It’s election season: ballot measures of Berkeley, Part 1

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Michael Drummond/File

Elections are coming up, and we at the Clog realize how much information you have to digest before you vote. We’ve simplified three of the ballot measures that are up for consideration so you don’t have to vote while uninformed.

Measure P

What does it say?

Remember the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision? We see your blank stare. This decision classified corporations as people. Measure P calls for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would abolish this concept once and for all. The proposed amendment also states that corporations aren’t entitled to the Constitutional rights people exercise and that corporate campaign expenditures don’t count as a form of free speech. Sound like gibberish? Let’s…

Break it down.

The pro side says that ever since the Supreme Court established that “money = speech,”  large corporations have a huge — even “undue” — amount of influence over which candidates gets elected and which laws are passed. What’s up with this thinking? Corporations can afford to spend a lot of money on ads and publicity so that the candidate they support will get elected. Individual people, however, can’t afford to give their candidate the same amount of exposure, the pro side argues, and that’s where the undue influence comes from.

The con side, however, argues that money is definitely an exercising of free speech — a right that’s given to individual people under the First Amendment. Remember, if corporations are defined as people, they’re entitled to First Amendment rights. If you want to take effective political action and make your voice heard, they say, you need to spend money. It also points out that it’s not the first time the First Amendment has been stretched to apply to organizations that aren’t actual people — organizations such as The New York Times and the Democratic Party also have their free-speech rights protected under the First Amendment.

TL;DR

This issue is so divisive that even Stephen Colbert weighed in. Now it’s your turn. Can corporations be protected under the First Amendment, or would that give them “undue influence” over election results?

Measure D

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Sabrina Werts/Senior Staff

What does it say?

The measure would impose a 1-cent-per-ounce tax on distributors of sugar-sweetened drinks, such as sodas, energy drinks and basically anything that fuels you during midterm season. The tax wouldn’t apply to beverages such as diet drinks, milk or alcohol. Keep in mind that it’s the distributors that have to pay the tax — not retail businesses, and not you.

Break it down.

The pro side argues that it’s all about public health. It says that diabetes, obesity and tooth decay are on the rise and that there’s a strong correlation between these problems and the consumption of sugary drinks. If you need another reason to put down that Red Bull, the pro side has got you covered. It mentions a 2008 statistic showing that 40 percent of Berkeley’s ninth-grade students were overweight or obese and argues that this is partly due to soda’s empty calories. With visions of Honey Boo Boo dancing before our eyes, we turn to the con side.

The con side takes issue with how the money would be spent. Measure D, it says, would put the money raised from the tax in the general fund. This is a problem because, like your parents when they give you money for textbooks, they want to know where the money is going. The con side points out that there is no guarantee the money is going to be spent on health and wellness programs — and without this guarantee, it can’t support the bill. But it also has a problem with which drinks are taxed and which businesses have to pay. Why aren’t diet drinks taxed, they ask, but normal soda is? It’s drink for thought. (Okay, we get it — our pun doesn’t work).

TL;DR

Is the measure an effective way to fight diabetes, obesity and tooth decay, or is it just going to turn into another tax? It’s up to you to decide.

Measure F

What does it say?

This measure suggests an increase in the special parks tax from $0.1256 to $0.1466 per square foot and allows this tax to be adjusted according to inflation. Did your eyes glaze over? Let us explain why it matters.

Break it down.

The pro side says Berkeley’s 52 parks need help. It argues that even though the city has reduced the number of people who work in the parks by 25 percent, the city is still going to need to consider closing some parks and cutting back on park maintenance if the tax isn’t implemented. Why should you care? The pro side would argue that parks are “vital” to the Berkeley community.

The con side, however, gives us Measure-D-objection deja vu by stating that nobody knows where the money from this tax will actually go. Would the money just be used to cover benefits for the park employees who still have jobs? The con side loves People’s Park as much as you do, but it’s arguing for a clearer statement on how the tax money will be spent. It’s your parents and the textbook money all over again.

TL;DR

You knew your “Parks and Recreation” marathon-ing would come in handy one day. Is the tax going to help fund maintenance for Berkeley’s parks, or is it unclear where the money’s going?

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this post — we’ll be adding our Clog spin to the rest of the measures up for vote this November.

Image Sources: Images modified from Mike Mozartneomodernistpoolien.karim under Creative Commons

Contact Emma Schiffer at [email protected].

Clarification(s):
A previous version of this article may have implied that Measure D would impose a tax on businesses that sell sweetened beverages. In fact, the measure would impose a tax on distributors of sweetened beverages.

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article stated that the Citizens United decision classified companies as people. In fact, it classified corporations as people.