By Jakada Imani
Executive Director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights
The California Ballot Measure process has become a roulette game for big corporations to gamble with the health of our citizens. Perfect examples of how this plays out are Proposition 26 and Proposition 23, deceptive initiatives bankrolled by major polluters, both would result in more pollution in our state, hurting all of us, but especially endangering low-income communities that suffer disproportionate exposure to toxins. High rates of pollution are to blame for the high rates of asthma, lung disease and cancer in Asian/Pacific Islander, Latino and African American communities.
It’s the duty of all Californians to say “No!” to big oil companies and other mega-corporations that seek to distort the truth, and abuse the ballot initiative system with their paid signature gatherers and advertising campaigns as slick and dirty as the oil coating beaches of Louisiana and Florida. It’s especially important to for voters from low-income communities to stand up for ourselves, for the lives we save may be our own children’s.
A long list of Californians- from politicians to CEOs to actors have come out against Prop 23, brought to you by Texas oil companies Tesoro and Valero. The measure, properly derided as the Dirty Energy Proposition, would repeal California’s landmark climate change law.
The quieter, but equally poisonous friend of the Dirty Energy Prop, is Prop 26 being driven forward by Chevron with help from Big Tobacco and Big Alcohol. Knowing that a team’s biggest cheerleaders are oil, tobacco, and alcohol should give anyone pause in wondering whose best interests are at the heart of the matter. It’s easy to see that profit, rather than people or our planet, would win should these propositions pass.
Proposition 26 is an-anti democratic measure that would protect polluters and purveyors of tobacco and alcohol from paying fees used to undo the harm caused by their products. These companies don’t want to pay to clean up their own messes–they expect you and me, the California taxpayer to eat the costs while they pocket the profit. The independent nonpartisan Legislative Analysts Office has warned us that Prop 26 would blow another ONE BILLION DOLLAR hole in the state budget.
Prop 26 would require a costly election in advance of any local government action to impose an appropriate fee. Two-thirds of local voters would have to agree to a fee on a company to pay, for example, air pollution mitigation near a chemical plant. The State Legislature would also be prohibited from imposing an appropriate fee, on say whiskey to help pay for alcohol checkpoints, unless 2/3rd of lawmakers in each house agree. Considering the influence of corporate lobbyists, Prop 26 would make a new fee on polluters, tobacco or booze, about as likely as my 5-foot tall grandmother joining the U.S. Olympic basketball team. The same 2/3rds threshold has already crippled the state budget process, leaving California’s communities, schools and workforce to suffer.
If big oil and big tobacco doesn’t pay–who does? We do, the regular taxpayers. The budget suffers another billions dollar hole in health, education and welfare services, just to protect the profits of the richest corporations in the world.
Proposition 26 is opposed by health and justice organizations including the American Lung Association, American Cancer Society, Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, and NAACP. We are standing with unions representing teachers, cops, firefighters and nurses, who rightfully worry about adding billion dollars to the state deficit, and the crippling effect on local government services, including health, education, drug treatment, police and fire.
Low-income communities of color, including immigrant communities, are hurt first and worst by pollution, global warming, booze, tobacco and gun selling. Voting No on Prop 23 ensures that California continues its leadership in clean air, climate action and green job creation while a No on 26 protects our right to make companies pay for poisoning our people or our planet.
Please join me in saying “No” on Propositions 26 and 23. Our votes must be the antidote to these poisonous pals.