I’m going to try and blog something constructive (as opposed to my usual Davis/Simon whinging) every day about the upcoming election.
I’ll start with the low-hanging fruit, as they say in management classes; California Proposition 51.
Proposition 51 is a Frankenstein monster of a proposition, lumping a series of relatively unrelated projects together and sequestering funds from the general fund for them.
It diverts 30% of the Motor Vehicle Fund (approximately $900 million/year) from the general fund, where it is today used at the discretion of the Legislature and the Governor, to this set of designated projects.
These projects include:
Funds for the improvements of the old El Toro air base in Orange County into a ‘Great Park’;
Funds for railroad improvements from Orange County to Palm Springs;
Funds for the acquisition of wetlands in Ballona Creek;
Funds to improve transportation, including freeway offramps in Newhall, Riverside;
etc. etc. etc.
There are three immense problems with this initiative.
First, it bypasses any rational planning process whereby transportation and environmental priorities can be prioritized and set and simply locks the state into doing them all.
Second, it pulls almost a billion dollars out of the state budget at a time when the fiscal status of the state is fragile at best.
Third, and finally…well, take a look at this table, from Vote No on 51, and note the … intimate … connection between the contributors to the proposition and the beneficiaries of the projects.
Each of these projects may or may not have merit (although a whole lot of them look like direct subsidies to private enterprises who can and should be paying for things like highway interchanges that serve their real estate developments). But because of the format of the initiative, it is impossible to pick and choose, and once passed, we’ll be stuck paying for these things for thirty years.
I’m voting “no” on 51, and I strongly recommend that you do too.
[Update: Ann agrees!!]
Take a look at the editorials in the state’s newspapers:
Los Angeles Times
San Francisco Chronicle
San Jose Mercury News
Long Beach Press Telegram
Sacramento Bee
…and then take a look at this:
“Pay-to-Play” Matrix on Prop. 51

Contribution: $830,000(given to PCL’s Conservation Action Fund) by Playa Capital Company, LLC
Project: Money given to Los Angeles County for the acquisition of coastal wetlands in the Ballona Creek watershed. Playa Vista owns land in the watershed that it can’t develop. The land would be sold to the state at inflated prices.
Project Cost: $55 million
Contribution: $300,000 by the University of Southern California
Project: A tunnel under Exposition Blvd. to accommodate rail, buses and other motor vehicles traveling to Exposition Park, home of USC’s Memorial Coliseum. A USC spokeswoman told the LA Times that USC President Steven B. Sample decided to donate the money after the PCL amended the Proposition to guarantee that the transit line would go underground as it entered Exposition Park.
Project Cost: $75 million
Contribution: $500,000 by the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians
Project: New rail line starting in LA, stopping in Palm Springs and ending in Indio near the Spa Resort Casino operated by the Indian Tribe, according to the LA times article. The tribe is also allowed to help with the design of the stations.
Project Cost: $120 million
Contribution: $500,000 by Pardee Construction Company and Pardee Homes
Project: Pardee would be able to build 3,000 more homes in the area if direct connectors are built between I-5 and Route 56. Caltrans is preparing to connect Route 56’s two ends, paving the way for Pardee’s home construction in the area. The plan does not include the direct connection of I-5 and Route 56 because it is not a wise investment of taxpayer money, according to Caltrans officials. Under the Caltrans plan, motorists would still have to exit the freeway and use surface streets to bridge the I-5/Route 56 gap. Prop. 51 would fund the direct connection, allowing Pardee to maximize the development potential of the area at no extra cost to the company.
Project Cost: $137 million
Contribution: $190,000 by Sun Ridge, LLC
Project: Sun Ridge is owned by Sacramento developer Angelo Tsakopoulos. Prop. 51 locks in money for the extension of light rail service from downtown Sacramento to Sacramento International Airport. Tsakopoulos owns land he wants to develop between downtown and the airport. In the absence of Prop. 51 funding the extension would not have for some years.
Project Cost: $100 million
Contribution: $150,000 by Hillwood Development Corp.
Project: Four rail grade crossings to serve company’s proposed cargo center near San Bernardino International Airport. The San Bernardino Area Governments said the project is a low priority that the $30 million would only cover a portion of the cost, according to the LA Times article. “We would have to come up with the money from higher priority projects to get the crossings done,” said Norm King, executive director of the agency, according to the Times.
Project Cost: $30 million
Contribution: $150,000 by Newhall Land and Farming Co.
Project: Road widening and interchange expansion at California 126 and I-5 to feed company’s proposed 21,000-home construction project along the Santa Clarita River, according to the LA Times article. Santa Clarita City transportation officials were not consulted and do not think the project is a good idea. (Note: improvements include two projects under the congestion bottleneck program, Section 2,ix and x)
Project Cost: $21 million
Contribution: $60,000 by Music Concourse Community Partnership MCCP
Project: Construction and improvements to the music concourse area of Golden Gate Park.
Project Cost: $40 million
Contributions: $80,000, $40,000, $30,000 respectively by the Golden Gate National Parks Association, the California Academy of Sciences, and the Friends of Recreation and Parks McLaren Lodge
Project: Annual grant money to improve the Golden Gate National Recreation area. (Note: includes two $800,000 grants) Academy of Sciences would benefit both from the music concourse improvements and grant money available to non-profit organizations to improve Golden Gate Park. The organization operates a museum, aquarium and planetarium in Golden Gate Park. Annual grant money to improve Golden Gate park.
Project Cost: $1.6 million in grants every year
Contribution: $65,000 by the Tejon Ranch Company
Project: Improve interchange on I-5 at Lavel Road, including seismic repairs and lane additions to support a trucking distribution center. The improvements are not in the taxpayers’ interest and are normally paid for in part by the developer. The $5 million would cover Tejon’s share of the improvements. Carpool lanes on I-5 between SR 14 and SR 126, to ease traffic concerns in an area proposed for development. Tejon Ranch Co. owns some 27,000 arces of land in the Grapevine that it plans to develop.
Project Cost: $5 million for the interchange improvements, $6 million for the carpool lane.
Contribution: $75,000 by the California State Railroad Museum Foundation
Project: Grant to the non-profit to construct a Railroad Technology Museum. An annual grant to the nonprofit to operate both the new museum and existing museum.
Project Cost: $7 million for construction of the museum, plus $1 million every year
Contributions: $37,500, $5,000 (respectively) by the Fort Mason Foundation and the SF-based Market Street Railway Company
Project: Grant to non-profit to improve and maintain the historic For Mason in SF, for improvements to vintage rail line which could include extension to SF Maritime National Historic Park, money can be used for project administration and management.
Project Cost: $3 million one-time and $800,000 every year
Contribution: $250,000 by the Riverside Land Conservancy
Project: Money for implementation of Western Riverside County Habitat Conservation Plan Implementation program including the acquisition and maintenance of wildlife habitat; Money for land acquisition and maintenance of the San Timoteo Park project including San Timoteo Creek and Canyon and adjacent lands; Money for acquisition of land for a habitat and wildlife corridor connection to the Santa Ana River and adjacent Santa Ana River trail
Project Cost: $6 million every year for the Habitat Conservation Plan; $3 million every year for the San Timoteo Park project; $1 million every year for the Santa Ana River project.
Contribution: $25,000 by the San Joaquin River Parkway and Conservation Trust, Inc.
Project: Money spent at the direction of the conservancy, at least 25 percent must be given each year to nonprofit organizations in Fresno and Madera Counties
Project Cost: $500,000 every year
Contribution: $5,000 and $10,000 (respectively) by the San Diego River Park Foundation and the San Diego River Park Lakeside Conservancy
Project: Grant to nonprofit to restore the San Diego River
Project Cost: $3.5 million
Contributions: $5,500; $5,500; $5,000 (respectively) by Sloughhouse rancher Jay Schneider; Rancho Murieta-based Van Vleck Ranching and Resources, Inc.; Sloughhouse rancher Alva Barton,
Project: Money to Sacramento every year to pay landowners in a specified area to maintain their land as open space
Project Cost: $1.5 million
Contribution: $6,000 by the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy
Project: Grant to a nonprofit to preserve the San Dieguito River
Project Cost: $1 million


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