At first glance, Proposition 51 on this November's statewide ballot sounds like a no--brainer. Sponsored by the Planning and Conservation League, it would set up the Traffic Congestion Relief and Safe School Bus Trust Fund by transferring 30% of the state's share of sales taxes paid on the sale and lease of new and used motor vehicles from the state's General Fund to the Transportation Impacts Mitigation Trust Fund. According to the Legislative Analyst's Office: "approximately $460 million would be shifted from the state's General Fund to the Trust Fund in 2002--03, $950 million in 2003--04" and increasing thereafter.
But this initiative has raised serious controversy by allowing interested sponsors (including Ross Perot's Hillwood Development Corp.) the opportunity to "buy in" by sponsoring the initiative and enabling them to benefit their specific interests at a healthy return on their investment, should the initiative pass. And it does this while giving voters no oversight on the laundry list of benefiting projects, which include various freeway and garage projects that would greatly encourage automobile driving to the detriment of bicycle and pedestrian safety and transit efficiency. Out of a total of $950 million, this proposition gives only 4% to bicycle and pedestrian projects. While it gives 48% to passenger rail and bus transit, it doesn't allow enough protection in hard budgetary times. According to the League of Women Voters: "...Passage of (this) initiative... sets a dangerous precedent and would encourage other powerful special interests to bypass the budget process and lock up funding for their own programs through ballot initiatives. Other programs, such as health care, special school programs, or environmental protection, which lack the political clout or money to bankroll their own initiatives, would lose out."
The SFBC Board of Directors voted to oppose Proposition 51, which is also opposed by Senior Action Network and WalkSF. For more analysis of Prop. 51 check out: www.cbp.org/2002/ bb020601.htm.
It should be noted that many bicycle groups around the state are supporting Prop. 51, focusing on the bike benefits--which cannot be denied--rather than the probable downsides of the measure, which include encouraging more driving. The California Bicycle Coalition in particular did an admirable job of strengthening the pro-bicycle measures in Prop. 51. For more analysis of the "yes" argument, see www.calbike.org.