Daily Archives: May 27, 2008

Propositions 98 & 99

Recently I posted about some of the candidates for the 52nd Congressional District.  I had hoped to post on all of them, but wasn’t able to connect with the others.  So, since I can’t give all of them equal time, I am not going to give any thumbs up or down on any of them.  But, I have no problem giving my opinion about two competing ballot propositions.

Propositions 98 & 99 both deal with “eminent domain” – the ability of the government to take private property for public uses.  Recently there have been stories in the news about possibly questionable uses of eminent domain to transfer private property to large developers who have plans to redevelop a “blighted” area.  Now, I have no argument with the idea of protecting the rights of property owners, but I am planning to vote “No” on both propositions.

Proposition 98 is in some ways the “better” of the two – it provides concrete and specific limits on government use of eminent domain.  But, and this is a big “but,” it also will create problems for what many people consider “good” uses of eminent domain.  For example, it specifically prohibits new rent control measures or even the renewal of current measures.  This is a windfall for apartment and mobile home complex owners who may want to price current low-income renters out.  Prop 98 also would make it more difficult for government to protect land for environmental reasons.  I would like to see some measure of protection for property owners, but not at the expense of low-income renters and the environment.

Proposition 99 is a whole different matter.  This one is written so very broadly and with such vague “exceptions” that it really won’t do much good at all.  It prohibits the State from acquiring private property and conveying it to another private entity, but then it provides an exception for “private uses incidental to, or necessary for, [a] public work or improvement.”  And who will decide if the acquisition is necessary?  Why, the State, of course.

In effect, what we have here are competing proposals that each benefit a small group rather than the public in general.  Perhaps if 98 had been written without the clauses that affect low-income renters and the environment I could support it.  But since it wasn’t, I’m voting “No” on both.  You make your own choice, but at least take time to read carefully.

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