Scarp: No coin flips allowed in the voting booth - East Valley Tribune: Columnists

Scarp: No coin flips allowed in the voting booth

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Mark J. Scarp is a contributing columnist for the Tribune. Reach him at

Posted: Sunday, October 7, 2012 7:14 am | Updated: 11:00 am, Wed Oct 10, 2012.

How tired are we of national politics? The major-party presidential candidates hold their long-awaited first debate, and what subject immediately dominates on the Internet? Health care? Debt reduction? Jobs?

Big Bird.

OK, so this doesn’t offer much of surprise as to where people’s hearts lie.

We’re tired of state politics, too, of course. It used to be that when you saw Arizona public officials spending large amounts of time in court, it was because they went to work each day dressed in black robes and people called them “Your Honor.”

There is a part of government, however, that’s mostly under our control as voters: ballot propositions.

The following list seems to have survived costly legal challenges, so please vote on them in November. A lot of people paid a lot of lawyers to bring them to you, so next time you see an attorney driving a Maserati in Scottsdale, offer him or her a friendly wave and mouth the words, “Thank you.” No, not those words. I said, “Thank you.”

So here is my guide to the propositions, written in plain, simple terms. Not all of the propositions, mind you; I’ve only picked the ones most people will be able to stay awake long enough to consider. Any similarity to real advice on how to vote is purely in your imagination:

Proposition 114: This would be the burglar-who-trips-over-your-ottoman-in-the-dark-can’t-sue-you-for-breaking-his-leg law. Proponents say several crooks actually have successfully sued for stuff like this. The proposal covers anyone committing a felony or “fleeing” from doing so. So I guess that means if someone is signing you up for a Ponzi scheme and accidentally stabs himself in the hand with your pen while making his way out your door with your money, he can’t sue you for blood poisoning? Now, that’s justice.

Proposition 115: Gives the governor more power and latitude in nominating judges. The State Bar of Arizona is for it, while five former Arizona Supreme Court chief justices are against it. Lawyers on opposite sides of an issue? Amazing.

Proposition 119: This has been tried several times and is a great idea to preserve more of Arizona’s lovely landscapes, but for some reason voters keep turning it down, and not usually because they watched fear-mongering commercials first. Current law allows the state to sell or lease state trust land, but not to exchange it; this measure would allow it. Example: Beautiful mountains owned by a private landowner but are too steep to build on but should be left to just look at could be traded for flat state-owned land that will never be a feature in Arizona Highways magazine. Result: Flat land gets homes and businesses. Steep pretty land gets preserved. What’s there not to like? Someone will find something.

Proposition 120: This one would “repeal” (ha, ha) Arizona’s agreeing back at the time of our statehood that any federal lands within our state borders belong to the U.S. government. Can you visualize Smokey the Bear and all his fellow feds striking all the tents and cabins and fire towers in the national forests and simply heading back to Washington? Neither can I.

Proposition 121: This is the proposal that would send the top two vote-getters, whoever that ends up being, in a primary election to the general election. Today most legislative districts are drawn to make it a cakewalk for a member of one party to keep getting elected from that district. This measure could shake that up, which is why party leaders hate it.

Proposition 204: This measure would continue the 1-cent sales tax voters passed in 2010 to help get the state budget out of its recessionary crisis. It was promoted as ending in 2013, no ifs, ands or buts. Of course, today there are ifs, ands or buts.

Proponents say it will fund education needs that the Legislature hasn’t provided any money for. Opponents say that’s not set forth clearly enough and that “temporary” taxes usually end up being proposed to become permanent.

Locally, Mesa city voters will look over $65 million in bonds for parks and recreation needs, plus five proposed amendments to the City Charter. The Mesa Unified School District is proposing $275 million in bonds. In the Tempe Union High School District, voters will decide on a budget override as well as $75 million in bonds.

So it’s homework time, East Valley voters, which means no coin flips in the voting booth. (Well, maybe for some candidates.) Whatever the ads say, divide them by logic and add common sense. Like most election years, those are two elements that only the voters themselves can provide.

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