The proposition to end all propositions. Are you tired of all these card-table shysters hawking you down like carnies outside Safeway or WinCo or Home Depot, hitting you up for your signature on a petition to ensure that the state’s children take their vitamins or video game controls have safety locks or cell phone towers are built to look like palm trees or white guys remain a protected class? The petition process was once a well-meaning grassroots effort to effect change. But what have they accomplished in recent years, other than paralyzing our state Legislature? Oh yeah, there’s Prop. 13, which broke local governments, and Prop. 215, which led many to believe that pot was legal in California, and don’t forget Prop. 209 (killed affirmative action) or Prop. 187 (ended bilingual education in the public schools). This state has gone proposition nuts. Blame it on former Gov. Hiram Johnson, who led successful fights for the institution of initiative, referendum and recall laws. Johnson, a progressive, did a lot of good things, fighting for the eight-hour workday for women and children, the workers’ compensation act (which, admittedly, has put on some weight over the years), pure food and drug acts, free textbooks in public schools, pensions for retired teachers, and more government control of the utilities and railroads (though with Union Pacific freight trains whistling through town at 70 mph, that’s hard to believe here in Chico). Like most good ideas, however, the initiative process was eventually corrupted.
We are supposed to live under a representative democracy. Instead wealthy special interests pay people to gather the required number of signatures to qualify for the ballot an initiative that turns into an inflexible law, further eroding an already endangered political species in Sacramento—compromise. With term limits, redistricting to create incumbent-safe districts and these paid-for propositions, the state has become nearly ungovernable. The answer? A proposition that kills the initiative process. Hey buddy, want to sign?
Got an interesting note from a reader concerning last week’s column that mentioned the Hungry Hippie hot dog vendor who operates in front of Home Depot. Following a rather vulgar salutation (“You are an asshole!”), the writer suggests I don’t fully appreciate the cost and effort involved in operating a small hot dog vending business. “What do you think it takes to put a cold soda in your shitty hand!” the letter writer asks, rhetorically. “This vendor has to make a lot of moves to do it and pay rent and insurance. What a dumb fuck you are.” Now, I meant Hungry Hippie no disrespect. I believe, based on the painted postcard Hungry had taped to the side of his cart that depicted George W. Bush and his cabinet in serious prayer over the Iraqi war, that the hot dog vendor is a religious man. I suggested, based on the cost of his sodas, that he was more capitalist than hippie. This apparently rubbed someone, I would guess a big fan of the Hungry Hippie, the wrong way.
OK, American flags have been waving over Chico now since, what, Memorial Day? I’m not saying take them down—God knows I’m not that stupid, living as I am in the era of the Patriot Act. I just want to point out that some of the flags are looking a little worse for wear. Some are tightly wrapped around their poles and others are all wrinkly. At what point do they get so tightly wrapped or ragged that flying them is no longer patriotic? (See photo, flag on the left.) And what is the proper protocol for taking the wrinkles out of the American flag? Can you press them, starch them, throw them in the dryer with a Downy sheet? I know this makes me look suspicious, but I honestly don’t know. Have a happy Fourth, and try not to blow your fingers off.