The danger of set-asides

San Franciscans who shuddered at the SF Chronicle’s headline mentioning “$500 million” as the probable city budget deficit, should remember that feeling next time they vote on ballot measures. The idea that voter-mandated set-asides for particular services, no matter how appealing those services are, make it almost impossible for the city to cope with a crisis. We are in a depression that very few people predicted or thought possible. Most of the city’s budget is tied up in required services that most of us want, but could live without for a few years as we struggle to provide for basic needs. California’s system of ballot propositions, making citizens responsible for complicated decisions legislators should handle, has not worked well. As voters we are swayed by advertisements from special interests and emotional appeals that move us to tie up budget funds for years to come. Perhaps after working through the current economic disaster, Californians will turn to the task of reforming our way of governing ourselves.

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