A Guide to Ballot Measures in the June Election

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Tuesday May 30, 2006

The last two times Alameda County voters have gone to the polls, they were inundated with ballot measures (eight state propositions along with local measures in Albany and Emeryville in the off-year election in November 2005; 16 state propositions along with 13 Berkeley, one Albany, two Emeryville, and two Oakland measures, as well as special measures for BART, AC Transit, and the East Bay Regional Park District in the general election of November 2004).  

For the June 6, 2006, election, the number of ballot measures is considerably trimmed down, with only two statewide propositions and a handful of local measures. 


Proposition 81: California Reading and Literacy Improvement and Public Library Construction and Renovation Bond Act 

This measure would authorize $600 million in bonds to provide grants to local agencies for the construction, renovation and expansion of local library facilities. Eligible agencies would be city, county, joint city and county, or special district applicants. The bond money would pay for 65 percent of the proposed local library projects; the remaining 35 percent would have to be paid by the applicants themselves. 

A seven-member state board (composed of the State Librarian Treasurer and Director of Finance, one Assemblymember and one State Senator, and two gubernatorial appointees) would adopt policies for bond money distribution and decide which agencies would receive grants. 

Support for Prop 81 includes members of the California Business Roundtable, the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges, and Children Now. Opposition to the measure includes the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. Placed on the ballot by the state legislature. 


Proposition 82: Preschool Education 

The brainchild of actor-director Rob Reiner, this measure would raise $2.5 billion per year to set up a new state-operated pre-school program for 4-year-old children to enter prior to kindergarten. 

The money would be spent to run the pre-school program, pay for facilities, train teachers, and provide an operating reserve. Attendance at the new pre-schools would be voluntary, and the program would be funded by a 1.7 percent state income tax addition for individuals making $400,000 a year or more, and couples making $800,000 a year or more. 

The pre-schools would be administered by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction and the various county school superintendents (significantly, the local school districts are not included as administrators of the pre-school program in this measure). Placed on the ballot by petition signatures. 


Measure A Bonds: Peralta Community College District 

In 2000, close to 80 percent of local voters approved the $153 million Measure E, the last construction bond sought by the Peralta Community College District. The hurdle for passing Measure E was high: two-thirds of the voters. 

Due to new state law, the hurdle for this year’s Measure A is much lower: 55 percent. In addition, Measure A is more a facilities bond than a construction bond since it includes the ability to purchase classroom equipment not allowed under Measure E. 

Measure A would raise $390 million in bond money to pay for repairs, renovations, construction, and classroom equipment for facilities of the four Peralta Community Colleges (Laney, Merritt, College of Alameda, and Berkeley City [formerly Vista]). The tax rate would rise an estimated $25 per $100,000 of assessed valuation. 

Projects funded by the bond money would be limited to those listed within the bond measure, and oversight would be provided by a mandated citizen oversight committee. Measure A has compiled an impressive list of officeholder supporters, including Congressmember Barbara Lee (D-Oakland), State Assemblymember Wilma Chan (D-Oakland), and Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates. 

No organized opposition to the measure has surfaced. All voters within the cities served by the Peralta Community College District (Alameda, Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville, Oakland, and Piedmont). 


Measure B Bonds: Oakland Unified School District 

In March of 2000, close to 85 percent of Oakland voters approved Measure A, the $303 million bond measure authorizing the first new school construction in the city in years. But this was in the days when Oaklanders ran their own schools, and support for the bond measure from the area’s major political players—Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown and State Senator Don Perata in particular—as well as the influential Oakland Education Association union was a significant factor in its passage. 

Since 2000 the Oakland schools have been threatened with bankruptcy and were seized by the State of California (currently they are being run by a state-appointed administrator). There has been a flurry of school closings across the district. A divided teacher’s union is currently voting on a divisive new contract and public support for the Oakland public schools is at a historic low. 

In its text, Measure B would authorize $435 million in bonds for repair and modernization of existing city schools. In fact, it may be a referendum on what voters think about the current state of the Oakland public schools and their administration. The measure would add $35 in taxes per $100,000 in assessed property valuation. For passage, 55 percent voter approval is needed.