Sunday, July 31, 2005

Prop 77's Demise: No Biggie?

As I've said at least a couple times on this blog, even if Prop. 77, the Governator's redistricting reform initiative, did make it on the ballot and passed, not much would be accomplished. Seems Paul Turner and Steven Hill, who wrote this column in today's Sacramento Bee, agree with me. Am I great or what? They've done a better job of articulating their case, though.

About the only problem I have with their commentary is their reference to people wanting better government, and that we could get that better government by shuffling things around a bit and making a few reforms. In other words: Politicians are a bunch of bums so let's fix things by electing a different set of bums that operate a little differently. That seems to be the line of thinking nowadays amongst a great portion of the population.

I beg to differ, but realize my opinion is overly simplistic in the real world. The problem with government is that it does too much and involves itself too deeply in people's lives. That's unlikely to change by simply electing "moderates"- those willing to compromise- to government positions. The only way to do get the government back into a minimal role in our lives is to elect libertarians to office who appreciate the proper role of government in a free society. But, that's unlikely to happen, at least at the state or federal level, anytime in the foreseeable future.

"Given the low level of competence among politicians, every American should become a libertarian. The government that governs the least is certainly the best choice when fools, opportunists and grafters run it. When power is for sale, then government power should be severely limited. When power is abused, then the less power the better."- Charley Reese

Friday, July 29, 2005

Ballot Initiative Reform?

Some folks say California's ballot initiative system needs to be reformed. I suppose I'd agree some changes need to be made. Yesterday, Dan Weintraub's California Insider blog mentioned a column by Michael Hiltzik, presumably a columnist from the L.A. Times, where some possible reforms that could be made to the initiative process were suggested.

One thing I think might be accomplished from at least one of his suggested reforms is that hopefully we'd avoid some of the fiascos we've seen the last couple weeks, with initiatives being thrown out because of wording discrepencies and such. I think, though, Hiltzik has a bit too much faith in the state legislature to do the right thing.

One thing I'd like to see, as a requirement that Hiltzik doesn't mention, is that the entire text of the initiative- plus room for signatures- all fit one one legal size (8 1/2 x 16?) piece of paper. That includes both sides. If an initiative can't fit one one piece of paper, it's probably either written wrong, or bad legislation in the first place.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Off The Ballot, Then Back Again

You may have heard that some court threw out the electricity regulation initiative that some "consumer groups" had placed on the ballot for the special election in November. What was that one, Prop. 80? Looks like a higher court put it back on the ballot saying we could always decide the constitutionality of the issue after the election, assuming it gets passed. Kinda makes sense to me. Then again, kinda silly to go through all the expense of placing the issue on the ballot and all the campaigning only to have it declared unconstitutional should the issue pass.

That's the nature of the beast, though. Assuming you're going to have an initiative or referendum process (and let's remember that both good and bad things have passed via the initiative system), it should always be subject to judicial scrutiny. Of course, just because a court rules one way or another on something doesn't necessarily make it right, either. It just makes it the law of the land. Real can of worms, isn't it?

Stay tuned for the debut of Fred's 2005 Elections Recommendations Page. I actually have it started and have made a few comments but haven't put it online yet. Waiting to see if they end up holding the special election, after all, as there's been some talk in the Governor's office of possibly cancelling it. Nothing solid yet, though. As for this electricity regulation initiative? I haven't much info on it yet, but I suspect I'll recommend a NO vote or no vote at all.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Voting On Redevelopment?

The Elsebusches made their presentation on the county redevelopment proposal to the Board of Supervisors. One thing they proposed was that it be put before the voters for a yes or no vote. I guess that sounds fair enough, but what purpose would that serve? Seems to me the voters in this county could go either way on the issue. This state has gotten into a lot of its debt because of people voting, among other reasons. The Board of Supervisors can screw this redevelopment proposal up all by themselves. There's no guarantee that letting the people vote on redevelopment will make redevelopment any more or less successful up here.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Anti- Gay Marriage Initiative In Circulation

Here's one petition I won't sign. This one supposedly "protects marriage" and, I believe, reaffirms that marriage is only between a man and a woman, or some such. Proponents of the initiative are going to challenge the wording the Attorney General used to summarize the initiative. I'll admit to not having read all the fine details but I suspect the Attorney General is correct in his summary. I suspect it won't be difficult for this petitioning effort to succeed and, if the initiative does make the ballot, it should pass easily just like Prop. 22 did a few years ago. One easy way to pass an initiative is to simply go after some minority group like homos or smokers.

Refuse to sign this one, my friends, and please don't go for that line the petitioners give: "Signing doesn't mean you have to vote for it. This just puts the issue on the ballot...". I saw a lady, who said she smoked, fall for that line when they were petitioning for Prop 10, that last tobbaco tax increase. She says "I smoke so don't want to pay more in taxes..". The guy says the line I quote above. She huffs and says, "ok" and signs the initiative and thus helped herself into a major tax increase. If you don't support an initiative, don't sign the petition. Democracy be damned!

Monday, July 25, 2005

Elsebusch Gets A Hearing

Local gadflies, David and Penny Elsebusch, get a hearing before the Board of Supervisors. They're going to make a presentation in opposition to the County's proposal to form a countywide redevelopment district. It might seem interesting that the Elsebusches are opposed to the Taxpayer's League lawsuit against Eureka's Redevelopment Agency and the two developers, but not really. One could be opposed to a redevelopment agency but not opposed to finishing a redevelopment project that's been underway for a decade or more. And, if nothing else, one could just be opposed to lawsuits in general except as a last resort.

How do I feel about the formation of a redevelopment district/ agency? I'm not sure, but opponents rightly point out that it takes money from the general fund of a city or the county. While the new "redeveloped areas" might bring in more revenue, most of that revenue goes back to the redevelopment agency for more redevelopment. It's kinda like redevelopment feeds itself which almost sounds like a good idea. Problem is, the new redeveloped areas then use up government services which are generally paid for from General Fund monies and the redeveloped area tax revenues don't go to the General Fund, thus the taxpayers from everywhere else pick up the tab.

I don't like the sound of that but have to admit to not having a real thorough understanding of how this redevelopment stuff works.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Thompson Votes No On Patriot Act!

Way to go! Our very own Mike Thompson joins the minority in opposing the extension of the PATRIOT Act. I was wondering how he'd vote on that one. I'll have to say that of the rogues' gallery of state and national representatives we have in Humboldt, Thompson is probably the most acceptable one, from a libertarian standpoint anyway. Not that I'd necessarily vote for him, especially if we have a libertarian running in the race. Thompson certainly is a big government kind of guy but he does vote the right way on issues far more often than Feinstein, Boxer, Chesbro or Berg.

Not surprisingly, local Republican Chair Lori Metheny says she's disappointed with Thompson's vote and that PATRIOT is necessary to keep the country safe from terrorism. I wonder if she really believes that or if she's just being a partisan hack? Probably a little of both. I guess it doesn't matter, though. I'm sure in her mind she's supports PATRIOT because it defends our freedom, right Lori? Just like Dubya says?

"Those who forsake liberty to obtain a temporary sense of security, deserve neither liberty or security." -Ben Franklin

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Big Small Town Government

My internet buddy, Tom Knapp, discusses whether local government is better than distant government in his blog today. I agree that local government can be more oppressive at times than the government in Sacramento or D.C., or so it seems.

In fairness, though, most people generally support active local government since it deals directly with where they live. Just look at campaigns for city council in any city. Candidates rarely seem to talk about not doing something, or protecting the right of the people who live in the town to be left alone. They talk about how they support this project or that project and how they want to micromanage the city and solve every little problem. At least that's what I see from what little attention I pay to city council elections. I often don't vote in city council elections unless I find a compelling reason to vote for one of the candidates. Usually, there isn't a compelling reason.

I can understand the micromanagement thing, despite being a libertarian. But I also think that's one reason a libertarian presence is especially necessary in small towns. I met Eureka City Councildude, Chris Kerringan, when he was campaigning last time around. I told him that I often didn't vote in city council elections because city council candidates are generally promoters of more government projects but, hey, I understand that's what many people want for the town they live in.

I went on to tell him I would have liked to see some candidates come out in opposition to the, then current, asset forfeiture ordinance Eureka P.D. Chief Douglas, and others, were proposing. That ordinance would allow the city to seize and sell the cars of anyone involved in soliticiting or procuring prostitution in Eureka. Everyone on the council and running for council seemed to have no problem with such an ordinance except for the fact that the City of Oakland, which the Eureka ordinance was modeled on, has their ordinance in court now. Nobody wanted to get involved with the ordinance until the litigation was taken care of. Kinda shamefull nobody considers whether it was wrong to take someone's car just cause they were out looking for sex, in the first place.

Tom Knapp might well be right that there's a strong tendency among local politicians to pass just about any ordinance. We need more libertarians in local office.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Ordinance Proposals Opposed

Looks like someone spoke up at the last Eureka City Council meeting in opposition to the proposed ordinances I referred to earlier. Good to see someone other than myself has some concerns about this.

Local attorney, Kelly Walsh, is representing a client who opposes the ordinances. Can't help but wonder if his client might be one of the people that owns some of the property that might be targeted by the ordinances or just some civil libertarian type, concerned citizen? Wonder who the heck this "client" is?

Monday, July 18, 2005

New Eureka Ordinance Proposals

The Eureka City Council is mulling some proposed ordinances to penalize people/ property owners that require repeat visits from the police. One ordinance will deal with places that have continual disturbances such as loud parties. Another will allow police to cite property owners whose properties are being used for drug use.

I might go along with the first one. Most of us have lived somewhere where you had neighbors that caused regular disturbances. I worry, though, about the original complainers. Some people have a low tolerance for any sort of noise and might end up putting someone, who really hasn't done much, in the nuisance category by frequently calling police cause they don't like what someone is playing on the radio, or some such thing.

The second one is more disturbing: Some properties are difficult to maintain control over. Hate to see some property owner get in trouble because transients keep using the property for parties or whatever. Besides, better they have some place to do their nefarious deeds rather than out in front of my house.

What I'd really like to know is just what properties and/ or owners were the reason for these ordinances being proposed in the first place. I don't think someone just made these ordinances up for lack of anything else to do.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Elsebusch on Redevelopment

Local gadfly and Taxpayer's League member, David Elsebusch, had an opinion piece in the Eureka Reporter this morning. He warns us of some of the concerns we should have about the Board of Supervisors' using Headwaters Fund money for redevelopment. A proper concern although I'm not sure I reach the exact same conclusion he does but the commentary is well written, at least at the start.

I've said before that, while many libertarians might oppose government involvement in redevelopment, I'm not so sure I do. I'm not sure to what extent they should be involved, though, and they're probably involved more than they should be, in Humboldt. I think the local city council members like diverting money to redevelopment because it allows them to isolate money from their general funds and then go look for other sources to fund the general fund. I wouldn't be surprised if the Board of Supervisors does similar things with the money they use for redevelopment but I can't say for sure.

What gets me is local politicos always making a big government project out of development with all kinds of funding, rules, regulations, committees and such. Why not just make all of Humboldt County an Enterprise Zone with low taxes and low regulations and then private people and businesses might want to relocate and clean up areas at less cost to the taxpayer?

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Log Cabin Republican Blog

Dan Weintraub made mention recently of a the new blog the California Log Cabin Republicans put up. The Log Cabin Republicans (LCR) are a gay republican group. Looks like some interesting issues discussion although not many comments being made on the blog, so far. I've added their site to my blogs list to keep up with what's going on there.

I've never understood why the gays would want to be affiliated with Republicans after they've been slapped in the face so many times by them. It's certainly good to see some in the gay community supporting less government and more individual liberty, as they say on the California LCR website, but I think it would be a stretch to say that's what Republicans stand for now, at least on the national level. I wonder why more of the homo community isn't with the Libertarian Party as I would think most gays would be natural libertarians, believing in live and let live.

Maybe the LCRs just want to be with a "side that has a chance of winning"? Or it could be that the LCR folks are pretty much "conservatives" that believe in the drug war and a few other issues that separate libertarians from conservatives. Probably a little of both. Wonder how many members the LCRs can claim?

Thursday, July 14, 2005

No Changes At Taxpayer's League

Looks like the status quo remains after yesterday's meeting of the Humboldt Taxpayer's League and the petition filed by the rank and file to permanently end the lawsuit was ignored. Hard to say what will happen now. I suspect one thing has happened though: The League might well have lost much of its credibility with the press and the public as it will be perceived now as just an eight man board of directors that operates independently of the rank and file members. A group of eight or ten people that operates in private tends to have less credibility than a group of a hundred or more people that operate in the public eye.

While some accuse the local media of not giving enough coverage on the issue of conflict of interest, seems to me the press has been pretty supportive of the League and its purpose overall. Wonder if they'll stay supportive in the days to come?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Reapportionment Initiative Goes To Court

Looks like Prop. 77, the initiative that would change the way political districts are drawn is going to end up in court. State Attorney General Bill Lockyer is challenging the issue because copies of the petition signed by the public were slightly different from the ones submitted to the powers that be, before the initiatives were cleared for distribution. Proponents of the initiative say the differences were just small changes in wording. Dan Weintraub explains all this and feels the Attorney General is right to challenge the initiative. I agree, at least to some extent.

I agree that the wording differences were insignificant but how far are we going to go in allowing variances? I hope the court allows the initiative to go forward but will this set precedent and maybe the next time around even a greater variance is allowed? That's the slippery slope argument. In this case I hope they allow it. Besides, how many people actually read the initiative before they sign a petition. Very few, I would think.

We do have people use such arguments to attack initiatives they don't want to see on the ballot. I wonder who had Lockyer's ear and managed to get him to challenge this initiative? These little nitpick things bug me. Just like during the Gallegos recall when Gallegos forces complained that the signature gathering for the recall was not up to snuff because petitions were left unattended at places to be signed, which isn't supposed to be the way it's done. As I wrote to the Arcata Eye (don't know if they ever published my letter), I'd be careful with the accusations as I've seen a number of unattended petitions on the front desk at the Redwood Peace and Justice Center in Arcata. Bringing stuff like that up could come back to bite you in the ass.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Conflicts Of Interest

Glenn Goldan had a My Word column in today's Times Standard. This was pretty much along the same line of his comments at the Humboldt Taxpayer's League meeting last Thursday. He makes a good point although I'm sure many will still say developers shouldn't be on redevelopment boards. Who knows? Not sure there's any easy answer to the question, at least in my mind.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

New State Budget

A little late to comment, I suppose, but since I didn't post yesterday, I gotta post something.

They passed the latest state budget, only a few days late this time. Spending's up ten percent, well above the rate of inflation and population growth yet the usual government agencies are crying foul. That's a seventeen percent increase in spending over the last two years. Just goes to show that no matter how much money they get they won't be satisfied. State Senator Tom McClintock, probably has the best commentary on the budget in his blog.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Related To The Railroad Authority Thread

A few days ago I posted a link to a commentary by the Sacramento Bee's Dan Walters on the North Coast Railroad Authority. I sent the link the the editor of the Times Standard suggesting he run that commentary in our local paper. He actually ran it on Sunday, I believe. I was eager to see who would pipe in to defend the NCRA after that commentary ran. Didn't take long, as Supervisor John Wooley had a My Word column in the paper just a couple days later defending the NCRA. As expected, he simply said that rail service was extremely important to the economic development of our port and the county in general. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a link to his column online but a strikingly similar column was written by someone in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat a few days before Wooley wrote his. You can read that one here.

Well, they can say we should keep throwing more money at the railroad so some day the ship will come in but I don't think so. I have no problem with a railroad that can pay for itself but I doubt one up here ever will, at least for the forseeable future. In fact, I understand most rail, including these new "light rail" systems so in favor with politicos nowadays, never pay for themselves, if only because ridership levels are so low.

Received the item below in today's news digest from the National Center for Policy Analysis. While it specifically deals with Amtrak, which might well be a worst case scenario of rail service, it shows just how expensive these rail subsidies can be. It points out that congress would save money if it bought Amtrak riders plane tickets instead of paying for the rail service. While the author suggests privatization of Amtrak, I question if that would make things better, but wouldn't mind seeing it tried.

While the dollar amounts are much lower, I wonder exactly how the figures would look if compared to the NCRA?
Since the ill-fated day in 1971 when Uncle Sam took over control of
rail passenger service as a "temporary" experiment, the federal
government has spent almost as much money bailing out Amtrak as it cost
to put a man on the moon. All of this money for a train service that
doesn't reduce traffic congestion, doesn't cut pollution levels,
doesn't save energy, and isn't integral to intercity travel because so
few people ride the trains, says the Wall Street Journal.
Trains can be a great way to see America, but Amtrak has poorly
served customers and taxpayers alike and is arguably the nation's
worst-run commercial enterprise, says the Journal:

o It loses $1 billion a year ($45 per rider) and that doesn't
include some $10 billion in deferred maintenance costs.

o Every route run by Amtrak loses money, and some are
horrendously unprofitable; the long-distance route from Los
Angeles to Florida loses $400 for every passenger who comes

o It would cost taxpayers less if Congress purchased free
discount airline tickets for every traveler.

Meanwhile, the $3 billion high-speed Acela trains on the Northeast
Corridor, which were promised to be the financial savior of the
railroad, have also been losing money, and are now shut down for
several months because of faulty braking systems on the locomotives.
The good news is that there's no law of economics that train
service has to lose money -- although it's a pretty sure bet that a
train run by the government will. A Congress serious about fiscal
restraint would privatize Amtrak, lift its indefensible monopoly status
as the sole provider of rail passenger service in America, and let the
market determine where and how train service can operate in the black,
says the Journal.

Source: Editorial, "The Little Engine That Shouldn't," Wall Street
Journal, July 7, 2005.
For text (subscription required):,,SB112069871777079130,00.html

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

New Elections Ordinance Proposed

The Local Solutions PAC just announced in an e-mail that a new group has been formed. The Humboldt Coalition for Community Rights has filed paperwork for a local initiative that would prohibit non- local corporations from contributing to any local campaigns, whether they be for a candidate or an issue. If this makes it to the ballot, it will be interesting to see who the players, pro or con are. Some of the pro folks would be obvoius, such as Democracy Unlimited, the Greens and other Lefties. Wonder if any right oriented groups will join the pro side? I doubt it, if only cause the Right, at least the right wingers I'm familiar with, are so polarized they won't join the lefties simply because they're the Left.

Myself, it almost seems like a non- issue to me personally simply because I don't base my vote on issues based on who has the best TV commercials or campaign mailers. I try and make my decisions based on the issues and principles involved. That's not to say, as I've already admitted, that I can make my decisions sometimes for pretty frivolous reasons.

But, it seems too many people are concerned about the money in campaigns, so this proposal might likely pass, assuming it makes it to the ballot. Making it on the ballot isn't going to be a problem since all they'd have to do to get enough signatures is stand out in front of the Arcata Co Op for a few days.

I think it's a sad commentary on people that we worry about how much money is spent on campaigning. It might be a justifiable concern but what can you do when so many people are swayed by thirty second sound bites on TV, with too many people making their decision on issues based on which side uses the words "children" and "education" the most. That's the way I see it and this proposal won't do anything to change that, it will just limit participation to local companies and corporations which, while sounding appealing, won't do change much and might well have some not so good unintended consequences, like that Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, which should rightfully be called the Incumbent Protection Act.

How will I vote on this proposed initiative? I don't know yet. I'll decide later on whether to vote on way or the other or not at all.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

"Free" Restaurants and Jobs

Got a kick out of this article linked to from Looks like because of all the government interference in starting businesses in Italy, some folks are operating unofficial restaurants out of their homes, feeding people for a "voluntary contribution", or some such thing, as opposed to a formal payment. How cool! I love to see guerilla activism like that.

One or two years ago I started wondering if something could be done, along the same lines, for employment purposes: It's gotten much more costly to hire the average employee nowadays, especially in California. It costs much more than the employee's hourly wage to hire someone with Workmen's Compensation and other insurance requirements. I wondered if maybe people could be encouraged to do their own guerilla activist type employement effort?

What would happen if a movement started to get a whole bunch of folks to become "Independent Contractors" (IC)? If you became an IC, you'd work for yourself but take a contract from a client, that client being any "normal" business, like Taco Bell or Pearson's Building Center. So, instead of adding you to their payroll, and dealing with all the insurance, tax and regulatory hurdles, they just send you whatever fee you agreed upon for delivering your services, whether it be working the takeout window or serving the businesses' customers in the lumber yard.

Of course, you'd also end up with many of the hassles of the self employed like buying your own insurance, a business license and doing quarterly estimates with your income taxes, but an IC might well be a better deal for the business than having people on the payroll. They'd still be paying for the work but the state would be cut out of the equation. If more and more people and businesses went that route, we might see a real shift in the way people and businesses work in the country. You'd probably need a lawyer and accountant to figure out a way to make it work, but, it might eventually make the State irrelevant in employer/ employee relationships.

But, alas, that's just a pipe dream. Way too many people are accustomed to demanding someone else hire them and are afraid of the responsibility of being "out on their own"- That being the major obstacle. And if such a movement did pick up some momentum, you can be assured there'd be a major squawk from the nanny staters to have ICs regulated " for their own good" and we might end up back on square one.

That said, you could always try and go the IC route on your own right now. If successful, you'd find your own little niche employment scheme. Being self employed does have its drawbacks, though. Believe me, I know. But, if you want to leave your life free of the State, you may want to give the idea some thought. If you figure out how to really make it work, let me know so I can spread the word.

"Most people fear liberty because it means individual responsibilty...."- Ben Franklin

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Does Geist Need a "Progressive" Challenger?

Anonymous made the comment that Jill Geist might be ripe for some "progressive" to challenge her seat on the Board of Supervisors next time around. Seems like she might be losing some support from her left wing base. Wonder how widespread that feeling is?

So I asked Anon who he thought might be a good challenger, if only out of curiousity. How about Richard Salzman? Just kidding.

I'm outside of Geist's district so I can't vote in that race but that didn't stop me from commenting on the race last time. I actually don't remember exactly what my comments were at the time but I know I first thought Ben Shepherd (sic?) would have gotten my vote. I later got interested in Geist because she stated some interest, albeit weak interest, in refusing the federal funds for marijuana enforcement that the Board of Supervisors considers each year. All we'd need is one more vote on the Board and the funds would be refused. Not trying to be a single issue voter but I've always wanted to see the money refused if nothing else than as a moral victory against the pot wars.

So, Geist wins and seems less than enthusiastic about marijuana issues after being elected. Oh well, I suppose that's to be expected. Be interesting to see who the progressives think would be a good challenger although I'll have to admit I find the vast majority of "progressive" candidates to be quite scary. I did vote for Kaitlin Sopoci- Belknap for that Water District seat, though. Probably a first for me.

As far as that federal money for pot eradication, I wonder if it's a non- issue now? I suspect the Supes are so desperate for money they'll accept it from whatever source for whatever reason they can, now. I'll be interested in seeing if Rodoni votes for the money next time around as he's been historically opposed to it. Which reminds me: When the heck does that issue come up? Seems to me we should of heard something about that by this time of year.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Salzman and Geist

This Richard Salzman guy is someone I think we could do without. Now, I don't have a problem with all the inflammatory e-mails and phone calls he makes for political purposes, that's what political fundraiser types do. But to get on Supervisor Jill Geist's case cause she sits at a table with a couple folks cause they're not Gallegos fans is a bit over the top. He says Geist is rubbing elbows with "right wing reactionaries". What an ass.

I've been known to cast my vote for some pretty frivolous reasons in the past. With Salzman being a big supporter of Gallegos I'd certainly be tempted to vote for someone other that Gallegos just cause of Saltzman's support. Hey, if Saltzman likes someone, you have to think something must be wrong with them. I won't commit to that now, though, and try to keep an open mind when hearing something from Saltzman.