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What you don't know about the Nov. 4 ballot measures can hurt you

September 22, 2008 | 12:13 pm

The_fog_of_politics Ahhh, voting. A right and a privilege, but also an exercise in semantics. Finding your way through the fog of what the candidates say to what it is they really mean is hard enough. Add in the citizen activism that is the process of California's ballot initiatives, and it's surprising more voters don't just throw up (it's tempting to end the sentence right here...) their hands in frustration and just stay home.

So it was with some relief that I saw our own Robert Greene weigh in with a primer of what's what on the ballot, and how it got there. A sampler:

Proposition 1A

What it does: Authorizes $9.95 billion in bonds to build an electric train to get people from Los Angeles to San Francisco in just over 2 1/2 hours.

Back story: This is the governor's and the Legislature's baby, years in the making. They pulled similar measures off ballots in 2004 and 2006 because the stars didn't align for a win. An earlier version (Proposition 1) also got pulled from the 2008 ballot, this time for a revise (that's why it's now designated 1A). Lawmakers were arguing about, among other things, whether the train would run through Altamont Pass (the site of a deadly 1969 Rolling Stones concert) or Pacheco Pass (site of the hokey but fun tourist stop Casa de Fruta). They went with Pacheco.

Proposition 2

What it does: Bars use of pens and cages that don't  give farm animals room to turn around, stretch, stand or lie down.

Back story: This is all about chickens. The language on veal calves and sows tugs on voters' heartstrings, but it's moot; California produces virtually no commercial pork or veal. Chief opponents -- egg producers -- argue that without tight cages, their chickens will eat each other and their own droppings. No matter what, the caged chickens are doomed: After a short life laying eggs, they are too spent even for the soup pot.

Lots more in Robert's full story here.

— Veronique de Turenne

Photo credit: (nz)dave / Flickr via Creative Commons