Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Augusta Free Press: The Cal ballot maze

From the Left Coast
Brian Rostron

I've been meaning to write a recap of the election for my, ahem, many faithful readers, but some things have gotten in the way.

And by things, I mean the triumphant season of the intrepid California Golden Bears football team.

We're 8-1 and Rose Bowl-bound, baby!

And for those reading this who suffer from that dreaded affliction known as East Coast Bias, let me clarify one thing. Cal, California and Berkeley all refer to the same education institution, the University of California, Berkeley. When people are talking about the school's physics department they usually refer to Berkeley, and when they talk about the basketball program, it's Cal or California, but it's the same school.

As many a faithful alumnus will tell you, there's only one Cal in California, and it's in Berkeley. Take that, UCLA.

So back to the election. I, being the model citizen that I am, went to my polling place, the Berkeley Friends meeting hall located in scenic West Berkeley. Now, I love Quakers as much as the next guy, but I also feel odd about voting in Berkeley in the building of a religious movement known for its emphasis on pacifism and commitment to social justice.

It's kind of like having people in rural Alabama vote at the local NRA chapter headquarters. I mean, Dave Matthews was raised in a Quaker home. You don't get more bleeding heart than that, in my opinion.

The first thing I voted for was president. This was pretty easy, and not because the choice was pretty clear, but rather because I, along with about 200 million other Americans, live in a place where there was never a doubt as to which candidate would carry the state. How much damage could my one little vote cause in that case? Maybe you shouldn't answer that.

Next I voted for senator. This was a surprise because up until a week before the election I was unaware that California was having a senatorial election this year. And this ignorance wasn't due to a concerted effort to avoid politics on my part, because the Republican candidate, Bill Jones, didn't even bother to buy a single TV ad in the entire state. I figure he could have at least bought some cheap airtime in Barstow or Death Valley or some other benighted part of the state. I guess he was running just so he could put Failed Senate Candidate on his resume, after Rancher and right before Businessman.

I then moved onto the difficult portion of the California ballot, the innumerable propositions and initiatives. And at this part, I have a confession to make. I'm not the sharpest guy in the world, but I do have a couple of master's degrees. and I'm pursuing a doctorate. That stated, I must say that I'm not bright enough to be part of the California electorate. It's too complicated. They have all of these convoluted propositions, most of which contradict one another, and all of which would never actually do what they were intended to do if they were implemented.

I should move back to a state like Virginia, whose founders didn't trust the judgment of the uneducated masses like myself.

I soldiered on, however, and tried to make educated guesses, while skipping over whole sections of the ballot. The best initiatives involved Indian gaming in California. My favorite was one that claimed that it would minimize traffic congestion that might result from the opening of Indian casinos in urban areas. Of course, what this initiative would have really done would have been to allow horse tracks and card clubs to operate slot machines if Indian casinos didn't pay the state a large sum of money that they are not legally required to pay.

And who had drafted this proposition? That's right, the owners of the horse tracks and card casinos! How this would prevent traffic congestion, I have no idea.

I voted against all of the Indian gaming initiatives, primarily because our amusing governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, told me to do so in a number of ads right before the election. To be honest, I would vote for anything just to have the chance to hear that man say "Ca-li-for-ni-a" over and over again. Man, that never loses its comedic value. His "True Lies" co-star, Jamie Lee Curtis, told me I should vote to give money to children's hospitals. Stefanie Powers told me that I should vote for the Indian casinos. I think that she used to be on "Hart to Hart" and hasn’t aged well. Actually, I'm positive she hasn't aged well.

Finally, I got to what was for me the highlight of the trip - the opportunity to voice my opinion on Berkeley's zany ballot initiatives. I of course voted to decriminalize prostitution and remove all restrictions on medical marijuana, not so much because I really understood or supported these measures but rather because I knew that I would never ever get a chance to vote on these issues in any other city in America.

Surprisingly, both of these measures failed, as did some tax increases to support local libraries. This of course raises the mindboggling possibility that Berkeley has embraced social and fiscal conservatism while becoming a center for college football.

Perish the thought, I say. If that's the case, I may have to start spending more time in adjacent Oakland, which did pass its medical marijuana initiative and thus maintained its Oaksterdam image.

Oh, and one more thing, let's go Bears!

Brian Rostron is a regular contributor to The Augusta Free Press.

The views expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect those of management of The Augusta Free Press.

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