There is a certain happiness sighted when your bus comes along. It is of course a small specialized form of happiness and will never be a great thing.

-Richard Brautigan, The Old Bus

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Dictatorship of the 33

The Bee went out of its way Sunday to say how sensible it was for Placer County officials to read the poll numbers and abandon a proposed 2008 effort to win voter approval of a sales tax to pay for transportation funding. Missing from The Bee's editorial was any mention of the dysfunctional system of governance that allows a minority of the population to override the majority's desire.

Yes, the support for the proposal had declined from 70 percent to 58 percent. But were it not for California's ridiculous requirement that 67 percent of voters approve tax increases, the majority could decide the issue. Instead, 33 percent decide.

This provision doesn't protect the minority; it empowers fringe elements of the community. Take this argument against the tax posted on a local blog that praised The Bee's editorial:

"This proposed tax increase in Placer would have taken at least 18% off the top for union controlled, government run transportation, that would have been a deficit run system—made up for by general tax dollars...and if the unions decide to strike—as they have in LA, SF and many cities in California, Placer would have been held hostage by radicals."
The "18% off the top" this guy finds so objectionable is the woefully inadequate portion of the tax proceeds that would have gone to transit. Of course this guy doesn't want a dime going to anything but road improvements, but even a tax just for that wouldn't meet his requirement:
"Maybe the voters would approve a straight road fixing measure—if the most qualified, lowest price bidders were allowed to bid on the projects. Instead, due to union control of the process, the taxpayers would pay a premium to use union only firms. In a four billion dollar deal, upwards of one billion will go to higher benefits and wages for union members—that is one billion less to fix the roads."
Ah, yes, don't dare pay living wages when corners can be cut, when contractors are more than happy to take advantage of the hoards of less skilled workers ready to take these jobs. I'll bet this guy also has an opinion about illegal immigration and the jobs they take from Americans. But it doesn't appear to matter as long as he gets another gridlocked highway lane.

It was not sensible for Placer County officials to abandon efforts to raise money for transportation infrastructure. It was a depressing sign of the abysmal state of local government, victims of the dictatorship of the fringe 33 percent. I can only hope that voters in areas served by Sacramento Regional Transit will be more enlightened when tax increases are proposed to fund improvements to the system.

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