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Could Prop 13 Be Mounted on Top of a 747?

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    NEWSLETTERS

    It's hard to retire old things.

    But NASA did it the best way you can.

    They put the space shuttle -- an outdated piece of 1970s technology -- on top of a 747 and flew it around the country and California before sending it off to a museum, the California Science Center in Los Angeles' Exposition Park.

    Maybe California could retire other outdated technologies of the '70s the same way.

    I'm thinking, for example, of Prop 13, the 1978 ballot initiative, and the highly centralized governing system of ballot initiatives, and spending mandates and other governance whips and chains it has spawned.

    This Prop 13 system can no longer fly, really.

    It's no longer useful, and doesn't get Californians where we want to go. Indeed, the system is broken, and has experienced catastrophic failures (for the space shuttle equivalent, think Columbia and Challenger), and those in charge of California spend much of their time just trying to patch things up and keep the whole thing from falling apart.

    We know we need something new. But we love Prop 13 -- polls show it would still win today. And so attempts to kill it off or modify it have gone nowhere.

    So here's the lesson of the Endeavour flyover: Prop 13 shouldn't be beaten or killed off. The smarter strategy is to copy what NASA did with the shuttle. Prop 13 should be celebrated -- and retired. It would be declared a noble measure that served some purposes, but now needed to be replaced.

    Heck, you could put it on that NASA 747 and fly it low over the state for a big send-off. Then stick it in the California Museum (in Oakland) so people could visit it.

    Prop 13 wouldn't be dead. It just wouldn't be in effect. Nor would all the spending mandates and measures, from liberals and conservatives and moderates, that have followed it.

    California would be busy building a new, better constitution -- something that could get us where we need to go.

    Lead Prop Zero blogger Joe Mathews is California editor at Zocalo Public Square, a fellow at Arizona State University’s Center for Social Cohesion, and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (University of California, 2010).

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