Getting back into the swing here after being on a school-related hiatus from journalism for a few weeks. I've been quite busy working on my MFA in Visual Arts for the second stretch this year, but decided to spend more time on my thesis artwork and finish up next semester. Which means I'm back in the editorial saddle just in time to write something about tomorrow's elections. Of course, Open Media Boston is a non-profit; so we can't back political candidates. But, as we discovered some time ago, it's perfectly fine for non-profits to weigh in on referendum questions. And what better way to return to political commentary than to give you all the Open Media Boston guide to the Massachusetts 2012 ballot questions?
So here we go.
Question 1, the Massachusetts "Right to Repair" Initiative, is a already kind of a done deal. But one worth thinking about. Its backers wanted to give car owners and independent auto shops the ability to access all kinds of non-proprietary diagnostic information from car computers. It seems that the auto companies have not wanted to share that information with independent mechanics - forcing people to take their cars to industry-franchised repair centers for certain repairs. However, a bill on the same matter was passed into law last summer in the Commonwealth. The only major difference between the bill and the ballot question is apparently that the auto companies would have to start sharing non-proprietary diagnostic information with consumers and independent mechanics in 2015 if the ballot question passes. If the ballot question fails, they will have to do so in 2018. We note that the Boston Globe is concerned that it would hurt the auto companies to force them to provide the aforementioned info in 2015 rather than 2018. Because the ballot version says that companies that don't comply would not be able to sell in Massachusetts until they did - which we don't believe they would ever allow to happen. In general, we'd say that increased data transparency trumps the relatively minor corporate expenditures that will be required to comply with this measure. So we recommend a yes vote on Question 1.
Question 2, the Massachusetts "Death with Dignity" Initiative, is tricky. The text of the question indicates that "the proposed measure would allow for a terminally ill patient to be given lethal drugs. A terminally ill patient would be defined as a patient being given six months or fewer to live. The patient requesting the medication must be mentally capable to make medical decisions while consulting their respective doctors. Patients would be required to submit their request orally twice and witnessed in writing, and the initial verbal request must be fifteen days prior to the written request and second oral request. The patient's terminal diagnosis and capability to make health care decisions must be confirmed by a second doctor."
However, disability activists are concerned about the ballot question. Second Thoughts, a coalition of Massachusetts disability rights organizations says "Assisted suicide is a deadly mix with a profit-driven healthcare system. Pressure to cut costs, delays in treatment and limited coverage for home care can lead patients, families and doctors to choose the cheapest alternative, even if that is assisted suicide." They also make several other solid points on their website - including this one, "The proposed law is a recipe for elder abuse. An heir can be a witness and help sign someone up, and once a lethal drug is in the home, no one will know how the drug is administered. If the person struggled, who would know?"
Given these concerns, we think it's prudent to send this ballot question back to the drawing board, and come up with referendum language that will fully address the concerns of the disabled community. So we recommend a no vote on Question 2.
Question 3, the Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Initiative, is a no-brainer. The sky hasn't fallen since marijuana was decriminalized in Massachusetts in January 2009. If anything, the state's a better place with fewer weed busts and more personal freedom. So legalize marijuana for medical use? Hells yes. Any step on the road to full legalization is a good thing from a (small l) libertarian and (small d) democratic perspective. Once marijuana is fully legal, then the state can address its regulation and have less politicized debates about its actual medical efficacy. Which truth-to-tell, we don't think is very significant as long as the primary delivery mechanism remains smoking dope cigarettes. Because inhaling particulate matter of any kind is a non-starter from a health perspective (likely part of the reason why the Mass Medical Society opposes this question). Regardless, we recommend a yes vote on Question 3.
Information on the three binding referendum questions is provided here ... courtesy of the good folks at Ballotpedia.
However, careful Open Media Boston viewers will note that over 90 Massachusetts cities and towns have at least one more non-binding referendum question on their ballots. A big coalition of progressive labor, peace, social justice, and religious organizations worked hard to make it possible for about one-third of Bay State citizens to vote on the measure.
Question 4 (as it's called in Boston ... check for the number in your city or town) is the Budget for All Question.
Its text reads:
Shall the state Representative (or Senator) from this district be instructed to vote in favor of a resolution calling upon the Congress and the President to:
1. Prevent cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Veterans benefits, or to housing, food and unemployment assistance;
2. Create and protect jobs by investing in manufacturing, schools, housing, renewable energy, transportation and other public services;
3. Provide new revenues for these purposes and to reduce the long-term federal deficit by closing corporate tax loopholes, ending offshore tax havens, and raising taxes on incomes over $250,000; and
4. Redirect military spending to these domestic needs by reducing the military budget, ending the war in Afghanistan and bringing U.S. troops home safely now.
Naturally, Open Media Boston recommends a yes vote on the Budget for All Question.
After all, it's the most important question on the ballot. Here's hoping that it's a binding referendum question in the next election cycle.
For more information, check out the Budget for All Question campaign website at http://budget4allmass.org/.
Since we can't back any candidates, that's it for now. Everyone just try to do the right thing for the nation and the planet at the polls tomorrow. Whether that means voting or not voting, be sure to put a lot of thought into your decision. It matters. One way or the other. Or the other. Or the other. Etcetera.
Jason Pramas is Editor/Publisher of Open Media Boston
Full disclosure: Jason Pramas is a founder and former board member of Massachusetts Global Action, one of the original member-organizations of the Budget for All campaign.