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The initiative process is important, but it can be hijacked 

I agree wholeheartedly with Jeff Eckles' letter on the initiative process ("The citizen-led initiative process strengthens our democracy," Sept. 21). At the same time, we need to be careful of the tyranny of the majority, which can pass initiatives that do harm.

In order for the initiative process to serve all Californians, voters must educate themselves on the issue and heed expert opinions rather than relying on popular myths. Also, nothing in the law prevents monied interests from influencing an election. Two cases in point:

1. Proposition 227 of 1998 eliminated true bilingual education programs. Voters who supported the proposition likely based their votes on myths—that children will have split identities if they are allowed to learn in their own language; that bilingual education will slow their educational progress; and that young children learn new languages effortlessly. Decades of research on bilingual education debunk these myths. Children learn English better in correctly designed bilingual programs, and they learn all subjects just as well as native English speakers.

2. Proposition 22, which allowed gig-job companies like Uber and Instacart to treat their workers as independent contractors rather than employees. Such companies contributed $205 million to the campaign, an amount ordinary citizens can hardly match. The proposition passed by 59 percent, and we will never know how much the corporate funding influenced voters—but it was likely significant.

Corporate funding of initiative elections could be curbed by appropriate laws. Perhaps we need an initiative limiting campaign contributions! As to the first issue, it can only be addressed by training Californians in critical thinking and by restoring the public's respect for the expert researchers and scholars who spend their entire careers producing most of the world's knowledge in fields ranging from art to medicine to engineering.

Johanna Rubba

Grover Beach

Readers Poll

Should Arroyo Grande use eminent domain to repair the Traffic Way bridge? 

  • Yes! The bridge serves the public, and repairs are essential.
  • No—that's private property, and seizing it is government overreach.
  • Maybe, but there's much more the city should do first.
  • What's eminent domain?

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