Decision 2010: Peninsula residents to weigh in on several measures in June 

Participation in the June elections in San Mateo County is typically low, but this year could be different as voters can weigh in on the primaries for California governor and replacements for several longtime county officials who have opted not to seek re-election, elections officials said.

June elections typically only tally between 35 to 39 percent voter turnout, vastly lower than the 78 percent draw during the election in which President Barack Obama won office, said David Tom, elections manager for the San Mateo County Elections Office.

There are just three local measures slated for the ballot. Two of the measures request parcel tax funding for cash-strapped schools, while the third involves protections for renters in East Palo Alto.

The $34 parcel tax measure for the community college district would recoup $6 million annually for four years, money that was stripped due to state budget cuts, according to district board President Patricia Miljanich.

“We intend to put more classes on the schedule,” she said, adding that there are 14,000 district students who can’t get a class.

Aside from this election, there have been a number of special elections in recent months to address fiscal woes for school districts and cities, Tom said. Earlier this month, voters in the Burlingame Elementary School District approved a measure that renews an expiring school parcel tax.

Timing regarding due dates for district budgets likely prompted proponents to place measures on the June ballot, he added.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

 

Hot-button California initiatives to stir debate

The primaries for California governor may be the main attraction in the upcoming June election, but there is also a menu of hot-button measures on the state ballot that are certain to spice things up, analysts say.

If you pay electric bills or drive a car in California, you are among those who will be affected by results of the June ballot, which include four measures that will certainly affect the majority of state residents.

“We don’t have any of those water cooler initiatives, the kind of things people will get worked up over, like Prop. 8,” said Kim Alexander, president of the nonpartisan California Voter Foundation. “But I do think they are meaty issues that voters are going to want to dive into.”

The most fiercely debated measures include Proposition 17, which would allow insurance companies to base their prices on a driver’s history of insurance coverage, and Proposition 16, a Pacific Gas & Electric Co.-backed measure that would make it harder for local governments to form their own electric utilities.

A third measure, Proposition 13, would deliver a tax break for property owners for seismic retrofits, and the final two measures, Proposition 14 and Proposition 15, would change the primary elections process and launch a pilot campaign-funding process for secretary of state, respectively.

Aside from Prop. 13, every other measure has been the subject of intense debate recently. It may be a lot to handle for voters, but there is more information available online than ever before, said Alexander, driving the debate over hot-button races and issues in 2010.

— Mike Aldax

 

Local measures for the June Ballot

 

MEASURE E

San Mateo County Community College District

$34 parcel tax spanning four years on property in the district, exempting seniors

Approval required: Two-thirds of voters

Description: The tax would provide funding for the College of San Mateo, Skyline College and Cañada College that the state cannot take away. The funds would “ensure affordable, quality education for students” training for careers in “nursing, health care, technology, engineering, sciences, police, firefighting” and for core academic subjects. A citizens’ oversight committee would oversee the tax revenue. The measure prohibits tax-revenue use for administrator salaries.

 

MEASURE G

Cabrillo Unified School District

$150 annual parcel tax spanning five years within the district

Approval required: Two-thirds of voters

Description: The tax would provide funding for the district’s local elementary, middle and high schools, to preserve academic programs including science, math, reading and writing; keep schools open; retain teachers and smaller class sizes; and maintain computer technology for classrooms. A citizens’ oversight committee would oversee the tax revenue. The measure prohibits tax-revenue use for administrator salaries and requires annual audits.

 

MEASURE H

East Palo Alto

Rent stabilization and just-cause eviction

Approval required: Majority

Description: The measure would repeal the city’s existing rent-stabilization ordinance regarding residential tenancies other than those in mobile home park spaces. The measure would amend procedures to establish permissible rent levels that maintain consistency with state law; protect tenants from unreasonable rent increases, or arbitrary, discriminatory or retaliatory evictions; and assure landlords the right to a fair return on properties.

Source: San Mateo County Elections Office

 

State measures for the June Ballot

 

PROPOSITION 13

Title: Limits on property tax assessment. Seismic retrofitting of existing buildings. Legislative constitutional amendment.

Description: Allows property owners to construct seismic improvements to their buildings without enduring a reassessment of the building’s property tax value, regardless of type of building. Also, it sets a statewide standard for seismic retrofit improvements. Exemptions from reassessments will be limited to specific components of construction that qualify as seismic retrofit improvements as defined by the Legislature.

Fiscal impact: The Legislative Analyst’s Office said the measure would cause a minor reduction in local property tax revenues.

Backers: One state senator, two California municipal officials

Backer claim: Measure would change state’s constitution to eliminate a dangerous and unfair disincentive for property owners to upgrade certain types of buildings that need earthquake improvements.

Opponents: None

Opponents claim: None

 

PROPOSITION 14

Title: Elections. Increases right to participate in primary elections.

Description: In primary elections for congressional, legislative and statewide officers, voters would be able to choose any candidate regardless their own political party preference. The measure would not change primary elections for the president, party committee offices and nonpartisan offices.

Fiscal impact: No significant net change in state and local government costs to administer elections.

Backers: California Chamber of Commerce, California Alliance for Jobs, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Backers claim: Measure would reduce gridlock in state government by allowing best candidates to be elected; reduce influence of the major parties that adhere to special interests; and would give independent voters an equal voice in primaries.

Opponents: Unions for nurses, firefighters, schools etc.

Opponents claim: Measure would allow candidates to conceal their party affiliation from voters; would not allow write-in candidates for general election; would increase cost of elections by 30 percent; and would allow two candidates from the same political party to face off in general election.

 

PROPOSITION 15

Title: California Fair Elections Act

Description: Candidates for secretary of state would be able to qualify for a public campaign grant if they agree to strict spending limits and take no private contributions. Candidates would be prohibited from raising or spending money beyond that grant; and there would be strict enforcement and accountability, with published reports open to the public. Also, it would be funded by voluntary contributions and by a $350 annual registration fee on lobbyists, lobbying firms and lobbyist employers.

Fiscal impact: Increased revenues (mostly from charges on lobbyists) totaling more than $6 million every four years. The funds would be spent on public financing for campaigns of secretary of state candidates for the 2014 and 2018 elections.

Backers: League of Women Voters, AARP, California Nurses Association, California Church IMPACT.

Backers claim: Measure would develop voluntary pilot program allowing elected officials to focus on the public’s interests instead of returning political favors to their campaign donors.

Opponents: California Senior Advocates League, California Manufacturers and Technology Association, Los Angeles Police Protective League, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

Opponents claim: The measure is a trick to undo a 20-year-old voter-approved proposition to ban politicians from using taxpayer money to fund political campaigns. Would impose almost no restrictions on how candidates spend money.

 

PROPOSITION 16

Title: Imposes new two-thirds voter approval requirement for local public electricity providers. Initiative constitutional amendment.

Description: Local governments would be required to obtain approval of two-thirds of voters before providing electricity service to new customers or expanding service to new territories using public funds or bonds. Requires the same two-thirds vote to provide electricity service through a community choice program using public funds or bonds. Also requires the vote to be in the jurisdiction of the local government and in any new territory to be serviced. Provides exemptions to the voting requirements for a limited number of identified projects.

Fiscal impact: Unknown net impact on state and local government costs and revenues due to uncertainty as to the measure’s effects on public electricity providers and on electricity rates. These effects are unlikely to be significant in the short run.

Backers: Pacific Gas & Electric Co., (sponsor), California Tax Association, California Chamber of Commerce.

Backers claim: Taxpayers should have a larger say when local governments enter the power business. Two-thirds is the best protection against costly and risky government schemes to take over local electric service.

Opponents: City of San Francisco (filed lawsuit against measure), other public entities, Sierra Club California, AARP.

Opponents claim: The measure is an attempt by PG&E to maintain its monopoly of power and make it significantly more difficult for public entities to pursue energy service programs that could benefit ratepayers or the environment.

 

PROPOSITION 17

Title: Allows auto insurance companies to base their prices in part on a driver’s history of insurance coverage. Initiative statute.

Description: Changes current law to permit insurance companies to offer a discount to drivers who have continuously maintained their auto insurance coverage even if they change their insurance company, and notwithstanding the ban on using the absence of prior insurance for purposes of pricing. May allow insurance companies to increase cost of insurance to drivers who do not qualify for discount. Establishes that lapses in coverage due to nonpayment of premiums may prevent a driver from qualifying for the discount.

Fiscal impact: Probably no significant fiscal effect on state insurance premium tax revenues.

Backers: Mercury Insurance (sponsor), California Chamber of Commerce, California Senior Advocates League, Small Business Action Committee.

Backers claim: Measure would remedy flaw in existing law prohibiting drivers from taking discounts they received for maintaining insurance with them if they switch insurance companies to get a lower rate.

Opponents: Consumer Watchdog, Consumers Union, VoteVets.org.

Opponents claim: Measure would allow insurance companies to slap new surcharges on California drivers; would allow insurance companies to raise rates on customers with perfect driving records because they canceled insurance for as little as 91 days over the past five years.

 

San Mateo County

Election Date: June 8

Election info: www.shapethefuture.org

Where to find poll place: Location printed on the back cover of the Sample Ballot and Voter Information Pamphlet; also online at www.shapethefuture.org

Where to find nonpartisan elections info: League of Women’s Voters (smartvoter.org); California Voter Foundation (www.calvoter.org); Easy Voter Guide (easyvoter.org)

 

Part two of Decision 2010 will appear April 1 and will cover the candidates

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