I’m Fed Up & The California Ballot Initiative

There had to be a moment in the life of Howard Jarvis, when he said, probably first to himself, then to his family and friends, “I’m fed up [with the predatory actions of the public sector] and so began Prop 13, which put an end to endless property tax increases. No doubt such a moment occurred again when Gray Davis put forward a plan (no doubt a bright idea from the department of transportation), to triple automobile registration fees, leading to an I’m-Fed-Up inspired recall and election of the Terminator.

Not only do I’m-Fed-Up measures meet public acceptance at the ballot box, but also, they have a nudging effect on the population, inspiring them with hope by giving them an illusion of power stirred up by raging against the machine, raised fist salutes etc. However, when the result is money taken from the grasp of the bureaucracy, initiatives can do long term good.

On the ballot in San Diego now is another I’m-Fed-Up initiative, directed at the way public employee’s unions, public safety officers associations and the League of Cities (a name mis-used by the association of city management employees and elected officials—the lobby a Brown Act violation by definition) “encouraged” elected officials (who depend on public employees both for their endorsements in elections and to not screw things up and make them look bad), to hypothecate the general fund forever, to pay for extraordinary retirement benefits, while their constituents see no social security payment increases and the city ignores repairs to infrastructure. (This too shall pass.)

The root of the problem is that public sector employees hold trump cards in their ability to influence policy at a very low as well as higher levels of government, which shows up in every problem that ends up as an I’m-Fed-Up issue. This underlying issue could be addressed in a ballot measure to prevent endorsements by their associations but it would be difficult to police the internecine relationships between office holders and paid staff. The very need for this illustrates the moral/ethical conflicts. However, the voting public might at least obtain a seat at the negotiation table with other initiative ballot measures that could direct a laser beam on public sector parasitism: Ban the parking meters.

Ban them because the idea of municipalities renting space on public streets, a practice covered under the rubric, “parking meters” is a double tax since the public already pays for construction and maintenance of streets and highways. Charging to use them for the intended purposes: driving and parking ignores the fact that this wasn’t understood at the outset when the funds were approved for their development. Yet, while people would be outraged if they asked to pay for using freeways, they are not consulted about parking meters. The idea is someone other than you is paying but that is really nonsense since there isn’t an infinite total amount of money available to the economy. Take this money out of the reach of public predation by banning the practice. Let people spend their money on other things. Not only are meters double taxation, but also, they harm small businesses that can’t afford to provide parking lots as can chains and big box stores. Metered parking is not about parking limitation, it is a strategy for collecting money. (I wonder if Mr. DeMaio, who boasts of his support of the pension regulating measure, would dare stand up for voters against this far more predatory form of public larceny.)

Charges for parking violations could also be addressed by initiative as should the whole money making machine that traffic “infractions” has become, a poignant issue in view of global warming and fodder for yet another I’m-Fed-Up measure. There’s a reason when a metropolitan area the size of San Diego/Tijuana (total population now exceeding 6? million) between Rosarito and Camp Pendleton can’t muster the political will to organize a mobility system that frees those who wish it from their need for automobiles. (Putting aside the sociological and economic effects of severely constraining mobility in a large, spread out area.) The reason there has been no political will for a network of reliable, convenient public transit is not the influence of car dealers, oil companies, repair garages and insurance companies that benefit from automotive traffic, but much more important, the greater and more direct political influence of public sector employees—the traffic cops, courts, the private collection agency that partners with the courts with the sinister name, “Alliance”, red-light camera and parking meter companies and all the municipal employees who in various ways have their faces in this trough. Endorsement of candidates by peace officer’s associations, firemen and the like carries disproportionate weight with media and press and a gullible public is unwilling to admit that cops are just neighbors licensed to carry guns and are far from being saints. That’s another issue.

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