Deceptive Mailer: Vote For Greener California

There is a mailer reaching California’s voters titled Vote for a Greener California, with a label that says “Californians Vote Green.”

This mailer is deceptive.  It says to vote for Proposition 16, the “PGE Initiative.”  This is a paid endorsement, and is designed to trick people into thinking there is an environmental reason to vote for a proposition that actually keeps people from being able to buy green energy. The California Secretary of State’s website shows that PGE paid $40,000 to be part of this mailer:  (While you’re there, look how much they paid for “Petition Circulating.”)


Please do not be fooled by this mailer.  Speak Out California recommends voting no on Proposition 16.  It is a proposition that enforces PG&E’s monopoly if it passes. 
Others have noticed this mailer.  At Calitics see Warning: Fraudulent(?) Mailer, and Prop. 16, Slate Mailers, and Voting ‘Green’ at Infospigot.

California Needs Fairness Doctrine

Roy Ulrich of the California Tax Reform Association and Richard Holober of the Consumer Federation of California have written an important op-ed on the need to restore the Fairness Doctrine. They argue that the unlimited funds that big corporations can throw at California’s ballot initiatives — props 16 (the “PGE Initiative”) and 17 (the “Mercury Insurance Initiative”) in particular — are stifling the ability of opponents of these measures to be heard.
From their op-ed,titled California Needs The FCC To Restore The Fairness Doctrine,

Neither was able to get the legislature to do their bidding, so they hired political consultants, paid millions of dollars to gather signatures, and proceeded to put these self-serving measures on the ballot. Now, they are flooding the airwaves with well-crafted bunk.
… a core principle of the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech is the ventilation and airing of opposing points of view.
There can be little doubt that the effect of broadcasters’ refusal to provide under-funded campaigns free response time since the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine for ballot measures in 1992 has been to increase the amount of one-sided information voters receive before entering the voting booth. This is hardly the kind of open and free debate the framers of our Constitution had in mind when they wrote the First Amendment.

It is time to restore the Fairness Doctrine so the non-wealthy can reach the public too.

Prop 16 – A Monopoly Wants To Stay That Way

Proposition 16 is being sold — and sold, and sold, and sold — as a “right to vote.”  The Prop 16 website makes it sound so reasonable,

“It requires voter approval before local governments can spend public money or incur public debt to get into the electricity business.”
So reasonable!  But that isn’t really what Prop 16 does.  Proposition 16 is entirely financed with million of dollars from one company – PG&E – and it is intended to perpetuate their monopoly.  
Here is the background: Currently municipalities can choose to form Community Choice Aggregation Projects that let communities buy power for their citizens, instead of using PGE as an intermediary.  The result is that people can buy power at a lower cost, and can choose to buy a mix with more renewable energy.  PGE, of course, doesn’t like that.
Prop 16 takes away a community’s right to choose to buy their own power and imposes a 2/3 vote requirement.  A community can usually gather a majority to make such decisions but a 2/3 requirement means that PG&E can swoop in and spend some money to get a minority to oppose such a decision, and kill it.  
California already has a 2/3 requirement to pass a budget, and we know how that is working.  Democracy is suppressed and budgets can’t pass.
We know monopolies don’t work in our society.  While we’re trying to create competition to encourage the development of clean, renewable energy sources, PG&E is taking your rate-payer dollars to try to squelch that effort.  PG&E wants to stay a monopoly, continue to use dirty fuels which cause climate change and keep the competition out.  That’s not very democratic now, is it?
We need to say no to big corporations that use their money (rate/taxpayer in this case, actually) to bully us with phony claims that really serve to perpetuate fat payouts to executives while undermining consumer choice.
Let’s not be deceived. Spread the word that Prop 16 is about protecting corporate fat-cats, not you and me, not democracy, not fair competition.

Prop 17 – The “Mercury Insurance” Initiative

The other day I wrote that Proposition 17 — on the ballot in June — is known as the “Mercury Insurance Initiative” and that I’ll explain that later.  

Well, it’s later.
The Mercury Insurance company has single-handedly spent millions of dollars to put Proposition 17 on the ballot.  Now they are about to spend millions more advertising it.  The proposition allows insurers to penalize consumers for missing one payment or having a lapse in car insurance coverage.  So if you stopped driving – couldn’t afford it, left the state, etc. – or miss a payment, your car insurance rates skyrocket.
Mercury Insurance is going to spend millions of dollars to advertise an initiative that will cost people a ton of money by claiming it saves people money?  Right – that’s why they’re spending millions on it, to save you money rather than to make themselves a bundle.  (My bet – in this current economy they will also claim that it “creates jobs.  Just a hunch.)
The Campaign for Consumer Rights has a Stop Prop 17 website, with a great video, “Mercury Insurance Wants You To Pay More For Your Car”.  Here is is for your viewing pleasure:

June 2010 Ballot Initiative: 13, Seismic Retrofitting

Speak Out California will be focusing between now and June on the ballot initiatives and issues that will be on the June ballot.  We will provide in-depth analysis of each as well as overviews.  We’ll also be doing regular updates on who’s funding what and how much is being spent.

Proposition 13: Property Tax: New Construction Exclusion: Seismic Retrofitting.  This June ballot initiative is named “Proposition 13” but it is not related to the 1978 initiative that cut property taxes.

This initiative prohibits tax assessors from re-evaluating taxes on new construction that is done for the purpose of seismically retrofitting – making the building earthquake-safe.  The construction would not result in increased property taxes until the building is sold.

What changes: According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, currently some properties are exempt for 15 years from tax increases based on earthquake retrofits.  Upgrades on unreinforced masonry buildings get a 15-year exclusion while other buildings are excluded until sold.

The League of Women Voters has no recommendation on this proposition.