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California wants to borrow on ignorance 

Shaky ballot initiatives: It’s time to blow the whistle

I see your spiteful glances and back-alley stares. You think that I don’t.

Upon discovering my dreadful secret, most respond with disgusted surprise. “Really?� A callous pause ensues, then comes the typical follow-up: “You really don’t seem like one.�

Thanks—I guess—but, believe it or not, I am a Republican.

Now, to the best of my knowledge, I’ve never owned a hedge fund or worked for an oil company. On the contrary, I’m an environmentalist, which, if you didn’t read the press release, means that I’m better than you. Civil-rights violations disgust me in all forms, but not nearly as much as does rampant welfare spending. Finally, I don’t eat babies, nor do I care for aborting them. I’m also against wasting food. I suppose that pans out to hypocrisy but … whatever, I’ll take it.

If it makes you feel any better, I am a self-loathing Republican, and I hope it does make you feel better, because it certainly doesn’t help me none.

A feeling of utter guilt washes over me whenever I hear the tragic stories of this unnecessary war, or the gloating of those getting rich off of it. I grow ill when I run afoul of my party’s more vocal base or fundamentalist Christians, or when I merely think about the silent and salient “have-mores.� Mostly, though, I hate my alignment with the Patriot Act apologists, who willingly place centuries of hard-earned freedom on the political altar.

Ben Franklin once wrote, “Those who would sacrifice essential liberty to purchase temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.� I tend to agree. In fact, they may deserve less than that.

Still, something less inspiring of passion than any of these things keeps me firmly planted in the right. Something essential. Something banal. It’s the economics, stupid—an ever-ready excuse to poop the party and sheath the credit card. Lord knows you won’t score any chicks in Berkeley championing fiscal solvency, but California may one day decline without it.

Of course, each new election season proves equally exhausting, especially for someone laboring in an industry in which Republicans prove as elusive as pay raises. Fortunately, the shellshock fades in time, resolve hardens, and no liberal expects a Republican with an argument. In fact, with certain disturbing trends gaining inertia in the state legislature, fiscal conservatism can’t survive without one. Liberal policymakers crave funding for frivolous legacy projects, and they’ll all but pick pockets to get it.

In terms of crafty dealings, the recent gubernatorial primary glistened like a rare gem. I’m not even talking about the Phil Angelides nomination—that’s just plain confusing. Am I supposed to vote for this guy or take his lunch money?

Whatever. Maybe I’ll just beat him up in the AV closet of the library between classes.

Speaking of libraries, “How can you vote against them?� seemed to be a phrase heard often these past few weeks. Ah, yes. Proposition 81. That was a fun topic—a painful statement of precedent if one ever existed.

I’ve never met such a Philistine as to oppose the spread of public knowledge (thankfully), though some would pander to that delusion. In the panoramic scope of budgeting for the most populous state in the union, $600 million appears a trifle for so essential a thing as public libraries. Supporters of the bond measure up in Sacramento might agree; they certainly bled dry enough hearts to make that point. One must wonder, though, if libraries proved so dear to the legislature, why didn’t they simply budget the needed amount?

The answer seems a simple matter of priority. Every year, the Citizens Against Government Waste publishes its Pig Book, a compilation of pork-barrel spending highlights—small, almost-unnoticeable legislation items that amass to great amounts. These pieces of pork run the gamut from combating goth culture to funding for arcane conferences abroad. San Luis Obispo County made the greatest-hits list a few years back for its government-backed Liberty Tattoo Removal program. I heard about that one back in Wisconsin, and we don’t even have hip-hop there yet.

Anyone can market libraries. They’re a sexy issue—in a demure kind of way. No politician, conversely, would dare suffer the embarrassment of proposing a bond measure over unadulterated pork. The solution: Give the library money to the pet cause and ask voters for the difference. Thankfully, California saw through it.

With similar gusto, voters passed on Proposition 82—a Byzantine, convoluted, lumbering beast of a program organized by equally lumbering activist Rob “Don’t Call Me Meathead� Reiner. The campaign burned $23 million in public funds as supporters proclaimed universal preschool for all under-5 Californians, at no cost to 99.4 percent of voters. Only those pulling in more than $400,000 a year ($800,000 for couples) shouldered the load. Who could oppose that? Well, for one thing, 67 percent of under-5 Californians already attend preschool in some form, but that’s not even the point.

Once upon a time, I came to the Golden State at the behest of a doctor named Dre, who earnestly claimed, “Your city is the bomb if your city’s making pay.� Tossing up the finger, ‘cause I felt the same way, I quickly made tracks for Californ-i-a.

Sadly, the only gold I’ve found in them thar hills was at Monta“a de Oro, and Wells Fargo stubbornly refused that deposit. All the same, I plan to make “bank� one day—as soon as I figure out what that means—and not watch it flow in a steady stream toward Sacramento.

Coming from an impoverished state, it baffled me that so many Californians seemed hell-bent on legislating away our tax base with laissez-faire Nevada so close by. Puzzlement turned to disgust when I discovered that most proponents knew nothing of the legislation’s nitty-gritty. It’s depressing, but this is the Golden State, and we all know “Eureka� is actually Chumash for “Didn’t read it.�

But, just to stay clear, no vendetta operates my logic in this matter. Republican though I am, I don’t begrudge the poor, or 4-year-olds. Well, maybe only slightly. Perhaps I’ll never forgive my big, bloated, ever-burgeoning Irish family for making me remember all of my younger cousins’ names.

Actually, that’s not fair—there’s no way I know all of their names. Also, I strongly dislike Rob Reiner.

So one election season passes with a sigh and another rises to a headache. This fall, $47 billion in bond measures rests before voters. That figure, after seven elections in five years, appears something like stationing a Salvation Army Santa at the end of an alley filled with panhandlers. Will the referendum-stuffed voters take on this leviathan? I think no, but don’t listen to me—I don’t even know what “bank� means.

But if you decide to, heed these words as well: Be sure to ask the initiative pushers why road repairs and a bullet train network must share a single vote. Ask them why subsidized affordable housing requires more funding than does a cumbersome preschool program. Finally, ask them why, in one of the most heavily taxed states in America, we need to borrow $47 billion for “essential services.� I’ll be there doing the same, and printing their answers—not to mention shifting through piles of paperwork.

In fact, I’ll probably be too busy reading to join the rest of the yacht club in stepping on baby otters, though I may still refer to U.S. House candidate Kevin McCarthy as the greatest thing since brandy and cigars. Regardless, I have no money to finance his campaign, so I just keep to me wordsmithing. Anyway, that’s far safer than what the Rottman Group does, or did, or allegedly did, or purportedly allegedly did—whichever doesn’t get me sued. ∆

Patrick M. Klemz is a staff writer at New Times and has never eaten a baby—to his knowledge. He can be contacted at pklemz@newtimesslo.com.

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