Regardless of one's viewpoint, the initiative process is a two-edged sword. But at least it gives the voters a way to both bypass and control politicians.
While we see many statewide props each election year, perhaps we should be looking harder at reform props on the city and county level -- something other than more tax and bond increases.
To stir the pot, here are 10 recommendations for local initiatives I'd like to see passed by our cities and the county:
1. Require a two-thirds vote on all bonds that obligate taxpayers. Currently loopholes allow the city (and county) to issue bonds using fake agencies that nominally are the bond issuer (a stadium authority, for instance) -- without any taxpayer vote at all. It would include "pension obligation bonds."
2. Instant Runoff Voting, or IRV, which is sometimes called preference voting. No need for runoff elections, and one can cast one's first ballot for who one really wants to win. Then, if your first choice does poorly in the vote and no one yet has a majority, your second choice is then counted. This process continues until someone gets a true majority vote. San Francisco recently successfully implemented this procedure, and it is used in many other places around the world.
3. Privatize city and county library operations -- as did Riverside County 12 years ago, improving performance 30 percent for the same money. Given today's exorbitant public employee labor costs, savings of at least 40 percent could be attainable.
4. Privatize other city operations. This privatization would include, but not be limited to, lifeguards, parks and recreation, water, road repairs, landscaping, inspectors, meter maids and clerical staffing. All of these functions are already privatized in some other cities, at substantial savings.
5. Mayor, city council and county supervisor pay set by an independent commission of voters selected by lottery -- not appointed by the politicians.
6. The end of candidate campaign funding limitations, or at least a raising of the contribution level to a more realistic figure -- perhaps $1,000 per donor.
7. Ban pro sports subsidies -- direct or indirect. This madness must end.
8. Require any politician who votes on a bill to certify that they actually read the bill, and include significant penalties for those who don't. This reform is inspired by former California state Sen. H.L. Richardson's book, "What Makes You Think We Read the Bills?"
9. If for some reason we can't get a widely-applying supermajority requirement on all taxes and bonds, let's go for a simple majority of registered voters. As it is, about 15 percent to 20 percent of the eligible voters impose their will on 100 percent of the people.
10. Require a "sunset clause" in legislation. The truth is that rarely do such sunset clauses result in the nonrenewal of laws and taxes. But it would give opponents of ever-bigger government a chance to present their case from time to time, allowing politicians to reassess past mistakes and outmoded laws. Plus, it would keep 'em too busy to pass many new laws.
Rider is chairman of the San Diego Tax Fighters.