Ninety-one is the loneliest number

While many of the propositions on this February’s ballot are multimillion-dollar productions (the Indian-gaming referenda alone will blow through $70 million or so of perfectly good money) some measures are just plain starved for attention.

Take little Proposition 91, the loneliest initiative. The ballot measure would prohibit the state from diverting gas-tax money from local governments and putting it into the general fund.

Problem is it only got on the ballot by accident.

The California Alliance for Jobs, a coalition of construction companies and building trades unions, cooked up this initiative as a way to threaten the state Legislature to end raids on local’s share of gas taxes.

By spring of 2006, the Alliance had gathered hundreds of thousands of signatures, but held about 300,000 signatures back, hoping to pressure Sacramento lawmakers to fix the problem themselves.

It worked—the Legislature cut a deal, which was included in Proposition 1A, the transportation bond that was passed by voters in the fall of 2006.

What the Alliance didn’t count on was an unusually high validity rate among the signatures they did turn in. Even after they trashed those 300,000 signatures, their measure still squeaked through to qualify for the next ballot.

“We were surprised. When we found out in August that it had qualified, it was like ‘Holy mackerel,'” Alliance director Jim Earp explained at the time. The Alliance, and everybody else who initially supported this idea, is urging a “no” vote on Proposition 91.

Which is why Upfront is voting for it; somebody’s got to stick up for the little ballot measure that could. Besides, a vote for Proposition 91 is a vote for mischief, always a winner in Upfront’s book.

There are, however, more principled pro-91 voices out there. At least one legitimate organization, Southern California Transit Advocates, is urging a yes vote.

The current law “still gives the Legislature a lot of wiggle room” to misuse transportation dollars, according to SoCATA director Kymberleigh Richards. His group has no money to mount a “yes” campaign, so he says, “I would settle for this being a close count.”