Big Ol’ Voter Guide for San Francisco – November 2014

vote image 1Hi friends -

Yes, it’s a long ballot. But as I’ve mentioned before, you’ve already voted for a lot of these same people once this year (Because of California’s top two system, look it up).

Also, many of the local candidates are unopposed or virtually unopposed. Blah. There is some really interesting and important stuff in the propositions, both locally and statewide. There’s an exciting school board race, with WAY TOO MANY great candidates. (I never get to write that! Too many great candidates! Yay us.)

This is the guide to the San Francisco election. The California guide is posted here.

Without further ado, I submit to you my Big Ol’ Voter Guide. This time, I put my recommendations in order of how each race or measure appears on the ballot. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a progressive attorney with a background in real estate and land use, whose passions include protecting and promoting San Francisco’s nightlife and culture, getting more women elected to public office, and bringing more public art to cities around the world. I’m a Vice Chair of the San Francisco Democratic Party, and I also like long walks on the beach.

Click here for more information on your voter registration and what your ballot looks like.

Federal Offices
Nancy Pelosi for U.S. House of Representatives, District 12
David Chiu
Jackie Speier for U.S. House of Representatives, District 14

State Assembly
David Chiu, District 17 (East Side of SF)
Phil Ting, District 19 (West Side of SF)

Judiciary 
Carol Kingsley For Superior Court, Office 20

San Francisco Board of Education
Trevor McNeil, Emily Murase, Shamann Walton
Also: Hydra Mendoza, Stevon Cook and Mark Murphy.

Community College Board
Four-year terms: Thea Selby, Brigitte Davila, John Rizzo
Two-year term: Amy Bacharach

BART Board, District 8
Nick Josefowitz

SF Citywide Offices
Carmen Chu for Assessor/Recorder
Jeff Adachi for Public Defender

Local Measures
Yes on Prop A, Transportation Bond
Yes on Prop B, Adjusting Transportation Funding for Population Growth
Yes on Prop C, Children’s Fund
Yes on Prop D, Retiree Benefits for Former Redevelopment Agency Employees
YES YES YES on Prop E, Soda Tax
Yes on Prop F, Pier 70 Development
Yes on Prop G, Anti-Speculation Tax
Yes on Prop H? – Hating on Artificial Turf in Golden Gate Park
No on Prop I? – Supporting New Artificial Turf Soccer Fields in Golden Gate Park
Yes on Prop J, Minimum Wage Increase to $15/hr by July 2018
Yes on Prop K Additional Affordable Housing Policy
NO NO NO on Prop L, Transportation Priorities Policy Statement

San Francisco Board of Supervisors
Mark Farrell for District 2 Supervisor
Katy Tang for District 4 Supervisor
Jane Kim for District 6 Supervisor
Scott Wiener for District 8 Supervisor
Malia Cohen for District 10 Supervisor

FEDERAL OFFICES

US Congress, District 12: Nancy Pelosi

Remember: Nancy represents one of the most progressive districts in the country, and conservatives nationwide are constantly vilifying her based on her “San Francisco values.” And yet, not only has Pelosi refused to be marginalized, but she has earned the support of enough of her colleagues to become the most powerful woman in Congress. A remarkable feat indeed.

Her accomplishments In 21 years in the House of Representatives are far too many to list here. She has stood up for reproductive rights, immigrants, women, and the poor. She fought hard to protect the social safety net when the Republicans in Congress proposed their dramatic spending cuts in 2013 and eventually shut down the government. She helped shepherd Obamacare through the House, which was an incredible achievement in itself. Recently, she has advocated for open military service for transgender folks. (Wait – who says she’s not progressive enough?) If the Democratic Party takes Congress back in this election (which is unlikely), Pelosi will be Speaker again. And wouldn’t that be sweet.

US Congress, District 14: Jackie Speier

jackie-speierI love Jackie Speier. She is fearless, thoughtful and smart, and she also has a remarkable personal story. In 1978 she was left for dead on a tarmac in Guyana with her boss Congressman Leo Ryan during the airstrip shootings that triggered the massacre at Jonestown. In her extraordinary career in public service, she has championed consumer protections, banking reform, and increasing federal funding to public transit in the Bay Area, particularly to Muni and for the electrification of Caltrain, an important component of the California High-Speed Rail Project. She has been tough on PG&E after the San Bruno explosion, and recently she has taken on the epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses and in the military. I can’t say enough great things about Jackie! Also: she has no credible opposition.

STATE ASSEMBLY

Assembly, District 17: David Chiu

This is a funny race. The two leading candidates are both named David, they both went to Harvard, they both serve on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. They have an almost identical voting record. They both also serve on the board of the San Francisco Democratic Party with me, and so I know them both well, and consider them both friends. If you voted in the June election, you’ve already made your choice between David Campos and David Chiu. Because of a quirk in California’s top two voting system, these two candidates are up against each other one more time.

Both Davids would be progressive leaders in the state legislature. But I believe that Chiu will be a more effective advocate for legislation that reflects our San Francisco values. As the President of the Board of Supervisors, Chiu has proven to be adept at shepherding legislation and forging compromise, which skills are especially necessary in a state legislature populated with folks from all over this strange state. (For example, there’s THIS GUY. Yeah. Whoah.)

Campos is openly gay, like the two men who most recently held this seat, Tom Ammiano and Mark Leno. Campos and his supporters claim that the seat should be held by someone who identifies as LGBT. I disagree – no seat in the legislature should be a “gay seat” or an “Asian seat” or “fixie riding tech bro” seat. The candidate who can best represent all of the district’s constituencies should win. Period.

If you know me, you know that I have always been an advocate for getting more women (and especially mothers!) in public office. Women are generally underrepresented in leadership positions, and it’s important to include women’s voices in the decisions that affect all of us. But to propose that a specific seat is a “woman’s seat” would be ludicrous. There certainly aren’t enough LGBT folks in the state legislature (there are 8 including Ammiano, which is 7% of the total members), however, we have made considerable progress on this front in recent years. The current Assembly Speaker is an out lesbian and the previous Speaker was a gay man.

I do think it’s really gross that some well-funded haters have been sending out mail trying to connect Campos with Ross Mirkarimi’s domestic violence issues. Specifically, they claim that Campos’ vote against removing Ross from office makes him unqualified to serve in the Assembly. Regardless of your feelings about Mirkarimi, this argument is laughable. I don’t think that a person’s entire 6-year voting record should or can be boiled down to a single vote.

Assembly, District 19: Phil Ting

I really like Phil Ting. Suuuuuper nice guy, and also good at what he does. Ting represents the west side of San Francisco, which is considerably more conservative than the side I live in. And yet he’s been a consistent vote for legislation supported by San Franciscans citywide. He has pushed for closing the Prop 13 loophole that allows corporations to avoid paying their fair share of property taxes; he has promoted the building of separated bike lanes statewide, making biking safer and easier; and he has pushed for BART to reform its safety procedures. He is also virtually unopposed.

JUDICIARY

Carol Kingsley For Superior Court, Office 20

This was a tough decision for me. Both Carol Kingsley and Daniel Flores are strong candidates for this office. When the San Francisco Democratic Party interviewed each of them at our endorsement meeting in March, I was impressed with both. They would bring very different qualities to the bench.

Daniel Flores is a defense and civil rights lawyer with 13 years of experience and an impressive list of endorsers from all over the San Francisco political spectrum. He is a courtroom litigator with experience in big firms and his own practice, representing clients ranging from businesses to tenants fighting against their landlords. In the Democratic Party endorsement process, he was not afraid to declare his views on a wide range of political subjects, which made me wonder about both his judgment and his ability to be impartial.

Carol Kingsley is an attorney of 25 years who’s specialized as a mediator, skilled at sifting through disputes and convincing parties to cooperate. She is a crusader for stricter gun laws, since her husband and eight others were slain in the 1993 killing spree at 101 California. Given that she has twice the experience of Flores, and given that women are still under-represented on the bench, I’m going with Kingsley. She is endorsed by the San Francisco Chronicle, SFWPC, former City Attorney Louise Renne, and many other judges and community leaders.

SAN FRANCISCO BOARD OF EDUCATION

I’ll say it again: TOO MANY GREAT CANDIDATES! In this election, I’m endorsing Trevor McNeil, Emily Murase, and Shamann Walton for the reasons below. But incumbent Hydra Mendoza has done a fine job on the School Board, and Stevon Cook and Mark Murphy would be excellent additions to the board as well.

Trevor McNeil

There aren’t any current teachers from San Francisco Unified on the school board, and there won’t ever be. The school board oversees the school district and negotiates teacher contracts, and so this would be a direct conflict of interest. This is why it’s important to elect Trevor McNeil – because he brings a very important perspective to the Board of Education, that of a third-generation educator. Trevor currently teaches 7th grade with the San Mateo-Foster City School District. Previously he was a substitute, tutor, and paraprofessional at San Francisco Unified, teaching in almost every neighborhood in our city.  I have worked with him for two years on the DCCC. He’s passionate about his students and about education policy, and he works very, very hard. He’s also a conciliator, which is needed on the school board, as there is considerable tension right now between the teachers union and the school board. I’m hoping that Trevor will help bring the two sides together. His long list of endorsers is here.

Emily Murase

Emily is a parent of two girls in the SF public schools and an alumna. She has worked hard on anti-bullying initiatives, reforming the school meals program, supporting foreign language and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programs, and the new Common Core Standards. Her day job is as the Executive Director of the San Francisco Department on the Status of Women, and so she brings a feminist perspective to the board, which I appreciate.

San Francisco schools get a bad rap. Several years ago, school quality was a disaster, and families were leaving SF in droves because of it. (Now they leave because of housing prices, but I digress). Our public schools have dramatically improved in recent years, the district’s budget is in the black, and construction projects are coming in on time and under budget. (!) This is in part due to the cohesion of the current School Board, of which Emily Murase serves as the President. She has an impressive list of endorsers, and she deserves another term.

Shamann Walton

I met Shamann the first time he ran for the Board of Education two years ago, and I was very impressed. I’m enthusiastically supporting him because he’s a native San Franciscan who has long worked with students through workforce and mentorship programs, mostly in the Bayview, giving him a unique perspective on the needs of students, particularly students of color. He’s young, he’s smart, he’s a parent, and he has boundless energy and passion for the schools.

The four most important endorsements in this race are the teachers union, the SF Democratic Party, the Chronicle and the Bay Guardian – and Shamann is the only candidate with all four. In fact, he seems to be the only candidate that everyone seems to agree on, including the Mayor, every member of the Board of Supervisors, five members of the School Board, and many others.

Hydra Mendoza

If I had a fourth vote, incumbent Hydra Mendoza would get it. She works hard on important issues like improving access to technology in the public schools, improving academic standards, and increasing parent engagement. I have enjoyed working with her over the years. She is a close ally of the Mayor’s – her day job is as the Mayor’s Senior Advisor on Education – which can be either good or bad depending on the issue. But the reason why she didn’t get a top-three endorsement from me is because she waited until the filing deadline to decide whether she wanted to run for re-election, and this tells me that her passion for serving on the school board is waning.

Stevon Cook

Stevon is a third-generation San Franciscan and resident of the Bayview. He has a few key endorsements, including the teachers union, Assemblymember (and former School Board member) Tom Ammiano and the Bay Guardian. One of his campaign issues is teacher retention, recognizing that SFUSD often loses many qualified teachers in their first five years on the job. It’s an important issue for the School Board to tackle. I like Stevon, and I hope he runs again if he doesn’t win this time around.

 

Mark Murphy

Mark is married to a San Francisco public school teacher and he also has many years of involvement in the public schools. He currently serves as Co-Chair of the Community Advisory Committee of an annual $50 million public fund that benefits the school district. He also has a civil rights background, having served for 5 years on the Human Rights Commission’s LGBT Advisory Committee, where he worked on an LGBT anti-discrimination program in the public schools. He has tutored students, and has been involved in multiple committees and political organizations. And also: super nice guy.

COMMUNITY COLLEGE BOARD

Why would you POSSIBLY run for a seat on the Community College Board, which is the least powerful place to be in elective office in San Francisco? The board – which is normally responsible for setting policy for City College – is now powerless, after being replaced last year by Special Trustee Bob Agrella as part of the district’s battle to retain its accreditation. And – the board might not even exist in a few years if the accreditation is lost. I think each of the 10 candidates is nuts for even running.

But! City College is a vital institution in San Francisco, and I am glad to see that so many people are passionate about its revival. Really. In this election, there are four seats up: three four-year terms, and one two-year term to replace Chris Jackson, who resigned in the middle of his term. For the four-year terms I am supporting Thea Selby, Brigitte Davila, and John Rizzo. For the two-year term, I am endorsing Amy Bacharach.

Brigitte Davila

Brigitte is one of the few candidates running for the college board with experience as a teacher. For over 20 years, she was a professor at San Francisco State University, which is where many City College students transfer. She is also a community college success story. As the first in her family to seek higher education, she worked her way up from community college in LA County to undergraduate and graduate degrees from Berkeley. For these reasons, her perspective on the board would be a valuable one.

Thea Selby

Thea-Selby_Emerge-AmericaI am convinced that Thea doesn’t sleep. She runs her own business, she is an active parent of two kids, she is a passionate advocate for transit, and she’s involved in numerous community and small business groups. I have been impressed with her work as chair of the San Francisco Transit Riders Union, and also when she ran for Supervisor in District 5 in 2012.

Thea is the consensus choice for the College Board, having earned a broad range of endorsements from the City College teachers union and United Educators, to the Bay Guardian, the SF Democratic Party, and many more. A neighborhood and small business advocate, she was a solid candidate when she ran for District 5 supervisor in 2012, and she’s learned a lot since then. She will bring a level head to the College Board, and so I enthusiastically support her.

John Rizzo

rizzoJohn is an incumbent on the College Board, and that stacks the deck against him because the accreditation debacle has happened under his watch. However, John is the one incumbent I’m supporting, because he has shown himself to be a reformer, he has worked hard to fight the corruption and mismanagement at City College. As President of the board, he increased the frequency of Board meetings from monthly to weekly, and urged the Board to bring in auditors to identify problems and recommend solutions. I believe his is a critical voice in fighting dis-accreditation.

 

Amy Bacharach

I supported Amy when she ran for College Board two years ago, and I am proud to support her again. Bacharach understands the value of community college, because it enabled her to get her college degree, and ultimately her PhD. She is smart, competent, and willing to make the tough calls, particularly in centralizing decision-making in CCSF’s administration.

 

BART BOARD, DISTRICT 8
Nick Josefowitz

This one was an easy one for me. Nick is a solar energy entrepreneur who has put together a strong and well-funded challenge to James Fang, the only Republican holding elective office in San Francisco. I am a little embarrassed for both of the candidates, as this race has gotten very nasty in recent weeks. In mailers sent in mid-October, Fang accuses Josefowitz of being a carpet bagger who couldn’t even get the endorsement of his own party, and Josefowitz accuses Fang of being one of the five most corrupt politicians in San Francisco history. The truth is, for the first time, Fang actually is at serious risk of losing re-election, and upstart Josefowitz smells blood in the water, and this has caused them both to behave badly.

Fang earned the support of (the extremely powerful) SEIU Local 1021 when he walked a picket line with BART workers last year. To me, it seemed like a craven political tactic, and it essentially neutralized some of Fang’s biggest political enemies. Fang also has a lot of support from SF’s old guard: Nancy Pelosi, Gavin Newsom, Kamala Harris, Ed Lee, Jeff Adachi, and many others. But I’m guessing this has more to do with Fang’s longevity in office: he has been friends with all these people for a few decades now, and has probably supported all of their campaigns. This is the power of incumbency.

But Fang’s no friend of mine, and I think the BART board needs new blood. BART has serious problems – broken escalators, closed bathrooms, dirty trains, broken promises for transit-friendly development – and Fang doesn’t have good answers for why the BART Board hasn’t solved any of them. Josefowitz has energy, ideas, and a fresh perspective. He is focused on improving the rider experience, and making the system more sustainable, accountable, and innovative. He has the endorsement of the Chronicle, the Bay Guardian, the Examiner, BART Director Tom Radulovich, several Supervisors and many others.

SF CITYWIDE OFFICES

Carmen Chu for Assessor/Recorder
 and Jeff Adachi for Public Defender. Both are unopposed, and both are doing a great job by all accounts.

The Assessor-Recorder assesses property values for tax purposes and brings in about one-third of the city’s General Fund revenue. Carmen has done a fine job of standing up to commercial property owners who have sought reassessments. She is smart and professional and she runs the office well. Also – did I mention she’s unopposed?

Jeff Adachi has been Public Defender since 2003. His clients and staff love him. He founded the Reentry Council to help coordinate the delivery of jobs, education, and substance abuse treatment to folks who have been released from prison or jail to help them make a fresh start. Also – did I mention he’s unopposed?

LOCAL MEASURES

Yes on Prop A, Transportation Bond


The SF transit system is at a breaking point. This measure will authorize the city to issue $500 million in general obligation bonds to fund transportation infrastructure projects, like safety, circulation, streetscaping, and Muni’s many years of deferred maintenance needs. The measure was carefully crafted so that it benefits motorists, cyclists and pedestrians alike. It needs a 2/3 supermajority to pass.

Opponents include Retired Judge Quentin Kopp and taxpayers organizations. They call it a “blank check,” saying that it doesn’t restore past Muni cuts and there isn’t proper oversight over how the money is spent. But I don’t buy it. Everyone else – and I do mean everyone – supports it: elected officials, media organizations, advocacy groups. The transit projects funded by Prop A will improve traffic flow for buses, cars, and bicycles; improve MUNI reliability and decrease travel times; improve emergency response times; make the city’s streets and sidewalks safer and more accessible for pedestrians and people with disabilities; and separate bicyclists from car traffic to make it safer for everyone. Because the bonds will replace previous bonds as they expire, the measure will not raise tax rates. No brainer.

Yes on Prop B, Adjusting Transportation Funding for Population Growth


If approved, Prop B would amend the City Charter to require the city to increase the base contribution to the Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) by a percentage equal to the city’s annual population increase. Without it, the city would continue to provide a minimum funding amount to the SFMTA based on a percentage of the city’s overall revenue and not tied to the city’s population.

What a great idea! As the city continues to grow, our transportation infrastructure is straining under its existing infrastructure and funding sources. Muni’s operating costs go up along with its ridership, and so tying transit funding to population growth makes perfect sense.

The reason why this is on the ballot is because city leaders had promised to put a local increase in the vehicle license fee on this ballot. But when the Mayor backed out, Supervisor Wiener and five of his colleagues responded with Prop B – which contains a provision allowing the Mayor to repeal this set-aside if and when voters approve a local VLF increase.

Yes on Prop C, Children’s Fund

Prop C will extend the city’s Children’s Fund and Public Education Enrichment Fund for the next 25 years, dividing the city’s general Rainy Day Reserve into a City Rainy Day Reserve and a School Rainy Day Reserve. Much of the money from the two funds renewed by this measure goes towards supporting public schools and public school programs.

Set-asides like this one make me nervous, because they tend to tie the hands of legislators in the careful and complicated balancing act that is the city’s annual budget process. But I am supporting this one because it is the culmination of two years of work by a grassroots coalition of youth service providers. And the youth programs — including preschool programs, art and music curriculum in schools, and violence prevention programs — have been proven to work. The measure has a broad range of support, and no organized opposition.

Yes on Prop D, Retiree Benefits for Former Redevelopment Agency Employees

This one is a bit complicated, and also doesn’t apply to very many people. It closes a loophole to allow for a small number of City employees to be eligible for retirement benefits.

In 2012, Redevelopment Agencies were eliminated in California, and in San Francisco, most Redevelopment Agency employees were transferred over to City departments. The City Charter provides that City employees hired on or before January 2009 are eligible for retiree benefits after five years of service. This measure amends the City Charter to allow former Redevelopment Agency staff who were hired before January 2009, and who have become City employees, to be eligible for the same retirement benefits as other City employees. (Employees hired on or after January 2009 are required to work 20 years before they are eligible for retiree health benefits.)

This measure was unanimously placed on the ballot by the Board of Supervisors, and it only applies to about 50 people. The Controller’s Office estimates that it will only cost the City about $75,000 over many years. It sounds fair to me, and honestly it’s such a minor issue that I don’t think it’s worth wringing our collective hands over it.

YES YES YES on Prop E, Soda Tax – cut obesity in SF!

This measure would impose a 2-cents-per-ounce tax on “sugary beverages” in San Francisco, the proceeds from which would go towards nutrition, physical activity, and health programs in public schools, parks, and elsewhere in the city. It is estimated to bring in revenue of about $31 million per year, and it is primarily aimed at decreasing the consumption of these sugary drinks. It needs a 2/3 supermajority to pass.

The soda companies have spent MILLIONS of dollars fighting this measure. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten so much mail from a single campaign! And that’s saying a lot. (Ahem, PG&E). That’s because if it passes in San Francisco, it will likely serve as a turning point in the fight against obesity and diabetes nationwide. Many other jurisdictions have tried to pass similar laws, to no avail – the soda companies have always succeeded in beating them back.

Study after study links soda consumption with diabetes and obesity rates, increasing health care costs. Especially in poorer communities. In fact, a Harvard study has found that the per person cost of obesity is similar to the cost of smoking. YES – this is another nanny state law wagging its finger at people making bad decisions for themselves. And yes – it’s a regressive tax, meaning it hurts poor people the most. But I think it’s fine for the government to help solve this problem by discouraging unhealthy behaviors.

And it’s also a tactic been proven to work – Mexico approved a more modest version of this law last year, and preliminary results show that consumption of taxed sugary drinks were down 10 percent compared with the previous year. And if we can all do something to improve the public’s health – and save the state the cost of treating rampant obesity and diabetes – then it’s worth a shot. Don’t let Big Soda buy your vote. Vote yes.

Yes on Prop F, Pier 70 development 


Everyone loves Prop F. Even the people who normally oppose every real estate development proposal in San Francisco. Seriously. Environmental groups, the Bay Guardian, former Mayor Art Agnos, neighborhood organizations near the project…everyone.

Proposition F would authorize the $100 million redevelopment of Pier 70 in the Dogpatch. The proposed plan would renovate and rehabilitate three historical buildings occupying 28 acres of pier space in order to create residences, office space, and buildings for retailers, artists and manufacturers. It includes nine acres of new parks! It requires voter approval because it seeks to increase the height limits on Pier 70 from 40 feet to 90 feet, a process that requires a ballot measure. (Remember Prop B from the June 2014 ballot? Yep. This is the first measure to be required under that new law).

The reason why no one opposes it is because the developer, Forest City, put the project together only after significant community input. They have shown themselves to be responsive to the neighborhood and the city’s political interests.

Yes on Prop G, Anti-Speculation Tax

If approved, Proposition G would impose an additional transfer tax on the sale or transfer of multi-unit properties that have been owned for less than five years. The idea is to make it much more expensive for real estate speculators to buy and flip large apartment buildings after evicting the entire building, thus contributing to the City’s eviction epidemic and housing crisis.

Prop G would levy a 24 percent tax if a property is flipped with a year of purchase or 14 percent within five years. It doesn’t apply to single-family homes and large apartment complexes – only to medium-size multi-unit buildings that are often the targets of speculation.

The opponents of this measure are realtors and small property owners who, frankly, don’t want their profits limited. They have dumped more than $1 million into the race, claiming that this tax will drive up rents, that it is hurting small property owners. I don’t buy it. I think it is most likely to prevent people from selling properties quickly after they buy them, and it will likely mean that fewer San Franciscans will lose their homes. And that’s a good thing.

Yes on Prop H and No on I? – Artificial Turf in Golden Gate Park


Prop H and I are both about the Recreation and Park Department’s proposal to renovate the soccer fields near Beach Chalet, to convert the grass to artificial turf, and to install new stadium lights. The plan has been in the works for six years, and has received the approval of both the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors. But there are some neighbors and environmentalists who oppose the plan, and that’s why there are competing measures on the ballot.

Prop H will prevent the proposal from happening, and it was placed on the ballot by the individuals who oppose the project. Prop I will enable the new fields project, and it was placed on the ballot by the Board of Supervisors. If both measures receive more than 50 percent approval, the one with the most votes will be enacted.

This is a really hard one for me. I voted No on H and Yes on I at the Democratic Party endorsements, and I was prepared to recommend the same in this voter guide. The grass field that is there now is underused, and the proposed improvements are estimated to double the public’s use of the area. And adding nighttime lights will make this location more useable for everybody. The opponents of this project have had their concerns heard and vetted over the last six years and multiple government hearings, and I feel like six years is long enough for public debate. Supervisor Eric Mar (Richmond District) is a champion of families in his district and he supports the fields project.

However, I am sensitive to the argument that artificial turf and stadium lights could have unintended consequences for the environment. And I have recently learned something scary about this project – that there may be serious health consequences of using “crumb rubber” as a play surface for children, and no one has studied the question. The artificial turf is made of ground up tires, composed of carcinogens and chemicals including benzene (a nasty solvent), carbon black and lead. The national media is starting to take note of clusters of lymphoma and leukemia among soccer goalies who play on these fields. Sixty professional soccer players have sued FIFA over its decision to use artificial turf for the Women’s World Cup because of cancer concerns. Moreover, most of the people using these fields are young – and children’s bodies are growing and developing, so their bodies are more susceptible than adults to chemical exposures. The evidence is anecdotal at this point, but until we know more about the health consequences of playing on artificial turf, I can’t endorse the city’s proposal.

Yes on Prop J, Minimum Wage Increase to $15/hr by July 2018


Prop J will raise the minimum wage in San Francisco to $15 per hour by 2018 from the current rate of $10.78 per hour. It was spearheaded by Mayor Ed Lee and referred to the ballot by the Board of Supervisors as a compromise between labor and business interests.

A full time job paying $15 per hour results in a salary of $31,000. I think it’s fair to say that anyone working a minimum wage job – either before or after Prop J passes – can’t afford to live in this city, which is terrible. Economic disparity is a major problem in San Francisco, and it just feels right that we should raise our minimum wage. Labor unions, the Board of Supervisors and the Mayor support Prop J, and small business owners groups generally oppose it.

Yes on Prop K Additional Affordable Housing Policy

Prop K would establish a new City policy to help construct or rehabilitate at least 30,000 homes, the majority of which would be affordable for middle-class and low-income households – and to secure adequate funding to achieve that goal. It asks the Board of Supervisors to hold an annual hearing on progress toward the City’s housing goals and work with the Mayor to accomplish them.

I hate non-binding policy measures, they are usually a waste of time. There are no consequences if the goals of the policy aren’t met! Blah. When Supervisor Jane Kim originally wrote this measure, it was binding legislation that would have slowed down market-rate housing development by forcing additional studies and hearings when affordable units fell below 30% of total housing production. But then she was attacked by developers and the Mayor’s office, and it became a much more complicated battle that she didn’t want fight (the same year she is running for re-election). That said, I say yes – vote for it. At the very least it is drawing attention to the affordable housing crisis. In fact, I can’t imagine what it would say about this city’s priorities if it was voted down.

NO NO NO on Prop L, Transportation Priorities Policy Statement, which will make congestion insanely worse in SF

Prop L is horrible, just horrible. It’s the product of whiny motorists who don’t understand how transportation policy works.

If approved, the measure would establish a City policy that would prohibit the city from: (1) charging parking meter fees on Sundays and holidays, or outside the hours of 9am-5pm; (2) putting new meters in neighborhoods without consent from the affected residents and businesses; and (3) increasing parking garage, meter or ticket rates for at least five years, with increases tied to the CPI after that. The measure would also require the city to enforce traffic laws equally for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. Thankfully, it is not binding legislation and it wouldn’t directly change any city laws. But it’s still a terrible idea for several reasons.

Balancing the interests of cyclist, pedestrians and motorists is extremely difficult, and something that I think the city actually does a decent job of. The city is rapidly growing, and this means that there are more cars on the street, and more congestion and safety problems. We absolutely have to improve our public transportation system to get people out of their cars to make congestion better for everyone. This measure would essentially make it city policy to divert Muni funding to build more parking lots and give residents veto power over new parking controls in their neighborhoods. This would only make things much worse. I know that everyone hates parking meters – but they help the city manage and encourage parking turnover, especially in commercial areas.  Diverting Muni funding and taking parking policy decisions out of the hands of the City’s transportation experts is the opposite of what we should do to solve our city’s transportation problems.

SAN FRANCISCO BOARD OF SUPERVISORS

Mark Farrell For District 2 Supervisor


District 2 (Marina, Pacific Heights, Sea Cliff) is of the wealthiest and most conservative districts in the city. And while I’ve disagreed with incumbent Mark Farrell on some issues, he has proven to be a smart and effective, humble and accessible. He has worked hard to address homelessness, and he has done a decent job as chair of the Board’s Budget Committee.

 

Katy Tang For District 4 Supervisor

Tang votes with the more conservative forces in City Hall because she represents one of the more conservative districts in town. But! She knows the neighborhood very well, having been raised there, and having served as an aide in that district for years. She is focused the neighborhood’s needs, such as public transportation and public safety. She is a smart, level head in City Hall. She should be re-elected.

Jane Kim for District 6 Supervisor


Jane has been an effective Supervisor who hasn’t shied away from controversial topics that she knew might anger her base. And for that she has my respect. She also represents a tough district – it includes one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city (Tenderloin), as well as some of its most influential technology companies (Twitter, Autodesk), and fastest growing neighborhoods (China Basin, Mission Bay).

Jane has worked hard on affordable housing issues, pedestrian safety, homeless services. She sponsored the controversial Twitter tax break that has been credited with feeding the tech boom in San Francisco, and blamed for the housing crisis and gentrification. She is a prolific legislator and also works very hard for her district’s needs (and micro-needs). She deserves a second term.

Scott Wiener for District 8 Supervisor


Scott has grown on me. I supported one of his opponents four years ago, but since then I have had the pleasure of working closely with Scott, both at the Board of Supervisors and on the DCCC, where we both serve as elected members. Scott has been a forceful advocate for improving public transportation, for protecting San Francisco’s nightlife options, and for finding the funding for numerous community projects like the badly-needed Dolores Park renovation. I don’t always agree with him, but he’s doing a fine job for the district, and he is the strongest leader on nightlife issues the City has seen in a long while. Several candidates are running against him, but none appear to have gained any traction. However, if you really care about letting the naked guys in the Castro run free, you should vote for George Davis, whose sole platform is repealing Scott’s 2012 legislation banning nudity in public.

 

Malia Cohen for District 10 Supervisor

Malia is the only incumbent running for re-election this year with serious opposition. And I kind of feel bad for her – the district she represents is the most diverse in the city. From Potrero Hill to the Bayview, to Dogpatch, Viz Valley and Mission Bay – the district includes rich, poor, new, old, and every ethnic group. In a single day, she will visit the family of a shooting victim, cut the ribbon on a new restaurant on Third Street, and participate in negotiations over a new large-scale real estate development. She’s done a good job of balancing all of these diverse interests, her accomplishments are many, and I think she’s earned a second term.

I don’t dislike like her opponent Tony Kelly. Nice guy, and his heart is in the right place. However, he put out a mailer a few weeks ago saying that Malia is just too darn pretty to be Supervisor – and I thought that was just weird and vaguely sexist. And questions were raised earlier this year about Tony’s financial stewardship of a nonprofit he ran, including a $200,000 loan from the City that his company never repaid. I think Malia deserves re-election, but I’d like to see what Tony can do in four years.

Big Ol’ Voter Guide for California – November 2014

This ballot is a long one, but I have great news. You’ve already voted for a lot of these same people once this year (WHAA? Yes). Let’s review, shall we?

California has adopted the “top two” open primary system of electing our state officers and legislators, which means that: (1) in the June election, voters chose among candidates of all parties, not just the party they are registered in; and (2) the top two candidates, regardless of party, advanced to the general election in November. So if you’re like me, you’re voting in November for all the same people you voted for in June in the State Assembly and statewide officer races. (Surprise! They are all Democrats.) You can find them all in my June voter guide. But not to worry, I’ve included my explanations here too.

There is also some REALLLLLY interesting and important stuff in the propositions. So pay attention.

This is my guide for the statewide candidates and ballot measures in the November 2014 election. The guide specific to San Francisco is posted here.

Without further ado, I submit to you my Big Ol’ Voter Guide. This time, I put my recommendations in order of how each race or measure appears on the ballot. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a progressive attorney with a background in real estate and land use, whose passions include protecting and promoting San Francisco’s nightlife and culture, getting more women elected to public office, and bringing more public art to cities around the world. I’m a Vice Chair of the San Francisco Democratic Party, and I also like long walks on the beach.

Click here for more information on your voter registration and what your ballot looks like.

California Statewide Offices

Jerry Brown for Governor
Gavin Newsom for Lieutenant Governor
Alex Padilla for Secretary of State
Betty Yee for Controller
John Chiang for Treasurer
Kamala Harris for Attorney General
Dave Jones for Insurance Commissioner
Fiona Ma for Board of Equalization, District 2

Judiciary
Approve all of the Supreme Court Justices and Justices of the Court of Appeal

Superintendent of Public Instruction
Tom Torlakson

State Measures
Yes on Prop 1, Water Bonds
Yes on Prop 2, Rainy Day Fund
Yes on Prop 45, Health Insurance Rate Regulation
NO NO NO on Prop 46, Random Drug Testing of All Doctors, Increasing Malpractice Damages Cap
YES YES YES on Prop 47, Misdemeanor Offense Classification
Yes on Prop 48, Off-Reservation Indian Gaming Compacts

CALIFORNIA STATEWIDE OFFICES

Linda Ronstadt’s ex-boyfriend

Governor: Jerry Brown

Remember when Jerry Brown ran for Governor four years ago, when the economy was in the tank and nobody else wanted the job? Think about how far we’ve come. Governor Brown can’t take ALL the credit for the vastly improved economy, but he can take credit for having turned around some of the state’s structural budget deficits. Today he has a 60% approval rating, and during his term, California went from a $25 billion budget deficit to a $4.2 billion projected budget surplus, in no small part due to the tax measure that Brown pushed for in 2012.

His opponent Neel Kashkari is a Republican former banker with marginal support. He is running a very strange campaign, in that he’s trying to win over voters who oppose Brown from both the left AND the right. He is arguing that Brown hasn’t done enough for the poor, for schools, or for jobs. But these arguments ring hollow to me, given the numbers I cited above. Brown is doing a fine job, let’s keep him.

Lieutenant Governor: Gavin Newsom

Newsom’s hair looks exactly the same in every single picture taken of him ever.

I kind of feel bad for Gavin Newsom. The Lieutenant Governor doesn’t have much to do other than fill in when the Governor is absent or incapacitated. He sits on the State Lands Commission and the UC Board of Regents, and these can be powerful places to be – but very boring places for someone like Newsom, who likes to be the star of the show. But Newsom has been able to use his office to draw attention to important issues like drug policy reform. He has called for ending the war on drugs, calling it “nothing more than a war on communities of color and on the poor.” (Tell it, brother!). I’m happy to support him again.

His opponent is political consultant (and former chair of the California Republican Party) Ron Nehring from San Diego. Field Polls have Newsom ahead by a landslide, and Newsom has ten times the amount of money in the bank, so this campaign is all but over. I was listening to Nehring on KQED radio the other day, and his campaign motto seems to be, glumly, “Everyone deserves to have an opponent.” Aw. Sad.

Secretary of State: Alex Padilla

padilla

You wouldn’t guess this charming fellow is an MIT-trained nerd.

Senator Alex Padilla is a Democrat. His opponent Pete Peterson is a Republican. Is that enough for me? Yeah probably. But in case you’re interested, here’s more detail.

Peterson, an academic at Pepperdine University, has some interesting ideas. He has suggested that politicians’ salaries be based on the number of campaign promises they are able to keep. (Ha! Yeah. Right.) He has proposed a ban on all fundraising activities by state legislators and statewide officeholders while the legislature in is session, thus leveling the playing field for candidates who are running against incumbents. Hmm. I kind of like that idea, actually.

But I like Padilla because he has been a prolific (and liberal) legislator in the State Senate, authoring bills on a wide range of issues including local prosecution of military sexual assault, criminalizing the mislabeling of seafood, and improving campaign communication disclosures. Remarkably, he is also an MIT-trained engineer who is both charismatic and charming (!). If elected, he promises to modernize the technology used by the Secretary of State’s office (‘bout time!) to make it easier to open a business and to register to vote. Given his background, he is just the guy to tackle this pressing matter.

Controller: Betty Yee

319850_4242416383172_1371294887_n

Betty Yee speaks for me

I can’t say enough good things about Betty Yee…she is genuine and smart, tough and effective, and she has far more  financial experience than her opponent. She is a lifelong public servant, having worked in financial-related offices in state government before running for the Board of Equalization, on which she now serves. On the BoE, she has used her position to fight for tax equity for same-sex couples, she has advocated for the legalization of recreational marijuana (think of the tax revenues!), and she has adhered to the highest of ethical standards (for example, she rejected campaign contributions form the tobacco industry). The Controller’s primary responsibility is to track and control the disbursement of the state of California’s money, and so having an unimpeachable ethical record is important.

Her opponent Republican Ashley Swearingen is the mayor of Fresno, and is widely considered to be a rising star in her party. Her only relevant experience is turning Fresno’s financial ship around, and she did so by cutting city jobs and forcing public employees to pay more of their pension contributions. (If you know me, you know these things make me wince). Fresno is not California, and I don’t think she’s ready for prime time.

Treasurer: John Chiang

Mathlete John Chiang

The Treasurer is the state’s banker, the officer who is responsible for managing the state’s investments, including state employee pension funds. Who better to serve as our next Treasurer than the person who has done a great job as the state’s Controller for the last 8 years? As Controller, he made a name for himself by enforcing a constitutional requirement holding that legislators would not be paid if they failed to pass a balanced budget by June 15, 2011. During the Great Recession, as California teetered on the brink of bankruptcy, Chiang helped to keep the state functioning and paying its bills. He also helped balance the budget by identifying $6 billion in waste that was made available for more productive purposes. Also: he was a high school mathlete (I <3 nerds!), and he is virtually unopposed.

Attorney General: Kamala Harris

Future Governor Kamala Devi Harris

Future Governor Harris

Incumbent Kamala Harris is also virtually unopposed, so I’ll keep it brief: Kamala is a rockstar. She has been a powerful advocate for consumers and privacy protections, prisoner anti-recidivism programs, victims of mortgage fraud, and same sex marriage in California. She is also brings a fresh perspective to the office, as she is the first African American, the first Indian American, and the first woman to serve as the state’s top cop. I am proud that she comes from San Francisco, and I hope she runs for Governor in four years.

Her opponent is Republican Ron Gold, whose campaign is focused on legalizing recreational marijuana (Yes! And he’s a Republican!). I’m all for it, but Gold doesn’t have a chance – he got only 12% of the vote in the June primary. But his campaign seems to have softened Harris’ stance on the issue. Which is a good thing.

Insurance Commissioner: Dave Jones

Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones – I can’t think of a single snarky thing to say about him.

Dave Jones is earnest and hard working, and he’s done some great things with his first four years as Insurance Commissioner. He has required health insurance companies to use no more than 20 percent of premiums on profits and administrative costs, and he has secured strict regulations on life insurance companies to prevent them from withholding benefits improperly. Recently, Jones held hearings on the insurance practices of ride-sharing companies to make sure that they are adequately insured to protect both their drivers and the general public. Jones’ Republican opponent, State Senator Ted Gaines, actually wants to decrease oversight of the insurance industry. Um, no. And no.

Board of Equalization: Fiona Ma

Fiona Ma no longer hates raves

Fiona Ma represented the west side of San Francisco on the Board of Supervisors and in the State Assembly for many years. She and I have disagreed on some policy issues, including a bill she wrote in 2010 that would have banned large-scale electronic music events in California. But she did write some great legislation in the Assembly, including a bill that would have required more employers to provide paid sick leave and one that banned toxic chemicals in plastics and children’s toys. She is a good fit for the Board of Equalization, which is the state’s main taxing body. She is a certified public accountant, and would bring her financial experience to that role. She is virtually unopposed, and she deserves your vote.

 

JUDICIARY

Approve All Of The Supreme Court Justices And Justices Of The Court Of Appeal


Does it even matter which one is which? No. No it does not.

Your ballot includes an entire page asking you to ratify judges you’ve never heard of. Save yourself the headache and just vote yes on all of them.

Justices of the State Supreme Court and the State Courts of Appeal must run for “retention” in the first gubernatorial election after they are appointed and then every 12 years. In these elections, voters are asked to ratify them with a yes or no vote, there is no competition. And since the state started its system of retention elections in 1934, justices have been rejected only once – in 1986, when three Supreme Court Justices were thrown out for ruling against the death penalty.

In this election, there doesn’t seem to be any kind of public outrage threatening the ouster of any of these folks. And I couldn’t find any particularly interesting dirt on any of them. So they are all going to win by large margins, perhaps because they should.

SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION - TOM TORLAKSON

Tom Torlakson is busy thinking about ways to improve public schools

Incumbent Tom Torlakson and his main opponent, Marshall Tuck, have very different visions of how to improve public schools in California. A former teacher himself, Torlakson champions teachers and their unions, dislikes the nation’s growing reliance on standardized tests, and advocates for more funding.

An investment banker by trade, Tuck is an advocate for charter schools and for changing the seniority rules for teachers. Personally, I think privatization will serve to drain the public school system of its high achieving students, leaving underperforming students in the dust. (See this great article by my friend Paul Buchheit on the subject.)

On the other hand, it’s clear that the current regime isn’t working for our kids, and I’m sensitive to the argument that the teacher tenure system is broken. But if you ask me, the major problem facing the school system is the lack of funding; California ranks 48th in the United States in school spending! Ridiculous! And sad. It’s clear that Torlakson will be a more effective advocate for more funding, and is a better choice for this reason alone.


STATE MEASURES

Yes on Prop 1, Water Bond

This complicated measure will authorize $7.12 billion in new general obligation bonds for state water supply infrastructure projects, such as public water system improvements, surface and groundwater storage, drinking water protection, water recycling and advanced water treatment technology, water supply management and conveyance, wastewater treatment, drought relief, emergency water supplies, and ecosystem and watershed protection and restoration.

The environmental groups can’t agree on this one. The Sierra Club went with no endorsement, other big environmental groups like The Nature Conservancy support it because of the funding it provides for ecological restoration. The Center for Biological Diversity opposes it because $2.7 billion will go toward dam projects with possible environmental consequences.

It’s tough call, but I support Prop 1 because California is in a severe drought, and this solution is better then no action at all. The measure will not raise taxes, it merely reallocates money from unused bonds to invest in critical projects. Folks from across the political aisle agree: Democrats, Republicans, farmers, and some environmentalists. I think it’s worth a shot.

Yes on Prop 2, Rainy Day Fund


Proposition 2 is highly technical, so bear with me. It’s a constitutional amendment that would change the state’s existing requirements for its rainy day fund, and it would create a Public School System Stabilization Account (PSSSA). If approved, it would require the state Controller to deposit annually in to the rainy day fund 1.5% of all general fund revenues and significantly more of the state’s capital gains tax revenues. Deposits would be made starting no later than October 2015, and would continue until the rainy day fund balance reaches an amount equal to 10% of all general fund revenues. For the first 15 years, the rainy day payments would be split in two, with 50% going towards the state’s liabilities, like pensions and loans. In case you’re worried about future lean years, there’s a relief valve so that the payments can decrease if the Governor declares a budget emergency.

Prop 2 seems like a common sense fiscal reform to me, and I’m delighted that our economy is doing so well that we can have a real conversation about saving for the future. It’s about time that we start thinking long term about protecting vital services during an economic bust. If you’ve lived in California for more than a few years, you know that the public schools and social services are held hostage with every budget cycle, and this measure will insulate them a bit from the ups and downs.

Yes on Prop 45, Health Insurance Rate Regulation

Prop 45 will require health insurance companies to get any rate changes approved by the state Insurance Commissioner before taking effect. It also requires for more transparency in rate changes, including public notices and hearings. Finally, it prohibits health, auto, and homeowners insurers from determining policy eligibility or rates based on lack of prior coverage or credit history.

Have you seen lots of TV ads about this measure? Yeah, the insurance companies are freaking out about this one. Prop 45 seeks to place controls on rising insurance costs so that consumers will stop getting ripped off by insurance companies.

Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones sponsored the measure, and its supporters include Senators Feinstein and Boxer, consumer watchdog groups, NOW, the California Democratic Party, teachers and nurses unions.

Opponents include the California Republican Party, Nancy Pelosi (!), insurance companies, medical organizations, and business groups. They claim that Prop 45 is an attack on Obamacare and that it’s not necessary because Covered California already negotiates insurance rates and benefits on behalf of consumers. It’s true that Prop 45 would give the Insurance Commissioner the right to reject a premium increase by one of Covered California’s approved providers – but what’s the harm in adding safeguards against higher rates? I don’t buy the argument, and I don’t trust insurance companies.

NO NO NO on Prop 46, Random Drug Testing of Doctors, Increasing Malpractice Damages Cap


This measure does three things: (1) it increases the amount of non-economic damages that can be awarded for pain and suffering in medical malpractice claims from $250,000 to over $1 million; (2) it requires the random drug testing of all doctors and requires the medical board to suspend all doctors with positive tests; and (3) requires health care practitioners to consult a state prescription drug history database before prescribing certain controlled substances.

I don’t have a problem with increasing the “pain and suffering” damages cap; in fact, it’s been 40 years since the current cap was established, and increasing it is probably warranted. Creating a statewide prescription drug history database makes me a little itchy – there will be people with access to this database who are not medical professionals and this measure hasn’t thought through the patient privacy issues.

But the main reason why I oppose this measure is…RANDOM DRUG TESTING OF ALL DOCTORS?? Really? C’mon. A dermatologist can lose her medical license because she smokes a joint on the occasional weekend? That’s just not right. I’m not aware that rampant drug use by doctors is a big problem. And who says that the state medical board isn’t already doing a decent job of disciplining doctors who are impaired on the job? The measure doesn’t say what kinds of drugs would be tested or how, or what kinds of penalties would apply.

The measure’s proponents just seem to be demonizing doctors here. They should come back to us with a measure that only increases the pain and suffering cap – that’s a measure I would support. Over 500 state and community organizations oppose Prop 46 – including labor unions, business organizations, the ACLU, women’s rights groups and Planned Parenthood. Please vote no.

YES YES YES on Prop 47, Misdemeanor Offense Classification


This state jails far too many people for nonviolent property and drug crimes. Period.

Prop 47 will reduce the classification of most “nonserious and nonviolent property and drug crimes” from a felony to a misdemeanor, unless the defendant has prior convictions for violent crime. The measure would require misdemeanor sentencing instead of felony for the personal use of most illegal drugs, and for shoplifting, grand theft, receiving stolen property, forgery, fraud, and writing a bad check, where the value of the property or check does not exceed $950. It will also permit re-sentencing for anyone currently serving a prison sentence for any of the above offenses, making about 10,000 inmates eligible for re-sentencing.

Our state’s prison system is overcrowded, and so this measure is way overdue. I also think it’s fundamentally unfair to put someone in prison for possession of small amounts of drugs or bouncing a check; we need to rebalance our criminal justice system so that it prioritizes violent and dangerous crimes. Prop 47 will save the state millions of dollars a year, and put that money towards treating mental illness and drug addiction, fund anti-truancy programs in K-12 schools, and help victims of crime recover from their trauma. The measure is sponsored by SF District Attorney George Gascon, and supported by the ACLU, the California Democratic Party, Newt Gingrich (really?! yes), labor unions, and many victims groups. It is opposed by Senator Feinstein, police officers groups and district attorneys.

Yes on Prop 48, Off-Reservation Indian Gaming Compacts

This measure affirms compacts negotiated by Governor Brown and ratified by all stakeholders to allow the North Fork Tribe to establish an off-reservation casino in Madera County, splitting revenues between the North Fork and the Wiyot tribes. Proponents say that it will create thousands of jobs, promote tribal self-sufficiency, avoid an alternative development plan in environmentally sensitive areas, and generate business opportunities and economic growth. Opponents say that gambling is a bad thing for California, that this measure is a slippery slope that will cause an avalanche of off-reservation casino projects. I don’t have a moral objection to gambling, and the slippery slope argument rings hollow to me, so I don’t see a reason to oppose this measure.

The Quick and Dirty – November 2014 Elections of California and San Francisco

David ChiuI’m still writing my Big Ol’ Voter Guide for the November 2014 election (it’s a long one!), with detailed explanations of each of my recommendations. But in the meantime, here are the candidates and positions I’m supporting, in the order they appear on the ballot. More soon.

California Statewide Offices

Jerry Brown for Governor
Gavin Newsom for Lieutenant Governor
Alex Padilla for Secretary of State
Betty Yee for Controller
John Chiang for Treasurer
Kamala Harris for Attorney General
Dave Jones for Insurance Commissioner
Fiona Ma for Board of Equalization, District 2

Federal Offices

Nancy Pelosi for U.S. House of Representatives, District 12
Jackie Speier for U.S. House of Representatives, District 14

State Assembly

David Chiu, District 17 (East Side of SF)
Phil Ting, District 19 (West Side of SF)

Judiciary

Approve all of the Supreme Court Justices and Justices of the Court of Appeal
Carol Kingsley for Superior Court, Office 20

Superintendent of Public Instruction 

Tom Torlakson

San Francisco Board of Education

Trevor McNeil, Emily Murase, Shamann Walton
If I had a fourth vote: Hydra Mendoza. Stevon Cook and Mark Murphy are pretty great too. Too many good choices here!

Community College Board

Four-year terms: Thea Selby, Brigitte Davila, John Rizzo
Two-year term: Amy Bacharach

SF Citywide Offices

Carmen Chu for Assessor/Recorder
Jeff Adachi for Public Defender

Nicholas Josefowitz for BART Board of Directors, D8

State Measures

Yes on Prop 1, Water Bonds
Yes on Prop 2, Rainy Day Fund
Yes on Prop 45, Health Insurance Rate Regulation
NO NO NO on Prop 46, Random Drug Testing of All Doctors, Increasing Malpractice Damages Cap
YES YES YES on Prop 47, Misdemeanor Offense Classification
Yes on Prop 48, Off-Reservation Indian Gaming Compacts

Local Measures

Yes on Prop A, Transportation Bond
Yes on Prop B, Adjusting Transportation Funding for Population Growth
Yes on Prop C, Children’s Fund
Yes on Prop D, Retiree Benefits for Former Redevelopment Agency Employees
YES YES YES on Prop E, Soda Tax – cut obesity in SF!
Yes on Prop F, Pier 70 development, nobody opposes this one
Yes on Prop G, Anti-Speculation Tax – make it harder to kick out entire apartment buildings full of people
No on Prop H – Hating on Artificial Turf in Golden Gate Park
Yes on Prop I – Supporting New Artificial Turf Soccer Fields in Golden Gate Park
Yes on Prop J, Minimum Wage Increase to $15/hr by July 2018
Yes on Prop K Additional Affordable Housing Policy, even though it’s just a weak-ass policy statement
NO NO NO on Prop L, Transportation Priorities Policy Statement, which will make congestion insanely worse in SF

San Francisco Board of Supervisors

Mark Farrell for District 2 Supervisor
Katy Tang for District 4 Supervisor
Jane Kim for District 6 Supervisor
Scott Wiener for District 8 Supervisor
Malia Cohen for District 10 Supervisor

Big Ol’ Voter Guide – June 2014

The June ballot looks really long, but don’t be fooled, San Francisco. This is an easy one. Out of the four ballot measures in question, only one of them is controversial. And in the candidate races, many of them are incumbents who are virtually unopposed. Why? Because they are all pretty effective and they have each avoided sleeping with their interns. As far as we know.

vote image 1

An interesting factor in this election: California has adopted the “top two” open primary system of electing our state officers and legislators, which means that: (1) voters can choose among candidates of any party, not just the party they are registered in; and (2) the top two candidates, regardless of party, advance to the general election in November. So the candidates in this election are really just running to get first or second place. And if the race only has two viable candidates, then June is merely a dress rehearsal for November.

Without further ado, I submit to you my Big Ol’ Voter Guide for the San Francisco/California June 2014 election. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a progressive attorney with a background in real estate and land use, whose passions include protecting and promoting San Francisco’s nightlife and culture, getting more women elected to public office, and bringing more public art to cities around the world. I’m a Vice Chair of the San Francisco Democratic Party, and I also like long walks on the beach.

Click here for more information on your voter registration and what your ballot looks like.

Governor: Jerry Brown!
Lieutenant Governor: Gavin Newsom
Secretary of State: Alex Padilla
Controller: Betty Yee
Treasurer: John Chiang
Attorney General: Kamala Harris
Insurance Commissioner: Dave Jones
Superintendent of Schools: Tom Torlakson
Board of Equalization: Fiona Ma
Assembly, District 17: David Chiu
Assembly, District 19: Phil Ting
CA Proposition 41: Yes
CA Proposition 42: Yes
SF Measure A: Yes
SF Measure B: No
SF Superior Court Judge: Kimberly Toney Williams
US Congress, District 12: Nancy Pelosi
US Congress, District 13: Barbara Lee
US Congress, District 14: Jackie Speier

Governor: Jerry Brown!

Remember when Jerry Brown ran for Governor four years ago, when the economy was in the tank and nobody else wanted the job? Think about how far we’ve come. Governor Brown can’t take ALL the credit for the vastly improved economy, but he can take credit for having turned around some of the state’s structural budget deficits. Today he has a 60% approval rating, and California has a projected budget surplus of $4.6 billion this year, in no small part due to the tax measure that he pushed for in 2012.

His two opponents are Republicans with marginal support. Assembly member and Tea Party conspiracy theorist Tim Donnelly is the same guy who attempted to board an airplane in 2012 with a loaded Colt handgun. He later pled guilty to carrying a loaded gun without a concealed weapons permit. Neel Kashkari is a former banker and an Assistant Secretary of the Treasury responsible for overseeing the TARP bailout program. Polls last month showed Kashkari trailing a convicted sex offender.

Lieutenant Governor: Gavin Newsom

I kind of feel bad for Gavin Newsom. The Lieutenant Governor doesn’t have much to do other than fill in when the Governor is absent or incapacitated. He sits on the State Lands Commission and the UC Board of Regents, and these can be powerful (but boring) places to be. Newsom has been able to use his office to draw attention to important issues like drug policy reform. He has called for ending the war on drugs, calling it “nothing more than a war on communities of color and on the poor.” (Tell it, brother!) I don’t like his stance opposing high-speed rail in California. But! He threw a good party at this year’s California Democratic Party convention, he married well, and he’s virtually unopposed. (None of these are good reasons to vote for him, but I just thought I’d give him props. For once.)

Secretary of State: Alex Padilla

padillaSecretary of State is normally a low profile race, but this year it’s shaping up to be the most interesting and important statewide race for the June election. After State Senator Leland Yee dropped out of the race after being charged with taking bribes for gun running and murder-for-hire (!!!), this race became even more interesting. Leland’s arrest was a defining moment, as the remaining candidates have become more focused on campaign finance and ethics reform. Everyone’s trying to distance themselves from the ethics scandals that have plagued the state legislature this year, and they are promising to use the office of Secretary of State to push for more transparency and less corruption in government.

I like State Senator Alex Padilla because he has been a prolific legislator in the State Senate, authoring bills on a wide range of issues including local prosecution of military sexual assault, criminalizing the mislabeling of seafood, and improving campaign communication disclosures. Remarkably, he is also an MIT-trained engineer who is both charismatic and charming (!). If elected, he promises to modernize the technology used by the Secretary of State’s office (‘bout time!) to make it easier to open a business and to register to vote.

I also like Democrat Derek Cressman, a longtime good government advocate with Common Cause. He’s the guy who blew the whistle on the Koch brothers and their efforts to evade campaign finance rules in California through secret PAC contributions. But (ironically?) he hasn’t raised enough money to be competitive, the polls show he’s not gaining much traction and I don’t think he can beat Republican Pete Peterson in the fall.

Peterson, an academic at Pepperdine University, is leading the polls, and it is likely that Peterson and Padilla will advance to the November election under the top two primary system. The pundits are calling Peterson a Republican breakout star this year, and I must admit that he has some interesting ideas. He has suggested that politicians’ salaries be based on the number of campaign promises they are able to keep. (Ha! Yeah. Right.) He has proposed a ban on all fundraising activities by state legislators and statewide officeholders while the legislature in is session, thus leveling the playing field for candidates who are running against incumbents. Hmm.

Dan Schnur got the Chronicle’s endorsement, and he is a wild card in this race. He’s a longtime Republican strategist, having worked for John McCain and many other big name candidates, but he’s running as an independent. (Probably because he knows that the California Republican Party is on life support). His motto is “politics is too important to be left to the politicians,” which rings hollow to me since Schnur is a lifelong political operator.

Oh! And Leland Yee didn’t drop out of the race in time to remove his name from the ballot. So if you like politicians who are willing to take bribes for murder and guns, you know who to vote for.

Controller: Betty Yee

319850_4242416383172_1371294887_nI can’t say enough good things about Betty Yee…she is genuine and smart, tough and effective, and of all the candidates, she has the most financial experience. She is a lifelong public servant, having worked in financial-related offices in state government before running for the Board of Equalization, on which she now serves. On the BoE, she has used her position to fight for tax equity for same-sex couples, she has advocated for the legalization of recreational marijuana (think of the tax revenues!), and she has adhered to the highest of ethical standards (for example, she rejected campaign contributions from the tobacco industry). The Controller’s primary responsibility is to track and control the disbursement of the state of California’s money, and so having an unimpeachable ethical record is important.

Betty’s main Democratic competition is former Assembly Speaker John Perez, who is an impressive political leader and was the first LGBT Assembly Speaker in California history. I’m almost afraid to write anything negative about him here, because in my experience, Perez is very hard on his detractors. One might even call him a bully. More importantly, credible sources have questioned his ethical standards. A report by the Center for Investigative Reporting revealed Perez raised money from special interest groups for charities his lover favored, a lover who played a key role in a racketeering and fraud scandal. Perez may not have acted illegally, but I think his actions showed poor judgment.

Republican Ashley Swearingen is the mayor of Fresno, and is widely considered to be a rising star in her party. Her only relevant experience is turning Fresno’s financial ship around, and she did so by cutting city jobs and forcing public employees to pay more of their pension contributions. (If you know me, you know these things make me wince). It’s a giant leap to go from Fresno to statewide office, and I don’t think she’s ready for prime time.

Treasurer: John Chiang

The Treasurer is the state’s banker, the officer who is responsible for managing the state’s investments, including state employee pension funds. Who better to serve as our next Treasurer than the person who has done a great job as the state’s Controller for the last 8 years? As Controller, John Chiang made a name for himself by enforcing a constitutional requirement holding that legislators would not be paid if they failed to pass a balanced budget by June 15, 2011. During the Great Recession, as California teetered on the brink of bankruptcy, Chiang helped to keep the state functioning and paying its bills. He also helped balance the budget by identifying $6 billion in waste that was made available for more productive purposes. Also: he was a high school mathlete (I <3 nerds!), and he is virtually unopposed.

Attorney General: Kamala Harris

1013468_10152229059737923_797841473_nIncumbent Kamala Harris is also virtually unopposed, so I’ll keep it brief: Kamala is a rockstar. She has been a powerful advocate for consumers and privacy protections, prisoner anti-recidivism programs, victims of mortgage fraud, and same sex marriage in California. She also brings a fresh perspective to the office, as she is the first African American, the first Indian American, and the first woman to serve as the state’s top cop. I am proud that she comes from San Francisco, and I hope she runs for Governor in four years.

Insurance Commissioner: Dave Jones

Dave Jones is earnest and hard working, and he’s done some great things with his first four years as Insurance Commissioner. He has required health insurance companies to use no more than 20 percent of premiums on profits and administrative costs, and he has secured strict regulations on life insurance companies to prevent them from withholding benefits improperly. Recently, Jones held hearings on the insurance practices of ride-sharing companies to make sure that they are adequately insured to protect both their drivers and the general public. Jones’ Republican opponent, State Senator Ted Gaines, actually wants to decrease oversight of the insurance industry. Um, no. And no.

Superintendent of Public Instruction: Tom Torlakson

Incumbent Tom Torlakson and his main opponent, Marshall Tuck, have very different visions of how to improve public schools in California. A former teacher himself, Torlakson champions teachers and their unions, dislikes the nation’s growing reliance on standardized tests, and advocates for more funding.

An investment banker by trade, Tuck is an advocate for charter schools and for changing the seniority rules for teachers. Personally, I think privatization will serve to drain the public school system of its high achieving students, leaving underperforming students in the dust. (See this great article by my friend Paul Buchheit on the subject.)

On the other hand, it’s clear that the current regime isn’t working for our kids, and I’m sensitive to the argument that the teacher tenure system is broken. But! If you ask me, the major problem facing the school system is the lack of funding; California ranks 48th in the United States in school spending! Ridiculous! And sad. It’s clear that Torlakson will be a more effective advocate for more funding, and is a better choice for this reason alone.

Board of Equalization: Fiona Ma

FionaFiona Ma represented the west side of San Francisco on the Board of Supervisors and in the State Assembly for many years. She and I have disagreed on some policy issues, including an ill-advised bill she wrote in 2010 that would have banned large-scale electronic music events in California. She did write some great legislation in the Assembly, including a bill that would have required more employers to provide paid sick leave and one that banned toxic chemicals in plastics and children’s toys.  She is a good fit for the Board of Equalization, which is the state’s main taxing body. She is a certified public accountant, and would bring her financial experience to that role. She is virtually unopposed.

Assembly, District 17: David Chiu

This is a funny race. The two leading candidates are both named David, they both went to Harvard, they both serve on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. They have an almost identical voting record. They both also serve on the board of the San Francisco Democratic Party with me, and so I know them both well, and consider them both friends.

Both Davids would be progressive leaders in the state legislature. But I believe that Chiu will be a more effective advocate for legislation that reflects our San Francisco values. As the President of the Board of Supervisors, Chiu has proven to be more adept at shepherding legislation and forging compromise, which skills are especially necessary in a state legislature populated with folks from all over this strange state. (For example, there’s THIS GUY. Yeah. Whoah.)

Campos is openly gay, like the two men who most recently held this seat, Tom Ammiano and Mark Leno. Campos and his supporters claim that the seat should be held by someone who identifies as LGBT. I disagree – no seat in the legislature should be a “gay seat” or an “Asian seat” or “rich white girl in yoga pants” seat. The candidate who can best represent all of the district’s constituencies should win. Period.

If you know me, you know that I have always been an advocate for getting more women (and especially mothers!) in public office. Women are generally underrepresented in leadership positions, and it’s important to include women’s voices in the decisions that affect all of us. But to propose that a specific seat is a “woman’s seat” would be ludicrous. There certainly aren’t enough LGBT folks in the state legislature (there are 8 including Ammiano, which is 7% of the total members), however, we have made considerable progress on this front in recent years. The current Assembly Speaker is an out lesbian and the previous Speaker was a gay man, who is now running for state Controller and has a good chance of winning.

David ChiuI do think it’s really gross that some well-funded haters have been sending out mail trying to connect Campos with Ross Mirkarimi’s domestic violence issues. Specifically, they claim that Campos’ vote against removing Ross from office makes him unqualified to serve in the Assembly. Regardless of your feelings about Mirkarimi, this argument is just silly. I don’t think that a person’s entire 6-year voting record should or can be boiled down to a single vote.

The other funny thing about this race: it’s really just a practice run for November. Because California has an open primary, the two candidates who get the most votes – regardless of party affiliation – will advance to the November election. And since the third David in this race doesn’t have a chance (he’s a Republican), the Democrat Davids will face each other again in November. So regardless of what happens on Tuesday, you haven’t heard the last of these guys.

Assembly, District 19: Phil Ting

I really like Phil Ting. Suuuuuper nice guy, and also good at what he does. Ting represents the west side of San Francisco, which is considerably more conservative than the side I live in. And yet he’s been a consistent vote for legislation supported by San Franciscans citywide. He has pushed for closing the Prop 13 loophole that allows corporations to avoid paying their fair share of property taxes; he has promoted the building of separated bike lanes statewide, making biking safer and easier; and he has pushed for BART to reform its safety procedures. He is also virtually unopposed.

CA Proposition 41 (Housing homeless vets): Yes

Over a decade ago, Californians voted to use hundreds of millions of bond funds to create the CalVet Home and Farm Loan Program to help veterans purchase housing. Prop 41 further refines this program to dedicate $600 million of those funds – which would otherwise go unused – toward building affordable multifamily rental housing for low-income veterans and their families. This one is a no-brainer, because it will help house some of California’s 15,000 homeless vets. It will save taxpayer dollars in healthcare and public safety by getting veterans off the streets and into safe, affordable housing. And because it uses previously approved (but unsold) bond funds, Prop 41 doesn’t create new taxes or incur any new debt.

The measure has garnered the support of both the California Republican Party and the California Democratic Party, as well as the League of California Cities, and many other folks from both sides of the political aisle.

CA Proposition 42 (Government transparency laws): Yes

This is an important one, and it also has support from both sides of the aisle. If this measure passes, it will help guarantee public access to government documents and decisions.

The California Public Records Act and the Ralph M. Brown Act require government agencies to conduct their business in a transparent way. As a former public servant I can tell you: these laws work. The PRA has completely changed the level of access that the public has to government documents by granting every person the right to inspect any public record, with a few exceptions. The Brown Act enables the public to participate in government decisions in meaningful ways, by prohibiting commissions and city councils from making decisions unless they are on a publicly-posted agenda, and requiring that the public be given an opportunity to comment on every such decision before it is made.

Last year, Governor Brown tried to gut these laws by making it optional for local governments to comply with many of their requirements. State law requires the state to reimburse local agencies for the costs of compliance, and Brown was looking for ways to cut costs. The state has consistently failed to reimburse local agencies for these costs, and the local bodies have used this as an excuse not to comply.

Prop 42 will eliminate any future attempts to gut these bills by expressly requiring local government agencies to comply with all aspects of the PRA and the Brown Act. It also eliminates the state’s responsibility to reimburse local agencies for cost compliance, thus removing this excuse for non-compliance.

The measure is supported by the California Democratic Party, the California Republican Party, most labor unions, Common Cause, League of Women Voters and professional journalists. Every major newspaper in California has endorsed it. The only real opposition comes from the Green Party of California, which objects to the additional costs that local governments may incur.

SF Measure A (Emergency infrastructure bond measure): Yes!

There doesn’t seem to be any doubt that California is due for another major earthquake. And many of the facilities that house the City’s emergency infrastructure are not seismically sound. This is a recipe for disaster. Literally.

Prop. A is a $400 million general obligation bond measure that would fund seismic retrofits and improvements to this infrastructure, including upgrades to the city’s Emergency Firefighting Water System, neighborhood police and fire stations, and new structures to house the police crime lab and motorcycle unit. All eleven members of the Board of Supervisors voted to place Prop. A on the ballot, and no one of note opposes it. A two-thirds majority is needed for it to pass, and I really really really hope that it does. For all of our sakes.

SF Measure B (Waterfront development): No!!

Prop B will require voter approval for any future construction projects on the San Francisco waterfront that exceed existing height limits. The measure would immediately delay the construction of every development along the Bay until voters have a chance to approve each one separately.

Let me start by saying that I have been a real estate attorney for 14 years, including eight years as a Deputy City Attorney for the City of Oakland and General Counsel for the Oakland Army Base development on the Oakland waterfront. I served on the boards of two community organizations in San Francisco that are generally skeptical of development, and I actively opposed 8 Washington, the waterfront condo project that was soundly defeated by ballot measure in the November 2013 election. Earlier this year, I worked for the Golden State Warriors on the development of their San Francisco arena project, which was originally sited at Piers 30-32 just south of the Bay Bridge, and has since moved to Mission Bay. Having worked on both sides of the issue, I have put a lot of thought into the subject of waterfront development. And Prop B…is a disaster. Let me tell you why.

The proponents of Prop B include the local chapter of the Sierra Club, California Democratic Party Chair John Burton, former Mayor Art Agnos, and the Affordable Housing Alliance. They argue that Prop B “takes away the blank check given to developers to develop luxury condos and high-rise hotels without regard to traffic, the neighborhoods, or the long-term health of the waterfront development.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

Every major development in San Francisco undergoes a years-long planning process that involves extensive neighborhood input and community meetings, environmental review, and approval by the City’s Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors. In addition to this, any development on the waterfront is also subject to approvals by the State Lands Commission, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, and sometimes also requires state legislation permitting the project to take place on property subject to the state’s complicated tidelands trust laws.

The project that is ultimately approved is the result of many years of negotiation with the City, other public agencies, and with the neighbors, and rightly so. Our waterfront is a precious resource, and we should carefully consider what goes there. However, this ballot measure guts that entire process by giving power to people (the voters from all over the city – not just the neighborhood) who barely understand the project’s complex details, or the tradeoffs and concessions that have been made over the years.

If this measure passes, the ballot questions it mandates will be very simple – developers will have to state the amount that the project is proposing to raise the height limits. But they won’t provide the context of a height increase – like, for example, what the building heights are adjacent to the project, the sales tax revenues the project will generate, the jobs it will create, the amenities it offers. It is a vast oversimplification of a project – often reducing it to a simple tagline – and one that usually makes the project look bad because it is increasing the building heights allowed on the waterfront.

I opposed the 8 Washington project (No Wall on the Waterfront!), and I was happy that it lost last year. That project had gone through the entire planning process including approval by the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors. But it was a bad project, and so the opponents put it on the ballot and we were able to defeat it. But not all projects are 8 Washington, and so not all projects should automatically go to the voters in perpetuity. Some projects are not controversial at all, and shouldn’t be delayed or sidelined by politicizing them.

SPUR, San Francisco League of Conservation Voters, San Francisco Democratic Party, the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Francisco Parks Alliance, the San Francisco Labor Council, San Francisco Young Democrats and the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club all oppose Prop B. And I hope you will too.

SF Superior Court Judge: Kimberly Toney Williams

1801320_537387049704436_5677438617197010097_oThis was a tough decision for me. The San Francisco Democratic Party interviewed each of the candidates at our endorsement meeting in March, and I was impressed with all three. They each would bring very different qualities to the bench.

Carol Kingsley is an attorney of 25 years who’s specialized as a mediator, skilled at sifting through disputes and convincing parties to cooperate. She is a crusader for stricter gun laws, since her husband and eight others were slain in the 1993 killing spree at 101 California. And while anti-gun advocacy would normally be a plus for me, impartiality is an important quality in a judge, and her background might concern litigants in cases involving guns.

Daniel Flores is a defense and civil rights lawyer with 13 years of experience and an impressive list of endorsers from all over the San Francisco political spectrum. He is a courtroom litigator with experience in big firms and his own practice, representing clients ranging from businesses to tenants fighting against their landlords. In the Democratic Party endorsement process, he was not afraid to declare his views on a wide range of political subjects, which made me wonder about both his judgment and his ability to be impartial.

Kimberly Williams is a Deputy District Attorney with 18 years of courtroom experience. She has handled both criminal and civil cases, and she has spearheaded the efforts to implement community justice courts to help those who commit low-level crimes find a path towards stability and self-sufficiency. In the Democratic Party endorsement interview, she was cagey about her political views, as she clearly understands the level of neutrality that will be expected of her if she is elected. She was also the only candidate who struck me as having the demeanor of a judge – she seemed thoughtful, smart, self-effacing and kind. Even though she’s a prosecutor, she understands that it is important to work to remove defendants from the cycle of incarceration and recidivism. And personally, I love that she would bring the perspective of a black single mother to the bench.

Note: A candidate can win outright with a majority of the votes in the June 3 election. But if no one exceeds 50 percent, the top two will compete in a November runoff.

US Congress, District 12: Nancy Pelosi

Remember: Nancy represents one of the most progressive districts in the country, and conservatives nationwide are constantly vilifying her based on her “San Francisco values.” And yet, not only has Pelosi refused to be marginalized, but she has earned the support of enough of her colleagues to become the most powerful woman in Congress. A remarkable feat indeed.

Her accomplishments In 21 years in the House of Representatives are far too many to list here. She has stood up for reproductive rights, immigrants, women, and the poor. She fought hard to protect the social safety net when the Republicans in Congress proposed their dramatic spending cuts in 2013 and eventually shut down the government. She helped shepherd Obamacare through the House, which was an incredible achievement in itself. If the Democratic Party takes Congress back in November, Pelosi will be Speaker again. And wouldn’t that be sweet.

US Congress, District 13: Barbara Lee

Barbara Lee speaks for me. She has been a consistent voice for progressive values in Congress since her election in 1998, and has taken many stands that were not politically popular nationwide, but that represented her district’s leftward leanings.

She earned my respect in 2001, when she was the sole member of Congress to vote against the authorization for George Bush’s “War on Terror” in the face of fierce post-9/11 nationalism. At the time, she was widely condemned for her vote, but history has proven her right. IMO, the military overreach that resulted from that Congressional authorization has been vast and damaging beyond measure.

In 2013, she also voted against CISPA, the bill that allowed federal intelligence agencies to share cyber-security intelligence and information with private entities and utilities. (Go girl!) You can trust her to vote to protect reproductive rights and civil rights, to more strictly regulate Wall Street, and to support public education. She is virtually unopposed.

US Congress, District 14: Jackie Speier

jackie-speierI love Jackie Speier. She is fearless, thoughtful and smart, and she also has a remarkable personal story. In 1978 she was left for dead on a tarmac in Guyana with her boss Congressman Leo Ryan during the airstrip shootings that triggered the massacre at Jonestown. In her extraordinary career in public service, she has championed consumer protections, banking reform, and increasing federal funding to public transit in the Bay Area, particularly to Muni and for the electrification of Caltrain, an important component of the California High-Speed Rail Project. She has been tough on PG&E after the San Bruno explosion, and recently she has taken on the epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses and in the military. I can’t say enough great things about Jackie! Also: she has no credible opposition.

Big Ol’ Voter Guide – November 2013

Remember how crazy the last few elections were?  The wacky District 5 Supervisor race and the bitter Mayor’s race? And so many propositions! On last year’s ballot, San Franciscans were asked to make 41 separate decisions. It was a loooong ballot filled with angst and bitterness.

THIS election, by contrast, is a breath of fresh air. Savor it while you can, because it’s never this quiet around election time in San Francisco. And it won’t be again for a long while. There are only a small number of things on the ballot, and only one of them is controversial.  Three citywide officers are running – all unopposed. Out of four ballot measures, only two are disputed, and they are about the same development project.

Part of the reason the candidates for Assessor, Treasurer and City Attorney are unopposed is because they are each only running for a two-year term.  Last year, voters approved Prop D, which realigned the election cycle for each of these races so that all citywide officers would be on the same ballot in a few years. This meant that the three officers running this year have to run again in 2015 along with the Mayor, Sherriff, DA and Public Defender. If there are challengers out there, they are probably waiting until 2015 to run.

Because there are so few campaigns this cycle, it also means that it will be among the lowest turnout elections in San Francisco history. So your vote will count more than ever. Be sure to get out there and exercise your franchise! And savor the quiet while you can.

And so, I submit to you my Big Ol’ Voter Guide for the San Francisco November 2013 election. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a lawyer and a San Francisco progressive, whose passions include protecting and promoting San Francisco’s nightlife and culture, getting more women elected to public office, and bringing more public art to cities around the world.  I’m a Vice Chair of the San Francisco Democratic Party, and I also like long walks on the beach.

Click here for more information on your voter registration and what your ballot looks like.

ASSESSOR-RECORDER – Carmen Chu

Assessor Carmen Chu served as District 4 Supervisor for many years before she was appointed Assessor by Mayor Lee in February. Carmen is solidly on the Mayor’s team, and was a consistent vote for the fiscal conservative forces in town. I disagree with many decisions she made as Supervisor, but she is a good fit for Assessor, where there are fewer political decisions to be made. She has come up with many good ideas to make the office more efficient and customer friendly. She deserves your vote.

CITY ATTORNEY – Dennis Herrera

A City Attorney normally defends a municipality against lawsuits and negotiates contracts for his or her client. Having served as a Deputy City Attorney in Oakland, I know that it can often be a thankless job. Dennis Herrera has done an extraordinary thing: he has dramatically expanded the role of City Attorney in San Francisco to an activist role, aggressively litigating consumer and environmental protection cases, civil rights issues, and cases that address wage theft and tenant protection.

He stood up to the Bush administration when it was seeking abortion records from San Francisco hospitals, he went after Nevada hospitals that were illegally dumping mental patients in San Francisco, and he has played a key leadership role in the legal fight for marriage equality for same-sex couples in California. I’m enthusiastically supporting Herrera for re-election, and I hope he sticks around for longer than this upcoming term.

TREASURER – Jose Cisneros

Jose is running for his third term as Treasurer. He’s unopposed mostly because he’s unbeatable and he’s doing a great job. He has taken a very boring office and found some interesting, progressive policies to enact that actually improve people’s lives. For example, he launched a program to help low-income families secure the federal Earned Income Tax Credit as well as a local match to the credit. He also pioneered a financial empowerment project called Bank on San Francisco to provide low-income families with financial literacy education and free checking accounts to help them begin to achieve financial security. The program has become a national model. Vote for Jose.

SUPERVISOR (District 4) (Sunset District) – Katy Tang

Supervisor Tang was a longtime City Hall staffer and District 4 aide before she was appointed to fill the seat of her boss, Carmen Chu, who was appointed to Assessor to fill the seat of Phil Ting, who was elected to the Assembly. Catch all that? Yes, it’s musical chairs.

Tang is solidly on the Mayor’s team, having been appointed by him and sharing his political perspective. Remember, she votes with the more conservative forces in City Hall because she represents one of the more conservative districts in town. But! She knows the neighborhood very well, having been raised there, and having served as an aide in that district for years. She is focused the neighborhood’s needs, such as transit and public safety. She is a smart, level head in City Hall. She should be elected to a full term.

PROP. A — RETIREE HEALTH CARE TRUST FUND

YES

Government pensions and health care obligations are a serious problem in city government. Our number of retirees is expanding, particularly as the baby boomers age.  The city’s long-term retiree health care obligations are projected to cost $4.4 billion over the next 30 years!  The city has failed to plan for these retirements, and what’s even worse is that politicians like to play political football with employee pensions and health care, which (speaking as a former public employee) is terrifying to those workers and their families.

Prop A is a consensus-based solution that will safeguard the city’s Retiree Health Care Trust Fund and help solve this vexing problem.  Prop. A ensures that the Fund will be there to fund the city’s long-term retiree health care obligations. There are provisions that would allow the city to tap the fund in extreme situations, and only with the approval of the Mayor, Controller, the Trust Board, and two-thirds of the Board of Supervisors, a very high bar. No more jerking public employees around.

The measure has the support of politicians and groups from both sides of the (San Francisco) aisle, including the San Francisco Democratic Party, the entire Board of Supervisors and the San Francisco Labor Council. Vote yes!

PROPS B & C — 8 WASHINGTON SPECIAL USE DISTRICT

OH HELL NO!

Here it is… the only thing controversial on the ballot on Tuesday. I’m diving deep into this one.

The proposed 8 Washington Project is a 12-story condo development on the waterfront at Washington Street.  Each of the 134 condos will sell for an average of $5 million dollars (!!!), and the project will exceed the city’s height limit at the site by 62 percent.

Visually, it would be more appealing than what’s there now, which is mostly just a parking lot and an ugly green fence.  The project includes a small (private) park, and will contribute $11 million to the City’s affordable-housing fund and $4.8 million in transit impact payments, which the city desperately needs.

8 Washington was approved by both the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors after contentious hearings. The project’s opponents challenged its approval by filing a referendum (Prop C) to overturn the Supervisors’ decision to allow an exception to the area’s standard 84-foot height limit (the project’s tallest building is 136 feet).

The developer then qualified Prop B for the ballot, in order to ratify the height exception, but also to tie the Planning Department’s hands, making any future approval by the city ministerial! Yikes! Bad idea. In large development deals like this, ongoing review by the Planning Department is key to make sure the developer keeps his promises until construction is complete.

I urge you to vote NO on both measures.

A yes vote on Prop B will create a new special district for this project, approving the height limit exception and exempting the project from ongoing review by the Planning Department. A no vote on Prop B will mean the special district is not created, and the developer will be subject to ongoing review by the city (as is normal for developments like this).

A yes vote on Prop C ratifies the decisions of the Supervisors and Planning and allows the project to go forward. A no vote on Prop C rejects the decisions of the Board of Supervisors and the Planning Commission, requiring the developer to go back to city government to get their approval (and presumably make the development more palatable, probably with a lower height limit).

I am voting no on both measures because (1) a project that only builds condos for rich people doesn’t justify increasing the height limit on the waterfront; and (2) ballot box regulation of complex development deals is usually a bad idea. The city planning process allows for a project to be scrutinized in detail by planning professionals and the community, which is good because developments like this will be around for decades (centuries?). Collaboration, iteration, vetting and fine-tuning are essential to making sure that major developments are done right. Especially when the development in question is on the waterfront, perhaps our city’s most precious resource.

The developer will have you believe that the project is about open space, claiming they are building a new park as a part of the development. But apparently this new “park” will only be open to the dues-paying members of the private club associated with the project.

A large coalition has come together to oppose Propositions B and C including the SF Democratic Party, Sierra Club, Coalition for SF Neighborhoods, Affordable Housing Alliance, Tenants Union, Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, and hundreds of city leaders and civic groups. The Bay Gardian and the Examiner also endorsed the no position.

The propositions are supported by Mayor Ed Lee, former Mayor Gavin Newsom, the more conservative members of the Board of Supervisors and the San Francisco Chronicle.

I urge you to vote no on both. Let’s reject ballot box planning and be very careful with how we develop our beautiful waterfront.

PROP. D — PRESCRIPTION DRUG PURCHASING

YES

Prescription drugs are expensive, getting more so every year. If you’re diagnosed with HIV, your medication will cost you between $2000 and $5000 per month!  Unless you live in Canada, where you’ll pay half that because the government has placed limits on what the drug companies can charge. Crazy, right?

Prop. D doesn’t solve the pricing problem directly – it’s a non-binding “policy statement” that instructs our elected representatives to start to negotiate for better pharmaceutical prices.  I usually smirk in the direction of non-binding policy statements, because they are unenforceable and often a waste of the voters’ time.

But it’s hard to argue with Prop D. It has started an important conversation around drug pricing, and if San Francisco stands up to Big Pharma, maybe the rest of the country will follow. It’s not single payer health care, but it’s a start. Vote YES on D.

Congratulations to the Class of 2013

I was proud and honored to be asked to give the commencement address at my high school, the Vivian Webb School in Southern California. I was introduced by Student Body President Chloe Soltis, who told the audience of about 500 people about my academic, political and professional successes. I chose to focus on my failures. Here’s what I told them…

Thank you, Chloe.  Greetings to the Class of 2013!

And greetings to your parents and loved ones, and to my own parents, who are sitting in the front row.  Congratulations to all of you for making it to this moment. To the graduates, for surviving four years of a rigorous Vivian Webb education, and for surviving Half Dome. To the parents and grandparents, you’ve been working toward this day for 18 years or so, getting your daughter to the point where she is ready to spread her wings. This is a big deal, and I’m honored to be here to help you celebrate.

I’d also like to acknowledge that that despite my spellbinding oratory abilities, the graduates probably aren’t hearing a single word I’m saying. At MY graduation, I just wanted to get to the parties later. So to the graduates, if you want to tune me out, that’s cool, I’m posting my speech on Facebook right… now. [pauses to focus on laptop]

Chloe’s introduction made me sound like quite an accomplished person. And now that you’ve heard about the successes in my life, I’d like to focus on my failures. That’s right. You’re going to hear about the bad decisions I’ve made and some of the things that just didn’t work out.

Right about now, Mr. Stockdale is wishing he had reviewed my speech before I got up here.

My political career began here on my first day at Vivian Webb, when I decided I would run for freshman class president.  I learned the very basics of running for office when I was here: getting to know the voters – my classmates – and the issues that matter to them, and doing everything I could to convince my class that I was the best person for the job.

Last year I gave a talk to both Vivian Webb and Webb titled “What It Takes to Run for Political Office.” I’m sure the graduating class remembers every word of my presentation… but for the benefit of the families in the audience, I’ll summarize it now.

Here’s everything you need to do to get elected:

Get involved in your community for several years
Pick an office to run for
Learn the issues that matter in your race
Study the competition closely
Take a personal inventory of your own assets and flaws
File the legal paperwork to get on the ballot
Open a campaign bank account
Call every single person you’ve ever met in your life and ask them for money
Announce your candidacy
Put up a website, a blog, a Twitter account and a Facebook page
Find and hire really good staff
Attend every community meeting and give speeches at every opportunity
Hold fundraisers and house parties
Make promises that you THINK you can keep
Get the endorsements of newspapers, organizations and elected officials
Convince all of your friends and family to volunteer for your campaign
Debate your opponent
Put up lawn signs and send mailers
Respond quickly when you get attacked
Shake every hand and kiss every baby you can get your hands on
And do it all better – and faster – than your opponent.

That’s all. Nothing more. Easy, right?

Well I didn’t know all of this when I first decided to run for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, which is the equivalent of the City Council. In 2006, I had lived in San Francisco for only 7 years, and I decided to run against a very popular and well-funded incumbent.  I had won almost every race I had ever run when I was in school… how hard could it be?  Haha… How hard could it be.

Running against an incumbent is an uphill battle – political experts will tell you that if you do it: (1) you’d better start your campaign two years before the election, (2) your opponent should have some kind of weakness or scandal you can capitalize on, and (3) you need to have name recognition and a LOT of money.  Of course, I didn’t have any of these things. I started my campaign only 6 months before the election. My opponent was well liked and scandal-free. I didn’t have any money or fundraising experience. And while I had previously chaired the City’s Elections Commission, I was a virtual unknown.

Before I got in the race, my opponent had the endorsement of every single elected official in town, and a huge war chest.  He was close to Mayor Gavin Newsom and former Mayor Willie Brown.  He knew the district inside and out, and he seemed to know everyone he saw on the street by name. He knew which potholes needed to be filled, which playground was getting an upgrade, which bus line was overcrowded. I didn’t know any of this.

And to top it all off, the District included the Castro, which is perhaps the biggest gay and lesbian neighborhood… in America. No straight person had ever been elected to represent this District since Harvey Milk was elected in 1977. My opponent was gay and I am straight. And I was toast.

You can see where I’m going with this.

I was called stupid, naïve, arrogant, overly ambitious. The newspapers dug around in my past and found things they could exploit. Really REALLY bad pictures of me were posted on the internet. One journalist wrote that because I had been to Burning Man several times, that must mean that I have done a lot of drugs and I wasn’t a serious person.  The President of the Board of Supervisors bet me that I would not even get 30% of the vote.

In that race, I said the wrong things to reporters. I yelled at my staff for things that were not their fault.  I spent more money than I had raised. I stopped exercising, and didn’t take care of myself physically or mentally. I gained so much weight in that campaign that I had to buy a whole new wardrobe.  Politician costumes… are expensive.

But I also worked harder than I ever have. I met thousands of voters.  I raised enough money to be a serious contender. I had a hundred volunteers making calls, stuffing envelopes and knocking on doors. I earned the support of some key organizations in town, and got SOME good press.  I KILLED IT in the debates. …And I lost really badly. How badly? I got 29% of the vote. That’s right, I not only lost the race, I lost the bet.

BUT!  I learned. An immense. Amount.  About running a campaign, about how to talk to the media, about how NOT to run a campaign, how NOT to talk to the media.  Just as important, I learned a lot about myself – my own strengths and weaknesses as a candidate, as a leader.

I introduced myself in a BIG way to the political world in San Francisco.  I got 9,109 votes, thankyouverymuch, which was more than several other WINNING candidates got in other Supervisor races that year because their districts were smaller. The next time I ran, I would have name recognition and a fundraising base. The next time I ran for office, I won.

After the election, the same people who called me stupid, naïve and arrogant called me up to congratulate me on a race well run. Kamala Harris (who is now California Attorney General) had supported my opponent, but she called me the day after the election to tell me that I did better than anyone expected.  Political organizations asked me to join their Boards of Directors after the race was over.  News outlets started calling me for comment when an issue came up that I had campaigned on.

Sure, I lost. But it was also the best thing I ever did.  I worked really hard, showed them what I was made of, beat everyone’s expectations – even my own, and I kept my chin up. And because I did, doors opened for me.

Some of the world’s greatest innovators and leaders also started as failures.

- Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper because he “lacked imagination” and had “no original ideas.”

- Abraham Lincoln had two businesses that failed, and he was defeated in 8 elections.

- Vera Wang failed to make the U.S. Olympic figure-skating team. Then she became an editor at Vogue and was passed over for the editor-in-chief position.

- Steven Spielberg was rejected from film school three times before becoming one of the world’s most acclaimed directors.

- Oprah Winfrey had a number of career setbacks including being fired from her job as a television reporter because she was “unfit for tv.”

They took big risks, and sometimes they failed. But the secret to their success was learning from these life experiences. Mistakes are the way we learn, they are how we grow. Failure is a valuable tool – IF – you give it your best, learn as much as you can, and move on quickly. If you do these things, opportunities will open for you that you didn’t even know existed.

And here’s what NOT to do, by the way. Don’t dwell on your mistake as if it’s some kind of judgment on your character. Don’t blame others for decisions that you were responsible for. Go deep, and be honest with yourself about why you missed the mark this time.

In my campaign for Supervisor, I learned to handle losing with grace. I learned that I was terrible at raising money, and so I volunteered to fundraise for other local candidates so that I could practice making calls.  I got involved in powerful local organizations, so that I could understand their issues better the next time I ran. And I learned not to refer to myself as a “freak” when talking to reporters. (Yes, I really did that. They titled the article “Alix Rosenthal is a freak of a candidate” – and 7 years later, it’s still one of the top hits when you google me – yeah, horrible.)

But enough about me. What does this all mean for the Class of 2013?

- It means that you shouldn’t be afraid to sit in the front row of class and raise your hand.

- That question that you worry might sound stupid? Ask it. What is there to lose? You’re smart. So if you don’t know the answer, some of your classmates don’t either.

- Take that class that is outside of your major, even if you’re not sure you’ll get a good grade. Try a new sport, or a new activity. Unless that activity is binge drinking at fraternity parties. That is NOT a pathway to success. Trust me on that one.

- Go after a leadership position. It will prepare you for all kinds of career opportunities in the future.

- And if you fall, ask yourself, “What did I learn from the experience? What have I accomplished while trying?” Dust yourself off and ask, “What’s next?”

[And by the way, this has nothing to do with my speech, but hey – if you’re going to send someone risqué pictures of yourself, use Snapchat, not email, OK? You know what I’m talking about. Your 40-year-old self will thank you.  Parents, we’ll explain it to you later]

My point is this: the sweetest victory is the one that’s the most difficult to achieve; the one where you took the most risk; the one that required you to work the hardest, without knowing, until it’s over, if all your hard work will pay off.

And hey – life is messy. You WILL screw up. The real beauty is in how you handle your mistakes… hopefully you will handle them with grace, introspection, creativity and resolve.

And so this is my wish for you, graduates. Fail big. Fail often. Push yourself. Be fearless. Your future successes depend on it.

Congratulations.