The story is told that to fool Catherine II Russian minister Grigori Potemkin constructed hollow facades of villages along the desolate banks of the Dnieper River. When the monarch and her entourage sailed by they were impressed with the prosperity in her new territories.
Backers of a phony property rights measure Proposition 99 on the June ballot have borrowed a page or two from Potemkin’s book.
Last year taxpayers farmers and small business owners began qualifying a measure for the ballot — Proposition 98 — that would bar cities and counties from seizing private property from unwilling sellers so it can be turned over to favored developers for strip malls and other for profit projects.
To protect local officials’ power over private property the League of California Cities drafted their own initiative Proposition 99 — which is as fake as a three dollar bill. Although designed to be cosmetically attractive a closer examination reveals that it is just another hollow shell. The non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office states Proposition 99 "is not likely to significantly alter current government land acquisition practices." In other words Proposition 99 does nothing. Well it does one thing. If it passes with more votes than Proposition 98 which is the "real deal" for property owners it invalidates all the protections contained in that measure.
Here is why the League of California Cities and their developer allies should be sending a royalty check to Potemkin for using his ideas. Not only have they constructed an initiative that has nothing of substance on the inside but to further confuse the voters they are featuring its support by the League of California Homeowners Inc. While this attractive name may cause many voters to think this is a broad-based statewide homeowners organization it is actually a corporation whose primary function is to act as a contractor referral service.
In fact this organization is essentially a one-man-band headed by its president Upland City Councilman Ken Willis. Apparently Willis values his power to take property in his community because he is willing to violate his organization’s bylaws to back the fake Proposition 99 and oppose the genuine Proposition 98. The bylaws of the League of California Homeowners clearly state "…the Corporation shall not participate or intervene in any political campaign on behalf of any candidate for public office or for or against any cause or measure being submitted to the people for a vote."
However the website for the deceptive Proposition 99 lists the League of California Homeowners on the top of the list of endorsers. The same website shows this "homeowners group" as an opponent of Proposition 98 which would actually curtail abuses of governments’ right to take private property.
What we have here is a contractor referral service with a misleading title being used to screen a phony property rights initiative. Potemkin would be proud. Property owners will get more protection from "20000 Leagues Under the Sea" than they will from the League of California Cities the League of California Homeowners and their fraudulent Proposition 99.
Proposition 98 proudly sponsored by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association the California Farm Bureau Federation and the California Alliance to Protect Private Property Rights will allow governments to take property only for genuine public purposes like schools and roads and will bar the seizure of property so that private developers can make a profit.
With the passage of Proposition 98 in June property owners will get real protection not just happy talk.
Jon Coupal is President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest taxpayer organization — which is dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and promoting taxpayers’ rights.