We have seen what a costly and twisted mess can be made by a bunch of arrogant and conniving neo-cons if they are allowed to run amuck. Consider the astronomically wasteful mess they have “accomplished” with their “mission” in Iraq and the utterly alienating mess they have made in our nation’s international relations. Consider, too, their penchant for using fraud and deception to achieve their objectives.

In California, another bunch of arrogant and conniving neoconservative types is on a mission to deceive voters into voting in favor of Proposition 90 in November. If their deception is successful, students at all educational levels in the state will be among their victims, as millions of taxpayer dollars will be diverted from education into the pockets of real estate speculators and developers.

Proposition 90 fraudulently poses as a populist measure, but in truth it is an attempt led by real estate speculators and developers to make fools of the people of California by convincing them to give up their best tools to protect their homes, their pocketbooks and the health, safety and welfare of their communities from destructive development schemes. These are the tools that are currently available under state and local zoning and other land use planning and development rules and regulations.

The existing rules under California law for balancing property rights, on the one hand, and the rights of communities to protect and promote their health, safety and welfare are based on the following principle set forth by the Supreme Court:

“Much is said about the constitutional guarantees attaching to the ownership of property in the individual. [But] ‘It is thoroughly established in this country that the rights preserved to the individual by these constitutional provisions are held in subordination to the rights of society. Although one owns property, he may not do with it as he pleases, any more than he may act in accordance with his personal desires. As the interest of society justifies restraints upon individual conduct, so also does it justify restraints upon the use to which property may be devoted. It was not intended by these constitutional provisions to so far protect the individual in the use of his property as to enable him to use it to the detriment of society. By thus protecting individual rights, society did not part with the power to protect itself or to promote its general well-being. Where the interest of the individual conflicts with the interest of society, such individual interest is subordinated to the general welfare…. Incidental damages to property resulting from governmental activities, or laws passed in the promotion of the public welfare, are not considered a taking of the property for which compensation must be made.'”

The radical neo-cons pushing Proposition 90 are trying to trick voters into abolishing this well-established communitarian legal principle and replacing it with a rule that says communities must pay compensation for the “privilege” of protecting themselves when they enact regulations. Clearly, Proposition 90 takes a radical anti-regulatory, extreme libertarian stance that has very limited appeal to most people across the political spectrum – conservatives and liberals alike. It is a towering lie to call this measure “The Protect Our Homes Act.”

In truth, Proposition 90 does far more to hurt homeowners than to help them. In truth, it threatens the ability of homeowners to protect against harmful development projects in their communities, and it also puts homeowners on the hook, along with all other taxpayers, to pay the billions of tax dollars that Prop 90 would put into the pockets of real estate development interests. For that reason, most homeowners groups and taxpayers associations around the state are urging voters to vote “no” on Prop 90.

In truth, Proposition 90 will have devastating effects on California’s students at all levels of education. Not only will they face the almost certain prospect of having to live in increasingly degraded communities, they will also have to get by with fewer and fewer public resources to assist them in making their way. For that reason, it seems clear that those students who have the right and the duty to vote this November would be well-advised to vote “no” on Prop 90.

Marc McGinnes is a UCSB Environmental Studies Program senior lecturer emeritus, the Community Environmental Council founding president and the Environmental Defense Center founding attorney.