Tropico Perspective:

Time to flip kill switch on Proposition 16

May 19, 2010|By Michael Teahan

Democracy used to be simple in this country — whoever gets the most votes gets to call the shots. Requiring more votes than that was pretty serious stuff and always had to do with the balance of powers between the president and Congress.

Our Constitution requires super majorities to override a presidential veto, to remove any member from another branch of government or to ratify a treaty signed by the president. It doesn’t require one to go to war. We can put millions of lives on the line with 50% plus one.

In California, we can vote to take away or restore civil rights, restrict or guarantee a woman’s right to choose or decide whether we want to be in the business of putting people to death with that same, razor thin simple majority set of rules.


So what’s so special about Proposition 16? Like the original proponents of Proposition 13, the measure that has crippled state government and given large corporations a tax holiday for a couple of decades now, it’s about money. Money is more important than war, more important than civil rights, or even life and death decisions.

It is this misplaced sense of what is important that seems so odd to me. I like money, but I think it’s a pretty harsh view to place it above everything else.

This is a democratic shell game to persuade a slim majority of voters to make it impossible for municipalities to get into the energy business, even if it’s a damn good idea.

Requiring a simple majority vote on whether a city can get into the energy business isn’t a bad idea — we can start taking all of the decision power away from government, I suppose, so that every night we can gather around the television and vote whether to put a street lamp at Adams Street and Palmer Avenue, but that’s getting ridiculous.

It’s the super majority part that makes it tyrannical. It’s like having our own little filibuster process at the local level. Instead of a power company having to pony up the money to convince 50% of the people to take away the competition, they only have to pay to get 34% to go along. And they know that 34% of the population pretty much votes no on everything.

If a super majority is so important — more important than all the other things that could really kill you or throw you in jail — it should require a super majority to pass it in the first place. But it isn’t about that. It’s about creating a monopoly of an energy company in Northern California and tricking the rest of us into buying it.

The supporters of Proposition 16 should be ashamed of themselves, and we shouldn’t let them get away with it.

Get in touch MICHAEL TEAHAN lives in the Adams Hill area of Glendale with a clear view of the Verdugo Mountains so he can keep an eye on things. He can be reached at michaelteahan@

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