it be known they’re ‘mad as hell and not going to take it anymore;’” that according to Joel Engardio in his S.F. Examiner Op-ED of July 10. So, Westsiders formed the Criminal Justice Accountability Coalition. Read about it, http://www.sfexaminer.com/accountability-in-criminal-justice-sought-on-the-westside/
o Ordinary people, who go to work every day, take care of their kids, and generally mind their own business at times do get “mad as hell,” and good things can come out of that.