Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
February 28, 2016 – 4:01 PM

  • Voters told what will happen if they approve measures
  • But is officialdom duty-bound to make it happen?
  • Ignoring promises erodes trust in the system

So you, a conscientious voter, read the language, the official summary, the economic analysis and the pro and con arguments before voting on a state ballot measure.

You concluded that it would be good for the state and enough of your fellow voters agreed to pass the new law.

Was it an inviolable contract between voters and the politicians and officials who will later implement its provisions?

Or are a ballot measure’s promises just general guidelines that officialdom may alter or even ignore?

These are no small questions because California’s governance is now largely driven by initiatives and measures placed on the ballot by the governor and the Legislature, with many more coming on next November. Therefore, voters must trust that what they were told will come to pass, and if they don’t, the governance system erodes.

Adherence to the letter of ballot measures is the overriding issue in the pending lawsuit that challenges construction of a bullet train system voters authorized with a $9.95 billion bond issue eight years ago.

During a trial this month in Sacramento, attorneys for San Joaquin Valley bullet train opponents contended that as more details of the proposed system emerge, they contradict the bond measure’s promises – such as that the train would run between San Francisco and Los Angeles in 2 hours, 40 minutes.

State officials offer pro forma responses to that and other issues, but rely mostly on an assumption that the state High-Speed Rail Authority can legally make changes as long as it delivers a system.

Just days after the trial – and while awaiting a judge’s verdict – the HSRA released a revised business plan that makes major changes, such as shifting the route of the initial operating segment from Southern California to Northern California.

To read expanded article, click here.