Opinion » Commentaries

Voice your vote

BY HILDA ZACARÍAS AND MATT LOMBARDINI

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The most recent general election had the greatest voter participation since November 1972. We have the power to continue this upward trend. President Barack Obama’s community-based campaign style contributed, in no small measure, to this increased voting. Why? Because people felt connected to the outcome, they were inspired 
to action.
 
So what happens if there is no such charismatic leader to move us to take action? We must rely on ourselves to act. In these depressed economic times, many people are justifiably concerned about feeding, clothing, and sheltering their families and find it difficult, if not impossible, to be engaged politically. We believe that this is exactly the time to be politically involved.
 
There is a special election set for May 19. Each of the six propositions on the ballot are aimed at solving California’s budget crisis and each could impact hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of California’s children as well as college-age adults.
 
Though all the measures impact the ability of the state to fund education, one measure in particular—Proposition 1B—will positively impact the future and quality of education by restoring lost funding to schools. Proposition 1B states that supplemental payments are to be made to local school districts and community colleges to address the recent budget cuts; payments will be funded from the state’s Budget Stabilization Fund until the total amount has been paid (depending upon the passage of Proposition 1A).
 
Proposition 1B would provide much-needed financial relief in our public school system from kindergarten through community college. With all the recent “pink slips” handed to teachers, this proposition will take on special meaning in the next several weeks. Teachers and students have demonstrated against the proposed cuts and layoffs. Larger class sizes, fewer resources, and a scaled-down educational experience will hinder creation of innovators, scientists, artists, and even future educators like those who emerged from the world-class public education system California had in the1960s 
and ’70s.

David Sanchez, California Teacher Association State President and Santa Maria native, states in the ballot argument, “Prop. 1B starts the process of paying back to the schools and community colleges some of the money lost by these devastating cuts. Instead of permanently losing these vital education funds, Prop. 1B sets up a repayment plan to ensure schools and community colleges are paid back as economic conditions improve. If we don’t pass 1B, California will be permanently downgrading its public school system. Prop. 1B is only a part of the solution, but it’s a step we need if we are going to provide a quality public education to all students and keep public education a top priority in California.”
 
This is where we have a chance to help, as a united front. We can initiate three simple actions. First, we register to vote; second, we learn about the issues; and third, we vote, by mail or in person. This simple process allows us to exercise our right, our privilege, and our responsibility as citizens to become active in the democratic process and have our say in setting government policy. These special elections are one of the easiest and most effective ways for us to participate in the political process to accomplish real change. Yet such special elections have attracted the lowest voter turnouts. Let’s turn 
the tide.
 
A group of concerned community members in northern Santa Barbara county and San Luis Obispo county are launching “Voice Your VOTE!,” a drive to register new voters (or re-register those who have moved) and provide information about the ballot measures. Volunteers throughout the area will be working to reach whoever has yet to take the first critical step toward public participation.
 
Voter registration takes only a few minutes. Look for “Voice your VOTE!” booths throughout the area during the month of April through the first weekend in May and register for this very important election. Consider the generations of future leaders who are counting on voters to invest in their education.
Students, their teachers, and other citizens who would like to get involved and help with the “Voice Your VOTE!” registration drive are encouraged to email voiceyourvote@usa.com or call 710-4370. For more information visit voterguide.sos.ca.gov for details about Proposition 1B and the other ballot initiatives.

Hilda Zacarías is a member of the Santa Maria City Council and may be a candidate for the state Assembly in 2010. Matt Lombardini lives in Grover Beach. Contact them through the editor, econnolly@newtimesslo.com.

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