Endorsements 2008: State ballot measures

Yes, yes, yes on 1a. No, no, no on 4 and 8 ...


Proposition 1A

High-speed rail bond


California hasn't taken on a major improvement to its public infrastructure in several generations, the last significant one being the construction of the California State Water Project back in the 1950s. But with the state's growing population and the travel penchant of its citizens, there will be dire consequences to ignoring the need for more and better transportation options.

The state has been studying and planning for the creation of a high-speed rail system for more than 10 years, and this is the moment for voters to make it a reality.

Proposition 1A is a $9.95 billion bond measure. Combined with contributions from the federal government and private sector, the measure would fund the first leg of a system that would eventually stretch from Sacramento to San Diego. The train would carry people from downtown San Francisco to downtown Los Angeles in 2.5 hours for just $55.

The benefits are overwhelming. High-speed rail works well in Asia and Europe, on a fraction of the energy used by cars and planes and with almost no emissions. The system is projected to pay for itself within 20 years and then be a source of revenue for the state. And it would make trips directly from one city core to another, facilitating tourism and business trips without clogging our roads.

Unfortunately, the costs of not approving this measure are also huge: more congestion for road and air travelers, more freeway lanes, larger airports, dirtier air, and increased greenhouse-gas emissions. Building a high-speed rail system is something California can't afford not to do. Vote yes.

Proposition 2

Farm animal protections


It's hard to argue against a proposal that would allow farm-raised animals to stand up, lie down, and move around in their enclosures. This is a step in the direction of more humane treatment of animals; plenty of organic farms already comply, and the milk, meat, and eggs they produce are healthier for both humans and animals.

According to big agricultural companies and the operators of factory farms, a vote for Proposition 2 is a vote for an avian influenza outbreak, the spread of food-borne illnesses like salmonella, huge job losses, and even increased global warming. But we find it hard to believe that simply permitting creatures like veal calves, breeding pigs, and egg-laying hens to stretch their limbs and turn around will cause these Chicken Little predictions to come true. Vote yes on Prop. 2.

Proposition 3

Children's hospital bonds


This one sounds great unless you stop to think about it. Proposition 3 would provide more money for hospitals that care for sick children, which seems fine. But a lion's share of almost $1 billion in public bond money would go to private children's hospitals for capital improvements. While 20 percent of the cash would be tabbed for public institutions like the five University of California–run hospitals, the other 80 percent would go to places like Lucile Salter Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford. We don't discount the valuable work these hospitals do. But many of them have sizable endowments and ample resources to fund improvements on their own — especially since voters approved $750 million in children's hospital bond money just four years ago. Why is the state, which is broke, giving public money to private hospitals? Vote no on Prop. 3.

Proposition 4

Parental notification and wait period for abortion


This measure was horrible when it was on the ballot twice before, in 2005 and in 2006, and it's still horrible now.