We recently removed the 'close' link from proposals, preferring instead that users simply 'flag' proposals that have to be closed/removed for egregious problems.
Why did we do this?
My initial concern about removing the 'close' vote was that we might lose an important part of the democratic process. But… at its core, Area 51 is a vetting of ideas; individual communities coming together to rally around a subject to see if they have enough support to move forward. That does not mean the majority of Area 51 users have to love your site idea. It simply means you have to recruit a community of users large enough so that questions get good answers quickly.
But somewhere along the way, the close vote became a way for the Area 51 community to vote in a sort of "opinion poll" to decide which sites should be created or not. It's understandable that well-meaning users might use the vote this way — voting to close a proposal was adopted from our Q&A model for helping communities control their own content. But voting to close a proposal was never meant to assert that someone's idea for a site should never be heard at all.
The democratic process comes into play when a community rallies around an idea to create a site (or it is forgotten and removed through lack of support). As part of that process, you are certainly welcome to argue for or against an idea you feel strongly about — that's what the discussion section is for.
But aren't there are still a lot of horrible ideas being proposed?!
Yes, that is certainly true. I can understand the frustration when you just know that the vast, vast majority of proposals will never become sites and you just want to save everyone the trouble. But Area 51 is still very effective at culling half-baked ideas through its normal processes. If someone proposes a subject you don't like, you can often just ignore it. When the proposal fails to gain enough interest to move forward, it will simply be forgotten and removed through the normal maintenance processes.
But even if some crazy or ill-considered idea gains traction, proposals still have to make it through a rigorous "final evaluation" by the Community Team to determine if the idea as presented is both viable and a good fit for the network. We do this late in the process because we want to give proposals every chance to develop without interference from folks outside their subject space. It's only when we can consider the entire body of questions, the discussions around the proposal, and the community who is actually going to build this site, that we can make a more-informed decision about where this is going. And even if a proposal makes it through the evaluation, it still has to prove itself in a successful private beta to make it out the door as a public site.
So don't panic; proposals are not sites.
There are occasions when I may close an early proposal when it runs up against issues which make it a non-starter (e.g. content violations, untenable duplicates, abandoned proposals, etc). If you spot a proposal that needs this sort of "exception handling", feel free to flag it for moderator attention. I may not always act on those flags (sometimes I find it more fitting to simply let the process play out), but at least we can create an environment where folks can come to us with ideas without feeling like "you don't belong here."