No on 98,yes on 99

A famous proposition in California’s past—a school funding guarantee—was also dubbed Proposition 98. The fact has caused some confusion among voters when referring to the current measure.Check back next week for SN&R’s complete June 3 endorsements for congressional, legislative and local races.

The Howard Jarvis people are at it again. In league with wealthy landlords up and down the state, California’s most infamous anti-tax group has come up with a ballot measure that purports to stop the government from unfairly seizing people’s homes through a process called “eminent domain.”

But what the measure would really do is eliminate rent control and basic protections for renters. Believe it. Yes, believe it despite the imaginatively deceptive pro-Proposition 98 TV and radio ads you’ll be hearing between now and June 3—like the one with the two young sisters talking about being forced to move out of their home and away from their friends so the city can build a shopping mall.

Uh … what?

The text of Proposition 98 does contains provisions that claim to reduce the power of the government to seize private property by eminent domain, but the measure has been uniformly criticized by experts who say the proposition is poorly drafted, impossible to defend, endangers future state water and public-works projects and certain to lead to lawsuits.

In fact, the measure is chiefly about rent control. Proposition 98 would halt rent controls enacted in California after January 1, 2007. Controls that pre-date that would be phased out as rental units turned over. Though rent control is not a big issue in the Sacramento region, renters across the state (Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Jose, Santa Monica, Berkeley, etc.) do have various rent controls in place and would suffer here. Also, the measure would make extinct certain crucial renter protections—like the fair return of rental deposits and a required 60-day eviction notice. Hint: That’s why the campaign has been funded to the tune of $4.5 million by wealthy apartment and mobile-park owners.

As opposed to wealthy landlords, the groups backing the no on Proposition 98 position tend to be the League of Women Voters, AARP, League of California Cities and such. When the state’s college students get wind of this measure, they will no doubt climb on board the no position in strong numbers.

Now we come to a second measure on the ballot, Proposition 99, which was produced as an alternate to Proposition 98. This one actually concerns reforming eminent domain—surprise!—and would put limited, proper restrictions on the government’s ability to use this law in a wrongful way.

Both measures came about because of a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision that opened the way for abuse of eminent-domain laws in a Connecticut case; e.g., determining what makes a property “blighted” can be pretty subjective. Since that decision, more than 40 states have made various changes to amend their eminent-domain laws at the state level to better protect homeowners. Proposition 99 is a straightforward LWVC-backed attempt to add California to the list of states that have enacted limited, needed reform to eminent-domain laws.

Don’t be deceived about his one. Vote no on 98 and yes on 99.