We won’t sugar-coat it: the election of Donald Trump is a disaster for everything that people[PLACES]spaces believes in at the federal level. Luckily, the federal government is not the only source of law and policy-making. At the state and local level, especially here in California, there have been many signs of important progress. So rather than focusing on the negatives (there will be plenty of time for that over the next four years), in this Thanksgiving week post, we want to highlight some of the positive outcomes of this year’s election.
First of all, we want to extend our heartfelt thanks to everyone who read and shared our voter guide series on proposition issues in California and Los Angeles. And the results suggest that the majority of the state’s voters agreed with our views on most of the issues. Of the twelve statewide propositions we took positions on, the voters of California agreed with us on nine. (Votes in California are still being counted, but in most cases the results are unlikely to change.)
Unfortunately, the most important difference between our recommendations and the choices of the voters was on the death penalty. Not only did California voters reject a measure repealing the death penalty, but they also approved a measure that will dramatically accelerate the death penalty process. As we noted in our recommendation against the measure, the details of Proposition 66 are likely to lead to more executions of innocent people, and more botched executions. If the measure is fully implemented, we expect that California voters will quickly be alarmed by the number of executions the state will be forced to carry out in quick succession, considering the 741 inmates on death row today. However, any efforts at accelerating the death penalty may be stymied by an inability to acquire lethal injection drugs now that drug companies and pharmacies are increasingly reluctant to sell them. But chances are Proposition 66 will never be fully implemented, as lawsuits were already challenging its constitutionality before the election results were even final.
On local measures in Los Angeles, our recommendations aligned even more closely with the voters. Of the six measures we made recommendations on, the voters agreed with us on all of them.
Of course, it’s not about keeping score or patting ourselves on the back for agreeing with voters, but many of these results are encouraging at many levels. Below, we highlight some of the major results that give us hope going forward.
Marijuana Legalization Spells the Beginning of the End for the Disastrous “War on Drugs”
Colorado and Washington led the way on legalization of recreational marijuana use, but 2016 may prove to be the watershed moment in a wholesale reevaluation of the failed war on drugs. With the passage of Proposition 64 in California, as well as measures legalizing recreational marijuana use in Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada, and medical marijuana in Florida, Arkansas, Montana, and North Dakota, the majority of Americans now live in a state where marijuana is legal in some form, openly contradicting federal drug laws. Only Arizona bucked the trend, rejecting a measure to legalize recreational marijuana use. As a result, the federal government seems likely to face increasing pressure to reassess its approach to marijuana, at the very least, if not all drugs.
Los Angeles Doubles-Down on Transit Expansion
Voters in Los Angeles County appear to have approved their second sales tax increase to support public transportation in the space of eight years (the measure requires a ⅔ vote to pass, and at the time of this writing, the Yes vote was leading with nearly 70%). In making a previously temporary half-cent sales tax permanent and adding another half-cent increase, a total of two cents on every dollar spent in the county will be permanently dedicated to funding for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro). In a region notorious for freeways and traffic gridlock, voters are clamoring for alternatives, and this measure will enable substantial expansions to Metro’s rail and rapid bus network, as well as additional support for local bus service, and even bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.
Considering the incoming President and Congress, securing federal funding for public transportation seems all but impossible, making local funding commitments even more essential. We are still of the belief that there should be less regressive mechanisms than sales taxes to provide reliable and sustained funding for public transportation, and the overwhelming support for Measure M only reinforces the need for more robust transit options in Los Angeles County. Indeed, the success of transportation measures across the country indicate a growing appetite for alternatives to the automobile-centric planning patterns that have dominated in much of the United States.
Constructive Action to Address Homelessness
An astounding 76% of voters in the City of Los Angeles voted to approve a bond measure that will fund permanent supportive housing for homeless people in Los Angeles, handily exceeding even the ⅔ majority threshold required. As we noted in our voter guide, providing permanent supportive housing is the most effective solution to address chronic homelessness. The passage of Measure HHH gives Los Angeles the opportunity to go from being a city with one of the highest homeless populations in the country, to a leader in providing solutions to address homelessness.
These are just a few of the positive outcomes of Election Day 2016, and these results, among others, present an optimistic alternative to the potential future of a Trump administration. These examples, in addition to providing real and meaningful change for the people they impact, present a model for how to move forward. While so much of the focus is at the federal level, much of the important policy-making occurs at the state and local level. Here at people[PLACES]spaces, we will continue to investigate issues at all levels to advocate for more equitable cities, and a more just society.
Header image by flickr user Toms River Fire Dept via Creative Commons, CC BY-NC-ND