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2016 California Voter Election Guide

During past elections I had written brief voter guides, mostly for my friends. I have fallen out of the habit of preparing these over the past few elections, primarily due to being more busy, my friends being better informed, and fewer complex propositions that need to be explained. This year, however, with 18 initiatives on the ballot, I felt this would be a useful guide. So here are this elections 18 California propositions, and why I’m either supporting or opposing each one.

Proposition 51 — School Construction — YES — This $9 billion bond issuance provides for the construction and modernization of K-14 schools throughout California. Specifically, it provides for $3 billion for construction of new schools, $3 billion for modernization of existing schools, $2 billion for community colleges, $500 million for charter school facilities, and $500 million for career technical education facilities. These bonds will cost California approximately $500 million per year over the next 35 years. In order to access these funds, school districts will need to provide matching funds, such as through local bond measures such as Measure S in Orange Unified School District or Measure K in the Brea Olinda Unified School District.

A lot of the money from Proposition 51 and its local counterparts will go towards deferred maintenance. This is simply not how we should be funding and maintaining our public schools. However, since we have chronically underfund our schools over the past four decades, this infusion of cash is absolutely necessary. This isn’t the best solution for improving our schools for the long term, but it’s the best solution that’s politically feasible right now. Until we can convince people to raise their taxes to fund schools from current revenue, we’re going to be left with funding school facilities by bonding against future revenue.

Proposition 52 — Hospital Fees — NO — Proposition 52 would require voter approval for the State to make changes to the fees hospitals are charged in order for the State to raise the funds necessary to receive Federal Medicare money. This is adding a requirement for ballot-box governing, instead of allowing California’s legislature and governor do their jobs. We are a Republic, and should not be engaging in additional direct democracy, it has not served us well in the past.

Proposition 53 — Revenue Bonds — NO — Just like for Proposition 52, this creates a requirement for additional ballot-box governing. Proposition 53 requires that the voters must approve any State bond issuance over $2 billion. This is an effective curb to large-scale infrastructure projects, such as High Speed Rail and upgrades to the California State Water Project.

Proposition 54 — Last-minute Lawmaking — YES — Proposition 54 requires that all bills in the legislature be available for public review at least 72 hours before being voted on, and that recordings of legislative sessions be posted online within 24 hours. Often times, many bills that are negotiated late in the sessions are voted on just hours after being written. This 72 hour delay ensures that legislators (or their staff) have enough time to read and understand the bill before voting on it.

Proposition 55 — High-earner Tax — YES — In 2012, California voters approved a temporary supplemental income tax on individuals earning more than $250,000/year. Proposition 55 would extend those supplemental income taxes for an additional 12 years, expiring in 2030 instead of 2018. Since 2012, this tax has raised approximately $6 billion/year in additional revenue, with 89% going to K-12 schools and 11% going to community colleges.

Proposition 56 — Tobacco Tax — YES — Raising the taxes on smoking will decrease the number of smokers. The current state tax is only $0.41, one of the lowest in the nation, and hasn’t been raised since 1997. The additional money raised will go to MediCal, allowing more low income individuals to be able to get affordable healthcare.

Proposition 57 — Criminal Sentencing — YES — Proposition 57 increases non-violent felons ability to get out of jail on parole, and allows judges, instead of prosecutors, to determine if juveniles should be tried as adults. This is an interesting proposition because it tackles two different problems. Thankfully, I support both of them independently of the other, making this a relatively easy yes vote.

Overall, I think it’s a good idea to let people in jail earn their way back into society. The more paths they have to do so, the better off we all are. For people to respect the laws we as a society impose, they must feel they are a member of that society. Overall, jail does more to alienate people from society than to make them feel a part of it. We have gone so far down the road of using jail for punishment and to serve as an example that it has become counter-productive, evidenced by the high rate of recidivism.

The second part of Proposition 57 is even easier to support. Most of the time, prosecutors are more interested in appearing tough on crime than doing what’s appropriate for the citizens they serve. Judges, on the other hand, often are much more impartial, charged with taking both sides of a trial into account. Until this proposition was put on the ballot, I didn’t realize that this was something left up to prosecutors, and once I knew I found it fairly horrifying.

Proposition 58 — Bilingual education — YES — Proposition 58 undoes Proposition 227, which was approved by voters in 1998. Proposition 227 requires that schools only use English in the classroom. Proposition 58 will allow teachers to use whatever language is most suitable for teaching their students.

Proposition 59 — Campaign Money — YES — Proposition 59 doesn’t change the law, it simply encourages California officials to use the power of their office to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, up to and including a Constitutional Amendment. Citizens United is the court case that allowed for corporations and wealthy individuals to spend unlimited amounts of money influencing the political process. Money in politics is not the most pressing issue we face, but it is an issue that must be addressed before we can begin to address many of the other issues that are pressing. Overturning Citizens United, and ratifying a Constitutional Amendment to do so, is the only way to get money out of politics.

Proposition 60 — Condoms in Films — YES — Proposition 60 requires that actors in adult films wear condoms. Condoms are basic health and safety equipment for adult film actors, no different than gloves for people handling food or hard hats for construction workers. In addition, increasing the prevalence of condoms in adult films will increasing the willingness of young men to wear condoms themselves.

Proposition 61 — Prescription Drugs — YES — Proposition 61 is a clear example of why we should not have ballot-box governing. This is a law that is far too complex and has too much potential for unforeseen consequences to leave up to mostly uninformed voters. That being said, I support Proposition 61 one primary reason, drug companies have contributed nearly $85 million towards defeating the proposition. Merck, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson have each contributed over $7 million, with a number of other drug manufacturers contributing millions more each. If they are that concerned about Proposition 61 passing, it’s probably a good law.

Proposition 62 — Repeal the Death Penalty — YES — Proposition 62 repeals the death penalty in California, simple as that. People currently on death row would have their sentences commuted to life without the possibility of parole. I’ve been an opponent to the death penalty since the execution of Timothy McVeigh in 2001. When he was executed for blowing up the Oklahoma Federal Building, the viewing room adjacent to the execution chamber wasn’t large enough for all of the people who lost family members in the bombing and wanted to watch his execution. To accommodate everyone who couldn’t fit in the viewing room, they put McVeigh’s execution on closed circuit television so everyone could watch from an adjacent room. This made me realize that much of the impetus behind executions is related to revenge, not any form of justice. Revenge does not have any place in the justice system. The justice system should be about keeping society safe, and helping criminals repay their debt to society. The justice system should be able to keep society safe without killing criminals, if it can’t there are other more pressing problems than the crimes themselves, and once a criminal has been executed there is no way for them to repay their debts. At least with life imprisonment, there is some chance that they can make a positive contribution to society later in life. The death penalty is no better than revenge killings by gangs, it’s only given the veneer of morality through legality, but it is no more virtuous.

Proposition 63 — Gun Control — NO — This is another law towards a piecemeal approach to gun control. The law will do nothing to reduce gun violence in California. If we want to reduce the number of people killed using guns, we need to have a comprehensive approach to gun control, and that needs to start with a serious discussion about the merits of the Second Amendment in modern America.

Proposition 64 — Legalizing Marijuana — YES — Proposition 64 legalizes recreational marijuana in California. Colorado and Oregon have been able to earn substantial taxes by legalizing pot without substantial negative side-effects to society. California should follow suit and help lead the charge to the decriminalization of marijuana use.

Proposition 65 — Plastic Bag Ban Money — YES — Proposition 65 and Proposition 67 both deal with the ban on single-use plastic bags that was approved signed into law by the Governor in 2014. Proposition 65 and 67 are in conflict with one another, and if they both pass, whichever one gets more votes will be put in place. Proposition 65 was championed by the plastic bag industry to penalize the grocery industry, which supported the initial plastic bag ban. Proposition 65 diverts money that grocery retailers collect to a special fund administered by the California Wildlife Conservation Board. While I do not love the motives behind Proposition 65, I do think that it’s a good diversion of money.

Proposition 66 — Death penalty procedures — NO — If both Proposition 62 and Proposition 66 pass, the proposition with more votes will go into effect. Proposition 66 keeps the death penalty in place, and puts statutory limits on how long death penalty cases can be appealed. The goal of Proposition 66 is to speed up the execution of people sentenced to death, thereby saving the state money. Interestingly, the largest donors opposing this initiative are tech millionaires, including Reed Hastings, Laurene Powell Jobs (Steve Jobs widow), and Paul Graham.

Proposition 67 — Ban Plastic Bags — YES — In 2014, the California legislature passed SB 270, which banned single-use plastic bags in California. Proposition 67 is a referendum on that law, sponsored by the plastic bag industry. It is clear that single-use bags are harmful to the environment, and that reusable bags are more efficient. Many people simple do the easiest thing possible in life (myself included), and right now when going to the grocery store using single-use plastic bags is the easiest thing. It’s not much more difficult to use reusable bags, and it would greatly help the environment by reducing the amount of waste, litter, and energy needed to produce the bags.

Volunteer with the Irvine Ranch Conservancy

Limestone Canyon Access Days or many of the other activities within the Irvine Ranch, you’ll understand how many people it takes to offer all of these activities to the public. Most of those people are volunteers with the Irvine Ranch Conservancy and they are always looking for new people to volunteer.

Twice a year, the Irvine Ranch Conservancy holds an orientation for new volunteers. One of these is coming up on March 10th and you can still sign up if you’re interested. Volunteering for the IRC can be hugely rewarding. You’ll have the opportunity to help improve the wilderness around Orange County and share your love of the outdoors with others.

There are a number of important requirements that all Irvine Ranch Conservancy volunteers must meet in order to help. All of the requirements are outlined in the email that’s sent out to all potential volunteers. The one ongoing requirement that IRC asks of all volunteers is that they donate at least a day a month to activities within the parks and open spaces.

If you’re interested in signing up to be a volunteer with the Irvine Ranch Conservancy and would like to attend the orientation next month, you must register by February 10th.

Continue reading Volunteer with the Irvine Ranch Conservancy

Santiago Oaks Regional Park – Peralta Hills, Bumble Bee, and Mountain Goat Trails

Vital Stats
Trailhead 2145 N. Windes Drive
Orange, CA 92869
Length 3.58 Miles
Elevation 459 Feet
Difficulty Hard

The hike up Peralta Hills Trail is surprisingly difficult. Four-hundred fifty-nine feet of elevation gain over three and a half miles doesn’t seem like too much, but almost all of that climbing happens in less than a mile as Peralta Hills Trail heads towards Anaheim Hills Elementary School. The rest of the hike is comfortable and rolling, with one tricky descent down Mountain Goat Trail.

This full hike can only be done during the dry season, when there isn’t water flowing from the dam. The hike crosses Santiago Creek in two places that are impassible when water is flowing through the creek. However, even during the rainy season it’s still possible to do most of this hike, you’ll simply have to stay on the east side of the creek and head back up to the main creek crossing near the parking lot.

The trail starts out from the parking lot, crosses Santiago Creek and heads to the left along Santiago Creek Trail. The trail only goes for a short time until it curves to the right and meets up with Wilderness Trail. Take a right at Wilderness Trail and head back generally in the direction of the dam at the far end of the park.

Wilderness Trail is a nice, wide trail that’s generally flat and shaded. Enjoy this easy part of the hike, because it’s about to get a lot more difficult. Once you’ve gone about a third of a mile along Wilderness Trail you’ll come to a turnoff for Peralta Hills Trail to the left. From here, be prepared to start heading up.

Peralta Hills Trail runs from its junction with Wilderness Trail all the way up to Robbers Roost above Anaheim Hills elementary. In just about a mile, Peralta Hills Trail gains over 700 feet of elevation at an average grade over 10%. Just before my hike up the trail, it had been regraded and the trail surface was either slick rock or soft sand. This made hiking up the hill all the more difficult, because I slid backwards half a foot for each step forward I took. Of course, once some of the lighter dirt gets blown away and the trail gets re-compacted it will be much easier to hike up. Continue reading Santiago Oaks Regional Park – Peralta Hills, Bumble Bee, and Mountain Goat Trails

Limestone Canyon Wilderness Park – The Sinks

Vital Stats
Trailhead Augustine Staging Area
Silverado, CA 92676
Length 7.60 Miles
Elevation 400 Feet
Difficulty Easy

Once a month, OC Parks and the Irvine Ranch Land Conservancy open Limestone Canyon Wilderness Park up for a Wilderness Access Day. Most of the time, Limestone Canyon is only open for limited guided tours, which anyone can sign up for through the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks Activities page. However, during the Wilderness Access Day, you’ll have free reign around any of the trails in Limestone Canyon.

The main draw of Limestone Canyon is a geological feature called The Sinks. The Sinks is a large canyon carved into the soft limestone hills that has been called The Grand Canyon of Orange County. Unfortunately, people are not allowed to climb down into The Sinks, but are only allowed to look at it from above due to their delicate nature.

The hike out to the sinks starts from the Augustine Staging Area, located just off Santiago Canyon Road north of Silverado Canyon Road on the west side of the road. During Wilderness Access Days, there will be public parking and check-in located at the Augustine Staging Area. There are normally a few hundred people who visit Limestone Canyon on these days, so expect a much larger production that you would normally find at a regional park.

The trailhead is at the southeast corner of the parking area from which a fire road heads south. The entire length of the trail is actually this fire road that circumnavigates the park. On the one hand, this is nice because it means the trail is wide and easy to navigate but it also feels less intimate with the surrounding nature. Also, the first mile or so of this fire road is covered with gravel which is somewhat uncomfortable to walk on, especially on the way back to the trailhead. Continue reading Limestone Canyon Wilderness Park – The Sinks

Cleveland National Forest – Holy Jim Falls

Vital Stats
Trailhead Trabuco Creek Rd & Holy Jim Canyon Rd
Trabuco, CA 92883
Length 3.42 Miles
Elevation 705 Feet
Difficulty Modrerate

This past Tuesday, after the rains on Saturday and Monday, I headed out to Holy Jim Falls in the Cleveland National Forest. I’ve been wanting to do this hike for a while now, but I’ve been waiting until after some rain to ensure the falls are at their fullest. This hike did not disappoint, it is by far one of the nicest hikes in Orange County.

Driving to the trailhead takes a little bit of work, but it’s a beautiful drive in itself. Live Oak Canyon Road, which is the turnoff from Santiago Canyon Road where Cook’s Corner is located, is a densely shaded road that winds it way through a forest of live oaks.

From Live Oak Canyon Road you turn off onto a dirt road, Trabuco Creek Road. The first couple of miles of Trabuco Creek Road is well maintained until you hit the gate to Cleveland National Forest. The road through Cleveland National Forest is some of the most challenging off road driving I’ve ever done, I would highly suggest a car with sufficient ground clearance, such as a pickup truck or SUV. I made it out there in my Subaru WRX but I did hurt my front bumper coming over a large mogul. Plan to take a half hour or more to drive the 4.7 miles from Live Oak Canyon Road to the trailhead.

There is a small parking lot on the left hand side of the road as you approach the trailhead. To park here, you’ll need an Adventure Pass, which I picked up at the Silverado Canyon Market next to the Silverado Branch Library, or a National Park Service Golden Access Passport. The road continues for another half mile or so towards the actual trailhead, however this portion of the road is for access to a number of cabins that are located on leased forest land and there is no public parking beyond this point.

From the parking lot, continue to follow the road, being careful not to wander up someone’s driveway. After about a half mile, there will be a slight “Y” in the road, to the right is a newer looking cabin and to the left is the actual trailhead. The trailhead is marked by an open gate and a placard provided as an Eagle Scout project. Continue reading Cleveland National Forest – Holy Jim Falls

Carbon Canyon Regional Park – Redwood Grove Lollipop

Vital Stats
Trailhead 4442 Carbon Canyon Road
Brea, CA 92823
Length 2.62 Miles
Elevation 151 Feet
Difficulty Very Easy

Carbon Canyon Regional Park is a true regional park, not a wilderness park in any way. The majority of the park is comprised of a lake for fishing and large grassy open areas. There are also numerous shelters with tables and BBQs, tennis and volleyball courts, baseball fields, and playgrounds. There are also four groves of trees located around the park. Three of the four are easily accessible by car, but the only way to visit the grove of Coastal Redwoods is via the park’s only “nature” trail.

The Carbon Canyon Regional Park nature trail that leads to the redwood grove is the best maintained trail I’ve seen in Orange County. It’s wide, flat and utterly boring. The trail starts at the far eastern edge of the park, through the pinewood grove. Once through the pinewood grove, the trail drops down slightly to cross a dry stream bed and then climbs back up just slightly. Once level again, the trail continues westerly between the foot of the hill and Carbon Canyon Stream.

Currently, Carbon Canyon Stream is being dredged. From the work being done, it looks like they are preparing to line the stream with concrete and generally make it feel less natural. Even without the work being done on the stream, the trail never feels a part of nature. It’s always possible to see the manicured lawns of the park proper or the giant dam that doesn’t seem to hold back any water.

As you continue on the trail it curves around slightly to the left where you’ll see the redwood grove. The dozens of redwoods that make up the grove were planted in the mid-1970s, when the park was first opening. Costal Redwoods are not a native species in Orange County and when you walk through the grove you can tell that they don’t belong. There is no ecosystem around the trees, simply trees in the near dead, hard packed ground of Orange County. The type of magic that’s present in a natural redwood forest is simply missing in this artificial grove. Continue reading Carbon Canyon Regional Park – Redwood Grove Lollipop

Laguna Coast Wilderness Park – Willow Canyon and Laurel Canyon

Vital Stats
Trailhead Willow Staging Area
20101 Laguna Canyon Road
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Length 3.53 Miles
Elevation 557 Feet
Difficulty Moderate

This hike in Laguna Coast Wilderness Park visits some of the more lush areas of Orange County due to its proximity to the ocean. The route is steep in places and goes over some ill-maintained trails but is a pleasant hike non-the-less, especially towards the end.

Laguna Coast Wilderness Park is sandwiched between Laguna Canyon Road (SR 133) and Crystal Cove State Park. The park gets a lot of damp sea air so the park stays green year round, unlike most of the rest of Orange County. Unfortunately, the park doesn’t get a the nice sea breeze that you might expect being so close to the ocean. Combine the lack of sea breeze with the wide fire road trails and no shade, the trails in Laguna Coast Wilderness Park can feel much warmer than you might expect.

This route through Laguna Coast Wilderness Park starts at the Willow Staging Area, located along Laguna Canyon Road just south of El Toro Road. There is a dirt parking lot at the Willow Staging Area that can be quite crowded on busy weekends. Also located at the Willow Staging Area is a ranger station and information board. You can pick up a trail map and, on the weekend, park rangers will ask you to sign in so they know how many people are in the park.

There are two trails that lead out from the ranger station, Willow Canyon Road and Laurel Canyon Trail. This route head off on Willow Canyon Road and comes back using Laurel Canyon Trail. Willow Canyon Road is fire road that starts out flat for the first few hundred feet followed by 1.4 miles of up hill. The trail is wide and has little shade along the route. Most of the trail is hard-packed dirt with some places of slick rock. It’s possible to see where they’ve done trail maintenance and clearing with a scraper of some sort. Continue reading Laguna Coast Wilderness Park – Willow Canyon and Laurel Canyon

Whiting Ranch – Borrego Trail to Red Rock Canyon

Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park

Vital Stats
Trailhead 26711 Portola Parkway
Lake Forest, CA
Length 4.6 Miles
Elevation 446 Feet
Difficulty Easy

Whiting Ranch is a part of the OC Parks Limestone Canyon & Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park. Whiting Ranch is open to the public like most other Orange County parks, while Limestone Canyon is only open two days a month for open access days and for guided tours. Whiting Ranch is very popular with mountain bikers but is open to hikers and even has a few trails that are only open to those on foot.

Borrego Trail out to Red Rock Canyon starts from the parking lot located on Portola Parkway right at Market Place in Lake Forest. Parking is $3, just as it is at most other OC Parks. The trailhead is marked by a sculpture garden with a large obelisk at its center that’s dedicated to the local wildlife. There is also an information kiosk that has all of the standard warnings and information for the park, and some maps of the park’s trails that you can take with you.

Once on the trail, the first thing you’ll notice is a large sign warning of mountain lions. This isn’t the only mountain lion warning on the trail, and for good reason. Over the years there have been a number of mountain lion attacks in Whiting Ranch, including one fatal one in 2004. However, Whiting Ranch is a very popular park and the odds of being attacked are very low.

The trail heads north through a valley that’s flanked by houses. Despite that, you get the feeling of being in the wilderness quite quickly. Almost immediately you cross a sandy, dry stream bed that’s a bit difficult to walk in and very difficult to ride a bike in. This stream hadn’t been quite so sandy prior to the winter storms of 2007, but that year the rains washed a lot of sand down out of the canyons and deposited it on the lower reaches of the stream. Continue reading Whiting Ranch – Borrego Trail to Red Rock Canyon

Oak Canyon Nature Center – Tranquility Trail, Wren Way, Bluebird Loop

Oak Canyon Nature Center

Vital Stats
Trailhead 6700 Walnut Canyon RdAnaheim, CA 92807
Length 1.89 Miles
Elevation 194 Feet
Difficulty Easy

Oak Canyon Nature Center is a small park nestled in the canyons of Anaheim Hills. The park is ideal for parents and children looking for just a taste of the outdoors. For locals, the Oak Canyon Nature Center is also a great place for short trail runs or hikes when you just want to get out of the house. Unfortunately, Oak Canyon isn’t open to mountain bikes, but honestly it isn’t big enough to really enjoy yourself on a bike anyways.

This route takes you through the south side of Oak Canyon Nature Center, which is wooded with a thick oak forest and back down along the main access road that runs the length of the park. The north side of the park, which this route doesn’t explore, is much more barren. The trail starts just past and behind the interpretive center.

Oak Canyon Nature Center

Tranquility Trail heads slightly up hill through an old grove of oak trees. There are a couple of offshoots from the trail that head up into the neighborhoods at the top of the hill. Once the trail makes a meandering horseshoe U-turn to the left the trail levels off and transitions into California chaparral.

Tranquility Trail continues until it runs into Wren Way. You can take Tranquility Trail back down to the main access road or continue strait onto Wren Way. Wren Way is a trail covered with a low canopy of trees that undulates as it heads slightly uphill. Wren Way follows along a drainage channel, over a number of bridges built as Eagle Scout projects over the years. Continue reading Oak Canyon Nature Center – Tranquility Trail, Wren Way, Bluebird Loop

Rain forces trail closures in Orange County

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As anybody who has spent any time outdoors knows, water is the bane of a well maintained trail. Due to yesterday’s rain, there are a number of park and trail closures around Orange County. The parks

and trails that are currently closed are:

  • Aliso And Wood Canyons Wilderness Park: Closed
  • Irvine Regional Park: Trails Closed
  • Laguna Coast Wilderness Park: Closed
  • O’Neill Regional Park: Trails Closed
  • Peters Canyon Regional Park: Closed
  • Santiago Oaks Regional Park: Closed
  • Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park: Closed