A Progressive Alamedan

Various writings from a resident of Alameda regarding the political scene. The local perspective of local, state and national politics and a few other odds and ends of local concern. May not be particularly interesting to people outside of the Alameda area.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Yes on P - it supporters are not hiding

I hadn't planned on writing a post about the local Measure P, but after seeing the advertisement in today's Alameda Journal, I had to write something.

The advertisement is a rebuttal to the Yes-on-P ad recently placed by the City of Alameda Democratic Club, one of the few paid Pro-measure-P placements I've seen. (I think I've seen two Yes on P yard signs in town.)

The Democratic Club's ad against Measure P talks about how the measure is largely opposed by the realtors and well-funded by their statewide group. So the realtors are acting in their own interest; I'm not surprised. They don't want another tax that will add a couple of thousand dollars to somebody's million-dollar investment. (Who cares that property values could end up dropping if city services had to be cut!) Unfortunately, as is the case with many other ballot initiatives, they are a well-funded group that are pouring large amounts of money into the campaign.

This "Yes" rebuttal advertisement attempts to discredit the association between the realtors and the No campaign. However, they did a laughably bad job at it..

My first clue? They way they use the word "realtors", defined in my computer's dictionary as "a person who acts as an agent for the sale and purchase of buildings and land; a real estate agent." Instead of using the word like a normal person would, they write it like this: REALTORS®. (That's followed by the "registered trademark" symbol in case your computer has trouble with Unicode.) Sorry guys, if you really wanted to disassociate yourself from the realtors, you need to learn to spell the word in plain English. Your funding is showing!

I'm fine with debating the finer points of how beneficial the tax will be, but I find it offensive to have a deep-pocketed group fund an opposition campaign and then try and distract the public as to who is funding the campaign. It's a shell game that happens over and over again.

I get tired of having new taxes, but the reality is, our state is sucking our city dry, and the city of Alameda needs to fund its essential services. So I am in favor of Measure P. And the other people and organizations who are in favor of it are quite up-front about who they are and why they are in favor of it.

So I"m going to recommend a Yes on Measure P.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

No on 8 : Civil Rights and the Semantics of "Marriage"

I had dinner with some very good friends recently, who, though we agree on just about everything political, told me they were voting "Yes" on Proposition 8. I asked why, and we had a productive and enlightening debate/discussion about the issue. It really gave me an understanding of why they would have come up on that side of the issue. And though I am grateful for my dinner guests for offering me their perspective, this conversation also cemented my belief that voting NO on Proposition 8 is the better choice.

Proposition 8 is one of the simplest, shortest ones on the ballot. It merely appends the following language to the California State constitution: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."

Fourteen words.

To my friends, and I'm sure to millions of other voters out there, the word "marriage" is a sacred, religious word. And in Christianity, marriage is a sacred institution that is part of the Big Picture. It involves Man and Woman, being fruitful and multiplying, and so forth.

So to put those words into our Constitution, at least from my understanding of the matter, would just be a further manifestation of that sacred concept.

Except there's one thing wrong. What about the Separation of Church and State? The California Constitution, like our national one, is a Civil document. This separation isn't just a good idea, it's what's already in our State Constitution.

I am completely fine with any religion defining "marriage" in whatever way it sees fit. But the fundamental problem is that in our culture, a marriage is both a religious concept and a civil concept — and both use the same word. Unless we can magically come up with a separate word for each, we're stuck with this ambiguity.

California has recently managed to expand its civil rights to a large percentage of our population, and I don't think it's a good idea to take away those rights by the insertion of fourteen words into our state constitution. Doing so would change the fundamental meaning of other sections of the Constitution, as well as all our established systems, into taking away rights.

I've heard about (never been invited to) weddings in Mexico and European countries where many people get married twice: once in a civil ceremony, and once in a religious ceremony. We don't have that in the US, so it's very easy to get the two concepts mixed up, especially when the word is the same.

Given that we have this muddling of the word and the concept of marriage, we're going to have to live with the ambiguity, and just pay heed that the Constitution is a document about our government, not our religion. Let's leave the sacred, religious definition of marriage out of the Constitution, and continue to work on expanding civil rights, not reducing them.

The clergy, by getting themselves established by law and ingrafted into the machine of government, have been a very formidable engine against the civil and religious rights of man.
--Thomas Jefferson to Jeremiah Moor, 1800.

The No on 8 Campaign is trying to raise some funds to counter a huge out-of-state-funded advertising push. Make a donation here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

No need to separate Blue/Green/Gray bin contents!

This morning I was looking out my window and I saw our ACI collector merrily dumping the contents of our gray (trash) bin into our green (organics) bin.

Over the last few months, both I and my daughter have also seen these collectors dumping the contents of our gray bin into our Blue (recycling) bin.

I called out the window and politely asked the guy why he was doing it. He explained that they would sort it out later, and that he was doing it because he didn't want the gray-bin picking up guys to miss picking it up. (We have the "micro-can" for families that don't produce as much trash; it costs $28/year less than the normal gray bin, but the city won't let anybody order these anymore because they don't want to encourage people to produce less trash, apparently. Plus, the robotic dumping machines can't pick them up.)

It was a nice thought, and even though the people I spoke to at ACI on multiple occasions said that they should never be mixing in the separated waste bins, these guys keep doing it.

So apparently it's OK that the compost that we buy over at Davis street has little bits of styrofoam, plastic, broken juice glass, and gypsum wallboard that were in this week's gray bin. Or maybe the people work to process the contents of these bins have no problem separating 100% of that from the branches, chicken bones, and doggy-doo. Yeah, right.

Anyhow, it's clear that this system is broken. At least I know what to do with all the excess trash I have that needs to be thrown away from our semi-annual basement clean-up. I'll just dump it in the green bin or the blue bin. I haven't decided which one. What bin would you toss it into?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

NO on Proposition 7: Looks good on the surface

At a recent kids' soccer game, on of my friends came up to me and asked what I thought about Proposition 7. I hadn't looked into it, but what I had heard made it sound like a good idea. Who doesn't want to encourage renewable energy?

And, of course, all the big environmental groups I trust were for it. Right?


After some quick research I found out there are a few groups who oppose 7. Here is a partial list:
  • The California Democratic Party
  • The Sierra Club of California
  • The California League of Conservation Voters
  • The California Green Party
  • Natural Resources Defense Council
  • Union of Concerned Scientists

(This list came from here; I added the Green Party to this though.)

I tend to defer to the judgment of the groups that I'm familiar with. A NO from the Sierra Club and the CLCV is by far enough for me. The other groups joining the choir just seal the deal.

To quote Dan Kalb, the California Policy Coordinator for the Union of Concerned Scientists (and a fellow Calif. Dem. delegate):
"Proposition 7 would likely slow down the move toward more renewable energy in our state because the initiative locks into law significant loopholes and other serious flaws that will increase uncertainty and hinder renewable development. If we're going to address the very serious problem of global warming, we must get the solutions right. Sadly, Prop. 7 gets it wrong."

Some more reading about the arguments against 7 can be found, for example, here.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Belated "Blog Action Day" Post on Poverty

I'm going to take a break from my series of California election endorsements to jump onto the "Blog Action Day" meme. Technically that was yesterday, October 15, but I didn't hear about it until this morning.

This year, Blog Action Day is addressing Poverty.

Does anybody remember when Poverty was one of the topic that Presidential candidates discussed? Well, one of them — John Edwards was. And when he dropped out of the race, he said that he had gotten commitments from the surviving Democratic candidates, Clinton and Obama, to focus on Poverty.

Well, it sure looks like Obama hasn't. So Poverty has fallen out of the limelight, again. See for instance the recent online articles "Poverty in America, A National Disgrace". Or in this article, "The Missing Debate on Poverty", the author writes:
Their strategic messages on the welfare of the middle class were loud and clear for the rest of the Nashville evening, but in this time of economic crisis, it was their silence on poverty that was truly deafening.

I've been very lackluster in supporting Obama, for many reasons like this. Yes, I want him to win, way more than the disgraceful duo of McCain/Palin. But I also think we can't be complacent about Obama just because he's better than his primary opponent.

So here's a small action you can do: Go to One.org's "Keep Our Commitments" website and sign the form to send a message to Obama (and McCain, for what it's worth) to keep an eye on the ball when it comes to poverty. The statement reads:
As you work to find a solution to the global financial crisis, please do not waver in your support for the world's poorest people. It is now more important than ever to stand up for effective, efficient solutions that save millions of lives, strengthen the global economy, and win the hearts and minds of people around the world. I’m keeping my commitment to fight global poverty, and I ask you to do the same.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Proposition 11: NO

(This is the second of my series of articles about the propositions.)

Yesterday I received a big "Yes on Proposition 11" flyer. Wow, that sure looked like a winner, we definitely want to fix that districting problem, right?

Well, we do, but Proposition 11 needs a NO vote. It's a phony, partisan measure.

This proposition is a ploy to help the right wing. It has been called the "Republican Voters First redistricting measure." This is largely backed by Paul Singer, who was behind last year's failed measure to unilaterally drop the winner-take-all electoral college vote allocation which, if it had passed, would have meant that McCain would be getting a good percentage of California's 55 electoral votes. Proposition 11 is heavily opposed by minority organizations, labor, the Democratic Party, and the Green Party.

Vote No on "Republican Voters First".

Read more about Prop 11 at Calitics

Monday, October 13, 2008

Endorsements for the Upcoming Election: Props 1A (yes) and 8 (no)

With the election just a few weeks away, I realized I should get cranking on sharing my thoughts about the upcoming races and propositions. I'll cover these a few at a time as a trickle, then summarize everything at the end.

Proposition 1A: YES

This one is easy. Look at who is opposing this, it's the don't-spend-any-tax-money Republican types. Proposition 1A — high speed rail — would have a huge number of economic and environmental benefits. It was endorsed recently by the San Francisco Chronicle. They write:

The passage of Prop. 1A would generate an estimated 160,000 construction-related jobs at a time when the state could use an economic stimulus. But its even greater long-term value to the state will be the economic and environmental benefits of connecting urban centers with growing inland cities that don't have major airports - and providing an alternative to the cattle-call flights between the Bay Area and Southern California.

This proposition would invest $9.95 billion toward a zero-emissions, high-speed train network that would make it possible to get from downtown San Francisco to Los Angeles in 2 1/2 hours for a one-way fare of about $55.

It seems like a lot of money, but getting around in California is a huge issue. This is our opportunity to get cars off the road, and even better, planes out of the air.

Propsition 8: NO

The usual cranky, threatened conservatives have once again tried to reduce civil rights for a group of people they are threatened by. This proposition seems to come up every year in one form or another (much like this year's Proposition 4, which I'll get to later). This time around, California has made great steps forward in legalizing same-sex marriages, and they want to pull us back to the dark ages.

Here in Alameda, I see a lot of No on 8 signs. That's encouraging. Yet statewide, the proposition appears to be leading. This is sad news. Let's step up to the plate and help get the word out about the lies and smears that 8's advocates are using to push this through. Contribute online here. I just did.

On a lighter side: