How Ernie Worked to Make His Mother Homeless!

Rocky Neptun

How Ernie Worked to Make His Mother Homeless! Vote No on 98, Yes on 99!

Ernie Hanks loves his mother. The frail, 82 year-old, he calls “mum,” lives alone. Little did he know that for months he actively worked to make his mother homeless.

Plagued by diabetes and high blood pressure, her $800 a month social security check, after medical co-pays, barely covers the basics – food, rent and utilities. However, she is luckier than many seniors on fixed incomes. Grace Hanks lives in a Bay Area mobile home park that is covered by a rent control ordinance. The modest yearly increase allows her to budget and plan each month; as well as peace of mind that a new corporate owner won’t force her out by tremendous hikes. Most mobile home park buyers are speculators, who force older citizens and their aging trailers out, to appeal to those in higher income brackets, so they can sell the park at a huge mark-up.

Ernie, between jobs, with health problems of his own, agreed to collect signatures for state-wide propositions for a dollar each. Like putrid, bacteria poisoned, beef between layers of bread, Ernie inattentively folded the qualification papers for the so-called “California Property Owners and Farmland Protection Act” between other propositions (like parental notice of abortions and fair treatment for farm animals) and set up his little table outside Henry’s Market.

It was there I met Ernie and became a co-conspirator in the course of action that may well lead to his mother becoming homeless, along with several hundred thousand other Californian seniors and disabled who survive under the protection of rent mitigation ordinances.

I signed the damn thing, based on lies and falsifications. Proposition 98 on the June ballot is not about protecting homeowners and farmers from eminent domain, as Ernie quietly explained to me that warm fall evening, as I balanced a watermelon and a potted plant between my grocery bags.

Rather, this purposely deceitful and flawed Proposition 98, also know as the “Hidden Agendas Scheme,” funded by some of the wealthiest apartment and mobile home park owners in the state, as well as right-wing think tanks and powerful, corporate landowners, seeks to eliminate most renter protection laws, including all rent mitigation ordinances.

Even more frightening, Prop. 98 would virtually hand the public commons, the brick and motar of society – its physical infrastructure, over to profit-driven jackals by outlawing most community land use and planning capabilities. It would also threaten water supply and quality by privatizing most public water projects.

Luckily for Ernie (and my conscience) we did not totally seal the fate of Grace by falling for the lies of this despicable group of wealthy thugs. Her move to a homeless shelter is deferred temporarily while a gracious group of community activists and environmentalist qualified Proposition 99 for the June, 2008 ballot. Prop. 99 would prohibit the government from using eminent domain to take a home to transfer to a private developer. It is true eminent domain reform. Prop. 98 is a ruse and a lie. It seeks to protect wealth from being used for the public good, pure and simple.

Prop. 98, with its hidden agendas, is a catch-all for rich pornographers, polluters and landlords. In addition to eliminating rent protections, it would restrict local ability to regulate and zone adult businesses, “big box” megastores and the development of polluting industries. It would also prohibit statewide regulations or legislation that would attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or other climate change mitigation efforts, and would permit unlimited development on sensitive wetlands. Prop 98 attempts to limit local growth control measures aimed at uncontrolled development.

This grab bag of hits on a half-century of environmental and quality of life programs, would eliminate protections of endangered species and their habitats, slow protections of costal areas as well as cultural and historic sites, and gut limits on old growth timber harvests.

Locally, builders and developers would be allowed to ignore environmental impacts of their work. Prop. 98 would also destroy “smart growth” regulations designed to promote compact, walkable, and transit-orientated communities that combine residential and commercial land uses.

Prop. 99, on the other hand, simply restricts eminent domain abuse, clear and simple. There are no other benefits to special interests. If Proposition 99 gets one vote more than 98, it will override it.

Please do Ernie, his poor mother, and my conscience (for unwittingly signing the damn thing), a favor. Look at these two competing propositions and vote for your community and our shared environment.

Peace and love, Rocky

[p.s.] It is time we quit allowing our initiative process to be perverted by wealth. We must work to secure legislation and ordinances that restrict proposition circulators to volunteers only.]