EDITORIAL: Propositions 41 and 42

'Yes' votes will help veterans and keep government transparent.

May 30, 2014 

Proposition 42 would enshrine in law the requirement that local governments and agencies keep providing public access to documents and adhere to open meeting rules, no matter what it costs.

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There are two statewide propositions on Tuesday's ballot and both deserve a "yes" from voters.

Proposition 41, the Veteran Housing and Homeless Prevention Bond Act of 2014, would repurpose $600 million of unspent bonds in California's veterans home loan program to build transitional housing such as apartments and provide services for homeless vets.

As so many homeless advocates know, providing a place to sleep doesn't keep everyone off the streets. For that reason, the program wisely includes services to deal with associated problems such as counseling and care for drug and alcohol addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder.

As the Legislative Analyst's Office noted of Proposition 41, "at least one-half of the funds would be used to construct housing for extremely low-income veterans. These veterans earn less than 30% of the amount earned by the average family in the county where they live."

Our state is home to nearly 2 million veterans and the number is expected to rise by more than 200,000 in coming years. About 25% of the nation's homeless veterans live in California.

Proposition 41 does come with a cost to Californians: about $50 million a year over 15 years, according to the LAO. That $750 million price tag comes out to $50,000 for each of the state's estimated 15,000 homeless vets.

That said, taxpayers also can reasonably expect that giving veterans an affordable place to live will reduce local and state costs for health care, incarceration and crisis services.

There should be no question in the mind of anyone who appreciates a free and open society that Proposition 42 is worthy of passage.

It would enshrine in law the requirement that local governments and agencies keep providing public access to documents and adhere to open meeting rules -- no matter the costs.

For a brief time last year, the public's right to know was in jeopardy in California. That was when Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders were preparing to suspend parts of the California Public Records Act and the Ralph M. Brown Act -- the state's two most essential public access laws -- for the sake of saving money.

The outcry was immediate, and, evidently, persuasive enough to get them to back away and put together this ballot measure.

We must have access to public records and open meetings. It's hard enough as it is to prevent some elected leaders from lining their wallets or giving away the public treasury to keep themselves in office.

Come Tuesday, help California's veterans by voting "yes" on Proposition 41, and keep state and local governments transparent with a "yes" on Proposition 42.

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