Gregory Whitney | Ballot Measures a Roll of the Dice

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Voting for ballot propositions is a crapshoot. All approved propositions have unanticipated consequences. Consider Proposition 68, approved in 2018, reading the title, “California Drought, Water, Parks, Climate, Coastal Protection, and Outdoor Access for All Act of 2018.” Discerning soccer moms probably envisioned more refurbished state park toilets, suburban bike paths and green spaces popping up in burned-out urban areas and voted yes. The custodians of the $4 billion bond issue resulting from Prop. 68, the California Natural Resources Agency, recently deviated from the soccer mom vision by approving $4.5 million to provide a Native American tribe, the Esselen of Monterey County, with a first small slice of their ancestral homeland. 

Known as the Adler Ranch, the 1,199-acre property is about 5 miles from the Big Sur coast and just north of the Little Sur River. The small tribe is very grateful and plans to share their returned land with other area tribes and, with restrictions, the public. 

While voters may consider the decision as either enlightened or idiotic, voters most likely did not imagine such an outcome when considering Prop. 68.  

Most voters barely have time to read the cursory descriptions and for/against arguments when evaluating propositions, or they just vote per recommendations of friends, family, social media, TV ads or the newspaper. Where in the fine print of Prop. 68 could an inquisitive voter have found foreshadowing of the Native American reparation decision? 

Prop. 68 provided the bond issue funding the objectives listed in 2017’s California Legislature-approved Senate Bill 5. Reviewing SB 5, Chapter 10, Section 80130, Item 80137 provides $60 million (of the total $4 billion) for, among numerous other things, “(1) Restore, protect, and acquire Native American, natural, cultural and historic resources within the state.” See, it was obvious. And Item 80137, cultural resources, could also cover restoration, protection and acquisition of Zsa Zsa Gabor’s old wigs, if the CNRA approved a nonprofit Zsa Zsa Gabor museum’s grant application. 

If you are inspired to spend a portion of Prop. 68’s $4 billion, have your public agency, recognized tribe, or nonprofit compose and submit a grant application to the CNRA at resources.ca.gov.

CNRA has lots of other money, too. 

As far as future ballot propositions go, good luck. If in doubt, vote “no.” People rarely die as a result. 

Gregory Whitney

Newhall

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