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General Election, Tuesday, 3 March 2020

Each election I research and analyze the propositions on the California ballot to create this voting guide, and they represent nothing other than my own personal view of these measures. I do this analysis on a non-partisan basis, but that doesn't mean I have no opinion. I do, but I believe it's transparent (note that transparency means only that I claim no hidden agenda, not that I'm trying to be unbiased).

I generally have no connection with any group supporting or opposing any of these propositions.

My main intent is to get to the bottom of these issues, knowing that the real purpose is not always evident. Once uncovered, I apply a mainly libertarian eye to them.

I'm more interested in examining the issues thoughtfully than I am in getting you to vote the way I do, so I hope these pages help you understand the issues in front of us.

Educated votes are better votes.

I hope my thoughts are helpful.

Other resources:

Important Note: if you are tempted to say "The hell with it" and just vote "no" on all of them, please do not. An uninformed vote, even a no, may have an unintended consequence that you don't want.

Either educate yourself on the measure, or leave that spot blank. Really. This matters.

Summary of positions

Click each link for the rationale for each position.

Proposition Source My Position Description / Title
California icon Prop 13 Legislature No Bonds ($15B) for School Facility upgrades

California icon Prop 13: Bonds for School Facility Upgrades

This measure would authorize up to $15B in general obligation bonds, mainly for school facility upgrades and repairs. It also would raise limits on how much money local school districts can raise for their own bonds, as well as places limits on developer fees for new construction.

The first thing that struck me after reading this in detail is that it's not the end of the old Proposition 13 as we know it, which is how I've seen it described in some quarters. This claim seems completely unfounded to me.

So let's dig into the details.

First is the bond measure itself, about $15B, mainly to upgrade classrooms, perform earthquake retrofitting, and the usual facilities maintenance projects that come up every time there's a bond measure, and superficially they all seem reasonable enough to me, and I didn't see any hidden pet and/or foolish projects.

It's the other provisions that seem more controversial than the usual bond measures.

The measure would raise bonding authority for local districts based on the local assessed value: from 1.25% raised to 2.0% for elementary and high school districts, and 2.5% raised to 4.0% for unified districts. This will allow these districts to raise more local money to fund their projects, which is of course backed by local taxing power.

I guess you could say this is sorta kinda related to the old Prop 13: it's not directly raising local property taxes (or raising assessed value), but it's indirectly allowing local districts to borrow more money which all has to be obtained by the local residents. The Prop 13 nexus seems really weak to me.

Anyway, it would also put the brakes on the use of developer fees for new construction projects: these are assessed by the local cities to the developer in order to fund infrastructure nearby, though it's partly morphed into a pretty good source of revenue to the city.

Looking into this, it seems that in the city of Irvine (next to my city), a single family home has north of $140,000 (!!!) in service and impact fees charged to the developer, and this of course is passed onto the homebuyer.

Some of these are directly related to service provided to the developer, such as building inspections and planning services, but others are meant to help fund schools, parks, transpartion, and affordable housing.

This does not seem inherently wrong to me: a new armada of residential developments going in does need some new schools, a few fire stations, roads, etc. but it's very easy to imagine a city using it as a general pot of money. $140k per home in Irvine? That's amazing.

This measure would forbid the assessment of school developer fees (which are a small portion of overall developer fees) for new projects within a half mile of a major transportation hub, such as a train station, and reduce by 20% the fees charged for others.

Because as far as I can tell, this only applies to school district developer fees, and for Irvine this appears to be $4.76 per square foot for residential construction (much lower rates for commercial usage). For a 1800 square foot house, that's about $8500, and this doesn't seem to be that much of a burden compared with all the rest of the fees.

Curiously, the opponents of this measure refer to it as a "sweetheart deal for developers", and say it's withholding money for first responders: I don't see it - this was about school district developer fees only, so either I'm misreading the measure, or the opponents are being hyperbolic about the impact on first responder funding.

I'm voting no on this measure, as I do on most bond measures, and this is especially the case since California has proven itself to be utterly irresponsible with bond money.

Evidence: the ridiculous high-speed rail project that has ballooned from the initial approval of $9B in 2008 to at least ten times that now. This is such a collossal waste of money could so much be better used for schools or pretty much anything else.

My Vote: No

Those discovering bad/missing links, typos, or even errors in judgment are encouraged to report them to me:

Last updated: Mon Mar 2 14:22:55 UTC 2020