Propositions 94, 95, 96, and 97 (Indian gambling compacts)
We supported the original law that allowed Indian tribes to set up casinos, and we have no regrets: that was an issue of tribal sovereignty, and after all the United States has done to the tribes, it seemed unconscionable to deny one of the most impoverished populations in the state the right to make some money. Besides, we're not opposed in principle to gambling.
But this is a shady deal, and voters should reject it.
Props. 9497 would allow four tribes all of which have become very, very wealthy through gambling to dramatically expand the size of their casinos. The Pechanga, Morongo, Sycuan, and Agua Caliente tribes operate lucrative casinos in Southern California, spend a small fortune on lobbying, and convinced Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to give them permission to create some of the largest casinos in the nation. Opponents of this agreement have forced the issue onto the ballot.
The tribes say the deals will bring big money into the state coffers, and it's true that more gambling equals more state revenue. But the effective tax rate on the slot machines (and this is all about slot machines, the cash engines of casinos) would be as little as 15 percent chump change for a gambling operation. And none of the other tribes in the state, some of which are still desperate for money, would share in the bounty.
The big four tribes refuse to allow their workers to unionize. While we respect tribal sovereignty, the state still has the right to limit the size of casinos, and if the tribes want the right to make a lot more money, they ought to be willing to let their workers, not all of them Indians, share in some of the rewards. We're talking billions of dollars a year in revenue here; paying a decent salary is hardly beyond the financial ability of these massive operations.
The governor cut this deal too fast and gave away too much. If the tribes want to expand their casinos, we're open to allowing it but the state, the workers, and the other tribes deserve a bigger share of the revenue. Vote no on 94-97.
Proposition A (neighborhood parks bond)
This $185 million bond has the support of a broad coalition of local politicians and activists, Mayor Gavin Newsom, and every member of the Board of Supervisors. It would put a dent in the city's serious backlog of deferred maintenance in the park system.
The measure would allocate $117.4 million for repairs and renovations of 12 neighborhood parks, selected according to their seismic and safety needs as well as their usage levels. It would also earmark $11.4 million to replace and repair freestanding restrooms, which, the Recreation and Park Department assures us, will be kept open seven days a week.
The bond also contains $33.5 million for projects on Port of San Francisco land, including a continuous walkway from Herons Head Park to Pier 43 and new open spaces at regular intervals along the eastern waterfront. While some argue that the Port should take care of its own property, it's pretty broke and there's a growing recognition that the city's waterfront is a treasure, that open space should be a key component of its future, and that it doesn't really matter which city agency pays for it. In fact, this bond act would provide money to reclaim closed sections of the waterfront and create a Blue Greenway trail along seven miles of bay front.
One of the more questionable elements in this bond is the $8 million earmarked for construction and reconstruction of city playfields which includes a partnership with a private foundation that wants to install artificial turf.