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PROPOSITION ME!

Everywhere I go recently, people ask: "Cap'n Dave, what's the deal with the election this year?" They are referring to the fact that this upcoming vote is a mind bender. In addition to the usual nagging responsibility of doofus-selection for all the high offices, we've also got about a dozen different propositions to consider. The publicity pamphlet they sent to my house in an attempt to explain these so-called "ballot initiatives" is thicker than a TV Guide, contains zero pictures and was apparently written by the pre-law club down at a Mary Moppet's Preschool. As a public service, the ruling chieftains here at New Times have asked me to explain these inexplicable propositions. My research--which comprised buying lunch for and sucking back several beers with a couple of local political reporters--is complete. Some of these propositions are more important than others. For obvious reasons, I've grouped them accordingly. As a Halloween treat, I've fished out a special category of scary facts pertaining to these props. For a spine-chillingly good time, I suggest you put on the music from Twin Peaks and read those sections out loud in a darkened room. Oooo.

Prop-by-prop, here's the deal: THE WEENIE PROPS

Prop 100: According to the pamphlet, "Proposition 100 will amend the State Constitution to allow exchanges of state trust land for other public or private lands of equal value." Somehow, funding for schools is involved here, too. Got it? My spin: In Arizona, where you should probably assume that all land deals are crooked, any change in the constitution making them easier is pretty scary. On the other hand: Apparently, these exchanges go on all the time anyway, but the constitution needs to be retooled to make everything hunky-dory with the yellow-notepad set. Scary facts: The State Land Commissioner who would referee exchanges is a political appointee. Meaning, your average telephone solicitor is about as qualified for the job as the guy or gal who may eventually get it. And as the legislature's lawyers say against this prop, "The unstable world of speculative real estate markets is no place for bureaucrats." You should: Vote yes anyway.

Prop 101: This has something to do with changing the constitution so that cities can go further into debt to build more roads. My spin: See above. On the other hand: Car accidents usually occur on roads, don't they? Scary fact: It's a possibility that there is no afterlife, that our existence is but a momentary interruption of eternal nothingness. You should: Vote against this prop if you're against building more roads in cities. Prop 102: Civil cases involving more than $2,500 now have to go to Superior Court. This prop raises that dollar figure to $10,000, which will enable more people to do their petty bickering in front of lower court.

My spin: Brings much-needed relief to overworked Superior Court swearing-in personnel. And, since people are more likely to represent themselves in a lower court, lawyers will theoretically get less business. May also encourage more people to file lawsuits. Just what we need. On the other hand: Most lawyers won't take cheap-o cases anyway. So, for lawyer-haters, it's a wash.

Scary fact: In fiscal 1989, more than 175,000 civil suits were filed in Arizona. You should: Say aye.

Prop 200: This measure would allow the state to skim $20 million from the lottery handle and give it to rocks and critters. The state parks board will get a cut of this so-called Heritage Fund, and so will Game and Fish. Supposedly, the dough will fund wildlife habitats, parks, trails, historic preservation projects, environmental education and annual birthday strip-o-grams for every park ranger in the state. Just kidding!

My spin: Who doesn't like rocks and critters? On the other hand: That $20 million from the lottery is already spent on other worthy things. At some point, we'll have to raise taxes to pay for the stuff it used to pay for. In other words, voting for this prop is not unlike making a credit-card payment using a cash advance from a different card. Which is dumb, but I know people who do it all the time. Scary facts: In dollars spent per capita, the Arizona state parks system ranks 46th in the nation. The good news is, our state-park acreage ranks 43rd. You should: Vote yes.

Prop 300: A pay raise for state legislators, from $15,000 a year to $24,000. My spin: Since the job pays so little, only persons with weird occupations--such as retired military, housewives and real estate agents--can join. If the job paid more, maybe normal people would get involved. On the other hand: Like everyone else, I hate the idea of giving another penny to the nitwits in there currently. Scary fact: As some wag once said, "The problem with representative government is that it usually is."