An Open Letter to California

California’s ballot-initiative process is broken beyond repair—at least that’s what ABC 7 in Los Angeles and San Francisco concluded last year when they labeled me “the poster child for abuse of the ballot-initiative system.” They didn’t care for the initiative I filed, which would have banned divorce in the state of California.

Somehow, they got the impression that I was mocking Proposition 8; that I was using the political process to point out the hypocrisy of people who were eager to take rights away from gay people to protect “traditional marriage,” but were completely unwilling to give up their own rights to make marriage even more secure.

Even if that were true, the idea that I am abusing the system is absurd. I have no powerful or moneyed interests backing my cause. I gathered people to me on Facebook. I financed the effort with t-shirt sales. All of my signature gatherers were volunteers. I am an ordinary citizen. My cause is populism at its best.

The ballot initiative was designed to put power into the hands of the people, and that is exactly how we used it. We were doing it right—which is ultimately why we failed. If you want to see real abuse of the system, just look at your ballot on June 8th.

Look at Proposition 16. The deceptively titled “Taxpayer’s Right to Vote Act” is actually backed by more than $46 million from PG&E. Instead of empowering voters, Prop 16 would actually take their rights away—giving a minority the power to veto the creation or expansion of municipal power, and eliminating competition in the marketplace.

Study the Mercury Insurance-backed Proposition 17, which would enable insurance companies to levy outrageous surcharges to customers who have had a lapse in their coverage. Mercury claims the initiative will actually allow them to give increased discounts to drivers who maintain continuous coverage. Does anyone honestly believe that Mercury just paid $14.6 million for the right to give their customers bigger discounts?

The sad truth is that the ballot-initiative process that was originally designed to give power to the people has become instead a cynical way for the rich and the powerful to bypass the political process. Why buy a legislator when you can just buy legislation? If you hire enough people to stand in front of Wal*Mart, you can get anything on the ballot.

I am making my stand against cynicism. I’ve refiled my initiative to ban divorce. I’m prepping petitions and gathering volunteers. I’ve made it my goal to reclaim the ballot-initiative process for the people of California.

My detractors have said that if I were to succeed in getting a divorce ban on the ballot, if it were actually to become law, political anarchy would be the result. I would have made such a mockery of the ballot-initiative system that we would have no choice but to dismantle it and replace it with something else, something better.

Somehow, I’m willing to take that risk.

About John Marcotte

John Marcotte is a firm believer in traditional family values. He currently opposes government-funded death panels, Obama talking to children and MSNBC's entire prime-time line-up.
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29 Responses to An Open Letter to California

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention An Open Letter to California --

  2. Russell says:

    I’m impressed with this one!

  3. Kathryn Lilje says:

    Hi John,

    When you re-file the petition for a ballot initiative, I’d like to volunteer to collect signatures. Somehow I missed it last time around. I’ve been married to the same women for nearly 13 years (11 of them “extra-legally”), and I don’t want her to be able to divorce me. Honestly, I’m the only person in my immediate family who HASN’T been divorced, which I like to bring up to people who mock gay marriage, since my other relatives are all (presumably) straight. Thanks for taking this particular matrimony pony by the horns…uh…well, you know what I mean.


    Kathryn Lilje

  4. Name Not Required says:

    These hypocrites only support the ballot-initiative system only when it does what they want and nothing more. Anything that supports their goals is proper use of the system and anything they don’t like is an abuse of the system.

  5. Gloria Banta says:

    Excellent letter, John. Only you can speak so eloquently and truthfully in such a humorous manner. I think this time around it’s going to be much more efficient, as we all that were there in the beginning will be too. If at first you don’t succeed… :)

    We’re going to make even more of an impact this time. You are better prepared now to lead this horse to water, and people are going to drink.

    It’s funny how those in my family are religious and supported Prop 8 are the very same ones that cyber with sluts in Florida. So much for protecting marriage.

  6. Matthew says:

    If there’s anything a lone man in Milwaukee can do to help, let me know. I believe strongly in your cause!

  7. Jody Savage says:

    And let’s not forget Prop 13, cynically marketed to the people of California as a way to keep little old ladies in their homes without property tax increases, and which now keeps little old Disneyland and Chevron paying the same property tax as they did back in the stone age. AND which allows acquiring companies to keep the property tax rates of companies they acquire, as long as they buy up the stock in a couple of increments. Prop 13 also set up the requirement for a 2/3 majority in the state legislature to raise taxes. All in all, the devastation Prop 13 has caused this fair state is incalculable.

    • Bworei says:

      Cry me a river. If it wasn’t for initiatives like Prop 13, our ONCE-fair state would’ve gone in the crapper even sooner. Yeah, Prop 13′s the problem. Cuz raising taxes really is the answer, isn’t it?! Are you freaking kidding me? On the contrary, tax and spend libs are gonna pay at all levels at the ballot box this November! This is gonna be so much fun!!!

      • Or you could argue that by setting property tax rates abnormally low and then essentially freezing them in place, we made the state too dependent on income and sales taxes, which fluctuate wildly. And furthermore than the inability to adjust property taxes to suit the market created an unbalanced real-estate market that sent property values careening upward which ultimately led to the real-estate crash that decimated the state.

        I mean, you could argue that way if you were a “tax and spend lib.”

      • Pete Kaplan says:

        Don’t forget to mention all the other State governments that have Prop. 13 legislation that are on the brink of bankruptcy!

      • Moderate Moe says:

        Prop 13 is majorly flawed. Business is the most rewarded by it. Companies hold real estate for years, whereas individuals have their taxes reset to the value at each new owner.

        Prop 13 HURTS the economy and rewards business with low property tax. When people buy new homes they spend thousands on new stuff- movers, furniture, painting, property improvements. Prop 13 stops all this business.

        Currently you can have 2 people who are neighbors, in literally the same value homes- 1 pays 7,000 per year and the other pays 1,200. is this fair? They receive the same services. Reform property tax so everybody pays a fair amount.

      • passerbyu says:

        Currently you can have 2 people who are neighbors, in literally the same value homes- 1 pays 7,000 per year and the other pays 1,200. is this fair?

        YES, absolutely.

        Consider this: You buy a shirt from an unknown designer XYZ, paying $20, and paying sales tax on that. Now, a couple of years later, that designer XYZ star rises, and that now your shirt is a “vintage early XYZ shirt” worth tens of thousands. Is it fair for the State to track you down and say, “Oh, you now owe more sales tax on that shirt, because it’s worth more”..?

        Suppose you don’t have the money to pay? The State answers, “Tough, you’re enjoying an expensive designer shirt, you should pay more”. Your answer: “It was cheap when I bought it, and I would not (maybe could not) have afforded it at today’s price. You’re forcing me to sell my shirt to pay the tax on it!”

        That’s what actually happened in California in the 1970s housing bubble. Families that bought houses 10 or 20 years earlier, and in many cases had fully paid off their mortgages, suddenly found their taxes going up by an order of magnitude because their houses were being reassessed. HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE were forced to SELL AND MOVE out , for the SOLE reason that the property taxes skyrocketed.

        In some cases families of modest means found that the property taxes exceeded their take-home pay! My Dad’s house eventually ended up getting reassesed at 46 times what he paid for it; (yes you read that right, forty-six times) fortunately Prop 13 happened before he lost it.

        People in California are furious about it to this day. Proposition 13 is passionately defended and with good reason. For all practical purposes, most of the long-resident poor, retirees, and even a lot of working/middle-class folks who haven’t moved in a while, would be MADE HOMELESS BY THE TAXES if Prop 13 ever got repealed.

        And every last one of them would vote Republican in the next election. The political vengeneance would be terrible to behold.

    • passerbyu says:

      And let’s not forget Prop 13, cynically marketed to the people of California as a way to keep little old ladies in their homes without property tax increases

      That happens to be PERFECTLY TRUE. I have direct personal knowledge of this from family members.

  8. Pingback: Daily Digest « The Open Letters Project

  9. Kyle says:

    I wasn’t really clear on what happened to this initiative last year. Did it not gather enough signatures? You must succeed!

  10. Curmudgeon says:

    The Secretary of State’s Office announced yesterday (July 13, 2010) that the new initiative is approved for the signature gathering phase. I would suggest that you approach every Catholic and Mormon to request their assistance in getting signatures. If they refuse, then you know who the real hypocrits are.

  11. Byrd says:

    > I am making my stand against cynicism. I’ve refiled my initiative to ban divorce.

    Filing an initiative to ban divorce is the epitome of cynicism, I should think.

  12. Jill Borders says:

    Thank you for doing this. I have countless people in my life that supported Prop 8 with time and money. It made me quite sad and as a Jesus lover I had to keep repeating his words “love your enemies…do good to those that hurt you”, each time I would open hateful emails containing advice in them to “protect marriage” and make sure to VOTE. Now I can send this to all my marriage protecting friends and family and encourage them to make marriage REALLY strong. I’m excited too because now my husband and I can never leave each other. No way out! What a relief!

  13. John Stephan Edwards, PhD says:

    Put me down as a volunteer to gather signatures in Palm Springs. This town is chock full of older conservative people who would, I am sure, be happy to sign a petition protecting marriage from the dangers of rampant divorce. And along with the “Grays,” Palm Springs is also home to lots of “Gays,” many of whom were married in that brief period when it was legal. I feel sure they and their friends would want to protect their own marriages from messy divorces as well.

  14. Wilma says:

    Excellent letter, they forgot to point out that star power was no longer the only qualification to run for governer but that if you had enough money you could attempt to buy your way into office ala Meg Whitman. I didn’t see that reported on ABC 7! This action of yours and I daresay ours is a legitimate and valid use of the ballot-initiative process as certain as ABC 7 broadcasts 1/13 truths and sensationalism to buy viewers and higher ratings.

  15. Mike says:

    Yes, please let us know when we can help gather signatures. I’m pretty stoked for that. Thank you so much for doing this.

  16. AndyM says:

    I’m half a nation away, but if there’s anything I can do in southern Missouri let me know!

  17. Liam says:

    Where do we find a petition to sign? Your logic in this is flawless.

  18. Andrew says:

    So if my wife cheats on me, my options are putting up with it or arranging an accident? Hmm…

  19. Dan McGown says:

    John, I’m from Ohio where it’s never been too accepting anyway. It’s legal to discriminate against gays, openly, in housing and employment. Our initiative process lets the State Constitution be amended by a simple majority vote. When they passed Issue One here, banning legal recognition of any relationship that in any way approximates traditional marriage, they made it part of our Constitution. Ordinary legislation can’t change it and all it takes to get there is one vote more than half.

  20. Moderate Moe says:

    John, you’ve missed one further fault of the ballot initiative. It has become a way for politicians to not take a stand on major issues. Once upon a time politicians had to campaign based on actual issues, whereas now they campaign on their party’s “values”, but don’t really say anything. It has become a way to blame voters when a budget doesn’t pass since the voters didn’t chose the needed tax to pay the bills.

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