Labeling the obligatory opening paragraphs in the voter information pamphlet for each county, school and city ballot measure as "analysis" is like calling sugar-free Oreos health food.
The Contra Costa and Alameda County and city attorneys who wrote the analyses clearly took great pains to achieve a neutral tone.
But a review of the text accompanying the 37 East Bay money measures -- property-tax backed bonds, parcel, sales and special taxes -- on the Nov. 6 ballot reveals shockingly little actual analysis.
Instead, many read like fill-in-the-blank templates handed out at an attorney's conference.
Almost none of the East Bay parcel, sales or special tax analyses disclosed how much money each measure would generate annually or how far the cash would go toward solving the particular funding need. And the bond measure examinations fail to spell out the borrowing costs or list the bonds voters have already approved and are still paying off.
For example, the Contra Costa College District is asking for a piddling $11 a year per parcel for the next six years. Lord knows, community colleges need the money and some people spend more than $11 a week on their coffee addictions.
But where is the fiscal yardstick?
How much money will it generate? ($4 million a year.) How does it compare to the district's budgeted expenses? ($157 million, or 2.5 percent.) Will it solve a fiscal problem? (Maybe. Last month, the district projected a $1.1 million 2012-2013 structural deficit, but that could rise by another $5.5 million if Proposition 30 -- the statewide education funding measure also on the Nov. 6 ballot -- fails.)
The same argument applies to most of the other measures such as the Alameda countywide $12 a year parcel tax for the Oakland Zoo. Critters deserve the good life but do the elephants really need such generous pension plans? (That's a joke, people.)
None of this information is secret but you'll have to hunt it down for yourself in newspaper articles, board meeting agenda documents or websites.
There are a few exceptions.
Kudos to Berkeley attorney Zach Cowan whose first sentence in his Measure O analysis unambiguously states: "The proposed measure would impose a special tax totaling approximately $604,000 a year to fund operation and maintenance of two proposed public swimming pools."
Too, the arguments favoring a Piedmont request to extend its average $400 a year parcel tax say Measure Y will generate $1.5 million for the city's $21.5 million budget.
But for the most part, the local measure analyses fall far short of those produced at the state's nonpartisan Legislative Analysts Office, whose statewide ballot examinations are essential reading for everyone from fiscal experts to lowly reporters.
Here's an idea: Take a fraction of the combined $1.7 billion of value of the East Bay measures, hire more LAO analysts and put them to work studying local measures. It would be money well spent.
no excuses: Monday is the deadline to register to vote and you can now, for the first time, sign up online at RegisterToVote.ca.gov.
music video pol picks: There's no Grammy in its future but the California Voter Foundation's 2012 bluegrassy proposition song is catchy and timely. Watch it at www.calvoter.org.
"The Real Bears," on the other hand, is an animated musical short produced by the Washington D.C.-based Center for Science in the Public Interest and it features an original song by actual Grammy artist Jason Mraz. (www.therealbears.org)
In the film, a soda-sodden polar bear family experiences ill health stemming from obesity. Richmond Councilman and Dr. Jeff Ritterman, the man bullish on the city's sugary drink tax measure, sent out an email blast last week encouraging people to watch it.
But don't plop your soda-begging first-grader down in front of the screen unless you both have a strong stomach.
While Mraz belts out a pop tune, a cute fluffy white bear suffers bleeding gums. Another loses a leg in a disturbing amputation scene with a chain saw and a bloody fur stump. And when Papa Bear has troubles in the bedroom, well, you get the point.
AND FINALLY: "This election postage thing is a real mess!" an anxious caller told me.
Election postage thing?
Oh, the part where you have to put adequate postage on your ballot envelope before you mail it back?
You aren't sure how much postage to apply?
Yes, there are instructions with the ballot but they are confusing and going to the post office is a pain.
You think the government should pay the postage, too?
And why wouldn't you avoid the whole postage question by voting in person at your polling place on Election Day?
Voting by mail is so convenient!