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.

Big Ol Voter Guide – November 2012

Election Day is mere days away! I know. It’s hard to believe, because the presidential election has been going on for years. Years! We Californians might be sick of the election already, but just think of how miserable it must be to live in a swing state right now. In states like Virginia, Ohio and Missouri, the presidential campaigns are pouring millions of dollars into negative advertising. Now THOSE states can’t wait for the election to be over.

And so, I humbly submit to you, for your edification and enjoyment, my Big Ol’ Voter Guide for the November 2012 election. It includes federal races, state propositions, the races for state legislature seats in San Francisco, as well as the SF city races and measures.

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

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a political attorney and a San Francisco progressive, whose passions include protecting and promoting 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 like long walks on the beach.

Go here for my guide to the San Francisco ballot.

Go here for my guide to the California ballot.

Big Ol’ Voter Guide – November 2012 (San Francisco)

Friends! Following is my Big Ol’ Voter Guide for the San Francisco ballot in the November 2012 election. It includes the Congressional and state legislature seats that represent our fair city, as well as the local races and measures.

There are some seriously crazy campaigns happening in San Francisco, particularly the District 5 Supervisor race and the school board race. The ballot measures reflect the financial dire straits of the City – four of them want to raise new revenues  for various worthy causes. None of the measures are too contentious – most of them are the result of legislative compromises that took place BEFORE they were placed on the ballot. Fascinating! Is it a new era of good feelings in City Hall? Maybe! I sure hope so.

My guide for the statewide California ballot is here.

Comments? Disagreements? Bring it!

SUMMARY:

Congressional District 8: Nancy Pelosi
Congressional District 12: Jackie Speier

State Senator, Dist. 11: Mark Leno (SF)
Assembly, Dist. 17: Tom Ammiano (East Side of SF)
Assembly, Dist. 19: Phil Ting (West Side of SF)

SF Board of Education:
Matt Haney, Sandra Lee Fewer, Rachel Norton, Sam Rodriguez
SF Community College Board:
Amy Bacharach, Steve Ngo, Rafael Mandelman, Chris Jackson
BART Board, District 9: Tom Radulovich

District 1 Supervisor: Eric Mar
District 3 Supervisor: David Chiu
District 5 Supervisor: London Breed, John Rizzo, Thea Selby
District 7 Supervisor: FX Crowley, Norman Yee
District 9 Supervisor: David Campos
District 11 Supervisor: John Avalos

Measure A: YES (City College Parcel Tax)
Measure B: YES  (Parks Bond)
Measure C: YES (Affordable Housing Trust Fund)
Measure D: YES (Consolidated Elections)
Measure E: YES  (Gross Receipts Tax)
Measure F: NO! (Hetch Hetchy)
Measure G: YES (Corporate Personhood) 

FEDERAL RACES IN SAN FRANCISCO:

Congressional District 8: Nancy Pelosi (Most of SF)

First female Speaker of the House.  She is a fighter and a grandmother. She helped President Obama shepherd his health care reform legislation through the House. I am proud that she comes from my district.

Congressional District 12 : Jackie Speier (West side of SF, Peninsula)

Jackie is a hero of mine, she’s fearless. She has stood for banking reform, women’s health, and government accountability. Jackie rocks. And she will win re-election easily.

STATE OFFICES REPRESENTING SAN FRANCISCO:

Senator, Dist. 11: Mark Leno (SF)

Mark is a tireless advocate for his district, and in particular for the LGBT community, single-payer health care, drug policy reform, and for nightlife interests. I wonder how much he’s going to beat his Republican opponent by. 65 percentage points? 70?

Assembly, Dist. 17: Tom Ammiano (East Side of SF)

Tom is a hero of mine, a public servant for over three decades, a friend of Harvey Milk’s, and a champion of civil rights, public education, health care and marijuana policy reform.  His legislative accomplishments are too many to list here! I am proud to support him, and he has no opposition.

Assembly, Dist. 19: Phil Ting (West Side of SF)

Phil is a great Assessor, and has stood up to powerful interests in that capacity. His big issue is tax reform, and he’s stuck his neck out on reforming Prop. 13, which has enabled owners of commercial property to avoid paying their share. He also might be the nicest person in San Francisco politics, and a genuine, hard working guy. Phil’s opponent Michael Breyer (is very dorky and) hasn’t had much community support, because he hasn’t shown much interest in politics until he decided to run. Breyer has written himself huge checks to make up for it. (Meg Whitman, anyone?) C’mon, let’s make sure Phil beats this guy.

SAN FRANCISCO OFFICES:

Board of Education:

Matt Haney, Sandra Lee Fewer, Rachel Norton, Sam Rodriguez

The school board race has been a wild one… in large part because the teacher’s union is out for blood. Earlier this year, the school board was asked to vote on a controversial question: whether to skip seniority of certain teachers (and defy the union), or preserve the jobs of 70 lower-seniority teachers in a handful of underperforming schools.  All of the incumbents running for re-election this year voted to skip seniority (Wynns, Norton, Fewer). And so the union has sworn to defeat these incumbents, and they have asked the city’s leadership to stand with them. They have endorsed four newcomers, some of whom, I think, aren’t quite ready.

I agree that seniority of teachers is very important. Without the principle of seniority (i.e., tenure), teachers could lose their jobs for political reasons and other arbitrary factors. But I also believe that throwing out all of the incumbents is short-sighted. Experience and institutional memory are essential on the school board, particularly when the public schools have made so many gains in the last few years.  There are four seats up this November: I have endorsed two of the incumbents, and two of the challengers.

Rachel Norton is one of those incumbents. She is thoughtful, level-headed and knowledgeable. She has two kids in public school, one with special needs, and so she’s highly motivated to find workable solutions for students and parents. And she works very hard; she is particularly good at communicating what she’s doing, by way of newsletters and blogs. She has the support of the Democratic Party, the Chronicle, the Examiner AND the Bay Guardian as well as a myriad of others.

Sandy Fewer is a progressive stalwart on the school board. She was first elected four years ago, and since then she’s been focused on civil rights aspects of public education, including LGBT issues (including sensitivity training regarding transgender kids – which I think is awesome), adding ethnic studies to the high school curriculum, and advocating for students of color. Like Rachel, she has the endorsements of the Democratic Party, the Chronicle, the Examiner AND the Bay Guardian. That’s quite a coalition.

Matt Haney is the candidate I care the most about – he is one of the smartest people in local politics, and cares more about education policy than anyone I know. He has a joint JD-MA degree from Stanford in law and education, and his day job is Executive Director of the UC Students Association. He’s garnered the endorsements of just about everybody – the Teachers Union, the Bay Guardian, the Examiner, the Democratic Party, the Labor Council, and almost every elected official in town. He is the consensus candidate – everybody loves Matt. And so do I! Please vote for him.

Sam Rodriguez has deep roots in statewide politics, and also with the SF Parent Teachers Association, where he is the legislative director, and has worked closely with the School Board and other City officials in that capacity. He is also very very smart, and well versed in the issues the school district faces. He is focused on closing the gaps in academic performance between white students and students of color, and between high- and low-income students. Here are his endorsements.

Community College Board:

Amy Bacharach, Steve Ngo, Rafael Mandelman, Chris Jackson

San Francisco Community College is totally screwed up. And it has been for years. It is near bankruptcy, they are on the brink of losing their accreditation, and in 2011 the former Chancellor and the former Chief Administrative Officer both pled guilty to felony misuse of public funds! For decades, the College Board enabled bad administrators, made horrible decisions about money, and ignored obvious problems. What’s worse, it feels like every election, the voters are asked to approve a new bond measure or parcel tax to “SAVE CITY COLLEGE!!!”… including in this very election. (See Measure A, below).

There are some serious, difficult changes that need to be made to save City College. Currently, CCSF functions as a traditional junior college, it teaches English as a second language to new immigrants, it serves as a job training center for tech and health-related industries, and it provides interesting noncredit courses in many fields.  But everyone agrees that CCSF can no longer fulfill all these roles. It needs to cut non-essential programs (no more basket-weaving classes for retirees), lay off teachers (I know, I know), reduce the number of campuses, and get back to the very basic purpose of a community college – to prepare students to transfer to four-year institutions.

This is why I am endorsing the four people who I think are smart, relatively new, and have fresh ideas to bring to the board. And I’m not supporting the one incumbent who has been on the board for decades, and who, IMO, has been part of the problem. This is one office where institutional memory is worthless.

Chris Jackson and Steve Ngo are incumbents, but they’ve each only served one term and I think we ought to give them a shot to turn the thing around. They have both been strong voices for reform. Jackson has argued for cutting administrators over teachers – and I agree with him. Ngo is a civil rights lawyer who has been particularly hard on CCSF administration for lack of accountability and transparency.

Rafael Mandelman and Amy Bacharach are the most qualified newcomers. Mandelman is an attorney, a really smart guy, and a progressive leader on the Democratic County Central Committee, on which I also serve. I consider Rafi an ally, and I trust him to make the hard decisions that need to be made. Bacharach understands the value of community college, because it enabled her to get her college degree, and ultimately her PhD. She is smart, progressive, and willing to make the tough calls, particularly in centralizing decision-making in CCSF’s administration.

BART Board, District 9: Tom Radulovich

I adore Tom. He is a long-serving member of the BART Board, a passionate transit advocate, and Executive Director of Livable City, on whose board I used to serve. Livable City advocates for housing and transportation policies that discourage the use of cars and encourage the use of transit, as well as the walkability and bikeability of city streets. Tom is one of the smartest people I know; BART is lucky to have him.


District 1 Supervisor: Eric Mar
(Richmond)

Supervisor Mar is a level head on the Board of Supervisors, and his thoughtful demeanor is an important asset on the Board.  He has worked hard for the Richmond District, including revitalizing local small business corridors, and championing pedestrian safety efforts. He’s been a solid advocate for tenants and seniors. And I should also mention that he is a regular Burning Man participant and nightlife issues are important to him.  Eric is in a tough re-election fight, against an opponent with substantial corporate resources behind him. Please vote for Mar!

District 3 Supervisor:  David Chiu
(North Beach, FiDi, Russian Hill, Union Square, Tenderloin)

Board President David Chiu was my first choice for Mayor last year. Why? He is a smart, effective leader for both District 3 and San Francisco. Government transparency is very important to him, and he’s the only member of the Board who is car-free. He’s been at the forefront of urban farming issues, as well as environmental legislation (banning the dumping of Yellow Pages on your doorstep! Yes!!). He has little serious opposition. Vote for David.

District 5 Supervisor: London Breed, John Rizzo, Thea Selby
(Haight, Cole Valley, Western Addition, Hayes Valley)

This race is an especially tough one for me, I have many friends and allies running for this seat. And in the last few weeks, this has become an INSANELY UNPREDICTABLE RACE. Julian Davis, formerly the consensus choice of many progressives, has lost all of his major endorsements after allegations surfaced that he behaved badly with several women and later threatened those women if they were to come forward. Incumbent Christina Olague wasn’t gaining traction in this über-progressive district because of her ties to (moderate) Mayor Ed Lee and Chinatown powerbroker Rose Pak. But then she bucked the Mayor by voting to reinstate Ross Mirkarimi as Sheriff, and she scored points from progressive leadership, who now seem to be flocking to her side. Read what the Bay Guardian says about it here, fascinating stuff!

London Breed is the most compelling candidate in this race. She comes from the projects in District 5, where she watched her friends and classmates go to prison or die on the streets. And she’s a great success story – her day job is Director of the African American Art and Culture Complex, and she also serves as a Fire Commissioner. She is smart, fierce, and has been around City Hall long enough to know how to get things done. Which is why I’ve endorsed her. But she has not been as progressive as most of her potential constituents, and she has the support of many conservatives in town (like the Realtors Association and the Police Officers Assn.). District 5 is perhaps the most progressive district in SF, and so it’s important that the Supervisor representing it be a champion of the left.

In the past, London’s political patron was former Mayor Willie Brown, who fought bitterly with the progressive Board of Supervisors during his tenure. But Breed and Brown have had a very public falling out, and Brown has been actively working against her, shaming her contributors and convincing big supporters to reverse their endorsements. London is truly an independent candidate, and I am confident that she will remain so if she’s elected.

John Rizzo is also a good choice. John is a longtime environmental and progressive leader, having served as President of the local Sierra Club chapter and a reformer at the Community College Board. I am concerned that his campaign isn’t gaining much traction, the consensus among insiders being that John lacks a certain je ne sais quoi. He was also on the College Board for the last 6 years, during which time Community College has fallen apart. And while John has been a strong advocate for reform, six years is a long time to make little progress. But you can trust John to be a solid progressive vote for his district if he’s elected. He has the #1 endorsement of the Bay Guardian, perhaps the most influential endorsement in D5.

I am also supporting Thea Selby, a parent and small business owner from the Lower Haight. Thea is running a strong grassroots campaign, and despite her relative inexperience in local politics, has gained a lot of ground in the last few months, and has picked up a lot of great endorsements, like the Bay Guardian and the Examiner. Her politics are more progressive than London’s, and she has more money in the bank than John, so expect a last-minute surge from her.

District 7 Supervisor:  FX Crowley, Norman Yee
(Lake Merced, St. Francis Wood, Twin Peaks, West Portal)

Let’s face it – D7 is not a progressive district.  Historically, it has elected some of the most conservative politicians in San Francisco history. (This is relative, of course, since we’re all Democrats here in SF).  That said, two of the candidates in this race are reasonable guys (and yes, it’s all guys).

FX Crowley is a union leader and smart fellow who has lived his entire life on the West side of town. He served on the Public Utilities Commission, where he showed that he is a skeptic of public power and clean energy (Bad! Bad!). And he knows nothing about the issues I care about – supporting the nightlife economy and increasing the female presence in positions of real power in government. But I think he’ll be a thoughtful vote on budget issues, given his strong labor background.

Norman Yee is president of the school board and executive director of Wu Yee Children’s Services. He is soft spoken, circumspect, and has eight years of experience in city government. His campaign’s focus is improving the schools in D7, fiscal responsibility  (read: cutting the budget, which is outpacing revenue growth), and improving neighborhood resources like paved roads, street lighting, etc.. Not sure how he will spend more money on roads and lighting and parks when is cutting the budget, but whatever. Nice guy. Vote for Norman.

District 9 Supervisor:  David Campos
(Mission, Bernal Heights)

Supervisor Campos is unopposed, in large part because he is doing a great job for the Mission and progressive citywide efforts. I serve with him on the Democratic County Central Committee (DCCC), the governing body of the SF Democratic Party, and in that capacity, he’s helped maintain our progressive conscience.  He is shrewd, reliable, and a prolific legislator.

David will probably be running for Tom Ammiano’s Assembly seat in a few years against Scott Weiner, District 8 Supervisor. People are already taking sides in this race, and so David needs to do really well in his (unopposed) re-election bid to demonstrate his support in the district. Vote for David!

District 11 Supervisor:  John Avalos
(Outer Mission, Ingleside, Excelsior)

Supervisor Avalos is also unopposed, because he is doing a good job and he is unbeatable.  John first ran for Supervisor after working for Chris Daly for many years. He had a reputation for being understated and trustworthy, but not the most fierce of progressive leaders. In the last few years, though, he has come into his own as a forceful leader of the progressive movement, and came close to winning the Mayor’s race in 2011.

Avalos has written some groundbreaking laws, including the local hire legislation, which would have required City’s construction contractors to hire at least 25 percent local residents for city jobs. Nightlife businesses didn’t like his alcohol tax idea – which would have imposed a fee of about 5 cents to a standard cocktail – and would have generated more than $15 million in revenue per year to go towards medical services for alcohol-related accidents and diseases. His bill was vetoed by (bar and winery owner) Mayor Gavin Newsom.  While I don’t like taxing nightlife businesses, I do like that John is thinking creatively about generating new revenues for our cash-strapped city.

SAN FRANCISCO MEASURES:

Measure A: YES

City College Parcel Tax

“SAVE CITY COLLEGE!” – How many times have we heard that line?  It seems like we’re asked to approve a new City College bond measure or parcel tax in every election. And every year, City College is in direr and direr straits. (Is “direr” even a word?)  Prop A, if approved, will add $79 to everyone’s property taxes (regardless of property value).

See my endorsements for College Board above for more background on how f’ed up City College is. But here’s the thing – City College is an important asset. It would be tragic for its 90,000 (!!!) students if it disappeared. And the biggest problem CCSF faces is its lack of resources. Prop A would generate $16 million per year in new revenue for CCSF… which won’t prevent all the cuts they need to make, but it will slow the bleeding. Vote yes!

p.s. Only property owners pay this tax – if you’re a tenant, there’s really no reason to vote against it unless you oppose taxes generally.

Measure B: YES

Parks Bond

Who doesn’t love parks? And who doesn’t agree that the parks in San Francisco have fallen into disrepair? If you own a dog or have kids – or enjoy renegade dance parties (wink, wink) – you know what I’m talking about. It’s bad.

To be fair, it’s not the city’s fault that the parks are such a mess. Massive budget deficits and loss of funding from the state have forced city officials to make some tough choices. And when faced with the decision of keeping the jobs of teachers and firefighters, versus maintaining the city’s parks and roadways, they have generally chosen the former. And so, here we are: with facilities that are crumbling and even unsafe in some cases.

Some people see Prop B as a referendum on Rec & Park’s recent decisions to increase revenue by renting out portions of our open spaces and charging new fees.  There are passionate folks on both sides of that issue whom I respect very much. But that’s not what this is about.

Prop B is a general obligation bond that will allow the city to borrow $195 million for park, open space and recreation facilities mostly in underserved neighborhoods.  It needs a 2/3 majority to pass. And just about everyone supports it: the Mayor, every member of the Board of Supervisors, the Chronicle AND the Bay Guardian. Please vote yes. Do it for the children. And the renegades.

Measure C: YES

Affordable Housing Trust Fund

Everyone agrees that it is nearly impossible to find affordable housing in San Francisco. And Prop C attacks this problem from several different directions. It will create a new trust fund to: (1) create, acquire and rehabilitate modestly priced housing in San Francisco; and (2) promote affordable home ownership programs in the city. It will also authorize the development of 30,000 new affordable housing units.

Affordable housing advocates were at the table when this measure was written, as were real estate developers, and they ended up compromising on a few things. For example, it includes a provision that will codify (and lower) the amount of “affordable” housing a private developer is required to build when constructing private market-rate residences. Developers say that they need this certainty in order to make their projects pencil out.

Note that Prop C includes no new taxes, which means that the fund will come entirely from the City’s general fund (which is what pays for all other city services). This is a risky move, since the trust fund hopes to spend $1.5 billion over the next 30 years, without raising any new taxes to cover it. Yikes.

But $1.5 billion is a heck of a lot of money! I’m happy city leaders are finally ready to dedicate significant resources to solving the housing problem. But to do so, they need your vote. Vote yes.

Measure D: YES

Consolidated Elections 

This measure is simple: it will change the election cycle so that the City Attorney and Treasurer will be elected on the same ballot as the Mayor, Sheriff, Assessor and District Attorney, beginning in 2015. Currently, City Attorney and Treasurer are on a ballot all by themselves, with the next election to be held in November 2013. If Prop D passes, the City Attorney and Treasurer will serve a 2-year term, and then those seats will be up again in November 2015.

There will be political ramifications to this measure. It will mean that anyone holding one of these offices would have to give up their seat in order to run for another one. For example, City Attorney Dennis Herrera ran for Mayor last year, and he lost – but because his position is elected on a different cycle, he kept his job as City Attorney. Once Measure D passes, Herrera would have to give up his job as City Attorney to run for Mayor, since you can’t run for two offices in the same election.

As a potential future candidate for one of these offices (ahem), I do worry that some of these races will get lost in the shuffle if they are all on the same ballot. It’s hard enough for the Sheriff and DA candidates to get voters’ attention during the Mayor’s race. It will be even harder when two more offices are added to the mix.

But the arguments in favor of the measure are compelling. Consolidating the ballots will be more economical for the City. Off-year elections have lower turnout, so putting them on the same ballot will mean that more voters participate in the selection of these officers.  (Political junkies know that increasing turnout for these races will affect the outcomes, since higher-turnout elections tend to lead to more progressive results). The Democratic Party, the Republican Party, the Chronicle, the Bay Guardian, and the entire Board of Supervisors support Measure D. Vote yes.

Measure E: YES

Gross Receipt Tax

This measure will change the way San Francisco taxes businesses. I’m about to throw out a bunch of numbers, so bear with me.

Currently, the city taxes companies with more than $250,000 in annual payroll; these businesses (about 10% of SF companies) pay the city 1.5% of their entire payroll expense. Measure E will phase out the city’s current payroll tax and replace it with a gross receipts tax that will apply only to businesses with more than $1 million in annual gross receipts. (As a small business owner, this is a big relief to me!)  Generally, businesses with higher gross receipts would pay higher rates; the rates would range from 0.075% to 0.650%. It is estimated that this will result in $28.5 million more a year in revenue to the city.

The city really, really needs this new revenue. And guess what? Everyone from the Chamber of Commerce, to the Labor Council, to the high tech industry, to the super-lefty Supervisors like this measure. It’s a compromise that is a long time in coming, since a GRT seems more fair, and payroll taxes tend to punish job creation. Vote yes on E.

Measure F: NO!

Future of Hetch Hetchy

F-No! Get it? Hee hee. Makes me giggle every time.

The official title of this measure is “Water Sustainability & Environmental Restoration Planning Act of 2012.” It’s a silly and misleading title. It should be called the “Obliteration of San Francisco’s Water Supply Act of 2012.”

The proponents of this measure want San Francisco to spend $8 million to study what it will take to drain the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir to restore it to its natural state. “But wait!” you say. “I love Hetch Hetchy water! It is delicious and clean!” Yes. And 2.6 million residents and businesses in the Bay Area rely on it.  It is preposterous to propose that we drain the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir given California’s struggles with water supply and the millions (billions?) of dollars in investment that SF has made into the infrastructure it takes to deliver it.  And oh yeah, the dam generates 1.7 billion kilowatt hours of clean, hydroelectric energy each year. Thus reducing the city’s reliance on dirty energy sources.

And where is that $8 million for the study going to come from? Is the city going to close a clinic or lay off a few dozen firefighters? F-No! This is ridiculous idea. Vote no on F.

Measure G: YES

Corporate Personhood

In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court unleashed a firestorm with its Citizens United decision, which held that the First Amendment prohibited the government from restricting independent political expenditures by corporations and unions. It reaffirmed the notion of “corporate personhood” – the idea that corporations have the same rights as people.

Since then, cities and counties all over the country have passed resolutions opposing this decision, and urging Congress to overturn Citizens United. I find it totally outrageous that the Court rested its decision on the First Amendment, the very amendment where the most essential of human rights are affirmed.

Prop G is a non-binding policy declaration. I think most non-binding resolutions are silly and a waste of time. But the one in Prop G is important – in fact, I wrote a similar resolution for the SF Democratic Party that was approved unanimously. San Francisco should join the hundreds of other cities and counties (and political parties) in sending the message that money is not speech, corporations are not people, and it’s time for the citizenry to stand up to the overwhelming influence that big money interests have over elections at every level. Vote yes on G.

Big Ol’ Voter Guide – November 2012 (California)

Friends! Below is my Big Ol’ Voter Guide for the California November 2012 election. It includes the federal races and state propositions on the statewide ballot.

Here in California, there are some fascinating and groundbreaking issues we’ve been asked to vote on, particularly in the criminal justice realm. There are lots of proposed new taxes and government reform measures, and many new laws proposed by millionaires and billionares fed up with state government and/or setting themselves up for running for statewide office.

My guide for the San Francisco ballot is here.

Enjoy!

SUMMARY:

President: Barack Obama
US Senator: Dianne Feinstein

Prop 30: YES (Temporary Tax Increases To Prevent Deep Cuts)
Prop 31: NO (Two-Year State Budget Cycle and Other Reforms)
Prop 32: OH HELL NO! (Political Spending Limits)
Prop 33: NO (New Car Insurance Rating Factor)
Prop 34: OH HELL YES! (Death Penalty)
Prop 35: NO? (Sex Trafficking)
Prop 36: YES (Modifications to Three Strikes Law)
Prop 37: YES (Labeling of Genetically Modified Foods)
Prop 38: YES (New Tax for Education)
Prop 39: YES (Closing a Loophole on Out-of-State Businesses)
Prop 40: YES? (Affirming Redistricted Senate Districts)

FEDERAL

President: Barack Obama

I’ve said it before: he’s been awful to medical marijuana interests, particularly here in California.  But I think history will remember him as one of the best presidents we’ve ever had.  I am happy to support him again because he is pro-choice, pro-woman, pro-gay marriage, pro-stem cell research, and he was able to achieve health care reform. His opponent is doing everything he can to alienate women and the middle class… which, together, last I checked, are the majority of voters in the United States.  Romney IS the 1%. And as if THAT wasn’t enough, I have three words for you: Supreme Court Appointments.

US Senator: Dianne Feinstein

Dianne is more conservative than I’d like her to be. She’s in favor of the death penalty, and opposes medical marijuana. But she’s a fierce advocate for abortion rights and the environment, and it was her 2011 legislation that would have granted federal rights and benefits to legally married same-sex couples by repealing the hateful Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Feinstein’s Republican opponent doesn’t have a chance.

STATE PROPOSITIONS

Prop 30: YES

Temporary Tax Increases To Prevent Deep Cuts

Governor Brown put this on the ballot; it’s a merger of his two previous (failed) tax measures. This one is a simple tax increase that will expire in 2019, and will bring in $6 billion per year. Which, by the way, is a drop in the bucket – the state’s total budget is about $120 billion.

It raises taxes on people with incomes of more than $250,000, and it also increases the state sales tax by ¼ of a penny. I generally don’t like sales taxes because they are regressive, meaning they tend to hurt poor people more than the rich. But the increase in income tax for the higher brackets balances it out for me – the rich can afford to pay a bit more, in order to make sure that the state doesn’t take a nosedive. If this measure fails, it triggers $6 billion in cuts to schools and other essential services.

It’s supported by Governor Brown, teachers, Democrats, and the League of Women Voters. It is opposed by anti-tax groups and the Republican Party. Vote yes.

ALSO: See Prop 38 below. If 38 wins by more votes than 30, then 30 will not take effect. And the $6 billion in trigger cuts will take effect. OUCH!

Prop 31: NO

Two-Year State Budget Cycle and Other Reforms

This measure includes lots of complicated legislative reforms, including moving the state budget to a two-year cycle (good), giving local governments more money and autonomy (good), giving governors unilateral authority to make cuts during years with budget deficits (bad), and requiring new state programs to be tied to specific funding sources (bad).

Supporters include the Republican Party and a group called California Forward. Opponents include the Democratic Party, the California League of Conservation Voters, and the California Federation of Teachers.

I’m always wary of ballot measures that try to make complicated changes to the way the legislature does business.  Because ballot measures can only be amended by future  ballot measures. And THAT, frankly, is one of the reasons why state government is so f*&%ed up – because so much of the way government is run can ONLY be changed by a vote of the people. Government should be much more nimble than that – the Legislature should be able to respond to problems and popular will without having to go to the ballot every time. This is NOT the way to govern a state. Rant over. Vote no on 31.

Prop 32: OH HELL NO!

Political Spending Limits

This measure is deceptive and evil. It purports to limit campaign contributions by corporations and unions equally. But it really just cuts unions off at the knees, by preventing them from using payroll deductions to fund their political activities.

Prop 32 claims to equally limit the ability of unions, corporations and government contractors from using payroll deductions. BUT – while payroll deductions are the main source of funding for unions, very few corporations or government contractors actually deduct money from their employees’ paychecks for political activities. Corporations have many other sources of funds for their political activities. Profits, for example.

Prop 32 also claims to ban union and corporate contributions to political candidates. I’m a political attorney, and I can tell you that restrictions on corporate contributions are almost pointless. Corporate interests can always funnel contributions through PACs or through individual contributions by their officers and shareholders.  It seems pretty clear to me that this measure is a cynical attempt to eviscerate labor unions, which are the only way that certain constituencies – like teachers, nurses, and farm workers – have a voice in government. Please vote no.

Prop 33: NO

New Car Insurance Rating Factor

This measure penalizes those who haven’t maintained continuous insurance coverage – namely, poor people, recent immigrants, anyone who spends significant time abroad, and those who go car-free for a while to ride a bike, walk, or use public transit or car-sharing services. All of these folks would pay considerably higher rates when they return to driving. Ridiculous! We shouldn’t be penalizing people who give up driving for a while, we should be thanking them for doing their part to save us from global warming. Vote no.

p.s. George Joseph, billionaire founder of Mercury Insurance, admits to having placed this measure on the ballot in order to raise rates on the newly insured. At least he’s honest about it.

Prop 34: OH HELL YES!

Death Penalty

I oppose the death penalty, and I have been waiting for much of my adult life for California to abolish it. And you probably already know how you feel about the death penalty, so I shouldn’t spend too much time trying to convince you. But here’s what I got:

  1. DNA evidence has exonerated 18 death row inmates in the U.S… The flaws in the criminal justice system are so deep that we are unable to guarantee that California isn’t executing innocent people.
  2. Most other industrialized nations have abolished the death penalty.
  3. There is no evidence that the death penalty deters crime.
  4. The state has spent about $4 billion to implement the death penalty since it was reinstated in 1978, and it has only executed 13 people. You do the math.
  5. The death penalty is imposed on black and brown defendants far more often than white defendants who are accused of the same crime.

California is often the national leader in big-ticket ballot measures like this one. If California abolishes the death penalty, I think you’ll see many states follow suit. And the world will start to become a more humane place. PLEASE vote yes on 34.

Prop 35: NO?

Sex Trafficking

Human trafficking is an abomination. And far more common than you’d expect. My dear friend Sharmin Bock – who has spent much of her career fighting the trafficking of innocents for the sex trade – helped write this measure, and I have a lot of respect for her and her work. But I’m torn. Here are my thoughts:

- Prop. 35 would rewrite the section in California’s Penal Code that defines human trafficking, and impose harsher sentences on those found guilty. (OK! Let’s do it).

- It would require convicted traffickers to register as sex offenders (Sure! Sounds good).

- It would require that all registered sex offenders turn over their Internet usernames and passwords to the government. (Wait, what??)

I’ve always been skeptical of sex offender registration, since I know that you can be considered a sex offender of you are convicted of public urination, public nudity, consensual sex between teenagers, consensual prostitution. And it’s nearly impossible to get yourself off of the registry upon a showing of rehabilitation or years of lawful behavior. See what the Human Rights Watch says about it.

So while human trafficking is a serious problem, the proponents of this measure haven’t made the case that existing laws don’t go far enough.  And I don’t think the sex offender registry should be expanded to require ALL registered sex offenders to hand over all of their internet usernames and passwords. That’s just going too far. It would expand the state’s ability to violate the privacy of consensual sex workers and teenage streakers. And that’s just not right.

P.s. The Bay Guardian says that Senator Mark Leno is working on legislation that will address trafficking without the problems in Prop. 35. Reason enough to vote no on 35.

p.p.s. Facebook millionaire (And failed Attorney General candidate) Chris Kelly put this one on the ballot, watch for his next statewide campaign for public office.

Prop 36: YES

Modifications to Three Strikes Law

Think of Jean Valjean of Les Miserables. The dude spent decades in prison for stealing a loaf of bread, and his plight – and the unfairness of his punishment – inspired one of the greatest novels of the nineteenth century.

Today in California, anyone convicted of three felonies, no matter how nonviolent or small, must serve 25 years to life. It’s not fair. Even the original proponents of the “Three Strikes” law admit that it has had unintended consequences. Prop 36 would reform the three strikes law to require that the third strike be violent or serious. And it would allow current convicts to appeal their sentences if their third strike was a relatively minor crime.

Did I mention that our state prisons are overcrowded, and we spend $47,000 a year for every inmate in California?  Prop 36 would save the state at least $70 million annually, and some of that money would go toward solving violent crimes.

Supporters include District Attorneys from big cities, the Democratic Party and the NAACP. Opponents include the Republican Party, the State Sherriff’s Association, the State District Attorneys Association, California Peace Officers Association, and a few victims rights groups.

This is a good one. Vote yes on 36.

Prop 37: YES

Labeling of Genetically Modified Foods

This measure mandates that food made with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) be labeled — as it is in at least 50 countries worldwide, and in much of the industrialized world.

A big proportion of the food Californians eat has GMOs in it. And while the scientific community can’t agree on whether and to what extent GMOs are bad for you, it can’t hurt to have a better idea of what you’re putting in your mouth.

BUT – my friends in the biotech industry remind me that there is a lot of genetically modified food that even foodies love. Like pluots, purple cauliflower, tangelos… if Prop 37 passes, these foods will be labeled. Don’t freak out. It doesn’t mean that they are bad for you, just that they are genetic hybrids.

The NO campaign is being funded by chemical companies and food processors, Big Agriculture and the Republican Party. The Yes campaign is composed of consumer groups, public health organizations, environmentalists, Democrats. Who do YOU want to align yourself with?

Knowledge is power. Vote yes on 37.

Prop 38: YES

New Tax for Education

This one increases taxes on everyone who makes more than $7300 per year. This means you! But – it’s a sliding scale, so that the wealthiest pay a higher percentage increase (0.4% for lowest individual earners to 2.2% for those earning over $2.5 million).

The majority of the estimated $10 billion a year in new revenue will go to public school districts and early childhood development programs.  We all know that schools need the help: California now has the largest class sizes in the nation. Since 2008, the state has cut school budgets by $20 billion.

Billionaire Molly Munger put this one on the ballot, without much input from the legislature or the experts, so it’s got some holes in it. It’s a big middle finger to Sacramento, because it funnels the revenues directly to school districts; the legislature can’t touch them. And the Governor was pretty peeved when this one qualified for the ballot because it makes both his measure (Prop 30) and this one more likely to lose. And it includes a poison pill:  If Proposition 38 wins by more votes than 30, then 30 won’t take effect, and vice versa.

I’d like to see either one pass, it doesn’t matter to me, because the schools need serious help. Vote yes on 38. Think of the children.

Prop 39: YES

Closing a Loophole on Out-of-State Businesses

This measure would close a loophole that has allowed out-of-state companies avoid paying taxes in California. If Prop 39 passes, it will require all companies to use in-state sales as the basis for the taxes they pay. It will bring in $1 billion in revenue, a large portion of which will go toward clean energy projects.

This one seems like a no-brainer to me. It only affects out-of-state businesses and not California-based companies or California residents. It removes the incentive for companies to locate their employees or facilities out of state. And it has the support of just about everybody – unions, chambers of commerce, big business, environmentalists, teachers, Democrats and Republicans alike. Vote yes.

Prop 40: YES?

Affirming Redistricted Senate Districts

This measure is ridiculous.

The non-partisan Citizen Redistricting Commission was established by ballot measure in 2008, and was charged with re-drawing state Senate and Assembly jurisdictional boundaries. It was created, in large part, because state legislators used to draw their own jurisdictional lines (and surprise! They always made sure that their own seats were safe).

The CRC was charged with re-drawing the state jurisdictional lines in a way that was fair. But the lines drawn for the Senate districts were challenged in court, and the state Supreme Court rejected that challenge. So the litigants wrote this measure asking the voters to reject the Senate district lines. As if the voters know enough about the complicated demographic and regional details to know what the hell we are looking at!

Voting NO means that the lines will be re-drawn by a judicial panel, and YES means the lines will stand. I say vote yes. There’s no evidence that a judicial panel is going to do a better job than the CRC. I hate ballot measures that waste our collective time.

WE WON!

I’m thrilled and honored to have won re-election to the Democratic County Central Committee with about 14,000 votes in the 17th Assembly District. I’m looking forward to rolling up my sleeves and getting back to work for the San Francisco Democratic Party!

Detailed election results may be found here.

I look forward to working toward party unity in this important presidential election year, and energizing young voters for President Obama’s re-election.  And I will continue my work in recruiting more women to run for political office locally.

I couldn’t have won without the help and support of many friends and family who walked precincts with me, forwarded my Voter Guide, donated generously, and VOTED.  Thank you, each of you, for your efforts.